The Venture Report | Ben Thomson | May 7th, 2024

Every ‘Overnight Success’ Took 10 Years Or More To Build

Many famous people have been credited with a version of this quote, from Tom Clancy to Jeff Bezos. The reason it stands out to me at this moment is that, like so many others, we are on a path where we hope to achieve our spotlight of "overnight success."

Being an entrepreneur and founder of a small business can look glamorous from the outside. You get to pick your own schedule, you don’t have to answer to a boss, and you get to do what you love every day.

Truthfully, I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for most things.

Another truth is that being a small business founder often means working twice the hours you might work at a ‘normal’ day job. You often can’t afford to pay yourself (sometimes for years), and you tend to work late nights and weekends. Additionally, while you might not answer to a boss, you are constantly answering to payroll and feeling the stress of financial obligations to your team, vendors, and your future. However, you do all these things because you want to. The motivation to move forward and the joy you feel when finding pockets of success provide an energy that can be hard to find in some day jobs.

I have been self-employed for the last nine years, co-owning and operating two businesses. After my best friends and I started Belong Designs, we also started a service-based company. Selling a service allowed us to pay ourselves while remaining self-employed and pursuing our dreams as entrepreneurs. It wasn’t until eight years later, in 2023, that I was able to exit our other business and pursue Belong Designs full-time.

The last six months have been the first time I have only been working on Belong Designs and haven’t had to divert my time to something else to help pay for my cost of living and support myself. I share this story because it’s easy to look around, especially on social media, and only see success and other people’s best days. It’s great to show what we accomplish on our good days, but it’s also important to remind ourselves that the seeds we plant today might not bear fruit for years.

To me, following your passion can mean taking the time to do what you love when you have the opportunity. Following your passion can also mean choosing to do the harder things that might not be fun or easy for a long time. It’s making the choice to put time, energy, and effort into learning something or starting something that will make you happier in the future and give you the opportunities in life you want for yourself and those you support.