From time to time, I blog about something other than writing or social media. In fact, before this site became my business site last year, it was my personal site, so there are quite a few personal musings in the archives.

Today, I want to talk about entrepreneurship.

Last month, I was a guest lecturer in two small business management classes at the Lethbridge College. I spoke about my entrepreneur journey, including my challenges and successes. I gave the students lots of advice about starting up a business, but one piece of advice that has stuck in my mind in the weeks since was this:

You’re going to fail.

I got a chuckle out of the students when I said it, but I wanted them to realize this important advice. Too many people come out of high school or post-secondary schooling idealistic and starry eyed. They think they’re going to make it big, or at the very least, they think it’ll be easy.

Personally, my wife and I have failed 8 times. Hot Pepper Communications is our 9th business, and finally, it has been our most successful. It‘s kind of funny actually because 9 is my favourite number.

Here are the 8 businesses that didn’t make it:

  • Home baked goods
  • Voice lessons
  • Web design
  • Voice lessons (again, but in a new city)
  • Window washing
  • Childbirth education
  • Nutritional consulting
  • Homes schooling supplies (retail)

They all failed for various reasons, and some failures we felt more than others. Some required lots of startup capital (which we’re still paying off), some we broke even on, and some we made profit on but never enough to live off.

I learned a lot of lessons along the way. For example, I will never run a retail business ever again, and I will never start a business that requires large startup capital unless I have a guarantee I can make it back.

Failure is part of entrepreneurship. It’s one of the risks you must be willing to take if you venture out on your own. In my opinion, it’s a risk worth taking. You will learn more lessons through failure than you will in a textbook. You will learn that forces exist that are out of control and that will tear you down. You will learn that you need to be able to live off nothing sometimes if you want the business to survive. You will learn that you can’t live your life as if your client is going to pay their invoice this month.

All the lessons you learn will either teach you you’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur, or they will teach you to fix what went wrong and to give it another shot.

Don’t worry. I wasn’t all doom and gloom with those students. I told them that just because they were probably going to fail doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do it. It just means they should try again. After all success is not a lack of failure, but the ability to get back up and try again.

About Kim Siever

I am a copywriter and copyeditor. I blog on writing tips mostly, but I sometimes throw in my thoughts about running a small business. Follow me on Twitter at @hotpepper.

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