Written By: Gamelle FitzGibbon, Managing Director, Bespoke Spanish
The orbit of a solo entrepreneur is dominated by an overwhelming sense of solitude coupled with a nearly one-dimensional focus. You wake up thinking about your business and go to sleep worrying about it. It begins to creep into, and eventually becomes, your Saturday night plans and the only friends and family you see regularly are the ones (still) willing to talk almost entirely about your business.
Given this hectic lifestyle and the many responsibilities facing both early-stage and established business owners, I was thrilled by the number of entrepreneurs, speakers, and mentors who set aside time from their own entrepreneurial orbits to travel to Toronto from all over Canada and congregate at the Action Entrepreneurship Summit organized by Futurpreneur Canada. The organizers gave considerable value to the attendees by presenting fresh perspectives, focused actions, and opportunities to have compelling conversations with a diverse, yet like-minded group of individuals.
My experience at the Summit was one that both energized me on a personal level and sharply re-focused my strategic business development. On a personal level, the jolt of energy I experienced came from taking a critical yet supportive look into the struggles and problems of other entrepreneurs in the CollaborACTION Sessions during the first day of the summit. As Lisa Von Sturmer, CEO of Growing City, admitted in a separate break-out session, “Sometimes you hear about everyone else’s business succeeding and secretly you believe yours sucks.” I have definitely felt this way before, and hearing similar tales from my peers helped bolster my confidence against the usual trials and tribulations of being a business owner. The CollaborACTION sessions provided a refreshing opportunity to openly and candidly discuss the various struggles we try to hide or minimize with our potential clients, investors, and even our trusted advisors.
Hearing my peers share issues ranging from being unsure of how to reach their ideal client base to being unable to describe the unique value proposition of their product gave me and my fellow focus group members a chance to air out our own fears and failures and share what we have learned from them. Furthermore, by using the collective brainpower of a group of supportive individuals, it felt easy to devise simple and actionable steps to help solve the problems of those who had proffered their challenges for us to tackle. The experience not only helped me bond with the members of my focus group, it offered a chance to discuss real, current issues I’m facing with a variety of people who had invariably experienced similar challenges and had uncovered a myriad of creative solutions to overcome them.
Taking a couple of day’s breather to attend the Summit also injected me with renewed enthusiasm for creating a success strategy for my business. Herschel Segal, founder of Le Château and co-founder of DAVIDsTea counselled during his morning Fireside Chat to “Work hard now and breathe later.” While I won’t dispute the veracity of this, the Action Entrepreneurship Summit miraculously afforded me the opportunity to do both. Exploring a new city while meeting innovative peers was reenergizing in that it allowed me to step back and see the bigger picture of my progress.
For me, the greatest takeaway from the conference came during the Women’s Leadership: Leading During Peaks and Valleys breakout session that introduced the simple concept of conceptualizing each day as a 24-hour period in which to do one thing to move your business forward. Although it’s an elemental concept, coupling this simple advice along with all of the active problem solving, idea storming and deep discussions that took place over the two days allowed me to actually process all of this information much more effectively. In short, I realized I actually could be much more strategic in each 24-hour period to propel my business forward without being actually “busier” by consistently completing smaller, action-driven steps.
I spent the plane trip on my way to Toronto alone, watching movies on the small screen in front of me, exhausted and a little stressed about taking a few days away. In contrast, my flight home to Vancouver sped by while I scribbled down idea after idea, infused with the energy of the almost 200 delegates I met at the Summit and inspired by the many ideas imparted to us such as believing in ourselves first, conquering the imposter syndrome and investing energy and time into always attempting to innovate. And guess what? On the flight back I wasn’t sitting alone this time either—beside me was a new friend I had made at the Summit and there wasn’t a single break in our conversation for the entire duration of the flight!