RECHELLE BALANZAT

Artist, Thinker, Entrepreneur

The Surprising Truth About Being An Entrepreneur

What does it mean to be an entrepreneur today? Can anyone do it?  What are the qualities that make a successful entrepreneur? Is it something that can be taught or learned? 

What is the entrepreneurial journey?  What does that process look like?  

Take a walk through any bookstore and notice the numerous books on entrepreneurship.  Scroll through any social feed and there are promises of "becoming an entrepreneur today and make millions in an instant!"

I don't know if those programs actually work.  I confess, a part of me is very skeptical, but I'm in no position to judge.  What is very interesting to me is this sudden desire to want to be an entrepreneur. 

It seems that anyone with a laptop and a few free hours a day is suddenly calling themselves an "entrepreneur".  Why? 

Why this sudden fascination?  Why this sudden desire to want to align yourself with someone who sacrifices it all with the hopes of what?  "Making the world a better place?" "Making a profitable exit?" "Being one of the 'cool kids'?" 

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I have a few ideas I'd like to share with you.

My company Juliette is my 3rd venture.  You could say that the other 2 didn't work out.  Or you could say I'm experienced and have been around the block.  It really just depends on how you want to look at it.

For me, it's been an adventure like no other. The thing about being an entrepreneur is that the process is different for everyone.  No two journeys are alike.  Perhaps that's why it's so difficult to go into the specifics of what makes a "successful" entrepreneur.

There are some key ingredients I've noted along the way, however...

1) VISION  You see something that no one else sees.  You believe in this vision so much, you convince yourself to go into uncharted territories where nothing is promised or certain. The odds are against you and friends and family caution you of the perils of going into the unknown.  But you believe in your vision so strongly, you decide to proceed anyway.  This makes it exhilarating and lonely at the same time. 

2) OBSTACLES At some point on your journey you are faced with obstacles. I can tell you from personal experience, there is absolutely nothing sexy about this part. It's a very humbling experience.  And after deciding to go against the odds and against everyone's advice, when you're hit with an obstacle, it can be jarring and put a real dent in your ego.  

One of the biggest obstacles every entrepreneur faces is the need for capital.  Whether you've decided to start small and work your way up to cash flow positive or go after an angel investment, every assumption you've made about your business will be challenged. 

3) THE JOURNEY WITHIN As you work through the challenges of your business and fine tune every data point in your model or business, it becomes less a question about economics and more a question about who you are as a person and what your values are.  Remember ultimately, it's your vision that's being questioned.  The same vision that inspired you to take a leap of faith into the unknown. The same vision you decided to sacrifice everything for. When projecting into the future, numbers and economics can be tricky.  Skeptics will want to know why YOUR particular method will win. And to answer that question, you will have to go deep within yourself.  You will have to question every decision you've made thus far and honestly ask yourself how it has helped you and your business.  You'll have to tap into your own experiences and wisdom and be prophetic about how things will work out in your favor.

This journey within is the ultimate transformation. It will break or define you.  

It is also at this moment where your vision turns into belief. And when that happens, it is truly magical.  Because suddenly, you are able to convince others, and you are no longer the only person that sees what you see.

So going back to my earlier question, why is society suddenly fascinated with becoming an entrepreneur?  My guess is that it has less to do with acquiring millions (although I'm sure that's a driving force for plenty of people) and more to do with living a life inspired.  I think on some level we all admire the courage of anyone pursuing their dreams with such passion, such vigor, such perseverance. And even if they are struggling, we still want to see them push through because it is something we can all identify with and yearn for.  We are all searching for our sense of purpose and the meaning of our lives. 

Entrepreneurs are just out there more because we take the biggest risks. But that is not to say our journeys are so different from everyone else's.  At the end of the day, we are simply doing what we believe in. 

Entrepreneurship has not promised me millions. I don't do it because I think I'm cooler or better than others. I do it because I believe in my vision.  But more importantly, I believe in myself. 

So what is the surprising truth about being an entrepreneur? Believe in yourself.  It's as simple and as complicated as that.

Thanks for reading,

Food for thought: What's the biggest risk you ever took in your life?  How did it play out?  Would you do it again? Feel free to comment below and share your story!

Launch!

The day finally came for me to introduce Juliette to a select group of people. 

Last Sunday on 9/21 at 6AM, while most people were still sleeping, I made my way to the local garage to rent a zipvan for a few hours.

It was launch day and I had spent the past week tirelessly packing my custom-made black laundry bags into little brown packages tied with ribbon. 

My goal was to surprise everyone with my packages early Sunday morning.  I wanted to give them something unexpected that would make them happy.  I wanted them to open their door and find a beautiful package waiting for them.

I had spent previous months testing so many different laundry bags, scents, ribbons and boxes. I wanted every detail to make a lasting impression. 

So with the help of family and friends I was able to meet my deadline and have a few hundred welcome packages ready to be distributed.  By 9AM Sunday morning, we had successfully distributed all the welcome packages.

That was only the beginning. 

Then came the long wait of constantly logging onto Google Analytics and iTunes Connect to see how many downloads or visits Juliette was getting. 

It was like a drug.  I got a small high from every website visit, app download, and registered user.  Then suddenly a few hours later my first order came in.  Then a second order came.  Then a third...

I couldn't believe it!  I wasn't sure what to expect.  But it was definitely exciting to see real people download the app, become a registered user, and place on order on DAY 1.

The next couple of weeks brought on more downloads, more users, and more orders.  But I think the best part of it all was generating repeat customers. I generated my first repeat customer exactly one week after launch.  My second week was filled with even more new customers and more repeat customers. 

