Cue the dramatics. Does it make you more human if you do not fear the “valley of the shadow of death” but you still get a little down about being in it?
Remember what I promised those of you who follow us along this journey? An unedited (content wise and grammatically for that matter) look into what it takes to build, or at least try to build, a lasting company. Even if it paints a less than rosy picture of what you imagine the life of a founder to be. So if I’m being candid: I’m tired. Not physically tired per se, although I am, but that has more to do with having 3 young kids in the house. I am referring to being mentally and emotionally spent. No book or business magazine or even this blog can adequately capture the emotional toll starting one’s own business will take on you.
If you are coming from a career where you have always worked for someone else, then deez parts be uncharted territory son. You see the thing is everything is personal. When something goes wrong it directly impacts you, your family, your investors, and in our case the non-profits we are serving. When the line blurs between you and the company you’ve started, the highs are exceptionally high, and lows depressingly low. That begins to take its toll on someone who by and large has coasted through life not really caring about anything.
Then there is money. Money is a mercurial beast. I’ll resist the urge to make a Mo Money Mo Problems reference. Money as the ability to make things easier and at the same time more complicated. It can empower you while at the same time enslaving you. I remember declaring when I was younger after having watched my parents fight over a financial issue that “I hate money and I don’t care to be rich”. My mother responded pragmatically that “money should not be our main focus in life but that without a certain amount of it life’s everyday challenges become even more so”. When you are starting a business and raising funds you get all kinds of advise like “take the amount you think you need and double it because that’s what you’ll really need”, or “triple the number you have down because it won’t be enough. Trust me”, or my favorite piece of advise because I think the person was actively trying to get me to scrap the whole endeavor altogether ”you’ll never raise enough money to fund your company”.
The thing is that last quote is pretty accurate with the important omission of the word “successful”. You’ll never raise enough money to fund your company if it is successful. Those of you that I didn’t lose 2 paragraphs ago are probably scratching you heads thinking what the what (love you Liz Lemon)? To rehash something we may have covered earlier, the food industry is not structured (as are many markets) to reward the best products, but rather to reward the organizations who have the necessary funds to buy their way onto enough shelves and who are able to do so long enough for their product to stick. I see this post getting ready to descend into a detailed expose of food manufacturing economics. So I am going to stop myself here and just say if your products proves popular the demands to “purchase” more shelf space will eventually begin to outpace the revenue being generated by said product…in the short term.
That short term period is the valley of the shadow of death. So even though you don’t fear it, and you know you will come out of it, you still sometimes think “man this sucks”. In the end I think Bon Jovi had it right when he said “Whoa-oh we’re half way there! Whoa-oohh living on a prayer!!!!”