Lessons in How to Fail


“Out of my failure, something was born that is going to change the world.” I said those words to Seattle Business Magazine‘s Lynsi Burton a few months back. At the time, our programs at the Female Founders Alliance were picking up steam. But sales at my own company, Venture Kits, had skidded to a halt. It felt like failure. It still does. Does your heart sink when you think about failure? Mine does. Because while most startup founders are encouraged to “fail fast” and assured that by doing so they will “fail forward”, for female founders, failure can be career defining – and not in a good way. And when I look at our members, when I talk to other female founders, when I think about my own experience with Venture Kits, I think this fear of career-defining failure is front and center for women like me. It’s why we bootstrap way beyond the point that’s financially responsible. It’s why we never let go. But recently, a couple of founders in our community stepped up to show a different – and refreshing! – kind of leadership. They showed all of us what it looks like to fail with dignity, without dwelling on self-blame for the parts that they had no control over. They shared lessons that all of us should pay attention to – some that hit very close to home, even for me. And – if we pay attention – they’re also about to show us how to gracefully fail forward. So I want to say thank you, and congratulations, to Jana Kleitsch the co-founder and CEO of The Wanderlust Society, for her great example. And to Melissa Strawn, the CEO and Founder of MyPeople, who opened up candidly in her blog about her experience being rejected by Y-Combinator for the second time. And to Arry Yu, an incredible mentor and founder, who shared her lessons in shutting down Giftstarter earlier this year. The reality is that most of us, female founders in particular, will fail at some point. These founders show us that what matters is how we get back up. And I, for one, am grateful to them.
Until next time, Leslie Feinzaig CEO & Founder, Female Founders Alliance
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