Launching a Company During Uncertain Times

The backstory: We’ve been working on MADEWITH for over 2 years. My co-founder, Julia, and I were throwing ideas around in January 2018. We came up with the name a month later. I was also going through a custody battle for my then 2.5 year old son (thankfully the experience helped my co-parent and I evolve into a healthy co-parenting relationship). My time was focused on that and the few light contracts I had to keep my little family afloat. It was a rough year financially, but dreams of MADEWITH kept me from accepting roles that would have pulled me back into the comfortable financial state I’d been in just a year and a half earlier while working for a major tech company. 

In 2019, I decided it was time to remove all distraction I could and really focus on MADEWITH. So by January 2019, I wrapped up all my contract work. That’s a scary thing to do (especially after all I’d just spent on legal fees). I started digging into everything I could to figure out how to launch MADEWITH. We knew the problem we were solving, but WHY were we really doing this? 

For the next year, I continued to research and stabilize the vision of our company. A lot of details were tweaked, but the one foundation that didn’t shift was sustainability across all fronts: the way we sourced the products we sold, the way our employees would work, the way we would educate, build community, build relationships… The vision became clear.

I should note that I had near-meltdowns on a monthly basis throughout 2019. Questions swirled around my head, but after a while, I would wake up remembering the solutions and reasons why MADEWITH would work. I eventually moved out of the fear state and into the solutions state. I think that’s an important area of growth to recognize for anyone. Also, thank goodness for the endless support from my husband.

MADEWITH’s vision finally became clear at the end of 2019 (just as my entire life savings was on its last legs). And with it, our first investor got behind us.

While it was so exciting to have an investor, I also knew we had a tough challenge ahead of us. We are building a consumer app + 2 major back end systems on a relatively small budget, which was something I had done for a startup as Chief Product Officer, but the CEO role is new for me. It’s a very different set of challenges.

But we hit the ground running. On Jan 16, MADEWITH incorporated. We hired our first 2 people,  and we started ordering products for testing. It took us about 6 weeks to really find our stride together, but BOY did we find it. This is when I started feeling celebratory. The vision was becoming real. We had skincare products. We had app designs and our engineering team was building… I remember feeling like the last 4 years of personal and financial struggle were finally through, and all I’d sludged through was nearing an end. That was the beginning of March.

Less than 2 weeks later, we were in quarantine. Then I developed symptoms. And I shut down in a lot of ways – mainly because I felt so exhausted, and it was difficult to breathe. Also because the fear came back. All the comments: “It’s harder to raise money for a tech company when you’re a woman. It’s even harder during a pandemic with all of the uncertainty. How are you going to be a successful CEO and a homeschooling mom?” And it all led to me asking myself “how am I going to juggle all of this for my family, my team, and my mental & physical health.” 

And the answer is that I don’t. Something always gives.

BUT, here’s the positive that has come out of all of this. 

I’ve become even more grateful for the support of my husband. My coparenting relationship has become even healthier. We’re doing all we can to guide our 4 year old (who’s feeling this harder than we are) through this and help him adapt as best as we can.

And the team has risen to the challenge. Some of us have added homeschooling to all our other duties. We are working at crazy hours to juggle it all. We are getting scrappier than ever. And we quickly moved out of the place of fear, and into the mode of solutions.

Because MADEWITH is all about solutions: solutions for bettering your skin, your time, your budget, and your ability to leverage our planet’s resources sustainably. We communicated through the struggles of stretching the budget with the launch getting delayed a bit. We found ways to continue product testing. We shared tips to help each other work together from home more effectively.

Most importantly, we rallied together and picked each other up on days where we needed that, because it’s all we can do right now. We all have different levels of fear about this situation, so we have to be supportive of the other and respect their stances. Every family dynamic is different. Every individual’s health risk is different. Understanding goes a long way in this time, as does kindness.

Will we launch? We will. What comes after is uncertain and somewhat uncharted, but I am optimistic. The fact of the matter is that launching a company is always uncertain, and there are added challenges with this situation, but I’m even more confident we have the right mission and team to persevere.

The cave can feel dark, but there is beauty in the darkness, and light is just on the other side.

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