The Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster

 

The Ups

It all began with an idea. It started as a seed in my brain and grew to this giant tree I was always thinking about. My personal experience, research, and gut were all telling me to go for it.  I registered the business, created a logo, website, business cards, and social media. In April, I won grant money through
Seed for Startups. I spent all spring doing interviews with my target market and designing my product. I spent all summer creating a prototype and contacting manufacturers. This fall, I even did several pitch events and competitions outside of UVU.


Let me back up and tell you a little bit about my company, Moda B. We are a design company that makes clothing for dancers that allows them to go from a night out with their friends, to a night out on the dance floor. They look fun, trendy, and flashy, but feel like athletic attire. Of course, we have dozens of ideas for additional products and ways to scale into other markets, but we are starting with clothes for social dancers. Our first line featuring men and women's clothing for Latin social dancers. 

  

The Downs

Now I’m at the hard part. Not to say it’s been smooth sailing to get to this point, but it’s time to officially launch and begin selling product. This is where a lot of baby startups, like mine, fail because they lack the cash, sales, or both to get off the ground. I have just over $1,000 left in my business account and, while I’m working hard and staying optimistic, I can honestly say I don’t know if I’ll make it.

I have discovered that in the apparel industry you get a variety of advice that tends to pull you in all directions. There are those who hated running their clothing business and hint that you should quit while you're ahead. There are others who loved it and recommend you keep going. Some people think you need hundreds of SKUs to be successful, and others who believe you need to start small. There are even those who don’t understand your market or idea and conclude that you don’t have a value proposition. The problem is there’s no right and wrong in business-only better or worse. And the main thing to remember is you have to just make a decision to move forward. Making no decision is the worst decision of all.

So here I am at an inflection point. I need cash to start production, but I need to sell product to get cash. It’s a circular issue and I’m left with lots of decisions. Do I take out a loan? Do I drain my savings? Do I raise a friends and family round? Do I try crowdfunding? My almost two years of experience working in venture capital and growth equity tell me I am not a fit for that type of funding. 

 

Getting Back on the Ride 

Sometimes the entrepreneurial journey is too overwhelming and I admit I stop making progress on purpose just so the ride levels out for a few weeks. It's tempting to want to get off the roller coaster and focus on finding a "regular job." But if you love it, you can't stay away for long. So this week I made some decisions. I placed an order for fabric (42 meters from a European company). It was pricey because they charge extra fees for orders less than 300 meters, but it should get me 23 of my product and equate to $4,600 in revenue. I also hired a contractor to make a digital and printable pattern from my tech pack. I can’t afford to use a manufacturer, so paying more for a seamstress or cut & sew facility appears to be my best option right now. 

I feel pressured-like I have to succeed. Often, I consider that perhaps my advisors and family believe in me more than I do. There are days where I’m on top of the world and feel like I can do anything. Other days I’m laying on the ground staring at the ceiling thinking this is the end of Moda B. Maybe I’m crazy, but I love the entrepreneurial roller coaster. 

Do any other entrepreneurs out there feel the way I do? Are you walking in similar shoes? I have heard so many lectures and keynotes from successful entrepreneurs, but they rarely talk about this moment. The one where you have $500 left in your business account, no co-founder, and you’re praying you can make it to the next milestone... especially the one where you aren’t working for free anymore.