The Entrepreneurial Ledge
Nov 20 2008

I had to talk myself off the entrepreneurial ledge yesterday.  Of course there is the often publicized glamour of entrepreneurship and then there is the unsung story of the not so glamorous side.  I think most entrepreneurs are a little bit neurotic, myself included, so when I heard that the first company I was founding CEO of officially shut down recently, I entered a state of…well I still haven’t figured out what state that is.  

The company was alive for 11 years.  For 11 years it provided experience, salaries, products and services to employees and customers.  I left in 2001 and my husband, Erin, who was the CTO left in 2003, and we have had nothing to do with the day to day operations since.  But the profound affect it has had on me cannot be reduced to mere words.  In many ways, it was like my first child (without the diaper changing).  It was a difficult parting of ways for me both personally and professionally.  

I knew a few good people who were still there and through the years they have reached out to me to help them find another job or share their experiences about working there.  Good people came and went.  Some bad ones came and went and some bad ones stayed, but overwhelmingly greatness was among us.  I heard about the company shutting down a few weeks ago but just mentioned it to a group of college friends on an email group I’ve been a part of since 1995 (pre-social networking sites for people who love mushrooms, pre-blogging, pre-twitter).  I had convinced one of the guy’s in the group to join us for the journey and he replied by saying this: 

Aruni – I know I’ve poked at you and Isochron since I left but I have to say it was the best business class I could have taken. This piece of Oil Field Trash was polished quite a bit while in Austin. I do want to thank you and Erin for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it. From that trial I learned sooooo much. I’m not sure I ever put it together sufficiently for you guys to know what the experience meant for me. Thanks! You and Erin were a rock I could depend on during my time in Austin as well. It meant a lot.

When I read his note on my phone before going in to an invitation only IBM Women Entrepreneur’s Webcast event held at IBM, the flood gates cracked a little.  I was sitting in my car in the parking lot so I had to pull myself together and go in.  The rest of the day I was on edge and I still am. 

I had to walk into my day job after the IBM Webcast and deal with bureaucracy, with people wanting 5 approvals to get something done, with collections, with employee allocations, and with being extremely underpaid because I’m doing much more than I was hired to do.  I had to suspend reality to make it through the day.   I repeated to myself “floodgates don’t open at work” over and over.  If I was a man and punched the wall, it would be more acceptable.  I had a “What am I doing with my life?” moment.  I had a “I’m working for ‘the man,’ I have two kids, I’ve been married for 7 years, we have a house and car payment, I have to keep our insurance benefits, our savings have sunk due to the crazy economic situation, and I feel trapped” moment. 

I had already committed to guest lecture at an executive MBA class yesterday evening so I went in not knowing what would come out of my mouth.  I shared the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and received several questions about Babble Soft and my day job.  I was surprised at how calm I felt giving my talk given the emotional roller coaster I had been riding all day.  One of the students took my card and said he wanted to see if he could help me get introduced to someone for a possible opportunity for Babble Soft.

I also happened to receive an email through facebook from one of my former students (I taught entrepreneurship at The University of Texas at Austin) who happens to be expecting a baby.  He sent me a link to a new book by Randy Komisar who wrote The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living (a book I made required reading in my class) called This I Believe.  Komisar writes about the Deferred Life Plan and how we make excuses about not doing what we want to do and putting off things until the time is right.

So despite all of that, I talked myself off the entrepreneurial ledge because I live in the real world.  The real world is where I have two beautiful children who smile and laugh.  A world where I tell my son after he ate a big dinner tonight that he was a ‘hungry hippo’ and he immediately replies and says in a comedian (trying to make his voice sound deep) tone “There’s a Hungry Hippo in the House!”  My daughter laughs, and I look at him with a smile on my face and know instantly he got his sense of humor from me. 8)

[Hippo photo by my friend Sandy Blanchard]

So I take solace from some words my day job boss told me the other day.  When I asked him why he wanted to hire me he said ‘because he heard I was a natural entrepreneur and he wanted one on staff.’  When I thought about those words later in the day, my soul said ‘thank you grandpa’ because he is who I gained my natural entrepreneurial tendencies from…I just happen to be a woman girl.

I hope both my children will be able to express themselves throughout their lives in ways I was never able to in the past but aspire to in the future.

Author: | Filed under: blogging, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, social networks, working mother | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Social Media Mania – What’s A Gal To Do?
Dec 13 2007

Wendy at eMoms at Home did a post recently where she asked her readers “How do you Use Social Media to Promote Your Business?”  I didn’t have time to answer then and I’m sure I missed out on the free books, which is OK because I never seem to have time to read any books these days.  I’ve had a few days off from software testing, so I figured I’d do a post about it.

There are so many aspects to social media that it’s tough for an entrepreneur to keep up.  I mean we still have to sleep!  Fortunately, I’m fairly social.  I mentioned on a post that Liz Strauss did recently called Business and Life: Are You Making the Most of the Conversation? that “I am a Participant, rarely a Lurker, and often a Listener.”

