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This is me! This is my life! Taking one careful step after another, with a consistent smile, confidence and resilience (and all whilst being the brand and wearing red). Juggling much while focusing on a far distant vision. This life is not for everyone. You have to be a little bit crazy and have a very thick skin. Be prepared to live from hand to mouth and give your life to the ’cause’.

Years ago a fellow founder described being an entrepreneur as being like a clown punching bag: no matter what hits us we keep popping up, with a big smile on our face. I asked him once, “What happens if I just don’t get up one time?” He responded: “Well you wouldn’t be an entrepreneur then. That’s what it is to be an entrepreneur, we just keep going.”

Why are entrepreneurs so “revered” — is it this resilience in the face of defeat? Journalists clamor to break the story of the “next big start up,” “the overnight success story”… the reality is so far from this truth.

Most start ups remain small businesses. It is only a handful that truly scale and solve the problems of the world. Yet the public has a fascination with the idea of the rags to riches story. Founders as demi-gods. Maybe it is because people understand that precarious nature of what we do.

People often ask me about success, they want me to define “the one thing that created success for me.” The answer – hard work – just is not that interesting for most people. There are no short cuts; I could have just as easily fallen from the tight rope, but I haven’t. There are no guarantees.

The founder of tech startup 99 dresses shared vividly her experience of failure. Nikki Durkin wrote for

OVER 90 per cent of tech start-ups fail, but I never thought my baby, 99dresses, would be one of them.

If there is one thing that doing a start-up has taught me, its that I am much more resilient than I could have ever imagined…

Since then I’ve survived being stabbed in the back by cofounders, investment rounds falling through, massive technology f**kups that brought sales to a halt, visa problems, lack of money, lack of traction, lack of a team, hiring the wrong people, firing people I didn’t want to fire, lack of product-market fit, and everything else in between…

The start-up press glorifies hardship. They glorify the Airbnbs who sold breakfast cereal to survive, and then turned their idea into a multi-billion dollar business. You rarely hear the raw stories of start-ups that persevered but ultimately failed — the emotional roller coaster of the founders, and why their start-ups didn’t work out.

Here is my contribution to the cause: my story. This is what failure feels like. I hope it helps.”

I feel very fortunate the business I founded 13 years ago goes from strength to strength, but I did not do it alone. I have a business partner and a great CEO and leadership team. The businesses that I started before RedBalloon were not so successful, but I learned a lot from them. I feel tremendously grateful for the journey I am on. And as the business gets bigger and bigger, the tight rope I walk becomes less lonely.

I wrote the below as a reflection of my entrepreneurial journey to date — though I am still a long way from my destination.

Thank you to those people who:

Loved me, you made me believe in myself
Cared, you made me feel worthwhile
Shared their wisdom, you inspired me to learn
Laughed, you made my world fun
Listened, you made me feel loved
Challenged me, you made me play a bigger game
Said ‘no’ – you made me more determined.
Disliked me, you made me stronger

Thank you

A big thanks to ThinkStock by Getty Images for the pic – which inspired this post.

Reader Interactions


  1. My word Naomi,
    This blog was not written by you. I wrote it! I am sure I did. Must have … It is my life!
    My immediate feeling, sitting here having read it? Inspired! Standing here in front of the wall I chose to climb that everyone said was impossible … seeing my product become an inventory item of the US Military after ten years of living what you just described so very well … I am inspired to not buckle under the weight of current circumstance, and the pull of the naysayers hanging off my legs.
    Thank you for that. People who are not us have no real idea of the resources we need to find within ourselves to meet the self imposed dreams we have.
    I would like to meet you sometime if passing through Brissie.
    I also would like to connect on Linkedin if you wouldn’t mind.
    Warm regards
    Steve Muir

  2. Hi Naomi, the punching bag clown is an analogy we also use. As you say, hard work and resilience is the key – not sexy, but it works.

  3. A very good read and reflection of reality. Now that my own startup is just 1 month away from the product launch – its definitely a good preview of what may happen ! Thanks for writing this. All the best.

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