Pete the Cat, the Entrepreneur?
If you’ve raised or are raising young children, you’re probably familiar with more children’s books and television shows than you ever thought possible. You also know what a gift it is to find a book or show that entertains both you and your little one.
One of the benefits of becoming a toddler mom very late in life is having a more mature vantage point when it comes to some of the children’s content that’s available these days. And I’ll admit, oftentimes this vantage point is influenced by the work our firm does every day with entrepreneurs and small business owners.
So, as you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised when I recently found myself gleaning nuggets of entrepreneurial wisdom from my two-year-old’s favorite episode of Pete the Cat on Amazon Prime. (Yes, the same Pete the Cat from the book series that’s become wildly popular in the last 15 years or so.)
Whether you know Pete the Cat or have never had the pleasure, I think anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit can appreciate the lessons Pete espouses in “Dream Melody.”
For those who aren’t familiar, Pete the Cat debuted in 2008 in the children’s book, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. Today, there are more than 70 Pete the Cat books in circulation, many of which have become New York Times bestsellers. Meanwhile, Amazon created the original series Pete the Cat in 2017 based on the best-selling book series.
(At the risk of getting off track, Pete the Cat’s creator James Dean is from Atlanta. The story of his entrepreneurial journey will likely resonate with anyone trying to chart their own course.)
In Pete the Cat, “Dream Melody,” Pete has a dream during which he conjures up The. Perfect. Song. He dashes out the melody and lyrics onto paper while his vision is fresh.
Sadly, the sheet of paper blows away before he and his friends can play it as a band. Despite the bandmates’ creative problem-solving attempts to recover the paper as it blows farther out of reach, the song sheet ultimately lands on a neighbor’s lawn and gets shredded by their lawnmower, never to be seen again.
But the episode doesn’t end there. Undeterred by the setback, each one of Pete’s pals helps propel him to a new iteration of his dream song. Together, the band writes an even better song with an inspiring message to “follow your dreams wherever they may lead.” The song’s message is clear: no matter what you set out to do, the journey is more important than the destination.
The Entrepreneur’s Journey
I believe anyone who has set out on their own to start a business or side hustle can relate to Pete’s song lyrics. The path to success is never linear; you must be open to the twists, turns, and setbacks along the way. Indeed, the unpredictability of the journey is what makes an adventure great.
As a longstanding corporate citizen who’s always dreamed of having my own business, I know how daunting it can be to blaze a new trail. Yet last year I finally worked up the courage to start a small business of my own—a med spa.
One thing I’ve learned is that you need to be a little bit crazy to be a business owner given the stress levels it entails! I must be crazier than most since I still have a full-time job that I love and a toddler at home in addition to my new enterprise. And at 45, I have a lot less energy than I did 15 years ago when I first dreamed of starting a business.
Nevertheless, I’ve enjoyed success in the corporate world and plenty of time to study the ins and outs of business ownership. For years I planned meticulously, honed my business plan, and even self-funded my new venture, confident that I’d succeed within my first three months in business.
Spoiler alert: that’s not exactly what happened. In fact, I couldn’t have been more wrong about how nonlinear the path would be. Yet despite the trials and tribulations, personal and financial stress, and multitude of unknowns, I wouldn’t trade the journey for a second. I know that when things eventually stabilize and I’m cash flow positive, I’ll look back on these days and recall how much fun it was to chase my dream.
Lessons Learned as a New Business Owner
So, what’s my point in sharing all of this with you? Well, every day, I meet new people who are either just starting out on a small business venture of their own or have the desire to leave the comfort and safety of the corporate world to become a business owner.
I often encounter professionals around my age who have been quite successful and are financially comfortable enough to start a side hustle. Or invest in a franchise. Or generate some type of passive income stream through a business enterprise of their own.
Or so they think. I wish someone had told me how difficult the first year of business ownership would be—not because I wouldn’t have gone through with it, but so I could have prepared myself for the inevitable ups and downs. But now I can share the lessons I’ve learned with you.
Lesson #1: Don’t start a small business unless it’s something you’re truly passionate about.
This is something my own wealth manager told me years ago when I first conjured up the idea to start my own business, bored of the malaise of back-to-back meetings in corporate world.
And even if you think you have the passion to make it work, don’t move forward until you read The E-Myth. This book should be required reading for anyone looking to start a small business. In addition to passion, you need to be realistic about what running a successful business truly entails.
Lesson #2: Be prepared to be patient.
I’m sure you’ve seen the stats on small business success rates. For example, nearly one in five U.S. businesses fail within the first year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And nearly half of small businesses fail within the first five years.
These numbers aren’t to deter you from following your dreams. The point is that what you plan on paper is rarely what happens in real life when you start a business. You’ll run out of capital faster than you expected or underestimate how long it will take to generate a profit. No one gets it right the first time. So, be prepared to be patient and stay the course.
Lesson #3: You can’t do everything yourself.
As a new business owner, you’ll inevitably wear a multitude of hats. But the truth is you can’t be successful without having the right team around you.
Sometimes there are obvious resources that come to mind: a business lawyer, trademark attorney, CPA, bookkeeper. But you may also need a business coach and wealth manager to help you succeed.
In my experience, having a wealth manager who counseled and prepared me financially prior to starting my business was invaluable. When it was finally time to pull the trigger, it was my wealth manager who came up with creative funding solutions so I could avoid taking on too much debt or giving up capital too early to an outside investor.
Like Pete the Cat and his bandmates, business ownership will likely set you on a circuitous path that you could have never imagined. However, surrounding yourself with a trusted circle of confidants who are committed to advancing your vision can greatly improve your chances of success.
How a Wealth Manager Can Be Part of Your Business Building Journey
A wealth manager or financial advisor may be the last thing on your mind as you start your entrepreneurial journey. However, if you think about how inextricably linked your personal and business finances will become in short order, the benefits become more obvious. In fact, you may decide to hire a wealth manager before taking another step forward.
At CornerCap, we love talking to individuals looking to start or scale their businesses. We have decades of experience coaching individuals through the unpredictable business ownership journey, whether they are just starting out or an exit plan is on the horizon.
We also love hearing your stories and welcome you to contact us to continue a discussion about your goals. If you’re looking for a business coach, source of capital, recommendations on CPAs or lawyers, we love making those connections, as well!
Lastly, if you’re interested in taking the leap into business ownership—whether that means giving up your corporate gig altogether or investing in a side hustle while you keep your corporate job—another book I recommend is Mind Your Business: A Workbook to Grow Your Creative Passion into a Full-Time Gig, which will help you think long and hard about the personal and financial sacrifices that await you with this adventure. (Email me at email@example.com and I’ll be happy to send you a copy!)
Best of luck as you follow your business ownership dreams, wherever they may lead!