May 20, 2014
Before becoming an entrepreneur, Rachel Elizabeth Baker was a young single mother working minimum-wage “rubbish jobs,” making $20 a day to waitress or work in bars. She had dropped out of high school to care for her mother, so she saw herself as uneducated, dyslexic, and unfit for any other kind of work.
“I genuinely just never ever thought that I was capable of doing anything more. I’d always been taught that you had to go to school, you had to go to university, you had to be a certain sort of person from a certain sort of family,” says Baker. “And I just thought, ‘Well, that’s not me.’”
After Rachel met her future husband, entrepreneur Andrew Crump, her attitude began to change. As obvious as it now sounds, he taught her that you don’t have to go to university to make things happen. So Baker dabbled in selling art and making jewelry, and finally found a niche for herself in doing hair extensions.
Within six months, Baker had created a company; within a year, she was training other people; within two years, she was being featured in the media, giving talks, and landing big partnerships. Yet with all that success, Baker still felt like that uneducated single mom.
“The whole time doing it, I was absolutely petrified,” she says. “I would come home most nights and cry thinking, ‘I’m going to be found out, I shouldn’t be doing this.’ It felt almost illegal.”
An experience that should have been intense but enjoyable turned into a pressure cooker. Her thoughts constantly turned to her mistakes and her to-do list. She fretted over the little errors and delays that are an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial life.
But something shifted when Baker moved to the United States. She met lots of other entrepreneurs and – lo and behold – they were regular people with their own hopes and fears.
“Talking to them and realizing they’re just real people – they’re scared, they’re normal, they’re not this sort of person that I put on a pedestal – I started to realize that actually maybe I’m not a fraud, maybe I’m just another person,” she says.
So when Baker started the house cleaning service Maidly, she vowed that she would enjoy the process this time. With practice, she stopped comparing herself to others and started comparing herself to where she had been six months ago. When she still felt disappointed, she would imagine that her accomplishments belonged to a friend and ask herself how she would judge them.
Baker used to feel intimidated by anything she didn’t know how to do, but now it’s a challenge. “Things that I would look at and think, ‘Oh, I couldn’t do that,’ now I automatically have the reaction of, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to do it now,’” she explains. “I’ve got that almost competitive response with myself.”
When all is said and done, the now 30-year-old Baker has learned to accept herself – failures, weaknesses, and all. She’s also learned to accept her accomplishments, like taking Maidly through Progression Labs and becoming the official cleaning company of various buildings in downtown Vegas, like the Ogden and Juhl. Luckily, she now has a team of maids at Maidly to complement and inspire her.
In other words, she’s not alone. And now, having talked to tons of other entrepreneurs, she knows that feeling like an imposter isn’t only a Rachel Baker problem. “I do worry that there are people from all walks of life (whether they’ve come from a hard background or a privileged background) that feel the way that I did,” she says. “And I do worry that they feel like that they can’t talk to people.” But perhaps her story will change that.
Got a story about the psychological challenges or “harsh reality” of entrepreneurship? Email kira @ tech.co
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