I realized I didn't want to build and grow a business, I just wanted enough income to live comfortably

I love dance and music.  My idea was to start a performance school for teenagers and then franchise it in Lagos. I rented the space and started advertising on social media. I was surprised by the reaction; within a couple weeks, I had three full classes.

The economics meant that each full class generated about $3000. So if I have 10-12 classes I would be able to live very well and I would be working less than 25 hours a week. I could use the rest of my time to write songs.

My uncle offered to lend me $25K to open more studios. I thought long and hard about it. I realized that I didn’t really want to build and grow a business. What I wanted was income that would allow me to do the things I loved. My parents were upset. They called it a hobby and not a job. In the end, I was very happy with a hobby. I didn’t have the passion or will to start a business that would take over my life.

She said if I had passion the question of whether I should start a business wouldn't be an issue

I was 43 years old when I decided I wanted to start my own company. I had worked in the strategy group of a major multinational. I was trained through the traditional training schemes but I never had responsibility for a profit and loss account or a major operating unit. I have a young family, mortgage, and aging parents. This was a huge decision for me. My friend suggested I talk with some people before I decided to leave my job.

The headhunter said it would be a wrong move for me. He said it would take me out of the corporate market and I wouldn’t be able to return. Another headhunter said the exact opposite and thought this would enhance my CV. A VC who is friends with my wife said I didn’t have the experience and thought I was risk-averse. I took a bunch of career and psychological tests; they were inconclusive.

I couldn’t make up my mind. I was paralyzed in terms of decision-making. I went to a FinTech conference and met a really impressive serial entrepreneur. I asked her advice and she looked me in the eyes and asked, “Where’s your passion? What’s your commitment? If you had these, you wouldn’t be going around in circles.”

I felt proud but so alone as a CEO until I joined a club for startup CEOs

I was the only one left in the office. It was past 11pm and I was tired. I looked around at all the desks and work spaces and thought how far we had come in the last year. I was proud and elated, but I also feel profoundly lonely. We had come a long way, but I felt like all the ideas and emotions has been drained out of me. I was giving everything I had and I was getting very little back. Yes, people appreciated what I was doing but I was the boss and I was becoming increasingly distant from my team. I felt I could no longer ask them for advice. It would be a sign of weakness.

We had investors and I have to deal with them. I also deal with all the larger sales accounts and the Board. All of this is taking increasing amounts of time. These relationship are often characterized by conflict and they are taking a toll on my nerves. I am always stressed out.

My wife looks after the children and has a part-time job so I can’t burden her with all this. I can’t talk tp my parents and my friends think I am some type of superman for getting this far and I don’t want to destroy that illusion.

As I sat there, my loneliness became overwhelming. I heard about a club for startup CEOs where people share stories and experiences. I attended a dinner and in one night, I realized that I was not alone anymore.

How can I start a family on the salary the investors want me to take?

I didn’t take a salary for the first year of the business but now I needed money to live off of. My friends in the corporate world earn six figures. In my country, someone with my degree would earn $70-80K. I was told investors look at how much a CEO proposes to pay themselves. They don’t want the CEO using the business as a personal piggy bank.

I need to raise more money but don’t know what to put in the business plan for my salary. I finally settled on $40K; this was just enough for me to get by. The investors agreed to this and wanted to keep this until we raised more money. My heart sank; how was I supposed to survive on this? I want to marry my fiancé and start a family. I feel like I now have to choose between having a family and my startup.

I'm worried that my work is all that defines me now

People who identify themselves by the jobs or positions they have seem so one-dimensional: “I am the CEO of Cosmetics.com.” For these people, what they are is who they are. They define themselves by their job and have no identity outside of it. They’ve surrendered themselves to it and there is no work-life balance.

Am I becoming one of these people?