For most of my life the E word has been a bad word.
I’ve been very anti-startup culture, and I see through the shiny veneer that surrounds entrepreneurship and “working for myself” these days. Entrepreneurship is placed on such a pedestal, and it drives me crazy. I survived two years of watching my boyfriend start a tech company from our tiny Brooklyn apartment. (He survived too) I came out of that experience with full awareness of the sacrifices and insane challenges involved in starting a company. It’s grueling mentally, emotionally, even physically and spiritually. I dipped my own toe into the pool of small biz life with my first iteration of Ethel Studio I was trying to shape in early 2017. Looking back it was a small cautious attempt to test out some textile art products while working a full-time job in NYC. After leaving New York in 2017, I was like Nope! Ready for the simple life! E word certainly is not for me.
Growing up with extremely risk-adverse banker parents who said I don’t have an E word bone in my body also helped me establish the fact that the E word was to be kept at a safe distance. “You’re too sensitive, Mags, you have such thin skin!” my mom would remind me.
It’s true. I AM a highly sensitive person, and an empath, and I deal anxiety which really helps things.
But somehow here I am! I’ve started a business! So yes, technically I’m an E word now.
“Maggie, who are you? What about living the simple, low-key, low-stress, stable life that you’ve always wanted? Why are you doing this?” I ask myself. Blind optimism perhaps? A naïve idealism that I can create a better world and simultaneously support myself financially, mentally, and emotionally? An ambitious hope inside of me that everyone in the world wants, needs a one-of-a-kind meditation cushion made from rescued fabrics? Perhaps I have been brainwashed, but yes I’m sitting here feeling totally 100% convinced that everyone in the world does want one of my meditation cushions! … okay more like 93% convinced, but that’s really optimistic for me, or any one for that matter.
If I look deep inside and try to understand why I’m going for it and have dropped enough of my inner critic to move forward with this (she still looms there, but is not as loud as before) … it’s probably because I have a very clear mission this time around. Well missions plural:
1. Eliminate global textile waste: My life’s mission! I was able to extract this mission from my general “Must Save Earth” sentiment in my brain – a narrowing process with help from my trusty look-inside-yourself-meditation stuff I’ve worked on over the past year an a half.
2. Help people! Not a typical mission for many entrepreneurs or big biz people, but I honestly want to help people. Whether that is providing support or inspiration for someone’s meditation practice with some tush support, or through creating & supporting jobs for the stakeholders in my products’ supply chain. I also believe in collective liberation: that one of us can’t be free until we are all free. That we can’t have sustainability without environmental justice, and we can’t end suffering if another person out there is suffering. This is big stuff, but why can’t I do my part to tackle it through my business? (enter blind optimism)
I find this mission is the main thing that’s energizing me and driving me forward. Eliminating textile waste and improving lives is at my core. It’s what I’m most passionate about. It is the focal point on the horizon far in the distance. With tons of daunting hurdles in between and a long winding road filled with content black holes, digital marketing tornadoes, production schedule wildfires, logistics goblins, bookkeeping vortexes, SEO monsters, and cash flow quicksand.
I don’t have any answers yet, and I know I’ll need a whole lot more than just a nice mission to follow. Plus I have not read nearly enough business books yet, but this is my starting point. And many days I’m going full steam ahead (many days not so much). Anyways, here’s my attempt at being transparent with you. I’m certain I’m not alone in all of this. Entrepreneurship is terrifying.
I’m really impressed that you’ve read this far. Perhaps only you are still reading this, Mom. Cool.
As a true quote-junkie, I must end with this:
“Pretend as if every single day, every decision you make is the right decision.“
-from the Being Boss book
To be continued….