Sometimes the greatest successes are born out of failure. In the case of Tonya Dalton--a productivity expert, serial entrepreneur, and founder of inkWELL Press--this couldn't be more accurate. I caught up with Dalton to hear how a $45,000 mistake five years ago ultimately led to her seven-figure business, which sells customizable journals, planners, notepads, and other accessories. This is her story, along with a few takeaways every entrepreneur will benefit from hearing.

The $45,000 mistake

In 2014, Dalton was changing lanes. She had just closed her first business in the hopes of starting a new company centered around her passion for productivity--a topic that is near and dear to my heart. In fact, I was in a situation similar to hers not too long ago.

As many of us have done, she took a leap of faith, starting her new business with a plan but no guaranteed income. She sold her car and scraped together everything she had to secure her first product order. But as most entrepreneurs know, a plan works only until something goes wrong. In this case, her vendor was causing massive problems--her product shipment experienced delay after delay, and she was forced to push back deadlines and alter timelines to keep her business launch a reality.

Eventually, it came to a tipping point. After a heated phone call with her vendor, it was clear that she had only one option if she wanted to save her company: She could pay $4,000 to $5,000 to have her shipment overnighted to meet her final deadline. After some consideration, she took the plunge.

But there was another problem. The vendor quoted the wrong amount over the phone, and when the shipment arrived, it came with a bill of $45,000.

In that moment, she had two options. Refuse to pay and close her business before it started, or take the (massive) hit and put it on her credit card. You can probably guess where this is going.

After failure, the path forward is clear

She took the hit, of course--plunging herself into massive debt before she had even started her new company. At that point, the plan was pretty straightforward: Make the business succeed or go down in flames.

Although terrifying, getting backed into a corner with your business forces you to focus on nothing else but keeping it afloat. I've experienced it in my own business--when my co-founder left with five minutes' notice--and Dalton's $45,000 mistake is a perfect case study.

With no other options, she poured her heart and soul into the launch of her business. On a shoestring budget, she created a series of incredibly successful Facebook ads that ended up bringing her more pre-orders than she ever thought possible. By the time her product launched, she had 500 pre-orders and was out of debt within a few months.

Even better, within 18 months she was officially a seven-figure business, and within 24 months her products were in Office Depot and OfficeMax stores across the country. All thanks to a $45,000 mistake.

Accepting responsibility is the key to overcoming failure

It would have been easy for Dalton to simply blame this incident on her vendor and walk away from her business. But in reality, she had only herself to blame. This happens to entrepreneurs all the time--it's happened to me, and if it hasn't happened yet to you, it will.

One of the most important things a business founder needs to be able to do is accept responsibility after making a mistake. In this case, Dalton owned up to her blunder, paid the $45,000, and made a plan to recover her business. If she had refused to pay because it "wasn't her fault," she probably would have lost her product and the business with it.

If you own the business, you own the failures. Mistakes are bound to happen in any business. The difference between a successful entrepreneur and a failure is how you ultimately choose to act on those mistakes.

Published on: Jun 18, 2019
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