From the December 2000 issue of Startups

The cash-flow crunch. The growing pains. The paperwork. Even Calgon can't take these things away and transport you back to the blissful days when your business was small and manageable. You are officially an entrepreneur with start-up-itis. So now what?

After five years of running Cybergrrl Inc., my first Internet start-up, I realized I was spending far more time on the spokesperson side than on the administrative side of the business. So when I arranged with my business partner to take time off to write my second book (Cybergrrl @ Work: Tips and Inspiration for the Professional You, Berkley Publishing Group), I knew I didn't want to go back to the business. And I didn't. Suddenly, I was without a company. At first, I felt relieved. But then I went through an intense grieving process, uncertain of my future and even of my own identity. Who was I, if not the president of Cybergrrl?

What's Your Motivation

My situation is not unique among entrepreneurs. Jenai Lane, founder of Zeal Co., a branding, product content and consulting biz for the Gen Y market, recalls the early days of her first business, Respect Inc., a consumer products manufacturing company in San Francisco that specialized in trend products for Gen X and Gen Y. "I remember waking up each morning and bounding out of bed, excited to meet the challenges of building a company," says Lane, 32. "After six wonderful and somewhat challenging years, my passion turned to dread. What had started off as a creative adventure became a company with rules, regulations and enormous responsibility."

Lane, finding herself much more entrenched in administrative tasks, was realizing that her personal goals were no longer in line with her company's. And she, too, arranged to move on, difficult as it was.

For Daniel Seltzer, co-founder of Interbind, a New York City software developer, the decision to leave his previous company had to do with the balance shifting within. "I felt the things I wanted to try just weren't going to happen while I was running Arcus," explains Seltzer, 36, of his former tech consulting company. "Not coincidentally, I also came to see the company with less idealism and more practical awareness of what needed to be done to take it to the next level. I wasn't motivated to pursue that [next level] with that organization. I needed some time to develop a new direction for my business goals."

Time For Change

After several moments of entrepreneurial withdrawal, I decided to stop suffering and start formulating a new business concept with a new partner. Likewise, Lane started her second company and called it Zeal to remind herself to always follow her passion. She is also writing a book and making a documentary on woman entrepreneurs. "My life is much more balanced today. I have time for yoga, meditation, and friends and family," she observes. "I can now define my life as successful even without the million-dollar company and lots of employees, because it's success on my terms."

And looking back on Arcus, Seltzer has no regrets, secure in his decision to step away from the business to either renew his commitment to it, or to close the book on that part of his life and open up to something very new. "That was vital to me for peace of mind, and it also resulted in professional and financial rewards."

Seeking both the excitement and passion of a new idea are often recurring themes with second-time entrepreneurs. I, too, wanted to return to the stage where I was coming up with new concepts, right before the business gets rolling. And I realized it was OK for me to go there, because that is where the hearts and minds of entrepreneurs thrive.


Aliza Pilar Sherman is author of Cybergrrl @ Work: Tips and Inspiration for the Professional You(Berkley Publishing Group). She is writing her third book, a motivational book for women in business, for Entrepreneur Press (due Fall 2001).