Those who know me professionally know that I’ve been dabbling since the latter part of my junior year of university in the entrepreneurial scene in the Philippines, in particular those more attuned to their social responsibility. I have worked closely with the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm, and have gotten to know the other social enterprises affiliated with them. In doing so, I always feel that a world of opportunity and growth opens up before me. It’s a very exciting feeling.
One of those entrepreneurs I now very closely work with, my dear friend and mentor Noreen Bautista, the co-founder of the plant leather brand Jacinto & Lirio as well as the CBS social enterprise consulting initiative in our foundation, has written extensively on entrepreneurship and in particular the start-up scene. And she’s not the only one – I have had the fortune to be in the midst of a huge network here of start-ups, all pursuing their passion… with a purpose. Stephen Covey had it right in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – after independence comes interdependence, and things like these massive webs of connections and ideas prove to be the very lifeblood of an entrepreneur and their journey, helping their proactive efforts multiply exponentially.
Although not raised with much entrepreneurial (or business in general, for that matter) instinct, I feel like I have been bitten by the “start-up bug” thanks to the influx of creativity around me. Business ideas spring forth like a field of geysers; it’s enough to surprise me. The only difficult part, which is actually the most part, is how to translate these into concrete action – I’m known for spreading myself too thin and need focus, doing one thing (or two :P) at a time, then moving on to the next once the previous has stabilized. Not to mention I lack resources and still need getting used to methods such as crowd funding and angel investing.
But what is funnier, I realized earlier today, is how the start-up bug has bitten me not just in the field of business. There is something about beginnings in general that always draws me in and stokes my interest. From buying new boots to setting up (or helping set up others’) new tablets or smartphones, I am always very keen on the experience of these “new” things, no matter how many iPads I’ve set up in the past or Timberland boots I’ve bought. It just feels great to start something, even your consumerist experiences.
I sometimes wonder wherefore I have these aforementioned feelings. Perhaps it is the emotions drawing from experiencing familiar things that are somehow different from the previous experience – Nigella Lawson may have written more than half a dozen cookbooks with her signature laid-back style, but each book has its own identity too and opening a new one is like entering a different world, but a world still distinctively Nigella. Buying a new pair of boots gives you so much to experience – the excitement in styling the shoes with your current clothes, how it wears and breaks in, and the like. Setting up a new phone is like creating a new story on a new blank canvas – so many possibilities, even though you have a general direction of where you’re going.
Going back to business (pun intended), this attitude towards geneses seems to be a good outlook on a career as an intervenor in the social enterprise landscape. Or as a front-liner thereof. Bo Sanchez had it right – according to his book My Maid Invests in the Stock Market, he has a significant number of revenue streams – not just one or two big cash cows, but many tributaries merging into one big river of wealth and productivity. Of course, we don’t do these all at once – again, it’s a result of putting up endeavor after endeavor. Not even Rome was built in a day.
But if one thinks being bitten by the start-up bug is pure excitement, it’s not. In fact, the most important thing to do once a start-up does, well, start up, is to learn how to properly sustain it. Otherwise, the very raison d’être for said start-up(s) becomes moot. This is where things get the most challenging, and where one’s resolve gets tested. And here is the point where one’s principles and values come into play – how we keep it going defines who we are and how we relate to the world.
I learned in my strategic management thesis class that only 10% of strategic plans get successfully executed. Hard work, definitely, is the only way to give things a shot. But without the proper skills in a very critical timeframe, all that hard work may be for nothing. The follow-through and sustainability efforts must be effective and efficient that things go as planned. It’s enough to make one nervous, sure – I myself feel the chills as I write this – but since when has real success come when one doesn’t dream bigger than themselves?
…Okay, now that I’ve written all of these, it’s time to leap into action and make sure I can sustain those actions…
Have a great week ahead!