Entrepreneurship is like jumping off a cliff and learning how to build a plane on the way down.
Before even making the jump, you get the idea and you go to your friends and family and talk about it. “Mom, I’m going to go to the highest cliff around, jump off of it, and build a plane that will soar like no other. I’ll be the first ever to do this and succeed and change history.” Chances are, you’ll think your idea is brilliant. Chances are that people will also tell that it’s silly or an idea not worth pursuing. You think about what they said and even question your idea too for a bit. You realize there’s some truth to what they say, but you do it anyway. You prepare yourself as well as you can to learn how to build a plane (probably, most realistically, from YouTube), go to your local supply store to get all the parts you need. You buy everything and load up your bag full of parts to assemble once you get to the cliff. And then, you build and you jump, but realize you probably missed a lot of steps and you’re falling down at speed of speed of gravity and do your best to make all the tweaks at the stake of plummeting to the ground.
I bet, if you’re an entrepreneur, you know exactly what I mean. This very accurately describes how we all feel every day. I feel this from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep. And I’m sure all you entrepreneurs even starting your journey are beginning to feel the same. But you do it anyways.
Everyone jumps off that cliff with uncertainty and at least a bit of ignorance. Often, you’ll have absolutely no idea what you’re doing when you’re jumping off that cliff and you won’t even realize what you’re getting yourself into. But you do it anyway for the thrill of it and hope for the best. There’s lots of uncertainty when it comes to entrepreneurship. But with that, comes with lots of learning by doing and lots of growth.
For myself, when I began my company, I knew nothing about business. What a way to jump off that cliff, right? I majored in sociology with little to zero knowledge in entrepreneurship. Instead of creating value propositions and market strategies, I was often doing extensive research on social problems of the world and writing 20-page pagers. While my academic background wasn’t quite meant for business, I’ve realized this to be my unfair advantage in disguise over time.
Impact is becoming more relevant than ever before in business. I believe that a lot of this starts from having a thorough understanding of what populations are facing — not just the problems they’re confronted with but the roles of more macro factors like government, policy, culture, beliefs, etc. These are things that any sociology major can keenly see. But funny enough, through analyzing many business models pursued, often there is a lack of this proper understanding, which makes the process slower to begin with and often creates more shallow impact.
At the same time, you could easily say my disadvantage is that I don’t have that business background. Being well aware of this and often at least a bit self-conscious, I taught myself everything from the best professor I could find: YouTube. When I cold-emailed people the first time telling them about my “business” (which was still an idea and nothing more than a well-written paragraph of information for the email), they asked for a 1-pager or quick pitch deck. I spent the rest of that day and all night without any sleep compiling those two things to send out the morning after. Ultimately, entrepreneurship is all about faking it until you make it. It’s all about the scrappiness of turning nothing into something and the excitement behind that.
Being in a sector that revolves around scrappiness and non-stop hustling is something that makes it really challenging. There’s a reason for why people say entrepreneurship is so risky and that it’s the hardest form of business. Oftentimes, you’ll find yourself falling flat on your face in this space. And very commonly, that’s when most burn out and give up. But entrepreneurship is about getting back on your feet.
Being in the startup world revolves around the 4 F’s: Fail Fast, Fix Faster. There will be times where you’ll realize what you did was a total failure and you’ll be stressed out of your mind, knowing that you’ll need to pivot and do something different for your company. This is a never-ending process. For me, after 8 months since launch, we’ve pivoted many times. This is where a strong sense of conviction comes in. Having a firm belief in what you’re doing with a sense of optimism is so important at the end of the day and necessary to pull you through. It’s really putting yourself in your work and being ready to hustle to go beyond your own expectations and challenge your limits. What you put into it is what you get out of it and also what the people you serve get out of it.
Everyone jumps off that cliff with uncertainty and they’ll very rarely be successful the first time around. Having a strong sense of why you’re pursuing your venture is so important since you’ll usually have 4 times as many failures as you do successes. Keeping the bigger picture in mind and knowing what you’re contributing to will always pull you through. For myself and most entrepreneurs, every day is a work day — weekends are not really a thing. There are days I’ll come home and feel like it’s been the worst day ever because something didn’t go as planned just to go to bed and wake up early the next day to try again and keep pushing. What helps me get out of bed is really thinking about why I’m doing this.
For me, it’s thinking about the pain point that got me passionate enough to start Fulphil. All of my upbringing, I knew more than anything that I wanted to be a doctor to save lives, but once college began, I wasn’t so sure if that was what I actually wanted. My role with the Hult Prize Foundation in undergrad the empowering opportunities it gave me led me to create my own initiative for the Hult Prize from scratch to inspire 1,500+ Ivy League students to pursue social entrepreneurship. From that, I realized that my passion wasn’t just about it saving lives, but building people and helping them realize their potential and make a difference — exactly what Hult Prize offered me. I created Fulphil with the vision of doing just that by exposing them to social entrepreneurship to inspire them as she was through the Hult Prize. To date, I keep in mind that we’ve impacted up to 1,000 students by teaching them social entrepreneurship in just 8 months and that there’s still a whole journey ahead with more young people to inspire.
Not just remembering why but realizing that I was the one who hired myself to execute my venture — no one asked me to start Fulphil. This is something relevant for any entrepreneur: you hire yourself for the job whether it’s because maybe you’re passionate about the problem, or you have the right experience to create the venture. Whatever it may be, it’s all motivated behind the fact that you put yourself in that position. And over the course of that journey, there will always be a bit of turbulence and things that you’ll always be continuously learning. But the most important thing is to always embrace the scrappiness and failures and to pull through with that passion and a strong belief in what you’re doing to build a plane to soar like no other.