In the new book Kern and Burn: Conversations with Design Entrepreneurs, Tim Hoover and Jessica Heltzel interview a wide variety of designers, writers, and idea moguls who all took the risky chance to set out on their own. One such entrepreneur is Jen Bilik, founder, owner and CEO of Knock Knock, a sharp-witted stationary and gift company. Bilik started Knock Knock out of her own want for office and paper products that were not dumbed-down by the mass market, and used her own design and editorial background to make it a success. Her story is a refreshing, more true-to-life tale of entrepreneurship than we’ve seen as of late; one that was started with the goal in mind, and only worried about the title later.
I consider myself a writer, designer and creator first, and an entrepreneur and businessperson second. When I started Knock Knock, I don’t know that I considered myself an entrepreneur or a businesswoman at all. . . At that point, and for a bunch of years, the gulf between the No. 1 and No. 2 identities in my mind was vast. . .It wasn’t until about six years after founding Knock Knock that I finally felt qualified to run it and to manage all the functional groups. It’s such a hard school of knocks—hey, I totally didn’t even mean to pun that—entrepreneurship, that by the time you’re not [so bad] at it, you’re kind of bruised and battered, which results in your feeling more of a claim on the entrepreneur and businesswoman classification because it has cost so much to earn it.
My unofficial title has always been ‘Head Honcho.’ It’s on my business card and email signature. People love it, and I still like it, but I adopted it early on in part because I didn’t feel comfortable calling myself ‘CEO.’ Now I feel every inch of my CEO-ness and have no hesitation signing, say, legal edicts with that title.
Labeling ourselves “entrepreneurs” from the get-go can be dangerous if we haven’t really started anything yet. Be wary of soaking up the glory before you’ve done the work. Entrepreneurship, leadership—these things are earned, not taken.
This article was originally published on 99u.com.
Sasha VanHoven is the assistant editor of 99u.com.