On Venturing Into the Fray (Whereby “Fray” I actually mean “New Entrepreneurial Endeavor”)

’Tis the season to shut up and ship.

Last week Mandy and I got the keys to 1243 Pendleton Street, a ~1600sqft commercial building in the Greenville Arts District where we’ll be partnering with our friend Bill to make, manufacture, craft, and collect Bill’s jeans and our homegoods in a sort of hybrid retail shop/studio/sweatshop thing.

This is Mandy and Bill’s full-time gig. This is a startup side-business for me (I’m a big fan of not quitting your day job, as I’m a big fan of my day job). This is exciting and scary and awesome and full of ermahgerd. We’re crazy people.

I have no idea if we can run a retail/studio space. I definitely have no idea if we can run a successful retail/studio space. I think we can. I hope. And I know we’d regret it if we didn’t try it—something about nothing ventured, nothing gained.

And so we venture. And we hope we gain.

There are many things that three individuals with limited income and lots of ideas can’t do—we can’t go out and buy a bunch of inventory, we can’t hire a team of people, and we can’t buy* commercial property outright (yet). But we can control our hard work, effort, and willingness to risk. Risk is the key here. Big things are naturally risk averse because there’s more at stake (and typically more stakeholders); small things inherently must risk in order to begin. No risk, no growth. No growth, no business.

And so we risk. And we hope to grow.

It’s about ‘How much can we get away with?’
Aaron Draplin

Our flavor of risk is different than, say, an investment banker’s risk. Their risk is more akin to a financial calculation, balanced against potential return. ROI ’til the day they die. Our entrepreneurial risk certainly has a financial component to it, but it’s more about ideas and execution. Will this thing succeed? Is there room in the local marketplace for us? Will we be willing to recognize opportunities, follow that momentum and build our respective businesses to take advantage of them? What can we get away with and still pay the rent? Still grow the business? Because if we can’t get away with things, if we can’t shape these businesses into what we envision, why bother?

If you’re willing to do something that might not work, you’re closer to being an artist.
Seth Godin

And so we try something that might not work, and we hope to get away with it. Onward and upward.

*On the topic of buying commercial space, it is a sad state of affairs that the people with the property tend to lack vision for it, and the people with the vision tend to lack the funds to buy it. I look forward to flipping that scenario on its head in the next few years.