Downtown Jacksonville

Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida but more specifically Atlantic Beach. Atlantic Beach is a cozy nook with a small town charm; however, I did not go to school where I grew up. Instead, I went to school downtown. My 11-year-old self still remembers hopping on the non-air-conditioned bus during those sticky, humid Floridian mornings and the goodbye waves to my dad as I sat on the brown peeling leather seats that my legs immediately stuck to as we pulled out of Fletcher Middle School’s parking lot en route to James Weldon Johnson Middle School. I always knew we were close to school when I smelled the coffee grounds while traveling over the Mathews Bridge. 

Going to school downtown while living at the beach was an experience I am forever grateful for because it shed light onto the intense racial inequality that exists within my city. It opened my eyes on a daily basis. Who would have thought that almost twenty years later I would be living less than a mile from my old middle school in Jacksonville’s downtown? Unfortunately, my time downtown did not last long. Here’s why.

Our downtown has a serious issue of people who are physically and mentally hurting arriving at the GreyHound Bus Station. People arrive from all over the country where passengers disembark without anyplace to go. If you have ever been to LA and seen Skid Row, you would feel like we are not too far off from that after a drive through LaVilla. What breaks my heart is that we accept this as normal. I am here to tell you - it is not. 

Sometimes in the morning when I was living downtown, I would get up and go for a run down the streets around the new courthouse and Jenkins BBQ (my favorite), by the Clara White Mission House and the old houses that look like they were built in the 1800s, through FSCJ’s campus to the outskirts of Springfield past the Cathedral to the Jaguar stadium and WJCT’s station and loop back to Bay Street and up Laura before ending at the Barnett Building. To switch it up every once in a while, I would run along the river to Riverside and back again. On these runs, I witnessed some things that I could no’t believe with my own eyes.

I share this with you because Americans have a habit of looking down on other countries and other people without realizing that our backyard is not very clean itself and many people in our local communities are suffering and in need of one another. Here are some of the things that I witnessed: 

  • I witnessed a man just released from the hospital with soiled scrubs walk barefoot like a zombie through downtown for several days on end. 
  • I witnessed another man carrying a machete style knife as he slept outside of my building. One of his lungs had collapsed and he would scream out to anyone who passed for some type of human connection. He still roams downtown trying to connect with others to this day. People refer to him as the beatbox man. 
  • I witnessed a woman singing to herself on the corner for hours, her face sunburnt from the hot Florida sun. She went missing last year and I have not seen her since. I will never forget meeting the Barnett Building cleaning crew who shared with me that one time this woman had fallen and they helped pick her up. When they did, the woman told them she had not been acknowledged or touched in years, and she was so grateful for their kindness. That made me cry. 
  • I witnessed another woman who would sprawl out in the gutter with all her belongings beg for cigarettes on the weekends. 
  • I witnessed a man crippled by drug use standing outside of Jimmy John’s begging for money every single day. 
  • I witnessed a man named Elijah physically attack men if he felt like they were threatening any women(whether they were or not). 
  • One night I looked outside after I heard screaming and saw several drug dealers pull out a gun on a couple who claimed they had ripped them off. The look on the couple’s faces when they saw a gun pointed at their faces is something I will never forget. 
  • At night, I heard the screams and fighting throughout the streets. One of my neighbors told me as soon as the sun goes down everything changes. All I knew was that once I was inside for the night, I was not going back out there until daybreak. 
  • I woke up one morning to find my car broken into and I often witnessed others have their cars burglarized. 
  • I learned to always have my doors locked and to do rolling stops. I actually learned this in Baltimore but felt like I applied it more often in my hometown than I did anywhere else I have ever lived. 
  • I learned to avoid the intersection where 7-11 is located because heaven only knows what could and was going down there. One time my mom was driving early in the morning and while parked at this intersection, she had a woman come up with just her underwear on and try to open her car door. 
  • I made mental notes of who hung around the Riverwalk when I went for runs and which areas had blind spots so no one would see me run one way and surprise me on the way back. 
  • I saw a family packing up their car in the morning who had just slept in the same car the night before. They were hustling to get up and get out before the relentless downtown parking police ticketed them. 
  • I saw the morning crew starting to line up outside of the library ready to open at ten am so they could hang there for the day. 

I share this with you because I believe that we should be leading with our hearts more than ever. We should not be turning away from that which breaks our hearts but turning toward. Because from the bottom of my heart, I do not believe that anyone or anything is a lost cause. Jesus showed us that redemption is possible for all of us on this planet. 

One morning, I visited my friend Nathan at the amazing community garden he built in Springfield. I was sharing with him what I was experiencing and he mentioned a book he was reading about testing conducted on hamsters. The testing concluded that when hamsters are isolated, they lean on any type of drug for connection but when they are together and can be connected to one another, they do not need any drug.

That really resonated with me because it made me think that maybe that is what is going on in downtown Jacksonville. A lot of people who do not feel seen, heard or like there is a future for them so it becomes an apocalyptic stomping grounds for the mentally ill with no reprieve in sight. They are an eyesore for the politicians of Jacksonville and a heartbreaker for the empathic ones. I feel called to say something not only because it makes my heart break but because of my own belief system. I used to think that my greatest accolades in life would be based on what I did and accomplished. Now, I believe it is based on how I made others feel and how I am able to offer my skill set to let someone else know they are not alone while giving a voice to those who do not have one.

As for a way forward, I realized that I would not be able to help others without helping myself which is why I had to remove myself from living downtown full-time to calm my own nervous system and feel safe to move about without fear of being watched, tracked or harmed. I do not believe that anyone would have hurt me intentionally downtown but unfortunately, I do not trust people who are taking drugs to not hurt me and I do not feel physically or mentally strong enough to protect myself. 

That is why I chose to continue to build Anact and partner with others who see the same things I see and have the bandwidth and the ability to do something about it. I am attracted to anyone who believes in shedding light on those who don’t have a voice in our local and global community. I’m researching and reading up on the use of psychedelics (in controlled environments) to help those dealing with their own neuroses to face their trauma, quiet the ego and release it so they can get to the root cause of the wounding. 

My hat goes off to downtown warriors such as Folio, Wolf & Cub, Bellwether, Sulzbacher and more who have either carved out spaces to run businesses in these areas or are directly helping those in need. Y’all are the realest. 

In light of surviving year one of a pandemic, I pray that our community will continue to have more compassion for one another and to honor each other’s human experiences regardless of what we have gone through, what we are suffering from (because we all suffer), how much money we make, what we have done in the past, whether we live in a home or not, or what we have to “offer” in this world. 

I pray for the people listed above as well as for everyone in my life and on this planet everyday. I hope that in sharing my experience living downtown from what I witnessed and continue to witness brought you on that journey with me and inspired you to take action in some way. Because if not you, then who? 

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Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

They said you never see it coming. Love that is. These words were said to me on a phone call last April under a full moon. I never quite understood that saying until I experienced it myself. 

Two months prior, I had professed my love for someone who had been in my life for a long time as a friend. It had shocked both of us - me most of all. We met when I moved to San Diego in 2015 and were both starting new chapters in life.

Less than a week of knowing each other we were hitting 5am yoga classes together, taking evening walks picking out our favorite houses, discovering we both loved bringing fuzzy socks to the movie theater and that most importantly, we could make each other laugh so hard that one of us almost always ended up with stomach cramps (usually me).

It was effortless.

After six months of bliss, life had other plans for us. He was quitting corporate to live in his van and travel the west coast and later South America. I was getting my first place by myself and continuing my work at prAna. We always kept in touch circling back around each other to keep the hope alive. We never even voiced this hope - it was unspoken between the both of us. 

If you know me, you know that I don't trust anyone and that I am very careful with who I let in my life. And then last year right before COVID, I was hit by a category 5 force hurricane wind wanting only love and to share my deepest darkest scars with someone. Specifically, I wanted to tell he who must not be named that I loved him. So I did.

I was (and still sometimes am) so afraid that no one will accept and love me for all that I am. This was due to my own personal beliefs but also due to opinions shared with me from a close family member. This family member told me with great confidence right before I launched Anact that nobody would want me if I pursued the path of being an entrepreneur. 

It crushed me. 

I was told that I would be single and lonely because I would scare men off. I've never been married and if you look at my dating record... I don't have the best track record to draw upon (sorry in advance to anyone who I have dated who is reading this) so I believed her at first.

What helped me push past this experience was knowing that I would never be in an authentic relationship if I didn't do Anact regardless of the outcome because I would never be able to show up for someone else the way that I would want to or trust that they fully saw who I was and loved me for my Elon Musk meets Kanye West meets AOC ideas and thoughts that percolate in my head at 2am. This has been hard to pursue while my friends get married, have children and I nurse the baby of a business that is Anact. I'm so grateful for my family and friends who have stepped in to support me throughout all of this.

I'm incredibly ambitious, driven, and sensitive. I would rather plow through books from the library than go to a group function. I have big dreams for Anact as well as dreams of living in a cottage by the sea raising my family while doing investigative reporting and writing. I question everything (and I mean everything) around me and I have put on horse-blinders only accepting my best refusing to be limited by the age old saying - that's just the way we have always done it. 

But I gave myself hope that he would accept me for all of these things. The funny part I found out though - was that it was the pieces of myself that I liked the least that connected him more to me and the emotional intimacy that we had built throughout the years without realizing it. The laughter, the play, the ability to share our visions for ourselves. It's funny, I always thought you got to hide the pieces you disliked most about yourself from the person you love but now I realize that's just not how it works.

Those moments when I forgot who I was and was having a break down from Amazon berating me with emails to on-board Anact and didn't know what to do so he called me and picked me up even though he was 3,000 miles away to remind me of who I was, what I stood for and that I was capable of anything in this world - including saying no to one of the largest retailers in the world really struck a chord in me.

For that, I am forever grateful.

Sadly, it didn't pan out for us last year. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do to end a relationship with someone I loved especially in the height of COVID. All I wanted was to hear his voice or tell him whatever crazy thing had happened to me after a long day running Anact. To be reminded that there was someone else out there that saw me for who I really was and loved all of my quirks.

Someone who would hold me while I close my eyes and remove the heavy weight of being a first time business owner from my chest even if it was just for a moment. Someone who would understand that I was putting myself through this not to make loads of money and escape to an island but because I didn't see anyone else doing the things that needed to be done to prepare for the climate crisis and I couldn't handle being sick to my stomach witnessing George Orwell's 1984 play out in 2021 for one second more.

Someone who wasn't intimidated by my drive and my dreams but was like - GET IT, GIRL! Needless to say, I've been grieving this relationship since last summer and am still in a bit of grief. Someone told me that grief is love that doesn't know where to go. I get that now.

Sometimes when I really miss him (which is a lot) especially because of the way that he made me laugh... I make this goat noise he used to do to me to remind me that it was real and that I'll have these feelings again one day. And every time I do, I always pray that he is okay and well and that he knows how much he is loved.

I learned so much from that relationship and also learned that is where are biggest life lessons are learned (I always thought it was in our jobs). I finally understood what Esther Perel meant when she said that her parents were able to survive the concentration camps in WWII because of love. I understood what it felt like to show your scars to someone and be vulnerable.

And most of all, I understood that I can't love anybody if I don't love myself. 

This crazy marathon runner, female founder archetype I created for myself was a facade. Of course, these are pieces of me. But what I crave (and what I believe we all crave) is to be seen, heard and loved for who we are and not just what we do. To have a place to call home where you're not questioned for being yourself. Or in the words of Drake.... " to be wearing sweatpants, hair tied, chillin' with no make-up on" and have someone think you're the prettiest and coolest. 

I share this with you because I believe there are a lot and I mean a lot of humans (especially women) with brilliant ideas and dreams who are dumbing down for fear of not being loved or having love for being who they really are. I almost did, which means we have to change the culture because God makes no mistakes on the way that we are designed. Period.

Choosing the entrepreneurship path is the hardest and loneliest path I have ever chosen but it has given my life greater meaning. It's made me put love first and lead with love in everything I do. This is a big deal for me because I truly didn't believe I deserved love until I was perfect and so was Anact (whatever that means). 

How do we change the narrative and let love in?

For me, it's sharing my experience as a woman and a founder to help others know they are not alone. I have pushed through quite a bit because of watching other founders I look up to build businesses (shout-out to Ty Haney at Outdoor Voices) while sharing their experiences with love because it gives me hope and who doesn't like hope these days? 

It's also a gentle reminder to everyone that we are all suffering from things we don't always speak of (or can't) and to give each person space to show up without labeling or putting certain expectations on them. I imagine most people who are reading this don't know this is an experience I have been going through, which is totally fine.

But what hasn't felt fine is an expectation I have often felt to explain myself while nursing a broken heart and running a business too. I've had so many men make assumptions that just because I don't have a ring on my finger that I'm available and make advances that have left me feeling frustrated because even though these advances are flattering - they are not the person I wish to receive them from. 

These experiences of having my boundaries violated and my space not respected have not been exclusive to male interactions. I've had women try to befriend me by using slogans and tag-lines putting down he who must not be named (and really just men in general) in an effort to bond with me, which really hurts and sucks.

Saying things like "girls rule and boys drool" might have worked when we were younger but I truly believe that each human being is sacred and that just because something didn't work out doesn't mean that anyone is the bad guy. Because if any of these people knew how close I came to love (and that I got up at 2am to include this piece because that's how bad I wanted to write it) then I hope and pray they would tread more carefully with more respect even if they haven't had that experience for themselves.

Don't get me wrong. I would love to cut through the heart of it and bulldoze Anact to a multimillion-dollar company but the reality is that you don't get there without putting in a lot of love and maybe just maybe some of the best takeaways on the quest to hit specific financial milestones are not the milestones themselves but what we learned about ourselves and the moments that we create along the way.

I know I'll never forget that moment I heard him say that whatever I did to not look back in anger... just be grateful and walk away. Ouch. That hurt to type.

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Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

One of the toughest challenges that I have had has been capital.

Capital is a mandatory requirement to a business. Unfortunately, we still have A LOT - I mean A LOT of gaps in regards to accessing capital here in the United States whether you're a man or a woman. The running joke that I have heard is that everyone is willing to give you money when you need it least. I have found this to be true. Except for angel investors who swoop in out of nowhere and have your back no matter what. I now fully understand why the word angel was put in front of 'angel investor'. A big thank you to those reading it who have done that for me. You know who you are. 

One of the challenges that I have personally experienced is the psychological attachment that comes with money. I can't wait to get my paws on this bad boy from the library. Looking back at old performance reviews where I had to ask for a raise makes me cringe. I distinctly remember being recruited for a job at a very prominent outdoor company based in Salt Lake City and having them ask what I made and saying they could give me a small amount above that. I was shocked. I could have told them anything but I hate lying. I tried asking them what they believe the salary should be instead of me leading but they wouldn't have it. I have heard countless stories from my friends (mostly women) experiencing the same cringeworthy feeling when it comes to money and quite frankly - I'm over it. I say this because I have witnessed firsthand my friends and family members who are male get stupid money and benefits without showing any additional value they will provide other than to bullshit when needed. I realize this is a gross accusation but I have found it to be true in many of my personal experiences which is why I am sharing it. It's time to talk about it so we can change this narrative. (If you really want to know my thoughts on the matter please reference Ayn Rand's Fountainhead). 

One of the ways that I have moved through this capital challenge is by looking at it as a resource/tool to run the business and not an indicator of my value or worth or Anact's. Easier said than done. One of the ways that has helped me get through that is through financial modeling.

I have downloaded resources from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to create sales projections and work my way backwards into what is needed to get there capital wise. Creating these projections and ironing out the needs helps you determine the capital injection you need and what to ask for. Is it my strong suit, hell no. But does it make you realize what's working and not working - hell yes. It's also one of the skillsets that I am looking for most in a future co-partner. 

One of the challenges that I have had is the assumptions required because as we have all personally experienced with 2020 - things can change on a dime. That's why I am sticking to one year projections with small growth increments (5-10%) because I believe slow is fast and that these unicorn/rocket businesses can't sustain, in my opinion. I am also falling in love with the journey these days and the moments created with others who believe in the same things that I do then pushing like a psycho to reach a financial goal (which I have done before). I did $100K in sales in 2020 so my goal is to do $150K in sales this year. Period. 

When COVID first hit, I remember applying for a grant via iFundWomen where I had to disclose everything I had done to date to secure capital. It was the first time I realized how much of a discrepancy there was. Here were the items that I checked off:

  • Pitch Fest
    • An event where you pitch your idea for money. You have to be careful with these though because investors will go to them to find ideas and have the capital to execute them whether you win the pitch fest or not. The pitch fest I participated in was Thomas Jefferson University. I came in 2nd and won $5K but had to have my lawyer help me with the contract because it had a lot of stipulations in it to give access to the university to be an investor in my company, which we removed from the contract. The cost of lawyer fees, IRS fees, travel expenses, time invested and the opportunity to be potentially knocked off before you even get out of the gate left me with very little money to actually invest in the business and optimism about this forum for future use. Later on I found out that investors were the ones who had paid the university to host the event. Be careful. On the bright side, it did give me the proof of validation and the confidence to keep going. 
  • Grants 
    • I haven't had much luck with these and am not a fan just because they are a one-time only thing and the reality is that you are always going to need access to capital so you might as well build a relationship with a person/entity that will foster a long-term relationship. For example, pitchfests are usually a one-time investment but they can open the door to connect with other strategic contacts and if covered by the press give you media visibility. 
  • Family + Friend 
    • This is where you raise money from your family and friends who believe in you. I did a GoFundMe around the holidays to raise $12K to develop the Anact towel with the factory and pay for our first round of sample production. I timed it with Giving Tuesday so people had an option to invest in something outside of a material gift. There was nothing that I promised to give anyone except the opportunity to help bring Anact to life. Once I realized how many samples the factory was giving us and the amount of people that I had donated, I was able to give each person who donated one towel before we went into mass production. I believe the success of this came from doing a video (I hired a local videographer) and from sharing my vision. Funny story, I actually got pinged from my old employer prAna threatening me to take the video down mid-campaign because they thought I was using their footage. I was not. All of the footage was my own. I share this with you to show you how competitive the space can be and another one of the challenges I personally experienced on my journey. The other piece that I realize might be hard to replicate but you can start doing now is to be transparent and kind to others. I have made a lot of relationships everywhere I go because I genuinely believe in being kind to one another and seek to understand others who are different than myself. When I left corporate, I had over 5,000 emails of people who I met over the years from when I was working at the Secret Service, to when I worked for a non-profit in Uganda, to when I worked corporate at Under Armour and prAna. While none of the people I met during this time knew that I was going to create Anact, they all knew my passion for human rights, sustainability and making the world a better place. Moral of the story: don't hide your light. Share what drives you even if you're not in a place where it makes sense. Acknowledging it and being transparent will eventually get you there. And yes it will be scary, yes you will be afraid of being judged but putting yourself out there will help you build confidence in yourself even if you don't yet believe in yourself. Something that my mom reminds me is that this life is so short so why not go for it. I truly believe that.
  • Crowdfunding
    • Launching on Kickstarter was what allowed me to pre-finance my first round of inventory with the factory. The goal that I created was based off the cost to get that inventory here from production to freight to payment of the duty. What it didn't cover was the additional China duty that came into effect a month prior to my shipment leaving the factory, which added about $5K on to the total cost. Cue angel investor in the form of my dad on that one. Thank you, Matty K. The reason why I liked this capital tool was because it allows you to book sales so you know there is a market and you're able to use the leftover inventory to figure out the right formula without too much pressure which is what I did last year after launching during COVID.
  • Personal Money
    • I had a solid 401(K) when I left working corporate (thanks Mom & Dad for the guidance), savings and a lot of credit cards available to me because I was smart with my money over the years and never spent more than what I made. My thought process (since I was 28 years old at the time) was that I could make up the 401(k) + savings in time since I was (and still am) single, without children, without a mortgage. One of my dad's fears (and I get it) was that I would have trouble coming back into the workforce if they saw a gap in my resume. It took some reflection on my end to realize that the learnings and takeaways I would get from starting Anact (even if I couldn't keep it going) would be incredible skillsets that I would bring to any job, which I 100% stand behind. The only thing that is tough is that when you start your own company - you become used to doing it all, seeing the bottlenecks, creating your own schedule (I am writing this to you from my outdoor deck while I listen to the birds chirp - it's divine) and problem solving so when you tell yourself if you have to (like really have to) you can go back to a regular full-time job, you know that deep down inside you can't (unless it was really special) because you'll be so used to giving it your all and seeing what's amiss that you'll be not only personally unhappy but also a pain in the ass to the team if they don't support that type of entrepreneurial energy and spirit.
  • Additional jobs
    • I started my own consulting company to work with apparel and non-apparel brands to help them implement sustainability strategies. I remember my Uncle Johnny (founder of the Dummy books) telling me - you'll never be able to run two businesses at the same time. I didn't get it when he said it but I get it now. I do think consulting might be an exception because the work that I do with Anact is complimentary with my consulting services but for the most part - he's right. I also made the mistake of not consulting the key partners who had the clients I would be selling my services to until after making the leap so they didn't feel a part of the process, which made it hard for me to garner their support. As much as I want to say that your work should just speak for yourself (and I believe it should) sometimes you do need to have others vouch for you when you're first starting out. For example, several of the key people who felt left out ended up starting their own services identical to mine and because they had a direct relationship with the clients I wanted to focus on were able to take advantage of the opportunity effectively leaving me out of the game. Is consulting where I want to go long-term? No. But being able to make additional money to cover cost of living and freelancer expenses is quite nice to have in one's back pocket. Lesson here - consult that that you plan to sell to about your services prior to taking the leap so you have a bit of a fortified front. And if it doesn't pan out then take it as a sign from the universe it wasn't meant to be. 

In the advent of COVID, several resources have come up that have been incredibly helpful. I was able to quality for Economic Injury Disaster Loan, which allowed me to do the marketing campaign that you saw earlier this year in collaboration with Surfear Negra and Malcom Jackson. Shopify Capital has been amazing and gives you the money in one day based on your sales and then pulls the amount in increments as you sell. I've looked into all of the hippy resources sent from friends like ClearBanc, Kiva, etc., but unfortunately, Anact just doesn't qualify. I have scoured high and low through my entire network and my contacts and have found nothing. 

I've also gone the traditional bank route but it requires at least 3 years financials and they want to see profit out of the gate. The things you think make you the most marketable are what the banks see as your biggest weaknesses. They want you to work full-time and do your business on the side, they want to know you are married so that they have someone to co-sign on the loan, they want you to own a home so they can pull from it if need be. Having a family, a home and a full-time job will hands down add at least 1-2 years more on the time it takes to get your business up and running but they don't care because they are in the business of ensuring they get their money back no matter what. 

And then you have the investor route: angels, venture capitalist and private equity. Are you looking for debt or equity investors? What's your valuation? How much do you want to give away? What are your projections? What's your EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, deductions? How quickly can you get the return back for the investor and and what's your exit strategy? What sucks is that a lot of investors have become used to the tech space which can offer 10x return in two years or less. Create the app, sell the technology and boom, you sail off in the distance. The notion of meeting a founder where they are at and problem solving together takes a very special type of investors I have personally found. 

On top of that, everyone has different requirements and requests so you can find yourself running around with your head chopped off and not focusing on the business. When they say raising capital is a full-time job, they weren't joking. 

I have written about my experience here to help others but also as a space to share what I am going through because it is lonely. It is scary. It does make you wonder if you'll ever figure it out. It makes you wonder why you don't have a rich grandparent who will just front you money when you need it but then you see other founder stories and the capital they secure and the money wasted because you think you're safe so you keep it moving and you are quite frankly required to surrender and trust the process. To be comfortable with money loss and time loss because you're learning, you're growing, you're having an experience that many people will never have that allows you to tap into everything that you're made of and be connected to your essence. I write this because I HAVE TO remind myself otherwise I will just hit refresh on our Shopify page for hours and not leave the house. 

What's next on the docket you ask? I have to secure our second round of inventory before Chinese New Year (CNY) in the next few weeks. Line of credits, PPP aren't possible because we don't sell enough yet and we don't make enough in sales to finance the volume of inventory we are bringing in so it's say a prayer and Hail Mary, do your best and trust the process. There's a reason my personal stationary currently says there is beauty in the unknown.

If I have missed a potential capital source or you know someone who is interested - feel free to send me an email at I'm all ears.

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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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Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

I never expected to be working in the fashion industry. Far from it. After I graduated from university, I booked a one-way flight to Gulu, Uganda where I focused on the role that international development can play to alleviate poverty. It's wasn't until my apartment lease in DC and the invoice of my student loans came a knocking that I switched gears and moved back to the States.

Upon moving back home, I ended up with a job interview at a little old company called, Under Armour. I'll never forget renting a Zip Car (do those even still exist?) to make the drive from my apartment on U Street to Baltimore. After a series of successful interviews, I was offered a position as Sourcing Coordinator working in UA's Supply Chain. And so began my career in the fashion industry. 

All I knew was that I cared about workers rights and the impact that our purchases have on people and the planet. Anything that could get me closer to feeling like I could make a difference was my sole focus. Lo and behold, I got all of that and a bag of vegan potato chips.

Here's what I want you to know that I learned from my time working for some of the largest brands in the world.

  • I learned the textile industry operates on a vicious 18 month cycle where designers forecast trends at least 2-3 seasons out from when they are actually worn (which creates a lot of waste) and there are cut throat negotiations with factory owners to secure the cheapest price to make said garments.
  • I learned that the factories are squeezed and that trade agreements often dictate sourcing decisions and that there is not one person who makes our clothes... there are hundreds.
  • I learned that sustainability and corporate social responsibility often fall in legal departments instead of being implemented in every business function.
  • I learned that greenwashing is real and very alive.
  • Most importantly, I learned that the brands don't have any skin in the supply chain game and that the people who do all the work have the most skin yet the smallest voice in the conversation. 

I could go on and on on what I learned these past ten years. And if you have specific questions... I'm happy to answer. Just drop a note in the comments.

But the main point is that the decision that I made to leave working on the brand side wasn't because I wanted to start my own brand. It was because I knew that a job needed to be done to educate people about the real story behind how our clothes are made. And Anact was born.

Anact is created to inspire us to take simple acts to create impact each day. One of our acts is to focus on disrupting the textile industry and connecting you with the people, places and story behind the clothes we wear every day. That's why we are committed to supporting Fashion Revolution Week to commemorate those we lost in Rana Plaza on April 24, 2013. 

I believe that what we have experienced with COVID-19 (and are continuing to experience) is a dress rehearsal for what the climate crisis can and will bring and that addressing the role that the fashion industry plays in contributing to climate change and people's lives sooner rather than later will prepare us as a global community. Join me in the movement of asking #whomademyclothes 

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