5 Lessons For Every Entrepreneur...
I received a package in the mail this morning and my heart literally popped out of my eyeballs! But before I can tell you what it was, I have to tell you why…
My first job out of college was for a start up foreign language company and was in many ways the same job I have today. Writing, brand building, storytelling and thanks to Sarah Walton (my creative partner and company owner) we were collaborating to build something special using grit and imagination that had a focus on business but a heart for a higher good. (This is almost exactly how I would describe Klique and my partnership with Stacy btw).
The challenge was simple. How to provide foreign language instruction to elementary school students? A subject desperately lacking for children at the prime age for learning. The execution turned out to be not as simple as the idea…(this should sound familiar to every entrepreneur out there). But it worked nonetheless…
Probably because we didn’t know any better, we approached the task with optimism and creativity and dove in. Storytelling wasn’t “a thing” back then. But to Sarah and I it was the only plausible solution. We determined that teaching children about language acquisition should be done through stories, with beautiful designs and writing; all based on a sound strategy and proven methodology. So we invented two programs: one to teach Spanish and one to teach French. And decided we would create characters who traveled the world…on missions, and adventures and discoveries…almost “hiding” the fact that the kids were actually learning a new language along the way. In the end, we published 32 books and audio tapes (yes, audio tapes used to be high tech) and miraculously sold these programs to schools across the Midwest much to the delight of teachers, parents, students and school administrators!
To be honest, it seems impossible now as my older self looks back on all that we accomplished. But here’s why it worked:
We didn’t know we shouldn’t.
This is lesson number one for any entrepreneur. Just freakin’ do it! You can never think success to death. Just get to work!
We did it differently.
A must for any brand. Figure out how you’re different and say it loud and proud! What’s the emotional promise of your business? We used imagination and storytelling to find a new solution to an old problem. Instead of the same old textbooks that didn’t appeal to kids or teachers.
We took risks.
Sarah stepped away from a high paying job where she had won numerous awards yet she immersed herself in this new project without looking back. I was 21 years old. My risks weren’t as steep. But I risked every day breaking through traditional barriers to create something different without apology. We were in many ways some of the first disruptors.
We were each other’s biggest fans.
We touted each other’s strengths. NO MATTER WHAT. The things we can achieve when we support each other are amazing. Especially for entrepreneurs (we need the pep talks too).
We never got in each other’s way.
This is probably the most important lesson of all. Women: let’s help each other out! Even if it doesn’t benefit us directly. When I left my job with Sarah to move to San Francisco with my future husband who had found a new job, she didn’t try to hold me back. In fact, she reached into her bag of contacts and helped me land an amazing job as an Advertising Executive that propelled my professional life even further. What you do for someone when you don’t have to says everything about you.
So, when the mail arrived this morning…it was a package from Sarah. Inside, was the most gracious letter about how impressed she is with Klique. A book about how to keep growing with creativity. And a featured article in Southern Home where her beautifully designed home is now on glossy gorgeous display with her artwork as the centerpiece - and if you look closely on the walls - that artwork is the pages from our books. That’s when my heart popped popped out of my eyeballs. And all the lessons came rushing back…
If it wasn’t for Sarah I never would have unlocked the gifts of creativity or taken to heart the lessons of teamwork or valued entrepreneurs the way I do now (with all their pluses and pitfalls). And I am amazed that the world gave me my second coming of Sarah in Stacy. A partner who is supremely talented and driven and intelligent and kind. Who I come to work each day excited to see what obstacles we can overcome together in our own disruptive way.
I am no longer that young woman I was back then. But I am an even a better version of myself. And I know that when my heart pops out of my eyeballs it’s because I have followed my heart. As entrepreneurs we can sometimes take a beating, but we also can grow beyond measure when we step UP and never on. And I learned that if you follow the lessons well, your gifts eventually come back to you. Even on a random Tuesday morning when an unexpected package arrives in the mail.