Tide Risers and My Something Big
I think Tide Risers brings together certain types of women — specifically those who deep down believe they can accomplish something big and who also have a specific something big (or the beginnings of it) in mind. When I joined Tide Risers, I didn't know exactly what my "something big" would be, but I knew there was an entrepreneur inside of me clambering to get out. Tide Risers helped give me the number one tool I most needed to launch a new business: confidence.
I’ve had a lot of entrepreneurial ideas, and typically, what happens is this:
Dream up idea for new business.
Feel really excited about it for a few days or weeks, and maybe start the rough draft of a business plan.
Lose confidence in the idea and/or my ability to get it done.
Accept the “reality” that maybe I’m just not destined for something big.
Move onto a new and different idea.
If you can relate to this, then read on because you ARE destined for something big. I’m sure of it.
My husband and I got the idea for an online boutique — a new kind of general store — that would align with our core values as consumers. We settled on three guiding principles for the shop: Everything we stock has to be good for us as users, good for Mother Earth, and good for our kin (AKA cruelty free for all involved in its manufacture). And, just like that on a long drive from NYC to Vermont, Kinlane got its name and its purpose. “Kin-” for our family around the globe, and “-lane” to evoke the small-village general store aspect of the experience we hoped to create.
I established the LLC in early April, started building relationships with my vendors and purchased our merchandise throughout May, and opened the shop doors in June. So, you might be wondering what was different this time than with past ideas. Great question!
Instead of hitting the usual wall of self-doubt, I had the Tide Risers community and program to help me get unstuck. It gave me what I can only really describe as endurance. Just like running a marathon, starting a new business requires patience with your ability to perform, talking yourself down from the ledge of quitting, and second and third winds to even get to race day. After all, launching a new company is similar to getting to race day, right? If you can launch, you've made it to the starting line. Most people could not get there without at least one outside force and voice saying “You can do this.” Tide Risers was a whole community of voices shouting this loudly! I think this tweet from Erin Chack aptly illustrates it:
Along the way to launching Kinlane with the support and encouragement of Tide Risers, I’ve learned a ton and it showed me that it isn’t so scary to pursue a big, audacious goal after all. A few big takeaways so far are as follows below.
There is no exact roadmap for your big vision, but you will never get on the road if you don't muster up the confidence to believe in your abilities and your ultimate goal. I think one of Tide Risers’ greatest strengths is that the program doesn't presume a one-size-fits-all method for success. It's adaptive and finds ways to help you navigate the course, no matter what your course may be. And, even if your ultimate goal is something you will tackle on your own, you don't go it alone because you can lean on the community to nudge you forward, especially when you start to doubt yourself. Simply finding a way to silence self-doubt before it begins is a super useful tool, and a few methods for this may include establishing an affirming mantra or a mindfulness practice. I think, simply, the quick and aggressive timeline from concept-to-launch helped me greatly with this.
Things will always go wrong, but I had drastically overestimated how complex and frustrating actually starting a new company would be. New York State in particular has done a lot to promote new businesses forming in its state, and they provide a tons of resources for entrepreneurs. When you’re at square one, the state has a website for drawing up your own individualized checklists for getting up and running in a compliant fashion. You can visit it here: https://www.businessexpress.ny.gov/. After that, New York Business Information Center (518-485-1000) can answer just about any question you've got, and they are shockingly efficient with many of my calls lasting just 2 minutes or less. Even more shocking? Every representative I have spoken with to date has not just been knowledgeable but friendly too! If you aren’t in New York, check to see what your state provides.
Do not let perfect be the enemy of good. My brother texted me a quote when I launched the Kinlane shop. Of course, I was nitpicking various features on the site and already talking about redesigning it. His text read, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late,” a quote from LinkedIn’s founded Reid Hoffman. Phew. Other people have felt this before! Isn’t that encouraging in and of itself? And, I think about this daily when I feel stressed about all the things I didn’t get done today. It’s refreshingly reassuring.
You might discover some hidden talents. I have always considered myself much more creative than tactical, and yet, the operational aspects of getting a new business up and running have been as exciting and rewarding for me, if not more so, than all the brainstorming, creative marketing and visionary aspects combined. It also has given me a boost of confidence in my ability to simply get stuff done.
There is always a way to make your vision a reality, if you’re really committed to it and willing to ask lots of questions. I think a good example of this comes up when people talk about funding for a prospective business. To date, Kinlane is completely self-funded, and I wasn't making a million dollars when I saved a lot of the funds for it. In fact, I started saving just $25 and then $50 a month and so on at a time when my New York City rent ate up one of my entire bi-monthly paychecks. Decide what you can sacrifice, and save a little at a time. If your idea requires substantial funds that would take you far too long to save, there are so, so many grants out there, particularly for women- and minority-founded new businesses. If you’re passionate about something, then someone out there is likely passionate about funding it too!
Starting a new business reminds me a little bit of the 2007 Sundance documentary My Kid Could Paint That, which chronicles 4-year-old Marla Olmstead and her artwork that has been shown in major museums and sold for upwards of $300K per piece. The child experts featured in the the film say that anyone could product a masterpiece if they are encouraged to keep going and keep at it until they have a truly finished product. Of course, very few parents urge their young children to continue on with any one piece of artwork, but can you imagine what might happen if they did?
Laura Baker is a Tide Riser and founder of online home and lifestyle boutique Kinlane.