In order to win, we must all fail sometimes. In fact, I propose that in order to succeed, we must ALWAYS have failures first.

If you’re reading this because you want to be a big time entrepreneur, but have NEVER started a business before, I want you to stop trying to start up whatever dream company you’re thinking of right now and go fail at some really basic mini business first. Try Amway. Try Avon. In fact, any good old fashioned pyramid scheme will do. Why? Because I don’t want you to take your BEST idea to the market and fail miserably.

One of the best ways to success is to start with a mini failure and improve from there.

If you’re learning something new, let’s say rock climbing since I began climbing after I lost my company, you don’t start by going to a mountain and trying to lead climb all the way to the top. No! You start indoors, in a safe environment, and you pick an easy wall, and build up your strength, stamina and bravery.

When I started my first business, I thought I could climb to the top of a mountain on my first try. Most first time entrepreneurs think that their first attempt is totally going to work and that even though they’ve never used those “startup” muscles, they will make it all the way to the top.

So for you first timers: you’re not going to make it through this one unscathed, and most likely you will end up with the same amount of money you had when you started, or even a little less. Like a bad diet where in the end you binge eat all the Oreos that you had hidden away during your weight loss regiment and gain the fat back.

“But, Girlboss Sophia Amoruso didn’t fail! She went from homeless and stealing laptops to a multimillionaire in less than a decade. She’s so great! I want to be her!”

“Yeah, that’s real cute. But Sophia Amoruso also lived in LA, was single, had no kids, started an online clothing brand at the right time and in the right place, and she is also extremely hot. We ALL want to be her.”

Sorry, you may be single, extremely hot and live in LA and have a “right time right place” idea, but most likely you are not ALL of those things. Even if you never binge eat Oreos. (But, shhhh, if you ARE all those things, call me, I’m single.)

Statistics say that 92% of new companies will fail. Look around you. Do you have any friends or colleagues who have started businesses and succeeded? Go punch them in the face. They just took the lucky 8% if you only know a handful of entrepreneurs, leaving YOU to fail your first time around. And that means that YOU, my friend, need to start a few businesses to get your feet wet before you go after the big leagues.

Now remember what I already told you: Your business failing does NOT mean that YOU are a failure. Oh, no, my friend, so long as you weren’t a lying, cheating asshole, your brand is still intact. Its actually one of the best things that could have happened. You learned a ton, you kept your personal brand alive, and you move on to become even better.

The former owner of a multi-million dollar company, and an ex-business partner of mine, told me over lunch recently about what it felt like when his business failed in the end. “I thought my brand would be hurt,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief, “but the reality was, it didn’t hurt me at all. I believe in not fighting, but always winning, and in the end, I won.” He’s now doing something even better, and although his last company failed, HE DID NOT.

If anyone should know how many businesses you need to have before you succeed, I’m a likely candidate. Here are a few of my failures.

FAILURE #1: Cakes by Christy

I started my first business at age 13. It was cake decorating. I guess it kind of fits that designer thing. And the love for building things. And being epic.

By the time I was 14, I was making cakes for neighbors and church members who were having birthdays. At 15, I was making wedding cakes.

I liked to skip steps though. Like, not bothering to put down rods in a cake to keep the layers standing straight and then praying during the entire wedding that the top layer hasn’t slid off onto the ground. It never happened, but once it came close. The bride decided it would be cool to have all the layers against one side, with them each smaller than the one below. This works great until you add in physics (something I didn’t study well…I was homeschooled). And since I didn’t bother with rods, basically, the cake ended up looking like a fan, with the pieces heavily weighed down on one side, and cake sticking up in the air on the other. It was bad.

I even did my own wedding cake. Because I’m ambitious like that. Control is awesome, and why pay someone to do something you can do yourself on your own wedding day? Logic, people.

Then one day I did the math. After covering cake mix, frosting, cake pans, and eggs, my profit for a good birthday cake ended up being around $15 and took me all day to make. At the time, I was just happy to have a job. But clearly in the end, it wasn’t exactly economical. And my body weight was going south quickly, so by the end of college, I had all but quit decorating cakes, aside from the occasional family birthday bash. And the funny thing is that I never had a cake for my own birthday. I always ate strawberry shortcake.

FAILURE #2: Christy Harner Photography

I bought my first Nikon D60 camera in 2005 when I was 20 and convinced Matt, my husband at the time, that I would totally learn how to use it and start making money as a photographer. The next day, I bought my first book on photography off of Amazon, and read that baby all the way through to the end.  A week later, I had my first gig: shooting the front cover photography for a nearby college magazine. It was a sports shot, with our Academic Dean passing a ball to our star basketball player who was already in the air to slam dunk the ball.

