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Columbia Business Monthly

Choose Your Own Adventure

Feb 08, 2018 09:42AM ● By Emily Stevenson
By Dr. Kasie Whitener
President, Clemson Road Consulting
Lead Organizer, 1 Million Cups Columbia

Deep in the woods, you encounter a fork in the path. You’ve been walking for some time now and the path to your right looks as if it will stretch on interminably. The path to the left shows a town nearby, but the buildings are all dark and boarded up.

Which direction will you take? If you choose left, and take your chances with the ghost town, turn the page. If you play it safe and go right, turn to page 64.

Remember those books? Choose Your Own Adventure published by Bantam Books in the 1980s and ‘90s were the most popular children’s series of the time. The concept was simple: the stories were all told in second person (You!) and the reader made choices throughout to change the story.

The advantage was that readers got multiple tales in a single book. The disadvantage was sometimes your choices led to certain death. Oops.

There’s something entrepreneurial about those books; I think it’s in the word “Choose” but it may also be in the word “Adventure.”

More than once I’ve heard my entrepreneur pals say the reason they started their own business is so they wouldn’t have to work for a boss anymore. The freedom of entrepreneurship is its most attractive trait. Do what you want when you want, that’s the entrepreneur’s creed.

Except it’s a ton of really hard work. Building a business structure, developing a product or service, implementing a marketing and sales strategy, and earning customers are all work someone else has done before you arrive at traditional employment. In the startup world, they’re all YOUR job.

The craziest part of entrepreneurship is how different it is for everyone who experiences it. While the same pitfalls, landmines, and snares grab us all to some degree, the journey itself is unique.

You need funding to develop a prototype. If you liquidate your IRA, turn to page 11. If you borrow from your parents, turn the page.

I affectionately call our Wednesday morning 1 Million Cups meetings my “support group” because there’s no one in that room who will do my work for me, but a ton of people who are willing to smile and offer encouragement as I try to do it on my own.

You have no clients and are burning through savings. If you resign yourself to a jobby-job, turn to page 96. If you develop a sales strategy and keep working on the business, turn the page (but update your LinkedIn Profile just to be safe).

As daunting at the adventure can be, you chose this. That’s a particular kind of personal and professional accountability. The good news is there are a ton of resources available to help you. Of course, our 1 Million Cups community is a great place to start. It’s a free, weekly meetup for startup adventure-seekers.

This year, 1 Million Cups Columbia’s organizers have decided to take on mapping the resources available to entrepreneurs in the Midlands. We’re using a tool called “Partner of the Month” in which we highlight one organization per month that provides resources for entrepreneurs.

January’s Partner of the Month was the Small Business Development Center, a federally funded program led by State Director Michelle Abraham. We welcomed SBDC consultants Earl Gregorich, Cheryl Salley, Nancy Williamson, and Scott Bellows to our meeting space at Richland Library and heard from Michelle during our first meeting back from the holidays.

We’re the first 1 Million Cups chapter to implement the Partner of the Month designation and the rest of the nation is watching as we connect the startup ecosystem through this program. Like all adventures, this one’s outcome is uncertain, although unlikely to lead to certain death.

Do you know an organization that helps entrepreneurs? Send me an introduction ([email protected]) and we’ll invite them to be part of our adventure.