Editor’s Note: This is a guest post. The author, Alexandria Noel Butler, also known as Lexi B. , is CEO and founder of the Grown Up Truth. That’s a new, online lifestyle publication that follows unanticipated, ups and downs of young professionals. A graduate of Stanford University, Lexi B. currently resides in the SF Bay Area with her puppy Duke. She also documents her personal journey as an entrepreneur on her personal website, Curls & Stilettos.
By Lexi B.
I don’t think that most people–especially not kids–dream of becoming entrepreneurs.
Ballet dancer, teacher, firefighter, doctor, – these are typical career dreams of a kindergartner. But I was not the average kindergartner. My dream was to be a guest on the Oprah Show. When I approached my parents about this idea, my dad told me that I had to do something impactful.
That’s when a healthy, revolutionary seed took root. It now makes sense why my dad offered that advice.
Here’s the background of my odyssey as an entrepreneur in this digital publishing era:
I come from a pair of very rebellious parents who always chose the road less travelled. They demanded that I study, and that I appreciate my roots. They taught me that my behaviors influence not only my life, but the lives of others. Growing up in a household that applauds vocal opinions–coupled with a strong knowledge of family history and values–plants the seed for healthy rebellion. And, Dr. and Mrs. Butler loved it this way.
From the outside, my parents had regular day jobs in medicine and education, but this everyday look just shielded their true super hero capes. I always imagined myself living in a house full of revolutionists who fought for the well being of all people, but espcially those who live in underserved areas. The Ruby Bridges movie was always on repeat. My fairy tale princesses sported long braids and hair puffs.
By the time of high school graduation, the Oprah Show had run its course. On the other hand, I still yearned to make an impact, a contribution. I was concerned about my next adventure: college. Academically I believed that I would be successful, but I had no clue about my career path.
Then things started to fall in place.
When I started working in Silicon Valley’s tech industry, the eyes of my understanding unfolded. I noticed a big gap in my college to corporate skills base. My degree had not prepared me for bills, taxes, stock options, work politics, or professional relationship development. But, somehow, everyone expected me to know these things.
I searched for wiser adults to show me how to navigate this new part of my life, but their words weren’t raw enough. I sought dialogue about the real truths– the ups, the downs, and the in-betweens. I longed for the same open dialogue that I once had at my parents’ dinner table. Those conversations were straightforward, spot-on.
And, I recalled an earlier turning point in my life.
With the support of a former manager in college, I started a new program within the Engineering Department that requested senior leaders to give honest and raw feedback about the early days of their professional lives. Also, I organized dialogues with twentysomethings to discuss the emotions they felt as they approached life after college. I documented these truths in a simple blog. (By the way, that’s the advantage of the digital era in which we live: We can share our lives, our thoughts, our dreams with others around the world. It’s awesome.)
Fast forward 2 years.
That one-person blog has blossomed into a 5-person team that researches the “backpack to briefcase” experience of young professionals. My publication team members are grappling with that same issue in their own lives—the backpack to briefcase transition.
When I started my blog, I had no intention of becoming an entrepreneur. I simply wanted a space to candidly speak about issues that twentysomethings face today.
Meanwhile, my dad had always warned that I have to do something in life “to pay the light bill”–meaning work to survive.
But here’s what I have discovered: If you are committed to creating the solution to a problem, your light bill will get paid. Sometimes we need to stop searching for the money, and start searching for the conversion.
What is conversion in this context? That path toward solving a simple problem which often leads to a shift, a disruption, a revolution–and sometimes to entrepreneurship, as in the creation of my aforementioned publication, Grown Up Truth.
Stepping back for a moment; looking at the phenomenal entrepreneurs of our era, I see three distinct traits: creativity, rebelliousness, and the sheer will to be a soapbox for a cause. Here’s the real deal: Rome was not built in a day. Neither were Apple, Facebook, McKinsey, and so many other entities. They were built on the concept of service to others. I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is never selfish, but rather community driven.
I hope to help others with my Grown Up Truth publication. I invite you to follow my progress.
But my dad makes a very good point, though: The light bill waits for no one. That’s why entrepreneurs like myself need to keep our day jobs–until our community-driven ventures drop a profit.
Editor’s note: Lexi B. is the niece of Lillian Williams, author of this blog, E-Learning (A Digital Education Forum).