Untying Knots & Swimming with Sharks

“If you love gambling, swimming with sharks, spending hours untying knots and punching yourself in the face—you may be ready to start a company.”
—Jake Nickell, founder and mission commander, Threadless

All over the internet, you can find lists of “10 ways to know you’re an entrepreneur” or “7 signs you’re ready to start your own business” or “5 ways to know you were born to be your own boss.”

Frankly, these articles don’t usually resonate with me, and I find myself saying “nope, not me — I don’t relate to that.” The tongue-in-cheek example above makes me laugh, but more than anything, it reminds me that I’m not the typical entrepreneur. I don’t love gambling (read: taking risks), swimming with sharks (read: being surrounded by threats/competition), spending hours untying knots (read: confronting obstacles and fixing problems), or punching myself in the face (read: putting myself in uncomfortable positions or beating myself up for mistakes).

I frequently meet with people who want to be entrepreneurs and ask to hear my story about launching my own company. I love sharing my story of starting Baking for Good, but I often find myself saying to them, “Whatever I do next, it won’t be starting my own company.” This comment typically receives a response of surprise and questions like, “But don’t you love working for yourself?” “Wouldn’t it be hard to work for someone else?” and “Isn’t it cool to have all this ownership?”.

The truth is, running a business is really challenging and comes with tremendous risk and uncertainty, and honestly, it’s uncomfortable. Some people thrive off of challenge and risk and uncertainty, but personally, I’d rather have stability and comfort.

Why, then, did I start Baking for Good? It wasn’t because I wanted to start a business; it wasn’t because I wanted to leave my consulting job and be my own boss. I started Baking for Good because I had an idea that I believed in and knew that I could figure out how to launch. Almost as importantly for me, I knew I could do it on my own, without raising money, which was important because the idea of raising money was scary and made me uncomfortable, and again, I prefer comfort to discomfort.

Some people feel that entrepreneurship is in their blood, and I think that’s great. I envy people who thrive off of risk and uncertainty, because those traits would come in very handy for me with Baking for Good. I’m just a different kind of entrepreneur — someone who became an entrepreneur because of an idea, not the other way around.

So what does it mean if I take an “are you an entrepreneur?” quiz and find that, according to the scoring guide, I don’t fit the profile? Should I not have started my business? Should I close up shop now and get back to a full-time corporate job?

I don’t think the answer is that I shouldn’t have started a business. I think the answer is that for me, some of the things I have to do as an entrepreneur (take risks, face competition, tackle obstacles, recover from missteps) are outside of my comfort zone, and being aware of that can help me fight through it in order to continue to grow the company and make it a success.

Running my own business forces me to leave my comfort zone frequently. Focusing on why I started Baking for Good in the first place — because I believe in it and know it has the potential to be a big success — helps me get over the fact that I don’t always check off all the boxes on the “typical” entrepreneurial profile. Who wants to be typical, anyway?

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3 Responses to Untying Knots & Swimming with Sharks

  1. hermosausaadmin says:

    Hi Emily! It’s Marianne (MzMarianne from Twitter) ^-^. I really appreciate this post and wholeheartedly believe in your idea & vision. Going to work on spreading the word on Baking For Good in my area! Hope 2012 will be your best year yet! Best wishes and support always! ♥

  2. Aaron Zeitner says:

    Great blog Melissa. Hunch, when you read again in 5 years, you’ll have an interesting realization of what this process has done for you. Strong, wise, heart of a lion.

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