Failure is often thought of as a dirty word in the entrepreneurial community. It can make us feel uncomfortable, unworthy, and altogether less than.
But the truth is, failure is one hell of a teacher. It helps us hone in on what we really want to do, shows us the kind of work that's involved in something, and teaches us a valuable lesson or two.
With that in mind, we thought it would be fun to take some of the edge off of the word, and to show the value in failing.
First up from the Propelle archives: The Style Summit.
Perhaps you attended this event in 2013 and loved it. In all honesty, we really enjoyed the actual experience of the day, too!
While there were great things about the summit — things like successfully planning our first big event, working with sponsors for the very first time, making our very first video, meeting Kiya Tomlin and a whole host of other incredible speakers, and having fun — it was also a bit of a flop.
Our intention behind the Style Summit was to help women entrepreneurs own their style, in a very literal way around fashion and style as well as a marketing and branding perspective. Turned out a bit heavier on the fashion side, with little (okay, ZERO) information about marketing and branding.
No biggie, right?
Looking back, we realized a few things:
1. WE CONFUSED PEOPLE.
From the very beginning of Propelle, we knew who we wanted to serve: creative women entrepreneurs between the ages of 25-45. And the women we attracted to our events and workshops fit that mold perfectly. Enter in the Style Summit and we would hear people refer to us as a fashion organization. That perception lasted for a long time (a year or more), and took a LOT of work — and subsequent networking events — to undo.
2. EVERYTHING ABOUT IT WAS DIFFICULT.
We struggled with this event from Day 1. It took close to six months to find a venue and a date that would work. The marketing materials were torturous to write. We got super bogged down in the details. Every move felt like we had cement blocks attached to our feet, keeping us stuck. We now know that when something is difficult like this, it's a huge red flag and something we seriously think twice (and twice more) about continuing on with.
3. THE HOURS SPENT DIDN'T ADD UP.
After all was said and done, we made about $1.50/hour each. No joke. Total money generated was around $1,500. Minus space rental, print materials, and food + beverages expenses, AND THEN split between 3 people ... The total take home per person was around $150 for an event that took 6 months to plan. And while money isn't everything, we could have been way more strategic with increasing our mailing list and social media numbers. Our time and money would have been much better spent going after press in the local papers, paying for advertising, working with larger sponsors, and attending other events around town. Our ticket price was also too low. Lesson most definitely learned.
4. IT WAS ABSOLUTELY EXHAUSTING.
I'm pretty sure it took us a solid month to recover from the event. We didn't think, talk, breath, or do anything Propelle related for the next month. That's a lot of time lost growing our business and putting energy into things that were more suited to our success.
5. BIG EVENTS MAKE US TWITCHY.
With everything that we went through to put this event on, we hesitate and second guess our urge to put on something of a similar scope. We hem and we haw, we second guess ourselves, and we seriously question whether any event is worth the time and energy we will have to put into it to make it a success. And that, loves, is a huge freakin' drain of energy.
And there you have it, our very first (and perhaps biggest) failure.
What about you?
What would you consider to be your first big failure as an entrepreneur? What did you learn from that experience?