(I originally published this article on November 9, 2017.)
The timing of Wisconsin Startup Week is perfect for me.
This time last year, the notion of a week devoted to fostering and supporting startup businesses in Wisconsin would not have had any significance to me. I had just experienced an unexpected employment separation. The months following was somewhat of a roller coaster, including a lot of soul searching; dedicated time reflecting on my professional life, my coming to terms with the traumatic job loss and determining what I wanted the rest of my professional life to involve.
Fast forward a year later, Wisconsin Startup Week (November 6 – 12) is of great interest to me. As the saying goes, “timing is everything!” My months of grief over my job loss lead me to finally embracing something that many had put bugs in my ears about over the years. What I never could envision being me seemed so obvious. In fact, I had a ‘Dah!’ moment and scolded myself for taking so long to do it.
In July, I got bit by the entrepreneurial bug. Sure, I had long been a goal driven self-starter and hard worker. But I have always liked the security of having a pay check every two-weeks. For most of my professional career I was a single mother of three, so having a steady income was a necessity. Yet, the longer my unemployment went, the more I began to realize I had grown weary of trying to prove my expertise to potential employers. The process of constantly revamping my resume, applying for jobs, going through programs, and networking started to make me feel like a hamster exhaustedly running on its wheel, going round and round, yet getting nowhere.
For a type-A person like myself, the process of getting nowhere didn’t settle well with me. The time came for me to take control of my situation. This is when I got bit by the entrepreneurial bug. It was time to turn my lemons into lemonade. It was time to pick myself up, dust off the past, and move forward.
I used to reject the notion of being an entrepreneur because I always had heard negative stories about how hard it was to be successful. Stories about how being a success meant constantly chasing after business and working extremely long hours. Also of how most startups fail within the first year and few last beyond five years. But having few options gave me a new perspective. I had nothing to lose, but so much to gain.
During my unemployment, I had several experiences that helped pave the way to being an entrepreneur. One of the major catalysts for me was me being contacted on LinkedIn by an editor of a New York City Magazine (A Women’s Thing). Through the magic that comes from using the professional network platform correctly, she discovered me and offered a journalism assignment. I had been a free-lance journalist for twenty-plus years, so this was an exciting opportunity for me. It allowed me to do what I love, write (my article in A Women's Thing)! This was a much needed confirmation for me that I indeed had skills that were marketable. It also demonstrated how I was leveraging LinkedIn to effectively advance my brand. Additional confirmations for me included a brief stint driving for Uber. For some this is a good option. For me, it was confirmation my time should be spent doing something else. The greatest value from the experience was seeing that I could work independently and earn some money. The final revelation for me was others seeking me out to provide them one-on-one social media coaching or overall branding guidance. After a while, I started to see that there was a niche I could parlay into a business endeavor for myself. Why not? I had been a journalist for over 20 years, had a solid history of impactful public relations work and I had a solid professional brand. Additionally, I skillfully use social media to advance issues of importance. Being a story teller was always important to me. Others know me for being a ready reference for credible information. Why not have a business in which I help others tell their stories?
Again, timing is everything. What had once seemed like a fantasy was now a no-brainer to me. So I, with the support of my husband, created TCM Communications LLC. We can’t say the rest is history yet, but the process of moving forward is so much better than the hamster wheel that I was running.
I don’t remember how I first found out about Wisconsin Startup Week, but when I did I knew it would benefit me since I’m less than six months into being an entrepreneur. According to the organizations website, its mission is,
Founded in 2017, Wisconsin Startup Week is a statewide effort to better connect high-growth startup communities around the state of Wisconsin.
They aim to do so by:
- Helping entrepreneurs discover resources in their communities
- Highlight the importance of startups to the growth of Wisconsin's economy
- Showcase innovations developed by startup companies all around Wisconsin
The path of a start-up can be very daunting, especially for someone like myself who did not go into the process the way that some experts recommend entrepreneurs to do; execute each step based on a well-developed business plan. The traditional route didn’t fit me. I didn’t just jump in, I dived in (without a business plan, financing or clients) and have been propelling myself forward based on my belief in the services I offer and my desire to be successful. Having access to the many events Wisconsin Start-up Week offered has been very helpful. One such event was hosted by Concordia University of Wisconsin at their Midtown location in Milwaukee. A panel of entrepreneurs talked about being bit by the entrepreneurial bug and their overall experiences. Hearing their resolve of never looking back was music to my ears. By this time next year, I’m looking forward to looking back at a successful first year for my business and be a positive example for other start-ups.