I recently had the opportunity to mountain bike the Flume Trail in Nevada. The cliffs overlooking Lake Tahoe are at once breathtaking and dangerous. It’s an exhilarating experience.

It’s dangerous, too. Which is probably the reason there is a certain part of the trail with a sign that encourages people to walk their bikes. During my ride, I was struck by this. Who decided that people should walk and not ride their bikes on this part of the trail as opposed to any other part of the trail? The entire trail is dangerous and challenging, but this is where I’m supposed to walk my bike?

I enjoyed riding on cliff’s edge.

That’s the way I’ve always operated. Being fearless in life and in business is perfectly fine. Conforming to rules and conventions just isn’t my thing. I follow my instincts, learning from my experiences and leveraging my street smarts in order to make the best decisions possible. Case in point: My first foray into entrepreneurship came after graduating from college.

I had an idea: Create a shoulder-bag using the rectangular number or “race bib” from a race — whether it be a marathon, a half-marathon or a 10K — in which a customer recently participated. As a marathoner, I thought this would be a fun and popular way for people to celebrate and commemorate their significant achievements in running.

I went all-in and created my first company, Mile 22 Bags. I created the brand from a theory that the 22nd mile of a marathon is a key stage for a runner — a point at which a runner might fail to continue due to fatigue or frustration. Or, the 22nd mile can be the point at which a runner finds the inner strength and inspiration to push forward to success.

The point of no return.

I maxed out my credit card to book a plane ticket to Las Vegas and purchased a booth at the Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon — proudly displaying my prototype Mile 22 bags.

As an early-stage entrepreneur, I understood that the best strategy to build the Mile 22 brand was to connect it with a partner capable of embracing the concept and taking it into the global marketplace at a large scale. With a lot of market research and business development conversations, the company with which to partner became very clear. Yet, I didn’t know anybody at the company.

I rode on.

Again, I took my credit card out for a spin, got on an airplane and ended up in a rental car in the parking lot of the company’s headquarters. From there, I called every buyer in the company directory until I got a live person, which eventually I did. He agreed to meet with me to learn more. Forty-five days later, he issued a purchase order to put my bags in all of their stores.

Eventually, I moved on from Mile22 Bags.

My whole life has been about constantly driving from a place of finding new challenges and disrupting the status quo. With Mile 22 Bags, I had an idea and I carved out a way to make it happen. No one taught me how to relentlessly beat down the door of a multi-million dollar conglomerate to convince them to buy my product.

As a woman and an entrepreneur, being fearless and thinking beyond the conventional rule book and personal challenges is vital. That thinking has opened the floodgates for my success and the success of many friends and business associates of mine who share a similar mindset.

Think about it. You may be the only one standing in your way.

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Stefanie Sample is founder and CEO of The Insight Studio, a Montana-based business that helps starts-up companies implement HubSpot software to scale their sales and marketing efforts. She has launched three other business ventures since 2008. 

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