Since my first big entrepreneurial decisions: how much fabric to order when, pressing “go” to produce a sample, when to say “stop” and when to proceed with an apparel item, I’ve marveled at a basic tension in entrepreneurship. The truth of the matter for most business ventures but most acutely for manufacturing is that there is so much that we can’t control. As we make these decisions we will consider factors like timing, target market size, trends in apparel, relative cost for various options. But there will be a whole number of other factors that we can’t take into account because they are unknowable from where we sit or beyond our control. Examples include: weather, shipping & customs delays, collaborators, whether a key influencer takes notice of our efforts.
In the past few weeks I’ve felt this lack of control, fighting with myself to surrender to what is possible each day. I set as my goal to get my Riding Jacket into retail stores next fall and winter. Many apparel boutiques have already placed orders for pieces by now and a few may still place orders through early summer. So the feeling of needing to get the second color sample made, photographed, website and branding updated is ever-present. There are so many delays that I can’t control. Sample room is working on a large order for a big client. Second color sample delayed by 2 weeks. Workspace not ready to photograph and receive clients.
The point is, there are so many things that are beyond our control. And, if you think about it, there are so many things that could go wrong that seem like they would annihilate our business – product stuck in customs and unable to get to retailers, fabric shipment delay, production mistake - you name it. At times it seems like the sane, risk aware, grounded thing is to acknowledge that the risks far outweigh any chance of success. And yet, our faith in the work we love has us continuing down the insane path. And thank God that faith exists, because a lot of beauty is created on this path.
What this all points to that I find fascinating and don’t really hear anyone talking about is that entrepreneurship requires an enormous amount of faith. Faith that your idea/business concept’s time has come. Faith that one way or another it will happen. As I work each day to build my business, to create beautiful apparel, to create a brand concept that will do it justice, I work knowing that I can’t know how it will all work out or how exactly I will get there wherever “there” is. I can plan, I can strategize, I can build connections, my community of support but ultimately we can only set it up, get it poised for success and then have faith that the right thing will happen.
I have wanted to write about this for a while but I’ve become aware being part of a start-up community and going to many networking events that this is not something that is discussed. The venture capitalists among you are probably cringing as I write this. They get beautiful spreadsheets with timelines and dollar values and everyone pretends that entrepreneurship is a sure path to dollars and success over a given number of months. But what no one says is that we are all taking huge leaps of faith. As someone that can’t stand the unstated elephant in the room I want to call this out.
So I look around me at the entrepreneurs that have succeeded, those that haven’t and the ones who are just starting out on their venture and I wonder, where does their faith come from? What drives them to do what they do in spite of the odds? It is beautiful. It is wild. And yes, it is insane. What allows them to turn and look at all the potential events ahead of them and think, this will succeed because the world deserves this? (I am working on coming up with a delicate way to ask this that won’t give the respondent an anxiety attack.) In the meantime I can say for myself that there is a feeling inside of me that I must do this work. I love it that much. Because I love it, it is beautiful. That beauty is important wherever it takes me. This means fighting the fear, impatience and anxiety to surrender to where I am and appreciate the beauty in each step.
Adopted doctrine from William Hutchison Murray's “The Scottish Himalayan Expedition” (1951)
Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."