By Erin Bury
When you launch or join a startup, you know that the risk of failure is high. You know that it will be a struggle to get your first customers, to get the word out about your brand and to get investors to pay attention. But you never think there will come a day when you’ll have to close your doors, and admit that you’re one of the entrepreneurs who didn’t make it.

But that’s exactly what we did last summer at Sprouter.com. After almost three years, our small, tight-knit team announced we were shutting down because we had run out of runway. We had big plans for building revenue and expanding our platform, but didn’t have [enough] time to execute.

Still, our story has a happy ending. After our announcement, we attracted interest from several parties, and ended up being acquired by Postmedia Network Inc., one of Canada’s largest media companies, in October 2011. Since then, we’ve almost doubled our team, have moved into a new office in downtown Toronto, and are well on our way to realizing the plans we put in place last year.

 Erin Bury
When we announced we were shutting down, it was difficult for our founder, Sarah Prevette, to talk about it. After all, Sprouter.com was her life’s passion, the idea she’d worked tirelessly on for almost three years. But she spoke to the media, answered emails and thanked the community for their support. She did this to be transparent to the community, but her actions speak to a bigger lesson about entrepreneurship: Embrace your failures so you can move on.

There are many catchphrases about failure. “Fail fast, fail often.” “Celebrate failure.” The list goes on. While failure is never advantageous, even the most successful entrepreneurs have some sort of failure under their belt, and they often say it led to their biggest lessons. David Cohen, founder of the wildly successful TechStars startup accelerator program, has sold several of his companies. But he doesn’t hesitate to talk about what he calls his “graceful failure,” a startup that didn’t succeed. Pandora founder Tim Westergren was turned down over 300 times by investors before his company became one of the most successful online music services. One of the New York City’s hottest startups, Turntable.fm, evolved out of the failure of the founders’ previous company, StickyBits.

Failure happens. It’s not always the failure of a company; sometimes it’s a small failure on the road to success. The takeaway from serial entrepreneurs who have been at both ends of the success/failure spectrum is to embrace failure--and don’t forget about the network you built along the way. We attended DWEN Rio de Janeiro in 2011, and so many of the messages of support we received were from women in the network. Having a strong network means that no matter whether you fail or succeed, you have people rooting for you.

Erin Bury is Managing Director at BetaKit, an initiative of Sprouter.