Entrepreneurs should expect stress and rejection - and that's okay

Young start-up founders should accept that what they have planned may fail and when that happens they should take some time out for self-care

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Last week, I was invited by Khalifa University to be a judge in its fourth innovation and entrepreneurship boot camp. Several groups of bright students presented ideas they believe could solve challenges in the UAE. One group presented a prototype of a product that would help reduce the number of road accidents. Another was a smart home solution that would ease the everyday lives of people of determination. All the ideas were innovative, and it was hard to pick a winning team.

I was once in the place of these young students, embarking on my entrepreneurial journey, infused with passion and determination to see my dreams come true.

In my previous columns, I have spoken about the challenges of starting a business, the opportunities that are presented along the way, the importance of marketing, and the power of word-of-mouth. I have also discussed success stories, and the routines many successful entrepreneurs have followed.

Today, I would like to shed some light on the other side of this story, which begins when you actually become an entrepreneur. I have been one for almost nine years now, and as rewarding as it is, the most challenging part of it all is sustaining your businesses.

Sustaining your business not only requires determination as you grind through, but also a willingness to accept challenging and often negative scenarios that pop up along the way.

Be flexible

I'm a very organised, systematic woman so when things didn't go according to plan in the beginning of my journey, it really distressed me. As important as it is to always plan ahead, and to set out yearly, quarterly and monthly goals, it's equally important to be flexible and ready when things do not go through the way you had planned. You will come to learn that flexibility is perhaps one of the most important qualities you should possess as an entrepreneur.

Accept rejection

No one wants their ideas or proposals to be rejected. But that will happen, and it may happen a lot. Investors may tell you that your idea is worthless, or a bank may refuse to grant you a loan. Keep in mind that rejection does not necessarily mean that your business is a failure. In fact, I see rejection as an opportunity that allows me to think outside the box. If one door closes, I have to look for another one, and there's certainly always another way to achieve what you want. In the process, I grew, became wiser, and more creative when it came to finding solutions.

Expect stress

What you will come to realise as a start-up founder, is that you will be pushed into situations you have no experience in handling. You will have to improvise. Sometimes you will have minutes to make a crucial decision. And all of this will happen while you are trying to develop and sustain your business. This is where you and self-care should become best friends. Just as you schedule meetings and appointments, you will need to pencil in time for self-care and reboot your system.

If you are embarking on a new venture, realise fun and stress go hand in hand, and once you accept hurdles as part of the process, you will find calm. As you face difficulties along the way, try to have a support system to lean on to for advice, or perhaps a mentor you can look up to.

Remember that you don't need to do this alone. My support network has helped me a lot, and often provided me with ideas and solutions. Also, always keep in mind that the success stories you hear today about entrepreneurs who sold their businesses for billions of dollars, often faced many challenges.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi