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Embracing Failure and Change as an Entrepreneur

"Every success story is a tale of constant adaptation, revision and change. In life, change is inevitable. In business, change is vital" - Sir Richard Branson

Cartoon image of a Black Woman climbing stairs.

I am an entrepreneur but...

I have hesitated to fully embrace the title of entrepreneur. Writing this article is part of my self-imposed 2024 challenge to step out of my comfort zone!

I have often found more comfort in introducing myself as an academic and a pharmacist before delving into my entrepreneurial ventures. One such venture was STEAM:ED Collective, a social enterprise I founded during my postdoctoral researcher position. While the existence of STEAM:ED Collective was not a secret, I initially felt compelled to keep it somewhat under wraps. As a multipotentialite, embracing diverse interests has not always been viewed favourably by society. The societal mindset often prioritises a singular focus, and at that time, it felt like embracing my varied interests would be met with disapproval.

Over the years, whenever someone referred to me as an entrepreneur, I would often respond with a hesitant "Well...I'm an entrepreneur but..." and then trailed off. This use of "but" reflected my lingering hesitation and doubt regarding my entrepreneurial identity. It was (as if being an entrepreneur was somehow at odds with my other roles. Additionally, it felt easier for me to consider myself an entrepreneur when things were going well with my ventures. This quickly went away every time I experienced one (or multiple!) failure(s.

As I grounded myself in authenticity and fully embraced my multipotentiality, a transformation occurred. I realised that the "but" in my response was more influenced by my hesitation, insecurities and placing too much importance on external judgment. Turning the "but" into an empowering "and" will require me to embrace change and failures along the way.

Here are some lessons I have learned so far.

“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” - Oprah Winfrey

A mentor is an experienced and knowledgeable individual who provides guidance, support, and advice to someone less experienced or knowledgeable, known as the mentee. The mentor-mentee relationship is typically characterized by a transfer of knowledge, skills, and insights from the mentor to the mentee, to foster the personal and professional development of the mentee. Mentors often share their own experiences, offer constructive feedback, and serve as role models, helping the mentee navigate challenges, set goals, and make informed decisions. I've benefited greatly from formal and informal mentors in my career and as an entrepreneur. Experienced mentors offer perspectives and share lessons from their own experiences which can provide guidance, and a roadmap to help you navigate successes and challenges. Actively seek mentorship from suitable individuals who can offer you wisdom and support.

"Choose to focus your time, energy and conversation around people who inspire you, support you and help you to grow you into your happiest, strongest, wisest self." - Karen Salmansohn

A support system is a network of individuals (e.g. friends, family members, colleagues, mentors, a therapist) who provide emotional, practical, and sometimes even professional assistance to someone facing challenges or pursuing personal and professional goals. A support system is a cornerstone in navigating the complexities of life (i.e. career and professional) and entrepreneurship. Your support system will serve as a foundation of strength during both triumphs and setbacks, offering a safety net that fosters resilience and well-being. This network becomes particularly vital in the entrepreneurial journey, where the path is often unpredictable, and the stakes are high. Nurturing these relationships is not a sign of weakness but a strategic investment in one's overall well-being and success. Embracing the strength derived from a supportive community enhances resilience, fosters personal growth, and ultimately contributes to a more fulfilling experience.

"It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change." - Charles Darwin

Embracing change requires a bold step. For me, it was re-branding my business from STEAM:ED Collective to Scientifically Speaking. As a startup founder, I had to acknowledge it was time for a fresh start and acted accordingly. Re-branding has allowed me to realign my business with evolving market trends, redefine our brand identity and engage with our community in a renewed way. When I realised I had to make this change, my support system and mentors helped me transition my thinking from "I've failed" to this is a strategic move to embrace change and position Scientifically Speaking for future success. Cultivating a mindset that sees transitions not as disruptions but as catalysts for innovation is key. Change allows us to adapt and evolve which is key to longevity and success.

"Feel the fear and do it anyway." - Susan Jeffers

"Feel the fear and do it anyway!" My favourite quote. I had heard this phrase several times before finally settling down to read the book. I talk about how it helped me in my TEDx talk "Elements of Change: Becoming an Independent Researcher" . The central theme of the book is that fear is a natural part of life, and rather than letting it hold you back, you can learn to use it as a motivator for personal growth. The book outlines several key concepts and techniques to help individuals navigate change and overcome the fear of failure. Susan Jeffers emphasizes the importance of changing one's perspective on fear and viewing it as a signal to take positive action rather than a reason to avoid challenges. Key points from the book include

  • Acknowledging that fear is a normal emotion and everyone experiences it. Instead of trying to eliminate fear, instead acknowledge it and use it as a catalyst for growth.

  • Shifting one's mindset can help in facing change with more resilience.

  • Take action in the face of fear. Taking small steps can help to build confidence and overcome the paralysis that fear can induce.

  • By having a proactive attitude and taking charge of our decisions, we can feel more empowered in the face of change and potential failure.

To Conclude...

Though I have been on my entrepreneurial journey for a while, I am still learning from failures, embracing change and cultivating a resilient mindset. I have chosen to replace the hesitant "but" with an empowering "and". I am feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Today, I can confidently say ...

I am an entrepreneur and...

...I have embraced failure and change as part of my entrepreneurial journey! Will you?

Article Key Take-Home Messages

  1. Embrace Change and Failure as Catalysts for Personal and Business Growth

  2. Build a Strong Support System and Seek Mentorship

  3. Confront Fear and Take Proactive Action



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