Lesson 1: Making a Fresh Start

What You’ll Learn: Starting fresh can be hard, especially when the past is still haunting you.

This module looks at the process you need to go through to leave the past behind and successfully start a new enterprise.

Making a Fresh Start

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

Napoleon Hill, Author of Think and Grow Rich


Starting a business is hard work. Starting over is even harder, especially when outside forces that you had no control over may have put you out of business. We came to know this all too well with a global pandemic. Still, other events, natural and human-made, can happen at any time in the life of a business, whether it’s a wildfire, an earthquake, or even the unexpected sale of the building you’ve done business in for the last 20 years to make way for condos.

A lifetime of work, gone in a flash, and with it a livelihood.

It’s O.K. to grieve the loss. But it’s not O.K to feel like a failure. Many of the most successful businesses in history have failed to weather an unexpected crisis.

If you’re ready to call it a day and move on with your life, no one will blame you. But if that fire in your belly still burns to be an entrepreneur, know that new possibilities can rise from the ashes of defeat.

Leaving the past behind may require some unpleasant steps. You may even have to declare bankruptcy, either to reorganize your debts or write them off entirely. You may have to rein in your lifestyle a bit, go back to basics, and question every dollar you spend.

But in the end, you may find a new opportunity that would have never presented itself before the event that ended it all. You may even find that you’ve fallen in love with running a business again, realizing that your old endeavor was actually a bit stale and unfulfilling and that you should have gotten out of it long ago.

Letting Go of the Past

Looking in the review mirror will not take you into the future. Yes, you need to grieve. Losing a business is like losing a child. You need to move through all the phases of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

If you don’t go through them all, you will simply loop back and forth between the five stages. If your business closed because of the pandemic, you probably have already made it through the denial and anger phases.

You may still be bargaining, however. This is the stage where you cycle through a lot of “what ifs” and “if onlys,” trying to identify something you could have done better or differently if you have only known what you know now. This, of course, is folly.

Eventually, depression sets in as you start to reflect on the loss and process what it means. You can’t avoid this step, but you can move through it more quickly if you realize that you can’t change the past. In truth, the only thing you have control over is right now, and the only thing you can change is the future. The quicker you understand this and embrace it, the sooner you can move past the depression stage.

When this happens, you can accept the outcome for being what it was and begin to find hope for the future. It is there that the opportunities lie, and those possibilities may be more amazing than you ever thought possible as you think about starting over.

As you deal with the grief, realize that you’re not alone in this. More than 100 million businesses are started every year. Even without a pandemic and economic upheaval, nearly a quarter of those businesses don’t make it past their first year, and half won’t be around for their 10th-anniversary sale.

This isn’t meant to dissuade you. Rather, we want you to celebrate the fact that you already beat the odds, even if you only made it through the first year. If you were still in business five or 10 years later, you’re a rock star. You crushed the odds, which were totally stacked against you from the get-go. You can certainly do it again, knowing what you know now.