Defining Identity

Jan 22, 2018


When I first set out to write this blog post, I was thinking through the concept of work life balance. I’ve always been a verbal processor, so while talking this through with my husband over dinner, he helped me realize the point I was really trying to convey was understanding our IDENTITY.

(Warning, I’m an engineer, so there’s going to be a little math in this post, but I promise, you’ll be able to follow along.)

As entrepreneurs, how do we define our identity?

If you’re like many of us, our identity is mostly wrapped up in our company. However, there is a small problem with:


If the statistics are to be believed, anywhere from 75-90% of startups fail. This means:

ME = FAILURE (approx. 82.5% of the time)

If we use that equation, that means 82.5% of entrepreneurs are failures, and that just doesn’t pass the “sniff-test” with me.

I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs, and none of them are failures. In fact, all of them are successes, and sometimes, in areas they didn’t expect.

This is why it is so important to find balance in our identity. Aristotle tells us “the whole is more than a sum of its parts,” so we need to make sure we have multiple parts to sum up!

For me, cycling is one of my “parts.” Cycling has provided me with challenges and successes to balance the days (and sometimes weeks) that nothing goes right.

I spent a significant chunk of my time this summer training for the Roger’s Cycling Festival, “Race for the Spike.” This is an event where a team of cyclists line-up, first thing in the morning, in downtown Rogers and race the A&M train.

More math if you’re interested…. If a bike rider leaves downtown Rogers and travels 5.65 miles north on Arkansas Street to Avoca, and the A&M train leaves Avoca traveling south at the same time the bike rider leaves Rogers, what speed will the bike rider need to average to beat the train back to downtown Rogers if the train takes 34 minutes to complete the trip from Avoca to Rogers?

The answer, if you’re not: It’s about 20 mph

This race was a tough push into the wind, and provided such an amazing sense of accomplishment when I beat the train. That afternoon was also the day I found out my startup company had been declined a federal grant we were assured we’d get. That grant was worth 2 years of support, worth $750,000.

That afternoon sucked. I cried. Twice.

But I still beat the train, and I raced again that night.

Beating the train may have been the only redeeming part of that day. It stood as a testament that I could still achieve the goals I had worked hard for, even if I didn’t realize everything I wanted.

Every time I have a horrible day, I know I can find a few minutes of joy on my bike.  Whether that’s going out for a ride with friends, coaching my mountain bike team, or just peddling up to Bike Rack Brewing for a pint. If you take nothing else away from this story, build balance into your identity, because one day you’ll need it.


Ellen Brune, Ph.D.

As the Senior Entrepreneur in Residence, Ellen’s focus is growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem for science based startups and craft food and beverage ventures. Ellen has a PhD in Chemical Engineering and is the Founder of Boston Mountain Biotech ( in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In her role as a mentor to the startup community, Ellen has provided support in the areas of business development and strategy, research validation, commercialization studies, and patent strategy. To support youth development, Ellen is a coach with the Arkansas State Interscholastic Cycling Association and the Little Bella’s program which, helps build character and confidence through mountain biking.