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What I Learned in 2013: “Going out on a Limb and Doing Whatever It Takes” What I Learned in 2013: “Going out on a Limb and Doing Whatever It Takes”

What I Learned in 2013: “Going out on a Limb and Doing Whatever It Takes”

by Debra Sterling
December 28, 2013

My biggest lesson of 2013 is that you really can “create your own luck”.

I started GoldieBlox just over a year ago with one simple goal: to inspire the next generation of female engineers. For over 100 years, toys like Legos and Erector sets have gotten boys interested in building and engineering. I wanted to spark this same interest in girls.

When I first started talking to people about my vision for the company, I encountered a lot of resistance. Toy industry veterans told me that “construction toys for girls don’t sell”. I was pretty dejected by their reaction until I attended a social entrepreneurship program called StartingBloc, where I learned about a concept called “creating your own luck.” Rather than sitting around, waiting for luck to come your way, you have to make it happen for yourself. Unabashedly. Setting audacious goals and truly believing they are possible – this is the first half of the battle. The second half is going out on a limb and doing whatever it takes to make them happen. This is what we did in 2013.

We began the year with an enormous challenge: we had tens of thousands of pre-ordered toys with almost no idea how we were going to produce and ship them all. Through the help of my best friend, sister and husband (our first three employees), we scrambled to figure it out. While all four of us have our superpowers, admittedly none of them are in operations. Just around that time, I received a fan email from a woman named Jan Hanson, the former VP of Operations at Cranium, who was a Kickstarter backer. She offered to give us advice. I offered her a job. As audacious as it seemed to bring someone of that caliber onto our tiny team, she believed wholeheartedly in our mission and took the leap. As our COO/CFO/Employee #5, she has been absolutely indispensible in helping us grow.

Throughout the year, we kept dreaming big. We created lists of men and women who we admired and knew would align with our mission. I would introduce myself to every “VIP” speaker at every conference I would attend with the hopes of starting a conversation that could turn into a relationship. Through this approach, GoldieBlox has benefited from the generosity and expertise of countless people—from Maxine Clark of Build-a-Bear, to Terry Langston of Pictionary.

We constantly put ourselves out there in a big way. This kind of optimism led to entering contests like Shopify’s Build-A-Business, which we ended up winning, and through this process we met many great advisors who we rely on to this day. We also entered Intuit’s Small Business, Big Game contest—and are currently one of four finalists for an ad in the SuperBowl. We had to believe we would be a real contender among the 15,000 entrants in order to get to this point— this is how working at creating your own luck makes a difference.

Of course, I can’t pretend that every dream has worked out (yet). But we never say never—and we firmly believe that every ‘no’ is actually a ‘maybe’. This is why 2014 will be another lucky year for GoldieBlox – because we will create it ourselves.

This piece is part of a series sponsored by The GAP in which members of the 2013 GOOD 100 share important lessons they learned this past calendar year. Subscribe today to GOOD Magazine and receive the 2014 GOOD 100 edition this coming Spring.

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