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Startup Day 177

"Take a break." That's what a few trusted advisers have said. 

"Enjoy this time with your kids and family." 

"Use this time to dream big and think about the future."

As an entrepreneur, it's really hard to turn off the hustle mentality. There's always one more person to email and one more follow-up call to make. Something I've learned, however, is that the work WILL wait. When I return January 3rd, there'll be work to do and I'll be better at that work for having stepped away for a vacation.

So I'm signing off (at least from the startup updates) for 2021 to take a break. :)

becoming my mother

This morning began with a bus chase. Literally, we chased the kids' bus. As often happens, the one morning we're running a minute late, the bus comes a minute early and, just like that, the kids miss the bus. 

Or do they? 

My daughter said she saw the bus driving down the road. Taking her at her word, I continued in the direction the bus would be going and, lo and behold, there it was! We caught up with it at the next stop and my two kids sprang into action, jumping out of the car and running up to the bus.

Now, truth be told, this wasn't the first time this has happened to my kids. They sprang into action because they've done this before. 😅

Furthermore, I knew just what to do because this happened to me when I was a child. I have fond(?) memories of my mother chasing down our bus and shooing us out of the minivan at the next bus stop.

Given that I have such a wonderful mom, becoming my mother is usually a good thing. Earlier this week, my son was supposed to wear holiday socks and a scarf to school so I hunted through my drawers for something he could wear. I had a flashback to my fourth grade birthday luau when I wore my mom's Hawaiian shirt. She was constantly giving of herself and pouring her time and energy into making our lives better. If I happened to inherit a running-late habit with her better ones, I'll take 'em all. Becoming my mother is a blessing. 😁

Startup Day 149: Thanksgiving Edition

Keeping it real here, folks. With family in town, this is my office setup. Note the ironing board "desk" wedged between the closet and bed. I even finagled some "ambience" with my lamp. All the same, it suits the purpose and allows me to get some work done before unplugging for family time.

Startup Day 148

Until a couple weeks ago, I was like a dog chasing its tail. I was thinking of pivoting from a private pay model to a Third Party Payer model, replete with Channel Partners plus Users. That yielded three significant stakeholders that left my head spinning and progress impeded. Thankfully, an adviser who's been on this journey with me asked, "do you have evidence that the private pay model doesn't work?" Hmm, no, not really. He was right to ask the question and urge me to consider how to prove or disprove that model. So now I'm hunkering down for a more strategic approach to the private pay model, measuring impact and adjusting when necessary. I'm grateful for those who walk alongside me and have perspective to see things I overlook.

Startup Day 134

I've finally created a website and am now deep into creating a contact form, integrating with my Airtable database, and negotiating a downgrade with my hosting provider because I thought I was getting domain privacy protection. (Note: the US government has disabled privacy for .us domains.)

In short, it's unglamorous and unexciting but also stuff that's got to get done. I'm looking forward to when I can do more of the fun stuff like working directly with parents. We've also just launched a free membership to make it easier for parents to join us. Check out the options here.

Startup Day 128

I began today thinking, "I've been at this for a THIRD of a year and I'm still struggling with product/market fit!" Then I read this gem from Rahul Vohra, founder and CEO of Superhuman.

"Investors advising early-stage teams should avoid pushing for growth ahead of product/market fit. As an industry, we all know that this ends in disaster, yet the pressure for premature growth is still all too common. Startups need time and space to find their fit and launch the right way."

It's better to engage in this struggle now rather than when I've grown something that doesn't really fit the market. To read Vohra's full post, click here.

Startup Day 119

Something I'm wrestling with is what working as a founder looks like. I spoke with an investor last week who recalls 80 hour workweeks when she launched her startup. Then she referenced the transient stage of young children like mine. Was she implying I ought not go all-out in this phase of parenting? 
Then faith kicks in and God nudges me to seek Him for the next step to take. Sure, I need to envision what 3- and 5-year plans for the business look like but the reality is in His hands. It's easy to get caught up in what others think and what the future holds. It's a lot harder, for me at least, to remain grounded in the here and now. It's harder for me to be faithful to using this day for God's glory and for good and to avoid living in the future.
There's a lot wrapped up in this struggle but it's a good one for me to engage in. It would be easy to tread the path of the workaholic founder aiming for all the investment and all the business glory and entirely leave out the real reason I do anything: for God's glory. When that same investor asked, "what do you want out of this," I thought, "God's glory." Empowered Together can communicate to parents their inherent worth as image bearers of God. It can call these parents into community where they'll find encouragement for their journeys. It can join them in bearing the burdens of parenting kids with special needs. THAT'S what I want out of this!

