The Reluctant Entrepreneur

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” My journey seems to always veer towards the road less travel, which to my dismay is fraught with many pot holes and detours.  My original vision was that writing would be the foundation, opening the door for my other interests, particularly an education organization for first generation college students, Matrix Navigation™. My first goal was to get published.  However, lesson one in planning, be flexible and adaptable. Walk through open doors instead of banging on ones bolted shut temporarily or permanently. As things seeming stalled on the publishing front, mentors encouraged me to focus on the mentoring program, Matrix Navigation™. This too tested my pre-conceived notions of how it would develop. I originally envisioned this as a nonprofit or foundation. Again, I was encouraged to pursue a different route. I met a business consultant at the Small Business Development Center.

I put so much energy into developing the business plan, financials, and shopping the idea around for Matrix Navigation™. There was such a huge need to address the retention and graduation issues of first generation college students, especially among students of color, and I had (have) a solution! Unfortunately, finding capital or a partner to collaborate with proved fruitless. Trust me, I left no stone unturned and was particularly disheartened. Matrix Navigation™ is my passion and my “baby” because I am a first generation college graduate. I am intimately acquainted with the struggles that come with it.  After lamenting my lack of progress to friends, I made another appointment with my business consultant. We talked about my long and short term goals and my three brands: (1) Ronda-isms™; (2) Matrix Navigation™; and (3) Auntie Ronda’s Snack Mix™.  After producing a sample of my snack mix, my business consultant said, “You need to focus your attention on the snack mix. It has immediate income producing potential and you can use the proceeds to fund your writing and Matrix Navigation.”

That was not what I wanted to hear. I had a plan, become an established writer, start Matrix Navigation™, and then brand Auntie Ronda’s Snack Mix™. I consulted my lawyer, a dear friend and mentor. She provided me legal advice on my three brands and advised me to meet an accountant. After meeting with the accountant, the consensus was the same. Focus on Auntie Ronda’s Snack Mix™. I was a bit disappointed. In my mind, I am a writer and I wanted to establish that foundation. My business consultant responded, “You are an attorney turned writer, entrepreneur, and more. Stop being Midwestern in your thinking and embrace your brands and entrepreneurial spirit.”  Law school teaches lawyering, not business. I had to get over my fear of not knowing every contingency to be an entrepreneur. A litigator does not ask questions she does not already know the answer. Lawyers are typically risk averse. As an entrepreneur, risk is a given – calculated or otherwise. Starting a business is a risk. For some reason, writing did not seem a risk to me. However, starting Auntie Ronda’s Snack Mix™ seemed a huge risk. My friends countered, “you already backed up and moved to NYC with no connections, this is nothing compared to that.”

I put so much energy into first trying to get a literary agent, to no avail. Then I was emotionally invested in seeing the Matrix Navigation™ birthed, seemingly still born. All I wanted to do was write, hone my craft, submit pieces and hope that someone would see my talent and give me a chance. I was not trying to be in the snack business right now. It would take away from my writing. As it is, I am already overwhelmed making submissions for writing competitions and awards. Something, anything to have the literary world take notice. However, rule one in dream chasing and life is flexibility and adaptability. I invited a friend for dinner that knew something about everything. I had her try my snack mix. “Ronda this is good. You should get kosher designation and start marketing it now.”  She rattled off tons of suggestions including, read Cooking Up a Business by Rachel Hofstetter. Who knew when I met Ms. Hofstetter a few months ago that she would play a part in my journey?

Cooking Up a Business was inspiring and discouraging concurrently. So much risk and like my other ventures in trying to get published and launch Matrix Navigation™, the all-consuming question of capital. I am all nerves and I swear I am in the Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship where death seems like a viable alternative. No I am not suicidal it is just disheartening to have visions and goals that are the cusp of greatness and then stall. Would I have to relive those emotions with Auntie Ronda’s Snack Mix™? Call me sadistic, but I am taking the plunge with Auntie Ronda’s Snack Mix™. It will probably bankrupt me. However, like the song “feels like fire shut up in my bones it won’t leave me alone,” these goals won’t let me give up. Many times I have questioned my sanity and reasoning for staying in NYC. Thank goodness for family and friends who lift me up and believe in me when I have given up on myself. The door that you think will open is not necessarily what will. I am a nervous wreck trying to launch Auntie Ronda’s Snack Mix™.

For my fellow dream chasers, it is not an easy journey. Easy is giving up. If it were easy then everyone would be successful. Success is not being the smartest or brightest, it is standing when others fall and refuse to get up. I said that in moving to NYC I wanted to scratch my DNA in the concrete jungle. I can’t run now. I must stand and fight back.

Readers please do me a favor, like Auntie Ronda’s Snack Mix on Facebook and follow on Twitter.

Ronda Lee
Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Ronda is an attorney, writer, and entrepreneur. She is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Originally from Chicago, she has lived in Los Angeles and New York. She loves to travel and is passionate about education equity, especially for first generation college students.