The Entrepreneur Chronicles: What I Learned from Starting a Business in One Month


Yes, it was rash. But was it too soon? I argue that it wasn't.

Here's how it happened.

The Entrepreneur Chronicles: What I Learned from Starting a Business in One Month

Back before my days of social media strategist/writer/consultant, I mainly did just one thing: acting. And when I say "mainly" I don't mean like "most of the time." I mean that was what I viewed as my career even though I'd spend anywhere between three months and nine months out of the year not doing the thing I loved. 

During one such period of working survival jobs I got a quirky gig as a princess with a character performing company in Nashville. Yes, I literally dressed up in costumes, brought my own soundtrack and sang Disney songs to sweet little girls wearing plastic tiaras and lip gloss. They loved it. I loved it. Everyone was happy*. :-)

*(Except when I was tasked with portraying Hannah Montana. Couldn't escape the skeptical side eye I got at those parties.)

I moved away from Nashville at the end of 2009 and spent another year performing in dinner theatre (while lightly freelance writing on the side) before embarking on a new parallel path to performing: the business side of show business which led to social media for live experiences which led to grad school which led to launching my full-time freelance career as a writer/social media strategist. All along I was still performing professionally when a good opportunity came along. 

Cut to fall 2014. (5 years since I had retired my glass slippers). It was Halloween. I was the candy passer-outer at our abode. 

And my mind was blown.

*Ding dong.*

Aren't you a pretty Elsa!

*Ding dong.*

Oh! Queen Elsa!

*Ding dong.*

Oh look! Elsa.

I began to feel a bit like Bill Murray in that film about February 2. How many Elsas could come to one door on one night?

That's when ideas began to come together in my mind. Einstein called this "combinatory play"--when you begin to piece together ideas that didn't necessarily originate with you and you create a new idea out of them. 

I set about researching. Were there any princess-type companies in Lynchburg? How about Roanoke? Charlottesville? Was this actually legal to do? (Lucky me--I've got a lawyer sibling!) I had a slew of actress friends who would be perfect to hire. Would they be interested? Available? I could use independent contractors. Pay roll wouldn't be a worry. I had experience performing at princess parties before. I could train the performers. I knew how to create a website. Marketing is my sweet spot. 

So all I needed to know was how to conduct research, make a website, get some friends on board and buy costumes? 

I needed a name. I needed some friends to say it was a good idea. And I needed those costumes by December 7--the date of a big public event where we could make a splash. 

I crunched some numbers and figured out that if all went well I could make back my investment by early March. It was low risk. It was exciting. Why not give it a try? 

Perhaps it wasn't as easy as all that. Did I oversimplify it? Would it have all gone better if I had created a long-term business plan, got funding, launched a perfect product?

The answer is "no." I didn't oversimplify it. You know what would have happened if I hadn't just gone for it?

Nothing at all, dear friends. 

In short, I would've over-thought it. I would've talked myself out of it. But instead, in this instance, in this low-risk instance, I just gave it a shot. What's the worst that could happen? 

I'd be out a grand and I'd fail in front of my friends, family and community. 

Worth the risk.

So on December 7, 2014 Enchanting Entertainment was born. A cool five weeks after the idea popped into my head. 

You may be toying with an idea. You may have a dream passion project or have thought "somebody should really do that." What if it's you? What if you're that somebody?

It may be worth the risk. As one of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin says, "Choose the bigger life"--whatever that means to you. 

Go do it. And sprinkle some fairy dust while you're at it. 

The snow Queen and friends on december 7, 2014

The snow Queen and friends on december 7, 2014

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15 Strategic Questions to Answer to Determine your New Year's Goals (and then nail them.)

I am wildly excited about New Year's.

No, not New Year's Eve, but the new year. The fresh slate. The beginning. The opportunity to make changes and to do life better. 

This week, as things are likely still a bit slow at work, is the ideal time to carve out some you time to reflect on the year behind and strategize about the year ahead.

This year represents 1% or more of your life. It deserves some contemplation and strategy.

As you're thinking about who you want to be and what you want to have accomplished by this time next year, I challenge you to consider these 15 strategic questions. The answers to these questions will help you determine exactly what your goals should be and what you need to do to achieve them. 

So carve out some time on your calendar, grab a moleskin or virtually grab a notepad on your computer, put a pot of coffee on or heat up the kettle and answer these questions. 

