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Startup Secret 35: Trust the future

It's always darkest before you close a really big customer contract.

"It always works out at the very last minute."

--Megan Cummins, CEO, You Smell Soap

You win some, you lose some. But, ultimately, if you're a startup person, the balance comes up positive.

Part of that is attitude. Every failure, when you're starting a company, is just a bump on the road. A road you keep going down. Megan experienced this when she "won" the promise of a $105,000 investment in her startup, You Smell Soap, on the reality TV show, 'Shark Tank.' The show was taped in July, 2011. As of December, no money. See the whole story, Shark Tank VC stiffs startup CEO.

But Megan has snatched a modicum of success from her failure to collect the money it appeared she had coming to her. She found alternative funding sources--including money that was supposed to buy her an engagement ring. She moved from San Francisco to Oakland, which is cheaper. And things keep working out for her company, if only barely. Orders come in, and she scrapes together a way to produce them.

And for her, "working out," means not much more than staying in business. Which she is, whole-heartedly. She told me over lunch of her experience lining up manufacturing, what she's learned about which paper stocks can be used to wrap soap products, and why small business loans don't work for small businesses like hers. She's been learning. And applying every fiber of experience to her venture.

The show itself aired, finally, in February, and now national retailers are knocking at her door, showing that what's more important than winning money on Shark Tank is just being on Shark Tank. And sticking it out. Shark Tank is free PR, but you have to stay in business to take advantage of it.

There is one more piece of advice from Megan, in addition to the obvious (having faith in oneself, etc.). This is for people whose friends are entrepreneurs. Here's what not to say: "When your bank account is zero, hearing, 'Just stick it out,' doesn't pay the rent."

Startup Secrets is based on personal interviews with people building companies and from their blog posts and news stories. Subscribe to Startup Secrets on Twitter or come back to Rafe's Radar every day for a new one. See all the Startup Secrets.