How Being Placed for Adoption Prepared Me for Entrepreneurship

This guest post is by Juliana Whitney, an adoptee.

I cannot count the number of times it has been pointed out to me that entrepreneurs face a lot of rejection, as if this is some kind of revelation that might deter me from entrepreneurship.

This statement indicates to me that they believe that an entrepreneur is what I am, but that is incorrect. 

It is who I am.  I genuinely know that I was custom made for this.

Maybe nobody was paying attention, but this is who I have been since I was a kid. 

I swear, answering the question “what do you want to be when you grow up,” was super uncomfortable for me because in my heart, though I couldn’t verbalize it at the time, I did not want to be something, I wanted to be someone.

The idea of choosing one thing, with one set of specific rules, with a linear path and a predictable trajectory, was not and is not congruent with my being. 

Rejection, criticism, and doubt have nowhere near enough power to change that.

Entrepreneurs are creators who thrive on adversity.  At least that is who I am as an entrepreneur. 

Nothing has taught me more about creativity and adversity than my adoption story.


Being an adoptee wove creativity and resilience into the fabric of my being. 

I learned how to be resourcefully creative by taking part in creating an alternative type of family, and I learned how to be resilient in the face of adversity by navigating the healing process of my adoption wounds and turning them into wisdom. 

I learned that I do not have to do things the easy way, that I do not have to follow convention, and that, like a coal becoming a diamond, if I withstand pressure, I will come stronger and more valuable having done so.

When I was 7-years old I opened a restaurant.  The menu consisted of hot dogs, grilled cheese and macaroni. 

My mom was my sous chef.  Customers were seated under the tree in my front yard at a Playskool dining room set made for 4-year olds. 

I posted menus around town with our home phone number and, of course, I provided a delivery service.

I do not remember how much money I made, if any. 

All I remember is being excited about what I was doing because I was creating something.

Was there a chance that people would reject a cheese and carb based restaurant run by a 7-year old?  Yes. 

Did that even come close to stopping me?  Nope. 

Entrepreneurs are driven by different sources and they thrive on the entrepreneurial experience for various reasons. 

I am sure that I have multiple reasons, but as far as this whole rejection thing goes, I know for sure that being an adopted kid prepared me for this in a powerful way. 

I have a feeling that the adoptee experience has the power to fuel many entrepreneurial adoptees.  Steve Jobs, for instance?

On the first day of my life I experienced what some might consider to be one of the most devastating heart breaks known to humankind. 

I was separated from the woman who created me.  I call it a heartbreak, but some refer to it as “rejection”.

That heartbreak resulted in love, and growth, and greatness beyond what would have existed had I not experienced the heartbreak.

I lived through it and came out stronger, wiser, and filled with purpose because of it. 

I carry that with me through any rejection I face in my entrepreneurial ventures.  Not only do I carry it with me, but I thrive on these experiences. 

I thrive on honing the ability that adoption blessed me with, to create and to overcome. 

Adoption gave me my entrepreneurial spirit.

Sure rejection still stings.  Heck, I might even cry a little. 

Regardless, I do not experience rejection as something to fear or avoid. Life proved to me early on, through the adoption experience, that rejection provides opportunity. 

Life proved to me that rejection breeds growth, and that if you embrace the growth and keep moving forward, there is an abundance of better things to come. 

Yes, entrepreneurship comes with rejection.  But life as an adoptee built me for this.

Juliana Whitney is an adoptee who runs the non-profit organization, That Adopted Girl, and a consulting firm, The J. Whitney Group.

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