Written by Stephanie Bartolone
Failure. By definition, the word literally means to lack success. Just hearing the word failure can send some people into a state of self-doubt, pity, and anxiety.
So the stakes and pains of failure are even higher when pioneering a startup business. Entrepreneurs invest their time, personal finances, and energy into an idea or business that has a strong likelihood of failing. The relationship strains, long hours, and neglected personal health make the sting of failure that much harsher.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a third of all startups fail within the first two years. Therefore, making failure a commonplace concept in the entrepreneurial stratosphere. But is all this failure a bad thing? Is it possible that failure can be partially positive? Or even 100% positive? Let us take a closer look at two entrepreneurial failures and how they turned losses into gains.
Sir James Dyson and the Dyson Vacuum
Creator of the best-selling vacuum cleaner by revenue in the United States, explains in an interview with Fast Company that it took him almost 15 years and most of his life savings to create the bagless vacuum cleaner we have grown to love.
Dyson believes that his 5,126 failed vacuum prototypes were crucial in the creation of the finalized vacuum. Each failure gave him insight on what needed to be modified and tweaked to create the finalized 5,127th vacuum we see today. “We admire instant brilliance, effortless brilliance. I think quite the reverse. You should admire the person who perseveres and slogs through and gets there in the end,” Dyson says.
Dyson even promotes failure and believes that it is an indicator of a person’s creativity. “In school, we are taught the correct way to approach problems but in order to find the things that those around us haven’t, you need to do things differently or even wrong,” Dyson says. Using the “wrong” way will most likely lead to failure but that failure will stem creativity and become the catalyst for something even better.
Kathryn Minshew and the creation of The Muse
After a disagreement between the four co-founders, Minshew woke up to find that the company she had invested her life savings into, PYP, had removed her and another founder’s access to the site.
The humiliation and pain experienced from this failure could’ve kept Minshew out of the entrepreneurial ring. Instead, she and another founder created The Muse, a career advice and job search website that has brought in more people in the first month alone than in the entire PYP history. “We built a much stronger product, raced ahead with a clear sense of purpose,” Minshew said. “In many ways, that first failure was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
So what is the takeaway from these two success stories from entrepreneurial failures?
Don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from your failures. Have passion.
Clearly, Dyson was not afraid of failure. Instead, he saw each failed prototype as a chance to learn and understand his product in a deeper way. Dyson’s passion for creating a bagless vacuum, coupled with the knowledge gained from his previous failures, led him to find success.
Similar to Dyson, Minshew could’ve easily let her fears, reputation woes, and financial shortages keep her from creating a website after the first failure. Armed with an unwavering passion for creating a website startup, Minshew was able to look at her initial failure with a constructive lens and perfect her second startup into something even more successful than the first.
Fail early. Learn quickly. Move on. Chances are your next attempt will get you one step closer to success.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison