Diary of a Founder #5 (2023 Recap)

Before I left  for South Bend for Christmas, I tried to soak in the sunshine as much as possible. I would wake up in the morning and put my Fond’s Bone Broth on the stove until it was boiling and then pour it into the same mug I sipped my matcha from. Gingerly holding my mug, I would grab my journal, my copies of “Jesus Calling” and Brianna Wiest’s “The Pivot Year” and make my way outside. I’d position my back against the house and let the sun cascade over my face while I watched everyone drive to work and the leaves fall on the cedar tree in front of my house.

I would read the passage of the day and then several excerpts from Wiest's book and start writing. I get out all the scary thoughts I’m having and then I write about all the good things happening. I have to actively feed my brain positive affirmations that today is going to be a great day. When I finished, I’d walk back inside and be welcomed by the smell of the burning incense I lit when I woke up. It might not be for everyone, but I love this ayurvedic incense they sell at Whole Foods. I can’t explain it, but it reminds me of when I lived in Uganda. A mix of burning trash and goat being cooked over the fire.

From there, I would make my breakfast and get dressed. I love getting dressed because it gives me a surge of energy that makes me feel ready to take on the day.

This little routine I’ve created is something that I’ve worked to create and fine-tune. In the past, I would wake up and rush to my phone, scroll social media, check emails, respond to texts. I’d never carve out time for myself. Time to set the tone for how I wanted the day to go. This simple 15-20 minute routine has changed my game. No matter what I have ahead of me for the day… sales calls, investor meetings, pitching, difficult conversations, product development, writing deadlines etc., I make time for this routine because I’ve seen the difference it makes in my life. 

Something I’ve learned in the start-up game is that time is your most valuable asset. But something else that I've learned is that the day you plant the seeds is not the day you bear the fruit. From what I’ve observed, founders are putting all the force and energy behind their ideas in attempts to reach Mark Zuckerberg status. Rare are the founders who see an issue and know they can provide more valuable solutions than the status quo offers. Founders who say: there is no area that I’m not willing to grow as a person to make this vision come to life. Practicing patience with the ebbs and flows and the awareness that we’re doing all this in the Age of Aquarius are not sentiments I hear often. It’s go go go until one exits and starts all over again. It’s exhausting. 

Choosing to do the opposite of what is expected — getting quiet, being patient, making moves when they present themselves, trusting the process — might seem incredibly counterintuitive. 

But I believe that is where the magic happens. 

With that, I am excited to share with you my (and Anact’s) recap for the year. I hope you enjoy it!


