The hustle and bustle of the world around me seemed louder than normal and the ever present ache in my heart was unbearable. I rushed to my car, closed the door, and took a deep breath. Then, just like clockwork, the tears fell.
One year ago, I made the big decision to venture on my own and open a gym. I had been in the fitness industry for over eight years and like many entrepreneurs, I knew this was my calling. Although I had many friends in the field, I didn't feel comfortable heading into a business marriage with anyone and decided to go at it alone. I could totally do this, I thought.
The thing is, being a solo founder is not easy. You don't have a business partner to bounce ideas off of, share victories with, or commiserate with over seemingly very serious issues. At the time, this wasn't a problem. My boyfriend was there to cheer me on when I learned how to write a business plan and offer his shoulder when I felt deflated for not making a full-time income.
But one day, the shoulder I had relied so heavily on wasn't there. I'd lost my only support system and to say that it derailed me beyond a broken heart is an understatement. I made it out alive and I am in a better place now, but more on that another time.
So here I was, back in the car. In this moment, I had just returned from a meeting with a potential landlord. All my worries over not having enough funding and support felt all too real. I sat there, afraid that this dream would only ever be a dream, and didn't know who to call. I thought I could make it through by myself, but I was so very wrong--this venture was much bigger than I could handle.
Driving home that night, I told myself that perspective changed all outcomes: I was only alone if I wanted to be. With that, I stepped up and realized that, as solo founders, our potential lies in creating the network that we didn't have the luxury of starting with. With that, here are five rules to live by if you're going it alone.
1. Join entrepreneur and mastermind groups
Although this can sometimes feel forced, it's the one way you can meet other like-minded individuals going through the same exact experiences as you and are oftentimes more than willing to chat. If you can afford to rent a co-working space, this can also be a good alternative.
2. Find a mentor
Tapping into someone who has been down this road many times before and can provide actionable tips is invaluable. Whether they did it solo or with help, find someone who gets excited about your journey.
3. Create a dream team of leaders in your company
Okay, so maybe it's too late to name a partner in your business. If you find incredible people who you still want to be part of your company, then seek out a way to get them involved. These are your "dream team" members. They may not own part of your company, but they have a top-level role in which they can support or workshop your big ideas.
4. Trust yourself
You are here for a reason. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses in running a business. It's not supposed to be easy so give yourself a high-five for maintaining the courage to be here. Find support where you falter and run with the wind where you have strengths. You may not have that one person to lean on, but you now have a plethora of people to count on. You are capable and you can most definitely do this.
5. Remember why you're doing this
All too often, we experience intense emotions when we forget why we're doing what we're doing. Take a deep breath and remember why you're here. There's a bigger goal, a bigger dream, and a bigger picture. These experiences are difficult for a reason and when you get in touch with your vision, these hard moments become much more bearable.