Was I scared? Absolutely.
Was I certain that I would be successful? Absolutely not.

Thought Leadership

Blog Archive

May 2016

One Entrepreneur's Journey & How to Be a Rock Star

By Rachel Miklas, President GWB

An entrepreneur. A business owner. A risk-taker. A badass.

​All of these titles describe the entrepreneurship journey, and though I am fresh to the game, I feel that this past year has opened my eyes to a whole new life, a life I would like to share with whoever is reading this article.

DISCLOSURE: I am in no way, shape or form guaranteeing your success if you read my article and follow my advice. I am not even guaranteeing my own success, for that matter! This article is merely a glimpse into my personal journey as an entrepreneur that I hope will give some of you the extra oomph you need to make some big moves in YOUR life if you have a dream to start your own business.

I should also fill you in on my “why.”  WHY I do the things I do. WHY I decided to take a risk and quit a well-paying job. To put it quite frankly, it’s because I like doing my own thing, and after 15+ years of “working for the man,” I decided that it was time to work for myself. I wanted to travel the world (which I have, and it is INCREDIBLE!), I wanted to focus on grad school, and I wanted to take a stab at wearing all of the hats it takes to run my own business. This isn’t to say that I will never work a traditional job again. I would actually love to have the comfort of a salary and a pretty office and the support of a team again someday. You will miss that more than you think when you go out on your own, but for now, this is the journey I have decided to take. That is the WHY behind me. Knowing your own “why” is important too. If it’s to make lots of money, pick a new career. This isn’t the one for you.

Now, when someone tells me that they too want to be an entrepreneur, I ask them 2 questions.

1. Are you financially prepared to possibly lose it all?

2. If you manage to pull this off, do you want to be best friends?

I have always worked for entrepreneurs, and in my heart, I always knew that I would start my own business one day, but I didn’t know what that business would be. In the meantime, I was perfectly content helping others build THEIR dreams until I found my own, and I am grateful to have learned from a distance as I watched my former bosses in their daily grind.

Then, one day in early 2015, it happened. I had a day off of work and school and an idea was born. I learned that a class I had been teaching for the past 8 years (BASSET) was now becoming a requirement for all servers/bartenders in Illinois, and I saw an opportunity to make some extra money to help me pay for grad school. That thought quickly evolved, and after a few conversations with some trusted peers and colleagues, I realized that there was more to this than I originally thought. I could make this into a business. MY business. The moment had finally arrived!

Now, before you go thinking that I got rich from this gem of an idea, think again. I knew very well that I needed to put forth quite a bit of money to make this idea take off, and I had been preparing for this moment for the past five years. Life taught me the hard way to plan for the unexpected, and a lot of that planning has to do with preparing yourself professionally AND it means saving money. You really don’t know what’s going to happen in life, and you can handle a lot more and be ready to act on an opportunity if you have some cash in the bank. You also need a ridiculously strong work ethic and a can-do attitude. Life is going to knock you down, probably over and over, but what I have learned is that it really doesn’t matter if you get knocked down- what matters is that you get back up, time and time again. 

So, with a decent amount saved, I started my research and logistical planning. Once I had the groundwork laid, I looked into the legalities of starting a business from domain name purchases to trademark patents to having a lawyer help create the business as a registered LLC with the state. Then, once this was complete, I announced the launch of BASSET Chicago to the world.

Was I scared? Absolutely. Was I certain that I would be successful? Absolutely not. What I DID know, however, that most of the great things that have ever happened to me happened when I took big chances. Quitting a good job, leaving a bad relationship, going back to grad school, moving away from the familiar neighborhood – all of these have proven to be wonderful decisions for my life, but at the

time, all seemed terrifying. However, all of the good that has come into my world in the past five years has been from getting over that fear and doing what I knew would be best for my future. Starting a business certainly fell into this category, and I was excited to begin the journey.

So why do I want to be your best friend? Well, the reason for that is because I need you in my corner just as much as you need me. If there is one thing I want you to take away from my ramblings today, it is this. You need a support system, and this system needs to be wide. Here are a few of the people I have needed to keep me on track and to keep me sane.

  • The big sister/parent/mentor who can tell you that everything is going to be ok and help you “inflate your confidence balloon.” You’ll call them more than you think.
  • The seasoned entrepreneur. This is the person who will understand your hurdles and can tell you how THEY dealt with similar situations. They are wise. Listen to them.
  • The professional network. For me, this has been the group of my grad school peers. All come from different backgrounds, but all are in my corner ready to offer their professional advice on a slew of different topics.
  • The graphic designer/s. You don’t realize how much promotional material you really need until you get started. If graphic design isn’t your strength, find someone and find them early on. 
  • The friends who are there for you, whether you succeed or not. Sometimes this is a 2am phone call when you are hysterical and wondering why you quit your job to take this big of a risk. These are also the friends you can eat tacos with for dinner at 10pm because you have been working all day long. They are invaluable and you need to cherish them and pay them with hugs and wine.

It hasn’t been an easy year, but easy has never been fun to me. I like a challenge. I like searching for a solution even when I feel like I am on the brink of giving up. Getting through something difficult and looking back to say, “I did that,” is a feeling that lets me sleep at night in a way I can’t describe, and it makes the struggle all worth it.

To those of you who have read this far, it is my wish that my journey has given you a glimpse into the mind of an entrepreneur. Startups take a lot of time, money and energy, but if you are willing to do the work and take the risk, your dreams really can come true. Take it from me.