For the Aspiring Entrepreneur

Rebekah Lewis, SilverX Lab Founder & CEO

So you think you want to be an entrepreneur? And in Switzerland, no less? In my experience, it’s an exciting and deeply fulfilling journey – and one that is much more about self-discovery and personal growth than anything else.

If you’re thinking about starting down this path, you are not alone, and that’s a great thing! Because I get asked about this a lot, I’ve created the below info for anyone curious about my experience starting and building a business as an expat in Geneva, Switzerland.

Want to pick my brain/chat over coffee/learn a little more? Read this page first and then I’ll be happy to connect (details on how to connect are below)!

How do I know if I can be an entrepreneur?

Everyone can be an entrepreneur. Because at the end of the day, being an entrepreneur is about choosing to undertake an activity that seems valuable but has no guarantees. In that way, it’s a lot like life.

And when it comes to living, you can do it passively, strapped into the passenger seat and critiquing the driver, or you can embrace it, with both hands on the wheel, open to the unknown.

I cannot tell you if you’ll be a “good” entrepreneur. No one can. You won’t know until you try. And even then, it will never be completely clear.  

So: “How do I know if I should try to start my own business?” As it turns out, not a particularly useful question.

But: “Does this path feel valuable and worth the risks to me?” There you go.

Your Most Important Asset

Here’s one of the first lessons you will start to learn on this journey: your time is your most precious asset.

If you’re like me, you’re curious about starting your own business because you want to live with more meaning, more freedom, more joy. And I’m here to tell you that those things can definitely be part of the package.

But building a business is a long road. To stay on it, I believe, you need a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment in the process itself. To get that feeling, to experience the fullness of your unique gifts rather than just running from one thing to the next, you need time.

“Yeah but what about my brain, my creativity, my instinct, my grit!?” you ask.

Totally, I get it. We need intelligence and skills and all kinds of qualities and competencies to succeed. But here’s why time is the absolute most important thing as an entrepreneur: None of those things matter if you have no time to use them. Think of it like one of those kids’ toys that’s actually a sponge but comes all compressed down into a tiny capsule. It doesn’t look like anything but a hard little pill until you put it in water and give it space to expand – then it can take shape.

This is you when you start a business. You are responsible for everything. That means coming up with your product or service, planning how to create and deliver it, figuring out how to tell people about it, how to get them to buy it, how to accept payments, deciding which corporate structure to establish, how to set up your email, your website, your calendar, your mailing list, do your taxes, recruit and hire, set up payroll, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done and get back up every time you get knocked down.    

All of this takes tremendous mental and physical resources. And if you can’t create some space amidst these demands, all your wonderful unique competencies and qualities will be condensed down into a jumbled and fairly useless gob of stress.

Therefore, figuring out how you will and will not spend your time – and staying committed to those choices – will be one of your biggest challenges. To use any of your gifts effectively and sustainably, you need rest, you need space, you need dedicated periods of celebration, ideation, creation, relaxation, contemplation, regeneration. You need time.

Three Steps to Success

Step 1: Value your time as the precious resource it is. Once you appreciate just how important your time is, your key task will be to put that piece of knowledge into practice. What does that look like? It’s different for everyone but I suggest starting with:

  1. Be very clear on your priorities. Write them down in a way that speaks to you. Keep them somewhere visible and easily accessible so you can refer to them often.
  2. Pause before you say yes to something.
  3. Check in with your priorities and your body. Does saying yes feel right in your core?
  4. Remember that saying ‘yes’ to one thing is saying ‘no’ to something else, and ask yourself if you have fully valued that ‘something else.’ Our culture often tells us to undervalue or completely ignore some of our most vital experiences and resources, things like rest, daydreaming and other uniquely-personal regenerative activities.

