The path of entrepreneurship is difficult for many reasons and one of the main ones is that there is no one telling you that you have the required skills, that you are capable of the job.
When you apply for a job, you are given the role once you have the requisite skills and experience. Your belief in yourself is validated because your employer told you were more capable than the other candidates who applied.
Most career paths are formed by laying the bricks of academic knowledge and work experience in your chosen field. Within this world the day to day work and grind may be tough but the path is often clear. Acquire the skills and the knowledge, prove yourself to your boss and more likely than not, you will progress within the framework laid in front of you.
Working for yourself offers no such path. It requires that you create a role for yourself and identify which skills you need to perform that role successfully and that measurement of success is also defined by you. With no external hurdles to surmount, uncertainty will present itself. This uncertainty does not sit well with those accustomed to following a well trodden path. From the age of 17 my part-time jobs and extra-curricular activities all had one eye on shaping a CV in preparation for a career in law. As I progressed in the field, I learned how to carve my experiences to tick those boxes required to show that I was capable of progressing on that career ladder. On leaving my legal career, my instinctive reaction was to retrain in order to begin that path again in a different field. In other words, to start again and acquire all the skill sets I might need before starting my own business. In reality, this is not possible and I suspect it is rather like making any big life decision. One never has enough money or is in the perfect space in their life. It is a rare person who has all the skills at the outset. Skills can not always be gained and used up front, eventually you decide that there is no better time than now, it’s what you really want to do, and you’ll learn along the way.
What happens when the time does come to acquire those new skills? Often taking a course will be helpful and work experience can be invaluable. However, the risk is that in trying to gain those skills you divert from the path. You can get stuck in learning, in perfecting because the testing ground around the path feels safer than the potential that you might fail en route. The balance between diverting from the path to gain experience and avoiding the path is a difficult one and at times it is frustrating that there is no one telling me that I’m ready to start my own business.
I want to work in the food industry and in London I started working with chefs to build my network. As I was travelling I decided that what I need to do next is learn how the different business models in this industry works and the best way I know how to do this is to start on the ground floor.
So far, It has been an excellent exercise in developing patience and ignoring the ego. My “CV” brain may suggest that working as a waitress again is going backwards and if I were in London, amongst my peers, it would be difficult to change my lifestyle to accommodate the drop in income and to re-define myself in this new role. However, in a new city with a new context, no-one has any pre-conceptions. It frees you from your beliefs about yourself.
However, after all these musings I realised that it always comes back to how you define success. If you see success as enjoying most of each day then this is all part of the right path because I’m loving the work. I spend my days talking about and eating delicious food and creating lovely experiences for customers. Even the tough 10 hour shifts where my ankles ache make me happy. My yearnings to run my own business still underly the reason for taking this job so this isn’t what I want to do forever, but for now on this diversion, I’m learning, About food. About people. About a new city and about how a successful food business works and that is worth its weight in gold.