Sharing Their Business Mistakes

By Luis F. Carrasco The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson.

They say there are three types of entrepreneurs: those who have failed, those who haven't failed yet and those who lie about it.

There's plenty of room for cursing but not for liars at the "--up Nights" event Wednesday, where local entrepreneurs will share their stories about that one and only time, they may have, maybe, made a mistake.

"All of us in our career are going to fail sometime. It's excellent to learn from those failures and to hear about the failure of others," said Felipe Garcia, executive vice president at Visit Tucson and one of the event's organizers.

"Everyone's invited to come laugh, learn and realize that every entrepreneur is going to have a story," he said.

The idea for the event originated in Mexico City in 2012 after a group of friends questioned why business programs focus on stories of success but rarely touched upon disasters, Garcia said.

"They created this group and now there are 150 cities around the world that hold one of these events every month," he said.

"Only five cities in the United States have done it so far: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Tucson."

Generally, two to three speakers take up to seven minutes to share their business failure stories in a very casual and relaxed atmosphere, Garcia said. An inaugural Tucson event in May drew about 100 people.

Listening to someone talk about their mistakes would have been very useful before he opened his business downtown in 2007, said Juan Francisco Padrés, economic development specialist for international trade with the city of Tucson.

"When I opened my restaurant I was 26 years old," he said. "It would have been great to hear somebody more seasoned talk about his or her experience on the entrepreneurial scene."

Padrés, who spoke at the previous event, said that while it's a humbling experience to get up in front of strangers and admit making a mistake, the audience is extremely sympathetic.

"You're really preaching to a group that understands the risks, that understands the commitment," he said. "You can always see heads nodding when you're going though examples of what you did wrong."

While the event is lighthearted, aspiring entrepreneurs would do better to focus on what works, said Jim Jindrick, who teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Arizona.

"The common thread for failure was either the skill set wasn't there or the passion wasn't there or maybe the luck wasn't there," he said.

"Failure is part of the game, but while they're interesting stories, it always reminds me of 'A Million Ways to Die in the West' -- there are a million ways to fail and so few ways to succeed," Jindrick said.

Even if listening to those stories won't make you error-proof, Padrés said, it's important for aspiring entrepreneurs to know there is life after failure.

"You hear speakers' stories, how they came out of it, how they were able to get up, dust themselves off and continue to move forward," he said. "That's definitely worthwhile."

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