Naked with NO Fear
Posted In: Confidence and Control
Posted On: 5/18/2016
Monday night at Boulder Start-up Week, I had the honor to be one of the speakers at a SheSays Boulder event. It was a packed house at Galvanize Boulder and a high-energy crowd. The topic was about the Creative Entrepreneur, and I spoke about my feelings about being an entrepreneur after over 30 years in business. This can best be summarized as Naked without Fear! It is the feeling of ultimate vulnerability combined with the thrill of taking a chance at every step.
Here’s my speech in both written and audio versions:
Hi, my name is Jane Miller. I spent the first twenty-five years of my career with big companies like PepsiCo, Bestfoods, Heinz and Hostess. I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur because I was running divisions of really big companies with tons of resources and loads of people to do the work.
When I took the job as CEO or Rudi’s Bakery, I decided for the first time in my nomadic career to get involved with the community. First, I became a mentor at the Unreasonable Institute where I worked with some of the most amazing companies from around the world that had little to no resources. But they had a passion like I had never seen before. And then I had a chance to work via the Boulder Chamber and Naturally Boulder with young companies that similarly had a deep passion for what they were doing and little to no resources. I was so inspired by all of the individuals that I worked with—their tenacity, resourcefulness, desire to make a difference, that I asked myself what I could do to be more like them.
My first step was to launch a career advice website, Jane Knows.com. I then wrote a book that actually premiered two years ago at Boulder start-up week. And then, last year I joined a high protein food start-up, ProYo, based in Santa Barbara. Four employees. At the time about $250k in sales.
After over 30 years in the business world, I am now a full on entrepreneur. And this is how I feel about it:
With No Fear
The Naked part is probably obvious to everyone in the audience. When you start your own venture, you put yourself out there. You make yourself really vulnerable, because it is YOU in all your naked glory sharing YOUR ideas. I wasn’t hiding behind some big title at some big company.
It was just me writing blogs on Jane Knows and wondering if anyone was going to read them. And if they did, what would they think. And what did Jane REALLY know anyway? That was naked!
It was just me writing a book about some of my worst career stories and wondering if they would resonate with anyone. Or if people would think less about me because I admitted to really screwing up and getting promoted and demoted then promoted again and then sidelined. Telling my career secrets really left me feeling naked.
But it has been my experience with ProYo that has been most humbling to me. First, I am embarrassed to say that I am not exactly sure what I have done over the past 20 years that I have been a president or CEO. I think I just supervised everyone else’s work. And every CFO who has ever worked for me would be gasping in horror at the fact that I am doing the sales forecasting and cash flow forecasts for the company. But believe it or not, I am the most qualified person in the company to do that! But where I have felt most naked is when I have been in front of a buyer telling the ProYo story with all of my passion. That buyer who refuses to try the product, who refuses to look at me as he stares at his computer with my ten minutes ticking by. I just told him about my baby and he now tells me my baby is ugly.
But the part I really want to talk about tonight is the feeling of No Fear. I never would have been able to imagine it if I had not lived it in the last year. No Fear is about taking chances. No Fear is about being so confident about what you are doing, that you can get bucked off the horse and get right back on her. No Fear is about realizing the worst thing that is going to happen is that someone is going to say no.
I realized that I had no fear about four months ago when Nathan, the founder of ProYo and I were sitting across the table from a couple of big wigs from one of the world’s largest consumer products companies. I had just recommended to them that they should co-brand their gzillion dollar product with ProYo because ProYo is going to become the Intel Inside for a bunch of big name consumer products.
The head guy looked at me and said, you realize that we are xyz brand, the biggest in the category and you are just a little start-up. And to be clear, you want ProYo on our label?
My unwavering answer: YES.
No Fear is about believing in yourself and your product or idea.
With No Fear, you CAN get to yes!