There are no shortcuts.
Perhaps the most recurring question I have asked myself in the 9 years since we began Mille Collines is “how do I know whether I should keep going?”
It may sound flake-ish but the truth is that one of the hardest things about entrepreneurship is just how few people can truly advise you based on their experience of having gone down a similar path. It's lonely and one is often left with far more questions than answers even when you do happen to cross paths with someone who's chosen a similar journey.Those anxious moments are real and leave you questioning your instinct as a leader. I’ve always thought I had a very strong sense of intuition but there are those moments that come at you and leave you unable to see a clear path. You hope for a higher force to shine a light and provide clarity while you're getting dressed in the morning. Occasionally the beacon shines but more often than not you're left to trust yourself and put one foot in front of the other.
Today, looking back at so many moments like this in the Mille Collines journey I realize there is no right or wrong answer to the question of whether to keep going or not; it’s just as honorable to end a journey as it is equally to keep walking forward. Lately, we have said goodbye to several other brands that started walking alongside Mille Collines at the start of it all. Brands that felt like family, like an older sibling or a close friend that you've always enjoyed a friendly rivalry with. Someone you adore and who’s steps you follow closely to make sure you are doing fine. Starting a brand from scratch is a very long process and there are no shortcuts. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Do yourself a favor and acknowledge this from day zero. For those of us who've taken the plunge in creating a new brand, nearly all of have had the early thought of “no… we're different, our product is unique, we can fly higher and faster than anyone.” While this sort of confident naivety certainly has its place, most of us end up dealing with the harsh reality that followed soon after the utterance was made. This doesn't mean the game is over but it does make it clear, if you're willing to listen, that there are no shortcuts.
Entrepreneurship in many ways is an organic process that will likely not be accelerated by force; if you do manage to do it, there may even be downsides due to important lessons being missed. You need to fall and bump your head a few times. Trying to accelerate things, in addition to possibly exhausting your resources, can also call into question the authenticity of your brand a thing which can never be faked. It feels like a cycle is coming to an end and their goodbyes of our counterparts are strangely somewhat liberating. Like any sibling would do, they’ve taught us a lesson; not to be scared to close a chapter and open a new one, since no journey is eternal. And arriving to a place where I can lead without that fear has been a very big win for me, I can feel my anxiety levels going down.
Last year was a key year for us. We decided to keep walking and the only thing that really matters is that we did it for all the right reasons. Since that decision was taken many things have aligned for us in what feels like magic. Far from that, it is the perfect storm, one that never happens if many factors don’t align together.
I no longer wait in the quiet mornings for someone to enlighten me, I feel that light inside.