This evening, I was on a panel titled, "The Growing Gender and Race Gap in Seattle's Startup Scene". I got to share the panel with some amazing people. Then as I was on my ride home, it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, the challenge with the whole not enough "minorities" getting funding (across the board from arts, nonprofits to startups), is that this game we are in is actually like dating.
Seriously, humor me for a minute.
Fundraising is like dating. There's usually two players in dating - one doing the pursuing, one doing the being pursued. Sometimes you go back and forth in playing a role.
MAYBE women (for example) are struggling to get funded because we (most of us) are not used to doing the wooing, like men are. Maybe women have less practice and socialization with this. Maybe? Some of us are able to understand how to woo and attract very quickly. Some struggle. I personally love it.
Simple dating tips applied to fundraising:
Maybe it's a stretch, the dating analogy. Let me know what you think.
I saw my "coach" yesterday.
I see him every so once in awhile these days. He's a wizard. I hadn't seen him in a very long time, at least a year. He asked, "so... you're depressed. You've been depressed for about a year and a half, huh?" Funny thing is, yes, I have been depressed. For that long. I'm currently depressed. My body aches and hurts, ALL THE TIME. So much aching. I've tried everything from massages to Advil. I've even signed up to try acupuncture to stop the pain. And yes, I definitely had postpartum depression. It was really hard. I wondered, "how did he know?" Then he proceeded to stress that I start taking 5,000 IUs of Vitamin D3 asap. ASAP. Take it every day for two weeks and I'll see a difference he promised. He insisted I walk across the street to Walgreens and pick some up right away.
So I did.
So today marks Day 1 --- I'll report back in two weeks (maybe before) on if I notice anything that I credit to the Vitamin D. I want to feel well again.
That's it for now.
Motherhood is hard. There's so many changes that I've gone through to list, and while not everyone has the same experiences, here are mine (not in any particular order of importance).
Motherhood is hard:
Often, I'll share and say something like, "wow, motherhood is hard". You learn a lot about who people are with the responses. Now having been in this for over a year, I've noticed a most definite pattern. I will always get one of two responses to that question. They go something like this:
Supportive fellow human being:
A) Yes. My gosh I can (or cannot) imagine. With the follow up of, let's go grab some coffee or I'd love to share more with you on this journey. I want to show you that you are not alone and I am here to feel shoulder-to-shoulder in life with you. I want you to know that it'll be okay.
Judging oppressive human being:
B) Of course it is. And, isn't motherhood the most rewarding thing you've ever done? Isn't it completely and totally worth it? There's only one right answer here and you better say it. Motherhood is amazing and that's the only thing any mother should ever say. Ever. Because it is completely worth it.
We get to be the guardian of a brand new fresh pure amazing human life, to guide him (or her) to grow up to be a kind, generous, strong, empathetic, respectful and respected adult. It is hard work. Both ideas can exist.
I wrote this post because often I find that we silly humans can get carried away with expectations around what's really important on "holidays". Whether you're single or coupled, the most important thing to remember is the value of the relationship with those most important in our lives. It's not about getting a gift of a fancy $800 shoes from your husband or a $500 Valentine's Day dinner at an expensive restaurant or romantic diamond jewelry. It's not. (Though, if that's what makes it real for you - go have fun and enjoy for sure.) For many others, let's remember to keep it real. It's all about the simple thoughtful gesture to the ones we love in our lives.
1. Embrace your inner cheese.
Seriously. Keep it simple. Simple. Get or make a sweet card for the one (or ones) you love. Who says Valentine's Day has to just be about significant others, and spouses? Send some love to your girlfriends, your guyfriends, your favorite siblings and teachers, bartender, concierge, coworker and/or mailman. :) (Ideally, buy/make/prepare the card in advance.) ---> And a simple <3 text is a great gesture, too. That's super easy to do, so go share the "<3" and text away to all those you love.
