How rejection can be the beginning for your business (and not the end)

Sometimes, rejection is the first step toward acceptance.

CreativeLive CEO Chase Jarvis feels the word “no” can be just as much a motivator as a deterrent to the person hearing it. It’s what pushed J.K. Rowling to keep submitting her first “Harry Potter” manuscript after 12 publishers passed on it. Bloomsbury Publishing — that 13th company — agreed, and the rest is history.

A quick note from LH Agenda…
We are a brand created by women, for women, to support you to follow your passion and boost your confidence.
LH agenda brand

On the surface, “no” dampens spirits and halts momentum; it can feel like a step backward. But for those blessed with hindsight, it might’ve been the spark your life or career needed.

Hearing “no” can be a chance to reset. It’s an opportunity to identify a problem and cultivate a solution. Rejection can spark determination and create clear intentions. In short, “no” is often the light that leads down the path best traveled.

Opportunity Instead of Opposition

Kathryn Shaw, an economics professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, did a study on almost 3 million small retailers in Texas. The research revealed that the most successful of those companies were run by leaders with previous entrepreneurial experience.

“No” is a barrier that leaders and companies run into constantly. My company encountered it a lot in its early days. I heard it from investors, board members—even friends—and it never got easier. But it was after the pain of rejection dulled that power began to surge.

Non-acceptance inspired me to look inward at what I wanted to accomplish. I got outside my own point of view to rephrase and retell my story. I wanted to see the naysayers’ perspectives so we could come to a place of compromise and not contrast.

Rejection can be repurposed into progress. Explore the following approaches to turn a “no” into an opportunity to get better.

A quick note from LH Agenda…
Need more help managing the stress of life? Meet your everyday organisational support to build mental wellbeing and resilience through positive habits and daily rituals. Fit mind = fab life.
LHAGENDA- Mind By Design Mental Resilience collection

Rejection can spark determination and create clear intentions. In short, “no” is often the light that leads down the path best traveled.

Rethink your idea of collateral

When financial institutions meet your idea with a “no,” it’s because they’re purposely hedging their bets. They operate under particular benchmarks and figures; if you don’t present those exact numbers, the answer will be a hard-and-fast pass.

Banks won’t hesitate to deny a loan to someone if they don’t think they will be recouped. If things look to be headed that direction, it never hurts to recraft your case. Instead of focusing on your lack of traditional collateral, try bargaining with your company’s value or the clients it has lined up.

Attempt to resituate the word “no” into a motivator to clinch that big order. With that new evidence, a relationship can start to be built. One that, hopefully, leads to a “yes” somewhere down the line.

Readjust your language

People don’t usually reject general ideas. They say “no” to specific requests that intimidate or worry them. Sometimes, it’s the words being used that don’t strike the right note.

For businesses running up against brick walls, a renewed narrative can be just the trick.

Try to center the language around the specific idea you’re presenting. If the previous language read cautiously, make an upbeat revision; if you’ve been pitching a personal story, try making it more universal. Not everyone will understand why your idea is so great initially — all you have to do is communicate until they do.

When I started my company, people were put off by the fact that we sold only one thing. What they didn’t yet see was that each piece was unique in its own right; they never realized the number of possibilities the limited offerings actually presented. It took a long time for me to adjust my communication until I was telling the most compelling story of my business.

Revisit the situation

Sometimes a “no” really is just that. Sometimes I imagine a new design, and I relay that dream to the manufacturer only to be told it’s impossible to import that particular color bar from Europe. Sometimes you come up against cultural differences, material shortages, or you simply have your heart set on something that doesn’t yet exist.

An actual “no” can be the toughest to get motivated about. But this, actually, is what all those other rejections have been training you to face. This is when you’ll have to use your creativity and your ingenuity to either solve the problem or dream up something new.

That begins with understanding why the “no” happened. Use the opportunity to understand your industry, your suppliers, and your materials more deeply. “No” can then serve as a launchpad for a new chapter of your story instead of the closing of a previous one.


Every “no” is an important milestone for your business. It will cause you to shift, adapt, rethink, and dream again. Embrace those rejections like the opportunities they are. Seek out more of them, and the approvals will take care of themselves.

“No” isn’t the end. It’s just another way to get there.

Lee Rhodes founded glassybaby in 2001 after a chance meeting between a tea light and a hand-blown glass vessel during her seven-year bout with cancer. Rhodes developed the idea for glassybaby’s one-of-a-kind votives and drinkers with the core mission of helping cancer patients she met during treatment afford basic needs. Ten percent of the company’s entire revenue goes toward a charitable organization. Rhodes was named Entrepreneur’s 2011 “Entrepreneur of the Year,” EY’s Pacific Northwest “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2014, and received the Women of Valor Award from Sen. Maria Cantwell and former Vice President Joe Biden.