I borrowed this title from friend and actress, performance artist Marie Brassard. If you haven't seen any of her work, I urge you to follow her updates to know when she might play next in your city. Her work is eerie, magical and a journey into her stories and invented places.
This post is about the ups and downs of starting your own business.
It's 09:00AM, I am lying on the floor of my Brooklyn apartment; the sun is filling the room in a warm light. I’m having a hard time breathing. All the savings I’ve earned working on User Experience design and teaching gigs are now all sent to our factories. I'm thinking to myself "I am trapped. I can't go back. I have basically jumped from a flying airplane and there is no way of a safe landing in sight, or I have to figure it out for me not to crash." Whatever people tell you about running your own business, it never comes without risk. Even the smallest risk is still risk. Entrepreneurs who talk about following your dreams or your passions, but don’t mention the risks, are misleading.
So here I want to talk about the beautiful reality of following your passion and getting out of your comfort zone to make it happen.
It's 1PM I receive a call that prompts me to run downstairs to find that the delivery truck has left all 20+ large shipping boxes on the sidewalk. I panic for a minute as it starts to rain. I sit on the sidewalk and try to catch my breath. New York apartments are not supposed to be used as warehouses. Where am I going to store these?
As I sit down to “calmly” think of a solution, someone from the building walks by and offers to put them in the roof storage. Roof storage?! I feel like the Universe is sending me helpers. Bill Nye would roll his eyes at my magical realism explanation, but I don't care. I help the young man load the boxes in the elevator. The view on the roof is just breath taking. I can see the busy city vibrating with energy. I feel ecstatic for a second until my phone rings, bringing me back to reality. It's the FEDEX broker. Yes, another shipment is coming from Italy. Okay. No big deal. We're going to make this work.
How will this sound, when I’m Future Me recounting it to others in a near future?
I imagine myself in the future, telling the story of what’s happening to me as it happens, but with all the distance and charm and “happily ever after” perspective that I cannot have right now. It's my way of coping with the stress of the everyday ups and downs of running your own business on your own without a credit card, or a loan or an investment.
My future self talking about me in the future sounds like this:
“So I just got let down by someone I was counting on, the day after we launched a major campaign (our ANERA campaign to help refugees in the Middle East). I didn't sleep all night. I received her email at midnight: my phone binged, I read it and couldn't sleep. There is this automatic voice in my head, like the one of a narrator that begins to describe the situation in a soothing detached manner "Midnight, the main help I was counting on quits on the campaign and I can't help feeling abandoned. I had no idea that it actually happened because deep down I had to learn that it's to show me that I can find a way to make it happen by myself. Whenever you count on someone it cannot be at your own expense. It has to be a relationship that empowers both of the people involved. At that moment I couldn't take a full breath, but soon enough I would be able to see that everything is happening in its right order. And that I will find a way."
Now that I am in the future of this situation I can say this. One, the amount of time I spent agonizing over situations I had no control over is absurd. Two, everything happens to teach you something about yourself. Find what it is and grow from it. That's the only survival advice I can genuinely share with confidence that –even if it sounds like a self-help book, it's what made sense to me.
That campaign surprised me. We managed to raise close to 10K in support of women refugees in the Middle East in around 2 months time. With this donation ANERA was able to provide dignity kits, clean clothes, and medicine to women and children displaced in Jordan and Lebanon. We sold out of our Gaza by Night scarf.
I learn everyday. This is what gives me meaning in the path I have chosen. It's what's keeping me amazed, eyes wide open like the eternal 7 year-old soul that I am adding the little wisdom these past 30-something years has given me. Every single person I meet is a teacher. The ones I need to let go off, the ones I want to keep close. Everyone has shown me something about who I am and ways for me to grow and in the same way contribute in nurturing what I have built with Slow Factory.
This is the first post where I open up as a designer and an entrepreneur and share some of my thoughts without fear. Because Why Not.