Why Starting A Business Can Be A Lonely Path And What You Can Do About It

A few weeks back, I wrote an article entitled An Introspective Look At How Fear Has Guided My Life. And in the process of writing that post and reading all of the comments, I started thinking about my entrepreneurial journey and all of the challenges that I’ve faced over the years.

Photo By IronRodArt – Royce Bair

It’s funny because looking back, getting our business off the ground was not the hard part. Getting our website up and attracting customers was not that hard either.

The hardest part about running our online store was overcoming the loneliness of the entire process.

Early on, we just didn’t have a good entrepreneurial support group for our online business. While we did have a few close friends help us along the way, most of the time my wife and I felt like we were completely alone.

And despite the success of our online businesses, I still have some lingering memories that I wanted to share with you along with some lessons that I’ve learned over the years.

Your Friends May Not Necessarily Support You

First off, I just want to say that I have really great friends that have provided me with tremendous support over the years. But when my wife and I first started our online store, I always secretly felt that no one really believed in our idea.

Quite honestly, I don’t blame them. Selling wedding linens kind of sounds like a dumb idea. After all, how could you ever sell enough of these to make a decent living? But not believing in someone’s idea and not supporting someone’s idea are 2 completely different things.

Let’s take a look at the MyWifeQuitHerJob.com Facebook fan page as an example. Of the few thousand likes that I currently have, only a paltry 25 come from friends that I’ve known for a long time. What’s even sadder is that of these 25, probably 10 or so are from virtual people that I’ve never even met. (BTW, now’s your chance to like my page below:))



If you ever plan on starting your own business, especially a dumb one like selling wedding linens online, you may not get the level of support that you might expect. In fact, your friends may secretly doubt your business idea and some may even secretly hope that you fail.

People Tend To Stay Within Their Own Comfort Zone

What’s important to realize when you start your own business is that people tend to stick within their comfort zone. So if all of your friends have steady jobs and plan on working the rest of their lives, it’s only human nature for them to secretly doubt you. After all if you end up failing, it just validates that they have chosen the right path.

Of course, I’m generalizing here a little bit but quite honestly, I’m guilty of having these feelings in the past as well. It’s human nature to doubt what is foreign to you. Nobody wants to think that they are missing out on an opportunity and we all have a need to believe that we are making the right choices in life.

So if you plan on diverging from the typical patterns of your social group, I wouldn’t necessarily plan on getting their full support. Here’s a quote from a fellow entrepreneur who left a great comment on an older post.

I’ll tell you one of the things that caught me off guard with our venture was the lack of support we received from a lot of people I was certain would be enthusiastic and supportive of our project.

In all honesty (excluding several members of our immediate family) some of the most supportive people we’ve encountered were complete strangers we’ve met online.

You Might Need To Make New Friends

Every business needs some amount of outside support. And the best way to fill the void is by making new friends that believe in your same ideals and share similar goals. For our ecommerce store, I made many new friends by posting on various business forums. For my blog, I made countless new friends through various social media sites like Stumble Upon and Twitter.

In fact, I could never have gotten to the point where I am today without these people and I’m sincerely thankful to have have met them all. And even though 90% of these relationships have been just virtual, I consider many of them to be good friends. Someday, I plan on traveling the world to meet them all in person but until then, I’m quite happy with a live chat/email based relationship.

Don’t Associate Yourself With The Doubters

If you ever find that you aren’t getting an adequate level of support from the people you hang out with, it’s probably an indication that you need to find a new social group that falls inline with your goals. Your good friends will always be your good friends but constant negativity will gradually seep into your veins and cause you to doubt your current path.

Let’s face it. It’s hard enough as it is to start a business in the first place. You need to be optimistic. You need to be upbeat and you need to have confidence. Because what is ultimately going to get you through it all is persistence.

Once you find the right people, you will know right away. Because all of a sudden, you’ll feel pumped up. You’ll feel energized and you’ll have someone to consult when things don’t go as planned. Find the right support group and you’ll improve your chances of success!

In any case, I just wanted to end this post by thanking my friends(real and virtual) for being there for me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without your support.

BTW, If you are interested in hanging out with other like minded entrepreneurs, you can join hundreds of other students in my Create A Profitable Online Store course. You can listen to other peoples’ experiences on the forums and share your ideas, successes and failures!

