Learning to Let Go of Perfect: A Perspective on Entrepreneurship
by Allison Brown, Cara Maresca and Kristina Moore, 2Y 2018
If you’re anything like me and my co-founders, you’re hard-wired to strive for perfection. It’s not your fault; society consistently rewards it. Perfection feels good – from receiving gold stars in kindergarten to getting 100+ likes on that Instagram you posted yesterday with the perfect caption. There are times when perfection pays off. If you’re a Kellogg student or graduate, I’m sure you labored over your business school applications to ensure they were as perfect as possible before pressing submit. And you’re glad you did!
However, one of the first lessons I learned in Kellogg entrepreneurship classes is that striving for perfection is a detriment when starting a company. You could spend infinite time and resources crafting a flawless business plan, but it will never gain traction if you haven’t proven a true consumer problem exists. To create something from nothing, you must explore ideas, fail quickly, learn from mistakes and incorporate those learnings into your next iteration.
When my co-founders and I began working on our new venture, Cariset (a designer leather backpack for women), we had specific notions of what our product and brand should look like in order to achieve success. We wanted a women’s backpack with the designer touches of a Mansur Gavriel bucket bag, the comfort of a Patagonia backpack, the branding of Allbirds, and the customer experience and girl power of Glossier. With our grand visions, we dreamed of how incredible our backpack brand would be. But our lofty expectations were paralyzing. While embarrassing to admit, we were initially afraid to post our first Instagram and talk to our friends about it freely, in case we made a move that reflected anything less than excellent.
Our Kellogg classmates and professors gave us the nudge and support we needed to take small steps forward and commit to launching Cariset. During our entrepreneurship courses and experiential learning opportunities, we learned how to navigate the uncertainty of an early-stage start-up with testing and learning. We tested consumer pain points with existing solutions, product-market fit, backpack features, social media strategies, pricing, brand messaging, and countless other elements of Cariset.
Through all this testing, we learned to let go of perfect. Our early backpack prototypes were unusable (and ugly). The beginning of our Instagram account didn’t tell a clear or branded story. The Shark Tank–style pitches we presented in class were met with questions from our judges that we struggled with. But with each test we performed, we had two overarching goals: to move our business forward and to learn. The findings from these early actions were invaluable in building our product, brand and customer experience.
We learned that authenticity trumps perfection. We learned it takes A LOT of patience and many prototypes to build a beautiful leather backpack. We learned that acting is more important than ideating. We learned that taking calculated risks leads to many more possibilities than perfection paralysis. So no matter how perfect our backpack will make you look, don’t be fooled. We support living in the perfectly imperfect.
Our Cariset backpack is designed to make you feel radiant and put-together, no matter how many times you hit snooze, skip the gym or choose reality TV over doing laundry. For $50 off your first order, use code BETTERBACKPACKS.