2. It's the thought (and hug) that counts.
There's really NO need to break the bank for Valentine's. Unless you REALLY want to go all out, THEN GO ALL OUT. Sweet crystal stud earrings, small delicate bracelet/necklace --- all nice. Just as nice as half a dozen beautiful delicious macaroons or a small box of 4 decadent chocolates. Or go eat at your favorite dessert place - get that big slice of white chocolate strawberry cake. Or hell, grab a bottle of wine, cuddle up with your fluffy dog, your babe (or BFF) and watch a movie. It's the planned thought and the time that counts, NOT THE DOLLARS. A really big big big warm snuggly hug is super amazing, too. :)
3. Have your plan ready.
About 1-3 days before, ideally, have your plan ready for Valentine's Day. Don't leave it to the day of or last minute because that's unnecessarily making it stressful to both you and the recipient(s). Whether it's for your girlfriend or wife or a bunch of BFF's, know what you're going to do. Send her/him/them all a loving text message or voicemail at the start of the day to tell them you're thinking about them. Have the card ready before Valentine's Day. Know whether you're going to cuddle someone with a glass of wine and watch an old movie, go out to get some delicious dessert, or go all out with dinner out on the town + roses + chocolates + and then some. (Stressing should not be part of the plan.)
Alrighty. Don't stress. Valentine's Day is simple - just follow the above 3 steps.
1 year old. Some milestones or highlights going on right as I type this:
We recently celebrated our 5 years of marriage. Time has just flown by - Looking back at ourr wedding photos (the cool ones above were done by Thom Milkovic, an amazing creative), it brings back so many memories. One of the most happy memories I have to this day - LOVE our wedding. Everything about it.
We planned our wedding in 2 weeks (we had the benefit of me having done event planning for over a decade). Dae proposed and we told everyone about our engagement officially on December 1, 2011, and about 5 weeks later, we had our wedding day. Crazy fast. And still to this day, I say I LOVE our wedding day. We did it differently - like the way we are living our lives, from what's expected normally in society - and it was just perfect for us.
How we did it differently (memorably, and efficiently):
Ah love. It's a journey. This year, for our anniversary, we went out to a steak dinner (we rarely ever eat steak, like ever~).... and then both of us ended up with food poisoning for 3 days. It's been a fun week. Benefit to that is that we'll forever remember our 5h wedding anniversary. :)
In 2017, I am OFFICIALLY committing to do 1 blog post a week. #postaWeek2017
LET IT BE KNOWN.
Here we go. Post #1. ... I need to queue up some blog post ideas.... 2017 really crept up on me. I don't know where 2016 went. All I know is that I have created the most precious being of my life with the most awesome husband of all, the Lentil. Lentil is now almost a year old. A little over 30 inches tall, a little over 25 pounds, says a handful of words already, stands proud, has been taking his very first few steps and is already working on walking. Well, since I'm letting everyone know about this #postaWeek2017 challenge, I might as well share some other "resolution" thoughts I've been working on this week.
Not in any prioritized order, here are five "resolution" top-of-mind thoughts:
That's all I got writing today. :) Thanks for reading.
I wrote this during my third trimester with Lentil, and went back to this draft after we finished our "fourth trimester". Now we're close to our baby being 9 months old. What results is that it's a mix of my brain at that time, and some of my brain looking back at that time in hindsight.
Having a baby is a big deal. Having a baby while running a startup is an even bigger deal. When going through pregnancy, I learned some lessons that were applicable to both my journey as a new mother and as a startup founder. Here are a few:
3rd Trimester as it relates to Startup Lessons
1. It's a LOT messier that it looks. As cute as pregnant women look with their baby bumps, it doesn’t feel “that cute.” I stopped sleeping that last month before my child was born, so much so that I started hallucinating. The media portrays an idealistic, romantic image of running a startup company, with all the freedoms and joys being your own boss, when in fact, there’s a lot more grind involved. In the course of a single day, a competitor can suddenly copy your product, and you can land a big investor.
