Eric Dexter was fired from his first two jobs in Baton Rouge. James Llorens failed in his first bid to become chancellor of Southern University. Janet Simmons and HOPE Ministries put a lot of time and money into a venture that failed and had to be scrapped. Carolyn McKnight had a bright idea to raise money while in Dallas, but it crashed and burned when residents opposed it.
Their failures—and, more importantly, the lessons they learned from them and their subsequent successes—were the focal points of Failure Fest this afternoon.
The Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week event was held at the Main Library in an attempt to erase the negative stigma associated with failure and show how the lessons gained through failure can ultimately lead to success. This event was sponsored by MetroMorphosis.
In the cases of the four panelists, each said they’ve grown through failure. Dexter has become the director of business development for Civil Solutions Consulting Group. Llorens became chancellor at Southern on his second try (though he was later ousted from the job and is currently president of Cristo Rey Baton Rouge). Simmons and HOPE Ministries shifted gears to another venture and have been successful. McKnight moved past her failure to become head of BREC in Baton Rouge.
“Don’t look on a setback as a failure, but look upon it as an opportunity to reassess yourself,” said Llorens.
While young people today have many more opportunities in the job market than he had, Llorens said, there are also many more opportunities for setbacks and failures.
“I would say that failure is character-building because I don’t know that I wouldn’t have been humbled if I had not experienced some of the things that I experienced,” McKnight says.
Sometimes, the panel said, a success can eventually become a failure.
In McKnight’s case, the failure she spoke of occurred while she worked in the parks and recreation department in Dallas. She was told to find creative ways to raise money to offset budget cuts, so she spoke to a company in Austin that provided fine dining on boats.
McKnight said she thought she could raise $75,000 annually by partnering with the company and was excited to present her idea to constituents and city officials. But what she didn’t realize was that residents around the lake she planned to use had a bad experience with a party barge company 25 years prior and slammed the idea.
McKnight’s story resonated with small business owner Angelia Neyland, who was among the roughly 50 people who attended Failure Fest.
“I think the thing I connected with the most was Carolyn McKnight when she said sometimes you think you have the best idea, but sometimes it doesn’t carry over,” Neyland said. “It could be the best idea, but sometimes nobody wants it.”
In small group discussions about what Baton Rouge can do to erase the stigma of failing, Neyland said the stigma “should be more on not trying, than on trying and failing.”
BREW events continue through Friday. This morning, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber unveiled its 2016 Economic Outlook in conjunction with BREW. The economic forecast for next year calls for job growth between 1.4% and 2.2%, which would translate into between 5,000 and 9,000 new jobs for the Capital Region.
On Tuesday evening, Rapid Rounds took place on the LSU campus, at which eight local entrepreneurs offered up business advice in a speed-dating style format whereby they moved from table to table of attendees every 12 minutes.