“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt
I remember the enthusiasm, the passion and determination that led me to take the plunge and open a café, a place where patrons would be reminded of their travels throughout Italy, sipping cappuccinos or savoring a shot of espresso at the bar. I was high on life; I was finally going to become the entrepreneur I always knew I would be. I have since witnessed that same passion and enthusiasm in other women as they discuss their plans and you can’t help but wonder, how can one not succeed with that kind of passion?
We are always told to follow our passion and we will be happy, but what people fail to tell you is that it does not mean you will always be able to pay the bills. Not too often will individuals discuss their failures in business because it is difficult to admit that you have failed and even harder to share it with the world. I am writing about my failure but also the inspiration that impacted my journey. Many believe that in order for women to succeed in business we have to put on a tough front and cannot show our vulnerability or emotions. I want women to understand that we can still be vulnerable and succeed. Our community is filled with amazing, engaging, inspiring women who are ready to help without judgement or expectations. Entrepreneurship will take you through many extreme highs and lows that you never imagined you could endure. Who better to understand those highs and lows? Why other entrepreneurs of course, and thus BWC (Business Women Connect) was founded and helped me through the most challenging 19 months of my life.
Looking back on my experience, I know what I would have done differently, and perhaps I would have called it quits earlier, but what can sometimes be a “pesky” quality in me, persistence, was my driving force. For the first time in my life, it wasn’t an asset, it was almost a hindrance. At the end of a rough day, the thought of our BWC networking events was extremely difficult for me. I didn’t want to talk, I wanted to wallow in self-pity. Fortunately for me, I was hosting them and could not find the time to wallow in my self-pity! By the time the event started and the room filled with the buzz of women connecting, I could not help but become reenergized. It was a force stronger than me, someone placing all these women in my space, when I needed them the most. After hearing an inspiring story or a similar struggle, I felt like I could keep going.
Every entrepreneur needs that type of support in her life. I sometimes wished it was a weekly event but fortunate for me I worked in a café and had some AMAZING women come sit at my bar and we would discuss our challenges – it was like therapy for the price of a cup of coffee. Lesson here: when you feel like withdrawing, reach out, you will not regret it. It’s like going to exercise, you never look back and say, “I wish I hadn’t done that” because it makes you feel energized, rejuvenated and inspired.
The decision to close was difficult, but at the same time, a huge relief. The food industry is tough, a lot of hard work and long hours for very little return. If you ask me, do I miss it, I can honestly say no but I do miss my daily interactions with my loyal customer base and striving towards building something you can call your own. Building my brand was probably the most rewarding aspect of my journey. Even though I may not have reached my financial goals, I know I created and fulfilled my mission and vision. I remember scrolling through all the comments on our facebook page, it was bittersweet; I had a good cry and felt an immense gratitude for the experience and the memories created. Being the face of my brand, I was very close to my customers and I never forget a face. After closing, I saw customers everywhere I went and honestly, most times I wanted to run away and hide but in most situations it was not possible (a big dive to my left or right might have been obvious) so I had to find my strength, smile and rest assured that I was ok. Some run-ins were encouraging, such as a hug from a customer telling me, “ I’ve had a couple of businesses fail and they were huge learning curves and stepping stones to where I am today” (he is very successful today). Another run-in occurred when I was going to the skating rink with my 4 year old daughter and saw a customer who simply said ,” this must be easier for you than what you were doing”. He didn’t ask what happened - he respected my time and without even knowing it, he gave me reassurance that I had done the right thing.
The new year began and I was finally finding acceptance in my situation and looking towards the future when I received a text from one of my dear friends, “Are you ok, I read the article”. My heart sank, I had no idea what she was talking about, so I responded “what article?”. I googled my name and came across it - the landlord was suing us for the remainder of our lease. The article was devastating for various reasons but most of all because it increased our families concern for us. There were some things we had hoped to keep private so as not to create additional strain on an already difficult situation. Our personal struggles were now out there for everyone to read.
So the comments, email, phone calls began to come in and I once again had to find my strength, smile, and tell them everything was going to be ok. The night before our January BWC meeting, I felt as though I was at the end of my rope, that I couldn’t beat this, that I was once again defeated. I had started to compose an email to Susan, apologizing but telling her that I just couldn’t do it, I could not gather the strength nor confidence to face the women of the night but yet I was unable to hit “send”.
As I lay in bed that night , I told my husband, I can’t do it anymore, I do not have the strength. I felt completed defeated. His response, “Yes you can because you ARE a fighter.” We went to bed and I woke up the next day and remembered who I was - I am a fighter and I CAN do this. The moment I entered the BWC room that night, my first encounter was with Kim King. Her body language was so supportive and encouraging, she completely set the mood for me and reaffirmed that I was going to survive - “this too shall pass”. The energy continued as the room filled and I felt so blessed to be among all these strong, courageous, supportive women. I truly felt like myself again and realized I was the only person judging myself. This was a huge “aha” moment.
Looking back on the event and reflecting on some of the conversations, I think to myself, what a wonderful world this would be if we could move this energy and leadership to our work places, home life, communities, and schools. How far can the inspiration, support, success and collaboration from business women connecting reach? I may no longer be a women with a business, but I am a business minded women. Entrepreneurship is a spirit, a spirit that has always been alive in me and always will be, no matter how many mistakes or failures I endure.
“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”- Winston Churchill.