Three women share their stories of denial, fear, mentors, and pushing through.
When you’re in the process of scaling your business, there are days you’re like “I love this! I’m living the dream!” And other days you’re like “This is so much harder than anything I imagined. Where do I get off?” I’ve been there. But if you’ve committed to going big, you need grit and resilience to get there. When you come up against challenges, that “water around rocks” mindset will empower you to keep moving forward.
When you’re navigating challenges like fundraising, figuring out how to manufacture products, creating a board of advisors, hiring a great team with very few dollars, and so on, it’s easy to think that if we just push harder, do more, and do it faster, we can overcome whatever’s in our way. So we push and push ‘til we’re on the brink. We burn ourselves out.
Burnout is real. And it’s often a sign that what you’re doing isn’t working. Because you didn’t start a company to have a job, did you? And a low paying one with no benefits at that! You started a company to be an owner. Something within your business, whether it’s your model or your mindset, needs to change to become that owner you wanted to be. Your business needs to work for you, not the other way around!
That’s why preparation for the moments when you’ll want to throw in the towel is key. How you prepare, mentally and emotionally, is different for every entrepreneur, but it always helps to have a vision that drives you and someone to guide you.
I promise, you’re not alone
Behind every successful entrepreneur who looks like they had the overnight success that you don’t, there are years of hard work, sweat, tears, stressful phone calls, and sleepless nights.
In a previous blog, I wrote about the power of networking and how that helps you find your flying buttresses. I broke down why it’s crucial to step away from your business to meet key people who will help you push through challenges. Your mentors, coaches, and peers are the ones who will make sure you’re working smarter, not harder.
In this blog, I wanted to pass the mic over to three amazing female founders to share their challenges, how they avoided jumping ship, and who helped them along the way. Each of these women were be featured in the Female Founders Showcase at the 2017 Million Dollar Women Summit. I have also included my own story because there is a common thread that you’ll discover if you read to the end.
Helena Fogarty, CEO of MI OLA
On pushing through: There are definitely moments when I feel like calling it quits, but that’s just not an option for me. I push through it. How do I get past it? I visualize the other options, like working in an office in a large corporation. That’s the last thing I want to be doing, so I double down and get hustling again.
On denial and fear: I’m in denial about the constant pace of fundraising. Whenever I take a breath and relax, I feel like I fall behind. But when I get traction—and someone writes a check—it feels great and I get back up again!
On mentors: Potential investors and business school were instrumental in guiding me to go big.
Erin Carpenter, CEO of Nude Barre
On pushing through: So far, I’ve faced several moments when I wanted to throw in the towel. It happened a few times when cash was low and I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay my bills. Whenever that happened, I came up with a strategy and moved forward instead of feeling sorry for myself. As a goal-oriented person, having a plan in place empowers me.
On denial and fear: For a long time, I was in denial about the fact that I needed outside capital to grow or build the business. I wasn’t excited about giving up equity of my company. I was told by family/friends (who weren’t entrepreneurs), that I should bootstrap instead of going into debt and giving up equity. But I decided to fundraise because scaling my business without outside capital resulted in slow growth. Fundraising is hard and scary, but I know it’s necessary to take my business to the next level.
On mentors: I originally wanted to be a service business, but my dad was the first to point out this wasn’t scalable and that I needed to produce my own product line. I was afraid because I didn’t know where to start, but he assured me that I’m smart and would figure it out. My long time mentor Bruce Niswander helped me with getting incorporated and with my executive summary in the early stages.
My mom told me I needed to get a celebrity endorsement and pushed me to send my products to Wendy Williams. She has worn Nude Barre on her show since 2012. I was afraid of getting rejected; it took me about six months to send her a package! Our sales increased by 50 percent the year she started wearing Nude Barre.
When I decided to raise capital in 2015, I came across Julia’s book during my research. It showed me I wasn’t alone. After reading the book, I got in touch with Julia who urged me to fundraise. She simply said, “You can do it. I believe in you.”
Loren Brill, CEO of Sweet Loren’s
On pushing through: When I first launched our cookie dough, it was packaged/sold frozen. That worked for the New York market but not nationally, where supermarkets sell cookie dough as refrigerated. This proved to be a challenge when trying to scale. If I wanted to build the next brand name in cookie dough, I knew I was going to have to find the best factory to work with to go up against the “Big Guys” on the shelf. The hurdle felt larger than life. The calls and emails from customers and fans begging to be able to buy our healthy cookie dough in their local stores pushed me to fight through making that major change in my product.
On fear and denial: I feared rejection when I started fundraising. And I did get rejected several times by smart, successful people I admired. But I kept going. Eventually, I closed our round from the right type of investors who I wanted in my business.
On mentors: My mentor, Daniella, told me to go for it because she knew I could do it. She helped me realize that if I didn’t go for it, I couldn’t make my dreams come true. I believe that mentors are instrumental in growing a business and healthy for entrepreneurs to keep close. The emotional support is just as important (or more!) as the contacts, advice, or their financial investments.
I’ll never forget the moment I almost threw in the towel. I was in my fourth year of Little Pim, taking care of my two little boys under age six, and I was always exhausted and tired of not making enough money. I thought I should sell my business. With some nudging from my family, I reached out to a cousin who had just sold his company for $400M (no, there is not an extra zero there) and asked for his advice.
We talked about my business; he told me he thought I had built a great platform and suggested I consider raising venture capital. That kind of high stakes fundraising wasn’t on my radar and my first reaction was, “No. What else can I do?”
My cousin said I must hire the right staff and go international and fully digitize our product line if I wanted to be a real player. I spent a few weeks rejecting his advice. I was in total denial. Eventually, what he said started making sense and I knew I had to pursue fundraising, even though it was the last thing I wanted to do!
I went back to my WHY. I realized I wanted to build my company and keep serving my customers more than I wanted to stay in my comfort zone. Staying in my comfort zone was getting me nowhere. If anything, it was leading me backward.
Our common thread
Helena, Erin and Loren valued their dream and business more than they valued staying in their own comfort zones. I did, too. And none of us were as alone as we felt. Instead, we changed our mindset. We got support. And we went through the often painstaking process of making the changes that mattered most.
Now, I’m so excited to be able to offer mentorship, fundraising training, and support to other female entrepreneurs at the upcoming Million Dollar Women Summit, an event for women entrepreneurs who want to scale their businesses to the one million-dollar mark and beyond. It’s an opportunity to meet with other women who are facing the same struggles and get coached by successful female founders who have “been there done that” and are willing to share their experiences and support you in your entrepreneurial journey.
We still have a few spots and I truly hope you’ll take advantage of this strong, high growth, supportive community and join us in NYC on April 5-6, 2018. It will change your business. It will change your life. Thanks for being part of my life and reading all the way to the end!
P.S. Are you ready to find out what your next step is to going big? Schedule a a free 45 minute Accelerate Session with me to find out if Masterclass is a fit for your business.