Having an idea for a business is easy, making it a reality is a different story.
You have an idea for a business. Great. Exciting. But the real question is...where do you go from there? Because an idea is only an idea until the details are set in place. It can only fly, as they say, when it has wings and a viable operational structure and, especially, a dedicated manager who can sort through the minutia of day-to-day problem solving. Above all, for a business to succeed, many others have to be involved which means even more problem solving and analyzing and, of course, compromising. In the end, though, a great idea can become a great success by the most important aspect for all of life, constructive problem solving.
Almost four years ago, when I got the idea for SLAP'D, Surviving Life After A Parent Dies, it was with the relatively clear cut hope of creating an organization that would help teens who had lost a parent. My first step, (thank you, Mom for that advice), was to talk to every person I knew about the idea, especially those who had lost a parent in their teens. In fact, in just about every encounter I had with anyone, or any organization, I would gear the conversation to this new idea, just to get as much input as I could. It was kind of haphazard but, in the end, it was hugely rewarding. The result was a tremendous amount of relevant, useful information that was to have a very positive effect on the foundational growth of SLAP'D and, in the following years, on essential support to SLAP'D and its small, but growing, staff.
Recently, some team members and I attended the NAGC symposium. NAGC, the National Alliance for Grieving Children, is the umbrella organization for bereavement centers and another resource, as is SLAP'D, for grieving children. The work they do is remarkable. Not only because they serve as the foundation for the quiet but imperative network of bereavement centers, but because they believe in something that I also feel strongly about: the absolutely necessity and inalienable right to grief support.
To tell you the truth, I was a bit nervous about attending the NAGC conference, as if I were the odd one out. Why? Because SLAP'D is untraditional in its format and because, although I was the founder and leader of SLAP'D, I was still a "kid." Juxtapose this to the established bereavement center representatives with their titles and post-graduate degrees and you might understand my apprehension. I wondered if they would see SLAP'D in a negative light since it was different from the traditional face-to-face bereavement support and because it used the Internet.
I needn't have worried. They were wonderful, receptive and appreciative of what we were doing. They expressed their feelings that our core principles matched theirs and they gave their support for the foundational core of our mission; the importance of a platform by teens and for teens. Even more reassuring was when so many of the bereavement specialists came over to remind me that we had talked when I was just thirteen and on the brink of beginning SLAP'D.
The NAGC conference was incredibly validating. It reassured us that with SLAP'D we had identified an important niche, a platform for teens to reach out, to compare experience, and to gain strength from other teens who had had a similar tragedy, under the protection of anonymity. Within the family of SLAP'D, on the Internet, teens who have lost a parent can be courageous, describing both their fears and their ways of handling their experiences, giving strength to and gaining strength from others. In a safe, yet proactive way.
The road has been both challenging and incredibly rewarding. From my experience building a website as a tech-clueless eighth grader, to the Social New Venture Challenge, to being named one of Chicago's most innovative companies, I've spent a lot of time rectifying mistakes. Stress the word "rectify." In the end, I've learned that the biggest mistake is giving up. And the best attribute is perseverance. Ultimately, SLAPD' is an important idea. In the end, that's the reason it has because the accepted institution it is.
SLAP'D now? While it's functioning at a high level, if you look above it, you can see that it's about to transcend to an even higher level, its staff and directors about to give even more complexity and meaning to its objectives. My dream for an organization that would help teens who have lost a parent has come true. It has developed into a community of teens who share their situations and give each other strength. This is especially gratifying because of the impact it could have for my best friends, Asher and Amelie.
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