My entrepreneurial journey started in 2004 when I left the world of cleantech finance to take a shot at doing my own thing. When I started down the entrepreneurial road I had a boyfriend; by the time we sold the company in 2009 I had graduated to having a husband. Lucky for me, they weren’t the same guy. It turns out that it takes a certain type of person to want to tag along on the roller-coaster ride that is entrepreneurship.
I viewed starting a company as a grand adventure. It was exciting heading off into the unknown with dreams of building a company that mattered, one that would make a difference in the world. I didn’t care that weekends were no longer my own and that vacations were non-existent—and so what if I didn’t have a regular income? I had faith that if I put my head down and worked hard (really, really hard, as it turned out) that I could be a part of something much bigger than myself and that the returns would eventually come.
My boyfriend, however, did not have the same faith. He hated the insecurity, the fact that he had no control over the outcome and that I never knew if I’d be able to pay myself from one month to the next. He bailed, crushing my heart like a bug.
In hindsight, the failure of that relationship was one of the biggest blessings of my life—it triggered a series of events that led to meeting a man who is everything the first one wasn’t. I expected him to run far and fast when he saw the hours I worked, experienced the emotional ups and downs of life with an entrepreneur and realized that, even when I wasn’t physically working, I was still consumed by everything to do with the business, which by that time had grown to include a new CEO plus three companies that we had acquired.
As you walk the very fine line between success and failure—a line that entrepreneurs all know well—the stresses are immense. “Work-life balance” isn’t a phrase most entrepreneurs can relate to. But the new guy surprised me by staying put. He wasn’t scared of the uncertainty of my job. Instead he was immensely supportive and possibly even proud of the journey that I was on.
He worked hard to balance things for me and to make my life easier. He bought the groceries, cooked the meals (which were, and still are, amazing) and did the laundry (crazy, but true). He worked his schedule around mine. He supported me through long nights, non-existent weekends and vacations at the cottage where I was glued to my computer.
One Friday night after an especially stressful week I showed up at the cottage in the pitch black and was greeted with votive candles lining the long driveway, a bottle of wine open and breathing, and an indescribably delicious dinner on the table. And he continues to do all of these things today (except for the candles—that was a one-shot deal).
Being an entrepreneur is hard. I suspect that in many ways being married to an entrepreneur is even harder. It is a bit like being a passenger in a car: you have no control over where you’re going, nor over how fast or how safely you travel. The passenger sometimes needs to just close his eyes and hope for the best. I am so lucky to have found a partner who had enough faith and confidence in where I was going that he was willing to squeeze his eyes shut, hang on tight and enjoy the crazy ride we went on.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Jane KearnsJane is a senior advisor with MaRS Cleantech. She is a recognized leader in sustainable innovation and has extensive experience growing companies at the intersection of business and sustainability. See more…