The day I began my dance with “NO”
I never saw myself as an entrepreneur or the founder of a start-up. I hardly knew how to spell the word entrepreneur when I was dubbed that name! I was simply a college student studying social work. I did have a fondness for talking to strangers, whether they sat next to me on the train or on the streets next to my dorm building.
Then one cold night in November, I was handing out sandwiches to people experiencing homelessness in NYC when one man approached me. “It’s great that you’re giving out sandwiches,” he said, “but one thing we really need is socks, especially as winter approaches.”
I decided that week to help this new friend of mine, Diego, with a simple step: I went door-to-door on my NYU dorm floor and knocked on everyone’s door. I asked if they would donate just one pair of their own socks to someone experiencing homelessness. To my surprise I got over 40 pairs of socks in a single night, from a single floor. I knew college students love to do good, but sometimes they need a literal knock on their door to do so. And most everyone has an extra pair of socks they can donate. That’s when the initiative Knock Knock, Give a Sock was born.
Two years later, I’ve developed KKGS into a certified non-profit. Under my direction, KKGS has spread to include more than twenty college campuses, conducted sock drives nationwide, and conducted sock drives at the offices of Facebook, WeWork, Deloitte, JP Morgan and more! We even create dinners bringing together companies and their employees with people experiencing homelessness in hopes to break the stigma of homelessness. KKGS has collected and distributed over 100,000 pairs of socks and even has its very own warehouse for companies to send socks to! Sounds like a story of success, right?
Well… almost. I have achieved a lot, but this image of success is because I’ve only told you about all of the “YES’s” I’ve received. However, these YES’s are the needle in the haystack of rejection. They are the rewards that keep me moving forward, because, to be honest, as soon as KKGS began to really take off, the most popular word to enter my life came pouring down on me like a hurricane. This word was “NO.”
I’d always lived by quotes like, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” Well, that quote has changed for me. Now, I see myself dancing amid droplets of “no”s pouring all over me. I drew a visual just so you can see where my brain is at :)
I have always been a girl who danced through life, never faced any real anxieties and seemingly always got what I wanted. My mentality was: if you’re nice enough, smile enough and annoyingly optimistic enough — then good things just work out!
Well, this blog is about an impetuously optimistic young women who just met her new side kick — the word “NO.” It’s about a female social entrepreneur who is not here to talk about her “overnight success,” but about feeling like a Whack-O-Mole, where I am the mole.
I have read all the books — Lean in, Power Of Zilch, Pencils of Promise — they all seem to talk about failure being a part of the beginning process — but no one talks about the perpetual doors that will slam in your face, or that those rejections never seem to end. The millions of emails that still go ignored. The hundreds of messages that become borderline stalker-ish when you try to contact your entrepreneurial role model via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, LinkedIn. There was even that one time I sent a role model of mine a dozen cupcakes just to see if he would spend some time telling me his story of success… need I say more?
No one talks about how moving back to your parents house becomes a reality when all you’ve been taught to do (changing the world) is what you actually start to do. If you want a story of overnight success read Adam Braun’s book– if you want in on the up-and-down journey of start-ups, welcome aboard. :)