A Brazen Careerist: Looking Back Through 2 Years of Entrepreneurship

For our Brazen Careerist readers as well as for our:

1)    Teen interns: I want our teen readers and interns to be reminded of how important goals are and that every career has its ups and downs.

And

2)    Entrepreneur Readers: I have a few fellow 20 something entrepreneurs and other bloggers who read us for tidbits and advice on how to make it as an entrepreneur and professional blogger.

I officially started my company 2 years ago on my graduation day from Emory University, May 9, 2007.

Here is what I have learned:

1) Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it.

I am very grateful for the advice I get in my informational interviews with experts and other entrepreneurs, but I often hear, “why don’t you…” And I have, a lot.  But, what I realized is, just because you can do something, does not mean you should do something.  You must love doing it, if you just ‘can’ and you don’t ‘love’ it will probably not be successful, you will dread it, you will worry about it and it will take you away from things you do love.

Example: Everyone keeps telling me I should do a podcast/radioshow.  They have been telling me for two years.  “It will be such a great accompaniment to your blog!” “You are so good at talking, you should do it” I prefer to listen than to read, I wish you had some kind of an audio recording.” Finally a few months ago, I tried.  Well, I barely tried. I started, looked into getting a channel on iTunes, got a professional mic and made a little intro on Garage Band.  I recorded one.  In all honesty, it sucked. It sucked (I knew it and a very honest friend told me so) and I hated it.  I realized then and there, just because I can, does not mean I should.

2) Just because it makes money, doesn’t mean you should do it.

I found a pretty successful model to make money this year that involved training tutors to work with private families.  This is successful and my families benefit, my tutors benefit and I benefit.  But, it is not what I love.  I love to write.   This unfortunately bends the rule on above that if you do not like something it probably won’t do well.  I almost wish this part of my business was less successful because over the past year, I followed the money, not my dreams.  On my first week-long vacation  in a long time over my birthday, I realized that I had my first good night’s sleep in months.  I also realized it was the first time I had time to write in 8 months because I was not seeing clients.  I love my clients, but because of our very long waitlist, I had given up my time for what I was truly passionate about, and my sleep.  I realized it was not worth it. So I…

3) Just Started

Just start. I would say one of the biggest lessons I learned this year is you can (and should) start a major project if you only have 20 minutes.  Someone asked me last week:

“Vanessa, you start so many projects that have been on my idea list for years, how do you have time and energy?”

When I first started I used to try to book two or three days or at least a four or five hour block for big projects like adding a new page to my website, looking into starting a Speakers Bureau etc.  As those chunks of time dwindled and were actually intimidating when I felt uninspired or tired, I experimented with the sample policy of ONLY starting projects when I had 20 minutes (let me tell you, you always have 20 minutes).  The weird thing is, it worked.  All of my major projects in year 23 (see below) were started right before an appointment, conference call or waiting for company.

I realized once you ‘just start’ you have to continue, and you do more in 20 minute segments.  I never thought I would be able to figure out a way to fund my Parenting Around the World Project, especially because it means taking less client hours (the money maker), but I realized that I would never get a good nights sleep, nor be truly happy if I didn’t just start.  So, in 20 minutes I sent out 30 emails to my corporate contacts asking for help with funding.  From those first 30 emails we were able to fund the first 6 countries.

4) I am fricking scared out of my mind, so I might as well be doing what I love

Ever since I booked my first trip, I constantly think: “Oh my god, oh my god, I cannot travel around the world, turn down good paying clients and work on a book I don’t even have a publisher for.”  I have nightmares that I won’t be able to pay my rent, I will have to move home and sell my car to fund my business.   But wait a minute…I had those dreams even when I wasn’t planning to travel the world, even when I had paying clients…so, if I had those nightmares anyway, why not do what I love.  I am still scared out of my mind, but the worrying is getting less, because what I love is filling me up.

5) There is not a suffering for happiness quota

Many people (maybe you) are thinking,

“Fughfff, she just wants to get funding to travel the world.”

I spent a long time fighting this, trying to convince myself that “no, it was going to be miserable traveling in hostels, very hard, and I am only doing it because it is needed.” But, hey, that IS part of the reason, and I do not want it to be hard work.  I want to be able to do something really fun and awesome, make a living at it and put together a fascinating set of stories and ideas for my readers.  I do not want to feel guilty for this, and I do, sometimes, but this year I have really solidified the fact that

You do not need to suffer to be happy.

There is no quota of misery in order to get success.

Hard work yes, misery no, challenging yes, suffering no.

6) It never makes sense looking back

I always wondered how I would use my Chinese major, my Latin American Studies major and my East Asian Studies major. I always wondered why I took Spanish and French in High School.  I always wondered if my undergraduate thesis on Chinese Underground Hip Hop and Urban Youth would come in handy.  I always wondered how my fascination with parenting would help me travel the world.  Now I know.

