Startup Diaries: Be Strong, Be Fearless
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
In 2007 my husband and I had been struggling on minimum wages - paying bills, our mortgage and raising our three beautiful children. The last straw came when after work one day, I went to the grocery store to pick up what we needed for dinner that night and my card was declined. I nearly cried right there. I was so tired of struggling with that almighty but necessary evil we call money.
I found it hard to find work with a 6, 9 and 12 year old. I had no outside support and had just been told that my 12 year old was too old to keep going to the after school care program with his younger brother and sister. He was still too young to stay at home alone. And what about all the school holidays?
I had been looking for years for something closer to home and reasonable hours. Employers didn’t care whether you had children to care for or not. I was told “if you can’t work til 5:00 pm and fill in for overtime, we’ll find someone who can”.
My husband Dave had been in the auto glazing industry for 20 years since he was 18. He knew all there was about the industry intimately. One day, we were talking about our options when he said “With your administrative abilities and my experience fitting, I think we can give it a go ourselves and you can find the balance you need between work and family”. “Ok, why not, let’s see what happens” I said. We pooled in everything we could beg, steal, borrow or sell and in January 2010, D & C Auto Glass was created out of necessity.
The first few months trying to make the transition was very difficult. Everything was set and ready to go. Now we sat at home and waiting for the phone to ring and starting to doubt what we had done. But this is how I learnt that the greatest weakness is in giving up. The worst thing in the world had happened and I was still here. No work, no money, no phone calls. Rock bottom isn’t a bad place when you realise there’s nowhere lower to go.
It is not easy as a woman in an automotive industry.
The hardest part was learning other aspects of running the business that neither of us had been exposed to before. Things like marketing, advertising and sourcing stock from suppliers – all very foreign things to a legal secretary.
I found I had to learn what other professions entailed before I could commission people to work on my business. That was the only way to fully understand what we were getting. I had to learn from scratch local advertising, how Google worked, search engine optimisation and Adwords – All 1.01 on the job.
I made so many mistakes the first year. No one returned my calls or emails. When I did sign up with what I thought was a big highly regarded company, we were taken for a ride. A very ‘expensive’ ride. It took 12 nearly all of the months to get out of the contract. Luckily for me, they eventually acknowledged that they had done the wrong thing and let us out of the contract early. I was devastated and exhausted. It was a very bitter experience as a new business.
I had to learn to be more scrutinizing and ruthless with my business dealings.
Next we tried something else, “why don’t you try search engine optimisation” they said. Ok, that sounds like it’s the way to go. Our competition had obviously been doing it for years and had a big head start so we were already ‘behind the eight ball’. Six months of solid emails, phone calls and questions as to why our website wasn’t doing well and we finally got an answer. “We haven’t been doing any work on it”. “But we paid you every month for six months” I screamed down the phone. After months of trying to ‘retrieve’ our website that we had paid for and rightfully owned, we were finally released.
Those times when I was blind-sided were annoying reminders of why I needed to try harder or get smarter. My tenacity wouldn’t let my bruised ego lay down and be quiet. Failure was not an option for the investment we had made in this business and for my family’s future. After much research into the industry, I now realise much of the hocus pocus (which I only now affectionately call ‘witchcraft’) is because we are at the mercy and whim of the internet God “Google”. We try and make him happy with our monetary gifts but unfortunately, sometimes (or most of the time) he does not smile on us. So maybe I need to sacrifice one of my children to get to that almighty placing I have been searching for.
Fortunately for me, I have now found a reputable company with people who are skilled, passionate and dedicated at what they do to assist me in achieving my goals. It’s a great feeling to surround yourself with people that are like-minded. This time, I actually feel good about what is ahead for me.
My Tips for Women in Business
If you have found a niche’ or think you have something to offer in your chosen field, or even if you can see yourself being able to provide a better service in your industry, don’t hesitate, give a go but be prepared for rejection and failure and counteract it with persistence. Surround yourself with good people.
Whether you agree with what I have said here or not, I encourage you to keep trying and to be fearless.
As women, I believe, this is our natural character. I am a veteran of failure; I didn’t wake up one day and decide to be an overnight success that day. Our society considers failure as some sort of a defect. But sometimes failure is not an option and to fail only enlightens us and makes us grow as people.
I subscribe to JK Rowling’s thoughts on defeat as she reflected on a time when her marriage was over and her wizard ‘Harry Potter’ had been rejected by a dozen publishers: “It’s impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
Be strong, be fearless. You will survive, overcome the obstacles and in doing so, discover strengths you never knew you had.
Cristina Wheeler (pictured left) is an Australian business woman who began the tough road to success in 2007 when she created D&C Auto Glass from nothing with her husband.
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