Tagged diy biz

DIY Biz: I Can Do It On My Own

Fullscreen capture 1262012 73000 PM

Red Fraggle is my spirit animal. A few years ago I was her for Halloween (heyyyyyyy 2006 Alicia) and shortly after that my brother bought me the entire box set. That’s when I realized I am a grown up Red Fraggle. Competitive, energetic, perfectionist. A little bit of a know-it-all?

Over Thanksgiving when my 2yo niece SJ was visiting I broke out the DVDs to entertain her. (And myself, because what is up with that Max & Ruby show the kids watch nowadays? Ugh.) Anyway, in the third episode Red sings a song called “I Can Do It On My Own.” But of course –big spoiler- even though Red sings she can ‘do it do it, on her own!’ she ends up needing help later in the episode. This is a super lousy video I shot using my cell phone because I do not care to mess with whatever kind of magic is required to get something from a DVD to YouTube.

This song comes to mind sometimes sometimes when I’m trying to figure out how to get one more thing done. In any business, especially a startup like Whimseybox, there’s always more to do than we have people or experience or time or resources. And my natural instinct is to tell myself (and my team) that I can do it. I’ll figure it out, I’ll squeeze it in, I’ll learn the new skill. It’s probably true of most entrepreneurs, because of course we want to be involved in every decision, oversee every detail and understand every aspect of our dreams. (Exception: Our website. Patrick is so 42092x better at everything in that area that I’m like ‘go for it!’ Exception to the exception: One time he used a picture from a photo shoot that made perfect sense on the page BUT was a super unflattering angle of me. I made him take it down immediately.)

So yeah, I want to do it all. The problem is that sometimes (often?) I’m not the best person for the job.

The good news is that I have some team members that are great at stepping up. It’s so critical to a business at our stage that every member be a rockstar self-starter who’s constantly looking for ways to do more and help each other. And not with ideas, but with actions. (Ideas are ok, but we’ve got lots of them. We can never have enough action.) The email I love to read says ‘hey, I think we can do better at XXXX. I’m on it.’

Of course, that doesn’t let me off the hook. The most important thing is for me to lose the ‘I Can Do It On My Own’ and make the most of all of our incredible resources. Especially now, because a few weeks ago we took on an investment from some really talented partners Smile

Gobo: Don’t pretend that you can bake and race and bang a hammer.
Red: Why pretend when you want the best and we all know that I am her.
Gobo: Don’t pretend that no one else has got abilities.
Red: I don’t need pretending all I need is me, me, me!

DIY Biz: Women in Entrepreneurship

(Shot from a failed DIY project)

Can I talk about something that is kind of half-baked in my mind? I’m uncertain about this, but it keeps coming up so I want to sort out my feelings about it.

Women in technology. Women in science. It’s a good thing, right? I think we agree. (Not in the Martha-sense, ha.)  But is it a cause? I don’t know. I have huge respect for the people and organizations that are working hard to promote entrepreneurship for women and am impressed by their dedication. ….And yet, at the same time, I don’t know if I want their help. I don’t want to be a cause.

Because I don’t think I need or deserve it. I’ve had more than my share of advantages – a great family, awesome schools, etc. I majored in chemical engineering and worked in manufacturing plants around the country for almost a decade. And yeah, I was the 1 woman in a room of 9 men, but so what? My heroes have been Einstein and Welch. I’m glad we live in an era of Sandberg, but I don’t need to see a woman in power to show me that I could do it too. I really don’t. Do you? I’m genuinely curious.

I recognize that many, many people have paved the way for me, men and women. I appreciate that. Still, I want to play on an even field. When I succeed I want it to be because we had a good idea and a great team and worked hard to build something. Not because someone did me a favor because I’m a ‘woman CEO.’

During Excelerate Labs this summer we shot a few videos, and one of them was about/for women applying to Excelerate. And I said, “I’m not sure if I’m going to say what you’re looking for here…”. To their credit they said “we aren’t looking for anything, we want to hear whatever your experience is.”  And I said that, for better or for worse, I only applied to the programs that I knew would accept the best companies regardless of gender. I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but if there were a women-only accelerator I wouldn’t apply. (I’m sure many people would disagree with that, and I that’s okay too.)

I’m thinking about this today because I listened to the talk that Lesa Mitchell gave at Thinc Iowa. I respect her opinion and the work of the Kaufman Foundation. But it just doesn’t resonate for me.

Speaking of resonance, yesterday I attended TEDxHouston (bravo to my friends at Culture Pilot for doing an amazing job) and the theme was Resonate. I met the president of a college entrepreneurship club at a local university there and encouraged her to come to Startup Weekend next weekend where I’ll be speaking and mentoring. And yeah, it was a her. Is she more likely to come because I’m a woman? I don’t know. I would have done the same if it had been a guy. And my hope is that everyone else would too.

I’ve wondered about this a lot and sometimes think that I’m missing something. I don’t mean to diminish the work that others have done to make my path possible. A woman I respect once told me that seeing another woman do what we were doing made her believe she could do it too. And I would be thrilled if I could someday be that example for someone… man or woman.

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.