Tales from an introvert entrepreneur

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I am an introvert and a homebody. While I can psyche myself up to go out, mingle, and be social, I much prefer to just stay home and cuddle with my cats on the couch. I love working from home and wearing my sweatpants all day!

I am also an entrepreneur. I realize that there is only a slim chance of my musical career taking off by people discovering me in the overwhelmingly large haystack that has become the World Wide Web.

To create success, I have to leave the house, perform my songs, describe my approach to songwriting, and talk to people. A lot of people.

An entrepreneur needs to create a network of support for their business. It helps to stay in one place. Since I am an entrepreneur and also a nomad, I have met with some challenges along the way to developing my songwriting business.

I built up quite a network and foundation of clientele when I was living in Lowell, Massachusetts. Massachusetts was a place where people encouraged and supported the entrepreneur spirit. Lowell, in particular, was full of people who were excited about the progressive arts. The city was founded on new ideas and the creative spirit, and this dynamic has endured. I was accepted into an entrepreneur accelerator program with EforAll (Entrepreneurship for All), which introduced me to the brave new world of startups and amazing teachers, who helped nudge me along the entrepreneurial path. I was fired up! I was active. I felt that my art was loved and valued in Lowell.

Then, I moved to Arizona.

I moved for love, but I experienced a real setback with regard to moving my songwriting business forward. While I felt support from my alma mater, Prescott College, and some wonderful members of the art community, the rest of the community seemed more interested in perpetuating the arts as related to the “wild west” mentality, traditional country music, and big bands. The solo folk artist was fast disappearing from the scene. I reached out in several directions and experienced limited success, but my motivation waned dramatically with each setback. I experienced a kind of entrepreneurial spiritual crisis and found myself withdrawing into my introvert shell to regroup. I was just beginning to get hired for regular gigs when my husband came up with the idea to earn his doctorate in a foreign country.

With yet another move across a continent and an ocean, I find myself once again in a space of transition in a foreign land; really foreign. The culture. The language. Everything is different and new.

Here in a new place, I have to start over once more. I spend a lot of time wondering how to get started. Should I go to open mics and try to meet people in the music community that way? Should I reach out to language schools and offer songwriting for learning English as a second language? I have a lot of questions and few answers.

Even with the uncertainty that is part of moving to a new place, a new start is not a complete do over. I bring with me the skills and knowledge I have gained from each place I have lived. I have ideas that I can try to get the entrepreneurial ball rolling.

I just need to get out myself off of the couch, out of my sweatpants and into professional clothing, out the door, and into the world.

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Therein lies the challenge for the introvert entrepreneur. Motivating myself to get up and out is part one. Part two is approaching strangers, introducing myself, and talking to them about what I do.

I know what you might be thinking. You worked as a park ranger for a decade. You are gregarious, bubbly, and outgoing. You are partially correct. I did work as a park ranger for many years. I am comfortable with public speaking and engaging with a diverse audience. I have learned how to do these things, but they all put me out of my natural comfort zone.

The most difficult part is starting, coming up with an idea and pursuing it. In Bruxelles, I have reflected on potential avenues I might pursue for songwriting. This reflection led me to consider current events and cultural happenings where songwriting might be beneficial.

What is happening culturally and in the news in Bruxelles? The refugee crisis. Could songwriting be beneficial for people coming from potentially war torn countries? I think so.

The next step was to research agencies and organizations that work with refugees in Bruxelles. I referred to mastermind Google and began sending karmic energy, mostly in the form of email communications, out into the virtual ethos.

Then, I waited.

I began receiving responses and followed each new possible path that might lead to music. One option was to attend an event for Syrian refugees that was slated to take place this past Saturday. A member of the organization suggested that I stop by and see how I might weave myself into the project.

Check! I clicked on the Going box for the Facebook event, looked up transit directions on Google maps, puttered around the house getting ready for much longer than necessary, and finally ripped off the proverbial introvert band-aid to head out into the unknown, also known as the realm of possibility.

As I stepped onto the tram and found a seat, I noticed a woman and child rushing to get on and purchase a ticket. The woman was speaking English to the child: her daughter? Ticket purchased, she guided the child to a couple of empty seats, side by side.

On the tram, I texted my husband about my reticence to go out.

I feel like a bumbling idiot every time I leave the apartment and try to find my way around.

It will get better as you become more familiar with the city, he responded.

I know.