7) Give more than you ask, but still ask

I have been posting and linking to thousands of websites, people, campaigns and products over the past 2 years of blogging.  Usually I did not request (almost never demand) anything in response.  And I was happy to do this.  I realized that the less I kept tally, the better I felt.  Yet, I still wondered, if I ask in return will it come back? I have learned that if you have been generous and you ask for help, you will often receive.  I have reached out to most of my network asking them for ideas, contacts and funding for the trip and the book.  I am so grateful that many people I never would have expected have offered.  I am so thankful for that and learned that you always have to give more than you ask, but don’t be afraid to ask.

So, here we go, I am asking for help with our goals:

Goal 1: Write my book: Parenting Is Flat: How Globalization Has Changed Familynomics

Goal 2: Get funding or make enough passive income to be able to travel to 30 countries to get my case studies on the 30 families.

We need:

a) A sponsor for 3 Flip video camera’s to send to Families to film one average day

-This project is a great opportunity for companies or brands to reach over 500,000 of our parent and teen readers across the globe and be associated with a fun, inspiring and insightful project.

b)    International families in where both parents and children were born in that country and at least 1 child under the age of 18 (see countries we already have below)

c)    Help with Passive Income: If you want to help fund our trip, please

-Buy one of our books
-Click on an ad on the site
-Sign-up for a webinar
-Get our teleclass
-Subscribe to our newsletter

All of these things help us fund!

Status:

Found and Interviewed:
X Singapore               (Thank you Daphne!)
X Canada                     (Thank you to the Daly’s)
X Nicaragua              (Thank you Gema!)
X Israeli                     (Thank you Becca!)
X US            (Thank you Gail!)
X Sweden        (Thank you Malin!)

X Argentina

X Chile

X Uruguay

I will keep you updated and I hope this time next year, I will be able to tell you we have funding for all 30 countries.  If you have an idea for a sponsor, or families, please email vvanpetten@rrules.com.

I am grateful for your help, thank you in advance,

Vanessa

My Entrepreneurial Timeline:

I wrote this mostly for me, to help see where I have been and was not going to post it, but then thought it might be helpful for you.  So, here it is…

Age 16-18:

-Began writing my book, interviewing other teens and parents about why they were so angry.  Finished writing it and offered it for free to benefit fighting families.  I loved working on it, but buckled down in school over pursuing publication to have strong applications.

-Took Spanish and French at the same time in High School because I was told “it will make up for your disabilities in math and science for college applications and jobs.”

Age 18-20:

-Started Emory University and became a Chinese major to add a fourth language.

-Triple majored (I had, like, no friends) in Chinese, International Politics (with an emphasis on Latin America) and East Asian Studies.

-Adults in my life told me to get a JD/MBA (Law and Business degree), I had a passion for language, travel and studying globalization, but did not like my international law classes, politics or international investment.

What I learned:

I love to interview people about their relationships and life patterns.

I was unhappy in College.

Age 21:

-Began writing my thesis: “Underground Hip Hop and Chinese Urban Youth” and moved to Shanghai to interview Chinese teenagers about globalization through hip hop.

-When I learned that most Chinese teens were just as disgruntled with their parents as American teens, and how much I loved interviewing them, I realized I had to pick my book back up and look into publishing.

What I learned:

I was not going to be happy in a ‘traditional career.’

I wanted to work with youth and families, and find a way to tie it to internationalism.

Age 22:

-During my senior year of College, took my allowance and self-published my book, You’re Grounded! and filed to be incorporated.

-Hired employees in India to build my blog. (now RadicalParenting.com)

-Began to speak and work privately with families to supplement blogging income.

What I learned:

Everything about starting a business (through trial and error, informational meetings with other entrepreneurs and Business books for Dummies): tax law, finding funding, how to be a blogger, how to start viral campaigns, how Talent Agencies work, how much PR firms cost….

Age 23:

-Built an associate program to train and send-out mentors to help take private clients. Ended up training and hiring 6 associates, one office manager and 60 interns.

-Outgrew my website, and relaunched the blog with other features:

Teen Speakers Bureau, Parent and Teen Webinars, Teen Internships, Private Social Networks for Other Professional and Casual Teen and Parent Bloggers.

-Worked on other major projects:

Wrote my first e-book, Signed with talent agency William-Morris Endeavor, Got managers, Began work on a TV Show, Set-up funding campaign for webisodes.

Age 24:

Knew that I was getting too old to write about parenting from the kid’s perspective so further built up my intern program and started LivingRadically.com.

What I learned:

-How to make money as a professional blogger

-Give, give, give, give, give.  There is enough to go around, collaboration is key, never keep tally of favors, if you can give, give.

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