It wasn’t ‘all for naught’
After 15 years of serving the community, the Women’s Business Center will be closing its doors on Aug. 31. While I have only been with the organization since January 2009, I have had the good fortune of witnessing the positive impact the WBC has had on countless women entrepreneurs.I was hired just in time to experience the recession in all its glory, and the last year and a half has been a real roller coaster of emotions. I have never worked so intensely to keep an organization financially viable as I did over these past 18 months.I wasn’t alone in my endeavors. No matter what I asked of my staff they did it and gave 100 percent. I also had a board of directors who were invested in our success and who contributed their time, talent and treasure to the WBC. I felt that if anyone could weather this storm we could. We had the talent and the drive, and I believed that would get us through it all. I was wrong.We made the announcement Monday, July 19, the day I returned from vacation and just 10 days after I had been given the news of our demise. I was actually grateful that I was away and had some time to digest the reality of not only losing my job but also the impact on my staff and the numerous women who had come to depend on us for business counseling and support.I felt a range of emotions, from sadness to anger to fear and also guilt. I was sad for my colleagues and members who made our organization so unique and wonderful. I was angry that we didn’t receive the financial support that I believe we deserved and desperately needed. I felt fear as I have two young children and a mortgage. I felt guilt as I wondered if I didn’t do enough or didn’t do it well enough.I found myself revisiting all of the decisions I made over the past 18 months, wondering if they were the right ones. I have to admit that I also felt some relief as this battle has been physically and emotionally draining, and I wasn’t seeing an end in sight.I have been flooded with e-mails and phone calls of support. It has been heartwarming and enlightening. I received one particular e-mail that was brief but powerful. This person thanked us for our service and then told me that she hoped I didn’t feel that my efforts were “all for naught,” because they weren’t.How did she know exactly what I was wondering at that moment? I put 100 percent into this job every day, and we still ended up closing our doors. I lost sleep, got too many colds and cried over this job. Could it have been, “all for naught”?Not a chance. Every day our doors were open we were helping entrepreneurs. Every counseling session provided needed business tools and moral support. Every networking event brought together women with similar struggles and experiences. Every phone call had the potential to help someone make better informed decisions to grow their business or save them from making disastrous mistakes.If we had all come to work each day holding back our best efforts we never would have had the positive impact that we had. Each time that the WBC helped a struggling entrepreneur made it all worth it. If we had given less than our best we never would have received the calls and e-mails expressing such kindness and support. If I hadn’t given 100 percent every day I would have to spend the rest of my years wondering if it could have worked out differently. That is a burden I never want to carry.There are many businesses out there right now that are either closing up shop or thinking about closing. I’ll bet that many of these entrepreneurs are experiencing the same flood of emotions and self-doubt that I have been experiencing. Was it all for naught? The answer, in my opinion, is no. The closure of a business does not necessarily have to be translated as the failure of a business.The only true regrets I will have in this lifetime are for opportunities that I did not seize. I have a wonderful quote on my refrigerator by Robert H. Schuller: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” That is how I want to live my life. In doing so we (especially entrepreneurs) are going to face a lot more risks and perhaps more “failures” (I prefer to call them learning experiences). We are entrepreneurs, and we just won’t be satisfied living a cautious life. We are driven, we are optimists and we will learn from our experiences and go on to create new ventures. We will leave this world knowing that we went after our dreams and wouldn’t have done it any other way. Christine Davis is executive director of the Women’s Business Center in Portsmouth, which will be closing its doors at the end of August.