Why failure doesn’t have to stop you fulfilling your potential

Why failure doesn’t have to stop you fulfilling your potential

Everyone, at some point in their career, will face challenges; the key to success is being able to overcome those hurdles. Take a look at these three entrepreneurs who have succeeded despite tough situations.


“I lost everything… two months later, we launched The Muse” – Kathryn Minshew, founder and CEO of The Muse

Kathryn Minshew co-founded PYP Media, a website and email newsletter for women with three colleagues and after leaving her job at management consultants McKinsey, she went fulltime on the project. However, following a disagreement with her co-founders, Minshew found that she was locked out of her own website, email address and company.

“I lost everything – my life savings, all of my company’s assets, even my sense of self-worth,” she says. “The business I had poured my heart and soul into had failed and as I curled myself into the foetal position on my living room floor, I thought I wanted to stay there for good.”

But she says that something kept her going – and it was that which led her to create The Muse, a careers website for women.

“I had thought that building a company from zero – again – would be as hard as it was the first time around, but The Muse took off right away,” she says. “I hadn’t factored in the knowledge I had acquired through building PYP, and more importantly, the value of the team I had around me.

“Just two months later, we launched The Muse, a career-development platform for people who are beginning their careers or making major career changes.” And within three and a half years, the site received four million unique visitors every month, and had raised $10 million in funding.

From a mountain of debt to a world-famous brand – Milton Hershey, founder of The Hershey Foods Corp

Hershey’s might be one of the most famous names in confectionary now, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, his path to success was fraught with obstacles and setbacks that would have caused many others to give up.

Milton Hershey started his chocolate making career as an apprentice to confectioner Joseph H Royer. Then in 1876 with $100 he borrowed from his aunt he opened his first candy shop in Philadelphia. However, after just six years, he was forced to sell the business due to mounting debt.

Moving to Denver to join his father in the great Colorado silver rush, Hershey joined a confectioner there to continue the work that he loved. It was there that he started experimenting with techniques and learnt that adding fresh milk to caramel improved its quality and shelf life – a discovery that would be crucial in later years.

Hershey tried again to start a new candy shop, this time in Chicago but failure followed him. After a similar experience in New Orleans, he headed to New York City and opened yet another store. Despite his best efforts, this store also started to lose money and when his entire stock was stolen from a delivery wagon, he had no choice but to declare bankruptcy.

Returning to his hometown, he found that his family had given up on his and refused to even take him in – let alone lend him money to start again. But an old friend and employee came to his rescue. Together, Hershey and Henry Lebkicher scraped enough money to start the Lancaster Caramel Company – the business that would finally establish Hershey as a candy-maker. This is when Hershey began to experiment again with using fresh milk in the candy-making process and created chewy milk-based caramels that attracted an English importer to place a large candy order, enabling Hershey to secure a $250,000 loan to help him expand the business.

“I went home and I crawled into my bed and I didn’t leave for three weeks.” – Christina Wallace, VP, Growth at Bionic

Christina Wallace founded Quincy Clothing with her business school friend Alex Nelson. The apparel company promised great-fitting clothing for women but less than a year after its launch, the company closed down.

“I went home and I crawled into my bed and I didn’t leave for three weeks,” Wallace admits. “There was this moment of paralysis, of like, ‘Well what do I do now?’

“In addition to the, ‘I have no skills. I’m generalist. I’m a little bit of everything and no one’s going to want to hire me,’ through to the like, ‘How do I look my investors in the face again,’ and say, ‘I lost your money. I’m so sorry. That was never something that I thought would happen.’ To, ‘What about my employees?’ They pay their rent with paycheques that I was giving them and they don’t have them anymore. I’ve had kids on my health insurance plan. All of these things are going through your head and it can feel overwhelming.”

However, once Wallace got out of her bed again and focused on the future, rather than her recent failure, she became VP at the Startup Institute and went on to become founding partner of BridgeUp: STEM, an educational initiative at the American Museum of National History to introduce girls and young people from minority backgrounds to computer science. Now, she’s VP, Growth at Bionic Solutions, where they are helping Fortune 500 companies to grow like start-ups.

All credit to Virgin for this article.