Entrepreneurship: “So I do.”
This piece was originally published in February 2015, but it is still relevant.
I admit it: I spend a lot of time reading start-up related news and the daily articles covering the world of social and urban innovation, but recently, I’ve felt a bit jaded — somewhat desensitized to the true impact and passion behind start-ups and social good.
Like most, I spend a lot of my time reading article after article on passionate entrepreneurs, stories of success, experiences with failure, and articles breaking down why we, as entrepreneurs, do the things we do. They all somehow incorporate the buzzwords surrounding start-ups and self-made leaders of today: passion, disruption, changemakers, shakers, do-ers, makers, visionists, etc.
Okay, I get it — we like change, we are passionate about disruption. Awesome. But so are some of the biggest nonprofits and corporations in the world. There are huge organizations out there creating change every day — why not work for them? I mean, they make money and change AT THE SAME TIME. Crazy, right?
I understand, we’re kind of different — we stay up late, wake up early, eat-sleep-drink-breathe our business. We are relentless dreamers, big thinkers, fine print readers, jugglers of all things, and so-on and so-forth.
But to be honest, I have about had it with the glorified entrepreneur start-up romance story. Here’s something interesting: we need money to survive because capitalism, and we aren’t all a Mark Zuckerberg — Richard Branson protégés.
So, again, why do we set out, with our pitch decks in hand and fiery ideas in our heads, on an independent, seemingly DIY mission?
I drove the entirety of Long Island with this question sizzling in my brain. It was chilling — I was beginning to question the exact thread that has woven my “career,” I was throwing doubt darts at every adult decision I have made. My tooth was aching, actually pounding in my head; entrepreneurship doesn’t come with health insurance (well, now it does — thank you, Obama).
It might have been the toothache talking, or maybe it was the immensity of failure that I have experienced within the past few years. Even looking back on the losses from the past three months is pretty haunting. How many investor rejections can one take? How many contests can you lose before hanging up the gloves? I’m at no less than $250,000 (but who’s counting, right?). So, let’s just say my headspace wasn’t taking this toothache very well.
After a long discussion with a good friend and a few introspective hours, the wheels began to turn. Typically, I would feel mad at myself for needing to remind myself for why I do what I do (although I do think we all need a quick self-slap to the back of the head every so often). But this was different; the results of this self-examination were a bit more raw, a bit more honest.
So what the hell was different this time?
Well, I’d say let’s take a step back and examine the term “passion for change” — what it is in itself.
It’s the unwavering desire to mess with the status quo, to make things better, to problem solve. It’s basically the need to fuck shit up in a positive way. If you can imagine, entrepreneurs love this shit.
But I can safely say there are probably thousands of companies out there that create ‘good change’ every single day. From impact-driven companies to innovative non-profits, there are some truly disruptive warriors out there. Why not join them?
The answer came to me in the form of a selfish exclamation: I want to be the change! I need to directly and positively affect someone’s life, even if it’s just one person! I won’t stop until that happens!
Maybe it is a bit selfish and egotistical to think this way: to believe that you, as one human, may have the secret antidote for change.
But maybe that’s just the way some of us are wired to think, and I ask you: what’s so wrong with trying? That’s what brings me to where I am today.
Like other entrepreneurs, I have this over-the-top wild desire to build something that has the potential to create change, to start a ripple-effect, to snowball into something that can only be described as GREATNESS.
But more importantly, there is this innate drive that overwhelms me every morning I wake up and every night I go to sleep, and it speaks directly to me. I feel it look me in the eye, I hear it whisper and all-too-often scream: “Danielle, you have the ability to change a life, do that.”
And so I do.
These are the people changing the world. They are also my friends.