When Colorado Springs entrepreneur Leif Ullman started his company KidReports in 2012, he had no real way of knowing whether it would be a smash hit or a crushing failure.
In fact, Ullman persisted for two years — through a series of failures that led to a series of pivots — with very little indication that his idea would ever be marketable.
But he stuck to his guns and continued working on his passion project.
“There was a balance we had to find as a business, especially as a tech startup, where you optimize for what you think the product is going to be, but you don’t exactly know where you’re going to end up,” Ullman said. “You may have to pivot many times.”
Ullman, who gave a lecture Monday morning at Epicentral Coworking (415 N. Tejon St.) as part of Colorado Springs Startup Week, said his background in software development and his love of family is what eventually developed into KidReports.
It’s a tech company that provides a real-time, electronic communication platform for parents and the child-care centers/schools their children attend.
“I started having kids,” he said, “and that’s where this idea really came from.”
A few years later, Ullman’s company is proving to be a success among child-care centers nationwide.
“A couple of weeks ago we closed the fourth largest child-care provider in the country — they have about 300 centers — and that is our largest contract to date,” Ullman said. “So now we’re entering this accelerated growth phase of our business.”
According to Spark Mindset co-founder Lauren Hebert, who delivered a Startup Week lecture the same morning at Ivywild School, the success of entrepreneurs like Ullman could be attributed to something she said is essential for all startups: grit.
The issue that Hebert was looking to address in her hour-long presentation was why some entrepreneurs succeed while so many others fail.
Her determination was that grit — a concept promoted by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth — is the key.
“Grit is perseverance and passion in pursuit of long-term goals,” she said. “Grit is what it takes.”
Hebert broke the concept into four primary components:
• Passion: an intense interest or enthusiasm for something.
• Consistency: maintenance of behavior over time.
• Purpose: the intention to contribute to the well-being of others.
• Resilience: the ability to recover from or adjust easily to a challenge.
She said that many talented people are interested in what they do, but they are just a tweak or two away from discovering the passion and purpose that could lead them to fulfilling success.
“Duckworth found that people driven by purpose are much more motivated,” she said.
“Purpose will get you places that your passion alone cannot.”
PASSION AND PURPOSE
When Hebert asked her audience how they might define the correlation between passion and purpose, Barbara Overgaard, a course director for Pikes Peak Community College, said she thinks of the two as going hand-in-hand.
“I found my purpose through my passion,” Overgaard said. “A lot of these kids have never had anyone that believed in them, so they’ve never believed in themselves. … It’s so much more fulfilling when I am able to see them get unlocked.”
Another key to success in the world of small business is consistency, according to Hebert.
“Consistency is probably the least sexy thing we could talk about,” Hebert said. “But the truth is that maintenance of behavior over time is the key to getting things done. … It’s how you move mountains.”
In short, Hebert explained that grit means working through challenges and using your strengths and passions to fuel a purpose that will keep you motivated through the many ups and downs of entrepreneurism.
“There is really a winding road to achieve long-term goals, and most people’s success stories look like that,” she said, pointing to a drawing of a knotted-up arrow drawn on the whiteboard of the Wildcat Room.
“Sometimes they’re worse.”