It is fun making friends all over the world and it’s easy to be social from behind your computer when it fits with your schedule.  In the past I resisted joining sites like facebook because of the time commitment

To do a social network right, I figure it means committing significant time to it.  When you are launching a start-up, planning to raise funds, taking care of kids, maintaining a house, etc., it’s not easy to be as active as one should be in these networks over time.  But so far it’s been fascinating to see how other people interact with the networks.  I mean can you believe that facebook has over 55 million users all over the world?  That is amazing!  So here’s what I’ve done and what I’ve observed:

I started this blog (it had a different name before) with the help of Connie Reece. She gave me the kick start I needed! I think I did my first post back in May 2007. The blog has been fun and I know it has driven some additional traffic to my company site, Babble Soft, but to date I haven’t seen that it’s resulted in more than just a few additional sales. As a result of having a blog, I joined MyBlogLog, FeedBurner, Technorati, StumbleUpon, Digg, and BlogHer. Wendy was also kind enough to invite me to join the Home Business & Entrepreneur FeedBurner Ad Network. I haven’t made much money from these particular ad networks (maybe in total $100) but it has given me exposure to other bloggers and made me aware of other businesses.

I entered some competitions to hopefully win prizes and get additional exposure. I can’t remember all of them but I know I did one at Alpha Moms and I just entered Intuit’s Just Start challenge where I have the potential to win $50K for my business! The ‘vote for me’ widget will be on the right hand side of my blog until shortly after their voting deadline of December 16. After I sent an email to some friends asking if they would vote for me, I found out that people had to log in to do so. Knowing how much I hate to create unnecessary logins, my guess is that I won’t win on votes, but I might win in the unique idea category and because we have jokingly referred to our Baby Insights application as “Quicken for Baby.” :-)

I have participated in some blog memes: 8 Random Things About Me and Blogging Tip Meme. Neena just tagged me again for a My Favorite Words theme. Memes give you exposure but they are time consuming so I think after doing this last meme, I will have to put a notice somewhere to let people know not to tag me unless they let me know first because I would hate to leave a meme go unanswered. I’m answering the Favorite Word meme by bolding my favorite words in this post (in case you were wondering why some of the words are in bold text). Isabella at Change Therapy I hope that’s OK with you! What do these words say about me? I guess that I’m a driven, committed, somewhat zany, looking to learn, searching for connection/peace, sleep deprived, mom-ified, and sometimes creative.

I joined LinkedIn. I’ve found LinkedIn to be useful for business related networking…for answers to specific questions. I haven’t yet established a deal or attempted to look for employees there which I hear is what it’s meant for. I’ve been able to answer a few questions on LinkedIn but I don’t think I’ve contributed to the increase of anyone’s business yet.

I joined facebook. Mostly to learn from the king of social networking sites. I may do some targeted ads there some day when time and money permit.  I also set up a company page on facebook for Babble Soft.

I engaged a full service SEO/SEM firm.

I just joined twitter. I even added the little widget to my sidebar, and I integrated it with facebook. I really resisted joining twitter. I had no idea why anyone would be interested in my day to day activities. More importantly I didn’t think I would be interested in anyone else’s day to day activities! I already have about 20 followers. You may be wondering what pushed me over the edge and made me join twitter…well it was the Duran Duran concert I attended earlier this week. I was there and I suddenly thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if I could tell my friends and random strangers about the fact I’m at this cool concert?’ and then all of a sudden I “got” twitter! Will it result in additional business? I’m not sure. Time will tell.

I have not yet joined MySpace or YouTube (but I’ve been to the site many times).  If I had to guess, I will probably join YouTube before MySpace, but first I need to create some videos!

Overall, I think I’m still at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to building a powerful online network and I’m a little bit afraid of getting in too deep and getting stuck in a networking hole somewhere.  I’m not sure if that makes sense to anyone, but it’s a fear I face nonetheless.  Maybe I’ll find peace there instead.

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, blogging, competition, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, feedburner, networking, seo, social networks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Babble Soft on facebook – Please ‘Fan’ Us (Pretty Please?)
Dec 1 2007

As I mentioned in a previous post (that Robert Scoble himself commented on!) I finally set up my own personal facebook account.  After reading a post by Fred Wilson (the big-wig NY venture capitalist) about people setting up fake company facebook pages, I figured I should act quickly and add a Babble Soft page…before some ‘bad guys’ (as my 5 year old would say) decided to co-opt a parent/baby related site that hardly anyone knows about and make it their own on facebook [insert sarcastic chuckle here].  If you’d like to become a fan of Babble Soft it would make me ever so happy if you would click here.

I wouldn’t have been able to set up the Babble Soft page as quickly as I did without some links and support from Lee Aase.  He showed me how to add Simply RSS and how to import Notes (blog posts) into both pages.  Thanks Lee!

Now for a screenshot of the Babble Soft facebook page that is so new that it’s screaming please become a fan of my site… :-)

facebook-babblesoft.gif

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, FYI, networking, social networks | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »