I Am Invincible! … Apparently

Hi all,

I’m Danielle and I’m a rookie entrepreneur.

I have lost my serenity and possibly my sanity, so I’ve decided to blog about it.

It is true to say that I followed my gut into business. Some might argue, and perhaps quite rightly so, that it wasn’t a very bright thing to do. The word “lemming” comes to mind…

From what I understand, smart business people start small and have a working knowledge of the market they’re entering. Not me. Why do it the smart way and make it easier for myself when I can set myself a REAL challenge? Yep, I’ll take the hard road thanks. I’ll just follow my gut gleefully into creating something that I have no solid evidence for that anyone is going to want. I’ll pour my heart and soul into creating it, then I’ll “learn as I go” on the business front, throw money at it, and hope like hell someone wants to buy it. Voila, I’m an entrepreneur!

Of course, there is the school of thought that recommends biting off more than you can chew, and then chewing like hell. Well, I’m their star pupil because I’ve got a gobfull here!

Speaking to someone recently I asked, “am I nuts?” She answered, “yes, Danielle, let’s get this straight right now – you ARE nuts!” Thank heavens for that. At least now I know for sure.

In all seriousness, I have, at times, wondered about my sanity. Not to mention my stupidity in a number of instances. But the truth is, the feeling from my gut is so compelling that I can’t not do it. Pablo Picasso said, “It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction. For all those who succeed, however difficult the road, not to have done it would have been more difficult.”

Perhaps his quote could have read, “for all those who tried…” because I can relate totally to what he means, even though I haven’t yet succeeded. When my business idea originally came to me about 18 months ago, I HAD to do it. It was completely compelling. I’d say that it’s an obsession. From its inception, I thought about it day and night, and I worked on designing my game every spare minute that I had. Since then, “leisure time” has been almost non-existent for me. Sometimes when I’m with friends and they’re chatting about all the activities they’ve been up to, or planning, I find myself thinking things like: Oh gee, that’s right, normal people have a life where they just take a day or two off, sometimes even a week (gasp), and do fun stuff.

Another quote that comes to mind is, “Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.” I don’t regret my decision for a minute, but in making the choice to take this route I have given up both quality of life and financial stability. From where I stand now, success would taste rather sweet.

In the face of what seems like an impenetrable market, the only thing fuelling me is the passion I feel for my vision. If our lives really do have a purpose, then this is mine. Or perhaps more accurately, it’s central to it.

Lately I keep coming across messages of perseverance and persistence (funny how that happens isn’t it) – which, apparently, is often the determining factor to successful outcomes. But every now and again my “sensible” voice interrupts with the million dollar question: how long do you persist? Exactly what am I the captain of here? – an exciting new craft that will transport people to Cloud Nine, or the Spruce Goose?

And will I find answers to the endless questions in my mind before I send myself and everyone else insane?!

Market Position & Branding

In terms of marketing, although I find myself very often in a situation where I don’t know what the right answer is, one thing that I am grateful for is that as far as branding goes, I do know when something is wrong. This is most often an instinctual feeling, but it usually also requires a series of thought processes. For instance, I was recently given an idea for further developing my game, which at first I thought was terrific. But over about a week it dawned on me that in fact, it would be completely the wrong thing to do because it would actually detract from what the essence of the game is about. The integrity of the product’s purpose would be significantly weakened. In future posts I’ll discuss further examples of finding my way through the evolutionary maze of product development.

From my experiences to date, branding is something that is also very much an evolutionary process – a combination of my vision and the way in which people respond to various elements of that vision. I see my role as managing the dance between these two factors; carefully choreographing them so as to ensure the integrity of my brand while also catering to the needs of my customers.

On the flip side of how customers respond are those who want to “add” or contribute to your vision, such as the example above. Along with market research, I put this one in the “mine field” category. These are two topics I will also take a closer look at.

I will need at least one full post to cover my adventures in market research. It’s a fascinating area, and, as I understand it, a somewhat contentious one. My experiences to date relate to the focus groups (or trials) that I held while developing my game, listening to all and sundry about their personal dating experiences, feedback from customers and business associates, and through selling my merchandise at the weekend markets.

While I won’t offer marketing advice per se (I’ll leave that to the professionals!), I will share with you my experiences, insights and lessons to date.

The one thing that really does scare me is “death by marketing”.

Other topics I’d like to cover include the “between the cracks” insights that I have discovered can be lethal traps for young players, and other stuff that might just be handy to know.

Mettle

There are tough days, and there are even tougher ones. I think new businesses are like children – they will test you to your absolute limits.

Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “If you’re going through hell, keep going” comes to mind.

Recently I was faced with a major business decision that had the potential to make me or break me financially. It was an adrenaline-pumping period that was both very exciting and very confusing. One morning I woke up feeling like I’d done a few rounds with Mike Tyson (well actually, there’s been a few mornings like that…), and ironically the song playing on the radio from their “variety vault” was Helen Reddy’s classic, I Am Woman. Lying there, barely able to lift my head, I started to giggle. After Helen’s sweet voice managed to convince me that “I am invincible”, I hauled myself out of bed and started the day with a smile.

Years ago I joined the Army Reserve (as nuts do) and I thought surviving basic training at Kapooka was tough. In fact, I always thought that if they sold t-shirts that read “I SURVIVED KAPOOKA” on the way out, they’d have a 100% strike rate. But I have to say, this start-up gig is rivalling for first place on the “tough” front.

In his post Graduating “Screw U”…With Honors copywriter Ben Settle eloquently captures the journey which those of us who are chasing the dream must necessarily travel.

It’s likely that I’m going to have an anecdote or two in this department.

