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2020


2020 Takeaways From a Founder's Perspective

Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

As we close out the year, a year that has tried all of us in more ways than one, I wanted to share the takeaways that I have experienced as a founder and first time business owner. 

It was important for me to write down everything that I have experienced for my own sanity and for those that will come after me so that if anyone can learn from my mistakes and move through with a bit more ease into the unknown then I know those experiences were not in vain. Also, because I believe now more than ever we need conscious capitalists on this planet. 

My takeaways on the various topics:

On Being a Founder

  • Founding a movement, business, product(s) is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. 
  • No one is going to give it all like you will. You have to accept that. You also will never grow if you're the only one doing everything. 
  • You're going to fuck up. This 2 min video makes you feel less bad about it.
  • You'll find out who your real friends are and fast. The notion of 9-5 becomes an obsolete concept. The friends that pick up your call at 2am knowing you are completely sober and playing the 'what if' conversation on repeat in your head and just need someone to talk to are your ride or dies. The key to the 'what if' conversation is to change it from what if this goes to wrong to what if my craziest dream really DO come true.
  • Partying, drinking, mindless conversations, smoking, gossiping will start to make you cringe and you wonder how you ever found yourself in those crowds.
  • Founder depression is real and maintaining a healthy mental and physical state is everything. Morning rituals become your daily foundation. 
  • Your brain is going to feel like it's going to crack from all of the neuroplasticity occurring. Just commit to being a lifetime learner.
  • Being quiet and observing will tell you everything you need to know without saying a word when reading a situation and/or people. 
  • Being comfortable being uncomfortable is okay and it won't destroy you.
  • Sometimes you outgrow people around you (okay, a lot of the time) and it can be uncomfortable to move on but what's more uncomfortable is staying. Trust me.
  • Heal yourself and you can heal the world.
  • Be prepared to go into beastmode when needed (not all the time). For me, it's channeling this inner power that I can get anything done and going for it regardless of my previous understanding or experience in the subject matter. I have learned how to code, build Anact's website, run Anact's marketing strategy, whatever it takes. Thank goodness my parents named me Brianna which in Irish means strong. I channel that energy all the time.
  • Subconscious projecting is a real thing. Do your part and own what is yours and let the rest go. 
  • The notion that it is lonely at the top is right but also wrong. There are moments of loneliness but it's only because you are making space to connect with people on your wavelength which become fewer but more cherished relationships. 
  • Therapy and having someone to talk to about the things you don't want to tell anyone you are thinking is so important. I can't stress this enough. Somatic therapy has been my favorite because I have released past trauma within my body that has allowed me to shine light on my shadows and not be afraid of my own self. This is the woman that I work with and I am so grateful for her love and light. 
  • Knowing your weaknesses and leaning into them are you strengths. I used this tool to identify my perceived weaknesses. 
  • Asana is my favorite way to compile my thoughts, ideas, to dos so they don't live in my head.
  • Your family might be a little taken aback by your massive growth spurts. I remember both of my parents sitting me down last year and being like... you're going where none of us have gone. That's okay. 
  • Have faith in the process. Nothing grows forever. Rest is required.
  • Dating is just tough. It's really hard to explain all that you have going on without scaring men off. "Hi my name is Brianna. I won't stop at anything until I have a cash positive business that is disrupting the textile and hemp space and have created a movement around activism. Can you pass the bread?" Yeah, safe to say that I haven't quite cracked that code yet.
  • Know your outlets. For me, I have found that running, yoga, pilates, bike riding and surfing do the trick. Anything outside that connects me with nature. I ran the NYC marathon in 2019 with my family and that experience helped tremendously when dealing with a start-up.  
  • Moving your body and exercise is everything. I have become addicted to Melissa Wood Health workouts
  • Boundaries are underrated. I really love saying no these days because setting boundaries and knowing what is in line with your values allows you to say yes to what is meant for you. 
  • Maxing out credit cards and having business debt is a really really shitty feeling but it forces you remember why you're doing what you're doing and hold yourself accountable.
  • Put horseblinders on and don't look around you - focus on the goal. You'll be surprised what you'll capable of when all you're focused on is doing your best. 
  • Don't take anything personally. Don't judge others. Be true to your word, always. Whatever is meant for you is meant for you and you won't be able to stop it from happening. Protect your energy.
  • Failure is not failing. It's just not doing it. 
  • Always be ready to pivot and write down your goals and look back at what you've done to build momentum. There are no pat on the backs from anyone else but you.
  • Become friends with other founders who think like you even if they aren't in the same space so you can help each other out.
  • Fuck the media (for the most part). It's almost all noise directed at constant activation of our fight/flight sensory and to ensure job security and money for the news channels. Turn it off.
  • Breathe. Your breath is everything. Self-partner with yourself to be the best version of yourself. I got a tattoo inspired by Rising Woman on my hand to remind me of such when the thoughts (key word: thoughts) inevitably try to tell you otherwise. I come from a conservative family so I thought this would be a fantastic time to get a tattoo because I thought it would be the least interesting thing to happen in 2020 next to the government openly acknowledging aliens existence. 
  • Stay committed to solving problems instead of creating fluff.
  • Discovering you are whole and to always lead with the heart. It will never steer you wrong.
  • Drink lots of lemon water.
  • You can't worry about tomorrow - just today.
  • I hear sex is a great stress reliever but that tool hasn't been in my toolbox so I'll let you know once it is.
  • You won't know if you don't go. Send the email, go to the meeting, make the call. Perfection is the enemy of good.
  • You cannot do it all. Period. Read this book to help you release that idea. I kept wondering how much money I should make until I read this book and Keller disclosed "make enough to fulfill your passion and purposes." Gold.

On Start-Up Money

  • Know your value and self-worth so you can command what you need otherwise someone else will. Learn to trust your gut. If it's not a definite yes - it's a no.
  • Not all money is good money. There is cheap money, smart money and bad money. 
  • The key to money is creating a financial model to know what you need and not getting stuck in the emotional connotation that is so easy to occur when it comes to finances (especially for women). The goal should be for the business to hit the sales needed to sustain the well-being of the business without outside capital. Period. 
  • Instant gratification has really taken a toll on how we perceive simple transactions around us. Everyone wants results and fast. They want to know what they need to give and how soon they can get their return back instead of aligning on the journey with the goal to win financially and non-financially together. 
  • Angel investors are angels for a reason. 
  • Accepting loads of VC (venture capital) or PE (private equity) capital and feeling safe is an illusion. Many businesses are not profitable and you have no idea what is going on behind the veil. As difficult as it is to stick to only what you need, you learn quickly that the saying "diamonds are made under pressure" rings true under those circumstances. 
  • There are huge gaps in funding for start-ups in the US infrastructure. 
  • Bootstrapping your own business can take an incredible toll on your mental health.
  • Want to learn more? Check out this piece that I wrote earlier this year on how to finance a start-up.

On People

  • Whether you're a solopreneur or have a co-founder, hire and work with people who have the same values. Period. 
  • Surrounding yourself with people who get it and know the why behind what you're doing is everything. 
  • You really don't know who someone is until you've known them at least a year. Slow really is fast. 
  • To that end, hire slow and fire fast.
  • The minute someone shows you how to save money while making money, hire them. 
  • People who say they know business rarely have a clue on how to BUILD a business. There is a fine line. A founder might not be a great CEO but they will always know more about the ethos of the business than any other CEO. 
  • People truly do want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. 
  • The customer is not always right. If I did everything the customer said, I would be running around with my head chopped off. Instead, we should change the saying to "that customer might not be the right customer for you". 
  • When partnering with others whether it be a freelancer, agency, or brand - make sure everyone has skin in the game and clear KPI (key performance indicator) metrics as well as a contract around those. 

On Being Digital

  • E-commerce is essentially data meets tech. 
  • Paid media is wild and a really interested channel. 
  • Learning SEO (search engine optimization) and becoming friends with Google is one of the most interesting things I have ever learned. 
  • We should all learn how to code in school. 
  • At the end of the day, what you have to say and your content is king (or shall we say, queen). 
  • Social media is a bitch and I don't know how to slice and dice it because I want to meet our customers where they are at but I also am seriously concerned about our mental health and well being the more time we stay on our phones and social media. 

On Resources

    • Use your network. You never know who has a connection that could be a game changer.
    • DIY as much as possible even if it's uncomfortable. You want to know how everything works even if it's not your job so you know what is fair to expect from others.
    • If you're based in the US:
      • Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a fantastic resource and FREE! I have used so many templates and met so many great people through the center.
      • Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is another great resource of mentors that you can connect with that are free around the country. One of my SCORE mentors helps us draft our financials in less than a week.  
      • Small Business Association (SBA) provides great resources on how to sell to the government and financing options in the form of government backed loans. Only downside is that these loans aren't available until you have three years of business financials and the collateral to back it up. It's funny, the things I thought made me unstoppable, no children, no mortgage, no full-time job, no partner - are actually seen as the biggest red flags for banks because they can't figure out how best to collect their money if things go south.
    • If you're based in Jacksonville, I went through UNF's Innovation & Entrepreneur Center, which was a fantastic space to get access to resources I couldn't afford and a safe space to hold meetings and work while networking with other founders. 
    • Slack channels are hot right now especially due to COVID-19. I am a part of channels such as Dough and Babes Who Hustle and have been able to find great recommendations and referrals.
    • Upwork and Fiverr are your friends! 
    • Several books that have guided my on my journey: 

On Looking at 2021

  • Letting myself be okay with what I don't know. I beat myself up for not knowing things all the time. It's the equivalent of me thinking I should be fluent in Russian without ever having taken a course on Russian. No bueno. Or shall I saw не хорошо (no good) in Russian. Yes, I googled and copy pasted that.
  • Doing less and making more happen while being and showing up for the people I love and creating memories and being present for the moments.
  • Being vulnerable and leaning into human connection. Eek, that one was a hard one to type.
  • Leading with love in everything I do first and foremost. God is love. It's the strongest force that I have ever experienced. 
  • Not being afraid of failure, which for me means letting the people down who believe in me, not delivering on our product's promise, losing money and time. 
  • Believing in abundance. Enjoying the journey! 
  • Making Anact a beacon to connect and bring our shadows into the light and fight the voices and thoughts instead of one another while we take care of the planet.

I'll leave you with this quote that the founder of prAna once shared with me when I told him I was going to start Anact:

“When you are inspired by some great purposesome extraordinary projectall of your thoughts break their bondsYour mind transcends limitations; your consciousness expands in every direction; and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world." - Patanjali

And that's the tea.  

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