You can always come home!

Oh, temptation! However, it had taken me so long to motivate myself to get out of my sweatpants that I felt I should follow my plans through from start to finish.

I texted back, I know, but if I come home I will never be successful. No one is going to discover me if I never leave the house.

A few stops down the track, I got off the tram and walked over the crosswalk to head over to the metro station. I noticed the woman and child walk up and wait beside me.

This was a moment of possibility. I could stand quietly, as my inner introvert was wont to do. Or I could engage the woman in conversation.

I hesitated. So much easier to just remain quiet and in the realm of my mind. Then, I turned and began to speak.

Are you American? I asked.

I am, came the response, followed by a smile.

We chatted all the way to the ticket machine at the metro, where the woman stopped to purchase tickets for them both. Before I parted from them, I gave the woman my business card. Then, I walked down the stairs to wait for the train. As it pulled in, I glanced up to see if the woman and her daughter might be on their way down, but there was no one on the stairs or escalator.

I stepped onto the train and found a seat. Just before the train began to move, the woman came bounding on with her daughter. They walked by and wave and found seats further down. I hesitated. Should I presume they would like my company or stay where I was? Again, the introvert’s dilemma.

I decided I had already gone this far, so I got up, walked over, and sat down across from them. The mother seemed pleased to have my company, and we proceeded to chat until they arrived at the station for Grand Place, which was their destination.

I continued on, following Google maps toward my own objective, a daylong series of events to support Syrian refugees to Brussels.

I found the address and walked into a scene of chaos spread across four floors. Event organizers were running around frantically, back and forth and up and down stairs. I walked up several floors and then back down, wondering how to try to explain my purpose and if I could make any sense using the French language to do so.

I spoke with one organizer, who recommended that I go up to the conference on the fourth floor. I went up to the fourth floor and found only a room with people chatting. Could this be the conference? It didn’t seem very conference-esque.

I wandered down the hall and looked out of a window to a grey sky above a foreign cityscape. My inner introvert was screaming in my ear, Run away! Get out now and don’t look back.

I listened intently to the screaming, wanting to obey. I knew I would feel instant relief once I stepped outside and left the chaos behind. I also knew that I would feel instant shame for giving up after traveling so far.

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I was about to go give up and back downstairs when I spotted a man and woman talking with an event organizer. They were speaking in French, but I knew they spoke English because I had seen them and heard their interchange in English on the tram on my way to the event. I hesitated and then walked up to the man and tapped him on the shoulder.

Vous parlez anglais, oui? Je vous ai entendu en parlant l’anglais au tram. Peut-être vous pouvez m’aider?

Translation: You speak English, yes? I heard you speaking English on the tram. Perhaps, you can help me?

In hindsight, this could very well have seemed kind of creepy, but the man did not seem disturbed in the least. He replied that the woman he was with would likely me more helpful because she was a member of the organization. He pointed toward her, and I patiently waited for a pause in her dialogue with the other organizer. Then I asked if she could help and explained that I was a musician and had been messaging with another organizer, who had recommended that I attend the event.

Oh, you should talk with Dorien, the woman told me. She speaks French and English.

Thank you! Do you know where I can find her? I asked.

Probably the first floor, she replied.

I walked back down the four sets of stairs and asked several people if they could help me find Dorien before finally being directed toward a blond-haired woman of medium height.

Dorien was speaking with another woman, so I stood and waited. At a pause in their conversation, I interjected with an apology for interjecting and asked if I might speak with Dorien.

We chatted for a bit, were interrupted by two older women in need of assistance in Flemish, and then returned to our dialogue. Dorien thought I might be able to connect with a woman named Gwendolyn at Cinemaximiliaan, another refuge agency that focused on film and was looking for musicians. She wrote her own and the other woman’s name down, along with the film agency. She suggested I friend her on facebook and she would then add me to a facebook group that included Gwendolyn.

I was thrilled! The journey to this event and the interaction with Dorien may not lead to anything fruitful on the entrepreneur front; however, had I stayed at home I would never missed the opportunity to even try.

The lesson? An entrepreneur is a bit like the pied piper. If you build it, they won’t come unless you go out and spread the word. Aka, success does not happen without effort and often requires leaving one’s inner introvert (and sweatpants) at home.

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2 Comments

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  1. Malcolm Philip Brooks December 15, 2016 — 10:59 am

    Love all the episodes in this post!

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