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The scary word that determines success

Fortune's Assistant Managing Editor Leigh Gallagher speaks with some of Fortune Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs winners (including Susan Coelius Keplinger) on stage at the 2014 Most Powerful Women Summit.Fortune's Assistant Managing Editor Leigh Gallagher speaks with some of Fortune Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs winners (including Susan Coelius Keplinger) on stage at the 2014 Most Powerful Women Summit.
Fortune's Assistant Managing Editor Leigh Gallagher speaks with some of Fortune Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs winners (including Susan Coelius Keplinger) on stage at the 2014 Most Powerful Women Summit.

Hearing the word “no” isn’t easy. In fact, for a lot of people (myself included) getting told “no” by a boss, colleague or even a friend is an extremely unsettling experience. It makes you feel rejected, worthless and small. Yet learning to take no in stride just might be exactly what determines entrepreneurial success.

On Wednesday during a panel discussion at MPW Next Gen, I’ll speak with three entrepreneurs who may as well have masters’ degrees in rejection.

  • Susan Coelius Keplinger is the co-founder of online ad platform, Triggit. She says she was told “no” by hundreds of investors before getting funding.
  • Meredith Perry, the 25-year-old founder of uBeam, a wireless-charging platform, said last year that she was rejected “by literally hundreds of investors — maybe not hundreds, maybe not literally — but lots of investors.”
  • Rachel Shechtman, the founder of the innovative New York boutique STORY is a fourth-generation entrepreneur. She still had to cobble together money from two friends to build her company before attracting major investor interest.

In the face of adversity, it would have been easier for these women to simply quit (as I am sure many entrepreneurs do). But they didn’t. “I literally feel like I’m bipolar, like, every single day,” Perry told the New York Times, explaining the pressure. “I’ll go from an extreme high, thinking, ‘this is going to be a billion-dollar company,’ to thinking, ‘this is totally going to fail,’ a half an hour later.”

Today, all three founders are running companies that defy traditional norms and disrupt their respective industries. They got there only after industry experts, executives and analysts told them they would never succeed.

“Learning how to be comfortable with risk and failure is really important,” Keplinger has told me. “If you are not comfortable with failure, it can really be so scary.”

To be sure, touting the benefits of learning from failure is not new. In fact, an annual conference for startup founders in Silicon Valley on this very topic (aptly named FailCon) was canceled this year because the organizers thought the subject was passé. But if we all “know” that hearing “no” is an inevitable detour on the unpaved road to entrepreneurial success – why do we all still find it so scary?

That’s one of the questions I hope to explore on Wednesday when I speak with Keplinger, Perry and Shechtman about their respective experiences scaling a business from the ground up. If you have any questions for my panelists, email me at caroline.fairchild@fortune.com and be sure to follow along in our discussion on Twitter with #FortuneMPW starting Wednesday morning at 10:30PST.