Ever so often and quite frankly with a frequency that makes me think deeply about my own “success,” I get asked about what it takes to start a new business, the kind of dedication and work that are required for entrepreneurship.
Usually, I get these questions from other women, most of them in their mid-thirties to early forties who are either bored or disillusioned at their current jobs; they tell me that they believe they have what it takes to go it alone.
They come to me expecting some kind of salvo. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 20 years and often I feel as if they want me to convince them to quit.
They’ve been doing something on the side for a while; the side hustle has begun to bear fruit and they want validation that their instinct is correct.
I love listening. I love hearing these stories, all the business ideas, the enthusiasm especially to get going is particularly infectious.
And I really want to say how great it is to answer to no one (unless you count the myriad of clients and customers you hope to get) and do things when you want. And I want to stretch the truth a bit and say that the fact that they have something to sell means everyone will buy their product or service immediately and that success will happen the moment they quit their jobs.
But that’s not what I tell them.
The grind can read like a playbook.
18-hour days that involve little sleep, financial pressure, criticism, having to stare your fears down every single day with the hope of making an impact while taking unimaginable risks to make a decent living is a constant reality.
There’s something else that many don’t talk about. Doing the side hustle when your full-time job is paying the bills is fine but when the hustle has to be combined with smart strategy predicated on numbers that’s when the stuff gets too real.
Many entrepreneurs work weekends and holidays to make their business happen. Many do it for years without seeing any of the benefits. Sure, at times the work pays off, sometimes in a big way, but in all the cases I know, success took time.
Quick example. Everyone is talking about the movie, Wrinkle in Time, (on the heels of Black Panther) and the magic that is Ava DuVerNay. However, before Selma, the film that made its director a household name, DuVernay worked in PR, journalism and promotions. Her first film was done in 2005 and cost $6,000 and it was 15 years of doing the work before she experienced success.
So when I get the questions particularly from those who want me to say how easy it is, my silence can rock to the core.
This stuff, building a business, takes tons and tons of work. It takes some serendipity, even a tiny bit of luck. Mostly, it takes a lot of time and while it is a huge privilege to do what you love every day, there is a lot of elbow-to-grease and mental work that goes along with it.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, say hello on