Each week at Startmate, we took part in an exercise called ‘All Hands’. This involved standing up in front of everyone to share our goals, achievements, misses, etc.
What did I think of ‘All Hands?’ I dreaded it! Initially. But I was wrong.
‘All Hands’ at Startmate was not a place for judgement or negativity. This was a place where people held you accountable, pep talked you up, and kept you moving.
The 2018 Startmate cohort, from Kass Taleb
As entrepreneurs, we understood each other’s journeys and we held each other accountable. Accountability is so important at the early stage. We were so full of unknowns, self-doubt, and in many cases loneliness. We were launching different kinds of startups but found a deep connection in the fiery pursuit of our goals. We identified with each other’s emotional rollercoasters of being founders.
Something clicked for me. The Startmate team, my peers, the people around me facing similar challenges — I will always need that calibre of support and accountability. People I can call anytime to give me the talk, to sustain my belief and my action and those moments when I start to feel like an imposter or like I can’t make it.
The tide had turned — all of my hesitation and fear surrounding Startmate had vanished. I was a convert. I had found my tribe.
Surely after our tech team dropped out at the last second nothing else could phase us? Wrong. Very, very wrong.
Facing the reality of becoming an unexpected solo founder
Six months weeks into the Startmate journey and my co-founder and I had to part ways due to her visa complications.
As you can imagine, my stress levels increased, and my confidence plummeted — think massive imposter syndrome. How could I ever do this on my own!? Yes, I had successfully owned and operated an early education and care service and developed and sold a childcare centre, but all my past successes had been anchored to my specialty: education.
In this new role, as sole founder, my role increased exponentially, and I felt I couldn’t pivot off just my experience. I was now dealing with tech development, financial projections, pitching, raising — all new to me.
But, when the universe knocks you over, you can become undone, retreating to lick your wounds and rebuild your story along familiar lines. Or, you can choose to evaluate your priorities, be pragmatic, make choices, and break ground on a new, more promising path that looked nothing like what you had envisioned for yourself.
I was able to choose the second option because of the support I received from Startmate. They were there for me every step of the way and even when I felt like I couldn’t continue, there was always someone there to pick me up. I will never forget how incredible everyone was. Their support blew my mind.
The lesson learnt? Believe that people will help, just ask.
I sharpened my focus on a course of action. I channelled my frustration into energy. When things went sideways, this energy became the fuel for my creativity and drive.
I had to give Shiftsimple the best chance at surviving. I started the hiring process and within a fortnight I had found a CTO, Head of Operations, Customer Success and Talent Acquisition. I had a team! A total brand revamp followed and we were ready to take Shiftsimple to the next level.
Whenever I needed help or advice, I reached out to Startmate mentors that had expertise in areas that I lacked and soaked in as much knowledge as I could. From tech development through to raising, they were all available to pay it forward.
This is what being a part of Startmate felt like:
Every day, you’re short of money, time and, if you’re not careful, imagination. The cognitive load of launching a startup is huge. You’re making decisions under pressure but having leading founders, investors and other inspiring guests come out to share their experiences kept me grounded and inspired to continue on this journey.
As I grow my business and rise as a leader, I will raise my mic, extend a hand always and pay it forward for those who don’t yet have a voice. Even if Shiftsimple doesn’t turn out to be a global company (it will be), I know I have accomplished something far greater than that for me. Startmate helped me break free from all of the barriers and walls I put up around myself that told me I couldn’t do it.
I now know I can and I will.
Wade Institute of Entrepreneurship is a leading centre for entrepreneurial education. We deliver programs to accelerate learning, creation and connection.