By Kalika Yap, serial entrepreneur & founder of Citrus Studios, Luxe Link, The Waxing Co & Orange & Bergamot
- We often fail to acknowledge that entrepreneurship is a lonesome job.
- My uncle didn’t reach out during his loneliest times as a business owner and ultimately took his own life.
- In his honor, I’ve made “finding a tribe” my priority.
“Be around the light bringers, the magic makers, the world shifters, the game shakers. They challenge you, break you open, uplift + expand you. They don’t let you play small with your life. These heartbeats are your people. These people are your tribe.” — Unknown
Whether you’ve started one company or five, worked solo or with a business partner, managed a few employees or a hundred, all of us have felt alone. And likely more than once.
Entrepreneurship is a lonesome job.
Entrepreneurs are required to hold a variety of positions and work long hours with little to no help, even if we have a business partner. Few people understand the kind of work we do. Our problems are unique and therefore difficult to solve unless our supporters have been through them as well.
I always knew running a business was tricky for this reason, but it never quite set in until I saw it affect someone I loved. My uncle and mentor Edwin Juan ran a large roofing company in Hawaii for over two decades. He inspired me to start my first business, Citrus Studios.
My uncle’s company was wildly successful, but he was struggling. Personal conflicts and the usual business obstacles had him under constant stress, and he didn’t have a mentor or confidant to help him work things out.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
As his problems snowballed, my uncle began to feel more and more alone. Eventually, it all became too much, and in 2007, Uncle Edwin put his neck through a noose, stepped off the washing machine and hung himself in his garage. My cousin, his youngest son, found him. He had dried tears on his face.
At first, I was confused and smug. I couldn’t understand why in the world my uncle -- or anyone -- could view suicide as the solution. Then, in 2008, The Recession hit.
And it flattened me.
I realized how incredibly difficult it was to run one business in a collapsed economy, let alone three: By then, I was running Citrus Studios, Luxe Link and The Waxing Co. I too began to feel stuck and alone. And for the first time, I understood what my uncle must have felt when he put the noose around his neck.
I had friends and acquaintances who were entrepreneurs, but I didn’t have a specific support group I could turn to when I was struggling. It was during this battle that I started to understand why my uncle had felt so hopeless and wanted to kill himself.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
I sought out groups of entrepreneurs who were facing the same struggles as I was. In 2009, I found the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a tribe exclusively for entrepreneurs like me.
I joined my local chapter, EO Los Angeles, and immediately realized it was vital to be a part of a group that supported my journey. The members of my group help me grow both personally and professionally because they share from their personal experiences. We call that gestalt. From them, I get advice on both working with my spouse and raising capital for my newest startup, Orange & Bergamot.
My EO chapter and I took a tour in Germany last year. That’s me, front and center.
Over time, EO Los Angeles provided what I now call my tribe: a group of people I relate to, pull energy from and give back to. It’s a group of dreamers, builders and architects of change who collectively celebrate the power of entrepreneurship. The organization is my ohana now, my family. My only regret is that I didn’t find EO before I grappled with my own businesses.
I believe that if my uncle had been a part of a tribe like EO, he would still be here today.
A group of experienced and optimistic supporters is essential to every entrepreneur’s progress, and knowing what I know now, I think it would have saved him during the toughest moments of his life. The right tribe uplifts, educates and supports entrepreneurs through every moment of their journey, both internal and external. It provides its members with a feeling of belonging.
Today, I’m the President of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Los Angeles Chapter EO Los Angeles. I also am a member of and previously served on the Board of Directors at the National Association of Women Business Owners. To me, these are ways of giving back to the community I’m extraordinarily grateful to have found.
Thanks to a huge number of master minds, entrepreneurial societies and support groups, there’s a tribe out there for everyone. The right one will help you out of a pickle and give you resources to accomplish your goals.
Here are a few places to look:
Kalika Yap is the founder of four companies: Citrus Studios, her first digital marketing agency; Luxe Link, the original purse hook; The Waxing Co, Honolulu’s first luxury waxing salon and Orange & Bergamot, a branding agency and community for female founders. Connect with her on LinkedIn to keep up with her growth story.