Diary of a Founder #2

Hope you’re cozied up with a hot tea or coffee this morning and have listened to at least one or two of your favorite Christmas tunes. I know this is a busy season for most so thank you in advance for carving out time to read my blog. I decided to drop this on Sunday instead of Monday this week to see if it helps combat the Sunday scaries a bit better and not compete with the Monday email inbox. Let me know what you think. 

Since launching the blog last week and having several thousand people read it (ah!), one of my favorite pieces of feedback that I got was this:

“It feels super accessible. I always think of my favorite writing as writing that goes down easy like a glass of water and I kept thinking of that as I read your words.” 

The person that gave me that review is also the person who is largely responsible for the creation of this blog. She was the one who recommended that I get a copy of The Artist Way, which I brought with me when I went to Ireland this summer to write for my keynote. That book has been a game changer in my life. If you find yourself in a creative rut or curious to peel back the layers to what lives under the surface, I cannot recommend enough. 

In addition to running Anact, I have always known that I was a writer at heart. I have actually been sitting on a book for the past two years that I penned after a tough break-up. I've just been gone ho about making Anact profitable and scaleable and delivering on everyone's expectations that I didn't think I deserved to pursue a new venture at this time. But now, I feel like it's my outlet to get me through no matter what I have going on. 

Ever since making the decision to say exactly what I wanted to say via my writing… it has opened a lot of doors for me and for Anact and has created deeper connections with those around me, which encourages me to keep being as direct and honest with everything that I will share with you. And also a friendly reminder that if you’re struggling to conform to what is expected of you… this is your sign to say fuck it and be yourself.   

Lastly, I had a realization while writing this week’s blog that there was a blogger with the same mentality that I used to follow when I lived in DC. 

For those of you who don’t know, I attended George Washington University and studied International Business with a minor in Human Rights. I LOVED my life in DC. One of my favorite places to eat (still is) is Good Stuff Eatery. I loved hopping on the metro from Foggy Bottom to Eastern Market and listening to my favorite music (either Lupe Fiasco or Kid Cudi) while I surveyed all of the Banana Republic and Ann Taylor outfits worn by busy men and women keeping up with the conservative culture that DC is known for.

Once I got to Eastern Market, I would relish in the short walk to Good Stuff by eyeing all the brownstones and wondering what it would be like to own one one day. At Good Stuff, I would promptly order the Prez Obama burger (a bacon blue cheese burger with horseradish mayo and a sweet and sour red onion marmalade) and the toasted marshmallow milkshake, a milkshake that taste like a campfire s’mores with custard, topped off with a perfectly charred marshmallow. 

Next time you’re in DC (or if you live there and haven’t been) get this combo and get all the dips for the French fries. They are unreal! 

What was extra juicy about it was that it was started by Chef Spike Mendelsohn, who at the time was dating a blogger from NYC. She had a food blog called Apron Anxiety where she wrote about her life dating Spike and trying to cook in the kitchen. She lived in the neighborhood and would write about the White House dinners they would go to and the people she met. 

I lived for this blog.

And now, I feel like I’m creating a bit of my own version of it which makes me so so happy. 

PS since then, Spike has opened We the People next door which is very very good too. My mouth is actually watering as I write this. Note to self, get back to DC soon!

As for why I went to school in Washington, DC… I went there because when I was 16 years old, my parents took us on vacation with our neighbors from Jacksonville. Our neighbor's brother was a conductor in the orchestra so we headed to DC and cozied up to watch a Christmas concert at the Kennedy Center (one of my all time fav memories). My mom scheduled for us to tour the Capitol that week with an intern representing Florida. I’ll never forget standing in the middle of the capitol and my mom saying that if I wanted to be here one day, I could. It’s the conversation that prompted me to apply and attend GWU. Thank you, Mom.

Side note - one day I would love to go back to school for journalism. I’ve always wanted to be a war reporter/journalist on the front lines. Or report and work for the United Nations. Observing what is happening and connecting the dots via my writing to share and inspire others to make change and think differently is something that is incredibly important to me. 

