Lessons learned

I sat cross-legged on the cold, concrete floor in the back of my retail store. Surrounded by dusty files, boxes of unsold inventory, awards I had designed for a team that would never receive them, and hope that lay like ashes at my feet, I sat alone and sobbed. It struck me, in that moment, that I had sat in this exact same place a little over a decade before. However, at that time, I was surrounded by inventory yet to hit the shelves, and the hopes and dreams that brightened my horizon, as I feverishly counted down the days until I would open the doors to my first retail boutique. 

Hello, my name is Ciara Stockeland. Born and raised in a small North Dakota town, I am a third generation small business owner and serial entrepreneur. An ordinary gal with an extraordinary imagination, I have always believed in the notion that with hard work and determination, my “thoughts would become things.” And until that point, that conviction had generally rung true.

While I started my first formal business at the age of 14, creating, building and selling was a part of my fabric for as long as I could remember. In fact, my earliest business venture involved going door-to-door selling rocks to the neighbors; my mom, however, made me take their money back.

By the age of 18, I had launched enough lemonade stands to serve every member of my community, sold a line of home-knit cardigans for infants to a shop in Beverly Hills, recorded and sold my own flute album, and built a drama studio that staged productions for our entire community — all without access to email or social media! As such, when my greatest business venture of all fell flat on its face after a decade of hard work – an investment of all our family’s resources and every ounce of energy I could exert – I couldn’t help but wonder what it all meant. 

I wish I could tell you that I stood up on that lonely afternoon, brushed myself off, and instantly took a step forward. However, my journey from that afternoon to the launch of this blog was not quite so direct.

By the time I found myself sitting on that cold floor, feeling all alone, I had eaten enough Tums to stock a grocery store and cried enough tears to fill a small lake. I was lonely, completely confused, overcome with a sense of failure, and trying (and failing) to make sense of those previous ten years. 

I closed the door that day with no plan for the future, and after several months of self-reflection, fierce honesty, and rest, I slowly began to heal, sleep again, hope again, and dream again. And that, my friend, is what you will discover as we journey together down the path of hard lessons to smart beginnings for an entrepreneur.

As entrepreneurs we hear so many stories of success – unfathomable, sing-from-the-mountain-top, multimillion-dollar successes. We hear these stories and aspire to them. Therefore, when our own small business journeys hit bumps, or worse yet, plummet into deep valleys or completely fall apart, we long to be held in the comfort of knowing that someone else has faced what we face, stood where we stand, and continued through it to the other side. These lessons are meant for you.

As John Maxwell says, “Sometimes you WIN—Sometimes you LEARN.” I invite you to join me each week as we learn together what it looks like to build again and dream again. Together, we will learn how to build smart beginnings from the hard lessons life may bring.

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