“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.”
This definition of entrepreneurship, coined by Howard Stevenson of Harvard Business School, deeply resonates with me. Starting a business is filled with excitement, drive, and passion. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to start your own business, or maybe it fell into your lap. Either way, you’ve thought of an idea, and you have the drive to make it a reality. This pursuit feels all-encompassing as you build out your business plan, furiously sketch ideas in a notebook in the middle of the night, and ask your friends for their opinion at every opportunity.
And then, the “beyond resources controlled,” part of the definition comes into play. All of a sudden, you realize how much of starting a business is truly out of your control. So much of the early success for Pack Up + Go felt left to chance. We were incredibly fortunate to have had a feature on Business Insider, followed by articles posted on Thrillist, a feature on NBC Nightly News, and more. While a lot of our early exposure was lucky, our team simultaneously put in an incredible amount of work to build the brand to deliver, but a lot of the company’s growth felt like it was left up to chance.
As an entrepreneur building a company in a smaller city, it also felt isolating. While we have a community here in Pittsburgh, the network is inherently smaller than in New York or Silicon Valley. When you’re part of a small team, it is easy to get caught up in the day to day grind of the business and can be difficult to take the space to grow as an entrepreneur. When I heard about the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program, I knew I needed to apply. The Fellows Program is a week of programming that is, “designed for women entrepreneurs - providing the community of support you need to connect, learn, and grow your business.” Fifty women from across the country from a wide range of industries were selected to participate, and I was fortunate to be one of them.
Summer is our busiest season at Pack Up + Go, so I was nervous and felt guilty about leaving the office for a week. However, I quickly realized that this was an amazing investment in the company. For the past 3.5 years, I’ve always said that “I don’t know what I don’t know” about running a successful company. Having started Pack Up + Go at 23 years old, I lacked experience as a manager and had to learn a lot about starting a business on the fly.
Investing time and focus on learning from professionals across a wide range of industries was truly invaluable. From daily mindfulness sessions with Carmen Morcos, to workshops with Kelly Hoey on building a network, to learning about connecting with your audience with Seth Godin, to judgement-free Q&A sessions on fundraising, no questions were off-limits and no judgement was passed. We had the opportunity to talk with Tory Burch about her journey as an entrepreneur, and gain incredible insight from her experience. Since launching her brand in 2004, her goal has always been to build a business in order to fund a foundation with the mission of supporting women in business.
It was truly inspiring to be a part of this foundation’s community, and some of the best learning experiences came from the other Fellows. Even though we work across a wide range of industries, so many of our experiences and challenges were universal. It’s both humbling and refreshing to remember that entrepreneurship is challenging to everyone in different ways, but that I’m not as alone in the journey as I sometimes feel. We were all ready to celebrate our successes and offer solutions to problems. The staff of the Foundation, the quality of the speakers, and the support of the forty-nine other Fellows made this a truly incredible week. I left the program feeling completely rejuvenated and inspired with a notebook full of to-dos, lists of books to read, and goals to reach. Since the program, all of the Fellows have stayed in touch to create partnerships, share insight, pass along opportunities, and promote each others’ businesses. The road to entrepreneurship can feel lonely and isolating, but it doesn’t have to. Finding a collaborative community, and allowing myself the time and space to learn was one of the best things I’ve done for myself since starting a company.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Foundation or the Fellows Program, you can read more about it here!