The humblest of entrepreneurs will put their success down to a mixture of good ideas, hard work and a fair amount of luck. But is business success really in the hands of fate? One founder argues that when it comes to luck, you can make your own.
By Ali R. Hyatt (Co-founder & VP of Marketing, Upward Labs)
I didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur. What I did set out to do, however, was to give myself as much ‘luck’ as possible when it came to my working life. I entered business school wanting to follow my passions (as diverse and somewhat random as they were) and not wanting to end up in a more typical by-the-book job. This decision made my personal development and job search longer, more extensive and sometimes more arduous, but it also led me to a path that I didn’t set out to follow – being an entrepreneur. I think I reached this path because I’ve always made sure I’ve had a lot of ‘luck’ for myself: creating opportunities and taking chances.
1. Sneak Out the Back From Time to Time
Taking chances led me to slink out of the back of a class one day to go to a one-on-one coffee chat. The woman I was due to meet with sounded incredibly interesting and accomplished, and I figured it couldn’t hurt me. The woman happened to be the head of a major research services company and also the chairman of a trade organization in the Boston area that I hadn’t heard of before. It was a very well established organization, but I had never worked in Massachusetts, hence my ignorance. She recommended I check out some of the organization’s events, including an upcoming event on e-commerce.
So I did.
2. Make the Trek
I made the trek from Hanover to Boston and, having made the 2.5 hour journey, I talked to as many people as possible. As someone with a sole network in New York, it was great to find that Boston was so cutting-edge and yet so close-knit at the same time.
As ‘luck’ would have it, the trade organization, the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX) was starting a Future Leaders Group and I was fortunate to be chosen to be a part of it. To my fellow members’ (and my) great surprise, the MITX board actually wanted to learn more from us than they expected us to contribute. MITX, run today by the very accomplished Debi Kleiman, and the Future Leaders Group, run by MITX board members and tech luminaries like Dave Balter of BzzAgent, Scott Savitz of Data Point Capital and Don McLagan of NewsEdge, wanted our opinions, our involvement and our help. In turn, they would provide us with networking and mentoring opportunities. Imagine that.
3. Overextend Yourself If You Truly Believe in It
My time in the Future Leaders Group led to new leadership opportunities. I toiled alongside MITX to start the college section of MITX’s FutureM conference, helping to organize almost every area college to come together for a Social Media for Social Good challenge to aid local and national non-profit organizations. During this time, I was also spending every week in the middle of a factory in Indiana working on an intense deal for my own company. I had no extra time available… but you’ll make time if you really care.
This year’s Future Leaders Group took it to new levels by creating a very successful Minute Mentors event that sought to identify the new up-and-comers in Boston, hoping to cultivate more tech, marketing and entrepreneurial talent. From seeing the amazing results of the event, I know this year’s group “overextended” themselves just a wee bit while super-busy with all their other work along with their extracurricular and play activities.
I am not trying to argue that you should get involved with absolutely everything. But, if you care, you should go for it. You’ll never know how much you’ll enjoy it, which interesting people you’ll meet or where it will take you if you don’t just go for it.
4. Find the People and Organizations That Can and WILL Nurture Your Leadership
People I have met through MITX and the Future Leaders Group have both encouraged me and given me pause (in that good, honest way) regarding my entrepreneurial career. And in fact, neither MITX nor the Future Leaders Group is specifically focused on women, but I believe it is these organizations that are particularly important to women. These are the ones that nurture confidence and leadership in a way that asks you: “Why the heck don’t you just step up and do this? We’re not taking no for an answer.” You need the organizations that help nurture women to believe they can be entrepreneurs (and to make sure they get the harsh dose of reality as to what that will entail in reality).
People talk about the ‘coincidences’ that happened to them and the ‘opportunities’ that came up along the way, but the truth is you can always increase your ‘luck’ and make many more of those opportunities happen. I guess in short, I’m telling you to skip the class and go to the coffee chat. Hopefully no one will remember you slipping out the back, but they will remember where you head next.
Women 2.0 readers: Have you made your own luck? What risks have you taken that have paid off in the long-term?
About the guest blogger: Ali R. Hyatt is a co-founder of Upward Labs, an online tool for crowd-built organization and action that allows brands to activate their passionate supporters. Her previous experience includes brand strategy, corporate strategy, business development and marketing at Interbrand, Avery Dennison, American Express and Desgrippes Gobe. She was also named as a MITX Future Leader. Follow her @arrobbins.
Photo credit: Jim Rees via Flickr.