The Cost of Entrepreneurship

If you’ve been following my Twitter feed for the last few weeks you would have noticed a number of tweets referencing travels to such exotic locations like Savannah, Greenville, Charlotte, and even the amazing gem of north Atlanta, Gwinnett County.

Ok, I’m just kidding, those places aren’t exotic – in fact, they are incredibly normal places (although very pretty in their own right) and I haven’t been traveling to see the locals or the surrounding sites anyways – I’ve been on a mission to raise investment capital from Angels and VCs.

This is the “season” as I call it often to my significant other – heck, she’s the one that has to deal with me being gone so often and extremely cranky and tired to boot. But it’s an important an absolutely necessary part of being an entrepreneur.

Sure, not every entrepreneur needs to raise venture capital to get their projects into the air but there are times when it’s absolutely required and there are times when going bootstrapped is really the better choice.

I’ve done both: I’ve gone through some significant funding rounds for previous startups and I’ve bootstrappped even more than you can possibly imagine – there’s a place for both in the world of entrepreneurship.

But the point of this blog post isn’t to share the pros and cons of raising capital (perhaps another blog post for another day) – the point is to share with you the challenge and the cost of becoming an entrepreneur – a reality that many people either were never told or seem to consistently forget.

The cost is high – it’s emotionally taxing and can be physically exhausting. If you’re not being challenged in either one of those areas then you’re probably not doing it right and you’re probably not an entrepreneur – you don’t have the right stuff (and that’s not a bad thing so don’t be offended) or you have a whacked out perspective of what an entrepreneur really is (you can be offended here if you’d like).

It’s a full-time job, there’s no doubt about it. If you think you can do it part-time then you’ve been gravely mistaken and somewhat fooled. You can be a freelancer (contractor and/or consultant) part-time but an entrepreneur cannot. And it’s more than just a job – it’s a lifestyle, a vocation, and it’s what you eat, sleep, and for the most part breathe. You can do no other.

Let’s talk about rewards for a moment, shall we? The rewards that most people typically associate with the entrepreneur are few and grossly far between – in fact, most entrepreneurs will rarely, if ever, hit those benchmarks, such as being acquired or going IPO, or whatever.

The real rewards are available to the entrepreneur daily. Actually, more than that – they are available at will. Things like being sovereign over your work and doing that which brings you unique satisfaction – the things that only you were uniquely created to do. Yes, they are certainly intangible but they’re internally created, internally driven, they create internal motivation, and no one can rob the entrepreneur of them.

Oh, another thing – they never die and infinitely available.

In the moment it can suck – I’ll be honest. And it can be difficult at times to remember the truth. For example, I pitched twice on Wednesday, the first to get an incubation/seed round of capital for my bootstrapped startup that’s been cash-flow positive since day numero uno and then, after a zippy lunch, drove 4 hours to Savannah on the coast to pitch for 15 minutes to just get past the local screening committee to get to Round #2, which is the true members of the Angel Board (the people who will eventually give us money).

I drove into Savannah with an hour to spare, grabbed lunch/dinner/food (call it whatever you want) after downing some migraine medicine from the local CVS, edited my presentation, and then drove half a mile to pitch to somewhere just south of 20 men twice my age who may not have truly understood my world-changing concept.

They scribbled some notes on paper and it was voted (not unanimously, sadly) to approve my startup for a second round which means I’ll be back here in a few weeks to do it all again.

I shook hands with as many people as I possibly could, jumped back in my car, and drove the 4 hours home. I was so exhausted from the day (started at 5:00am) that I had to pull into a gas station and nap to hopefully slay the migraine that decided not to leave me an hour earlier. Waking up at 9:40pm after a 30 minute nap I jumped back on the road, eventually walking into my house at 11:45pm, but not before hitting something on I-85 that completely jacked the front undercarriage of my vehicle.

I decided I’d deal with that later and after mumbling something to my wife like “Uh, it went well. Second round in 3 weeks. This is the season. I love you honey.” I passed out on my bed forgetting to brush my teeth.

I would wake up the next day and take some industrial plyers to the underside to cut that part off since it was dragging badly and then jump back into the saddle to continue to lead my team toward product launch – just because we didn’t have the money (yet) didn’t mean we had nothing to do. We had stuff to ship, customers to make happy, and more business conversations to entertain.

You see, the entrepreneur is in the business of changing the world. I am in the business of making the world a better place. Why? Because myself and my team are real entrepreneurs. That’s what we do. This is more than just a hobby. We’ve left our full-time jobs to do this. We’ve changed our lifestyles and pinched pennies to make this happen. We’ve (somehow) convinced our wives (they love us, a lot) to let us follow our dreams and given up more than just a few hours of sleep a night to pursue them.

It’s cost us something. And the price is sweet. Hell, it’s as good of a deal as any. And I wouldn’t give it up for anything else in the world.

But don’t call yourself an entrepreneur if you haven’t paid the price of entry. Don’t dilute the name, the meaning – it’s more than just a title to us.