How Entrepreneurs Overcome Adversity

Matthew Sawyer

The day Plated launched their new website, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. Their new warehouse in Brooklyn, just completed to house fresh ingredients for chef-designed meals, was flooded with ocean water. Fresh vegetables, fruits, and meats literally went floating away. The promising, online meal-kit delivery service was in deep trouble.

CEO and Founder Nick Taranto credits his experience as a U.S. Marine for the mental toughness to overcome adversity. Nick and co-Founder Josh Hix led the Plated team to bounce back with amazing speed, commitment and adept execution. Plated broke $100 million in sales within the next three years.

“Entrepreneurial success is 1% vision, and 99% hustle and grit. Building anything from scratch ⎯ making it through the early stage crucible ⎯ is incredibly hard. I have found that perseverance matters more than anything else”

— Nick Taranto, CEO and Co-Founder, Plated

Driven to Win
Entrepreneurs tend be very competitive people. They plow through obstacles just like they plow through competitors with a single-minded focus on winning. The Founder of a promising e-Commerce startup explained, “I’m hard-wired to compete.” The CEO of a struggling tech startup revealed, “I JUST HATE TO LOSE!”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

— Vince Lombardi, NFL Super Bowl Champion Coach

Risk Failure
At our RocketTalks event in April, Heidi Diamond told about managing challenges as a pioneer in cable television, including leadership roles at The Food Network, AMC, and Nickelodeon. During a particularly difficult time, Heidi led Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to profitability while Martha was incarcerated. Heidi said it’s important to “Be brave” and “Risk failure.” In addition, Heidi recommended, “Wear leather to big meetings, always accept cashmere, and use perfume as a weapon.”

At Columbia University’s April 14 conference on entrepreneurship, Shar-Lyn Ma founder of Zola talked about the difficulties of starting the online wedding registry. Her successful business had a hard time convincing Venture Capital and other investors. Shar-Lyn said that she was motivated to “Prove them wrong” for the resilience and strength to overcome challenging times.

The Right Environment
Another way that entrepreneurs can overcome adversity is through a supportive network of advisors, colleagues, and fellow entrepreneurs. They surround themselves with positive people in the right environment.

“Spark Labs has created a global community with local know-how, not just a workspace”, explains Christophe Garnier, Founder at Spark Labs.

“We created a platform to plug into no matter where you are, allowing to connect with the right tools to build your business, without having to worry about the details that pull you away from the big picture.”

Learning From Adversity
A common theme among entrepreneurs interviewed for this article is it’s better to try and fail than to never try. They don’t shy away from trying something new, different or hard. As one prominent entrepreneur told me, “You learn more from adversity than you learn from an easy win.”

**About the Author**

Matthew Sawyer is Managing Partner of Rocket Market Development LLC, which helps B2B, technology, and foreign-based companies launch new products and enter new markets in the USA by identifying market opportunities and providing market intelligence and go-to-market strategies for sustainable revenue growth. Matthew is an Adjunct Professor of business strategy and entrepreneurship at Parsons School for Design and strategic communication at Columbia University.