My Journey to Entrepreneurship (#1)

I came across this quote: "You have to see failure as the beginning and the middle, but never entertain it as an end." - Jessica Herrin, Founder and CEO of Stella & Dot. 

This UK company has a mission to "empower women to make their own choices, run their own business, and live life on their own terms" which is something we at Utoppii strongly believe in and promote.

Taking a step out and forward to improve our lives is probably something every one of us has a desire for within ourselves. It can take different forms from becoming an entrepreneur, taking up a social cause, motivating a friend, even just simply improving ourselves in some small way.

For me, stepping into the entrepreneurial world was the scariest thing I have done in my life. I liken it to getting onto a monster roller coaster ride. I remember the first time I considered this at Universal Studios Singapore. The gigantic steel structure rising into the sky is with its double and triple loops, steep dives and narrow rails was scary enough to stop me from getting on. But through the encouragement of friends and a moment of decisiveness (or was it madness) I got on and took the ride. It was thrilling and heart-stopping at the same time. Up and down through huge dips left me numb but I felt a sense of great accomplishment at the end.

Statistically speaking, the vast majority of roller coaster rides end safe and happy. But in business, this is not the case and estimates are that 75-90% of startup businesses will fail. I am very afraid of failure in whatever I do. I think it is largely a cultural part of my upbringing in Singapore where the pressure to succeed and be at the top begins as early as kindergarten. It's stifling and irrational but it is real and something I have to overcome on a daily basis.

Initially, when I shared my ideas with family and friends, they were mostly supportive and understanding of where I was coming from. Some of my friends and ex-colleagues were intrigued by my decision and were curious why I would not simply continue a successful and comfortable corporate job with its steady income and travel perks. Instead, I was opting for something that is uncertain and fraught with financial difficulties at the start with no status and recognition. They also shared that they long to do something different with their lives but have too many considerations that stop them from pursuing their dreams. To them, I am a gutsy lady. But I always feel it is more than simply courage. The strong desire to control my own life, reap the rewards of hard work, and having the freedom of time that spurred me on to start.

If you want something so badly you will find ways to make it work. So if you don't start you would never know, right?

Since then, my journey has been up and down. In all honesty, it has been very tough. We've had to adjust strategy and campaign ideas several times already in the first two months. We learnt what works or doesn’t work in a number of areas and we are still learning every day. But in the end, when a sale is realized, it is a very satisfying feeling. I really want to thank all the customers who have supported Utoppii in its first few months ... you've been a real blessing and I hope we can continue to grow and bring you more and more interesting products in the future.

Over time, those close to me have come to see my determination to succeed. I believe it’s like that in everything we do. We can only reach our goal by persistence and by accepting we will fail in the beginning and the middle but we will learn quickly and make the necessary corrections. Success in the end must never be in doubt and the vision must not fade. Every day is a matter of solving small and big problems, constant learning and evolving. I wake up every morning with the strange combination of fear and hope. Fear of what has gone wrong or how to improve sales; hope and belief that the day will bring good things and I will solve the problems that need attention. I'm basically an optimist and a person that doesn't give up so I try to take this approach into each new day and situation I face.

The other discovery that has become a daily reality to me on this journey is that every day I need to interact with people that are positive and share the same vision.

I really think it’s so important to be surrounded by likeminded people and those who will uplift you. The encouragement and positive vibes is what we need to pursue this arduous journey. I used to think I was all alone but over time I have known people who share the same conviction or pursuing similar path as I do. Now I have some great partners in Australia who help me look at various aspects of the business that I am not so strong in. When I'm down, these people are there to pick me up and remind me of the goal. When they are struggling (as we all do), I try to lift their spirits also. I'll share more about them in a future blog as they have become a key part of my life journey. I've come to realize that we can rarely achieve a big dream ourselves. Sharing the load and tapping into new positive power sources is much quicker, efficient and fun.

Whether you are corporate, entrepreneur, hustler on the side, homemaker, student or anything else, I hope these thoughts can help you reach your goals. We are all the same... fighting our battles and searching for improvement in our lives and those around us.  We will succeed with perseverance, accepting and learning from failure, and surrounding ourselves with positive influences each and every day.

 

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