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30 thoughts on “Why Starting A Business Can Be A Lonely Path And What You Can Do About It”

  1. Unfortunately this has been my experience too – my friends and family think its crazy for me to start a business of my own when my profession and training provide me a decent living. But I want the independence and its always been a dream of mine to have my own business. I guess I need to find some new friends!

    1. Hey Tracey
      To this day, my mom still thinks it’s crazy that both our online store and my blog can possibly make any money at all. Gradually, she’s coming to terms that it hasn’t all been a big fluke so I feel your pain:)

  2. Hey, Steve. You know that the only thing that keeps me sane during the day is being able to share my random thoughts online around our virtual watercooler. :)

    Even after years of success, and feeling like a “big deal” in my own little professional bubble, the people around me can’t believe that what I do online is serious, and that it constitutes a “real” business. Most of them have been reminded more than once that I am the primary bread winner in my family.

    This probably one of the big reasons that so many of my friends are now online.

    1. Hey Miranda,
      Yeah. You definitely are one of the virtual friends that I mentioned in the article. Actually now that we’ve met in person, we’re technically no longer virtual right?

  3. Hit the nail right on the head. It is human nature to seek validation for the path you have chosen in life. There are a lot more people who have jobs, then those that have successful businesses, so support will naturally be limited. I have found that many support my business when it is convenient, but will do little to help me where it is really needed (such as reposting/tweeting and liking/commenting on my pages).

    However, on the flip side, this forces you as a business owner to dig your heels in and seek out those that find value in your business. Sometimes i wonder if that is more important then friendly support. After all, if a person truly finds value in your business, then they will support you unquestionably b/c if they found value, they believe others will as well.

    In short, I guess while friendly support is always a confidence boost, the real support you need is finding those customers who truly appreciate the value your business offers.

    Great article once again!!

    1. Hey Pete,
      I’ve experienced the exact same thing. What’s ironic is that now that we’re doing well, we’ve been getting a lot more interest and questions from friends on how to start their own businesses as well.

      The best support that I’ve received has come from other entrepreneurs because they understand all of the ups and downs and can relate to the situation

  4. An entrepreneur is a lonely path at many levels. You are doing in many cases what others say can’t or shouldn’t be done. You are going against the grain of what most others think. I’ve learned it’s best to take their opinions and validate/invalidate them. Meaning what experiences do they have to back up their claim? Meaning when they say don’t start a business – have they themselves started a business? If the answer is no, then their opinion for the most part is meaningless.

    I’ve seen this with owning rental properties. Many say: “Don’t own a rental property. You’ll get the 3AM call to fix the toilet.” That rarely happens, if ever. There are much bigger issue when owning a rental property that others completely miss as real potential issues.

    so what I am trying to say is: You’ll get opinion from others whether you like it our not. Only take in the opinions that matter.

    1. These days, I tend to discount people’s opinions unless they have something to back it up. There’s a lot of FUD out there about starting a business that the media has propagated over the years and I’ve found that people who are not in the know continue to spread fear and lies.

      I’ve heard horror stories about renting properties as well, but all of my friends who are landlords have had good experiences thus far.

  5. Guess what Steve? You’ve been my only “friend” during this period of getting my business up and running. I don’t know anyone else in the real world that I could bounce ideas off of, or who would understand and encourage me. THANK YOU STEVE!!!!

    1. Hey Nicole
      I’ve been meaning to follow up with you. How is your online store doing?

      1. It’s doing very well, thanks! There’s always room for improvement, but I’m very pleased with how things are going so far.

  6. I know the feeling! However, I agree with Pete that it forces you to seek new friends. I have “met” some great folks through my ventures. When your business turns out successful, those who didn’t believe in you when you started now want to learn how you do things.

    1. Hey Ray,
      You’re welcome. Naturally I’m assuming that these “great folks” includes myself:) Great book cover btw.

  7. Funny timing, as I blogged about celebrating my second anniversary of building my own business yesterday (Linked as my website address).

    I didn’t really tackle the loneliness aspect, but it’s certainly a part of doing anything outside the perceived ‘norm’, and especially as I don’t live in one of the big cities in the UK.

    Besides constantly connecting online with various people, and also investing in Spotify Premium to provide background music, I actually decided to be a bit proactive, and started a geek meetup group.

