How Do You Know?

From the time I was a little girl, I always had some type of side hustle. My older sister taught me
how to sew and I made many of my own clothes starting in fifth grade, mostly jumpers that
could be worn with a blouse. In middle school, I crocheted coin purses and sold them to my
friends and classmates. During my college years, I hemmed pants and typed term papers. I even
sold Avon and Tupperware from my dorm room until I was discovered and told to stop. Later,
tutoring and educational assistance became my way of making extra money.
Even though I worked a full-time job following college, I also worked part-time at an upscale
clothing store. The store discount allowed me to dress the part of a successful banker, even
though my salary wouldn’t support it. When I became a teacher, I always worked summer
school to bring in extra income.
As I approached a “certain age”, I began to ask myself, “How do you know if…?”. I started to ask
myself why am I doubting what I’ve always thought to be true about starting a “REAL” business?
It seems as if the beliefs we held as younger people get even stronger and more intense as we
get older. So, I would often say to myself, “How do I know I can’t be as successful as other
business people?”. I believe you know you’re meant to do this thing because it’s in your spirit,
in your bones. Period! Another thing I started to question was, “Why not”? Lately, whenever I
need to make a decision, I ask myself these three questions: What am I afraid of? What am I
waiting for? How bad can it be?
That’s the philosophy I had when I applied for my doctoral program. I’d never done educational
work on that level before. I’d never taken that type of entrance exam and I wasn’t sure if I
would be admitted into the program. But I was! How was I going to pay for it? How was I going
to make time for it while working full time as a teacher, working part time as an adjunct
instructor at UMKC and actively involved in local civic groups and church treasurer? Again,
“What am I afraid of? What am I waiting for? How bad can it be?” I finished with a 3.9 GPA and
decided to enter the field of telehealth.
When I started Diversity Telehealth in 2012, I was a classroom teacher and wanted to explore
other options. I continued to teach for an additional 4 years and operated my business as a side
hustle. However, I couldn’t make or return phone calls during the school day. I couldn’t make
lunch meetings or travel for conferences or trainings. It was only when I was able to get more
clients, that I decided maybe it’s time to do this full-time. But I was really scared! I wasn’t sure if
I had what it took to be a successful business owner. I just tried it anyway. I decided to “Do it
scared”. That was my motto. After all, what am I afraid of? What am I waiting for? How bad can
it be? I know that sounds like I’m taking a negative point of view, but when you’ve never done
something before, and you’re scared to start, self-confidence can be very low. I didn’t have any
clients. I didn’t have any contracts. I wasn’t sure if anyone would buy my product or service, but
I did it scared anyway. Times were lean and I heard “No” a lot. I learned from my mistakes and
things got better

Since that time, I’ve worked with several clients, competed in several pitch competitions (won
some and lost some), created three software platforms and apps, traveled to London to explore
expanding the use of my software, and filed 3 patents (The third one was done solo, yesterday,
without an attorney!). I’ll keep you posted on my progress with the invention.
I’m not saying that what I have is the best, but it is the best that I can be at this point. I’ve been
disappointed by some of the outcomes, and I’ve been happy with many of my attempts.
If you start out, questioning how things have always been. It opens your mind to new
opportunities. How do you know if a potential business idea will fail or succeed? How do you
know if clients will or won’t come to your door and want your product? How do you know if
you are qualified to open that business or offer that service? You have to take a leap of faith!
So, for many of you who are afraid to start your business or you’re uncertain about what your
skills are, I say, Many of the large companies that we hear about today and that we use
regularly started out as small businesses that were based on an idea that the founder wasn’t
sure would be successful. But they tried it anyway!
Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of? What am I waiting for? How bad can it be?” How will I know
unless I try? “Do it scared”. Good luck!
By Dr. Shelley Cooper


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