Success is defined in a variety of ways and although there are cultural and societal standards, I believe we define success for ourselves. Reaching some level of success feels good, right? Depending on the stage in life it could translate as finishing college, landing our first job, running a marathon, purchasing a home, starting a family, and the list goes on and on. We enjoy sharing our successes especially when someone else brings them up in conversation – people notice. However, what we don’t tend to share so often is our failures.
Growing up as a teen whose majority of extra- curricular time was spent with speech and drama, via the public school team or being part of the local children’s theatre acting company for teens, I was introduced to failure at an early age. This ‘failure’ was in the form of not getting cast in a show or not being cast in the role I wanted. It was my first experience of rejection as well. However, I loved the performing arts so much, I continued to go back and audition and remained a part of that world for an entire decade.
The culminating successful experience of all those years of auditioning was two fold – being cast in a commercial and in Shakespeare in the Park, a revered community experience in my home town. At least, it was revered in my eyes because I attended summer performances during my teenage years through adulthood and only stopped attending because I moved away.
However, the above early stages of ‘failure’ is not the main experience I wanted to share with you today. The failure in which I refer to was the first company I co-founded at the age of 18, Chance Theater. It was formed with three other peers and the common element is that we were all passionate about theater. We did everything to include:
We ended up producing three plays during one summer. It was one of the most challenging and invigorating summers of my life, and we all learned so much that we would not have learned in the classroom.
So how was this a failure? We couldn’t sustain the company because although we were passionate, we had no business skills. We didn’t have any plan beyond the three plays we had identified that we wanted to do that particular summer. We didn’t know how to market what we were doing “Bringing different, modern theatrical experiences to our city.” We were taking a chance to try something new…hence the name, Chance Theater.
Also, we had no financial plan, no fundraising experience – all we knew about was selling tickets and nothing beyond that aspect of a financial plan. This is what I learned at the age of 18:
Passion alone is not enough.
Thinking that passion alone will result in a successful company that is scalable and sustainable is a common mistake. Don’t get me wrong, founders need to have passion and passion persuades. Passion can ignite a team; however, you need to know a lot more to run a healthy business.
What do I wish I would have known then that I know now?
Business skills. As a teenager I was not exposed to business on any level. In today’s world, there are some business classes for teens at some schools, however they are primarily at the high school level. It cannot hurt to give our young people exposure to basic business skills building at an earlier age. Then if any of them want to try to start their own company, if the skills set can be matched with the passion, then perhaps they can really make a go of it.
As an adult, I want our young people to have opportunities. In case you didn’t know it by now, I’m especially passionate about our girls having opportunities to have more choices in the future. If you want to see what is possible, see the stories below:
Zollipops - teeth cleaning candy
Sisterpreneurs - da bomb bath fizzers
To help a girl learn basic business skills, be sure to see the Launch to Freedom Girls program and workbook made available through Escape Velocity. Although passion is important to reach business goals, remember
passion alone is not enough.
Let’s help our young girls build a bright future together by being a community who supports their growth through experiential learning.
Your comments are most welcome.