by Angela Smith
There are some things in life that you cannot fully understand until you experience them, and I would venture to say that founding a startup is one of them. I knew it would be difficult, but I underestimated the difficulty and the depth of which the experience would penetrate my whole self and the ripple effect it would have on all aspects of my life.
“Entrepreneur by marriage” is how I have frequently described myself. I am naturally risk averse, practical, analytical, and most comfortable in situations marked by consistency and stability – not generally characteristics for successful entrepreneurship. My husband Michael, however, was born an entrepreneur with risk taking blood running through his veins compliments of both his maternal and paternal family tree. In fact, he is the most risk tolerant person I’ve ever encountered and in that way, we couldn’t be more different. If he is jumping out of a plane, I am standing firmly on the ground. If he is excitedly sharing his next idea, I am considering all the challenges and reasons it won’t work.
Early in our marriage Michael affectionately started calling me “the dream slayer” – he would dream it and I would slay it! But God did not gift Michael a spirit of entrepreneurship for me to forever stifle it.
In 2011 God called me out of my comfort zone and into a journey of entrepreneurship. In His wisdom and grace, He opened my eyes to a problem, gifted me an idea, and aligned the burden on our hearts to pursue a dream that would somehow glorify Him!
At the time we had three young kids, Michael was traveling for work, and we had no landline phone in our home. I found myself reluctantly entrusting the kids with my ridiculously expensive and extremely fragile smartphone so they could talk to Daddy while he was out of town. Then one day I realized: I don’t give them anything else that’s $600 and breakable and expect that to go well! There has to be a better way! I envisioned a Bluetooth headset that looked like a kid’s toy phone. I wanted a way to push the audio of the call to a durable kid’s device, while my phone stayed safely on the counter, out of harm’s way.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea. Michael couldn’t stop thinking about the idea. For months we talked about it privately and wrestled with excitement and fear - not fear of pursuing the idea, but fear of NOT pursuing it. We were aligned in our burden and fully confident that God had gifted me this idea. It was a dream that I could not slay.
Prayer was the first order of business and we offered up our efforts and whatever the outcome of those efforts to God for His purpose and His glory. And thus began our journey of founding Yip Yap and transforming an idea into a company. It’s been a journey of entrepreneurship that God has unexpectedly used to work out my faith in ways I could have never imagined and didn’t even know I needed.
I have known and sought God my entire life, but the roller coaster of extreme highs and extreme lows of entrepreneurship has rocked my faith and I found myself often lost in valleys of uncertainty, fear, doubt and confusion literally crying out to the Lord for help. I was confident that God burdened our heart to pursue this dream, so why was it so difficult for me?
In answer to my cries, God has drawn me closer to Himself and opened my eyes to the realization that following a call from Him does not mean that there will be a clear and easy path forward. Everyone called by God in the Bible was required to step out in faith and trust fully in the Lord.
Consider Noah’s obedience in the face of extreme uncertainty, Abraham’s faithfulness to follow without knowing the way, David’s patience for the fulfillment of God’s promise of kingship, and so many others whose stories demonstrate the faith work that God accomplishes when we say yes to His calling.
Our Lord’s own brother James says:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
I consider the trials of entrepreneurship pure joy because they are testing my faith and by His grace I am persevering and growing more mature in my faith.
I have learned to live in and accept a place of uncertainty and instability because in Jesus I choose to place my certainty and stability.
I have learned to take risks and the Lord is using those risks to teach me what it means to truly trust in His provision.
I have learned to stop striving and believing that through MY efforts alone I can control our success or failure.
I have learned to seek His will, dig well the ditches He is asking me to dig, and trust that He will bring the rain.
Our journey with Yip Yap is not yet complete. Whether God’s plan is that we achieve worldly success or experience worldly failure is still yet to be realized. But, whatever the outcome, I stand firmly in my faith and declare that it is well with my soul – and looking ahead from this new vantage point is worth every valley I’ve crossed along the way.