I need to interject: this is an impossible shot. Passing, jumping and dunking simultaneously? Also, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing (inside photography is such a bummer without lighting) and I had never played basketball. It was a nightmare, but somehow I acted cool and got through it and got paid my exorbitant $125.

However, I’m a persistent person and even then I was starting to build a brand as that girl with the camera. The camera started paying off. I did more photography for the college, and even filmed videos around town and at local churches and eventually moved to wedding videography and photography, since I already had a following of wedding cake references.

The last wedding photography shot I did was in Scotland, on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, beside a vast garden next to a castle-like mansion that looked like it came straight out of Pride and Prejudice. The view was amazing. The trip was from a dream. The bride was wonderful. I tried my first alcohol (a little late, age 25), and rode through Lock Ness on a bike alone after the wedding. I felt like that was a good time to retire Christy Harner Photography. I wasn’t quite good enough to be doing such lofty weddings, and in the end the money wasn’t good, and the stress was through the roof. So a failure, if you want to look at it that way, since I never really made much profit and closed shop after only a few years.

FAILURE #5: Keep My Tabs

You may notice that this is Failure 5, not Failure 3. That’s because Failure 3 was really a success in that I actually created an MVP (minimum viable product, also known as a trial balloon or testing period) that eventually turned in Binary Ventures, my digital marketing agency.

Keep My Tabs was my fifth company. It started in 2012 because Chris, my PHP developer, discovered a way to add things to Facebook using an API, and no one seemed to be tapping into the format we were using. I didn’t think much of it until I was talking with the man who ran the marketing department at the Charlotte Observer Newspaper at a networking event.

“You know a lot about social media?” he asked me the night we met.

I shrugged. “I guess! I do a lot of branding for small businesses!”

I was in Charlotte by the time I started this company, so it was several years after my other businesses (including a web design firm) and I knew my way around marketing.

“Come up to our office next week. We need some help.”

So Keep My Tabs was started because a couple of guys up at the Charlotte Observer marketing department needed a solution for all of the small businesses who were looking for an easy way to market themselves online.

“No one wants to just put an ad in the paper anymore,” they told me when we sat down in the board room a week later, “We want someone to help us automate marketing through their Facebook pages instead.”

I didn’t quite understand the logistics, but I knew Chris could probably build what they needed. So the next day, he and I talked and we figured out a way to create the API so that the Observer would be able to manage a bunch of other company’s Facebook pages from an off-facebook product, even adding pictures and new “tabs” where they could have contests and other cool information. This was pre Hootsuite, but had more bells and whistles.

“It needs to be really easy to do,” I emphasized to Chris over Skype as he was coding. “I want the dumbest person at the Observer to be able to manage their page, add pictures and create a new tab.”

Chris built it out for me in a few weeks. I set up another meeting with the team from the newspaper, and walked them through the product we had created just for them. It was something no one had built yet, and they were very impressed.

I actually received a standing ovation from the five guys sitting in that room. The director walked over to me, shook my hand, and said, “Christy, someday you’ll be a millionaire with ideas like these, and we’ll all be working for YOU.”

I felt giddy as I left, like a girl who just got told she had won the lottery, and called a guy I knew in town who could valuate the “company” I had just created out of thin air.

He came back to me a week later with the numbers. “Yeah, Christy, if you build this out and even a handful of people use the software for their Facebook page management, you could be making a million dollars in no time. And the company is worth even more than that!”

I called my parents and told them they should invest in Keep My Tabs because we were all going to be rich. They gave me $5,000 and told me if I didn’t actually launch the company by September, they wanted the money back. I promised I would make it happen.

Needless to say, it didn’t actually happen. The Charlotte Observer decided they couldn’t afford to build out their marketing department yet, and I ran into difficulties with development, as we all do. I paid back my debt to my parents in full, but not without my ego being bruised just a little.

So! There you have three failures!

The third and fourth failures were actually great successes, but in the end, turned out not to be the road I was supposed to travel any longer. So again, failures in their own good ways. I will share those stories with you later, but I wanted you to realize that being a failure is actually good, not bad, provided you use it right, and you actually learn from your mistakes.

Question: Do people think I’M a failure because I failed so many times?

Answer: Not one bit! Failure makes you stronger, not weaker. Failure makes you smarter, not dumber. And failure means that the next time around, you’re much more likely to succeed.

Just remember to not cut corners, and always put little sticks in the wedding cakes so they don’t slide off during the ceremony.