This past week had us at one of our most favorite events of the year - the annual WARF UpStart Alumni dinner. We’re graduates of this free entrepreneurship program for women and people of color, and the very first iterations of THE JILLS OF ALL TRADES™ came to fruition while we drafted and revised our Business Model Canvas throughout this 10 week program.
UpStart was an important step into entrepreneurship for us.
We learned about resources throughout the city of Madison that could help us. We were provided with the necessary tools to move our ideas from thoughts to implementable plans. We had dedicated time each week to work with an amazing coach and now Director of the SBDC at UW-Madison, Michelle Somes-Booher who guided and encouraged us. We connected with our first community of entrepreneurs and got practice pitching our idea publically. And we courageously entered into a continuous process of soliciting feedback to develop our business.
UpStart was critical to us. And we have always recognized this.
But it wasn’t until this week’s alumni dinner, when Jasmine Banks an UpStart Alum, Founder of Perfect Imperfections and guest speaker at this week’s dinner said “Upstart gave me permission to dream big”, that we fully understood UpStart’s impact on us and on so many others.
UpStart gave each of us permission to see ourselves differently. We were encouraged to move forward without being patronized, and we were taken seriously. And the impact of this was made so clear by Jasmine’s articulate and poignant comment and by the audience’s powerful response.
Too often as women, as minorities, as the marginalized in both corporate and entrepreneurial scenes, we do not see an entry point, a path, or even a place for us. It is not a world we often inhabit, and we therefore very often can’t even imagine ourselves in these roles. We don’t know what we don’t know, and UpStart allowed us a seat at the table to invent and re-invent, imagine and re-imagine, to seek dreams, think big, and make mistakes. All critical pieces in an entrepreneurial journey.
And although we will be grateful to everything that UpStart provided for us, and for the other 213 alum, upon reflection, it seems so important to recognize that, yes, we need and cherish resources like UpStart, but to also see that we don’t, however, need anyone’s permission to become an entrepreneur. We do not need anyone’s approval. We don’t need to fit into any mold. We can be entrepreneurs if we want to be, even if we don’t see others like us at the table. And even when the table seems full, we most definitely do not need anyone’s permission to bring our own chair and have a seat . The table is not full.
Now it is so true, that we need resources. We need community. We need mentors. We need cheerleaders. We need amplification. We need access. Absolutely.
But we do not need permission. That is the gift that we can grant ourselves.
So to each and everyone one of you spinning on an idea, cooking up something in your kitchen, building, teaching, making and doing, grant yourself permission right now to believe you absolutely can be the founder of a business that disrupts, builds, delights, empowers, matters and betters life for all of us.