The Real Thiel
Some guy in a dorm creates Facebook almost overnight. Entrepreneurship can’t be that hard, right? Just come up with a new idea, or do someone else’s idea in a better way, and bam! Startup success. Instant billionaire. Sign me up.
I have been a dancer all of my life, so it is no surprise to me how much work goes into a performance. But what it takes to succeed as a startup? No idea. Until now.
Currently, I am an accountant, a dancer, and most proudly, the co-founder of Bey Dance. Tomorrow who knows? Two weeks ago I sold my shares in Bey, my first start-up. Three days later I started working on my next business idea. It turns out I am an entrepreneur. How annoying. Yes, I get to (hopefully) change the world for the better one business at a time. But my goodness, my life is going to be hard work. Forever. Entrepreneurship is a way of life, a compulsion, and a huge commitment. If you feel it too, awesome! Just don’t get blinded by the shiny lights and sparkly costumes; behind the scenes it is sleepless, thankless, endless hard work. Worth it. But just be warned.
“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little bit extra1.”
You will play every Role – lucky you
Like a lot of performers, I find nothing more satisfying than standing centre stage, under the spotlight, with a crowd applauding me. If I could be the writer, choreographer, director, tech, front-of-house, promoter, and performer, think of all the credit and thanks and appreciation I would get. What a dream. Or a nightmare. It depends how you look at it.
Liz (co-founder) and I started by teaching dance. This was awesome. Once we incorporated and committed to growing the school we quickly realised how many elements make up a business and how many roles we would have to play. At one point I could have said my ‘role’ included: owner, co-founder, CFO, human resources, payroll manager, accounts payable, accounts receivable, sales, IT, tech support, website manager, state dance school manager (Head Captain), dance teacher (Bey Captain), student, show producer, director, stage manager, costume designer and performer. All while having another full-time job as an accountant elsewhere. It is exhausting even listing them. SO MUCH WORK. And no training. You will have to self-educate, listen, question, apologise often, reflect, and learn. Fast. Often. Sadly, we also realised how tedious, thankless and tiring a lot of these roles can be. I encourage you to remember one day when you have the budget and hire staff to fill these roles, that you thank them and appreciate all that they do. They deserve applause too.
“You are your only limit!2“
When you feel like Beyonce, but everyone treats you like Michelle
Poor Michelle. Michelle Williams was in a trio called Destiny’s Child in the 90s, with Beyonce Knowles and Kelly Rowland, but she was clearly the least popular, and just couldn’t catch a break. No one took Michelle seriously. Really, no one took any of the three seriously – that is until Beyonce changed the game. I encourage you to be Beyonce; she knew her worth, she stepped away from the already successful trio to make her own path, she managed herself and aimed far beyond what the others thought was possible. Maybe Michelle could have been like Beyonce if she had twirled on the haters (Beyonce reference).
That is how to be a startup. Breakaway. Dream big. Work hard.
The thing with being an entrepreneur and startup is that (hopefully) no one has done exactly this before you. You are the first person with the right combination of vision, drive, and commitment to the cause. It makes sense then that no one else sees that vision quite as clearly as you do. It makes sense that they will criticise and question your plan. We ran a company with a decent turnover, 12 employees, and around 100 students a week, across 2 states (I think that’s pretty good for the first year!). And yet I still get asked how my ‘little business’ is going. “Little” is one of those words that hurts me; without consciously meaning to, the person communicates a level of disrespect and lack of belief in what I do. I think passion will be your best armour, and success your best evidence. Everyone else will only see it is possible after you’ve already made it happen. But who cares! Make it happen, and prove them wrong. Impossible can be restated as “I’M possible”. Be daring.
“Good, better, best. Never let it rest! Until the good is better, and better, best!3“
Lights, camera, action… there is no finale
You did it! The crowd is going crazy. Months, maybe years, of work have gone into getting you to this moment. But it is fleeting. Perhaps 30 seconds of applause. Yes, there will be a wider effect you hope; your performance has changed a life, inspired someone, told a story, and entertained. But for you, it ends with that moment of applause. And it needs to be enough for you, because before you know it you will be back into the studio to get ready for the next performance.
As a startup, there is no finish, no finale. Don’t think of it as a single performance, but rather as a tour that is ever-changing. This truly is a life. The minute you stop working, re-strategising, re-creating and re-inventing your idea, product, and business, is the minute your startup fails. Sure, celebrate the wins; buy some new shoes (that’s my reward), have a drink, throw a party, go on holiday. Just don’t stop thinking, dreaming, creating and working. Stay in front, be organised, adapt and reinvent. If this is your calling, this entrepreneurship life, then this won’t be hard; you will struggle to stop. But don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve ‘made it’. You’ve never made it. You make it. Continuously.
One Final Note
Dear aspiring entrepreneur,
Welcome to the world of startups.
This is your stage. Make a performance worth watching. The work is endless but the standing ovation will be worth it. I promise.
Written By: Lauren Thiel
Feature Image Credit: Benjamin Abercrombie
- Aidan Min
- Benjamin Abercrombie