The second question we posed to our entrepreneurial sounding board is about failure. There is a growing school of thought that failure is crucial to success: teaching valuable lessons, building resilience, and showing you that life doesn't end if you fail at something. While everyone has a different response, the general theme is clear: bounce back. Persevere.
Nadine Gabai Botero | Focus Fundraising
Prior to starting my fundraising consulting firm, I partnered with someone on a project to test the waters. We seemed to be a great match professionally and I didn’t think too much about the process or details like a strong contract or ensuring I’d get paid. Big mistake! After I got myself out of that, I used the experience as I set up my company and have made sure to pay close attention to details, who I’m partnering with, and how I structure each project.
Nicole Aguirre | Worn
This is a tough question because if you’ve learned, I don’t believe you have failed. Before starting the agency, I tried my hand at running an e-commerce company called Worn Abroad. The concept was to sell clothes from trends found around the world that were otherwise hard to get. I was inspired by my time living in South Korea and the fashion there that is three years ahead of the U.S. I ran this company for about 9 months and then shut it down from one day to the next to start Worn the agency. I donated all of our inventory, shut down the website, and never looked back.
The #1 reason I shut it down was that I failed to anticipate how much start-up capital would be needed to keep inventory fresh and new styles in stock and I wasn’t willing to raise more money than the small family round I had raised initially. I realized I was in the wrong business for me, so I recovered by starting a different business, which is the one I run today. I went from feeling like I was paddling upstream to padding downstream. I also learned immense amounts about what it takes to successfully run an e-commerce business and I’ve used that knowledge to advise our current clients.
Svetlana Legetic | BrightestYoungThings
We have obviously had our ups and downs, it is natural, but I would say we made a few mistakes in hiring that led to us standing up for people in public who were dishonest with us, and it puts the whole organization's reputation at risk. But we bounced back by the way we always do: by not dwelling on it and persevering. Always forge ahead.
Caroline Mauldin | Social Entrepreneur
So many failures, so many lessons! Such great lessons, in fact, that I'm hesitant to even call them failures in the first place. But here we go: throughout my career, I have consistently failed at speaking up for myself. I think a lot of women struggle with this, and I am right there with them. We are people pleasers. Personally, I have a tendency towards crazy optimism and a pesky habit of seeing the very, very best in all people and situations. Unfortunately, sometimes people and situations don't live up to my hopes and dreams, leaving me disappointed, under-acknowledged, and almost always underpaid. The only way to recover from this vicious habit is to do better the next time. Remember to value myself and speak my truth, no matter the consequences.
Ming Thompson | Atelier Cho Thompson
All of my small failures are tied to one big failure: an inability to say 'no.' I'm so lucky to have a job that is fun and interesting, and neat projects are always coming my way. I can't help but say yes to everything. You're starting a new store and need some architecture help? I'd love to! You need someone to lead a volunteer charette for local non-profits? I'm your lady! You need help designing a barn, and you'll pay me in apples? Sure! Yes! Absolutely!
The beginning of each of these projects is the fun part...the saying yes, the imagining, the magic of conversations spent cooking up incredible ideas. But then there is the actual work, the long hours at the computer, the endless emails, the complicated logistics, and even a small project takes up a lot of time. I say 'yes' to far too many things, and I then suffer professionally, but mostly personally. It's really hard for me to remember, but getting enough sleep, eating real meals, and spending time doing fun things are all part of being a good designer. When I go on a walk in the neighborhood with my son or spend time reading fiction, I find new inspiration for my design work, and I'm a more sane and balanced person.
Honestly, I haven't yet recovered from this failure, but I'm trying. And no, I'm sorry, but I can't help you with your backyard design project. Wait, it's a multi-level treehouse? What an interesting project! Well, maybe I could squeeze just this last one in...
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