But in the meantime, I have a biz to run! And that biz is going through quite an evolution. We’re in the midst of a fundraise (prompted by my keynote in Jacksonville in early October), the launch of several large wholesale channels, and the opportunity to bring on people who can match the energy of the growth of the company. Truly a founder’s dream. The only tough part is no one tells you how hard it will be to close up the loose ends of the previous strategy of the business while prepping for the future and the difficult conversations one must have. More on that later... 

Alrightyyyyy, for this week’s blog, I’ll cover a couple of different thoughts and topics. Ready? Let’s go! 

Last week, I had the chance to hear Mark Cuban speak and his perspective of business really resonated with me. Since being in the start-up ecosystem, I find that too many people focus on how much they can raise and growth at all costs instead of finding product market fit, reoccurring revenue, profitability, and a stable foundation that can survive without outside capital injection all of the time. One of the most asked questions I get from new founders is how to make their dream their full time gig, to which I reply, make your rent/mortgage/cost of living dependent on it and you’ll figure it out real quick. Not many people like to put themselves in that level of discomfort though… Constraints are good though. They create innovation. 

Back to Mark… I like that he had an underdog spirit and was leaving Shark Tank and potentially selling the Mavs to spend more time with his family. It was refreshing to see a man in business prioritize their family. I also find that most investors invest on what is trending and not necessarily with their gut. Rare is the investor who thinks about investing in the founder, the vision, and the traction. Mark appears to be the exception (as well as all Anact investors too of course). We did get to gift him product (wahoo) so stay tuned on that front. In case you were wondering how this all came to be, Anact is a part of an accelerator in Downtown Austin to help us meet people to help us grow the business quickly.

The reason why I chose this accelerator in particular is because I love the focus on automation, tech, robots, and the connection with the military and government. Anact’s currently sells sustainable towels better all people and the planet but the products have always been phase I. They set the tone (and the marketplace) for creating on demand manufacturing to reduce the textile industries carbon footprint as well as create supply chain resiliency as the geopolitics between the US and China continue to degrade. 

Because at the end of the day… “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” - R. Buckminster Fuller

My unwavering belief that the reintroduction of hemp back into American society would be the fiber of the future to lead the way for this infrastructure innovation came to me in August 2017. It’s been 6+ years of building that vision and it has brought me to a lot of places (Austin, TX being one of them) that I could have never imagined. It has also brought me to a lot of places where I am the only one woman and have to have difficult conversations and boundaries set to protect myself and my business.

There are many a times where I completely understand why women do not do this and therefore do not get to ideate and innovate big visions on a full-time basis.

I have so much empathy for others but sometimes I have to completely turn that off and hold people accountable for their actions and push them to do better. I not only have to see the sausage get made but I have to be sometimes make it myself. As much as I love building the vision, it does take a toll on me having to play in the territorial, competitive, and emotionless start-up sandbox because I have a big heart and a soft soul. But I am also the daughter of first and second generation immigrant parents who have trailblazing embedded in their DNA so practicing the dance of being soft and strong on a daily basis is how I make it through the discomfort of it all. 

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou 

Aside from the Mark Cuban event, my week was spent between investor calls, sales orders, prepping for a SX activation, bookkeeping, and strategic brand partnership conversations with meditations and work-outs sprinkled in-between. Oh, and I took Alyse (our marketing intern) to her first UT basketball game! Since my dad was a college basketball coach, I pretty much grew up in the gym. One time I told an ex-boyfriend that I pretty much grew up in the men’s locker room to which his jaw dropped before I could explain that it was because of my dad’s job, haha. For me, I would say that going into an old Catholic Church and a basketball gym are the two places I feel safest and most content. 

