On Pumpkin Harvesting and Startups

Thoughtful sepia pumpkin

Originally uploaded by gregmeyer

This year, we decided to grow our own pumpkins. This isn’t quite true — it should read more like “we planted a few seeds, and then they took over the entire property” — and it’s satisfying to see the fruits of the harvest. Pumpkin growing makes me think about startups. There is little to show at the beginning except for hard work and fertilizer; some green shoots show up but it’s very hard to tell which ones will survive; and the end harvest is wonderful (and not always what you planted).

Hard work and fertilizer at the beginning: that sounds like the recipe for a successful startup. There is no shortage of either of these things at the beginning of any business venture (or any project, for that matter), and it can sometimes be a challenge to find the right thing to focus on and nurture. Here, as in gardening, having a plan, making some rows, and planting complimentary ideas can help in case of bad weather, blight, or rodents.

After the seeds are planted, green shoots come up. (In the case of our pumpkins, everywhere.) The initial success of business ventures often obscures the fragility and newness of the initial growth. Some of these green shoots won’t make it past the first hard rain or blinding sun. But some of them will, and careful weeding will improve their chances.

At the end of the process, you get to practice 20/20 hindsight. Of course you knew which green shoots would survive and make fantastic potential jack o’ lanterns — because those are the ones you harvested — and it’s easy to forget the blossoms that failed along the way. The key to this knowledge is to enjoy the harvest and not get hung up on the pumpkins (or ideas) that didn’t survive.

We found 31 pumpkins this year. That’s enough, probably, to forgo a trip to the local pumpkin patch. It should also provide us with enough raw material to make roasted pumpkin seeds and, of course, pie. May your pumpkin picking and your startups provide such sweet results.

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