9 entrepreneurs share their biggest mistakes—and how they recovered


Recovering from a mistake is all in the way you view it. Are your mistakes an opportunity to improve? Is it a time to beat yourself up? I recently screwed up by taking on a writing job that was outside my niche. I did a bit of both — harped on my stupidity and discovered take-aways from my error.

Small business owners operate on a trial-and-error basis, and mistakes are a part of the process. They don’t always have the benefit of learning from someone before them. The business may be too unique to find guidance from another owner or they may not know what questions to ask to avoid making a mistake.

A few Charlotte business owners and social entrepreneurs shared with me their biggest mistakes, and how they rebounded after the blunder:

Stephanie Nelson, SBN Marketing
“I​ was too open with a brain picker. I answered seemingly innocuous questions about my rates and businesses I’d pitched. Someone took that information and pitched half my rate to folks I’d pitched. I learned to be more closely guarded and keep my business information close to my vest.”

Sarah Baucom, Girl Tribe Co.
“This is really hard for me because our biggest mistake is also what makes us so special. When we started, we did not get a business plan together — we just sort of went for it and listened to the market and the customer for the next year. It was our biggest strength to be able to maneuver when we needed to, but also would have been nice to know where we were going or have a gauge on how we were actually doing. Don’t worry, we’ve got it down now.”

Sarah Baucom

Bentzion Groner, ZABS Place
“The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh locations [for my company] all failed. Each one due to a significant challenge. Through sheer luck, or I should probably say, divine providence, we found a perfect location in downtown Matthews. Initially, rent was above our budget, but the owners were willing to negotiate, and we settled on a great deal. The thing is, we were THIS close to settling on one of the less desirable locations, but held off an extra couple of days and our current location was discovered.”

ZABS Place

Brad Rhyne, Ole Mason Jar
“Thinking ‘if you build it, they will come.’ It takes a lot more than just a good idea to start a business and execution is actually more important. We learned that the hard way, but it helped us get better at executing and becoming the brand we are today.”

Sam Fleming, 100 Gardens
“The biggest mistake since starting 100 Gardens for me has been waiting too long to follow through. At first, I was a bit naive about how interested people were about wanting to work with us. After leaving meetings, I would take too long to follow up. When you don’t follow-up quickly, you lose opportunities. I didn’t realize that these folks were actually really excited and wanted to develop an aquaponics program.”

Sam Fleming

“In the past two years, I have really focused on leaving meetings with notes in hand; I send those notes to everyone in the meeting. I still have tons of room for improvement on this communication thing, but making sure to actively communicate has been totally necessary.”

Khalia Braswell, INTech Camp for Girls
“My biggest mistake was starting INTech as an LLC, instead of a nonprofit. This limited our organization in applying for funding and caused our early donors to not be able to write off their contribution. As a result, I was able to make the LLC a consulting arm and funnel a percentage of the profits to the nonprofit, which ended up being a win!”

Lerone Langston, Tie-My-Knot
“The biggest mistake we have made in business is not utilizing social media to the fullest.  We are working on including Facebook ads, Instagram ads, understanding buzzwords, and hashtags to increase followers.”

Mary Deissler, Charlotte Symphony
“More students want to participate in Project Harmony than we anticipated, and we have a waiting list. We need to be able to scale up more quickly!”

Children participating in Project Harmony. Its goal: “Social transformation through music, expanding the Charlotte Symphony’s Winterfield Youth Orchestra program to foster life skill development and personal empowerment opportunities to Charlotte’s underserved neighborhoods.”

Kiri Longa and Nicole L. Vieira, The Daily Details
​”We underestimated the construction process and the time it requires to build out a brand-new space.  ​The coordination needed between us as business owners, contractors, and inspectors is like a full-time job in project management — on top of running the actual business itself.”

Photos: Tia Wackerhagen, ZABS Place, Vanessa Infanzon, Pexels, Julia Faye


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