By day, I’m a research loving social worker whose full-time career is in child welfare. By night, I’m a struggling entrepreneur who shares a bed with my start-up’s co-founder. To make matters worse, we’re also newlyweds. This is either genius, or crazy. Most nights I lean towards crazy.
We’ve been married for two short months (June 8, 2013), committed for over 3 years, and co-founders of Animal Lover Funding since December 2012. So far the marriage part has been a breeze. Having already lived together, nothing really changed except now it’s exceptionally more difficult for me if I want to take my stuff and leave (which I have no plans on doing!). But, when you mix a career driven woman with a competitive man and add in a crazy start up idea, you’ve got a recipe for either trouble or greatness. Let’s be optimistic and say greatness.
Planning a wedding, building a start-up, and getting married has taught me a few things. One is that you better really love who you’re marrying and the business you’re starting or the stress of all of it will kill you. The other is that it’s all kind of the same process in the end. Our path to marriage mirrored our road as entrepreneurs and helped make us stronger and better people for one another. Here’s how:
The honeymoon phase:
This is where the passion is! It’s the butterflies I had when I put on my wedding dress and the content I feel as we watch Netflix after a long day at work. I remember my (now) husband coming up to me last November saying he had a crazy idea! We should make a crowdfunding site that helps people pay off their high vet bills. We were already very accustomed to the detrimental effect a sick pet can have on your bank account. Why don’t we help those who really can’t afford it?
Great idea! I love it! This is genius! The passion is flowing and our desire to empathize and help those who have been in our situation has no bounds. Just like the feeling I had when I walked down the aisle, we could do no wrong and everything was wonderful. We made the decision to proceed and start it moving in the right direction. We found an awesome web developer, had nightly talks about how we’re going to make this work, and happily basked in the glow of each other’s happiness and creativity. Nothing can go wrong right? If you’re passionate and you love what you do it’ll be an immediate success. Oh, how nice it is to be in the honeymoon phase of a start-up and a marriage.
Then, I’m hit with the fact that my husband doesn’t do dishes, laundry, or really know how to vacuum. While he’s good at taking care of the dog, he works weird hours and isn’t really home to help out. He’s starting to realize I’m an awful cook and a bit of a nagger when he doesn’t clean up. You discover that your beloved is human and flawed, just like everyone else. The crankiness sets in that your perfect spouse is actually quite annoying sometimes even though you love them.
After our launch at the end of July, we became grossly aware that there is a difference between popularity and influence. We assumed that just because we had a huge social media following on Facebook and Twitter that it would translate into clients. Wrong! We struggled to get traffic to our website and campaigns started. The doubt was setting in and fear that we might have gotten in over our heads was starting to bob its ugly little noggin. Realization of all this hits you like a kick in the stomach when you’re trying to build your brand. Nothing is perfect and success is hard work.
The first six months of our start-up idea (and the first few months before the wedding) was filled with random bouts of rebellion on my part. I started a few good uprisings in the kitchen over dinner! The second I was stressed out about something I let him know that this was his idea and it was supposed to be his business. I was planning a wedding, working full-time, and volunteering doing grant writing for a local non-profit. How could he possibly expect me to be a superhero and do it all when I had my own career in child welfare to worry about? Can you hear the feminism roaring? Self-interest occasionally caused me to lose site of our “team” and my own big head got in the way of really embracing a great idea now and then.
The wedding came and went and we learned to really collaborate. I jumped on the start-up wagon and accepted the fact I’d have to do the dishes for the rest of my life (or at least until we get a dishwasher). Now, we are successfully cooperating like a happy couple should be. I come home from work, do what needs to be done, and then when he gets home he takes what we affectionately call the night shift. I lay in bed next to him with our big puppy and we chat about what’s working and what’s not. We make a list of what I need to do in the morning (like make our lunches and e-mail a new blog) and he stays up until 1am reaching out to possible partners. We’ve molded our partnership as a husband and wife with our start-up. It’s all one in the same now with the goal of successfully helping each other grow in any way we can.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Our life is not all sunshine and roses now that we’ve learned to cooperate. Bumps in the road and frustration about how to make this work comes up on a fairly regular basis. We still struggle with getting a lot of page views on our website and get frustrated when we think something will work and it doesn’t. But just like arguments in our marriage, disagreements about Animal Lover Funding can be discussed in meaningful and respectful ways that don’t put our co-founding partnership (or our relationship) dangling in the wind. It’s a tough balance, but it can be done and it’s worth the effort. Plus, it’s nice to be able to say I’m sleeping with the co-founder of a pretty awesome company.
Lindsay Driver is co-founder of Animal Lover Funding (www.animalloverfunding.com), an online fundraising platform that assists individuals, non-profits, and companies with their animal related needs such as shelter upkeep, paying for high vet bills, and animal related products.
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