Everyone enjoys entrepreneurial success stories, especially the ones with the aura of “overnight success.” There is almost a formulaic plot line to many of the stories:
- Paul has a steady job, makes a six-figure income,in a stressful job
- He resigns from his job to pursue his passion: a creative, high-risk venture
- Unable to obtain a loan, he cashes out his retirement to fund the business
- At first he struggles to acquire customers
- 5 years later, he sells his company for $10 million
Why I Hate these Stories
What I hate about these stories is that, from start to finish, they portray the entrepreneur as having a continual, unwavering confidence that success was certain and inevitable.
The reader thinks, “of course he quit that high-paid job he hated because he knew his new venture would achieve something much better.” They picture Paul as smiling confidently as he liquidates $120,000 of retirement – he must certainly know he will get it all back and much more. Who cares? When ten high-profile prospective customers reject his product in two weeks, they envision Paul as shrugging and saying to himself, “no problem, there are plenty of others who will say ‘yes.'”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Life of an Entrepreneur – What it Really Feels Like
I’ve achieved success so far with my product, Wonder Wallet, so let me recast the story in a more realistic light based upon my experiences.
I did indeed leave a six-figure income as a telecom project manager to pursue my passion: my innovative patented wallet product in hopes of hitting it big, achieving commercial success.
For the first several months I felt really frustrated. Why? Everything I was attempting to do was taking at least twice, perhaps three times as long as I hoped. There was no instruction manual as to exactly how I should spend my time or what I should do, so I felt like I was constantly wasting time.
I had only a general sense as to how long it might take to get my product commercialized into DRTV – maybe 2 years (it actually was 5 years). All the while, I had a mortgage and other expenses to pay each month from selling my product whenever and wherever I could.
Three years into my venture, I’d wake up each morning with a simple question: will things ever get any better? I would open my monthly bills with dread. Wow, the electric bill is higher than I thought this month, where is that money going to come from? I’d have dinner with a telecom colleague who just got back from a two-week vacation to the Canadian Rockies – paid time off, of course. As a self-employed person, every day I chose not to work was expensive, I couldn’t make money if I wasn’t working.
I did anything and everything I needed to keep my business going, making some decisions that were financially ill-advised. My personal credit card and business debt ballooned to the point I worried I would have to work the rest of my life just to pay off the debt. There’s some positive motivation.
Lastly, my only realistic path out of the morass: licensing my product for royalties to a large DRTV company, wasn’t going according to plan. I got a barrage of rejections:
- Wallets have already been done.
- It’s really not for us.
- You’re product is great, but it is not a DRTV product.
None of the above inspired much confidence or faith, no unwavering sense of certainty or inevitability.
But, I still had a deep conviction that my product was a great product, that if I stuck with it long enough, I’d find a way to get it commercialized successfully. Even with my daily dose of doubts and fears, I would recognized that I was doing something that mattered in my life and in the life of others.
In the end, I achieved my dream of mass commercialization: Wonder Wallet sells in almost every retail store across the US and Canada. But, success never seemed and never was certain or inevitable for me.
What I described is the emotional rollercoaster that every entrepreneur endures on a daily basis whether they succeed or fail. So, who wants to quit their job and sign up?