If you're an entrepreneur, a time is going to come when your back is up against a wall. When you're under pressure to deliver. When you feel an ungodly amount of stress. When you might be down to your very last dime. If you're anything like me, there won't just be a time like this, but several.
Looking back, I've done my best work when I've been up against the ropes. When I absolutely had to perform--in some cases, to meet my basic needs, like eating and paying rent. For me, getting a job was never Plan B. I never thought that route was in the cards for me. That sounds dramatic, but I'm being honest. I dropped out of college, needing only three units to graduate. And although I had loved studying sculpture, my skills weren't exactly marketable. With no discernable job prospects in sight, I decided I would have to create my own. So I taught myself how to sew soft sculptures and began selling them at state fairs and art shows up and down the state of California.
Later on in my career, when I had three children, a mortgage, an employee, and royalties from an idea I had licensed had begun to dry up, I had to reinvent myself again. So I did. I created a new business in a new industry, which I later sold for profit.
That's why I'm of the opinion that having your back up against a wall is far from a bad thing. It's simply a test. It's a time for you to dig in your heels, get creative, develop a plan, find a way to believe in yourself, and move forward quickly. After all, our job as entrepreneurs is pretty simple: To create a product or a service that people want and that will ultimately generate revenue. You can take all the time you want, but why would you?
An upcoming competition in Kansas City--which, full disclosure, I will be speaking at--perfectly encapsulates this reality. Teams participating in Make48 have just two days to design a product idea that consumers will want to buy. And unlike a startup weekend or a hackathon, they are required to produce a physical looks-like works-like prototype. Winning teams will receive cash prizes, support for a crowdfunding campaign, and licensing consideration from the event's title sponsor, Handy Camel.
In order to win, competitors will have to bring it all together. I love that. Because it's true! Entrepreneurs face the same challenge daily. There's no time to lose.
Curt McMillan, president of the Inventors Center of Kansas City--host of the event--told me that he hopes the competition inspires and educates would-be tinkerers and creative types.
"I think a lot of people are landlocked with their great ideas. They don't know how to bring them to life. It might be a financial issue, or a lack of knowing whom to turn to. There's a bridge, and they don't know how to cross it. We want to show them how it can be done, " he explained.
To create their prototypes, teams will have an arsenal of tools, materials, and experts on hand at their disposal.
"A lot of people don't understand what's available to them in terms of tools and technology, like 3-D printers and laser cutters. That knowledge is powerful. We want to show people that it's possible to do all of this--dream, invent, and pitch--in a short amount of time," he said. "We want people to feel like there's no reason they can't get up and start cranking something out."
McMillan's intention is to recreate the event in other cities across America, and possibly even internationally. I, for one, hope he succeeds.