I’ve always been fascinated by entrepreneurship and I’ve often thought about whether I would still make the same decision to become an entrepreneur if I had the data points I now have. It’s hard to tell if I became obsessed with my own warped perception of what being an entrepreneur entails or whether I genuinely enjoy the challenge of being hit with a hammer of uncertainty day after day for years on end.
A few entrepreneurs enjoy the serendipity of being the right person to build the right product at the right time with the right support and resources at their disposal. Like most entrepreneurs, I’ve had to taste being the wrong person to build the right product at the wrong time with the wrong support and resources at my disposal various times. It’s like putting your last coin in the slot machine with the gleeful anticipation of finally lining them all up only to come short in that final roll.
I lasted about a year in a job after university before realising it was time to build something. I left to go sell study systems door-to-door in the US, which having done for a few summers at university I established to be the quickest way to earn my seed capital. I went rogue and hit the oil towns of North Dakota, often staying in a tent and washing in a lake, whilst working over eighty hours a week. The reality was far worse than how I had imagined it, but I got what I came for and started working to launch my first real business (after a cheeky festive side venture of course):
My experience would have given me a very good shot at starting a sales driven business, yet I decided to start something I had no experience in, which in hindsight utilised few of my strengths at that point. However, the challenge of creating something from nothing was too alluring; I knew there was a risk in starting the business, but didn’t acknowledge this applied to me. I wanted to create an online underwear brand that focused on making one thing really well, from sustainable fabrics and done the right way. I was doing everything for the first time.
I did some things very well and some things not so well, but overall the latter outweighed the former and I flogged a dying horse through years of hustle. I knew a lot less than I needed to and decided I should get some experience working for a fast growing tech company so scoured the TechTrack100 and was luckily able to join the company ranked first. Between trying to build the business before and after work, I was leading the fastest growing team within the fastest growing company. I knew where I felt it could go, but told myself I didn’t have the autonomy. I left for one of various attempts to kickstart my dying horse, but it just kept limping along.
Back to the drawing board with bills to pay, I joined a hot startup as an early employee with awesome founders and early equity, which seemed like a perfect opportunity. Yet, the restlessness quickly returned, a vision for the future and an urge to build something I couldn’t shake. I couldn’t keep trying to build someone else's dream. I was now officially in my early thirties with a net worth lower than my teenage nephew and no true career progression. I was too arrogant, too naive, too fixated on what I wanted to stick with opportunities many would dream of. I soon realised how entrepreneurs often become unemployable.
I left to study a masters in entrepreneurship and enjoyed two years of self reflection, whilst exploring different ideas. In that time, I transitioned from a state of self pity to a huge amount of gratitude for the opportunities I have enjoyed. I have learned about sales, customer acquisition and product development from some of the best in the business. Rather than feeling envy for those that roll four cherries on their first spin, I feel privileged to have learnt from so many mistakes whilst I could afford to. I could absolutely see that I was yearning to be an entrepreneur for all the wrong reasons and really didn’t deserve early success.
Again, I am faced with an opportunity to take my experience into a new business that could allow a nice lifestyle and a good living and I frequently wish I could do this. What drives me is building something that really matters, that can have a positive impact and even make the world a better place. To do this has a high risk of failure and I am okay with that as it’s no longer about looking good. It will require being hit with the hammer of uncertainty on a daily basis, but perversely this is what I thrive on. I am very scared, but there is also not a part of me that worries I can't do it. Entrepreneurship is a journey, yet it’s too easy to focus on the result and miss the ride.
I am super excited to be building something again. This time, working with a team on a platform to match conscious consumers with conscious brands. We're just getting started so do follow us on the journey at tentop.com to get early updates.