I Took A Leap of Faith–Without A Cushion: Why Starting A Business Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be
I was oozing with agony as I packed up all my belongings and walked out of the doors of my former job into the crisp September air last year. One word kept ringing in my ears: “Fired.”
What was I going to do?
I’d just bit off more than I could chew with a brand new apartment. It was my first place; sunken living room with a patio and huge master bedroom for me and my pit bull puppy to enjoy. My best friend had moved in after her lease ended and she was unemployed. I’d been taking care of everything with my call center job, and although I hated every minute of it, the biweekly $1200 check made ends meet every time.
Now that all was gone.
Not even a full week after I lost my job, my best friend jumped ship and moved in with another friend who didn’t expect her to pay any rent. And I was on my own, aimlessly trying to put together a plan to get back on my feet and take care of my responsibilities.
For months, my job became finding a job. Every minute of every day spent submitting application after application. From fast food jobs to occupations in my career field, I had no luck. Instead, what I had was email after email detailing how they’d went with another candidate time and time again.
During the time I’d been working at the call center and afterward, I’d worked part-time as an assistant for a close friend of mine. He was a Hip-Hop artist and producer and, through my work with him, I was slowly but surely able to land small internships and opportunities with a broad range of PR firms.
When I lost my job, I’d been working freelance in public relations for a little over two years. My contact list had grown to over 1500 connections with media experts, writers, editors and journalists across the world. Despite being fired, these relationships I’d built with entertainment industry professionals and writers still stood firm.
My friend encouraged me to use the skills I had to start building a revenue stream. After all, what did I have to lose? Months had passed and still no stable employment had been secured. Applying for jobs left me at my wit’s end, but instead of giving up, I changed my focus entirely.
Instead of looking for a new boss, I’d become my own.
I began spending hours researching ways to build my own public relations firm. I’d spent years interning virtually for PR companies and with my extensive background in writing and journalism, entertainment public relations had become a niche I fit into with ease.
Within a few weeks, I had established myself as a full-fledged business owner. I secured my official LLC business certification and registered my company with the state of Missouri. Instead of wasting all my time investing in dead-end job applications, I was dedicated to investing in the advancement of myself.
And the outcome was extreme success.
Hours were spent laboring over my computer; posting countless ads on Craigslist, creating accounts on Angie’s List and other online business marketing platforms. After investing a small amount of money into a Facebook ad campaign, my phone began ringing off of the hook. Small business owners and burgeoning musicians were calling from all over inquiring about the services I offered.
And with the calls came the cash, money rolling in after paid consultations and monthly resource packages.
But with the money came many problems.
See, I wasn’t used to being my own boss. And although I had an entrepreneurial mindset, I was accustomed to working for someone else. Finding the balance between investing back into the business and maintaining everyday life necessities became an issue. Not to mention that I struggled trying to figure out what to reinvest in.
There always seemed to be a sacrificial point. Reinvesting into the business to make my brand stronger and more reliable resulted in a bill being unpaid or a lack of groceries in the house. Paying every bill on time ended in pushing back the new website design or the chance for a greater ad campaign yielding more customers.
There was no give and take. There just never seemed to be enough money to go around.
The summer months brought a slew of entertainment clients all looking to obtain press opportunities for their music and respective brands. However, most didn’t have enough of a budget to sustain an actual PR campaign. I would send out thousands of lead emails per day, with maybe two of those turning into actual clients in the long run.
I was overrun with frustration. The only feasible way to sustain my business and my lifestyle was to bring on more and more clientele. But I was a team of one and the fear of being unable to deliver results to a mass clientele kept me from taking on a heftier workload. I didn’t want my brand to suffer because I wasn’t able to care for an increased number of clients.
I decided to strategize, hoping that by maintaining the clients I had now I could retain a certain level of income. But as contracts came to an end, so did individual funds. Everyone seemed to be having financial difficulty, and public relations wasn’t a necessity. So it was an easy expense to cut. Client after client decided not to renew their contracts with me.
No clients and dwindling cash. I was back at square one.
Looking back, there are many things I would’ve done differently to make the beginning phases of my business better.
The first thing is capital. Having a set amount of funds available prior to starting my business would’ve set me up for more success. By dividing funds between business and personal expenses, I spread myself extremely thin. Not to mention, I had no idea how to reinvest into my business to make the money grow. I was just spending.
Although I attended a few seminars with the Small Business Association’s SCORE program, I had no prior knowledge of how to start and maintain a business. While there was a demand for the product I offered, getting my brand in front of the masses and winning their business over the competition was difficult because I had no realistic idea as to how to do so.
Repeated failed attempts led me to my decision to rethink my business plan and reevaluate the best way to move forward towards success.
No matter what my ups and downs have been, I’d encourage anyone to venture out on faith and start their own business. By doing so myself, I took control of my own destiny and invested in my dreams instead of building someone else’s. And I don’t regret doing so. However, the key to success is not only in the leap of faith but in the cushion you’ve placed securely on the ground to catch you after you jump.