A few resources that have helped me (no, I get zero kickbacks for these recommendations):

  • Marie Forleo’s MarieTV, and any of her products. She is a master at offering actionable free content and her paid products are well worth the value.
  • Tricia Hersey’s Rest is Resistance
  • Johann Hari’s Stolen Focus
  • Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep

Step 2: Practice looking inside, not outside. There will be countless questions along the way. And most of the time your first thought will be, ‘I have no idea how to start doing [insert most of what you have to do].’ Every time this happens, remember: this uncertainty is not a detour or a roadblock from your path. It is the path. The entrepreneur’s road is quite literally paved with uncertainty and ambiguity. When you feel unsure or uncomfortable – know that you have not fallen by the wayside but you are standing right smack-dab in the center of the road you have chosen.

How do you move forward on this path? By remembering that you are a wayfinder, a self-righting vessel, a courageous and unique force. No one else actually knows the next right move for you. Not your family, your friends, your therapist, your teachers, your mentors, your heroes, your gurus, and definitely not the people you follow on social media.

And also – by the way – not that voice in your head that thinks maybe you’re just not quite enough but you’re almost there, who believes that if you could just get a little more of that unattainable something, the answer will be clear. Nope. Not that one either. (But wow is that voice convincing….)

And guess what? That is great news! The only one who can guide you down your path is that quiet powerful energy dwelling inside you, churning reliably at your core. Your job is to find and connect with this energy, to let it be your internal compass. It is wise. It is calm. It is loving. And it is always with you no matter where you are or what you do.

Discover and invest in the practices that help you remember this touchstone and tap into it. When you are connected to your inner source, you will always have what you need.

A few resources that have helped me (no, I get zero kickbacks for these recommendations):

  • Glennon Doyle’s Untamed
  • Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person’s Complete Learning Program (even if you’re not an HSP, this is worth a read because it offers a template for recognizing your own unique needs – whatever they may be – and learning how to prioritize them in a world that does not)
  • Sahil Lavingia’s The Minimalist Entrepreneur
  • Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection

Step 3: Cultivate community. Find your people. This means the people you already know, and the people you don’t know yet. It means people in your local community and people who may live very far away.

These people and communities won’t necessarily look like you, sound like you or be doing the same things as you. But you will know them when you see them. The signals they send out will land like – ‘I am here, I am doing this thing that speaks to your soul.’ Your inner compass will point towards them with a quiet confidence. When you see those flares, get curious about them.

Do not ignore these signals, do not dismiss them because others don’t seem as taken with them. When you feel your interest piqued, get curious and pursue them with gusto. Dare to investigate.

You will definitely be striking out on your own when you start a business. No one can do the work or take the risk for you. But your community will give you the fuel to keep going. Your community is your soul food and, believe me, you’re going to need a lot of it along the way.

A few resources that have helped me (no, I get zero kickbacks for these recommendations):

  • Vivek Murthy’s Together
  • Kelly McGonigal’s The Joy of Movement
  • Podcast: How I Built This with Guy Raz
  • Podcast: We Can do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle

You Made it! Here’s how we can connect:

After reading this, you’ve got a bunch of resources to get you started – no matter what kind of business you’re thinking about starting or where you are in the world.

If you’re in Geneva, I also recommend starting with a read of the Canton’s page for creating a business (in French and English), including a guide for how to start a business in Geneva. These pages are chock full of concrete information about navigating the administrative requirements.

How to get in touch:

Still want to chat with me about starting a business? Great!

The above has given you a little idea of my approach to business and life. So you won’t be surprised to know that I deeply value connecting with other creative and courageous folks out there finding their way. And that I value your time and mine.

If you’d like to chat about entrepreneurship, including navigating the Swiss system, I offer:

  • one-time virtual consultations for a fee of CHF 85/45 mins. We’ll have 45 mins so make it count!
  • to a limited number of clients, longer term 1-1 virtual coaching for entrepreneurs, including help with crafting business plans and navigating the murky waters of going from ideation to launch. These engagements are usually at a special hourly rate, but packages are also available in combination with other SilverX services.

To schedule a 45-mins consultation, drop a line here with “Aspiring Entrepreneur/Business” in the subject line:

Stay kind and courageous.