Story from a successful startup founder…6 min read
About three years ago, I wrote Advice from a Failed Startup Founder. Back then, life was very different for me, and I was determined to paint another picture for you: the rarely ever seen picture of failure. You see, most people only ever speak about their successes because they are ashamed of their failures, or they are afraid of the judgement from their peers. I can totally understand that, but I am neither afraid of judgement nor ashamed of my failures. Failure to me isn’t really failure; quitting means failure, giving up means failure. What most people view as a failure, is really a lesson for me, a crash course in what not to do next time. When a child learns to write or draw or even walk, they learn it through micro-failures that teach them all the ways they didn’t achieve their objective. Similarly, failure to me is just a lesson in what not to do next time.
Today, I bring to you a story of success, for the last year has been life changing for me, and I’d like to share that here. But let’s rewind the clock, back to summer of 2018, where the darkest moments of my last few years brought me to my knees and how I learned to stand, walk and run…
The summer of 2018 started off great. My sister from Trinidad was visiting for eight weeks, I was off every Friday, so it was just a four day week for me, and it was finally quite warm so the shorts and flip flops came out. I was single, happy, healthy and in a place in my life where financially, I wasn’t rich, but I was covering bills and making life liveable. It was the first time in two years that I was at that point, so it was pretty significant. However, my newfound stability was about to unravel and I was not prepared for it.
Towards the end of August that year, I hit a hard financial slum, one which put me back two years of hard work. But determined to not let it ruin my entire life, I took a second job to keep my head above water and cover travelling and food in order to keep my day job. Five weeks following this, I was in a car crash, totalling my car and keeping me out of work for a month. Let’s just say it was not my month. I was mentally spiralling and I had no idea what to do. Six weeks after my car crash, which was only two weeks after replacing my car with a nicer runaround car, I suddenly required a new roof over my head. Full spiral. Complete loss of control. So, I lost my business and life that I spent five years working on, migrated to another country, spent two years working towards some stability, then had that rug pulled from under my feet, then was hit with a car crash followed by eviction. Yeah, only the kind of shit you see in soap operas right?
A few days before my crash I met someone who completely changed my life, subsequently. He emotionally supported me throughout my recovery, put a roof over my head when I needed one, and then gave me the option of a safety net, should anything else happen. That support, that idea of a safety net, changed everything for me. But first, I needed a mindset change. Like a dying plant, I needed some sunlight, water, and love, all of which he provided for me to flourish. My soul was shattered before I met him. I was lost, disenchanted and lost my confidence. A little sunlight and water every day, and within a few months, my mindset changed.
So in May 2019, after becoming some form of permanently exhausted pigeon from the ridiculous 4 (sometimes 5) hour 100-mile daily commute, I quit my 10-hours-a-day job. I took a month off to sleep, recover, and find my creative spark. And then I opened another advertising agency. Within six weeks and after only a half day of Linkedin business development, I was breaking even. But I didn’t stop there, as I had ambition to push as far as I could but explore my creativity and work to give the best service I possibly could, making the financial aspect a bonus, not a focal point.
I always believed that the people who talked about focusing on the service and not on the money were rich and had bills taken care of, because in the real world, bills gotta be paid. Now I am able to understand what they meant, because by putting the service first and not being greedy, I am able to have my dream job, doing work I love doing day in and day out, working with clients I love working with, learning every day, and earning enough for the lifestyle I want to live.
Fast forward to today, where I’m extraordinarily grateful for where I am at the moment. I am lucky to have the life I have today, given where I was so recently. I recognise it in every moment, and while I do look back, I also appreciate what’s in front of me and enjoy the “up” I’m currently having. In August of 2018 I was trying to figure out what meals to skip to make money stretch, whereas today I’m typing this blog post from a top of the line MacBook Pro while wearing designer clothing I never thought I’d ever actually own. I want for nothing, the kitchen and pantry is always fully stocked with everything you could think of. The house I live in now is gorgeous and virtually a palace compared to where I once lived. My wardrobe has gone from ten outfits that had to multitask work/casual/winter/summer to so many that I have two complete wardrobes now. I know this is “material stuff” but that material stuff also validates the blood, sweat and tears used to make it possible.
This isn’t a boast, this is recognition of where I was versus where I am now. This is to remind you that no matter where you are in life, you can bounce back and trust me, the bounce upward can be very high. Enjoy it when you get it, be humble about it, but also, don’t hide your success. Be proud of yourself.
Focus on the service you deliver, whether you’re employed full time or doing your own thing, and the money WILL come, but you have to be patient, not greedy and don’t stress out about it.
But most of all… no matter where you are in life, be grateful. Be grateful for the negative experiences as they teach you valuable lessons and help you appreciate the good times, and be grateful for the positive experiences as they are rewards for patience and hard work.
I have to say thank you to my partner and his family for taking me in, giving me some warmth and sunlight and watering my soul. I can never repay them for the love and support they afforded me when my life took a turn south and when I took a risk to make a better life for myself. I am eternally grateful to them and will cherish them in my heart forever.