In 2018, I left my career role to launch my first startup in what would be a life-altering journey.
I come from a family of entrepreneurs where problem-solving felt like a religion growing up. However, I didn't follow that path at first. My degree was in Occupational Safety, Health, & Environment, one of the furthest points from what you would label as entrepreneurship. Regulation, process, inspection, and training dominate the safety profession.
In my role as Sr. Safety Specialist, I focused on corporate program management, regional branch oversight, and training. This afforded me the opportunity to travel all across the East Coast, visiting 34 branches annually, constantly the autonomy to innovate and execute the safety program.
I loved my job. Leaving was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made.
Here's why I did and what learned.
I wanted to make a bigger impact and I saw tech as the best tool to do that.
At the time, I was only 23 years old and heading up safety for 34 locations while contributing to program development at a high level with leadership. I was moving up the career ladder quickly, had a seat at the table, and felt inspired by the work. What more could I want? I guess more than that... Back then, I always felt like I was up against the clock. As if I only had so much time to accomplish everything I wanted in life.
This ambition and a knack for problem-solving led me to form a startup with a couple of friends that we worked on for about a year during late nights and weekends. Even with putting in all of our spare time into the startup, it wasn't moving. I felt a change was needed.
Two years after getting my friends together to share a cool idea I had, I quit my job to work full-time on the startup.
Being a full-time founder is ridiculously hard.
Being a first-time founder means working long hours, losing sleep, and sweating over details. It brings together a combination of loneliness, stress, anxiety, anger, fear, and depression. To put it simply: being a founder sucks most of the time.
For better or worse, I was willing to make any sacrifice in order to grow my startup. I thought it was what I was "supposed" to do.
Coming into this experience, I was determined to build a company that had a product people loved and would pay money for. I was also determined to prove to myself and everyone else that I could do it.
But along the way, I learned something about myself — success became more than just financial wins and product-market fit. Success became being able to define what success means to me on my own terms and having the freedom, flexibility, and autonomy to do it.
But startup success isn't just about how hard you work. Working on the right things at the right times is what defines your outcome. In the five years we worked on Mintor we released three products, raised funding, experienced every aspect of the startup journey, learned countless lessons, and met hundreds of inspiring people which turned into a strong network of friends, advisors, and valuable contacts.
Did we find some success? Absolutely.
Was it enough? No.
Unfortunately, our timing and efforts were off target too often. A little over three years after quitting my job, we shut down the startup for good, we failed.
The upside of building startups far outweighs the potential failures.
Working on startups comes without guarantees and yet so many still pursue them. I knew the downside going in; I had watched my family fail multiple times before they succeeded.
It's about the upside - the potential returns of success far outweigh the high likelihood of failure. Experiencing it for myself taught me more than I could have ever imagined.
In the trenches of building a startup, I made lifelong friends, learned invaluable skills, and have seen countless opportunities present themselves.
It's these outcomes that make me forever grateful for making that jump.
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