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The Ugly Truth: Startups Are Awful

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When someone asks what I do and I say I own my own business, I get mixed reactions. Most people say “Oh wow, that’s awesome!” Others begin to question what I do, and most assume I am part of your standard, run-of-the-mill MLM scheme.

Let me tell you two things: it’s not awesome, and I don’t do ponzies.

Let me explain to you why it’s not awesome. Running your own company may sound cool, but that’s only if it’s successful. And that success sure as hell doesn’t happen overnight. That means you now have a startup company. What do startups mean? You don’t always get paid. That’s right. The company itself has to make money to cover overhead, and only then, if you’re lucky, you get paid yourself. You’re slaving away, holding on to this hope that your hard work will eventually have you rolling in money like some 90’s Dr. Dre music video. 

And the chances of your company failing are staggeringly high. That’s the brutal truth. Let me give you some real-world numbers here. The failure rate of all U.S. companies after five years is over 50 percent and over 70 percent after 10 years. Sounds promising, right?

Let’s begin with the 1st startup company I had the pleasure of working for.

Let’s just say it was rough. Like sandpaper. Almost all of the employees weren’t getting paid. All of them were putting in insane hours to meet deadlines and pull their own weight. Within that startup company, we had branches of different businesses, and each one of them failed. Slowly. It was this long, circle pattern of constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul. While I was one of the lucky ones who generally got paid, even if it wasn’t on time, my methods of getting paid were scattered, to say the least. Cash App, Venmo, oh and let’s not forget the lovely paper checks that bounced out of my account within 48 hours of deposit. ….Just in time for all of my bills to bounce along with it. Ah, those times were fun. 

I eventually left said company to branch out on my own with 2 business partners, with high hopes and expectations.

Let’s just say….it could’ve gone better. To start a company, you need money. You put in said money in hopes of getting it back and then some. When the profits don’t come to cover the money that was originally put in and you have no other means of dumping in MORE money, the business essentially dies. No money, no business. We also had some super amazing pitches and a solid business plan, but due to the ever-changing market we were in, those opportunities died right when we were ready to seize them.

“When you wish upon a star you’re actually a few million years late. The star is dead. Just like your dreams.”

During the period where the company is dying, no one wants to let go of their dreams and accept the reality of what’s happening. Within this particular time, there is tension. And I don’t mean “Oh no, Brenda is having a case of the Mondays”, I mean tension. As in FIGHTING. Constantly. No one agrees on anything, everyone has their version of how to fix the company, everyone is under financial stress due to….oh, I don’t know….not getting paid. 

kicked the bucket, gave up the ghost, deceased, dead

The company officially being declared dead generally doesn’t end well. It’s usually an overnight decision, and “employees” usually get a, “Oh hey, you don’t have a job anymore.” Meaning, you’ll get paid the same (nothing), but you no longer have to slave for us and sacrifice your home life and mental well-being. Congrats.

The aftermath 

Not only is the company dead, but you then find yourself and/or the investor in the company, in a ton of debt that cannot be re-paid. It’s like the business version of Hiroshima. The dust settles, and everyone is like, now what?

Scamper to find a job. Scamper to pick up the pieces. Scamper to tell your friends and family that your business failed so they can insist on picking up the dinner check while saying things like “Oh no sweetie, I got this. You don’t have a job.” Thanks, Mom.

It’s all fun and games till Jessi runs out of money.

All of it is just utterly horrible and you’ll never recover…..right?


Having a startup company teaches you a lot about life. When you’re ready to do it again, you will. Because you know what you’ll do differently. Choose a different investor, market your business on contrasting platforms or avenues, allocate funds differently. Depending on your startup situation, chances are you probably learned to be more cautious and less trusting of other people. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Business partnerships in themselves will teach you a lot about life. And that’s all it is. A lesson. With certain people that happen to be your teachers. 

Lessons learned

The amount of knowledge and wisdom gained from a startup will take you places you can’t even imagine, my friend. The cliche, “one door closes, another opens” is a real thing. That company failed because you were destined for something greater. And whatever you do, don’t hold on to bitterness or hard feelings over it. Harboring anger and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. You’re only hurting yourself.

Truth bomb

The next thing I’m about to say will most likely make you angry. You’ll probably argue with me out loud. But it’s the truth. YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM. Yes, you read that right. Read it again. You’re NOT a victim. You can argue with me until you’re blue in the face. “But it’s this person’s fault!” No. Just no. The reality is, every choice that YOU made led you to where YOU are now. That includes the downfall of your business or your involvement with a startup.

That’s a hard pill to swallow, I get it. Deflection is great but you should try accountability sometime. It’s a real eye-opener. The sooner you choose to live accountably, the sooner you can choose acceptance and give yourself the ability to move on. 

“Where you movin?” I said, “On to better things.”

Remember why you got into a startup in the first place. The chance to put energy into building YOUR dream instead of someone else’s. The freedom of creating your own schedule. The ability to be your own boss. The choice to work in your pajamas all day or never put on pants. **Disclosure: I am NOT saying go jump on the MLM train. In fact, please, for the love of everything that is holy, don’t do that.** All I’m saying is that whatever your motivation is, remember it. And…


About anything. That’s the best advice I’ve ever been given. If you don’t have anything to be excited about right now, find something. And remember: there is something about owning our own failures that gives us the keys to succeed.

So get up, dust yourself off, straighten that crown, and move on.


8 Responses

  1. Startups and owning your own business is certainly a path that isn’t for everyone. It’s a roller coaster of emotions as you deal with the highs and the lows along the way. However, if the highs are enough to outweigh the lows when all is said and done, then you know that you came out ahead!

  2. This was interesting to read because I was thinking of working with a start-up company or a small business. I didn’t realize the stress and countless hours that are needed to get a business up and running. Thank you for the helpful insight!

    Erika Marie |

    1. It is a ton of work but it’s also so worth it! Don’t let my post scare you off too much! haha

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