E is for Entrepreneurship, not for Easy

Life does not stop when you become an entrepreneur, and I nearly let life keep me from getting to the Sandbox session this past Thursday night.

Class was in Lawrence, and I was having a not so great day. I was moody. I had been sick on and off for the past month and hadn’t slept the night before because I couldn’t breathe through my nose. I had been having trouble breathing for most of the day.

The faucet in my bathtub wouldn’t turn off and was pouring a not so gentle stream of scalding hot water down the drain, and the natural resource, extreme conservationist in me had been literally screaming with hour and gallon of water wasted.

Our class was taking place in a Lawrence mill, and our instructor had advised us to leave early. I left early and promptly gouged my finger on the iron gate when I tried to yank it open and discovered it was stuck in partially frozen snowmelt.

I got into my car, programmed my GPS, and received the message, “acquiring satellites.” I could wait for my GPS to function as it was meant to function, which I knew from experience might never happen. I did not want to guess at which back roads to take and risk getting completely lost and succumbing to complete and total potential panic.

Instead, I pursued the path I knew would eventually lead to Lawrence and spent the next 40 minutes in the parking lot formerly known at I-495 North. It took 15 minutes just to get from the Lowell connector exit along the on-ramp before even getting onto the highway.

I called my sweetie, hoping to hear a familiar, comforting voice in the phone to remind me that life was worth living.

I was surrounded by cars. Head lights and break lights lit up the early night.

I hated life.

I hated Lowell.

I hated Massachusetts.

I would never be able to get my business going. I was doomed to sit in this car on the 495 on ramp forever!

I was nowhere near Lawrence, and the clock was ticking.

I expected the tears to start at any second.

But they didn’t.

I kept breathing, slowly, and not through my nose.

I tried telling myself that Lowell was not to blame.

My phone rang. It was a friend.

Just hearing her voice on the other end of the phone, I could feel my muscles relaxing.

The cars around me were not filled with human monsters, all hell bent on keeping me from getting to my destination.

“Am I the worst person in the world? Am I just awful to be around?” I asked her.

“No, of course not,” she assured me. I wasn’t convinced. I was a monster. And I was frenetic and crazy. Massachusetts made me CRAZY! I had to get out of this state…NOW!

“I could tell you were cranky today,” came the reassuring, calming voice.

“Did I project my crankiness onto you? “I was horrified at the thought. Did I have no self control? I really was a monster.

“No, not at all. I just wanted to give you your space.”

“Because I do that to my sweetie sometimes. I don’t mean to, but I do.” my squirrel-like chatter continued. Words just kept coming, quickly. Damn this state for making me move so fast all of the time.

“We all do,” she said. How amazing she was and so understanding.

I still wasn’t convinced that she really did not think I was crazy, but I was also exhausted from my rage against the world.

Entrepreneurship is not easy, especially when there is life, health, and love in the mix.

Passion for my product line is a great place to start, but it will not cover the cost of running a business or allow me to leave my day job any time in the near future.

Patience is the secret, as well as dedication, determination, and hard work.

When I finally made it to the Lawrence Mill for guest presenter and Sandbox superstar Brenna of 99DegreesCustom, I began to relax.

And I was so thankful that I stayed the course.

Each class in the Sandbox is invaluable.

From Brenna, we heard real, raw, and gritty details of starting a business.

Some of her words echoed other presenters.

“In the beginning, prepare to be exhausted. It is money or time, and you have to choose time in order to start making money.”

Check. If I had thought I might start getting sleep after the sandbox accelerator program, I had better prepare for a longer haul of sleep deprivation.

Listening to Brenna, I felt simultaneously inspired and hopeless.

What I loved about Brenna was her complete and total honesty, at times brutal honesty. She was dynamic and real. Every word that came from her was full of passion, emotion, and wisdom, and we ate it up.

“Talk to as many people as you can because you never know when one connection will be that one connection you need to get your business going,” she told us.

She spoke of figuring out the social value for your business because it will be important to communicate this value in every conversation we engage in, formal and informal.

“Your values will become the touchstone that you use to make business decisions. They will guide your conversations with customers, investors, etc. It is important to figure out your values early on, so they can guide how you grow as a business. You can be the kind of entrepreneur that you want to be. Build your values into every decision you make so that every step of the way, you build a culture around a core set of values.”

Guest speaker Raj from the Desphande Foundation, which oversees the Sandbox, joined in the dialogue, offering invaluable, sage advice.

“The first step of entrepreneurship is to know yourself. What are your inner values that drive you? Once you know that, and you can put it down, it will shape your future and the direction you take.”

My favorite take home message of the night came from Raj, who told us:

“Lots of people will tell you that entrepreneurs are lucky, but I will tell you that entrepreneurs make their own luck.”

At the end of the night, David chimed in with words that brought it all back to the tangible:

“Each of your businesses has a social impact, and that can really resonate with people. Keep practicing and honing your pitch so you get to the heart of the social impact of your business.”

I left inspired once more. There is always that voice in the back of my time, telling me that I might fail, but the voice is generally subdued after a session at the Sandbox.

Each day is a new day, and I am an entrepreneur. I make my own luck. And I will succeed!

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