Building a business or an organization is hard—many entrepreneurs I work with experience the trials, tribulations, travesties and triumphs of turning their vision into a reality. And it seems that those challenges are exacerbated and different standards are applied when building organizations for Vagipreneurs (people in the business of female sexual health, reproductive health and wellness). But there is so much to be learned from the barrier breakers about staying the course to create change and progress. And needless to say, these lessons can be applied to all of our leadership work in the Jewish community as well.
Most new businesses end up requiring more time and cash than their founders initially anticipated, and in Vagipreneurial businesses, timelines tend to be even longer. But today and every day, Vagipreneurs are out there making noise, and the crescendo is getting louder and louder. So, what have I learned as I spoke to and worked with dozens of business leaders in this space? What have their experiences, combined with my own, imparted for those who are thinking about striking out anew?
There are many paths to success, and with products and services that are centered on women’s sexual health and wellness, the path may be over, under, or around the most direct route to the goal. You don’t have to like these extra barriers and double-standards, but to succeed, you’ll have to acknowledge them and find ways to circumvent them—and be prepared ahead of time for the extra distance that may be added to your trip.
Never, ever, ever take “No” for an answer. You may hear “No” a dozen times. You may hear it a hundred. But somewhere out there is your “Yes,” and if you stop before you get there, somebody else will hear it—not you. Many of the entrepreneurs I have worked with describe doors slamming (both literally and proverbially) in their faces—until they finally met the right funder/partner/savior who “got it,” who took a chance on them and their businesses.
It’s not only OK to ask for help from people who have fought the same battles—it’s a best practice. You can preserve sanity, time, and precious resources if you can turn to others in your network as a brain trust, or if you can find leaders in other industries who faced years of pushback before they made progress against older, prevailing ways of doing things against strong headwinds.
Somebody has to be first to market. It may as well be you. Somebody has to break through the front lines of inertia, inaction and insufficiency. In an increasingly technology-focused world, we can hardly imagine what life was like without computers and smart devices, before they existed. But it was not easy to break through—to not only change behavior, but transform it.
Never, ever lose your sense of humor or sense of perspective. I often think of several famous lines from one of my all-time favorite movies, Airplane. As events start to go terribly wrong and it appears a plane crash is imminent, the chief air traffic controller, masterfully played by Lloyd Bridges, says, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop smoking.” And he lights up. At the next crisis point, he says, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop drinking.” Commence the pour. Finally, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.” Many were the days when that sentiment described how I felt during my own journey, and tapping into humor kept me from becoming totally discouraged.
Make sure you have a thick (massively thick) skin and effective coping mechanisms. If you choose to go into a Vagipreneurial endeavor, you will likely hear offensive comments and inappropriate observations. You might find yourself on the receiving end of demeaning, sometimes even insulting remarks about you, your product, and the future prospects for your business. But you must have your own coping strategy—to get through the journey in one piece, to keep you grounded and to keep you smiling through the pain and pleasures of forging a new path.
Business is challenging, leadership is challenging, Vagipreneurship is challenging, and Jewish leadership is challenging, but you can do it. Many of you are trying to do all of those things every day. Power to you. Be an Orgasmic Leader and make change happen!
Get To Know The Author
Wexner Heritage Alum Rachel Braun Scherl (MetroWest, NJ 08) is a Business Builder, Marketing Strategist, Vagipreneur® and author of Orgasmic Leadership: Profiting from the Coming Surge in Women’s Sexual Health and Wellness (May 2018). Rachel served on the board of the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life until its recent integration into the Greater MetroWest Federation. She is a frequent public speaker on behalf of her Jewish Community including Greater MetroWest Federation’s Major Gifts event, NJ Israel Bonds, Wexner Alumni Retreat and NCJW. Her husband, Zev, and she are passionately involved in Friends of the IDF. In 2016, Rachel was recognized as one of the 10 Jewish Women to Watch by Jewish Women’s International. Many of the thoughts in this article are excerpted from Orgasmic Leadership.
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