"I failed and failed"
Living in today’s hyper materialistic world can be difficult for entrepreneurs.
Success is often measured by large salaries, fancy cars, and a traditional job title. Before Hacker Lab I had about 20 years experience being an entrepreneur. I had so many businesses and side hustles I became somewhat of a joke to many. I would start something and it wouldn’t work out or it just wasn’t what I wanted I to do anymore. I didn’t go to college. Truthfully speaking, I didn’t even graduate Junior High. Starting businesses was my school, although I didn’t know it at the time. With each ending came the ridicule and feeling of defeat. I was a failure, crazy and a joke to many. What I didn’t realize what were considered failures, were actually huge wins for me.
My success was measured on income and how long the projects lasted. Some lasted just a few months, some years; but one thing rang true: The amount of money and the things I had was the measuring stick of my success.
I started my first company at a flea market at 20 years old and eventually opened a store there. I was so young and I was just trying to supplement my income for my 3 children and one on the way. I didn’t know I was learning. I learned how to work with people. I learned about profit and inventory. I scaled and learned about growth. I researched for better suppliers and negotiated deals. I hired and trained my first employee. I even learned about product and demand and how to use that to attract customers.
I eventually closed that business and moved on to many more. I hustled products out of my van to my fellow state workers, started a month-long extreme cleaning service to pay my rent, opened a design firm, owned and operated a Mortgage company, launched a reMaker store and so many more. With every business and hustle, I learned something, professionally and personally.
I didn’t know it, but I was incubating myself.
With each closure, I was hit by a sense of failure not only from myself but from my immediate circle. Success was measured by money, longevity, and things. Yes, things. I remember owning a Mortgage company and being told I would’t look successful unless I drove a Mercedes. Mind you, I owned a Land Rover. So I bought a Mercedes.
I once lived in a 3600 square-foot home, drove a Mercedes, an Expedition and a BMW. Oh yeah, I was super successful in so many peoples eyes. Ballin… until decided to close it and start over. I looked crazy — to everyone. But not to me. The truth was, I hadn’t found “IT”. That status and those things were not success for me. I just knew for me personally, there was more and something else waiting for me. I was gonna find it.
I moved to Oakland, abandoned everything in my suburb life to start a design firm. No fancy cars, no money, and just a dream. A dream to do what I loved. I knew I wanted to be in tech, supporting small business, and have the freedom of a self paced lifestyle.
It was the first time I had a 8-year old car in many years. Thrift stores became our main store. We went from middle-class suburbs life to small budget, urban life. I learned to cook. Every little thing about my life changed with that move. Not only was I going after my dream, I was transforming how I thought and lived.
Very shortly after our move my business became number one in East Bay, I opened one of the first coworking spaces in the East Bay Area. I learned all about startups and being in technology. I was learning and I was creating what success looked like for me. I was paving my road.
Fast forward ten years later, I am Founding CEO of Hacker Lab. Everyday I am blessed with a path that helps people and supports our entire region. I get to work with my amazing team, cofounder and community. I am far from being financially where I aspire to be, but I am truly wealthy in what matters to me.
There are no BMW’s , Mercedes, or 3600 square-foot homes. What there is, is my definition of success: The freedom to live how I want, giving back, making a difference, and having a ridiculous amount of fun, while still providing for my family.
My advice to all struggling entrepreneurs is live by your definition of success. Know that with every closed door you are being schooled. You are leveling-up on your skills, personal growth and tenacity. Success is not defined by things. Success is defined by knowledge, growth, and who you are as a person.
All that glitters is not gold. Gold is life and all that you experience on your journey.