Finding My Way Home
In 2007, I started a business called Shine.
On a Friday in 2013, I left it. Or it left me. Either way, I was no longer leading my startup, and the choice wasn’t truly mine. When I walked out the door, I felt dejected and uncertain about almost everything in my life.
It rained that weekend.
A year later, in my capacity as a board member…
I sat down with a researcher to discuss the Shine concept. She was investigating the management techniques of purpose driven businesses. What motivated us to build Shine? She wanted to know. Why recycle profits for the benefit of others?
“I thought it would be interesting to apply business ideology to a societal problem,” I answered. “At the time, everyone seemed to be looking at the problems in society and applying a direct solution. I wondered what would happen if we were more circumspect in our approach, if we built something that wasn’t so much a solution, but a catalyst for things to happen.”
Shine, a place that connected people, was originally cheered. It was lauded, as is often the case with bright, new ideas. Once we opened the doors, though, things quickly took a turn. We were outsiders, our critics said. Outsiders not only within our own geographical community, but in the wider one of policy makers and those who influence government. We were even outsiders in the business sector.
I poured my heart and soul into the venture and spoke passionately about it to anyone who would listen, but the criticism I heard from naysayers was at times deafening and always cutting in its delivery.
Most of this was the result of misunderstanding. What were we? We weren’t a charity. We weren’t really a classic social enterprise because we didn’t operate predominantly on grants and/or government contracts. We weren’t a traditional business, as our business model incorporated benefits for non-traditional stakeholders. I was in no-man’s land. As a result, I never really felt comfortable building Shine. I didn’t feel at home.
But as I sat talking with the researcher inside the Shine building, I saw that I could now view my venture without a parent’s mindset. I’d been overprotective, and it had stifled my imagination, kept me fearful, and limited Shine’s potential. We succeeded, but it was harder than it had to be.
As I continued with the interview, it became more and more obvious that something had change since I left Shine to start my new venture, daCunha. I was at home.
I’m comfortable at home.
I don’t worry about having a spat at home, because I know it’s part of the process of understanding. And I feel a certain kind of kinetic energy when I’m at home. The kind of energy that comes from not worrying too much about the little things. It’s about ignoring the chipped paint and tuning into the vibe.
Each phase of my life is marked by moments of feeling at home. At my grandparent’s small, log cabin home in the New Hampshire woods, my favorite time of the day was just before dinner. My grandfather, Papa, would sit and sip his Kentucky bourbon while we regaled him with stories of our adventures of the day or our lives at school. He was an active listener, ready for a debate or to share his opinions. I was a small child getting love and attention from a big person, my Papa.
Even as a partying 19 year old, I longed for those moments before dinner at my grandparent’s home. That feeling of being at home, being connected, it’s my foundation for taking flight.
I still go home to experience that connection. It’s my oxygen. And now that my perspective has changed, Shine delivers that connection. Even though I’ve left, it now makes me feel at home.
Perhaps all founders go through the same thing with their first company or first phase of their only company. I was so obsessed with getting it right that I forgot to just love it and the people in it. Sure, I tried to create a positive vibe, and I think to some degree I succeeded, but there was always an edge. I could feel it. It was almost imperceptible, but it was there.
There’s a warmth on the team now, a feeling that they’re at home. I feel it in the air. I breathe it in. It’s clean and crisp without a whiff of first-timer angst.
And what about the community surrounding Shine, and the critics?
I don’t know. Something has altogether changed. I don’t think the community has changed in its feelings towards me or Shine. I think I’ve changed. I stopped assuming what the community thought or felt. It’s a mixed bag of feelings out in the world. I don’t think the critics have disappeared. I stopped taking them personally.
By making these simple changes in myself, I can clearly see the potential of Shine — on its own, without me. It feels more natural. A relief, really.
Only a year into my new venture, daCunha, I feel at home with the people I’m working with and the ideas we share.
I don’t assume what they feel or think. I don’t take their criticism or praise personally. Am I passionate about it? Yes. But, I’m not letting my passion get in the way of connectivity. Does the unknown still scare me? Yes. But, I’m embracing the fear and converting it to the energy needed to make the big leaps. I think there’s something in that feeling of being at home…
This is my 6th venture. Perhaps I’m getting better at finding my way home.
Curious? Join the adventure. Tomorrow’s world awaits us.
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