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Storytime: Beating the Odds at Building a Million Dollar Business

Recently I had an opportunity to return to my hometown to talk about entrepreneurship, tech & a few lessons I’ve learned (so far) in my career journey. To date, I’m on my 3rd venture as a founder and executive officer.


how amazing it is that the entrepreneurial spirit continues to spread against tremendous odds.

The Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance invited me to provide an overview of my career journey since leaving my hometown after graduating high school (a VERY long time ago). Preparing for this talk allowed me to reflect & also celebrate my growth as an entrepreneur over the years. I also realized how amazing it is that the entrepreneurial spirit continues to spread against tremendous odds. 

  • Only 4% of businesses generate $1 million or more in revenue per year
  • Approximately 92% of startups fail within three years.
  • Only 2% of venture funding is distributed to all female founding teams (0.6% for black women)
  • Nearly 72% of venture capital is concentrated in the top 10 cities (metros).
  • Less than 50% of businesses are profitable.
  • The average business loses 20-30% of its customers per year.

the best way to increase your rate of learning is to connect to people that have been where you’re trying to go.

I started my entrepreneurial journey with little awareness of what it takes to run a business. I began my first business as a quest to find more work-life balance. I was years into running that business before I became an actual entrepreneur. I ran that business for over 14 years and learned a lot, mainly through making mistakes (and learning from other people’s mistakes). And the lessons never end. By my 3rd & current venture, I was a well-seasoned entrepreneur, but I had no clue about venture capital or fundraising. I didn’t know a single person that had ever raised venture funds, and I didn’t know any venture capitalists. However, by this time, I understood that the best way to increase your rate of learning is to connect to people that have been where you’re trying to go.

In reflecting on the landscape most entrepreneurs and I have to navigate, I titled the presentation “Beating the Odds: Building a Multi-Million dollar business.” Launching a business takes courage, passion, creativity etc. Running a business requires perseverance and a considerable amount of time, effort, and patience. Growing a business requires significant resources, planning, strategic alignment & partnerships, not to mention products/services that enough people are willing to pay for.

Six (6) Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Provided below are six lessons that I’ve learned (so far):

  1. The best funding is sales. Venture capital is one of many tools for generating working capital. Start by reading “Venture Deals” to understand VCs and to determine if your project is appropriate for venture funding.
  2. Talk to strangers (not about your idea, to learn more about them & their compelling pain point). Listen. The goal is to validate (or invalidate) your assumptions (not to make you feel great about your idea 
  3. Grow fast or die slow. A business can earn revenue every month and not be profitable.
  4. Become a master at ensuring that the right people are in the right roles at the right time. Some people are with you for a season. And that’s okay.
  5. Measure what matters, don’t hide behind narrative & the exciting stories that you read on the internet (even if it’s about you)
  6. Select an environment that enables your success. Avoid an environment that promotes a scarcity mindset; find a more abundant setting.


There are many other lessons, but I believe the lessons noted above are fundamental to most ventures (and areas of life). So apply where you see fit. You can find a copy of the presentation, “Beating the Odds: Building a Multi-Million-Dollar Business,” by clicking the link below.

Kishau is an award-winning technology entrepreneur on a mission to amplify human capability and solve the world’s increasingly complex problems with computer science, systems thinking, and creative intelligence. She is the CEO of Time Study Inc., which empowers leaders with intelligent tools to build a better workplace by optimizing time and creating more value for the enterprise’s greatest resource, people. Her work is featured in many leading publications, including Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNN Business, and Black Enterprise. Kishau has a deep background in Computer Science, over 25 years of experience building and shipping enterprise software solutions, and more than 15 years of entrepreneurial leadership.