11 Jul 5 Lessons From Our First Year
By: Stephanie Giddens
I’ve learned countless lessons during this first year of launching VTC. I never knew a learning curve could be so steep! I tell people on a regular basis that I don’t know how to do most of the things I do every day. I just ask a lot of questions and learn along the way. It’s been humbling and honestly pretty comical at times to learn how much I don’t know. If I listed out all of the lessons I’ve learned, you’d still be reading into next week. But in the interest of time…here’s my top five.
1. When someone says “you can’t”, you don’t have to listen to them. I was told it wouldn’t work to operate a retail endeavor as a non-profit. We’re doing it and it’s working. I was told Afghani women and Iraqi women hated each other and wouldn’t work together. They do work together and they love and support one another like family. I was told point blank that my plan wouldn’t work. I was told I wouldn’t be able to get volunteers to help. I was told I couldn’t train new seamstresses to sew knits. Early on, I just decided to stop listening to the naysayers and find a way to make things work. Guess what?! They’re working.
2. Growth happens outside your comfort zone. I was so scared when we first started. I was scared to interview Associates, scared to start the first day, scared to try to teach them, scared to let them learn about my life. Nothing I have done in this entire process has been comfortable. From learning to sew to eating Middle Eastern food to helping ladies from different cultures walk through conflict. As humans, we like to be comfortable so we operate in the familiar. But we don’t progress or learn when there’s nothing to challenge us. There may be a lot to learn from the opportunities you fear.
3. Different is good. There is great beauty in diversity. And we’ve got diversity down at VTC. But put aside skin color, clothing and language and we’re all daughters, sisters, wives, mothers…we share a bond of common experiences that help us relate across cultural boundaries. When we start to see women as sisters instead of “different”, we accomplish a lot more and actually help people in ways they need…and we end up making new friends along the way. My heart is more full than I ever thought possible.
4. Starting a business is HARD. You might think starting your own business sounds cool. It’s hard. You might think being a CEO sounds glamorous. It’s hard. You might think being boss is freeing. It’s hard. And a heavy commitment to carry. The reality? Start-ups take more time, heart, work, sweat, tears and money than you ever imagined. The to-do list is endless and your dedication has to be 180%. Am I complaining? Absolutely not. I chose this path and wake up every day know I’m doing what I’m called to do. It’s just not all roses and cupcakes and pink fluffy bunnies.
5. Sometimes, sleep is the best business decision you can make. I have the tendency to go, go, go until I get it done. The problem is, my to-do list is so long that it may never finish, so I must have the self-control to stop working and choose to rest. Staying up late to work usually means I work slower and make more mistakes. A fresh start in the morning after a good night of sleep is much more effective. This is key to making smart decisions and having the right attitude for everything that comes my way.
Any of you out there an entrepreneur? What lessons have you learned? Please share!