Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020

2020 has been a tough year for everyone. To find new success on the other side of this crisis, we must work together.

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I have the privilege of meeting many entrepreneurs, which means I also witness their great collective irony. Even during good times, entrepreneurship feels lonely. We have chosen a path of self-determination, which can be maddening and isolating.

And yet, here’s the crazy thing: We all deal with the same problems. Everyone has impostor syndrome. Everyone wrestles with management, or finances, or plans gone awry. We are alone together.

Now our barriers are coming down. We are all, for the first time in our lives, openly wrestling with the same problems at the same time. Confidence isn’t expected; clarity is impossible. We felt isolation and then doubled down on connectivity. We came to share openly with others and rely more heavily on them, too.

That’s what we wanted to honor in this issue, which has been a long time in the making. To understand it, here’s the backstory.

In March, as lockdowns began, the team here was preparing for our June issue. (We work months in advance.) Then June was canceled, a victim of uncertain economics.

Our next issue would be in July—a time that seemed impossibly far away, in a world we couldn’t envision.

We didn’t know where to begin, so we started with a question: Who should be on the cover? In normal times, our covers feature a celebrity… but that seemed like the wrong tone.

“Nobody wants to be the face of a pandemic,” someone on our team said.

What could we predict about the future? We agreed on this: Entrepreneurs would not give up. They’d join together and shift from panic to adaptation. By July, we figured, people would have plans. They’d find opportunity. They’d collectively carry the world forward.

So who should be on the cover? Entrepreneurs should be on the cover.

“Let’s fit as many people as we can,” I said, which turned out to be 137.

We wanted them to be a representative sample of entrepreneurial ingenuity—people who work at every scale, at every experience level, running solo businesses to international powerhouses.

Our sole filter: They had to have done something adaptive during the pandemic, whether it was helping their team, their community, their customers, or others. We’d include everyone who was quoted in the magazine, as well as people we’d simply heard about and admired.

One day, for example, I read a local news story about Maya Gilliam, who saw no future in the spa she’d run for years—so she transformed it into a boutique farm and upscale hemp dispensary called Hempress Farms. I loved that. On the cover!

Does this sound messy and haphazard to you? I agree—but what else is there, really? Entrepreneurship is also messy and haphazard, the product of envisioning a destination and then improvising your way there. We’d all prefer perfection, but we must settle for this instead: When we have an idea, and join with others to make it happen, we have a chance to create something meaningful. On any given day, that’s the best we can do.

The world we couldn’t imagine in March has now come into focus. New businesses are launching. Old ones pivoted. Just as we are sending this issue to the printer, many people are leaving their homes and joining a movement for racial equality—­another seismic event that could pull us apart or create togetherness and hope for a better future.

I do not know what comes next. But I sure know this: We won’t get there without each other. We were never alone, even when we felt we were. Now we know it.

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