The #entrepreneur struggle is so real. END OF POST.
I kid. Honestly, had this post consisted of just that sentence, it still would have resonated with so many entrepreneurs. Alas, brevity is not my forte.
I, Lauryn Nwankpa, am an entrepreneur. I, Lauryn Nwankpa, also currently have a “9-5”.
At this point, living “paycheck to paycheck” is as commonplace to me as Shea Butter is to my products, but not in the way that you may think. Last year I promised myself that I would pay myself first, saving a few coins each month to secure my financial future. I also promised that I would pay myself second in the form of investing a certain portion of my monthly salary into my business. I use this money to buy more supplies, pay my graphic designer, pay my co-working space rent, and anything else I need to run the business. Unfortunately, I also need to pay my landlord third, CareFirst fourth, Sprint fifth, FedLoan sixth, PEPCO seventh, and so on and so forth. Needless to say, the 9-5 comes in handy.
Let’s be clear. I work in the nonprofit sector, and I am by no means balling. Thankfully, my investments into Hair To There do result in returns by way of sales, however, after the 2nd or 16th of every month my checking account is looking at me like…
Or sometimes even…
But I digress. My funny, wayward financial woes are not the point of this post. The point is that many entrepreneurs will tell you that it takes many sacrifices to start and build your own company, and from what I can tell, they are absolutely right. My sacrifices include (but are not limited to) monthly injections of personal capital, frugal living, and bringing my lunch to work every day. But it doesn’t stop there… As an entrepreneur, and particularly an entrepreneur who also happens to be a #trustfundless woman of color, my business has become my LIFE. Every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment is spent thinking about Hair To There. No exaggeration. It’s my baby, and I will do everything in my power to ensure its survival beyond infancy. Needless to say, my #entrepreneurstruggle (of which there seems to be no end in sight) taught me a few things:
Spreadsheets and numbers and sales taxes and shipping labels will be your best friends. Your actual best friends will tire of hearing you complain about how tired and busy you are all the time. You’ll scrimp and save, flake on coffee dates and drinks with friends, and stop going to yoga. You’ll send emails at 2:00 am, and draft blog posts during Love & Hip Hop. You will squeeze every bit of productivity you can out of every day, knowing good and well that at least 10 of 24 hours are automatically promised to something and someone else: your 9-5. If you’re anything like me, you’ll then guiltily sleep all day on a random Saturday every few months to recover from the sheer exhaustion of it all. This is great, right!? All the memes on Instagram promise that "grind > sleep" is the recipe for success, right!? You’ll sleep when you’re dead right, RIGHT?!?!
At some point you have to tell yourself that this dream deserves more than a few hours each night and on the weekends. Hair To There deserves my full attention and my full creativity. It requires my well-rested, laser focused, and entirely engaged brain. No more 9-5’s, unless those 9-5 checks are signed by Lauryn N. Nwankpa, CEO of Hair To There, LLC.
Frankly, I started thinking in terms of how many jars of Shea Butter I would have to sell to be great, or at the very least pay my bills on time each month. Oh, the CareFirst bill is due next week? Guess I better whip up 18 jars of Shea Butter Whip. Rent’s due on the first? Let me hop on over to this street festival to sell 120 jars…
All jokes aside, it’s the real deal. It has to be that serious. I have to be that diligent. There came a point where it was no longer feasible to work myself into the ground, expending precious energy, helping others achieve their dreams at the expense of my own.
All that to say, I’ll be leaving my awesome job as a video producer in May to pursue my passion full time. (I’ll also be moving to LA for a year to complete a master’s in Social Entrepreneurship at USC’s Marshall School of Business...you know, no big deal.) It’s incredibly scary, and I recognize how immeasurably privileged I am to be able to make this choice. Despite the risk, I’ve never been more sure of something in my entire life. Pray for me y’all…and buy my Shea Butter please!