The feedback from everyone was amazing!  Everyone loved the surprise packages waiting for them outside their door.  If they tried the service, they loved the ease, quality, and quick turnaround time of the service. 

As more people tried the service and used it again, I also noticed an increase in invite requests.   Even if you didn't receive a formal invitation to try Juliette, you can still download the app at www.juliette.la and request an invite.  I suspect that my customers enjoyed the service so much, they immediately told their friends about it. 

Hearing customer feedback was probably the most rewarding part.  I started the company because I personally was very unhappy with my local cleaners.  They ruined a lot of my clothes, didn't treat stains, didn't hang dry when they were supposed too - leading to many of my tops shrinking - etc etc.  I know these types of things can happen to anyone.  I know I will make mistakes along the way too.  But I think my approach makes all the difference.  I truly care about clean clothes that smell good.  I do NOT want to damage ANY of my customers' clothes - even if it is by accident.  So I personally (along with my team), carefully go through each item of clothing and separate them accordingly.  When in doubt, we just read the label and follow the instructions.  I think this kind of attentiveness is what makes all the difference. 

In the end, I truly believe it is about clean clothes that smell good.  It doesn't matter if you've developed the greatest technology in the world or the most efficient system.  If people's clothes aren't cared for properly, what's the point?

 

Thanks for reading,

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What If I'm Crazy?

When I decided to venture out on my own and start working for myself, my whole family thought I was crazy, especially my grandmother.  As immigrants from the Philippines, my family are true believers in the American Dream.  They believed in graduating from a good university, getting a good job and saving money for a family.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that dream.  I just had another dream for myself.  I saw myself rising above the status quo.  Why not?  I’m young, educated, capable, and most of all - hungry.

I am still very hungry.  Part of that hunger is reminiscent of the physical hunger I felt during my childhood.  The other part stems from a deep desire to prove myself.  I have an urgent drive that I just couldn’t appease by following the accepted scripted route.

So I rolled the dice and took a chance on myself.  I am the biggest investor in myself anyway right?  I left my corporate “stable” job in 2009 to travel through Florence, Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.  Everyone I worked with thought I was crazy.  I was quitting my job while others were losing theirs.  This was during the time of the economic crisis, so people were panicking.  To me it was an awakening.  It was the surest sign that the idea of a “stable job” and “security” does not exist.

I remember speaking with a few colleagues of mine who were stressed and worried.  They had families with kids in high school, some in college.  Their livelihood and their children’s livelihood depended upon their “stable job”.  I could still recall the fear and insecurity in their eyes. 

I wasn’t sure of the path ahead of me or the kinds of obstacles I’d be facing.  But I knew what I didn’t want.  And that was enough to make me take a leap of faith.

Maybe I am crazy?  Maybe everyone else is crazy for buying into the same dream?  Maybe you need to be a little bit crazy to follow a different path.  Maybe we’re not crazy, but life is.  And our job is to try and make sense of it all - as crazy as that may sound.

Whatever it is, I hope you don't brush off your next thought or idea - however crazy it may seem.  Who knows?  It could be the spark that changes your life, and maybe even the world.

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinion drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
— Steve Jobs

Thanks for reading,

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Hello There...

Thanks for stopping by. 

I'm starting this blog with the hope of sharing my adventures - both personal and professional with you.  I guess you can say my whole life has been an adventure.  From the minute I was born, it seems the odds were already against me.  I was born in the Philippines to teenage parents.  My father was only 16 when he found out my mom was pregnant.  You could imagine how scary that is.  After my birth, neither of my parents ever had the chance to pursue a college degree.    

My father's mother is a real firecracker though.  She found a way to bring my dad to the United States, and a few years later, my mom and I were able to join him.  That was a very courageous move for my mom.  She left everything she knew in the Philippines, her family and friends, and came to the US alone at the age of 20 with a 3 year old baby girl.  But my mom is a force not to be reckoned with.

As the years passed, my father developed a few bad habits and my parents' relationship quickly began to deteriorate. So when I was 9, my mom decided to leave my father and raise me on her own.  Another brave move considering she was in a foreign country all alone with a little girl to provide for.  But my mom worked 3 jobs to pay the rent, put food on the table, and send me to private school.  Because she worked so much and couldn't afford to hire someone to help look after me, I started taking care of myself at the age of 9.  There were some days when I used to go to school hungry, but I never told my mom because I didn't want her to worry about me.  I wanted to show her that all of her sacrifices weren't being made in vain.  So I worked extra hard to get scholarships for high school and college.  

It was sometimes stressful growing up with a single mom.  My mom was very strict and seldom let me leave the house.  Each time I would rebel, she would always remind me of the bigger picture.

She used to say, ‘I can’t give you much. I can only give you an education. But your education is the one thing that no one can take from you.”

I guess that's why I'm so eager to learn everything.  It's also where I attribute my "can-do" attitude.  Anyway, needless to say my mom is a source of inspiration for me.  I know it sounds cliche, but after everything she's done for me, how could I not approach my life with everything that I've got?  To have an education, to live in New York City, to have a supporting family - these are treasures so few people in the world have.  I'm humbled by the opportunities I've been given in life.  Having said all that, I'm not one that gives up so easily.  I'm determined and focused on accomplishing my goals because I know how lucky I am to be where I am.  

I hope this introductory post gives you a little bit more insight into who I am.  Please feel free to reach out anytime and/or share your comments below on what inspires you.

 

Thanks for reading,

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