Taking the Leap into Collaborative Entrepreneurship

Love your workLove your work, by workisnotajob

Recently I announced a really exciting move in my career: joining on as a Co-Founder with Stitch Labs, a startup I’d been consulting/working with for 4 months prior (since September, 2011).

This move has been nothing short of AWESOME, and for those who have seen me in the last few weeks – and really any time in the last 4 months, since I started consulting with them – you’ll know that I’m absolutely over the moon about it.

What’s funny though, is hearing other people’s reactions to a big change like this.

It’s similar to when you start a new relationship, or go through a breakup, and the myriad of responses you experience sharing the news with people, from trusting and celebratory, to fear-based concern or confined thinking.

Many people know me as an independent. I’ve been self-employed creative for going on 10 years, and while difficult at times, I have reveled in that. I’ve long considered myself “unemployable” (in the corporate sense of the word) and have a pretty big aversion to the word “job.”

UPDATE: It’s been pretty funny to watch friends ask me “How’s the new job going?”, except when they get to the word ‘job’ I can see them visually squirm a bit, knowing I don’t like it, but they can’t think of another way to say it. So just in case you’re wondering what I prefer, here are a few alternatives (please use these with other friends taking on new awesome roles, too): “How’s the new gig?” “How’s everything with Stitch?” or maybe even get more creative, “How are you liking your big, exciting change?!” “How’s it going, Co-Founder?” “What’s been your favorite part?” “What are you working on exactly?” “How has it been juggling your clients and your new role at Stitch?” “How are you liking working with your new team?” “What’s one of the coolest things you’ve discovered so far rockin’ this new gig?” Just some ideas. The squirming is fun to watch, too, though. :)

I’ve told companies flat out that I wouldn’t work for them for 20 hours/week, let alone 40. Working for myself has equaled freedom. So, as you an imagine, I didn’t make this decision lightly.

The thing is, I don’t see my joining on with Stitch Labs as a job. You can read my announcement post, but I’ll reiterate it here again: I *LOVE* the work I’m doing. And to quote my friend Cathi (the awesome artist responsible for the main image on this post): workisnotajob.

Going back to sharing this news with friends/acquaintances, it’s been so interesting to see their coming to terms with my news. Obviously there have been a *ton* of incredibly awesome responses; friends celebrating with me, with wild congrats, hugs and high fives. But there’s also been really odd reactions like, “Workin’ for the man now!” “Wow, leaving the independent life for a corporate job, huh?” or “How’s it feel to have a regular 9-5?”

Now, I accept my part in feeling defensive to these reactions. As I said, I sincerely don’t like the word ‘job’, and have taken great pride in being a self-employed independent for so long. But, for some of them, I just want to say, SERIOUSLY?! What part of Co-Founder says “workin’ for the man”? And furthermore, what Co-Founder do you know that works 9-5!?

Deal is, I have worked hard over the last decade in business for myself. No, make that REALLY hard. Too hard, in a lot of ways… hence my developing a whole series around the importance of balance, aka Creative Sustainability. I’m the first to admit, I’ve been a full force workaholic, and I have learned a lot through the experience of following my passion and making it happen, while maintaining my health and happiness.

Every thing I’ve done in my career has led me to this opportunity, and I made this choice… not because it’s some stable, corporate 9-5 (wait, do you know what a startup is?), but because I truly see the vision and need for this product. I believe in our team and what we’re creating.

I know it might sound corny, but I honestly feel so fortunate to have found this opportunity. Not only have I gotten incredibly clear around my true calling in my career (what I love to do + what comes easily to me), but to have found an incredibly awesome group of talented people working on a revolutionary product. All of which giving me the opportunity to follow my passion to help other creative independent business owners in a bigger, more impactful way. KISMET!

In one of the conversations I had, I replied to a guy’s off the cuff “how’s it feel to have a corporate 9-5″ comment by clarifying that as a Co-Founder, and us being pre-funding, I not only work my butt off, but that until we receive funding, I’m not getting paid (and even then it won’t be a lot). His tone immediately changed and he said, “Wow, that’s quite the risky leap!”

Now this guy knows a bit about my history, as just minutes before he told me how he’d been following me for years, and how impressed he’d been watching my career. So, SERIOUSLY!? What part of my owning my own business for almost 10 years wasn’t a risky leap? I’m an ENTREPRENEUR. THAT’S WHAT I DO. I follow my heart, I make decisions and I take the leap… putting my all into it to make it happen.

(Apologies if that last paragraph is slightly defensive… I just had to share how ridiculous that exchange was to show the extreme of dealing with other people’s perceptions.)

The bottom line is this choice was the best choice for me, or I wouldn’t have chosen it. It’s so perfectly matched to the work I’ve been doing as a Creative Business Consultant [for creative entrepreneurs that make & sell products], that this role is merely an extension of who I am, and a platform to continue doing the work that I am passionate about. This is what I call finding my sweet spot.

Adventure is the best way to grow.

Furthermore, no change is forever. Every choice we make is simply another opportunity for us to learn and grow. Every step is a part of our path, that will inform the next. I am not defined or confined by this role any more than any one else is in theirs. We are all limitless in possibility! I wish for everyone that they find their sweet spot, and a team or network around them that supports this spaciousness.

Personally, I feel this opportunity is way better (one would think that is obvious, since it’s the choice I made ;). Not only does Stitch have major potential, financially (albeit risky, yes), but because I’m no longer on my own. I was tired of working solo for so long, and I had been looking for a business partner and the chance to serve in a bigger way. Sure, I had been hiring developers and contractors for years, but it’s different. This move is like going from solo entrepreneurship to collaborative entrepreneurship, which is like music to my collaboration-loving ears. And, ask anyone, it’s just not every day you can feel like you’ve found a solid team to take that leap with.

Anyway, this isn’t to explain myself or talk anyone else into it by any means… it’s mostly just to further the awareness around how we react to people’s news. Do we celebrate with them, knowing that they’ve already put a lot of thought and care into their choice? Or do we tear them down in small ways, belittle or make them second guess themselves? Personally I was a little bewildered to receive some of the latter, but as my friend Alex says… there are armchair quarterbacks everywhere.

Going back to the new love analogy… I’ve been finding more and more it’s like a new relationship. I’m head over heals, and it’s ok if nobody else understands, because we get it. And it’s awesome. :)

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8 Responses to Taking the Leap into Collaborative Entrepreneurship

  1. Moshen says:

    Great post Willo! Having gone independent a year ago I get feedback that it won’t be sustainable and I’ll eventually have to get a job again at some point. I admit that could be true and I embrace the risk. I wonder if it’s those same people who, without knowing the details, assume going from independent to something else validates the risks of being independent. And reinforces whatever barriers that holds them back from doing the same. I wonder if there’s an undercurrent of that when people assume you have a ‘job working for the man’ again.

    • I think you’re spot on with that, and I’ve heard a few others say the same. It’s more than anything highlighting the fears within themselves, that they then project back on me and my endeavor. Interesting human behavior!

      Thanks for your insightful comment. And keep kicking ass doing your own thing!! I’m super stoked for you.

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