    • Speaking at Harvard University (Feb 2023)
      • 2023 started off with a bang bang as I delivered my first keynote at Harvard University in February surrounded by my loved ones. In case you were wondering how this happened, Harvard reached out to me a couple days before Christmas Day while I was at my brother’s house in Florida and asked me to speak at the Harvard College Project for Asian and International Relations conference. When I first got the invitation, I thought it was a joke! But it wasn’t. 
      • It was a paid gig to go to Harvard to share my insights on being a female founder building a sustainable business. The group, who had been investigating the future of sustainable entrepreneurship and corporate responsibility, researched people doing that work and found me. It was incredibly flattering. What made it even more memorable was having my family and my friends by my side to experience it together. I’ve always enjoyed Boston, but that experience of speaking and being there with my loved ones gave the city a deeper meaning. There is a song that Dermot Kennedy sings called “Boston” where he sings, “take me back to places where I feel loved in, take me back to Boston.” Whenever I feel sad or down, I listen to that song because that is exactly how I felt that weekend. Thank you to everyone who supported me and made an effort to be there. It means more than you know. 
    • Anact Launches on Target (May 2023)
      • After about a year of onboarding, we were so excited to finally launch Anact at Target! My goal as the founder has always been to make it as easy as possible to meet our customers. 
      • Anact’s Act Up Event with Patagonia at the Paramount Theatre (July 2023
        • Right before we took off for Boston, we had a walk with some of our investors on Austin’s infamous Hike and Bike Trail. While walking, she mentioned that the CEO of Patagonia would be speaking at SXSW and recommended that we do some collaboration and activation. This prompted a conversation with some of my peers at Patagonia. While we couldn’t make SX work, we were able to kickstart the beginning of Hemp History Week with our Act Up event, the first major sustainability event to take place in Austin. You can check it out here. We’re in the midst of preparing our next event for 2024 so mark your calendar for March 8th :) 
        • Anact launches at REI (Aug 2023) 
          • One of the coolest outcomes from our sustainability event was that our local REI picked up Anact and sold out within a week. I love that this happened because I have always believed that the outdoor community would connect and benefit from Anact products and performance features… and they did! Another fun outcome, in addition to REI, was that we hosted a community clean-up at Lush and diverted 100 pounds of hard- to-recycle items (batteries, soft plastic, etc.,) and gifted Matthew McConaughey (who happened to be signing books next door) some Anact product!
        • Speaking at Jacksonville Women’s Network (Oct 2023)
          • Shortly after I got back from speaking at Harvard, I received an email from the Jacksonville Women’s Network (JWN) to be their keynote speaker — and first speaker to grow up in Jacksonville in 27 years! This was an opportunity that I had always dreamed of. To connect all of the dots on the past several years of building my business in my hometown and to inspire other women and girls to do the same. To prepare for the keynote, I took a break from the 110-degree heat in Austin for a week in Ireland near my family and the ocean. I booked three solid days on my own to write my heart out and get everything out. I did it in two days, which felt amazing and allowed me to spend proper time with my family and have an epic day of surfing in my grandmother’s hometown in Co Mayo. 
          • I’m happy to report that the keynote was a success (even though I was quite nervous leading up to it). I’ll never forget one of my good friend’s (who flew to help me out with our PR for the week) reminding me that this speech was a moment to celebrate. It wasn’t an indictment. I laugh each time I think about her saying that. I think I was so nervous because I was going to share pieces of myself and be incredibly vulnerable with 300+ people. Something I’ve noticed about myself is that I am incredibly conscientious about what I share with others — I want to share what I know to be true and what works, not sugarcoat or embellish what it’s like to be a start-up founder. I want the math to math and for others to see themselves in my story so they know that anything is possible. You can check out photos and a video from the keynote here.
        • Anact partners with Austin City Limits (Oct 2023) 
          • As soon as we got back from Jacksonville, we immediately jumped right into the launch of our upcycled bandana collection at the infamous Austin City Limits Music Festival. For those of those who don’t know, Austin City Limits is an annual music festival that takes place at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas on two consecutive three-day weekends.  It’s inspired by the KLRU/PBS music series of the same name. It was so cool to be able to create sustainable merch for the event and build a partnership with an annual event that is beloved by so many. Stay tuned for more on the music festival scene in 2024! 
        • Anact’s first in person investor meeting (Nov 2023) 
          • Following a successful keynote, we planned an in person meeting in Austin, TX with our most strategic investors at the start-up accelerator we’re a part of, Capital Factory. In order to prepare for the meeting, I took time to review the past three years of Anact being in business and what’s worked and hasn’t worked. We put together a three year forecast and strategy of where we want to go and how we’re going to get there. It was really fun to be at a point in our business where we have enough data to create this strategy and have these conversations. And of course, as someone who birthed the concept of Anact from the beginning, it's the best feeling ever to see your start-up baby get the proper resources and support to keep growing, thriving, and carrying out the vision. I'm very excited about all of the relationships that we are building here in Austin with the University of Texas-Austin and more!
        • Anact Kickstarts Fundraising for Seed Round (Nov 2023) 
          • Following a successful Anact strategy/projection meeting, we decided to raise money for several positions to support our wholesale growth. We added several amazing angel investors in November to our amazing team and will be adding several more to close out Q1 in 2024. Stay tuned! 
        • Christmas in South Bend (Dec 2023) *This was more of a personal highlight but since I founded Anact I feel like it’s intertwined...
          • I spent the week waking up to take long walks with my aunt throughout South Bend. She’s 78 years old and in fantastic shape. Notre Dame’s campus is our favorite spot to walk. She loves to point out where my family used to walk me in my stroller and the places they used to play with me. We even visited the cabin where my parents got married.
          • I got to eat loads of kieflies (my favorite Polish pastry) that my aunt handmade. I love the flakiness of the dough and the walnut filling that oozes out and is covered in powdered sugar. 
          • I visited my Grandmother’s grave and her old house that I used to visit as a kid. My grandfather built it for her. I miss rummaging through the freezer in her garage for my favorite chocolate treats and eating them under the trees in her backyard. But I miss her even more. The way that she used to dress me up and take me out for hot fudge sundaes after church with her closest friends and make me feel like the most important girl in the world. You just can’t compete with the love of being around family. 
          • I caught up with a near and dear family friend over a cozy old fashioned at the Morris Inn on ND’s campus. Afterwards, I got to squeeze our family dog, Argo, who lives with her now.
          • I reconnected with all of my mom’s family (she’s one of seven), my cousins, their kids, and our extended family. I loved visiting my uncle’s property and eating burritos the day after Christmas and walking with my cousin’s daughter and her boyfriend to visit the cows.
          • It makes me giggle the way they go after the mineral lick for their vitamins. The night before I left we all went to the American Legion (several of my uncles served in the military) for their fish fry. We took up several tables and got to spend the evening talking about our favorite places to camp/hike/travel to and be together as a family.
        • Overall, it felt like the perfect mix of midwestern charm, family, cozy moments, and the feeling of love. The only spot I didn’t get to go to was one of my favorite Amish restaurants! Next time :) 
        • Anact Impact (Dec 2023) 
          • I’m excited to share the impact that we had this year!

