50 things I’ve learned 2 years into running a business and non-profit

It’s been 2 years since my graduation from OCAD University, where I completed a 4-year degree program.

Although I’ve been running ACCESS since high school (our 8 year anniversary was March 2014) and started freelancing (Daniel Design, which later transformed into Now Creative Group) throughout university, the past 2 years I’ve been completely “full-time” (aka 60+ hours/week) as an entrepreneur and activist.

These are a few points based solely on my personal experience.

What I Have Learned So Far as a Founder and Entrepreneur

  1. Freedom is everything – Having the ability to make your own schedule and decisions independently is more valuable than a high starting salary.
  2. Founders are crazy. Passionate. Dedicated. It’s amazing to see that there’s other people out there just as crazy as you.
  3. Co-working is amazing. (You never know who you’ll meet, what new partnerships you’ll form, what you’ll learn, and how much it helps to have others working crazy hours/overnight alongside you).
  4. Meeting people at events, conferences is more valuable than you can imagine at the time.
  5. Most people don’t understand what goes in to running your own initiative.
  6. Nobody values your organization or business as much as you do.
  7. Referrals are key – necessary for continued success.
  8. Establishing – or sticking to – a “schedule” can be extremely difficult.
  9. No 2 weeks have been the same, in these 2 years. 
  10. You’ll find a better way to do things, even when you’re not looking for one.
  11. People can take up ALL of your time, if you let them.
  12. Work whenever it works best for you. Inspiration + energy + a deadline = awesome.
  13. The networks you build outside of school (but while you’re still studying/in school) are crucial to future opportunities.
  14. You have to set boundaries for partnerships, business relationships, etc.
  15. Some people do things only for recognition, others do them because they care. 
  16. Knowing when to pause, or take a longer break, is vital.
  17. Mentors are super helpful — and you can discover informal mentorship relationships as you go.
  18. No matter the size of the business or org, it all seems to come down to relationships with the individuals.
  19. Everybody has different goals and motivations — look out for those that don’t align with yours.
  20. Opportunities come at unexpected times.
  21. You won’t stick with it for long, unless you really care. Passion/Motivation = Endurance.
  22. I get so much energy from hosting events through ACCESS. Way more than I even realize.
  23. Coordinating and executing a video series (or something technical you’ve never done before) takes forever.
  24. Some people change, move, leave, and often there’s nothing you can do about it.
  25. A lot of people will not respect your time.
  26. There are some amazing books, events and videos specifically for you, founders/entrepreneurs.
  27. People will continuously question you’re path; what you’re doing and why.
  28. Even if you’re your own boss, you’ve got many other bosses: Your clients.
  29. Some people are unrealistically super demanding and unappreciative.
  30. Communication is crucial!
  31. You have to recognize which things you can’t do alone/yourself.
  32. There are some things you MUST do alone.
  33. It can become insanely challenging to find time to rest and think.
  34. If you say you’ll do something “when you have time”, it won’t ever happen.
  35. Money makes people crazy.
  36. Keep awesome, creative people around you.
  37. There are some super generous and truly selfless people out there – but they’re a rare find, unfortunately.
  38. Your ideas aren’t as unique as you think they are – you’ll always discover somebody doing something similar, or first, or the same – but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to compete and do something better.
  39. When it comes to partners and sponsors, you have to work to show them how the relationship will work for them. (Also relevant to applying for grants/funding).
  40. People always want something from you.
  41. Podcasts are brilliant. 
  42. You have to know what to say NO to. (And it’s not easy).
  43. People resurface from previous parts of your life, randomly, especially when you have your own business or organization.
  44. Making time for family and friends is definitely worth it.
  45. There’ll always be someone or some org that’s better, faster, richer, etc.
  46. Only other founders can truly relate to many experiences. (Yet many work completely isolated).
  47. Take a minute to realize which – out of the million things you’re doing – come most easily/naturally, and work toward fitting in more of that type of work.
  48. Blog. Take photos. Document. Archive. Record the journey, including some of the little “everyday things” that you’d forget when you explain your journey one day (or just to look back to compare your progress and routines).
  49. No matter how quickly you want to graduate and leave school, you’ll never stop learning – and may find yourself very quickly enrolling in Continuing Education courses (as I did).
  50. You and your company/organization are ever-evolving.
The journey has just begun. More to come along the way.
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