From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

A Little Courage Goes a Long Way

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It was 1986. I had just closed my advertising agency and was close to broke, with no idea as to what to do next. Then one day, after reading a magazine article that talked about the power of networking, a light bulb went off. These were the 1980s. Why weren’t people making money networking? As I began to question, the idea came: I would create a company called POWERLUNCH! People seeking contacts would call me, and in the role of business yenta (matchmaker), I would, over the computer, find the exact type of person in the industry they needed, or the exact position they were looking for. Then I’d put the right people together for a power lunch. Perfect, right?

The only problem was that I had very little money to start a business, so I used the one asset that has never failed me—my mouth. I printed 10,000 brochures at an inexpensive local print shop, got up my courage and planted myself on the corner of Connecticut and K Avenues in the middle of downtown Washington, D.C. At the top of my lungs I yelled, “POWERLUNCH! Get your POWERLUNCH!” For three days, I yelled and passed out brochures. People looked at me a little funny, but they took them.

At the end of three days, all the brochures were gone and not one person had called. Penniless, lifeless and beginning to lose hope, I dragged myself home. As I walked in the door, the telephone rang. It was a Washington Post reporter. He had seen one of my brochures and wondered if he could interview me to be on the front page of the Post’s “Style” section. Now, mind you, I had no company, no business phone (he called me on my personal line), and not much of a structure for my business—but I excitedly agreed.

The next day we had a great interview, and he asked me for my business phone number. I told him I would get back to him with it that afternoon. I then scrambled down to the local phone company and called him with the number: 265-EATT. (It hadn’t been hooked up yet, but at least I had a number.) Amused, the reporter agreed to print it— a rarity for the Post.

The next day I was awakened by a phone call—on my personal line—from a friend congratulating me on the article in the paper. I sat bolt upright in bed. But my new phone number hadn’t been hooked up yet! Just then, there was a knock on the door. It was the woman from the telephone company, thank goodness, come to hook me up. She went to the back of the house and emerged after about 15 minutes with a piece of paper. “What’s this?” I asked.

“These are the messages I took while I was on the pole,” she replied with a laugh. My business was already one step ahead of me.

From there, many other media sources called, including the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor and even Entertainment Tonight. I received hundreds of requests for lunches and introduced many people. I was able to fulfill my desire to have fun and do business at the same time. And it all started on the corner of Connecticut and K, with a lot of yelling . . . and a little bit of courage.

Sandra Crowe

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