It’s a crazy thing for most people, this whole “I want to start my own company” business. There’s no steady paycheck, no set framework for how to build it, and a huge risk that all of it will come crashing down. But for those of us bitten by the entrepreneur bug, all of that is worth it.
With zero interest in the typical path, I left a college scholarship in the dust to pursue my passions. Following a two-year stint in European pro hockey and the longest two weeks of my life in software sales, I started TruEnergy, an energy shot for athletes. Despite graduating from two accelerators, launching a successful crowdfunding campaign, raising capital from VCs and angels, and landing a pilot with a Fortune 500 company, I’m not swimming in cash. I sleep in a converted bedroom within a gym, babysit on the side, and coach tennis to 5-year-olds. Most people don’t seem to get it, but many entrepreneurs will tell you that is just a part of the game.
-- Cathy Hughes, founder of Radio One, lived in a radio studio with her son to save money on rent
-- Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, built her business while selling fax machines on the side
-- Elon Musk slept in an office with his brother while they built their first Internet startup
Monotony is not what we’re about. While it may freak others out to break into the unknown, we actually enjoy it. We like having to figure out how to build something, how to do something better than what’s been done before. I have been in credit card debt, seen my personal bank account flirt with empty more times than I can count, and skipped out on fun events with friends because I’m working 18-hour days.
Entrepreneurs make decisions that other people don’t understand; in my case, the decision to leave the traditional college path was one of them. These days, I think college reads more like a vacation -- have the best four years of your life with an all-inclusive resort-style getaway in a city of your choosing with a group of 18 to 24-year-olds. While it’s true that the unemployment rate among college grads is lower than among those without a degree, the costs aren’t necessarily worth it: the average Class of 2016 graduate has more than $37,000 in loan debt. Meanwhile, 32% of the world’s billionaires are college dropouts.
The rate of startup failure is high. We know that. But if you want to make a difference, solve a problem, do things a better way, the price of not trying seems like the biggest risk of all.
– Jack McNamara is the founder and CEO of TruEnergy