My mom has never owned or operated a business. Heck, until much later than is generally acceptable, my mother didn’t even have a ninth grade education.
What could she possibly teach me about entrepreneurship?
The reason my mother did not go beyond grade 9 was because she dropped out of school shortly after I was born. She tried to finish the year but, as she told the story, she came home from school to learn from the babysitter that I had rolled over (or some other accomplishment that only brand new mothers could possibly find thrilling). That was that, my mom dropped out of school the next day.
Obviously, my mom had a tough road ahead of her. A single, teenage, drop-out mom! OMG, what a loser, right? Yeah, she got that a lot. No matter how hard my mother worked or where we lived (for obvious reasons, we moved around a lot), we both heard plenty of criticism from multiple sources – other parents, teachers, strangers at the mall, etc., etc., etc. People made biased assumptions about her life choices, parenting abilities, and far too much more, simply because she had a daughter who was 15 years younger than her. I could tell you that my mom had a magical Teflon coating (available for purchase on The Shopping Channel?), but that simply wouldn’t be true.
What I can tell you, however, is that my mother used people’s narrow views as fuel…and as an educational tool for me.
In a recent Shark Tank episode, Barbara Corcoran said “There is no greater motivation for an entrepreneur than trying to prove something.”
My mother felt she had something to prove and despite not knowing exactly what that something was, I was determined to help her. Together we worked hard, we studied hard and we celebrated every little victory along the way.
But having something to prove, in and of itself, does not make an entrepreneurial spirit. So to circle back to the title of this article, what can a single teenage mother possibly teach a person about entrepreneurship? Only virtually every attitude and value an entrepreneur could possibly need in their mental arsenal!
- It’s okay to make mistakes. Even big, life-altering ones. Seriously. Just breathe and keep learning and keep going. It will be okay.
- Ignore the haters (and there will always be haters).
- Believe in yourself and trust your instincts. They will get you through in the rare (or not so rare) instances when you have no idea what the hell you’re doing.
- Even if you’re running the show, understand that you don’t have to do it all on your own. Seek out those who genuinely want to help build you up. Accept their mentorship, learn from them and pay it forward.
- It’s never too early or too late to carve out a new plan or fulfill a dream (my mom went back to high school in her late twenties to earn her diploma. That’s right, she physically attended high school; thank gawd it was a couple of years before I did).
- Be resourceful. If there are obstacles (and there will always be obstacles), find, build, fashion or mold the tools you need to break them down.
- Once you’ve dedicated yourself to forging a new path, it’s absolutely essential that you be brave, authentic, and unapologetic.
Finally, perhaps the most important thing she taught me was this: if you’re going to go in, go all in. The more committed you are, the better the outcome. Yes, I’m totally talking about me here. I turned out pretty awesome….At least, that’s what my mom says.