When we're young, our parents tell us to follow our passion. We hear sayings like, "do what you love, and never work a day in your life." We are encouraged in college to take a variety of courses to explore our interests and settle on our true calling. Somewhere along the way, though, the sayings seem to change.
I am a highly productive person. Every morning when I wake up, I examine my to-do list, prioritize each item, block off the time necessary to complete each task, and hack away at them one by one. The feeling of crossing an item off the list is akin to peeling an orange by keeping the rind in one continuous piece: pure satisfaction.
Today marks the beginning of a new adventure. Sure, some might say that Unfettered Socks launched back in March when we set our Kickstarter campaign live. Some might even say we launched when we signed our operating agreement back in 2013. But to me, today marks the beginning of a new company - a real launch - because today anyone can go to UnfetteredSocks.com and order a pair of their own. Today is the day that all of our work and preparation starts to matter; the day that represents the point of no return. Today is the day that there is no going back. We are entrepreneurs again, and we are ready to take on the world. I'm ready to do it better this time around; to learn from all of the mistakes I made on my first try. Starting over offers a renewed sense of excitement and motivation, but it also presents a new set of fears: if I fail this time, then what? I used to believe that entrepreneurship meant living a few years of your life the way others won't, so that you can spend the rest of your life as others can't. I now believe that entrepreneurship means living your life on a roller coaster: it's a fun ride, but that doesn't make it any less scary.
I've promised myself that the way we operate will be different this time, and I believe I've taken my own advice. We've worked strategically with our CFO to make sure that expenses don't exceed revenue; we fully understand that projections are simply projections, and have intricately valued the cost of acquiring consumers; we have a realistic plan in place to scale and grow our business. With hard work and dedication (and maybe a little luck), the results will be a reflection of the means.
So here I am, three years later, ready to do it again. I'm ready to take the e-commerce world by storm, pull all-nighters to launch new products, and pull my hair out when vendors make empty promises. As much as I hate real roller coasters, and as crazy as entrepreneurship may be, I'm ready. Let's do this!
For most 22-year-olds, graduation is a highly symbolic, exciting, and bittersweet event. It feels like your whole life has been culminating to this moment and you're finally spreading those wings to tackle what you were born and trained to do. It's sad to say goodbye to friends, a flexible schedule, and unlimited dining hall meals, but still you are eager to move on. For student entrepreneurs, graduation can often take on a different meaning and a different set of emotions. I know that for me, it was incredibly bittersweet. There were so many elements of college that I didn't want to think about giving up, and so much that came with the title of Student Entrepreneur that acted as an advantage in business. But, I couldn't wait to start truly owning my future and to ditch the problem sets and multiple choice math exams.
So what was the hardest to give up on the path from student entrepreneur to young entrepreneur?
1. The cushion of college support: between professors, the library, and meal plans, college campuses are full of resources and brilliant minds at all times. In the real world, you have to cultivate your own network of geniuses and inspirers. When graduation hits, it's time to start thinking about paying off student loans and cooking your own meals.
2. Friends: when you're in school, you're guaranteed to have one thing in common with everyone you meet (yes, it's that you both attend the same school). Post-grad life doesn't always guarantee that, and you'll have to go out of your way to meet people through activities that you enjoy. Through social media, however, some networks stay intact forever. Through school and beyond I have been able to keep in touch with my GSEA network of young entrepreneurs who have always provided support, feedback, and friendship.
3. The title of Student Entrepreneur: There's a certain safety net that comes with being a student entrepreneur. When you're really that young, failure just doesn't seem so bad. People will say "you'll get 'em next time" or "it's so great that you even tried." In the real world, failure becomes very, very...real. When there's a chance of losing it all, rock bottom will feel that much harder. In the real world, it's all the more important to plan carefully, grow cautiously, and mitigate risk. Pretty tough to do when entrepreneurship is inherently risky.
Graduation may have meant a lot of goodbyes, but when one door closes another one opens. The real world opens up a whole new set of possibilities and adventures for a young entrepreneur. With no classes or homework assignments in the way, the world is your oyster to get out there and gain the experiences necessary to be the most well-rounded entrepreneur possible. As scary as it is, life after graduation is when the real growing begins.