The Truth About Starting a Business
Pathway Forward founder Qiana Hicks works from home.

The Truth About Starting a Business

Going from corporate career to startup founder is an even more jarring transition than Qiana Hicks imagined. The Pathway Forward founder gets candid about the less-discussed aspects of entrepreneurship.

If anyone had shared with me all the gory details of starting a business, especially one driven by innovation, it may have deterred me from doing so. If I had known about the drastic transitions that would be required, even beyond the obvious and life-changing ones like leaving my career and taking the leap to pursue my business full time, I’m not sure I would have been so eager. Who would have thought that leaving a 21-plus year career that was all I knew—my security, my only constant—would be so daunting? I didn’t! I mean, I wasn’t expecting a cake walk, per se, but I had no clue what I was in for.

Since becoming a full-time entrepreneur as the founder of Pathway Forward (a tech platform to diverse students with educational and career opportunities), I have learned that no matter what life throws at you, you have to keep going. Not only that, but you almost have to become a machine that can compartmentalize or turn off certain parts of your life, emotions, and desires so that your end goal (and God) is all that you give your time and energy to.

I’ve experienced that there are no start and end times or days off when you are starting up. Even if I wanted to, my brain is still in “go mode,” which means that I’m often thinking about what I have to do next or feeling like I’m getting behind in things if I take a break or have any down time. This is a new business culture and mode of being for me: entrepreneur life vs. my career in corporate America.

I have learned that starting a new business means giving up life as I once knew it.

There are no start and end times or days off when you are starting up.

This year alone, I have had to sacrifice doing so many things that I love, being with people whom I love, going places that I love, coming and going as I please, etc. Even if I tried to maintain these things while working on my business, I don’t think I could have been 100% present for them. I’ve learned that I can no longer give my whole self, and the percentage that I could give has been diminishing to the point where I have almost nothing more to give of myself—it’s all going into my business.

I’ve realized that I have not been my best self in these circumstances, which isn’t fair to others. This was a hard reality to face and the part of entrepreneurship that could make or break my determination to see things through. For me, there is no turning back. Heck, I have already sacrificed so much! I have had to set my mind to the idea that it will all be worth it in the end. And this experience will help me to be a better person than when I started. I’ve had to convince myself that the changes and adjustments I’ve made are only temporary and they will pay off. In some cases, this winning mindset has allowed me to make adjustments in areas of my life that were needed regardless of this significant feat.

Be open minded about the lifestyle changes you may have to make to succeed.

This journey has been eye opening for me in so many ways. It has already made me better. The greatest change this journey has made in my life thus far is in my dependence on God and the strengthening of my faith. Another way I’ve improved is by being more mindful and selective in the things I consume. If something isn’t inspiring, motivating, encouraging, uplifting, empowering, or adding value, then I don’t give it my time or energy. I now begin my day with prayer and meditation to balance and start my day off great—which has done wonders for me on this journey.

My small advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to be okay with change. Be open minded about the lifestyle changes you may have to make to succeed—not only for your business, but also for the people you love and the things you enjoy doing. You can’t be everything to everyone. Decide what adjustments you need to make and commit to them. And be unapologetic in doing what is best for you.

Also, you will have to be OK with being uncomfortable as you establish a new normal for your life, because this journey isn’t always fun. It can be lonely, you may have to make decisions that others don’t agree with or don’t understand, you have to be somewhat selfish and selective with how you spend your time. And it may feel cruel at times, having to put these boundaries in place, but I assure you, over time, it will get easier and feel more normal. If you stick it out, you will look back and see that it was worth it and rewarding for all. This is the advice that I give myself when I want to complain about my circumstances or feel down because I miss doing the things I used to love. This is the advice that I wish I had going into this, but I’m glad I am able to share it with fellow rock star entrepreneurs.