Fail Greatly

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What Failure can teach you about Entrepreneurship

Ever since I can remember, I have always had a desire to learn, question, and explore everything beyond me.

I would always get distracted in school and daze off into the ceiling fan- wondering why nobody had bothered to fix its flamboyant salsa dancing.

At the age 13, I launched my first business. Well, I tried to.

I was always collecting a new pet. This time, I inherited a rabbit, whose red lonely eye drove me to the local pet shop; to choose a mate for him, “Luciana”.

As soon as I got to the cashier, I was appalled to know that my allowance for the entire month was going into buying this mate- and into what, in hindsight I now know, was my first “investment”.

As soon as I walked out of that pet shop, I had my first “aha” moment! I had read or probably heard in science class that rabbits where really promiscuous and reproduced fast. So I told myself: If I am able to get two rabbits to reproduce, I can have at least 6 new babies a month, and 72 baby rabbits a year!

In my 7th grader math, I figured I could get 60x return on my investment and above all, 72x on my monthly allowance.

Within a month, I had my business set up and I was already making my first hire. I leveraged the local gardner and bam! I had my first employee, Nelson.

Together, we went out to build our first “establishment”. I bought 5 bags of cement, 2 bags of sheer rock, 20 feet of fencing, and 6 meters of steel tubing. Within two weeks, I had everything under control and everything was according to plan.

I made a free and, perhaps illegal, contract with my grandmother where we stipulated that I would go with her at least 3 times a week to the super market as companion, under the strict terms that she give me one week’s supply of food to feed my rabbits.

She also bought me a book titled Rabbits: A beginner’s Guide (for which I had to give up my 13th birthday gift which was around a $50-$100 value).

In two months, everything I had set up and everything I was managing allowed me to reach my goal of 6 baby rabbits a month.I was on top of the world.

This is when all the trouble began. This is the episode nobody talks about in business books.

I didn’t realize I had to train my staff, manage costs, maintain the health of my rabbits and, above all, understand the science behind rabbit reproduction.

Within a month my costs had skyrocketed and my first, and only, employee seemed disengaged and unaware of the essentials of managing this business. My grades had suffered and suddenly what started out as a very promising entrepreneurial venture, went to shambles.

My parents started to put some pressure on my lack of interest in school and hired a tutor to get me to do my homework- which of course I saw as a distraction from my entrepreneurial venture. So I figured I would have to do night shifts and manage all my labor before supper.

I started to hold daily meetings with Nelson, to give him some training from another book I purchased; I assigned myself the new role of COO and started to distribute personally the allotted food and vitamins every night.

A month after my new micromanaging strategy, results started to kick in. Luciana had given birth to 8 new baby bunnies. I was ecstatic. We followed the same strategy for two months and we achieved a “production” of 13 baby bunnies.

We finally had the bunnies and now we faced CASH FLOW problems so I knew I had to go out and sell.

I went to the pet shop owner and made her a generous offer to sell her 10 rabbits below market price and give her 2 rabbits for free if we closed the deal that same day. 33 minutes later, I walked out with 13 baby bunnies.

I was humiliated and didn’t understand why my strategy hadn’t worked. I had a great offer and pricing was below the market. I went home and had my first “crisis”. I had a debrief with my team and shared the bad news over some chocolate milk. Luckily, we came up with a new strategy to sell our inventory.

We would sell to family and friends at retail price!

I was the new self-appointed sales agent so I took my mother’s phone book and started dialing away. I was sure I would sell my entire inventory in less than a week.

Things were looking promising until a combination of circumstances led to my first failed venture. It seemed no one in my immediate network was interested in bunnies anymore. The market preference had shifted to guinea pigs!

Yeah, I know, guinea pigs.

I also had other setbacks when an intruder came into our cages and half of my rabbits “disappeared”, when my grandmother’s contract expired, and because my grades had suffered terribly that semester.

It was game over and, I was handed a cease and desist order from all of those around me.

At the time I had no Idea I was being an entrepreneur. This experience gave me the fundamentals to understanding the world of business. For the first time I learned what it meant to fail. The best thing about it. I never interpreted this as a failure. I was just doing what I love. Being an entrepreneur.

Also published on Medium : https://medium.com/on-startups/75bfc75c8f55