WisBusiness: ‘Celebrate failure,’ entrepreneurs told

By Brian E. Clark

MILWAUKEE – Failure and rejection should be celebrated, author Grace Bulger told participants at this year’s Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Conference.

“It’s not a shameful thing if you learn from it,” said Bulger, whose book “The Enlightened Entrepreneur” is often used to instruct and inspire students.

“I’ve had plenty of rejections, but I’ve faced down some of my worst fears and life has gone on,” said Bulger, a screenwriter and playwright who became a division communications vice president for GE Capital at age 26.

Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and dragged down by four ulcers, she eventually gave up her corporate career to strike out on her own. She is founder and principal of Lyric Productions, Inc., where she develops and marketing plans and communications programs for a variety of companies.

Though she has had many successes, she said she regularly receives manuscript and screenplay rejections but continues to labor on.

Bulger, who called entrepreneurs “artists,” spoke to more than 150 people at the Hyatt Regency where the two-day event is being held. Other speakers include futurist Joel Kotkin and Milwaukee-native Kay Koplovitz, who founded USA Networks.

The conference is celebrating the state’s emerging high-growth, knowledge-based economy. Later tonight, Department of Financial Institutions Secretary Lorrie Keating Heinemann will present the Governor’s Business Plan and Small Business Technology Transfer awards at the event’s banquet.

Bulger, who now lives in Chicago, told the conference that entrepreneurs must be courageous because they have no safety net.

“But we like challenges and risks and we like doing things our own way,” said Bulger, who noted that 80 percent of new businesses fail in the first five years.

“But with great risks come great rewards,” Bulger said, quoting the Dalai Lama.

“Sometimes I look around and ask ‘How did you become such a loser?’” she said. “You blew it all on a pipe dream when you had it all.

“But then hope bubbles up again and we push on because we have to,” she said.

“It’s all about the journey,” she said, urging her listeners to stay true to their dreams.

“Financial success is important, of course,” she said. “But don’t let your endeavors take you further away from what you want to achieve. Don’t let it consume your freedom and alienate you from your families.”