15 Strategic Questions that Will Help You Achieve Your New Year's Goals

1. How do you want to be different one year from now? What do you want to have accomplished one year from today?

2. Why do you want to make this change? What is your deeper motivation? 

3. What do you need to do this year to get there? What are the practical steps you need to take?

4. If you could accomplish three specific things this year, what would they be? 

5. Two specific things?

6. One specific thing? 

7. What books do you need to read to help you reach these goals?

8. What podcasts do you need to listen to?

9. What habits are currently a part of your life that don't support your goals? What are some practical ways you can release yourself from those habits? 

10. What habits do you need to adopt?

11. What relationships do you need to cultivate? Who do you need to ask to lunch? 

12. What relationships do you need to step away from? Which friendships in your life are draining, discouraging or are adversarial? 

13. What are all the possible obstacles that may pose problems for achieving your goals? How can you prepare for them in advance? 

14. How can you break down your big year vision into smaller, more manageable goals? What are the practical small goals that add up to your bigger goals?

15. What can you do in the next three months to put yourself closer to your ultimate goal? What can you accomplish in the first quarter of the year to give yourself a winning start to the year?

Nailing your goals starts with determining where you want to be a year from now. Start with the end in mind and zoom out before you zoom in. To reach your goals, determine what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, and what strategies you need to put in place to ensure success.

If you liked this post you may like this one about how to kick the new year in the pants or this one about social media resolutions .

Why I hope you get rejected--and soon.


Well that probably sounds harsh. But it's true. I do hope you get rejected.  The truth is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to fail. Fail hard. Fail big! When I was a teenager my dad handed me the book Failing Forward. In my 15 years of life I didn't know that failure would be coming for me soon and I had to decide how I was going to respond. Before I ever experienced forehead-to-the-pavement failure, I read Napoleon Hill's words: "Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure."

I've put myself on the chopping block a lot as an entrepreneur, freelancer and actor. I've taken risks and I've gotten a lot of "no's." But the beautiful thing is once you've survived a "no" or two, resilience manifests. One day after being rejected you realize, "hey, I'm ok."

That moment of "failing" gives you guts.

Not only does it make you brave, it also gives you a heart for other people. When you've been through something and lived to see the other side you can encourage someone who finds himself in a similar situation in the future. What a gift to be able to encourage someone by identifying with their challenging experiences.

So today I want to encourage you: go for it. Be brave. Risk falling on your butt. Accomplishing big things means taking risks. And let the words of Wayne Gretzky echo in your ears: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

See you out there.

How a new boss can win over existing employees

How to win over employees when you're a new boss
How to win over employees when you're a new boss

One of my favorite interviews I've ever done was with Yvette Donado, the chief administrative officer and senior vice president of people, process, and communications at Educational Testing Service (ETS). If you've ever sat face to face with the GRE, an AP exam, a CLEP test, PRAXIS, or the SAT then you've purchased an ETS product. Donado joined ETS in 2001 as the vice president of human resources. With a president at the helm who had business practices in mind, ETS turned to Donado, a graduate of the Harvard executive MBA program who also has certifications from Wharton, Cornell, and Boston University and experience as a human resources senior vice president with a booming technology start-up.

So what was her strategy upon entering ETS as an outsider?

Donado set out to determine who had the greatest “pain points.” She proposed to serve them first. “Win them over and now you have an advocate. Success breeds success. You will eventually win over those people who are threatened by you. [It is a process of] developing trust and being impeccable with your word,” she says.

Donado’s first principle for transitioning into a new leadership position was to seek to understand the culture of the organization before making any changes. Her aim was to “be respectful of what is.” She advises new executives not to “jump to make many changes before understanding the culture and environment you’ve entered. Listen very carefully. Make changes that people will readily see as good.” Her approach to engaging departments that underperform would make Dale Carnegie proud. “Instead of creating conflict, I negotiated … instead of attacking I went with [an attitude of] service,” Donado says.

Donado leads with an attitude of service and respect. The prudence she exhibited in her early days at ETS has paid off. She began by managing a staff of 30; she now leads more than 500 employees and oversees marketing, public affairs, quality assurance, philanthropy, human resources, process management, government and community relations, and facilities. As part of her facilities oversight, she assures the effective management of ETS’s Chauncey Conference Center located on its 370-acre Princeton campus.

Have you had a great experience with a transition? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Read the full-length version of this article (originally published in Hispanic Executive) here.