20-Something Startup – How to Overcome Fear and Doubt

Dear 40-somethings,

First of all, sorry for my English but I’m writing from Paris (France).  I’m 26. I still live with my parents due to a lack of money as I have been working on my own business for the past year. I love my business idea, doing marketing and learning new skills. Professionals in the in industry I have met are excited about my business model and I already have some clients willing to work with me. After a year of hard work, I am now over 90% of my goal (business plan done, website in development, merchant account in progress). I am really proud of the result.

However, my enthusiasm has turned to doubt. I am always alone. I have done temp jobs for over a year and all the money I earn goes toward my project. Between the temporary jobs and my project, I’m now struggling. Not because of the hard work but because of the lack of money and the loneliness. Others are living while I am always struggling looking for money to maintain my project (so no clothes, no holidays, no friends, no relationships).   I am very afraid of my future. I also feel guilty still depending on my parents.

I recently accepted a friend into my project because he is an ex-entrepreneur. It does not help me financially or otherwise. He says he has money problems and that he does not know anything about this kind of business. He is a very good friend, but I cannot do and pay everything while he is just waiting for the success!

As I was not able to finish university, I really do not want to waste this business opportunity. Without a diploma, the only way to work in that industry is to become an entrepreneur.  I think this business is my last chance to do something that I love.

Dear 20-something,

You have a lot of support from the 40-somethings heading your way across the Atlantic. Many recommend keeping at it  and not being so hard on yourself. But you also need real support and a runway!  I return to some words shared by Arianna Huffington at the Women Entrepreneur Festival last year.

She was speaking about overcoming hurdles and accomplishing the “impossible” – for her coming from a one room apartment with her single mom in Athens, Greece and barely speaking English to getting in to Cambridge despite what felt like the whole world at the time being against her. Then similarly going on to build the Huffington Post. But her point was that you need at one person who has your back to achieve your dreams:

 “It doesn’t matter if the whole world is questioning that you are doing as long as you have at least one member of what I call your tribe. It doesn’t matter who…it can be a relative, a friend, anybody who supports you through thick and thin. Then you have a foundation for your dream.”

Read the full speech here:  http://vimeo.com/35757985.

Many of the women at the festival related to the idea of feeling alone. It doesn’t sound to me like you partner is this person. I think  you need to get rid of him – fI can’t see what he is adding and it seems like a negative energy drain.  But what about your friends and family – is there anyone who supports you unconditionally who can be your “tribe” without necessarilty being your business partner. Don’t be afraid to just ask for some emotional help!

Secondly reach out to the entrepreneur community in France. Then you will be surrounded by people who are going through the same struggles as you. Try Meetup.com.

It’s a tough road. As one entrepreneur said to me at the beginning of this journey:

“If want to start your own business don’t quit your day job. If you are passionate about it, start to work on it at night and on weekends. If you can stick with it and you can’t wait to do it on weekends and at night and you’re willing to give up sleep for it, that means you believe in it.”

If you are 90% there, you have done the above. You are going through a tough time. Take some time to get your strength back and get some balance.  You may think you are at the end of your runway, and that can be tough…but you are young and have no financial responsibilities at this point so it’s worth sticking with it and seeing if you can complete your vision. Can you explore crowd-funding as if what you are saying it true—your idea has value, is 90% there and you have potential clients? You seem to have traction and some potential clients…can you turn these into investors or a MVP in terms of doing freelance consulting work?

You are close! Here are some amazing words of wisdom and encouragement from women who have worked toward dreams, gave up dreams and worked through some tough times!



Dear 20-something,

We all must make, and keep, commitments to our work; to our family and friends; and to ourselves.  If we ignore any of these areas for long periods of time, we will suffer physically and emotionally.  It must be thrilling to work on a new business for which you are passionate – and apparently others are as well, as evidenced by initial clients and professional support.

If you want to succeed, you may have to be more thoughtful in how you spend your time and in how you raise capital.  If you truly need to do temp work to fund this business, then you might want to schedule 25 hours / week as temp, 40 hours / week as your business, 20 hours / week with friends & family, 20 hours / week for you (exercise, read, relax –assuming you have 15 walking hours / day = 105 hours / week).  The specifics per category are less important than taking a thoughtful approach to how you spend your time so you don’t burn out along the way.

In addition, if you are generating enthusiasm for your business, with whom can you partner to raise capital?  Can a client front load payment, giving you a good fee now in return for reduced fees later?  Can a supportive professional help you raise money?  Net, whether working in a large corporation, a small start up, or creating a business from scratch you will ALWAYS have to set your own boundaries based on what’s important to you.  While in the short term 100% business might seem right, in the long term it is not sustainable.  Pace yourself… it’s a marathon not a sprint! – 40-something, C-level executive, non-profit, someone who added, “If she doesn’t solve for this now, she will struggle with it her whole life. as I can personally attest!”



Dear 20-something,

Manifest your dreams — make a list of where you want to be. Sounds like you have done that already and are on your way.  You just need to push yourself to the finish line.  Don’t give up and get out of your funk.  Meditate. Look for a mentor or an inspirational self-help author to guide you through your dark hours.   Stop feeling guilty and be grateful that you have parents that are willing to support you.  – 20-something, Marketing and Comms, NYC



Dear 20-something,

Hang in there. Sometimes it is really hard to stay motivated even when you have the money and the success. Sometimes there are just periods of your life when you feel lonely, even if you’re surrounded by happy people and smiling colleagues. Once you fight through it, you’ll be even more impressed with yourself. It sounds like you have a supportive family and a great plan for your professional life, so have faith in yourself and keep going. A year sounds like a very long time, especially when you’re slogging through something difficult while those around you seem to be coasting through life, but I hope you live to be 100 and then it won’t seem like such a long time at all. Just because you don’t know HOW you’ll get through the next set of challenges doesn’t mean that you WON’T get through them — it just means that you’re not finished figuring some things out.

Since you’re so dedicated and methodical about pursuing your professional goals, what if you set a personal goal and apply yourself in a similar way? Make the recruitment of potential peers a project just like your working goals. Try to set aside some time to go for a walk with a friend before work, get in touch with friends from school, visit a museum with someone you might want to work with — it is hard but not impossible to find things to do in a big city that don’t cost a lot of money or are free. Just one or two encounters each week that make you feel like a human being who is connected to the rest of us can be really important for your mental health. They can be skype chats or window shopping. Often when I’m at my grouchiest and least interested in being friendly to other people, forcing myself into a situation where I have to be friendly ends up making me feel better and less alone. – 20-something, pHd, educator


Dear 20-something,

There are many ways to do things that don’t cost a lot. Take 1-2 nights a week and do something new: take a free class, volunteer, or invite a friend over to watch TV and make dinner. All work and no play is good for no one. – 40-something, marketer, entrepreneur, NYC


Good luck and keep us posted on your business!Here are some great resources for you as well!

More on getting through the dark days:

On dreams

In general: Women 2.0

On work-life balance:

“If you do not prioritize friends, family, loved ones, pets, plants, hobbies while working on a start-up, they will all decay and all you will be left with is a startup.” – Ted Rheingold, VP Social of Say Media and founder of Dogster, Inc.

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