Being an entrepreneur is hard—no one doubts that. However, Joanna Robinson offers valuable insight on just how difficult it is to start and run a business. Joanna, current AFF board member and owner of Lunar Massage, shares her biggest challenges and how she overcomes them to succeed, and tells how leading a life of supporting liberty has helped her along the way.
Joanna always knew she was going to work in the private sector. She stopped working as an employee in a for-profit business for a period of five years to work in fundraising in D.C., but she quickly realized she needed to return to the private sector in order to fulfill her true passion. This is when Joanna decided to become an entrepreneur and start Lunar Massage. Even though entrepreneurship is rewarding, Joanna does not want anyone to doubt how hard it is to start and run a successful business—she has encountered many obstacles along the way.
Joanna’s challenges in one word.
Robinson shares that absolutely nothing is easy when starting a business, especially before the company even opens its doors for business. The first challenge she encountered occurred in the planning stages when she forced herself to realize the balance between planning not enough and planning too much. “From the time I conceived of Lunar Massage to opening my doors was about five months,” Joanna says. “If you’re going to do it, do it. More planning doesn’t make for better execution.”
This philosophy proved true when Joanna found that no amount of planning could have prepared her for the first—and hardest—year of owning a brand new business. She explains that there were many forces working against her and her entrepreneurial efforts and very few of them could have been prevented with ahead-of-time planning. Entrepreneurs need to have the ability to constantly take and solve problems as they come.
The first year is absolute terror, solving a million problems and getting acclimated to a 24/7 responsibility. It took about 18 months to stabilize and get a tail wind. Everything before that takes Herculean effort day after day. Employee and management issues are always at the top, particularly in the service industry since my people are my product.
Robinson even goes as far as warning young, aspiring entrepreneurs not to be entrepreneurs. “Don’t do it. Being an employee is a really sweet gig,” she only half-jokes.
Liberty as a priority.
Even though it seems next to impossible to successfully start a business, Joanna says that it is possible. One of the reasons her dreams have been realized is the fact that she believes in liberty. Robinson says that from her studies, she learned many theoretical ideas about markets that she had the opportunity to test in a real-life setting. One of the biggest ideas Joanna has gotten to test is the efficiency and legitimacy of capitalism. She says proudly practicing capitalist ideas has helped her business flourish.
You wouldn’t believe how many people, even at the small business level, don’t appreciate capitalism and are even a little embarrassed by it. My belief that it’s a moral system that improves people’s lives informs my product and the culture of my company.
Robinson has also discovered that running a business has surprised her by informing her already-existent philosophy about free markets. Not only has she been able to test her ideas about markets in the real-world, but these markets taught her a lot in reverse and helped her to grow her knowledge in ways she did not anticipate.
Theories, graphs, and statistics are all very clean. The truth is that human beings are hot messes, and entrepreneurs perform a profoundly unnatural act trying to bring order out of chaos. Those facts influence what we think of as the market much more than policy nerds and commentators can know.
AFF helped Joanna grow as a professional.
Joanna advises young professionals to be involved with AFF since it has helped her find her passion and hone her skills in preparation for her own business ventures. Her previous experience working with the organization prepared her to achieve entrepreneurial success.
My experience working at AFF as a Membership Director years ago had a direct effect on my ability to start and run my business. I built a program from almost nothing and saw it flourish. It gave me a passion for building programs and connecting people. I think AFF is a fabulous training ground for people to take risks, try things they can’t do in their jobs, and take initiative with their skills and interests.
Joanna Robinson is the owner of Lunar Massage and a board member at America’s Future Foundation. If you are interested in learning more about Joanna’s business, you can visit Lunar Massage’s website at http://www.lunarmassagedc.com/.
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