The last year. (Or four.) What I’ve been up to.
Last October, on the night before Eryn’s sister’s wedding, I drove to her parent’s house, walked past the entire extended family, and had a full on breakdown. It was getting too hard to watch my peers reach life milestones while I was living in my childhood bedroom and only earning a trickle of money that didn’t even cover me and my startup’s monthly expenses. My savings account had been depleted well over a year ago.
Is there a topic more taboo to talk about than money?
Growing up I never had to worry about money, yet my parents instilled a healthy mindset around personal finance. There was never any pressure from my parents to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, but my dad always reminded me that I was going to have to have a high paying job to be able to maintain the lifestyle I grew up in.
Deciding to not study engineering despite my all-consuming passion for robotics throughout middle and high school and instead go to university for something I actually loved, art history, will always be the best decision I could have made for my intellectual wellbeing. However, what followed were two years of untold amounts of anxiety and stress about keeping my grades and extracurriculars up so that I could keep my place at Ivey (a third year entry program) because if I couldn’t get into the top business school I was never going to get a prestigious, high-paying job. I got in, but I barely got out lolololol. Turns out my mental health, or rather, unhealth, would take centre stage and I ended up taking a gap year after I graduated by the skin of my teeth. Blah blah blah, I ended up getting obsessed with this potential business idea and with the support of my mom, went for it.
The absolute hardest part of a startup is putting your life on hold to pursue something that you, and not many others, believe in. Lots of people struggle to find their footing in their twenties. It is so fucking hard to watch your peers and friends get jobs, get promotions, date, get engaged, married, buy homes, and not feel like you’re falling behind. Like, I literally cannot fathom feeling that settled because I don’t even have the foundations for any of those things. In other words, I’m very single and broke as all get out.
People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. There is nothing more heartbreaking than having to confront the fact the future you had always imagined with someone doesn’t exist anymore. Waking up one day and realizing not only are you not the first person they call about stuff, but they no longer call you at all. All relationships take work. It is a gut-wrenching feeling to realize that someone isn’t going to fill your cup as generously as you’ve filled theirs. Things would have been different if I had the money to keep up. But at the same time I realize that it was important for me to learn that I will survive the thing I fear most.
I wasn’t going to have the same year again. 2022 was going to be different. I was going to change the way I was doing everything because clearly it wasn’t working.
So here I am a year later. It has basically taken almost 8 months of doing things differently to feel like I’m finally seeing the payoff.
Several people have asked me if I was so happy when I heard I got into the accelerator. In all honesty, I just felt relief. It was the first time all these years of work, in struggling to start up a startup, that I got a meaningful signal that I’m doing something worthwhile.
It took me four years of constant learning, hacking, and building to finally get to what feels like the beginning.
While I’ve had low periods throughout these four years, I have never been not grateful that I have been able to any of this at all. I am so lucky to have a supportive family who loves and accepts me for who I am. I also genuinely enjoy spending time with them. It’s a privilege to be a founder and that is never lost on me.
All of the above is stuff I’ve talked about before. But there’s one thing I haven’t quite embraced yet. The shame I feel in having taken so long to get to this point. Four years is kinda a long time when I’m supposed to be in a space where stuff happens fast. The truth is, I’ve done the best I can with what I’ve had available to me. However, having to explain all the stuff that has prevented me from being here three years ago feels like making excuses, even though I know they’re not. There were very real barriers I could not overcome except for in time.
I spent too much money on shit I shouldn’t have in the beginning. (I refer to this phase as “startup tuition”). And then due to the lack of funds, had to do things slowly and scrappily. I was a little ahead of the game in the whole re-commerce play. Meaningful conversations about the funding gap for women founders weren’t as widespread (and we are still waiting for people to put their money where their mouth is). Not to mention that really fun detour with trying to find a co-founder.
I feel like I’ve been auditioning for years and I’m now finally getting a chance at a big break. Now it’s time for the cameras to roll and put on a performance of something I’ve rehearsed so many times before.
I can’t tell you how incredibly at home I felt last week in Seattle. I am trying to think of a time where I’ve spent the night away and wasn’t even a little bit home sick. I can’t. It’s probably happened, but definitely not in a situation where I’ve gone away by myself and showed up somewhere not knowing anyone.
It was magical.
For one of the first times I wasn’t special. Nothing I’ve done or accomplished was unique which meant I was able to quickly find a point of connection with everyone I met. I am a master code-switching chameleon from a lifetime of finding myself on the fringes of groups. People often find it uncanny how quickly I absorb accents and adapt my vernacular. However, the group was so diverse in every sense of the word that there was no dominant “sameness” to adapt to. I felt like I could just show up as is. It is so nice to not have to explain yourself.
I thought I would have more to say to sum up the last week, but it turns out most of my takeaways were the conversations and stories people shared. It was a much more emotional week than I could have anticipated, which is why it’s taken me a while to gather my thoughts. And the small army of people who have put this program together… words can’t express the depth of gratitude I will always have for the mountains they have moved so that we could all be together in this way.
I am honoured to be amongst the individuals that make up the inaugural cohort and get to grow and learn alongside them.