Last month, I attended the Failure Summit put on by the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes.

When I first read the event description I laughed out loud, so I knew it would be a great way to spend an afternoon. 

Being a small business owner is a really scary, risky thing. There are many days I think about how much easier it would be if I just got a more traditional job.

But then the part of my creative soul that loves this business so hard knows I would not be as happy doing anything else. 



It can feel really awful sometimes knowing that I’m not really sure how this wonderful experiment called “small business” is going to work out. 

And it feels like I’m going the wrong way most days.

I was hoping this Failure Summit would remind me that experiments (and even failures) are some of the only ways we can learn and grow and innovate. And I felt like the five brave souls that got up to speak that day were speaking right to the most nervous parts of my business-owning soul.

It’s interesting to me that there is such variety in human struggle and yet there’s always something we can relate to in each tale of woe. 

From corporate flops to DWI’s to spoiled work relationships to life-altering divorce to horrible boss dissolutionment, these stories sometimes had me on the edge of my seat. The speakers did a great job making us laugh, but there were times I had tears in my eyes, too. At the end of some, it was hard to clap because it felt more like we should all be giving the speaker a commiserative hug! 

I walked away from the Summit feeling so much less alone.



These men and women may not have tried and failed in the same way I am trying, but their “I survived and came out learning something… being stronger and smarter and a little more brave” message felt like we had just sat down for coffee and an amazing pep talk. 

A huge thanks to the Community Foundation for hunting down such brave speakers, and to the speakers themselves for sharing their painfully inspiring stories.



Do you know someone with an epic-fail-tale they’d be willing to share?

The speaker who gets the most votes receives $1000 to donate to the charity of their choice! Contact Sara Palmer ( at the Community Foundation for more information.