- Startup Advice: The First (and Last) Time I Cried as an Entrepreneur
The decision to pour your heart and soul into a new business venture is often an emotional time. It’s a tumultuous mix of excitement, promise, fear, and insecurity. With all those emotions weighing heavily on our business plan it’s easy to get a little shaken from time to time. I remember very clearly the first (and last) time I let my emotions and self-doubt nearly sabotage my business.
Two months after launching Glamajama, I was eager to gain my first wholesale client. A local store had an enviable reputation for carrying the best baby clothes in town and I knew Glamajama would be a perfect fit. I anxiously packed my best samples, printed off a couple homemade sales sheets, and made my way to what I hoped to be my first boutique sale. I arrived at the store and the salesgirl handed me over to the owner. I nervously introduced myself and offered to show her a couple pieces. She half-smiled and gave me a quick “Sure.”
I set out my pieces and explained my vision for the line, our competitive pricing, and that I would be happy to stop by regularly to merchandise the line. It seemed that with every word I spoke, the less interested she became. The “sure.” was now replaced with blind “uh-huhs” and noncommittal smiles. As her attention faltered, so did my composure.
I had walked into that store with my heart on my sleeve and it was breaking. Every disinterested gesture she made hurt like a thousand knives. I kept hoping for a distraction to give me a welcome escape. The last straw hit when she took “just a second” to call her mother. As they chatted, I finally mustered the courage to whisper, “I’m sorry, is this a bad time? I can come back?” Knowing full well I would never return to that store (or that neighborhood) ever again.
Surprisingly, she responded, “No, you’re fine. Keep going.” A bit queasy, I rambled on aimlessly about my bestsellers and best bets for her store. Five awkward minutes later, she smiled and said “Thanks for stopping by.” I took my cue and thanked her for her time, told her she had a lovely store, and left one of my handmade sales sheets next to her cash register.
Five steps from my car I finally lost it and the tears started rolling down. What was I thinking? I was so naive to think I could actually make a business out my silly little hobby! I was humiliated and speechless. I spent the rest of the night feeling sorry for myself and vowed to start searching for part-time jobs in the morning. I just wasn’t cut out for business after all.
The next morning I managed to sleep in a little, but was awakened by an odd chirping noise. I had heard it before, but without my morning coffee it was hard to place. As I got up I then heard the unmistakable sound of printing. Printing! OMG! It was the fax machine! As I ran over to inspect the fax, my heart stopped. Slowly rolling off the fax machine was a sheet emblazoned with yesterday’s store logo. I was wide awake at that point and in complete shock. Three pages and $1200 later, I had my first boutique customer.
After a much deserved happy dance I called the store owner to confirm and thank her for the order. She laughed and said, “Why do you seem surprised?” I tried to play it off, but subtly mentioned I didn’t realize she was that interested in the line. Her response?
“Oh no sweetie, I knew I loved it the second I saw it. I just thought you needed some practice so I let you keep going.”
I was completely blown away. I was making plans to abandon my dream of starting a business for all the WRONG reasons. I had let my own fears and self doubt create a situation that didn’t even exist. She had LOVED the line.
After that eye-opening experience I stopped wearing my heart on my sleeve. I promised to not take rejections so personally and learned to leave the self-doubt at home. Being rejected is just part of the journey and you can’t let it wreak emotional havoc on your business. Embrace the bad with the good and use the setbacks as opportunities to grow and learn. And most importantly, don’t always assume the worst. You just might be pleasantly surprised!
Do you have a similar story to share? Have you assumed the worst and ended up pleasantly surprised?