Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thinking Outside The Box - There Is No Spoon, And There Isn't A Box Either

So, I'll admit it. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.

The idea of Celeb 4 A Day began years ago when I was at photography school (a very serious school with very serious future/career promises). The thought occurred to me at that time that as celebrity obsession grew, there were sure to be people that wondered what it was like to actually BE famous. In fact, I was pretty sure that's where all this celebrity obsession (not to mention people becoming actual celebrities) was coming from in the first place.

The important part of all this "thinking" came when I realized that I was a photographer and could most probably provide people with that experience.

I thought it was a great idea, but I was at school - life was happening. And so that idea, like a few others I have, was stored away into the furthest recesses of my mind as I went about finishing school, moving from Santa Barbara back to Austin, finding design and photography work, in general trying to accomplish those pre-set goals (boxes) that I had learned and created for myself.

Fast forward to five years later, November 2007; I'm taking a break from my daily design grind (including the BD Tech Daily, ha!), listening to some great tunes and wondering what I should do with my lunch break. My thoughts pretty much went like this:

"Well, Tania, you've designed fliers, brochures, collateral, magazines, but you've never designed a website. I wonder if you could do that."
"Let's see, what would be a fun thing to work on to test your design skills? Something that has no real deadline and isn't something that is so serious that the world as we know it would end if it turns out that you suck at web design."

Insert picture of me staring at a blank screen here.

"Oh, I know! How about that crazy idea you had in school about providing people with...let's see...what should we call it? Personal Paparazzi!"

Two hours later I had created a name, a website and had thought through and posted to the site 3 different packages that I could provide people with. What now? Well, I called a few friends ("Oh, how nice. That's cute.") and was just happy to have produced something that was online and looked pretty good. I had no plans to build a business on this, no idea if anything would ever come of it - I was content to have just made something out of an idea. I spent a total of $10 on my "test of skills." And to this day, that's about what I've spent on actual marketing.

What happened next taught me that even though I had no idea what I was doing - no real plan, no real path, no intricately designed goals for the future of this product - that not knowing what you are doing, but just taking action and doing something, is where the magic really happens.

Two weeks after I launched the Celeb 4 A Day site, Time Magazine called to say they had Googled 'personal paparazzi' out of curiosity and wanted to do a story on the company. A month later, The Today Show was in my living room interviewing me. I used that coverage in those following months to bootstrap even more coverage on the radio, local and international news outlets, and eventually was even flown to New York to be on the Rachael Ray Show. Do I have a degree in PR or marketing? Nope. I pretty much just used the same principles as I established that one day at lunch: do what I could and not necessarily what I knew how to do (in the media's case it was to send out previous coverage via email suggesting they might like to be in on the action too - hey, it was cheap and it worked!).

Here I am now, a few months shy of Celeb 4 A Day's one year anniversary, and I've got virtual offices in Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York with more expansion plans (slowly, I say, slowly) in the future. I've redesigned the website, added some really exciting packages including an all-inclusive paparazzi vacation, and I'm currently in talks with a major television network to star in a reality show based on my life and my company. The company itself is growing remarkably and we are getting busier and busier (happily, lunch breaks are pretty much out of the question now).

Have I made mistakes? Sure. But, better than that I still don't know what I'm doing. To be clear, what that means to me is that I do not have some big white board hanging above my life with an exact outline of what I should do, what direction I absolutely have to take, or even where I'll be in the coming months. I have no box inside of which all things must lie, function or even make sense. If I had limited myself - and the company - to that box, I wouldn't have been open to all the exciting adventures and possibilities that have arisen since last November.

Although I could tell you about things like how everything I've experienced and learned has brought me to where I am today, how to talk/deal with the media and go into various details of my business, the Bootstrap Blog is only so, for now, let me just reiterate the point I'm trying to make here today:

Don't try to convince yourself to "Think Outside The Box," because by default you are creating a box for yourself by admitting that it exists. There isn't a box. There is only the Right Action at the Right Time and anything beyond that limits you solely to the paths that you create for yourself and you miss out on all the unknown possibilities.

Tania Cowher is the owner of Celeb 4 A Day, providing the every day person with their very own personal paparazzi experience. Currently, she enjoys walking with her dogs, running the company and watching really bad reality television - which she justifies to her bewildered husband as "research."

1 comment:

ganeshfan said...

Hi Tania,

I really enjoyed your post and I appreciate the sentiment. I'm a new Austinite about to start bootstrapping a business and even though I've barely begun there are moments where I have this overwhelming sense of despair and sense that 'holy cow, I don't know what the hell I'm doing.'

So anyway. I'm glad to hear that is normal and okay.