Fearless Facing Failure: How Wexchange helped me to overcome my fears

By Nichole Crawford-Thompson, Co-founder and CEO, Niritech Limited

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure”-Seven Eriksson.

When my husband and I started our company in Jamaica, we thought our only barriers to success were lack of financial capital to drive marketing and inadequate business education. I was shocked when I realised that my greatest barrier to success was possibly linked to my emotions. This article will highlight the lessons I have learnt while attending Wexchange and how those lessons helped me to overcome my fear of failure.

On November 18, 2015, I traveled to Monterrey Mexico to attend the annual Wexchange forum which was being held at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. Wexchange is a platform that connects high-growth women entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean with mentors and investors seeking to nurture the growth of their business. This took place over two days and featured presentations from some of the most successful female entrepreneurs in Latin America. The event was founded in 2013 by the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group and was spear-headed by Susana Garcia-Robles, Principal Investment Officer of the Early-Stage Equity Group at MIF.

The major highlights of the event were the networking and mentorship sessions, speed pitching to investors and a pitching competition. These activities incorporated with presentations from experienced entrepreneurs provided a great opportunity for me to learn, share and expand my network. I will now highlight the five lessons I learnt while attending the forum.

Lesson One – “Get to know your fear and embrace it”

Sometimes as an entrepreneur I am scared to make big moves. At times feel like our company is not fully established or no one knows us or we need to establish more credibility. However I have to learn that it’s ok to be imperfect. It’s ok to go before I am ready. As entrepreneurs we have to be willing to take chances and grasp the opportunities whether they me great or small. Sue Heilbronner, Co-founder and CEO of MergeLane Accelerator said it best in her presentation when she encouraged us to “find a bench in a park and invite fear to sit down.” Whatever our fear is we should get acquainted with it. Sometimes the best way to defeat our enemy is to know about it. Understanding our fears will put us in a better position to fight it. We might also find out that it’s not that scary after all.

Lesson Two – “Manage Risk”

While some opportunities may require us to step out in faith, another profound lesson for me to overcome failure was the importance of managing risk. Risk management requires us to know the risk associated with the situation; analyse the pros and the cons and then make the best decision based on the facts. So for many of us quitting our day job may not be the best decision based our circumstances. While my husband and I were very excited about being in our business full-time we understood that our business would not become profitable overnight and my husband’s decision to remain full time at his job gave us the flexibility to grow our business while being able to cope financially.

Lesson Three – “Be creative and love what you do”

Creativity is the use of original ideas to create something new. Mariquel and Gaston a husband and wife team and Co-founders of HICKIES, inspired me with their story of how creativity and love helped them to overcome years of highs and lows in their company. I learnt that being creative helps us to adapt to new and overwhelming circumstances, it helps you to stand out among competitors and it helps us to overcome obstacles. Being creative is by no means any easy feat, but our love for what we do will keep us motivated and on task. Loving what we do is another important attribute needed to overcome our fears. This love driven by passion will provide inspiration, vision and perseverance.

Lesson Four – “Be authentic, not naïve”

As a woman in business sometimes I feel like I have to take on a male persona to be successful. But I have learnt that there are so many advantages to being a woman in business. Marta Cruz, Co-founder and Director of NXTP Labs puts it nicely when she said that “our transparency alleviates fear in others”. Basically what you see is what you get and that is normally we who we really are. We need to be true to ourselves and allow our authenticity to shine. Understanding that life has ups and downs we should see this rollercoaster called life as an adventure. However, we must not be naïve and underestimate the situation but make sound and decisive judgments. This will enable us to alleviate our fears and make those difficult decisions.

Lesson Five –“Leverage Support”

Team building is important to overcoming failure. I have to admit that I been have trying to overcome the habit of doing everything myself. It is very important that we surround ourselves with individuals who share our vision and who can provide support. One of the advantages of being a woman is that we are inclusive and that allows us to focus on team building and that is a great attribute. Building strong teams will provide the necessary support before and after failure.

After listening to Rania Anderson, Founder and President of The Way Women Work, I learnt the importance of building a 360° Network. This involves assessing where my strongest and weakest connections are and understanding that strong ties build bonds and weak ties build bridges. They are all important to creating a web of opportunities. Developing a network is also a great way to create value and build the knowledge, skills and influence of everyone involved. I have learnt that the key to having a successful network is generosity. This I found to be very thought provoking, as I perceived networking to be about what I could get rather than what I could give. However, if we think about what we can give to others we find that this attitude of giving opens far more opportunities.

In concluding, I have learnt not to live a life without problems. Fear originates from our desire to control the future and our need for assurance and safety. We do not have total control over the future and there are going to be unexpected twists and turns that might lead to failure. We can face failure without fear if we develop the right attitude and character. I am grateful to Wayne Beecher and his team at Inter-American Development Bank in Jamaica, for selecting me to attend the Wexchange forum which helped me to develop the mind-set I needed to overcome fear and to see “failure as an opportunity to begin again more intelligently” (Henry Ford).

by Nichole Crawford-Thompson