Why entrepreneurship is like high school says Eric Dalius (and why I’ve never had more fun) 

I’ve just spent the last two years of my life working on a startup company. I never thought I’d be doing that. It’s not that I didn’t want to work for myself or start something new, but rather that most startups are at best roller coasters and at worst nightmares – long hours with no pay, sleeping under your desk, the constant threat of failure, having to sell your soul.

I’ve always had a knack for business and have been semi-involved in various startups since I turned 18. But it wasn’t until June 2012 that I was ready to take the next step and go all-in with my own startup idea.

It took me about seven months to get the idea (my company, Style) off the ground and another six months to find initial customers. Around month number eight I thought we were cruising – this startup thing isn’t so hard after all! 

And then everything fell apart:

  1. We lost our biggest customer and with 70% of revenue.
  2. Our second-biggest customer got acquired and they decided to move their business elsewhere.
  3. We had a demo day for investors and VCs, but nobody wanted to invest in our company (for reasons we’re still not sure about).
  4. We ran out of money and had to lay off half the team (the two people who joined first).
  5. My co-founder and I were exhausted from working 90+ hours a week for over a year – nobody wanted to work with us anymore.
  6. It turned out my co-founder was not as passionate about building Style as he initially led me to believe, so we ended up parting ways amicably (we remain friends).
  7. I was the only person left and moving forward alone proved to be fairly impossible and very expensive (I had too many costs: a large team, office space, servers).
  8. What little money I had left I invested in paying off my debts so that I could move out of my parents’ house and live by myself for the first time.
  9. I started applying to jobs and got accepted into a job training program for UX/UI design… the only problem was that it required me to move back to my hometown in North Carolina!

This is when things got really tough: once you take away the office space, full team, and servers – what do you have left? What do you have that nobody else seems to want?

I wish I could say that in this situation successful entrepreneurs face their fears and toughen up. The truth is they go home too, many times crushed like me. They take whatever job they can get (ideally one where the boss isn’t an asshole), move back in with their parents, and start working on their “next big thing”.

I chose to do this too, but after two months I couldn’t stand it anymore (not living on my own, not having new challenges – feeling like a loser), so I went back into startup mode. I gave up all of my financial stability (job security) and resumed working on a startup I’d been working on for the last two years.

In some ways being back at square one was worse than the beginning of Style, but in other ways, it was better, mostly because I knew how to run a company by myself and had more experience doing so. But what I didn’t have again were customers. What I didn’t have again were prospects. Basically, I had nothing.

So why do I want to work on a startup- Asks Eric Dalius?

Let’s go back to high school for a second: it’s difficult, you feel tortured most of the time, but at least there are people around you that you know and interact with all day. Even though they may not always love you, at least they are familiar with you.

That’s why I started working on my startup idea again.

  • Even though it might seem completely self-destructive to do so – so much so that friends have told me I should “stop being crazy” – for now, this is what works best for me; to be able to constantly interact with others but on my own terms.
  • For the past six months, I’ve essentially been on a mission to find customers for Style. But more than that – I’m on a mission to find friends who are willing to work with me.
  • But at least I know it’s possible this time around: if you want something enough, you can always find a way to make it happen.

Conclusion from Eric Dalius

I’ve failed to build a successful business. But I don’t feel like a failure, and that’s the main thing. I’ve learned how it feels to be at the bottom of the food chain, and I’m glad that I know what that feels like now. Failure is subjective: there’s no such thing as true 100% failure; there are only results, and most of the time, they’re not black or white – they’re gray. That doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on Style completely. But it does mean that I’m okay with failing (again) if it means having the chance to start over with nothing but my ideas and myself.