If you ask any woman who has a “million-dollar business idea” why they haven’t started said business, the answer most likely has something to do with the financial risk.
The worry is not necessarily that the business won’t be successful but more so the fear of leaving a steady-income job to become the entrepreneur she dreams of being. It can be terrifying to not have that guaranteed income, especially if you, like so many others, have hundreds of thousands of dollars of student debt, have to pay rent, or have any amount of credit card debt.
Dee Charlemagne, founder of AVEC Drinks and recent guest on my podcast, knows the struggle all too well. A recent Columbia Business School MBA, she told me that at every conference and event with entrepreneurs she asked one question: “How did you pay your rent in the early days of launching your business?” The answers varied, of course, and she even notes that gender, race, socio-economic status (and more) have an impact on the answers she received.
It’s a question worth asking. How – if you are starting a business – are you supposed to maintain your livelihood?
You might be fortunate enough to have a partner who can support you or maybe your parents left you a nest egg, but that simply is not the case for most people.
Actually, the most common answer I have found is that these entrepreneurs do one of two things:
- They keep their full-time job and work weekends and late into the night on their venture, or
- They pick up a side job that, at best, puts an extra day of work on their calendar just to make ends meet.
Either option thins the work-life-balance line (which is already too thin for most women).
One person I met took to becoming a permanent house and pet sitter, trading the security of a stable roof and comfort of more than a suitcase full of possessions for the enhanced cash flow that comes with accommodation costs of zero. Great (maybe) if you’re unattached, but such creative solutions are much harder if you have tiny humans who depend on you.
How many great ideas, great entrepreneurs, and needed innovations are we missing out on simply because? Especially from people of color? Or women of color? Or even just your friends, family members, or colleagues who may have a ‘million dollar idea’?
Dee’s question is a powerful one, not only because the answers may help you think of creative solutions when you’re bootstrapping your business, but also because it invites us to confront the messy reality of the often messy lives of entrepreneurs. So that if and when you step out to pursue that live-changing idea, you can know that your own messy life is normal too.