Five Ways to Stay Motivated When Building Your Mission Driven Startup

As seen in Thrive Global

When I started my company, it was to fill a big gap for women who are in the middle of planning for a family and desiring to have a successful career. My business was really born out of my own personal experience, my struggle to find support and resources while I was having my first child. Whenever I am asked why I am so passionate about my work, I am always caught off guard. In my own head, I think what else would I be doing? I have no choice here. This is my true calling!

Unfortunately what I didn’t realize at first and (frankly has been a pretty painful lesson over the last year) is even though a mission driven business can be super exciting, it also has its own share of challenges. The primary one is I really struggle with rejection. I take it personally and have a hard time letting it go and moving on. This is a huge personal shift for me.

I spent my whole career at a big bank in Institutional Sales Trading in Foreign Exchange. Every week I would come up with plenty of trade ideas that I thought were good and should be shared. At the same time I always had clients, bosses, colleagues shoot down many of my ideas. But I didn’t really care. I kept coming up with ideas and some were better than others, but some were really good! It isn’t that I didn’t care about the feedback coming my way; I was just less personally invested in the outcome. I didn’t have that much skin in the game. Currencies were not my passion. I loved working in a super intense environment, but I didn’t believe in what I was selling.

Looking back I realized it was no secret to my team or even my bosses the lack of interest I had in markets. I remember once when I actually was taken aside and yelled at by my direct manager for spending the most time than anyone else on the team, surfing the web during business hours. If my boss checked what I was actually looking at he would find article upon article of women in the workforce, gender stereotypes, maintaining work/life balance, etc… I promise I was not online shopping!

When I left the industry I was even told by a colleague that the most excited she ever saw me in my career was when mentoring younger women; helping them in their journey in navigating the corporate world as a woman. Even though I didn’t know at the time, my passion was clearly starting to grab root and it was only a matter of time until I found the right outlet for it.

So now that I am doing what I LOVE to do, rejection is so much harder to swallow. It’s kind of like killing one of my babies. This is kind of funny (at least to me) because the work I do has to do with actual babies. Needless to say, the highs are super high and the lows are super low. I have always considered myself fairly even keel… I am not the type to get overly excited or overly down. I enjoy maintaining a status quo type of disposition. That has dramatically changed in the last year as my business has become more developed.

I oscillate on a daily basis between extreme joy and feeling absolutely defeated; questioning if what I am doing will ever make an impact.
So what keeps me motivated… here are five tips that help me and can help others who run a mission driven startup:

  1. Keep the dream alive! — Even on bad days remind yourself of why you are doing what you are doing. What made you start your business in the first place?
  2. Commiserate with other entrepreneurs- What I thought was something only I suffer from, many entrepreneurs experience. I didn’t really believe this until I met with a CEO of a global company working to improve gender diversity across the globe. If he still feels high highs and low lows after all his success, it is ok that I do too.
  3. Give Back- one beautiful thing about giving back, outside the obvious of helping someone, is it’s a great reminder of why you love what you do. Rarely do I ever hear an entrepreneur regretting giving away services to a meaningful organization. I find giving back is a form of care for both others and self.
  4. Take a Break- Once you become an entrepreneur your work life can become unstructured. Gone are the office days where you work a classic 9–5. Work spills over into nights and weekends and can leave you burnt out. Failing from burnout is no fun.
  5. Be Willing to Kill your Own Ideas- This is incredibly challenging especially for someone who owns a mission driven business. At the same time, critical analysis of ideas, decisions, projects are absolutely necessary. If you can’t do that, find a mentor or someone in your company who you trust and can help you.

For those operating a mission driven startup, I salute you and wish you GOOD LUCK !

Jena Booher