80: Small Business Dreams

80: Small Business Dreams

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Small Business Dreams

Forget the risk and take the fall, if it’s what you want, then it’s worth it all.

~Author Unknown

Like a lot of people, I’ve always wanted to be self-employed, but I was afraid to make the leap. Everything I had read about starting a small business suggested I should have a whole lot of money in the bank before I even considered striking out on my own. Three kids, my own college loans, and several medical mishaps over the years had certainly not allowed for that.

I’d had jobs I liked, but somehow I’d never been satisfied. Teaching school had been fulfilling for about ten years, but then the luster had faded. Careers as a college instructor and corporate training designer had begun to tarnish eventually, too.

One boring day at the office, I made a list of all the technical skills I’d acquired over the years in my jobs and as a freelancer. The list was substantial. But I considered my dreams of self-employment an unlikely scenario, and the list went back in my drawer, only to emerge the next time I got the corporate blues. As I continued to work at various tasks and learn new things on the job, my list grew.

Eventually, the little list stopped growing and blossomed instead into a full-blown business plan.

One autumn evening, I showed the plan to my husband while we were out having dinner.

“It looks feasible,” he said. “Maybe some day.”

I swallowed my disappointment. What did I think he would say? “Sure, hon, go ahead. We have no money saved, but just quit your job and give this a go. The worst thing that can happen is we’ll lose the house.”

The next day I went back to work, and the list went back in the drawer.

And then it happened: I got greedy.

I had a perfectly good job at a perfectly good company. A decent salary. A great boss. But another perfectly good company offered me more money, more vacation time, more everything.

And just like that — with one swoop of my pen — I undertook a role for which I was not fully prepared. For more than thirty years, I had been the quick learner, the independent worker, the self-starter. And here I was, in my early fifties, with multiple careers behind me — at a new job — not able to catch on or fit in.

Now what?

Looking back, I realize it wasn’t that I couldn’t still learn just as fast as I ever had; it was that I had entered a corporate environment where lifelong employees had developed a climate and lingo so specific to their company and industry that newcomers felt more like outsiders than part of the team. If I had done my homework, I would have known this was a poor move.

Still, I now had to make a decision. Stay put and pretend that I “got it”? Financial common sense would suggest that I do just that, no matter how miserable it made me.

But I’ve never had a lot of common sense when it comes to following my heart or my head. My heart always wins.

And this time my heart won in more ways than one: when I again brought out my little business plan during dinner, I was reminded just how much my husband of over thirty years loves me. “I believe in you,” he said.

More powerful words were never spoken.

I launched my small business, which provides editorial and design services, a few weeks later. It hasn’t been easy. I found out quickly that self-employment and “flexible lifestyle” are not synonymous. I work many more hours now than I did when in the employ of others. And money is inconsistent. Some days are good, and some days I still search the want ads and question the wisdom of my decision.

No guarantees exist that my business will continue to grow or even maintain its current momentum. But no guarantees exist either that another employer wouldn’t lay me off or that I wouldn’t find myself in a bad job situation again. I took a risk and faced my doubt head on. I made the choice to believe in myself.

And that’s a risk worth taking.

~Dianna Graveman

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