Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Menu

Blog

Why You Must Embrace Failure to Succeed in Entrepreneurship

Photo by Joe Johnston/University Photographer/Cal Poly 9-6-19

“Failure” is nearly inevitable in the startup world, but how an entrepreneur responds to challenges and setbacks is what determines their career prosperity, as well as determines whether or not they have actually failed. This is something Sierra Scolaro strongly believes.

“The definition of failure isn’t whether or not your business succeeded,” the 2019 Cal Poly business administration and entrepreneurship graduate told us. “Failure is a result of not having learned anything.”

In her final year of college, Scolaro started an entrepreneurial senior project to create a device that allowed for quick, on-the-go water filtration. Her team took their idea into the 2019 Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) HotHouse Accelerator program and continued to work on building the startup in the HotHouse Incubator program for nearly a year after. 

However, when Scolaro’s company began hitting several roadblocks and making many pivots, her team recognized that they needed to reevaluate the business and see if their product still aligned with their original mission — they ultimately decided it didn’t.

“We wanted to build a startup that solved the problem we set out to solve,” Scolaro explained. “It got to a point where we realized we didn’t just want to build a business for the sake of building a business.”

So she closed the doors on her startup.

“Was it a defeat, a significant bump in the road? Definitely. Is it a little bit of a bummer? Yeah,” Scolaro said. “But I wouldn’t consider this a failure because if you look at everything that has happened in the past year, all of the people that we’ve met, all of the lessons that we’ve learned and all of the people who got the chance to work on a really cool startup in the beginning stages, that is priceless.”

While most startups don’t find ultimate success, resilient entrepreneurs know that it’s the journey and experience gained that really matters. Whether or not a company stays afloat, the invaluable benefits of starting a business make a positive impact. 

And at the end of the day, Scolaro said that simply building something from the ground-up was worth the twists, turns and troubles of navigating the startup world.

“One of the best parts of starting your own business is getting to create something out of nothing,” she said. “To see anything come to fruition because of your hard work and effort is one of the most rewarding things about being an entrepreneur.”

A key element to staying on the entrepreneurial path, according to Scolaro, is having unconditional support and guidance along the way.

She pointed out that a major reason why she is able to bounce back from her “failures” and continue to work in the energetic startup world is that the CIE helped her grow a resilient entrepreneurial mindset and continuously supports her in following her passions.

“What’s really nice about having the CIE as a support system is that they’re not just supporting your business idea, they’re supporting you as an entrepreneur,” she explained. “Even though this particular startup didn’t come to fruition and I’m not having a successful exit… I can take the lessons that I’ve learned to the next venture and I know that the CIE will be there the entire time.”

Now that she has closed one chapter in her journey, Scolaro is staying in San Luis Obispo, which she calls an “entrepreneurial hub,” as she mentors current student entrepreneurs and seeks out her next startup venture.

What does failure mean to you as an entrepreneur? Let us know your definition of failure and give us your best #entrepreneurTIP for staying resilient by tagging us on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.