      The lows/learning curves:

      • The realization that founders don’t have traditional ways to create wealth (401(k), stock, savings) while they are building their companies and the impact that can have on your mental state. This is something that I am cognizant of and want to change in the new year so that I don’t personally feel impacted as much by the highs and the lows of the business. 
      • The people that we had to let go this year that I wanted to stay and grow with but weren’t the right fit. My takeaway… when people tell you who they are/show you who they are… believe them the first time. 
      • That the feeling of being afraid never seems to go away but like Zach Bryan says, “I’ve ridden in fear, although, I was afraid every single time.” 
      • The never ending task of fine-tuning the most profitable and scalable channels and the best people to run them. 
      • Navigating Amazon’s intricacies. 
      • Realizing that American society idolizes youth so much that we have few elders to guide the younger generation. 
      • Not getting to have as much of a social/dating life as I would have liked because Anact is always #1. I did date one person last year that was fun until it wasn’t. We would run together and play basketball, tennis, and random sports. He was from Tennessee and reminded me of my childhood in Kentucky and one of my favorite places in the world, my friend Marian’s cabin in Bowling Green. Perhaps I kept seeing him longer than I should because of that connection… As much as I know that I made the right decision, I miss getting to have someone to always work out with and talk to. 
      • Getting my first bout of cedar fever, which prompted me to purchase a Canopy Humidifier immediately! 
      • Having to talk about the kidnapping that occurred when I was 22 years old and reliving the old emotions and feelings. I’ve decided to write about it, so that I can direct people to my writing and not  have to explain myself anymore. 
      • Dealing with complex emotions… anger, anxiety, fear of failure, the unknown, and being far away from my family. I have really had to let go of my inner perfectionist these days, which is soooo tough! 
      • Continuing to find the right flow for inventory financing, forecasting, cash flow, and key metrics for the business to help us get more efficient and effective. 

      My word for 2023 was trust. What I have realized is that the more that I stick with Anact and let it guide me, the more it feels like the lack of consistency and stability I’ve had in my own life is healed. The part that no one told me was how many people I would lose in the process, which is why I lean heavily on my faith and remind myself to continue to trust the process above all else. Easier said than done! 

      My word for 2024 is laughter. When I look at my journey, I am so proud of what I’ve gone through and how strong I have been, but now that I feel this level of confidence in how business and the game of life works… I’m ready to keep doing hard things and growing, but I’m ready to do it as a team, with others who have my same values and drive.

      I am so excited to continue to build in 2024. To deliver on our goals and expectations for all members of our community. I truly feel like I have found my ikigai. It’s the intersection of doing what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. 

      For me and Anact, that’s continuing to provide the best performing and sustainable home goods for you and your loved ones, hosting community events that inspire and educate, and moving closer to creating on-demand manufacturing for our product. 

      Personally, I’m excited for Anact to tackle more policy-making in the textile industry, and to do more speaking and writing on the opportunity to innovate in the textile industry while sharing the process of what it takes to build a big vision from scratch. 

      I also hope to continue meeting others that are going after their dreams like I am because this can be a really lonely journey. Whenever I feel that loneliness, I play “Fallingwater” by Maggie Rogers and it makes me feel less alone. Writing down what I am grateful for and all that has occurred helps too! 

      Lastly, I’m excited to have a little bit more spare time to see family and friends, especially those that I haven’t been able to connect with as much over the years. 

      Wishing you a Happy New Year from Austin, TX! 


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