OP-ED: “AL DÍA StartUp Workshop” coming up very, VERY, soon
I recently released to my co-workers at AL DÍA (as I call AL DÍA employees) the purpose statement of our organization, as well as a set of core values that rule our work together.
It is the toughest job I have done in 24 long years building, mostly through trial and error, this news media organization I started, as s a 1-man operation, in the very living room of my own home, in 1991, in a very unlikely place:
North Philadelphia, in the Latino barrio, in the living room of my home, in the very heart of the most immigrant of the neighborhoods in our adoptive hometown: Olney.
To build organizations, specially from scratch, is a tall order.
One that involves more than determination, ready money, sturdy technology and, as we say in Spanish, “Muchas Ganas” (Lots of Guts..)
I, however, refuse to take the credit for having done anything here people may want to brand as “extraordinary.”
Specially when people wonder how AL DIA came about, or ask me point blank the terrible, ultimate question:
“Who owns AL DÍA, anyway?”
Funny, I tell them, “AL DÍA is not owned by anybody in particular.”
But by everybody, specially when somebody dares to embrace the simple idea around which it was built. And he or she can, therefore, “own it…”. Freely.
Since it was built the natural way, one brick at a time, year after year, without changing much the mission, the AL DÍA experiment is as “American as the Apple Pie,” and as natural as Pennsylvania’s “Good & Plenty,” one of my favorite restaurants in Amish County, in Lancaster, PA, USA.
Today it remains pretty much the same as in year 1, and I was just one young fellow in my early 30s, exactly like those start-CEOs of today, only just a quarter of a century later.
I explain further to my questioning friends that if anything in life turns out to be something we can label as “extraordinary,” it is because somebody simply stuck to do the ordinary, but for a sufficient number of months, or years, for it to finally look extraordinary to others— mainly those I call “the unbelievers.”
In other words, anybody can do it— but only if you want it that badly.
The dawn, in other words, doesn’t come up much faster just because you got up much earlier.
Trees continue growing today at the same pace they always have for the past couple of hundred years.
When you arrive at the point when you can, finally, sit down and write the purpose statement of the company, and, as a follow up, you set out to craft the critical “core values,” and that copy flows, as a thread tying everything together, simply as pure air, or as a natural stream of water —as it happened to me some time ago— it is a good sign that, maybe, maybe, you “have arrived.”
“Arrived”, in our case, just to yet another point of departure in a journey that has lasted close to a quarter of a century.
The founders of today encapsulate at this point their dream into solid words and slick presentations and some basic numbers and, in the most solitary of the jobs, they set out to convince people, almost as it they were modern preachers— be investors, be their co-workers, or be their first customers.
Convince them (good luck to all of them) that there is a horizon worth pursuing, a future years ahead where there will be “milk and honey.”
Intangible as “Milk & Honey” is, the actual endeavor becomes very trying and, most of the time, fails, according to the IRS statistics for brand new business.
These statistics clearly indicate that the big majority of dreamers end up with their wings clipped, and their boats smashed into pieces against the rugged realities of the market place.
I applaud those who dare, though, those courageous who overcome the fears, and, as the pioneers did, sail away, honest and light, ready to run the race every day, sometimes burning the candle on both ends, if necessary, just to never be defeated in the midst of the old battle:
The battle to keep the P&L sheet “in the black…”
It is a a balancing act— worth trying no matter how though and/or scary it at times may become.
That is exactly the reason why we will announce soon a new initiative we will call “The AL DIA StartUp Workshop” through which we will bring together young men and women, from Philadelphia and beyond, with the indispensable soul of the Entrepreneur.
They will be invited to our home, here in AL DIA headquarters, which is becoming again the “living room” of year one of AL DÍA, where the new generation can sit down, network, obtain legal and financial assistance, and try the adventure of attempting to bring their ideas into reality, same as we did 23 years ago.
In other words, we will lead by example, and attempt to show the way to the impossible:
To be creative and courageous at the same time.
We will mentor and support those with the fire to set their own roadmap and who may feel the calling to enrich our city and region with the power of their independent and productive work.
They will be given the oxygen of the one to one nurturing, just to survive that initial period of time when the idea is just a single seed, yet to become a creature that is finally conceived and placed in “an incubator of new businesses,” next where AL DIA, the older brother, happens every day.
Yes, at the very womb where a previous, legitimate creature was conceived, nurture and delivered safely into life, without too much fanfare.
In an initiative in partnership with a Business School in our city, we will show the way to the younger generation, teaching them well beyond their academic preparation, from our own encyclopedia of harsh-lessons-painfully-learned, and our own manual of errors that show, finally, how to do it right, more often, and/or avoid the rocks— more often.
Sharing our own journey, and challenging them to carve their own, we believe we can make a modest contribution to the improving of quality of life in our beloved city.
“Caminante, no hay camino... Se hace camino al andar..”, the Spanish verse flies high up, under the powerful inspiration of Spain’s national Poet Antonio Machado..
…before it descend again into the big paradox life in reality is:
“..Caminante, no hay camino... Sino estelas en La Mar…”