by Kat Pestian

It’s called “the jump,” that moment when a would-be entrepreneur stands terrified at the top of a dark cliff and inches toward its uncertain edges. And when you finally gather the courage, you close your eyes—and jump—hoping you’ll find your wings, trusting you’ll recognize the ground you land on, and praying the entire time that you’ve made the right decision for yourself and your family.

But the jump? That’s the easy part.

Entrepreneurship, as it turns out, is a series of jumps, then climbs, then walks that turn into runs, then more jumps. But it’s that first jump that really sets the stage. It prepares you to fall and then teaches you just how much your heart can hold.  Risk-taking is a like a muscle. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Today, I celebrate my jump. I call it my “Jumpiversary”—my first full-time year of entrepreneurship with our company, Amp Strategy, and this beautiful, Geronimo-screaming life.

And during this first year, here are top four things I’ve learned:

1. My business partner is wicked smart.

Because we’re business partners and sisters, Morgan and I joke with clients that we’ve been preparing for our branding work for more than 30 years—when we had to name our first dog.

I knew my sister was smart growing up (she’s the one who could calculate percentages while shopping faster than anyone) but I never knew she was wicked smart. In the same breath when she’s strategically thinking in the clouds, she’s managing a to-do list to bring those clouds right to you.

She’s also one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. No joke; she leaves the upfront parking space for other people because she wants them to enjoy it.

And she finds joy when others see darkness. I’ve learned from her this year how much beauty can be held in the imperfect parts of life…if you look for it.

Morgan loves to push boundaries and she has taught me to crave that slightly uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach—the one I used to run from—but now signifies the very thing I should be running toward.

2. Akron freaking loves entrepreneurs.  

This city is everything. The community and its people encourage passion of all kinds. If you’re an avid bike-rider, artist, cat-lover or entrepreneur, it’s easy to find others who ignite and inspire you, because they are looking for you, too.

The risk-takers and innovators welcome you, even on the days when you feel like you’re not cut out for the brave entrepreneur party that never stops. To the encouragers of Akron, thank you for your voice and being such champions of new beginnings.

3. Cheering is vital.

In my previous job, I had an incredible team. They were the people who—unbeknownst to them—almost stopped my jump. As I arrived at the edge of the entrepreneurial cliff, I just stood there. I looked back and saw this beautiful team of people, those I was leaving, actually cheering for me. Not saying, “We can’t believe you’re leaving us,” but cheering. Loudly. And I have to tell you how easy it would have been to run back to them.

But the cheers encouraged me, and the skills I’d learned from them gave me the courage to jump.

Now at Amp, we get to be the ones on the other side, cheering for our entrepreneurial clients who’ve also become our friends, and giving them renewed energy and insights to jump in new and exciting ways.

4. My tribe.

Being a new-ish momma to a toddler and five rescue animals, an entrepreneur with a passion for community involvement, a wife of an incredible husband who travels a bit for work—the question I love to answer is, “How do you do it?”

And my answer is always the same: “I have a good tribe.”

Yesterday, my parents handed me a bag of pajamas for my kiddo because I mentioned in a causal conversation last week that he was outgrowing his. My mom-in-law is going through chemo treatments, but still managed to come up this past weekend to watch our son, while my father-in-law stocked our fridge because it “looked a bit empty” (not a chef, here!), and my girlfriends, who’ve given me their love, encouragement and grace even when I don’t deserve it (sometimes you think you’ve responded to a text but just forgot to press send).

More than anything, this year has taught me that by staying positive and values-based—and surrounding yourself with supportive people—you can create the life you want. Really want.

The life where you don’t always have to miss breakfast with your kiddo or the life where you get to speak on a panel about being a part of an all-female-owned business. The life that when someone says to you, “Don’t keep a job just because you need insurance,” you get to really listen.

Here’s to entrepreneurship and the jumpers who’ve found their wings. Here’s to making the rules and learning fiercely when to break them. Here’s to my Amp partner, my tribe, my city, my husband and my son who makes me extra, extra brave. And here’s to you—if you’re thinking about making a jump, you’ve got a team of people in the City of Akron ready to encourage and ignite you.