DIY Biz: Stay and Defend

(This theme song for this post is Stay and Defend – Wolf Gang.)

Hi there! As I mentioned yesterday, I’m waaaaaaay overdue for a DIY biz post. I said that they are the hardest and also the most rewarding to write because sometimes I’m not even sure what I’m thinking or feeling, so I don’t know where to begin. And at the same time I often find that writing about it helps me sort out my thoughts.

First, Excelerate Labs is awesome. The people that run it, the mentors and the other teams impress me every day. I’m inspired by their ingenuity, generosity and work ethic. It is, to be cliché, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We’re nearly the halfway mark already and it’s both terrifying (there is so much to be done, and so little time) and exciting.

The month of June was Mentor Month, and I met with over 50 awesome mentors. (Mentors are people like successful entrepreneurs, investors, professors and subject matter experts. Their LinkedIn profiles alone can give me you a panic attack.) I just realized that the last time I wrote this was Week 2, back when I thought I had time to make fun graphics every week. Ha, I wish! Here’s what I said then:

After 10 mentor meetings I’ve already been able to identify a few common themes. The meetings I’ve had with investors have been some of the most challenging and productive. I really appreciate their analytical approach and different perspective. As for the meetings overall, it’s interesting to me is how they are helping me clarify my own thinking about what is working and what’s challenging us. (I mean, I know that’s what they are supposed to do but I was afraid that all of the feedback would overwhelm us at first.) I know that it’s very, very early to be reflecting on the experience but so far I feel like these meetings are moving us in a direction that’s not only going to help us build a stronger business but also one that’s a better and closer answer to the problems that led me to start Whimseybox originally.

Now that I’ve met with 5-6 times as many people my feelings are more complicated. Everything I said is still true in many ways, but overall I have a deeper appreciation for both the opportunities and challenges in this business. I’ve also developed a classic case of mentor whiplash where my head spins from hearing differing takes on what we ‘must do’ and ‘must not do.’ (Often the same thing, naturally.) Honestly, though, I feel like a jerk for whining about this for even a moment because for every new challenge we encounter about twelve other amazing things have developed as a result of mentor meetings. So while the net score is solidly +11 for mentors, I’d feel disingenuous if I didn’t mention that it’s simultaneously really hard.

It’s July now (in case you didn’t know, or missed the fireworks), so that means we’ve moved on to Entrepreneur’s MBA month. This bears no relation to a real MBA, but it’s a great resource on a wide variety of topics. We have sessions lined up on everything from Financial Modeling to Hiring to Taxes. The other objective of July is to execute on all of the advice and learning we did in June. No big deal, right? Talk with people for a month, build a winning company in a month and then present it? What could go wrong!?

Well, here’s one thing: We realized a while ago that we were understaffed. What startup isn’t, right? We can’t afford to hire anyone full-time, but we did luck out and meet an awesome person who agreed to join Whimseybox as an intern. I was thrilled, but almost immediately she realized it wasn’t the right fit for her at this time. We’re all disappointed it didn’t work out, but sometimes that’s just how it goes. One day up, the next down. (PS – Know any crafty/tech types in Chicago? Send them my way!!)

So it’s a roller-coaster. We’re working crazy hard (like, around the clock) to improve almost every aspect of the business. From the website and user experience to the projects and content, it’s all evolving.

Don’t go, don’t be tired.
You gave a word then you set it on fire.
But I’ve forgiven in the end.
Maybe we run, or maybe we stay and defend.

Thanks for your support. There’s so much more to be said, but I’ve got to call it a night.


  1. Hi Alicia,
    Thanks so much for finding time to comment on my blog.
    My kids are home for summer and it’s so hard to find time to blog.. Sorry, I am kind of out of loop and behind on reading your blog. Which business are talking about? Dismount Creative or Whymseybox?

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