As an entrepreneur with more than a decade of experience, I have no difficulty relating to other entrepreneurs and the emotions we all experience starting something new, seeing something succeed, or seeing something fail. It wasn’t until recently, at Tech Cocktail Week, that I noticed I’ve never really been able to relate to my peers when it comes to the reasons why I decided to be an entrepreneur at all.
Everyone at Tech Cocktail Week seemed to have a very specific purpose for joining the startup life. Turns out I’m an entrepreneur by default, which sounds a lot less glamorous than “I wanted to follow my dreams” or “I want to change the world.” But the reality is I’m an entrepreneur because I didn’t believe I could do anything else.
Until about the age of 12, I was raised by a single mother who was finding it difficult to make ends meet for herself and her three young children; she was also not feeling the socioeconomic mobility many of her peers were experiencing in the late ’80’s, either. To give our family a security blanket and that chance for some upward mobility, my mother started her own interior design business on the side, called Elements of Style. And with that I was exposed to the “startup life.”
My mother worked tirelessly in her home office where she spent hours flipping through Pantone books and sorting through fabric samples; and if she wasn’t there, she was at her full-time job keeping the dual income flowing. As a result, I’d often come home after school to an empty house, but I knew my mom would be calling any minute with instructions to put a pot of water on to boil so she could walk in the door and go right from “working mom” to just “mom.” She was a superhero, and I don’t know how she balanced a full-time job, a fledging small business, and the needs of three children.
My mother knew she couldn’t wait for the universe to provide opportunity for her; she had to create it for herself – and this is where I relate to her. I struggled through most of my academic career because I could not find my path, my purpose, or my passion within those typical college settings; and because of that, I knew my transition to the working world would be difficult. For me, this meant entrepreneurship was not just my default option; it was my only option. My shortcomings as a student and my difficulties with following the pack made me virtually unhireable, at least on paper. I remember being 18 and thinking to myself that no one would ever hire me, and I’d never have a good job that could become a career I’d be proud of. But, because I was raised by an entrepreneur, I had all the tools I needed to define my own destiny and ask things of the universe that many people never even think to.
While I may have become an entrepreneur by default years ago, I remain one today because I love the feeling of freedom coupled with the potential that uncertainty creates. I’m an entrepreneur because, like my mother, I’m fearless and I’m not willing to let social norms tell me what’s right for me or what my best is. My mom is not the most successful entrepreneur I personally know, but of the hundreds I run into each year, she is still by far the most impressive.
Loretta Corbett in her own words:
“As a single mother without an income and lacking a completed college degree, I found that I had to put my talents to work in my natural ability to design and decorate. I began my company to simply put food on the table and a roof over my children’s heads, which in turn gave me a sense of power and along with that came the excitement of ‘landing a new client,’ which was the best feeling in the world! My advice to new entrepreneurs put simply: go after every project, no matter how small, you never know where it will lead you…and don’t worry if you have to ‘fire’ a client or two along the way.”
Moments after closing her first client…
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