Lately, I have been intrigued about getting to learn more about the team dynamics and synergies at UT and watching them interact and play. That’s what I did when I watched the World Rugby Cup this past summer. I learned a lot from Johnny Sexton’s leadership skills for the Irish rugby team. I find that I draw inspiration from sports because businesses are no different. You’re creating a group of people working towards a shared vision and leveraging everyone’s skillsets to achieve and win together. The only difference is that we don’t have a formal schedule where you see us perform every week per se. 

In building a team and company culture at Anact, I have realized that I like to run a tight ship. I run it like that because that’s how I run my life. Time is our most valuable asset and I’ll be damned if I don’t get to live the life I am meant to and miss out on opportunities and achieving goals by succumbing to doom scrolling, social media, or looking around at anyone else’s life without being the main character of my own story and inspiring everyone I work with to do the same. I have worked incredibly hard to not beat myself up about the past, not future trip, and ground myself in the present and give it my all by sending it every single day in every single way. I don't believe that anyone should complain or point out what others are doing wrong unless they have a better solution. It's rude and unhelpful. Period.

Recently, my mom and I talked about how the culture of giving everyone a trophy on the soccer team was actually incredibly detrimental to society. In the effort to not hurt anyone’s feelings, we lost the ability to reward those who worked hard and for others to see where they needed to improve to continue to grow. As hard as it can be, I want people to tell me when I need to improve in different areas so I can get better and grow.

In the age of social media, a lot of people get to present an image of themselves that is not necessarily the reality. They do not have the credentials to be doing what they are doing but they ride on the "fake it till you make it" mentality, which is fine to a certain point but you do need to be able to know where you stand in comparison to those in your space and what you bring to the table aside from your own belief that you're great. 

I don’t believe that I’m right all of the time but what I have noticed about myself this year in the start-up ecosystem is that I have the credentials for the work that I do and that I am a fast learner. Whenever I learn something about life, I feel like that’s my moment to change and do better. I don’t look around to see if others have had that epiphany, I just make the change.

For example, after I read The Four Agreements, I decided that never again would I take things personally. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, it just means that I have a practice that I implement and believe that I apply in life. I think that one practice often sets me a part from people in life and a little ahead of the game and my time. I wish more people applied that belief to be honest.

Actually, there is one guy I was dating last year that did practice this… his ability to ask someone out and make the first move with so much confidence got him to places that he should have never been allowed (said with love). We were installing a security camera at my old house on Halloween night when he point blank asked if I wanted to go out with him. I was so shocked I kind of fumbled it but I ultimately said yes because I was impressed on how he put himself out there and made the first move. I later talked to him about this and he told me that he was willing to risk rejection and putting himself out there to learn how to get better at it and meet women. He said he had a lot of conversations with women to figure out the best approach to talking to women. He was kind of nervous about doing it in this me too era (I will write more about this later) but he still did it. I give him a lot of credit for that. 

In the midst of doing incredibly hard thing (hello, less than 3% of women get access to VC funding in this country), I like to sprinkle my light with micro joys. Today, I got a nice 6 mile walk on the trail today. I think the 11 mile hike & bike trail in Austin might be one of my favorite things about this city. I love the energy of the trail and the trees that line you on both sides while you run, jog, or walk. Afterwards, I stopped by Desnudos (the best coffee in the city IMO) and I got a brown sugar miso latte iced with oat milk (they were out of my new fav drink the ChocoCloud).

I decided to stay and drink my coffee in the beautiful space that all of the business owners have curated collectively. I spotted an empty seat at a high top table and promptly plopped down in it where I allowed myself to relax and take in the Dominican music that transcended my ears, the smell of the campfire smoke that wafted through my nose, the conversations in spanish that trickled into my ears, and for myself to have a bit of wanderlust and transportation of when I first visited Mexico City and how it felt like I was experiencing that moment all over again. It was quite romantic and grounding. 

As we prepare for this week, I challenge you to take one act to say hi to someone you don’t know. A man did that to me yesterday (he was jogging past and waved and asked me how I was doing) and it has stuck with me ever since so I am going to ask you to pay it forward and do it for someone else. Until next week… 



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