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My board voted to shut down my company, but it’s not over yet

"I am on the precipice of an epic failure," Sa Va owner Sarah Van Aken said to a crowd of women entrepreneurs at the annual Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs celebration, where she was the featured speaker.

Photo from 215Mag.

Sarah Van Aken was not going to sugarcoat it.

“I am on the precipice of an epic failure,” Van Aken said to a crowd of women entrepreneurs at the annual Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs celebration, where she was the featured speaker and a regional tech mainstay was honored.

Her board had recently voted to shut down her company, the four-year-old socially-minded fashion brand Sa Va. But, Van Aken said, she felt strangely serene.

“All failure is,” she said, “is a change of plans.”

It’s possibility, she said. It’s opportunity.

During her stirringly honest speech, she spoke of her roots (“I was driven by ego…I wanted to prove I could do it.”), the shakiness of entrepreneurship (she referred to the several times she didn’t know how she would make payroll) and the two times she had to lay people off. It felt like a sign of the maturation of the conversation here that an entrepreneur could stand up in front of a crowd and not just confess an imminent failure, but own it.

Her talk certainly called to mind the entrepreneurs’ rallying cry: failure comes with the territory. Jane Hollingsworth, former CEO of publicly-traded pharma company NuPathe, took the stage after Van Aken finished and said, “We’ve all been there.”

So now what?

“I am on the precipice of an epic failure,” Van Aken repeated. “And I am going to transform it into something that works. That’s what entrepreneurship is.”

“It’s not over till I say it’s over,” she said.

Companies: Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs

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