One Word That Led to My Business Success

2. Be open to solving your own “problems.” At the same time I was writing the book, I was also planning my wedding. My husband and I had guests coming in from all over the country — all of our favorite people in the world would be together for one epic weekend. We came back to our wedding’s focus — inclusive — again and again. How could we connect the dots amongst our guests and make everyone feel like part of our inner circle? We turned the problem over in our heads for almost six months. Finally, inspired by a college freshman lookbook, we created a mini-booklet with photos and fun facts about each guest. We printed them on our home printer and mailed the booklets out a week before the wedding, a special little welcome present. And that’s all it was supposed to be.
Then friends who had attended our wedding started to call (yes, call — not even text!). Could we do the same mini-books for their upcoming weddings? We quickly turned into weekend bookmakers and enjoyed going to weddings that had our so-called “guesterly books” — they were just more fun, and our friends loved their unique present. And then a friend-of-a-friend called. He’d loved the guesterly book at a recent wedding; could he pay us to do one for his?
Takeaway: Put something out there in the world, whether it’s your to-die-for jam, that blog you’ve always wanted to read or that dress that’s as comfy as yoga pants. Share it, let people try it, talk about it. And if the world wants it, you’ll quickly know.
3. Be open to embracing the same animal — in a different costume. My husband and I had been creating a dream trip for years: our Travel Around the World fantasy. I imagined rappelling down cliffs in Patagonia and wandering through vineyards in France and biking through crazed Southeast Asia streets.
But it turned out that at the core, I was looking for adventure. And when it came cloaked in a startup cape, I realized that it was the same concept — go big, experience the world in a new fresh way. (Good thing it scratches the same itch because we proceeded to pour our “travel-the-world” money into guesterly!)
Takeaway: Whatever you’re looking for — recognition, autonomy, adventure, flexibility, creativity — might come disguised as something else (like entrepreneurship!). Being open will help you see when an unexpected opportunity or path fills the same desires.
4. Be open to the wake-up call. I had three big clues staring me in the face: Writing my book had made me catch the entrepreneurial itch; we had stumbled upon a new product concept that people were already willing to pay for; and I was actively looking for a grand adventure. And yet... Maybe, just maybe, there was something interesting at the confluence of these rivers of clues. But I had such a nice life.
Then someone I was close to unexpectedly passed away. Caught up in a whirl of memorial services, I started to hear a story whispering through conversations. I doubt anyone else in the room walked away with the same story, but to me it was loud and clear: He had been an extremely devoted family man. So devoted, that sometimes he didn’t take big (albeit risky!) opportunities that came his way.
I was stunned. I had a big, risky opportunity staring me in the face. I had learned about the skills I’d need to build something and had a product concept that people loved and even a small stash of money set aside for an adventure. The clues clicked together like a puzzle. After months of tossing the guesterly idea around like a misbegotten ball, I suddenly had fire in my belly.
In the summer of 2013 we finally embarked on the rollercoaster ride of building a business. In retrospect, the clues seemed so obvious, but I know it’s only by luck that they rang loud and clear. Luck, or, as you might call it, being open. 
Rachel Hofstetter is the author of “Cooking Up a Business” (Penguin, 2013). She was so inspired by the entrepreneurs she wrote about that she left her food editor career to launch guesterly, a software platform that enables anyone to create a playbill for life’s special events. Today, you can find her sharing guesterly with the world by day — and recipe testing at night!

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