My entrepreneurial journey began out of desperation. I was in my mid-twenties; I was flat broke and unemployed. The small townhouse I had managed to buy was in foreclosure. My credit cards were maxed out, and there was little cash in my bank account. I couldn’t make the finances of college work and so I had no degree or formal education to help me land a worthwhile job. I had worked as a professional artist since I was a teenager but had recently left that career because of burnout and lack of pay. I was out of money and options, so I took my last thirty-dollars and plunged into the crazy world of entrepreneurship.
Desperation is a powerful motivator. If you don’t make it, you starve. Attached to that simple and easy-to-understand concept is the allusion of wealth and success. It’s the dynamic contrast of utter failure with ultimate success. What lies in between is mediocrity and stagnation, a fate possibly worse than total loss.
I grew my business from a closet to my own store. I opened a second location followed by a third. Three stores turned into a multi-million-dollar national franchise that spanned the southeastern United States. Along the way, I acquired several million dollars of commercial real estate assets, learned to harness technology, became a branding expert, and gained the knowledge required to unlock the secrets of innovation. I mastered the skills needed to manage a team of over fifty employees and managers. I conquered my own state of poverty and became a resource for positive change for others struggling to survive. I learned to think differently, I gained the courage to be a nonconformist, and I developed the confidence to trust my own instincts and creative ideas.
None of these things came without a cost. My entrepreneurial journey was riddled with challenges, one after another. It was a constant barrage of hits, as if I were in the ring with a professional boxer. Poverty and disadvantage plagued my startup phase. Once my business was up and running, I struggled with lack of business education and guidance. At my company’s height, I dealt with internal drama, betrayal, and sabotage. It was hit after hit after hit, with me at times left bloody and bruised, limping forward despite the pain. I was either too stupid to stop or too determined to quit.
Amid the struggles I discovered something interesting, a secret as it were, the secret to success as an entrepreneur. With each challenge, with each lemon thrown at my face, came the chance to quit or the chance to uncover a hidden gem of opportunity.
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