“Build something you’re passionate about. As an entrepreneur, you have to have the passion and drive to stay the course.” — Alexandra Chong, CEO and founder, Lulu
Becoming an entrepreneur fundamentally changed me. I think, dream, live, and love with more honesty, passion, and sense of purpose than ever before. I did not pluck those qualities out of the sky. They are in me. They ignited and are no longer censored or monitored. And I am happier, more grounded, and sure of myself than I ever have been. But I envisioned this. I wanted this.
I’m six months into my new career, and only launched my website three months ago. But, I have already achieved more than I could have imagined. I freelanced in the past but never ran my own business. I do now. I have clients, and I prospect and network constantly. My business is mostly online, but I talk to everyone, and hand out business cards at restaurants, the grocery store, and the gym. I train and learn new skills. I am new at this, yet I feel at home.
Being myself has led me to a special community of fellow entrepreneurs who are now my family. We find each other.
Yes, I’m making money; I’m working. I am not the person to emulate to make fast cash. The money will come. But, my success is in creating a professional life in sync with my personal life, my children, my partner, and my core values.
My life is forever changed. That is priceless. After my divorce, my mantra became: “You get all of Jenny, or none of Jenny.” That freedom is exhilarating; the rewards, astounding. Aligning business with personal values, I believe, is how we find our “true love”—whether professional, personal, or, in my case, both. I am rich beyond any impressive tax return I filed as a software marketing professional.
In the early 1990’s, I was in the University of Washington MBA program. Jim Senigal visited my entrepreneurship class. He was radiant. He worked harder than ever before; he cared more, about his products and his people. And, he surrounded himself with a community—he didn’t call them employees—with fire in their belly, and happiness in their hearts. Senigal is the co-founder and former CEO of Costco.
I was mesmerized as he shared his business model, how and why he built Costco as he did, and how it mirrored how he lived. I got a Costco card immediately. A single, budget conscious graduate student in a studio apartment. I bought dry goods and other staples in bulk. I never ran out of toilet paper. I shopped at the flagship store where Senigal often lunched. He’d grab a hotdog and Coke for $1.50 and park himself at the Food Court just like me and everyone else. He talked with everyone—his people, his customers, and, of course, me. I never left him alone, he knew me as “that woman from the MBA program.” That was in 1992.
Why has that story stayed with me? Not because I think he’s a hero. Not because I have followed his career and think he’s done everything right. No. I remember that day when he was new. A casually-dressed, successful entrepreneur, who spoke with confidence, energy, and laughter in his voice.
I am not going to be the next Costco. I’m fine being Jenny. I love my copy writing business; am thrilled for the future; am surrounded by talented, ambitious, eager, and committed collaborators on any possible project that might come my way; and I am fully loved and supported professionally, emotionally, and socially. All of Jenny. All of her.
My happiness and true love as an entrepreneur is not really bullet-point-able . . . but, I can tell you a few things. And you can have them too.
I am passionate about working and doing what I love. And doing only what I love. I know we don’t all have the luxury to ease into a passion business. Remember, I am not padding a bank account. I am building a life, and building memories. The money will come.
I surround myself with like-minded people. I work with bright, engaged, curious people. Yes, clients choose me, they hire me, it’s a real business. But I don’t have to choose them. Sometimes, I don’t. My professional collaborators and friends are the same. And, after too long in an unhappy marriage, my partner now is passionate, supportive, forward-thinking, and he makes me a better person.
I parent with greater patience, attention, and awareness. I am connected and grounded for my children, and model happiness, empowerment, and creativity. I support my boys’ passions and dreams. They are not my dreams to guide, they are theirs. I know acceptance and appreciation for my talents, skills, and my being. I want my children to know that. I believe they do.
I trust myself. I think more critically and come to decisions with ease. I’m in charge, so I evaluate, reassess, and adjust. If something isn’t working, I can make change. “All or nothing” thinking no longer dictates my actions. I am calm and confident. I have been through the shit and made it out more alive than ever. I can do this. I can do anything.
Small failures and mistakes are opportunities. Particularly when I share them with others, because if we’re honest—we’ve all been there. I put myself out there, I stretch. I break rules. I make mistakes with clients sometimes, usually small ones, but mistakes nonetheless. I stick my foot in my mouth regularly. I say what I think. Particularly in the online world where context is key, I offend or mis-communicate sometimes. I also simply screw up.
But I changed how I look at mistakes. First, I openly share them, admit them, and ask for support. Those who are not supportive fall away, or I let them go. Otherwise, I am reminded that I’m human, and not alone. Second, I own them. I apologize, take ownership, and repair. In business, with my children, with friends, and with my partner. And third, I learn from them. I don’t promise I’ll never make another mistake. I do commit to growth and awareness.
My comfort zone no longer exists. I keep pushing it, and the rewards are endless. I am truly proud of myself. I’m not a millionaire (yet). I’m not perfect. I’m a work in progress. But, I am open now. I am always ready to try new things because I have seen I can—it’s on my terms. When I reach a business or fitness benchmark, a parenting win, or a relationship milestone, I can recognize my effort and success.
Mine is not a best-selling, conference hall seat-filling story like that of Lisa Nichols, one of my new favorite people. But I feel in control of my life. When I get scared, which I do, I remind myself, I got here. I endured challenge. I am also not alone. Ever. Even when I am and need to be. I am a solopreneur and writer working from home. And that is by design. But I am not lonely or isolated. I have such richness of community, support and love. And I found true love, in all things, as an entrepreneur, and in life. I’m not done growing, working, or changing, but I have this. I’ll be fine. In fact, I’ll be great.