2. There are a lot of ups and down. When I was expecting, the hormones were flying through my body in epic proportions. I remember on our 500 Startups demo day, I ended up crying the whole ride there, smiling for hours once we arrived, then breaking down and crying in the bathroom, only to go back and smile some more. In the startup world, I wake up in the morning full of optimism, and then by 3 p.m., I can come crashing down, filled with doubt. By 7 p.m., I often have to pull together all the energy I have to pitch my company to strangers.
3. Organic versus interventions - nothing is free. There’s no going back. I learned that once doctors intervene with labor and the birth of the baby, there’s no going back. In the startup world, you need to have product-market-fit and a kickass product. I know many founders who practice all kinds of growth hacking to get their numbers to look just right, but many of growth hacks are just not sustainable.
4. Life is precious. It really is. There’s an unexpected feeling. Creating life with my husband has been magical. The child grows right before your eyes. As a founder, you create something out of nothing. Your existence is only thanks to the customers willing to pay for your product or service (and also to the employees, advisors and investors who work alongside you to make it happen). As a gift-giving service, we make handmade cards to go with every product we sell. I’m personally committed to ensuring each gift receives the best attention we can give, and I work side-by-side with those involved in our business every day.
5. You're the underdog. After having gone through miscarriages, making it to the third trimester made us feel like the underdog. Everything was about not messing it up. Data on the number of women CEOs is limited. Less than 5 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. As a pregnant CEO, I was a minority among minorities. This impacted us, especially when fundraising. It meant we had to make hard decisions as a business to survive. I took out personal loans to cover us for a while. Ultimately, we had to reset and could no longer pay employee salaries.
6. Health and balance become even more paramount. The third trimester is all about health. You work like crazy during the day and prioritize sleep at night. The life of a CEO is about fast decision-making and being able to connect dots and make logical leaps. Even without pregnancy, startups are a marathon of endurance and diligence.
7. Choosing your battles wisely becomes even more important. Everything, from my hands to my feet, was swollen when I was pregnant. I had to be extremely practical, often wearing my husband’s clothing. When it came to my business, I had to prioritize according to the battles I could win and the battles that needed winning. I had to decide whether to change product direction or not. I had to cut spending by 50 percent or increase our fundraising efforts.
8. You're not that special... but you are. You develop a community of like-minded individuals. A woman’s pregnancy journey is very similar to that of other women. I joined various mommy groups because anytime I had a question, there was another person who had experience with it. Startups are born, grow to the next level, and mature in a pattern. Each startup company also has its own special experiences, market and product mix.
9. Critical thinking and understanding are essential. As the due date quickly approaches, everyone around you can start to get anxious. Everyone’s excited for the baby to be born! That anxiety also happens the longer you exist as a startup. It’s really important to keep your critical thinking skills sharp to be able to see what’s real (and what’s not).
10. Let it go. Let it go. And prioritize/focus. It’s about taking care of what needs to get done. Pregnancy is about taking care of yourself so you can have a healthy baby. In startups, it’s also just as much about what you do as much as what you choose not to do. For example, today I could have worked on our email marketing strategy more or I could have finished a landing page. It’s all about prioritizing and making decisions quickly.
Some themes that have repeatedly come up over the past week again and again:
Originally posted and seen in the Huffington Post.
Little Lentil. Our baby boy. ... Now officially a baby ball of love shifting in my abdoment, day and night. At first, when he moved (was about 16-17 weeks when I first felt him), it felt like a little sparrow splashing in a puddle or like a little gold fish swimming around in there. Now.... Lentil feels like a... baby. It's weird. A real baby is in there!? His butt sticks out every once in awhile - he will shift from the left side to the right side and back. If I lay on my left side, he'll also adjust himself to a comfortable position in there. I roll onto my right side, and he shortly will adjust. He hates it when I sit up straight or slouch forward towards my computer. We both hate car rides and seat belts. ... I've learned quite a bit about pregnancy so far, though my perspective may be different than other pregnant moms... I don't know. With less than 8 weeks to go, we haven't done anything yet at home to get ready for Lentil (mostly because I've had my nose in the startup grind living away in temporary housing and hotels the past several months in San Francisco).
