The Promise of Entrepreneurship
Who hasn’t, on a particularly taxing Friday evening, stuck in their cubicle working late, drowning in mountains of paperwork, dreamed of being their own boss? Of loosening that necktie or kicking off those heels, and starting a food truck or a garage studio or an online business? Of working from home in your pajamas, playing your favorite sitcom in the background, while cuddling your dog? Of being able to take off whenever you feel like, drop off the radar and end up at an abandoned beach shack in the Maldives?
That’s what starting out on your own is supposed to be like, right? Wrong. If it were just that dreamy, everyone would be doing it. But there’s a flip side to it. It takes more than an inclination toward comfort, flexibility and adventure to become an entrepreneur. It takes creativity, not just to come up with the initial idea, but to tweak and improve and refine it many times throughout the journey. It takes an iron belly not to hurl before every meeting with people who are thrice your age and who throw away many times your income. It takes endless optimism to keep going when you have no idea where your next pay-check is coming from. It takes business acumen, communication and presentation skills, a knack for taking calculated risks, immense foresight, and an ability to negotiate in seemingly impossible situations. It takes never-ending reserves of energy, to keep working even after all your employees have left. It takes guts to leave that cushy job, get off your butt, and start from scratch. The difference between those who dream and those who do, is that those who do, dream big. They don’t dream of a small corner store, they dream of a chain of the best stores all over the country. There is no limit to the dreams of doers.
Age of Empires
Luckily, (almost) gone are the days when people would ask you what you do and not understand or accept your answer. When Aunties would ask, “I thought you were a doctor, why are you doing business?” or spouses would say, “She just doesn’t like being idle, so this business is a good use of her time and skills,” or when a friend would ask, “Don’t you feel weird that after a Master’s degree, you’re just selling food?” Today, (almost) everyone knows what an entrepreneur is. Everyone knows you could be the next “Tata-Birla.” Everyone’s envious of the romance of entrepreneurship, enjoyed by those who are brave enough and capable enough of throwing caution to the wind and taking the road less travelled. Startups, the problem child of yesterday, are the child prodigy of today.
We are in the Age of Entrepreneurial Empires. And building an empire takes work. It takes courage, vision and unflickering optimism. The journey is tiresome, harsh and unpredictable, and, many times, lonely. Enter the Startup Leadership Program. A course designed to erase the uncertainties of entrepreneurs by connecting them to a worldwide, lifelong network of peers from a range of backgrounds, industries and levels of experience.
The journey of SLP 2016 Hyderabad began on 19 September, 2015, at the generous offices of Purple Talk, which was started by alumni of the SLP. It was the first time we met each other: the 25 carefully-chosen entrepreneurs, hand-picked from over 300 applicants. We had been accepted to the exclusive and highly-selective Startup Leadership Program because of who we were, not what we were. We were women and men from all walks of life, some still in college, some college drop-outs, some seasoned serial entrepreneurs, and some who had taken a diversion into the startup world mid-career. We were all so different, and yet we shared a common trait: a belief in our life’s calling, and an unwavering dedication toward the dream of running our own businesses, to innovate, fill a void or serve a need. Everyone was well turned-out in formal business wear, looking like CEOs and Directors should, and the highlight of the session was the introductions. Everyone had a story to tell, and each was unique in its own way. But the unmistakable glint of fiery passion coupled with steely resolve to win could be seen in every individual’s eyes. It was a day of witticisms and criticism and sarcasm, and by the end of the day, the stiff collars of blazers were softened into a shared comfort of familiarity. It was a day of recognizing that we were all bound by a common link which would only grow stronger in this half-year-long journey. We belonged. We were home.
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I–
I took the one less travelled by.
And that has made all the difference.”
-The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
For number crunchers, here’s a breakdown of stats of the SLP Class of 2015, in terms of their education:
And the types of startups:
And some more info about the participants, just for fun: