The economy has tanked, your bank accounts aren’t as big as they were before the markets crashed, and the stress on mortgages have been magnified by wide-scale unemployment across the economy.
Entrepreneurship can be an overwhelming word to many. It conjures up descriptions of risk, selfishness, greed and craziness, but to many outside of the circle that create these labels, these are misunderstandings. As an entrepreneur, people ask how you could leave your perfect job? When will your paycheck will ever come? Or my favorite, so when are you just going to give it up and go back to working in the real world?
One of my first and favorite quotes was from the late skiing legend Trevor Petersen, “There comes a time when one must risk something or sit forever with one’s dreams.”
It also happened to be his death that drove me on to create my first website in 1996 when I was just 13 (RIP Trevor and geocities.com/Colosseum/5778). It was a belief that he was such an amazing skier and influence on me at this age that I felt the urge to learn some scrappy HTML and put together a site with information dedicated to his life, some pictures, and a page of links offering more about him. Apparently I built it quick enough to get the attention of SKI magazine, whose website I had ‘borrowed’ my images from, and while it was still a popular issue, they asked me to take the images down. I plead my ignorance to their legal charges, and as a 7th grader they instead mentored me through an edit of the biography I had written, told me good luck, and sent me on my way again. I managed to pull thousands of hits to that page, but never did it occur to me that I could monetize my site at that point in the game. My labor toward a static page was simply a service to others and the ski community as a whole.
Little did I realize that interest in tech would continue through school and into my adult life. I had the fortune of learning to build a business in India and other regions of Asia and the world, while still being under the wing of a larger organization. It was an amazing opportunity to create ideas, build them out in a socially responsible way that contributed to local communities, learn what it takes to create a business that crosses international borders, and drive a company’s growth through a recession. The fact was, the opportunities to grow I was looking for there no longer existed, I wanted more, and I needed more challenge and there was an idea. I wanted the hustle again and I wanted the success to be on me.
My story isn’t the only one like this and I know that thousands of people like me will be going into their holidays with a sense of uneasiness as friends and family gather and the topic of “So how is business?” comes up. I’m one of the fortunate ones with great news to walk into the holidays with, however, there are thousands that are chasing a dream of uncertainty, many will chase the dream until their bank accounts are drained, while some will build their dreams to the next Google, Facebook, or exit.
Most of us are trying to get in on the next big thing, but many of us realize with the right exit, we won’t need the $6 Billion Groupon sale to be happy (though our investors would be). Many of us would see that as a stage of achievement, because it isn’t the money many of us are searching for (though it makes us able to do this again and again), we are looking for solutions that make the lives of others a little bit easier, a little more affordable, a little more productive, or as Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder and BreadPig founder says, “to make the world suck less.”
In this economy, many entrepreneurs left the comforts of salaries to create something they believed in. We did it with a little bit of savings, and some with a little bit of outside investment, but they took a leap of faith and ask themselves those same questions of doubt as they lie in bed after a 20 hour workday. We ask ourselves whether we are doing the right thing. We experience single days of elation after weeks in the trenches on a regular basis, yet thrive on it. For some of us, we will get lucky and scale our business, create new jobs while most of the country cuts them, and help make the lives of people better through innovation. Others may fail, but is it really failure if you at least gave your dreams a shot?
This holiday season, please support the entrepreneurs in your lives and give them a pat on the back, a few words of encouragement, and maybe even some constructive suggestions that could be their express lane to business success. These few days of holidays are some of the only days of vacation we’ll see all year, so leave it to the competition and investors to try and knock our dreams down the rest of the year. We’ll need your support as friends and family through this roller coaster ride we call entrepreneurship and are looking to enjoy this time with the ones we care about. Happy Holidays!