10 Bits I've Learned in my version of being a pregnant woman:
Time flies. That fact is hitting me particularly hard this morning. A year ago I resigned from my job at a local consulting firm, jumping off the cliff not knowing where and what'll happen next. In about a week, I'll be officially a year older as well. I'm seeing white hairs sprout on my head left and right. I'm noticing the deeper crevices creating indentations on my face. My body is no longer nimble and spritely, it's got more of a squishy-ness to it and I'm out of breath just walking up the hill.
But it's not just the fact that I'm realizing the mortality of life, it's realizing I have less and less time to have the impact on the world I imagined. I feel like I'm at least 10 years behind. Trying to get the world, the team, everything to move faster to catch up. I still have aspirations of getting involved at the world level, helping to solve global challenges around hunger, disease, war, etc. Maybe even help my motherland of Korea (and by Korea, I mean all of Korea, both North and South). Time is running out. There's so much I still want to do and accomplish.
And then I look at GiftStarter because it has so much opportunity to have a meta impact on the world. I see the gestalt of the path to get there. It's absolutely doable. The great thing about growing a startup from scratch is that it's all about gestalt, and picking the right details to nail at the right time with the right people. You lose some battles. It's okay. I believe that by holding steady to the greater plan, the right people will self select to be on the bus and the right things for the company will happen. I have some folks I've handpicked to join when the time is right. Holding steady despite the multitudes of opinions, the exhaustion, and while many things go well, there are many things falling through the cracks. The art of having impact with such limited resources.
And while it's hard, because you can't control life, everything is just that much harder. Incredibly hard. Children get sick with pneumonia. An employee has to suddenly find a home because their housing fell through. Someone's spouse requires some attention ASAP. An investor takes a longer than expected to transfer funds. You end up doing a round trip flight to a city within the same day for 1 (yes singular, one) meeting. Life is lonely as your friends go on with life without you. I wonder if they even notice I'm missing in action. Your neck is having seizures because of just terrible ergonomics doing 100+ hours a week haunched over the laptop. ... Teaches me, it's a marathon. Don't fuck it up with unnecessary health issues.
And so these days, time is like sand slipping through my fingers. I woke up at 6 today, read a little bit, went back to sleep so that I could try and wake up around the same time as my family. Lay on the floor and watched my dog intently looking back at me for a bit. We went for a family walk in the neighborhood. I cooked breakfast. Meanwhile, in the corner of my eye is the figurative clock constantly haunting me of the time that's passing by. I don't like clocks (in fact don't want them around at all in the house) because I feel like I am one myself and there's no escaping that time is just passing by second after second. Tick tock tick tock
It's been a crazy month of May: 1) new site relaunched, 2) new categories, 3) new partners joined (and many more added to the pipeline), 4) new investors joined, 5) better messaging, 6) went to Collision Conference in Las Vegas, 7) couple trips to San Francisco, 8) my cofounder is moving to the other side of the country, 9) my husband's right ear is currently deaf, 10) my dog turned 10, 11) I'm drinking Pellegrino again, 12) I gained another 5 pounds (and now officially cannot fit into my beautiful clothes any more), 13) I started stretching again, 14) I wore heels only 1 day this month, 15) I learned more about who are and aren't my friends, 16) I redid the pitch deck another 25 times, 17) made new friendships, 18) used our barbecue grill, 19) I've pitched to over 125+ investors to date, and 20) finally decided what I want for my birthday. Oh yes, and we bought ice cream sandwiches to eat yesterday. Mmmm yummy.
Time is flying by and GiftStarter is top of mind for me every moment of every day, yet time stops and slows for me when I am with my husband. That stays constant and thankfully for our marriage (you can visit his perspective - he has a new digital presence these days). Such an interesting, eccentric, curious guy that I married. The thoughts of him makes me smile every time.