And we've got the startups to prove it.
Starting a business can provoke some of the hardest challenges we’re likely to face in our lives. We have personal challenges like everyone, but all too often it’s the stress of not having time for a personal life, stressful work relationships, or threat of a ruined reputation or financial future that threatens our sanity. People in the entrepreneurship world talk about creating a culture where failure is OK, but how can we build communities that support entrepreneurs to be more resilient in the face of fear and failure rather than self-destruct, isolate or quit?
I went to the UP America Summit in Kansas City this week with 150 people who host Startup Weekends, own coworking spaces, run accelerators, and who are generally passionate about building a community of entrepreneurs. At the introductory session, one of leaders of UP Global put on the screen: “We believe to create is to be human; entrepreneurship is the most powerful force advancing human welfare; and that thriving entrepreneurial communities can exist anywhere in the world.” My people!
In a round of speed networking we had to fill in the blanks for “My community values are X and Y because Z”. It was exciting to do this with so many smart, sociable, community-oriented people from pretty much every metropolitan area in the country. My statement was “My community values are to connect and grow people because together we can make great changes in our world.”
I believe we take on challenges so that we can grow, and that we need to grow individually and as a community to change our world. Because of this I hosted a session at the conference called “Entrepreneurship as Personal Growth.” This fits in well with the book group that’s been happening on third Thursdays at ThinkTank (next book “How to win friends and influence people”, Oct 16 8pm), and reaches further into our personal lives.
In my personal experience of owning a coworking space and being in a relationship with an entrepreneur, I struggled with how to create a supportive environment for others and myself. I ended up using many of the individual tips in the list below, but also implemented a number of changes in my space. I started taking time to connect with individuals in the space, asking (and answering) honestly “How are you today?” I let people know they are welcome and encouraged to come in when they’re having a bad day. I set the example of offering and receiving hugs (a full 6 second hug will give good chemistry for hours afterwards!) and provide creature comforts in the space. I want to know how we can do this across the Portland community and find out what other community organizers thought we could do to support entrepreneurs in struggle and crisis.
In the session we broke into small groups to share what was the hardest thing that each of us has had to face, what helped us get through it, then brainstormed what we can do in our communities. Here’s what we came up with:
What we can do in communities:
Entrepreneurial support and mentoring programs can have mentors with specific expertise in handling stress and personal challenges
Make brochures with cliffnotes to Brad Feld’s Startup Life and other resources
Create support groups for entrepreneurs
Encourage successful entrepreneurs to share stories of their past challenges
Create funny and motivational posters in space
Create entrepreneurs hotline or crisis intervention teams
Host events where participants have explicit permission to be open about challenges
Be willing to share your story
Housing for entrepreneurs
7am coffee club in Dallas – no agenda, let’s people get to know each other on personal level
Google’s Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute
Do check-ins at the beginning of meetings – ask “How are you?” and mean it!
Welcome new people in community
Host family and kid-friendly social events
Encourage interactions at events that are personal, not transactional
Some Tips that have worked for individuals:
Build and sustain a strong network of friends, family & advisors
Recognize when you’re having a hard time and get help so you can move forward
Define your own measures of success in life
Be willing to face reality and your fears
Talk to outsiders, mentor, life coach, counselor or support group
Realize you have choices
Let your life be bigger than your business including health, family and spirituality
Create psychological and financial safety nets so if you fail you can still be ok
Focus on what you can control
Realize you have choices
After the session, several people came up to me to thank me for the session, saying there’s a lot of transactional relationships that happen at networking events, and often entrepreneurs feel isolated in their personal struggles since many family and friends don’t understand the risks and motivations of starting a new business. I’d love to hear your thoughts of how we can support entrepreneurs in the challenges they face in the Portland Hub. Thanks!