Group gifting trivia from the world of GiftStarter:
My heart hurts. A lot. To say goodbye.
I pushed and pulled and fought as hard as I could to create something out of nothing. I met some very talented and inspiring people along the way. Thousands to people were part of this journey, and I could not have gotten anywhere as far as we did without everyone.
In the end, the 10 big lessons for 2014-2018 are...
Knowing when to walk away.
Spring to Summer of 2016 was really hard. I thought I could be superwoman, having just given birth to my Lentil - that with the help of my awesome team, we could pull through this together. Deep post partum depression. I spent the summer of 2016 in a deep depression. Deep despair. My husband often had to peel my salty existence off the floor and into bed. I did not feel like I even deserved to be alive. I often thought the world, my husband, Lentil, everyone would be better off without me. A waste of space. Unworthy of the air I took in. I looked at the sweet innocent face of Lentil and would end up crying because I felt I did not deserve to be his mother.
My advisors and investors starting sitting down to give me the "talk" in 2016. They told me it was okay - to close it down and give them the write-off. They told me to get going on the next startup because that one was the one they wanted in on. I tried for one last hurrah in the fall of 2016, with my "AJ" by my side (thanks to my investors, especially Rudy, for giving me that one last swing at the ball). Fall of 2016 was not the season of generosity and giving. Power was changing hands - and the air was filled with emotions between the Clinton versus the Trump camps.
January - March 2017 I spent most of it on the verge of tears or crying my face off or finding a place to belong. I'd be fine, and then while brushing my teeth with my husband in the bathroom, I'd tear up. Standing in the kitchen I'd tear up. I tried to get "out there" and involved in the community to pick up my spirits. I tried to do this "Red Scarf" thing which was all about giving it forward to another woman entrepreneur. I spent a bit of time doing office hours. I put together events. I volunteered to help the Riveter launch. I did consulting on the side. I advised any startup that came our way. I really wanted to help this tiny little startup company called CakeCodes (which later became Storm and one I am part of today).
And here we are. May 2018. I should really have called it quits back in the Winter of 2015/Spring of 2016. I definitely should have in the Summer of 2016. I absolutely should have sometime in 2017. It is now officially May. We are in the first week of May 2018 and I am finally officially and publicly - calling it done.
Hope this post helps someone out there. If you ever want to talk, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. It is so lonely being an entrepreneur, a founder, in startups, being a founder CEO, raising funds, doing the grind, having employees, figuring out how to be a mom as a founder, all of it. The emotional depression and the depth of despair that one experiences is so great, I wonder how many of us are suffering silently.
Hugs to you out there trying to change the world.
Sneaking around to drink my banana milk.
That's what life is like with a toddler. I am actually sneaking around with my lil yellow box of banana milk and sucking it down as fast as possible before his little baby nose can tell what's going on. I'm sneaking around with it because it's my guilty pleasure. And it's made of all kinds of crap and artificial colors and sugars that I don't want my baby to ingest.
It's not just banana milk. It's a sip of coke. It's Doritos. It's cookies. It's juice. It's chocolate! It's super spicy food. It's popcorn. It's nuts! It's ramen. ... My husband and I do a dance once the Lentil is out for the night (sleeping his 10-12 hour shift), and we start breaking out the wine, the beer, the chips, and sometimes we even boil a thing of instant ramen.
Who would have thought that this is what life with children is like?
It is for us.
Vancouver today. Drove up to speak at the Vancouver Advanced Digital Innovation Summit. Local, PNW, support our community and on the topic of Blockchain. Seemed like a great idea. Photo above is when I spoke. I tried taking a less authoritative and much more approachable/friendly tone with the presentation in Vancouver. Not sure I loved the experience of delivering it. People did seem very receptive to it.
Drive back same day, fly out tomorrow to Zurich. Planning to try on a more dry tone with the presentation in Zurich to see how that goes. I don't get to put my Lentil to bed tonight, so I'm really hoping timing works out and I can at least get him ready for school in the morning and then I fly out for the week. My heart hurts at the thought of leaving my Lentil for so many days.
Lentil's first day of baby school is today. I've been feeling so anxious. Remember, ICO? I have been fretting about potentially being gone for the first 2 weeks of September, and missing his first days of baby school. Thankfully, Simon and I have decided to split up Europe and Asia trips. He's doing most of Asia. I'm doing the bulk of Europe.
Thank you dear Lord for allowing me to be home for his first days of baby school. He's an amazing boy - and my heart just swoons looking at this photo of him. Our Lentil bean is growing up so fast. <3 <3 <3
It's my birthday week, so the family and a couple friends, we flew down to Cabo, Mexico for the week. This is a photo of our #Lentil bean (though, now he's much much much larger than a lentil bean now) at one of our favorite places to eat in Cabo, the Office. We devoured guacamole and chips, salads, tacos, steak and lobster, and coconut shrimp. Momma, of course, had a few margaritas (Lentil stuck to drinking whole milk).
(While traveling with an infant/toddler isn't the easiest, the memories afterwards definitely make the trip worth it.) Both momma and daddy came home, EXHAUSTED. Took us a week to get the family back to a normal sleeping schedule.
And now... we're all taking turns getting over a cold of some sort. :(
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.
1 year old. Some milestones or highlights going on right as I type this:
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.
Lentil had his first exit about 3 weeks ago.
Happy Lunar New Year!!!
Quick update is that we had our first baby boy, codename "Lentil" about three weeks ago. His codename has now become a nickname - we're trying to see if we can morph that nickname into "Lucky" because, boy oh boy, do we feel extremely lucky to have him.
Working on adjusting to our new chapter and life with Lucky. He's about to wake up again, newborns and stuffy nostrils do not make for restful sleep... so I'll leave this post at that.
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: