The Truth: Starting-Up and Facing Failures
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Eye Of The Tiger
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Everyone writes about start-ups, entrepreneurship, starting a business, how to do it, but not many people tell you the dangers, the risks and the impacts you have to face when you ultimately fail. There had been some time now that I keep hearing this slogan coming out of many Silicon Valley blogs and websites “Fail Fast And Fail Often”, these words capsulize the time of this new era which we are living in right now, the rise of the millennials. Gone are the days that it was everyone’s ambition to be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer, we are now in a world where an entrepreneur is the coolest thing to be after the likes of young successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerburg (Facebook) and Steven Spiegel (Snapchat). These are the entrepreneurship miracles of our time, and they give us millennials, a new hope that we could someday also build such an empire of our own. But the truth being, not everyone gets to a billion dollar valuation, an IPO, or even funding, some don't even get to make it past their first year, just like my company, Lepoulet.
I have been doing some form of business since I was old enough to remember, selling my toy trucks to my brother when I was 5, taking my Dad's shaver and demanding he pays me to have it back when I was 7. My first real business venture was when I am 9 years old, I partnered up with my table buddy, Alastair P. and coughing out a few dollars of the little allowance we have back then to buy and sell little figurines, erasers, toys, rocket balloons to our primary school classmates. We slowly expanded our business to start selling to the older kids from the other levels as well, raking in a good profit for a 9-year-old school kid. From then on, I was convinced that starting businesses is something I want and will do when I grow up.
My second venture was when I was 13 years old; I borrowed two hundred dollars from my dad and went out to buy boxes of party ribbon spray from a party supplies store near my home. I then hired my younger brother, cousins and had my dad drive us to Singapore’s busiest bar street, Clark Quay, on New Year Eve to sell them. We made two thousand dollars that evening and went to buy a big bowl of Hagen Daz ice cream to celebrate. Let me tell you, that feeling was exhilarating!
Fast-forward 15 years later; having tasted these micro successes at a young age, I decided to embark on a bigger entrepreneurship adventure, opening my first restaurant on my 28th birthday with my buddy/business partner, StevC.
Lepoulet, a new age rotisserie bar nested in the heart of booming Shenzhen, China, introducing French herb roast chicken paired with rice in an Asian twist. Till now, doing this was probably the most exciting and yet frightening time of my life. I quit my job in the luxury lifestyle industry, uprooted myself, moved to Shenzhen, China, devoted to a long distance relationship and embarked on a quest for the great adventure of entrepreneurship.
It first started with an idea, and then we went on to concept and design followed by the actual construction. Construction was a nightmare; it was delay by 3 months when we clashed with Chinese New Year, the biggest holiday in China, and pretty much ate up all our capital. The restaurant finally opened on March 15th, 2018.
I could say it was a little too ambitious and a little too ahead of its time. We had a good run and then ran right into a million other problems, and then, we failed.
The closure of Lepoulet left me a whole lot of dirt to clean up, but also a lifetime of memories and experience. Let's face it, most start-ups fail, and over 70% of new restaurants shutter within their first year.
This is not my first time failing, I been rejected from college applications, jobs applications, and girls, countless times. For me, facing rejections and failure was extremely hard, there is too much in me of that Asian pride and the judgmental looks from my friends, family and mostly my parents certainly didn't help. The cost of failure in Asia, especially so in Singapore was huge; the pressure, the labels, the comparisons between yourself and your peers, especially so with the introduction of social media where all your dirty laundry is aired to the public and all you see from everybody’s online lives just seems so, perfect.
I can tell you from experience, the first time failure happens, you are terrified, all your hopes, effort, aspirations are all sliding down the gutter into an endless pit of broken dreams.
The second time it happens, you are apprehensive, deeply concerned, but you know it's not over until you say it is until it is “pronounce dead by a certified doctor”.
The third time, the third is just another number in your book, you smile and it and say to yourself, "let's get started on the fourth".
1. Don't Be Afraid To Fail
No one really cares when you do, there is just too much noise and distractions in this world and no one really cares about your failures, and how fabulously you failed. People are all failing around us, but yet no one really talks or writes about it because failure is boring. The biggest enemy here is, in fact, yourself, being able to face your failures, acknowledging it, accepting it and wear it like a badge of honor, a battle scar that you know will propel you to the next level.
2. Find Your Purpose
Life changes and adapts all the time. We all want different things in different stages of our lives, and it is important to know what your purpose is, what is meaningful to you and what matters the most. Find that and keep to that, your failures wouldn't matter then, and success will come naturally.
3. Live different experiences and meet different people.
Try to live a different life, try to experience different things, go to different places and talk to different people. Your life experiences help mold and shape how we see and react to the world around us, it helps us grow as an individual and plus, it makes good stories.
4. Leave your comfort zone.
I am not a fortuneteller, but yet I have safely for-told the fortunes of my peers and cousins before me. 7 years ago before I left of the United States, I told my mom that I am going to predict what my cousins and most of my friends in Singapore are going do, they are going to have a stable job, apply for a HDB (Singapore’s public housing), get married, have a kid, buy a car, and have a next kid, and upgrade to a private Condominium if income allows. Fast forward to 2017, seven years later, all these came true for my cousin, and it happening to my friends who are having their first baby now. Nothing is wrong with that life option, but yet, I do hear from a lot of them about regrets and how they would have, could have and should have done things differently. Leave your comfort zone and be the fish out of the water, and live. If there is something you want to do or dream of doing, go do it if you could but stop making excuses and complaining about it later.
I had always embraced the idea of discomfort and as I have a strong belief that comfort in my life is going to ruin me. Thus am rather apt with start-ups and the sweat and hard work needed to get them going, currently on to my next adventure.
Failure is something to be prized and praised. Failure is feedback. Failure is moving forward. It’s conscious and exerted effort toward something you’ve never done before. It’s incredible.
To the brave souls who are struggling with failure right now, if your business failed, or is failing right now and don't think you can go on, know that you are lucky to have your shot, something that many people didn't even get the chance to. And with the experiences of the heartbreak of a failed business, you are going to come out stronger and also know that you got me, Justin Ong if you ever need a shoulder to cry on [email@example.com].
Just like how Rocky Balboa put it in his last movie, “ It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
Don't be afraid of failures and go for what you want whether is starting a business, a new relationship or new job. It is possible that you might fail or get rejected, but it’s more likely that you won't. Better to experience the brief, temporary pain of failure then to live forever with a sad regret for all the things you were too afraid to do in life.
So stop judging yourself and do it again, but this time, do it better.
*Written on June 2017
Serial Entrepreneur and one-time failed restaurateur about to embark on his next venture to re-launch the again in Shanghai this time with more experience, know-how, and learned lessons. He currently splits his time between Shenzhen and Singapore.
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