Becoming the founder of a company has changed the way I think. Before, my creativity and passion would play off of each other and, in my mind, drive a single idea into a sweeping concept in less than 60 seconds. I was thinking big picture, which was important, but I didn’t emphasize the small, sometimes tedious steps needed to get there. Today, I have the discipline to identify and focus on the most important paths for getting from point A to point B.
Having the idea is the easy part, but understanding how to conceptualize and execute the function and design of a product that can go out into the marketplace requires the ability to focus on what’s necessary in getting to that next step. Since I went to art school for digital media, producing technical stuff was something I was familiar with. But a business does not stop at the product. So in order to take Autism Expressed to where it needs to be, I must keep moving forward. To do so, means setting goals, consistently reaching them, and then setting new goals.
Over the last two and a half years establishing Autism Expressed, I’ve realized that every time I come close to achieving a milestone I’ve worked so hard to reach, I’ve already set my eyes on the next one in the distance.
For example, when I won $10,000 from the Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at the University of the Arts and was given the opportunity to build Autism Expressed, I told myself, “I’ll just be happy when I have a product.”
Five months later, that milestone was achieved. I had a beta product that I tested in my own classroom throughout the 2012 school year. Then, during the summer as I refined that product, I told myself, “I’ll be happy when this is being used in classrooms.”
Autism Expressed launched 10 pilot programs in January 2013, including with the The District of Columbia Public Library, United Cerebral Palsy, and The School District of Philadelphia. We had great success, and as a result, more teachers wanted to use the product and parents strongly advocated for its implementation.
So next I thought, “I’ll be happy when we launch to the public.”
After winning the educational services of America prize in the University of Pennsylvania’s Milken-Penn Graduate School of Education Business Plan Competition, I was able to scale the platform, add more content, and make Autism Expressed publicly available from our Web site to parents and small organizations.
One month after we launched that, I said, “I want to generate $150,000 in revenue in six months.”
Now, realizing I accomplished that goal in four months, I am telling myself that I’ll be happy if I can close at least three more sales before March. We’ll see what happens.
I believe that being a visionary plays an important role in creating a business because it drives your next steps and identifies those next milestones. Most of the time, they are further away than you think, but sometimes you might arrive at them sooner than you predicted. Either way, having the drive to keep pushing forward is what makes for successful entrepreneurs.
It is said that an artist’s work is never done—for an entrepreneur, it’s the same.