What I learned about entrepreneurship from growing my hair

Getting started

You spend so much time thinking about it. Imagining how happy and free you will feel in the future if you just take the right steps now and move forward. For years the vision of what you could build has been becoming ever clearer. The world needs this! The timing is right! It’s an exciting proposition. It essentially feels like your true purpose. But it’s easy not to do it, you’re comfortable, and most people around you have chosen to remain in their comfort zones. Why should you take such a risk?

But this time it’s different. For whatever reason, you’re going to do it, you’re going to commit to it, and you’re going to give everything that you have to make your vision a reality.

That’s the first step — deciding to take the leap. The bravery should be applauded. And yet, you find yourself surrounded by naysayers. Sure, there are many that support your choice, excited for you and what you are building, quietly envious of your ability to dare to do. But it’s difficult to ignore those doubting voices, reminding you of the relative safety of the situation you are leaving behind, your prior achievements, and the high probability that this journey won’t end up in the glorious success that you have envisioned. You’re too slow, the trends have moved ahead and beyond you. You’re not cut out for it. You don’t have the patience and perseverance. You will most likely fail, they say, and you’ll find yourself back where you started anyway.

How long will this really take? Well, you quite quickly find out, longer than you imagined. A few months in and progress is hard to see. What is noticeable, though, is that to the outside world you’re looking a little more dishevelled. Maybe they were right, this isn’t so glamorous after all. You could stop now, and no one will think worse of you for it. No one expected you to pull this off anyway. No, you tell yourself, there’s a reason you started this journey, and it will surely be worth it in the end.

Starting your own company, or starting to grow your hair? It could well be either. For the past 18 months, we at J12 Ventures happen to have been evolving our coiffures while continuing to develop the company we started together three and a half years ago. Trivial as it may sound, many reflections from this journey of hair growth have proven to translate into useful reminders for entrepreneurs.

Key learnings

  1. You can’t hide away forever: Things can be embarrassing in the early stages, or at any stage, as you constantly compare where you are now with where you envision things in the future. You might be able to keep things under wraps for a while, but you’ll soon realise that you’re better off sharing your progress with the world and getting the feedback. Never wait too long to put yourself and your product in front of customers or investors.
  2. Criticism should never deter you: We all sit more comfortably when people tell us what we want to hear. Sometimes we find ourselves gaining much of our sense of self-worth from what others say or think about us. But when you innovate and do something different, something new, there will always be people that think it’s a bad idea. Get comfortable with it. Take criticism and feedback on board. Learn from it and notice that you start to gain most happiness and self-worth from staying true to your beliefs and vision than you ever did from people’s flattery and acceptance.
  3. Find the right path and remember that you are making progress: Once you find the right process (stop having haircuts) you will get to where you want to go (longer hair) if you continue to stick with it. Sometimes things might seem slow or even stationary, particularly in your venture’s earliest stages when strategy, fundraising, and product development may be the key activities, providing little in the way of tangibility that you can hold onto and see as progress. Trust in your team, trust in your process, and make sure to recognise the forward steps you are taking.
  4. There are no shortcuts: You cannot cut corners and there are no quick fixes. See lesson 3 above and remember that it’s important to do the right things with the long-term vision in mind.
  5. The result will (hopefully) be great, but it won’t be exactly as you envisioned: It’s an inevitability that where you end up will not be exactly what you had pictured when you started the journey. This applies no matter how much of a success or a failure your venture ends up being. What you can also be sure of is that at some point along the way you will realise that what you had first pictured probably wasn’t exactly what you should be aiming for anyway.

And most importantly, remember to ‘let your hair down’ — to allow yourself to behave much more freely than usual and enjoy yourself. Isn’t that why you started in the first place?

Feel free to reach out if you would like to discuss your own growth journey: emmet@j12ventures.com