As an entrepreneur, I often get asked two questions: “What is your greatest challenge?” and “What is your greatest success?” These questions can get asked at productive roundtable meetings with other successful business owners or simply as a talking point while networking.
I don’t always know how to answer them. When starting your own business and building it from the ground up, you run into MANY challenges, and successes can come in many forms. A success can range anywhere from finally establishing that important business partnership you’ve been seeking to just making it through yet another coffee-fueled meeting.
I have never liked answering these questions. It’s not for lack of conversation, because I certainly have more than enough to say on the subject. What I’ve come to realize is that I don’t like the separation of success and challenge. My entire life has been built around the motif of challenge and success. I always take my greatest challenges and turn them into my greatest successes. This is both how I run my business and how I live my life.
Allow me to give you an example. Picture this.
It’s less than 48 hours before Crypticon Kansas City. This is my first convention as a vendor, and I’m anxious to display my work. In preparation, I’ve created dozens of new jewelry pieces. The hairwork is completed, and all I have to do is affix the glass over top of the hair. Truth be told, this is my least favorite part of the process, because it takes patience without the creativity of the hair art. It’s simply the final step which must be done. It’s not an easy process, therefore I try to allot time to glue many pieces at once whenever I can. I start to glue the very first necklace pendant and…
The side of the tube of glue tore open, and the glue came bursting out. Now, this is the type of glue that if you get it on your skin, it will END you! I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve glues my own fingers together and had to deal with glue residue on my fingers for days on end. So, naturally, the glue dried after immediate contact with the air, and I’m now left with no way of finishing this jewelry.
This issue is not as simply resolved as purchasing more glue. After too many glue experimentations to count, this particular type of glue was the only one I found that did not react poorly with the hair but was still strong enough to hold the glass. It’s not a glue that you can find in stores, and there’s no hope of ordering it and having it on time for the convention.
So now what do I do? My sculptures take so long to make, that if I worked straight up until the event, I would have exactly one piece and no sleep (two if I made them especially small). There’s no hope of getting a refund on my table, and I don’t want to go with only a handful of items I can sell. This is the greatest challenge I’ve encountered so far, so, clearly, it’s time to get creative.
Now, I’d be astonished if there’s another entrepreneur that’s encountered this exact situation. A unique business yields unique problems, but I’m sure everybody can relate to trying to solve an important issue on a time crunch. Not knowing exactly what to do, I went for a drive to listen to music and think. I happened to drive by an art supply store, so I decided to stop in and see if anything gave me a brilliant idea.
And it did.
I walked by several packages of tiny, corked bottles. All of a sudden, my brain began jumping hoops. I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but part of me knew that I could use them. I purchased a couple packages and immediately whisked them away to my studio. After about an hour of staring at them and imagining I had a personal Tim Gunn on my shoulder reminding me to “make it work”, I finally figured it out.
What I ended up creating was an entirely new product. I pulverized some hair to sprinkle on the bottom of the bottle. I then meticulously sculpted an incredibly tiny hair flower and used tweezers to work with it inside of the bottle. Hair flowers in a bottle.
I called it a Hairarium!
Because each bottle only had between one and three flowers inside, it was perfectly manageable to make several within a day! I worked long and hard, and I finally had more than enough merchandise to fill my vendor table.
But the success didn’t end there. At the event, the hairariums were incredibly popular and accounted for exactly half of my sales for the entire weekend! I had managed to take my greatest challenge and turn it into my greatest success, as I now had a new product and a successful event. This is truly only one example of pressure bringing out my creativity, but it perfectly illustrates what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur (albeit one with an unconventional business).
Many people fear challenge. Impending challenge is the greatest adversary to motivation. But I implore you- whether it be in your business, your work, or your life- to welcome your challenges with open arms. Embrace it, because challenge can be your greatest asset and your most powerful business partner if you can learn how to work with it. It’s not ever easy, and I often have to remind myself of this philosophy, but I truly believe that if you can learn how to turn your greatest challenges into your greatest successes, you will rule the world.