    When I went along to the pub for the first ‘Digital People in Peterborough’ meetup, I really thought it’d be me and maybe 1 or 2 friends. Actually 10 people turned up and that grew to about 30-40 within the first year… All local geeks, and the majority are either running or working for small businesses.

    1. Hey Dan,
      Great to hear from you! I think it’s awesome that you have a regular local meetup with other like minded entrepreneurs. I really should try to attend more of those in my city as well. I just recently attended my first blog conference and had a blast!

      Heading over to read your post now.

  8. I think it’s a lonely path because, let’s face it, most entrepreneurs fail and so they’d rather not tell everyone for fear of it not working out.

    Finding a new support group of like-minded people in your niche is key because you’ll feel much more comfortable sharing ideas, successes and failures.

    Most of my real life friends don’t even know about my side business, but I didn’t really seek out their support either.

    Of course, when your venture becomes successful it’s much easier to tell your friends about it at that point.

    1. Robb,
      Are you telling me that none of your coworkers know about your blog? Don’t they get suspicious when they see you writing an article or suddenly bursting out laughing in front of your monitor?

  9. When you start your own business, you are a full-time marketer. Others who have a “job” (meaning they have a single client that they think is secure) don’t have any patience for someone who is talking up their business or keeping their eyes open for leads.

    1. I still don’t consider myself a marketer, but I suppose you are right. Engineering and marketing typically don’t mix together but it’s a necessary skill.

  10. Carla Fourtunia says:

    Hi Steve! Do you have an article or some tips on how to make money blogging?
    thanks

    1. Hey Carla
      I usually don’t write about blogging because there are so many other blogs out there that do it already. If you have anything specific that you would like me to write about, I’ll consider it.

      1. Carla Fourtunia says:

        Hi Steve, I know there are another blog, but I really like the way you write, easy and explaining step by step. I’m a huge fan of your blog.

        If (just if) you can write an article about how you make money with your blog, about Google Adsense and another things you can add to your blog that you can money with. I have one (not in English) and I’d like to know more on how I could make money with it.

  11. It definitely can be lonely. There are times around family and friends when they talk about their jobs and my experiences just don’t relate the same.

    1. Yeah, right now I have the best of both worlds so I can relate to both parties. But if I ever decide to quit, I might eventually feel like an outsider. If only I could get all of my friends to quit too…

  12. Yeah, it is lonely. What I have found the hardest is that I can’t really get advice or feedback from my “real-life” friends — they have no idea what it’s like to start a business, especially online. So I have found great support from you Steve, and the others in your course, as well as other forums I am a part of. It’s just so reassuring to talk to others who get what you’re trying to do and don’t think you’re crazy :). And also, it feels like it might even be an achievable dream, whereas most people out there are spewing out how 99% of businesses fail, etc, which is not helpful at all.

    1. Hey Mariana,
      Based on what I’ve seen so far, you are a very driven person and I know you’ll succeed. After all, you launched your shop in such a short time that I was really impressed.

  13. This is definitely one of the bonuses of joining your course. I’m excited to contribute to the community in there and gain from it as well.

    1. I’m glad to have you in the class as well Denny!

  14. While I agree that the entrepreneurial path is lonely and arduous, it doesn’t have to be that way. I think building a solid network of supporters with variety of background is key to success for entrepreneurs and small business owners. First and foremost, you need to have a mentor, who believes in you and is willing to spend time with you. In addition you need other folks who can help and guide in different areas of your business such as customer rep, accountant, lawyer, technical geek and finally, and most important, family support.

    I wrote an article on why this network is key to success on my blog. You can find additional details here – http://www.smallbizviewpoints.com/2012/07/22/why-a-solid-network-is-a-key-to-small-business-success/

  15. I decided right from the beginning that I will tell few friends or family members about my online venture, because I felt that if I bore the expectation that I will be able to garner support I will be sorely disappointed.

    My hunch has turned out true, because even when I told those few what my occupation is, the look of disdain on their faces was so disheartening. One even told me haughtily in the face that she did not trust online shops because she thought their product quality is far inferior to those found in physical retail stores. And then she went on to name some high-street fashion names.

    My best support so far has come from good suppliers and ME. But I am growing to like this website very much, because I can find some encouragement not only through Steve’s postings but also what others write about.

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