Reaching For Your Dreams
Well here it is - my first blog in 8 months!! When I started this, my plan was to create a monthly blog on what I’d learned as a Mumpreneur in that past month. But despite best intentions, time got away as one thing and another vied for my attention - which is a great illustration of what it is to be an entrepreneur!
So having fought the fires of Covid-19 restrictions for a year and a half - on top of the usual challenges of business start-up - I am finally getting time to write this blog again. There will be a bit of catching up, as I share what I have learned in this time (lots to report!).
But the most important thing I’ve learned during this period, and the most repeatable lesson for an entrepreneur, is to Keep Reaching For Your Dreams.
Before you open your business doors, you need to be very clear on what the end goals are. These are the Big Brave Dreams you need to have on the horizon to work towards. You may be starting small but don’t be afraid to aim high - I’m sure Oprah Winfrey and Elon Musk didn’t have small plans, or were prepared to give up easily. It may take some time to get there, but you should have lofty ambitions and big dreams to work towards.
And then be prepared to work doggedly towards them.
It takes determination to be a successful entrepreneur. A heck lot of it. Many, many obstacles of all sizes and shapes will come your way, and it is easy to become side-tracked and distracted in the rush of the daily grind. Or worse - to become demoralised by all the hurdles. A sure way to sound the death knell of a business is to allow these challenges to become personal, to read into them that this is not the path meant for you, to think your adventure is an abject failure. But you have to remember that this is business, not your personal life, and by extension, what happens to your business, is not happening to you as a person. That is not to excuse you from morality in your actions - which we will discuss in another blog - but it is important to be clear that business challenges are par for the course and are not particularly directed at your business or you as a person.
It’s been said that entrepreneurs need determination and madness in equal measure. Ok - I said that. But it rings true - many would be turned away by the rough and tumble of business life.The struggles do not have parallels in the world of employment. In fact, if you had to face the same level of challenge and difficulties on a daily basis as a paid employee, your manager would probably say you’re doing something very wrong!
The unforseens and continued surprises in business are not present in the carefully planned out projects or workstacks of paid employment. Coming from a professional background as a paid employee, this was something I had to adapt to very early on - there are no neat, defined milestones and checklists to tick off as I progress along this big-scale project! Instead, I had to accept that the continual challenges are not indications of a lacking work practice or bad decision making, but rather they are bumps in the road to be traversed. And now I find that I can somehow weather the storms with increasing ease, keeping that steely rod of determination in hand to reach my Big Brave Dreams.
My teenage son is a tough cookie: if he is interested in something, he goes in all guns blazing. If he’s not, then no amount of berating will sway him. He always has been a strong-willed child - not a ‘brat’, and not wayward and willful - we’ve done the reading. While it might be easy to lead a child by the ear to do a task, this is a very short-sighted solution as it does not instill any longer-term motivation. And we never wanted to take away this trait as it will give him strength as he grows older. We needed to channel this into a useful emotion that would not deliver him into trouble, and so we discussed - at length and on many occasions - the difference between determination and stubbornness. In short, while both focus on an end goal, determination means being adaptive in getting there, whereas stubbornness is tilting at all the windmills that arise along the way.
In a similar way, stubbornness in business is folly - there’s little point arguing with a pandemic for example, and the restrictions that come with it. To survive, we need to adapt our offering to overcome the challenges and keep working towards the Big Brave Dreams. Hence the pivot from large coffee shop to tiny takeaway Hatch with rooms nearby for hire. I have not given up on the Big Brave Dreams, but I accept that we need to get there by a different route.
I recently visited one of our suppliers, Tara Mullan of Refuge Chocolate (it really is the most amazing stuff - get some in the Takeaway Hatch!) who has taken on her first commercial property now that her production scale is big enough to take her out of her home kitchen. I am so happy for her as a fellow ground-up entrepreneur, and a fellow social enterprise - which is how we met, through the lovely folk at Unltd.
Tara’s social objective is to create income for Flourish NI, a Northern Ireland based anti-human-trafficking charity. Tara not only donates proceeds of her sales, but also provides work experience for people being supported by Flourish NI.
Having started small in her home kitchen, Tara developed her top quality hot chocolate product, finding outlets for sales, of which we are one at The Fox & Bean. As her business scaled up, Tara set up a separate kitchen in her house, and is now at a point where she needs a bigger space to deal with the increase in sales and so she has taken on her first commercial property in Belfast. I am just thrilled to see her progress and flourish in her venture, and so I collected our recent order in person from her lovely new space to wish her well.
It’s lovely to have some one like Tara in my circle, as it can get lonely being an entrepreneur at this early stage of the business: there is no staff room to chat, no team to bounce ideas off, no legal or accounting or marketing teams to guide us - we’re like that guy in the park with the drum on his back and harmonica at his mouth, singing and playing an accordion all at the same time! Over the years, we’ve bounced ideas off each other and helped each other as we can, and been a point of friendly contact along the way.
Seeing Tara progress so well, weathering the storms of entrepreneurship and the challenges of self-employment gives me encouragement and strength as I take my own steps. Her successes give me encouragement that I too can succeed, and a push to get along and keep making my venture bigger and better.
I’ll keep Reaching for my Dreams, swerving the dodge balls and jumping the hurdles along the way to the most fantastic Fox & Bean land that will - not might - come true. I will keep working towards those Big Brave Dreams, in the sure knowledge that with hard work and a cool head comes success.
And now I must dash. With much love,