Elizabeth Brunner, Founder of StereoType Kids shares the three most significant lessons she has learned over the last three years as an entrepreneur.
It’s been three years since I launched StereoType on 11/11/2020. While I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be, I’m exactly where I need to be: gathering experience and courage along the way. This year, in particular, has been an extremely challenging trek, but like any steep incline, it can completely exhaust you, and, it can also make you stronger.
I have stated several times throughout my entrepreneurial journey that I had NO INTENTION of starting a new business when I got the idea for StereoType. I was focusing on a completely different path for myself - one that was quieter, more predictable, and much more peaceful. I would have never thought I would be where I am now, celebrating my third year in business with my young twins as my inspiration and my co-founders. But here I am. Little did I know then that a simple shift in my thinking while parenting my twins would blow my eyes and heart wide open and lead me to the idea of StereoType. Since I had no intention of starting a new business, I had to figure out how to listen to my inner voice as guidance to keep going and learn to turn my fear into courage.
I knew enough from my first business, Piece x Piece, that it wouldn’t be easy, and there would be many obstacles along the way. My resistance to starting StereoType was real and intense. I was in a battle with my head and my heart, and neither would budge. The logic for me was clear - hell no to this idea! This was not part of my “plan,” but my heart was louder than any logical thinking my brain could come up with. As I began to let the idea in a little at a time, I also had to come to terms with what this meant for me and the “plans” of what I thought I would be doing. I had to say goodbye to my intention of living a quieter life and making space for growing in a totally new way. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but as they say, nothing worth having ever is.
Here are the biggest takeaways from my three-year entrepreneurial journey so far.
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
I’m like most people and prefer to be in my comfort zone at all times. I don’t like conflict and typically try to avoid situations where there’s friction. However, I now understand that staying in constant comfort comes with its own risks that keep you from achieving your goals and dreams. If I’m always comfortable and not challenged, I’m not growing and stretching, making space for a more resilient version of myself. For instance, I would describe myself as an introvert more than an extrovert, and I often struggle with how much of myself to share. I’ve learned that being an entrepreneur means tapping into an extroverted side of myself, even if I’d much rather take cover. It is such a challenge for me to step outside of my comfort zone in this way, talking about myself, telling my story, and sharing my vision on camera, on social platforms, in media articles, with my team, and really, with the world. It’s not comfortable in any way, shape, or form, but what I’m slowly learning is how to make peace with being uncomfortable and then doing it anyway.
Both the Struggle and Excitement Exist Together
At the crossroads of adversity and triumph, where challenges and inspiration collide, also lies the adventure of creative vision and excitement about bringing an idea to life. The struggle and excitement coexist harmoniously, and both are equally valuable. Looking at an obstacle and then getting excited about figuring out how to overcome it is where harmony can exist. It’s a dance between pride and defeat, success and failure. There is a yin/yang duality that can be frustrating, but it’s also a place where I find beauty and satisfaction like no other experience can bring. The push and pull are not easy, but when I can find the ability to embrace both the struggles and the joy, it creates a rewarding journey, and isn’t that what we’re here for?
Your Authentic Self Doesn't Fit Into a Box
One of the greatest joys of being an entrepreneur is the freedom to build out your vision, bring an idea to life, and be your authentic self while doing so. My twins taught me this lesson early on as a parent. Observing them as toddlers and young children, I was often struck by their natural curiosity and tenacity to be themselves no matter what. They don’t hold judgment; they don’t label or classify anything as right or wrong the way adults do; they just are. They don’t hold back or conform; they don’t pretend to be anything they are not. When I witness them being true to themselves, it reminds me to do the same. My conditioning is not who I am but who the outside world expects me to be, and I can change that at any time. When I’m encompassing various roles and responsibilities as an entrepreneur, it allows me to explore and nurture my true self and talents in many different ways. We all deserve to express ourselves authentically and shine as our unique selves. And I believe that it is our authenticity that allows us to make the most meaningful impact on the world.
Bonus Lesson! Before You Quit, Ask Yourself This One Question
When I feel defeated, want to throw in the towel, and walk away, I often ask myself this one question. What else would I be pouring my heart and soul into if I weren't doing this? I am still trying to come up with a suitable answer, at least a good enough one to walk away. Here’s the thing: if I’m pouring myself into something meaningful, what else is there to do? The alternative of not pursuing my dreams and creative passions is simply unimaginable to me, even if I need to remind myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing daily.
To sum it all up, three years in, I’m still committed to my vision. It’s hard to say where I’ll be or how I’ll feel a year from now running StereoType, and maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me to take it one day at a time. I know that building a business is a marathon, not a race, and planning for the long haul is impossible if you don’t take time to stop and reflect. When overwhelm kicks in, I dig deep to keep moving, and I rely on the drive and inner guidance to keep me going. I’m on a mission, and that mission has no expiration date; it’s everlasting as long as I keep going after it. I consider myself an advocate more than I am an entrepreneur, and I’m happy with that vision of myself. I’m not advocating for individuality just for my kids but for all kids, oh, and for your individuality, too! Whether we believe it or not, we are all ever-changing, ever-evolving humans, and I genuinely love that. StereoType is all about celebrating how we are all one-of-a-kind, unique, and valuable. It’s a simple shift in thinking with profound effects. You are, I am, we are, all here to live our most authentic life, and shine bright. Know I’m here to advocate for your journey as well as mine.