Blog? Who Me?

When Yaro first suggested I write for his blog I was quite taken aback. Moi? What could a rookie possibly offer readers? Certainly the one thing I’ve never been short on during this amazing journey is lessons. For me it’s been both fascinating and valuable, but not yet having made a success of my business, I didn’t think I’d have anything to bring to the table as such. Then Yaro offered some insights which got me thinking, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that articulating some of my experiences and insights may actually be helpful to other start-ups. Particularly those who are trying to create something new. Those people who are going down the same difficult, amazing, and often lonely road that I am. The aspect of it which has made it a particularly lonely journey for me is not having anyone in my inner circle who can relate to what I’m going through. My friends – who try to understand, but don’t really – are going about their lives as normal. Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve emigrated to another planet and don’t yet understand the customs.

My other concerns were that, from a personal perspective I would feel vulnerable and exposed, and from a technical point of view, finding the right voice. It’s one thing to write about other people’s experiences – their tragedies and triumphs (which is one of my all-time favourite things to do) and another thing entirely to write about your own experiences. Particularly from a vulnerable vantage point.

However, given that one of the things I have personally yearned for is to hear about other people’s experiences and lessons – people who have done it and what they encountered en route – I realised that others may feel the same way. There’s a plethora of information offered by people who are willing to tell you how to do it technically, which is fantastic, and is a huge help, but what I have craved is the human touch. The real life examples and stories of all the bits and pieces that made their particular puzzle come together. The good, the bad, and the… let’s just stop there.

So here I am. Hear me roar!

Danielle

Danielle

Hi, I'm Danielle and I'm a rookie entrepreneur. Prior to launching my new business venture in June 2006 I was self-employed with the noble intent of helping companies to communicate more effectively with their staff. This stemmed from a career in human resources and journalism. Today my new mission is helping men and women to cross the chasm and connect through conversation, humour and playful banter using my board game. I'm currently hatching plans for world domination and can be contacted at [email protected]

Comments

  1. Hello Danielle,

    I was reading your posting and i related to a few points that you made in your article. Particularly…

    “The aspect of it which has made it a particularly lonely journey for me is not having anyone in my inner circle who can relate to what I’m going through. My friends – who try to understand, but don’t really – are going about their lives as normal. Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve emigrated to another planet and don’t yet understand the customs.”

    I have found that in certain ways it is harder for me to relate to other people from a living stand-point. Most people work a job, come home to family and relax. Myself, i work fulltime currently, i manage my time outside work to fit in running a business, getting things done for myself and trying to have a life. The problem that i find with my mindset is that most people don’t share it. They are off having kids, getting comfortable and not taking risks to succeed. I just get confused looks from them… kinda like “what the hell are you talking about” or “why are you so excited about this?”

    Thanks for the insight Danielle,

    Luc

  2. Hey Danielle,

    You operate in the dating business right? I have a friend in Brisbane who is involved in the scene and could help you out.

    Great post by the way.

    Rob.

  3. Hi Luc,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I know exactly what you mean and it’s nice to know there’s other people out there who feel the way you do! Sadly, the reality is that most people won’t ‘get’ your drive and enthusiasm, at least that’s what I’ve found. So now I just try to accept that and seek out the people who do relate. On the flip side of that are those who will resent you because a) they’re terrified you’re going to “out do” them, or b) you remind them that they haven’t had the guts to follow their own dream.

    Sometimes when I’m with friends or people in general who don’t have my mindset, and they make endless small talk, I find it excruciating. I’ve never been much of a small talker, but now it’s like – can’t we talk business? Please… PRETTY PLEASE…

    For me, part of this journey was realising that I need to move out of some of my old circles and meet more people with the same mindset. It’s all part of it, and for me there’s been a lot of emotion in that. Ultimately I know it’s a good thing because connecting with others on the same path will lead to richer, more meaningful relationships.

    Best wishes,
    Danielle

  4. Hello Danielle,

    Yeah i realize that not everyone is going to get jazzed up about business. I prompted me to write an article about wealth and riches that i’ll be showcasing on my publication tomorrow (www.commercecubes.com/publication)

    I am an excellent ‘small talker’ and i find it very easy to engage others but i miss that deep connection of talking to someone who truly is on the same plane as you. If you’d like to chat business i am always game (MSN:webguy_13[at]hotmail[dot]com).

    I am getting out of my old cirlces as well and i am focused on attaining the life i want, the people i want around me, and i am defining things like success for myself. Talk soon Danielle,

    Luc

  5. Hi Rob,

    Firstly, thanks for the compliment!

    Yes, I do operate in the dating business, and your friend sounds like a very interesting prospect indeed 🙂 …I shall be in touch!

    Thank you kindly,
    Danielle

  6. Hi Luc,

    Good with small talk hey. Would you be a salesman by any chance? 🙂

    I love a friendly chat, I’m just not into dissecting the lives of celebrities and in-depth conversations about the latest tv shows… but I’m also aware that currently I am a teeny bit obsessed with the topic of business! I think that will naturally settle a bit with time – and then I might be more normal again 🙂

    On that subject, I’d love to chat about business – thanks for the offer.

    I look forward to reading your article!

    Regards,
    Danielle

  7. Danielle,

    Us entrepre-NUTCASES are a unique breed aren’t we!?

    I relate with how you feel aaaaaaaall the way!

    …bizMAVERICK…
    Brad Williamson

  8. Hey Brad,

    LOVE the new title! (Could there be a t-shirt opportunity in that? 🙂 And yes, we are unique. “Special” is another word that comes to mind 😉

    Cheers,
    Danielle