By Heather McGough (Founder, Urbanity Events) For years, I was so caught up in my non-profit bubble that I didn’t realize I was managing and growing a “cool startup” in San Francisco.
What I learned is that I thrive in this atmosphere and crave what Silicon Valley startups are made of: ass-kicking.
I morphed from my non-profit bubble and merged into the world of powerful women entrepreneurs, startups and tech.
Here are five reasons I admire high-growth, high-tech entrepreneurs, as a former non-profit person:
Reason #1: I can still be a “do-gooder” and run a for-profit business.
Yeah, I said it - that dirty word had never been part of my vocabulary - profit. And it’s nothing to feel guilty about. So much of my identity came from waking up each morning knowing that I was committed to saving the world. Through my current business I am able to create events for purpose-driven startups, social mission based non-profit organizations, and tech companies that are kicking ass and taking names.
Reason #2: I crave a startup atmosphere.
As entrepreneurs, we wear a lot of hats and work until the task is done, then drink espresso, self-motivate and work some more. Someone once told me that if you can be successful growing a non-profit, you can be successful with anything. Every day I was thrown to the wolves to teach myself how to run a business - I learned everything from scaling to fundraising and operations, to strategy, marketing and public relations. I was bootstrapping before I’d even heard of the word.
What I’ve learned as an event planner is that you have to be a “little” bit good at a “lot” of things - the same goes for the startup world. Non-profits taught me that, and entrepreneurship forces me to continuously challenge and teach myself new things, which is the equivalent to breathing for entrepreneurs.
Reason #3: I get to surround myself with smart people.
This is another thing savvy entrepreneurs do. I’ve created conferences with female founders who serve as role models to women of all ages, colors and cultures. I am inspired by men and women who are open to sharing their missteps, because this is a world where risk is expected and failure is accepted. Smart people tackle obstacles head-on, understand the importance of showing they can do both the mundane and high-level tasks, and have a desire to retain everything important along the way. This is what makes a successful business leader.
Reason #4: A good non-profit keeps up with new technology, streamlines, and is open to change.
Everything a high-growth tech startup does. There is still a lot of stigma around poorly run non-profits. Luckily, I worked for one that kept up with all the new technology. In order to gain leverage with our high-net worth tech-savvy donor base, we were guinea pigs for just about every cursed new crowd-sourcing, SurveyMonkey’ing and Google Doc’ing technology that came our way.
Reason #5: I am an entrepreneur and I believe I am capable of anything.
I begged my father to let me get a job when I turned 15. I remember coming home from my first day of work and telling him “I don’t want to have a boss, ever!” He laughed it off at the time, but never questioned me when I dismissed my promise to become a lawyer and instead moved from city to city seeking new opportunities, rules to defy, naysayers to disprove, institutions to question, money to seek, ears to listen to me while I pretended to know what I was talking about, networks to tap, partnerships to establish, GREAT ideas to abandon that I’d been so passionate about just five minutes ago, and loving every damn minute of it.
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. Photo credit: Toni on Flickr. About the guest blogger: Heather McGough is Founder of Urbanity Events. She began her career working in the non-profit sector and still commits her time to serving local and global causes. Her business focuses on startup conferences, speaker series’ and other high-tech events while donating time to non-profits. She is a volunteer at with Women 2.0. In her free time, Heather enjoys travel, the outdoors, playing basketball and is writing a detective fiction book about organized crime.