Startup Day 109

It's been 109 Days since empowered together's pilot launched. Community members have remained and activity has dropped off. Since we're all parents of school-age kids, that drop-off could be due to the start of the school year. It could also be due to lack of interest. I'm trying to get the pulse on that.

I'm at an inflection point around purpose/vision and growth. Do I a) continue bootstrapping a peer-led, curated social community OR b) prepare to raise investment for a community + care support + referrals + clinical care? Parents benefit from community; we'd also benefit from having our to-do lists shortened which means someone else doing the legwork of coordinating our child's care so we get more quality time with our kids and to actually enjoy life. I'm stuck in an either/or framework; I'm viewing outside investment as the path to b. Perhaps, however, I could bootstrap to b.

From here on out, I'll be documenting this startup journey periodically so stay tuned to learn which way we go. :)

another new journey

What do you do when your job future looks uncertain? Worry? Escape to a good book? Start knocking on doors to see what opens up? In April 2020 I took the latter path. I learned that my job at a nonprofit was going to change in July but didn't know much more than that. Here's the month-by-month journey I've been on since then.

APRIL 2020

Faced with job uncertainty, I applied to INVANTI's Founder Studio


I joined the Founder Studio and spent three months researching passion areas that also presented compelling opportunities. These included the disparity of teachers of color, therapeutic benefits of getting kids with autism into the outdoors, and peer-led groups for mental health. The passion that kept coming back to me was providing support to parents of children with special needs.


I started a new role at the nonprofit with significantly more responsibility and less time to pursue my startup dreams.


In September, I had a visceral experience with co-workers that left me saying, "I don't know what it'll take but I never want to feel this way again." I continued to clock many hours for the nonprofit that were equal parts exhilarating and demoralizing. 


Recognizing I needed to craft my exit plan, I participated in the Founder Studio's Build Sprint after-hours to put structure to my parent support concept. I logged 25+ conversations with parents and professional stakeholders, getting feedback on the evolving concept.

MARCH 31, 2021

This is the day I turned 40. This day is also worth noting because I gifted myself permission to launch a startup in honor of this milestone birthday.

APRIL 2021

My husband and I ran the numbers and determined what it would take for us to live off of one income for awhile. I gave 8-weeks' notice at work. I continued working on the business after-hours.

MAY 2021

My day job in fundraising was crazy as ever as we drove towards our June 30th fiscal year end. My after-hours job took shape as I drove towards a June 28th pilot kick-off of a minimum viable product (MVP). Funny story: the name Empowered Together came from the email address being available on gmail without any other US entity by the same name.

JUNE 2021

I left the nonprofit and kicked off the pilot after weeks of furiously recruiting participants. I ended up with 13 people committed and 11 who actually used the MVP set up on Mighty Networks' platform. I built the plane as I flew it, pulling bits and pieces from various sources to build community and create content.

JULY 2021

For five weeks, moms of kids with special needs came together in live video calls, in social feeds, and in small groups focused on specific needs like Behavioral Therapy and Care Coordination. I focused on delighting pilot participants as I led them through weekly objectives aimed at planning their journeys as parents. Participants raved about the experience. Half of them even contributed monetarily at the close of the program. And two of them took me up on my offer of care coordination. I also registered Empowered Together, LLC this month and opened a business bank account.


I took some time off with my family before my husband returned to teaching and my kids to school.  As an aside, the July pilot's success is due in large part to my husband, a school teacher, being the primary caregiver to our two kids that entire month. Thank you, John! There's a reason we've been married 10 years now. ;)


I refined empowered together's offerings on Mighty Networks and geared up for an intensive later in Sept. Early on, I got to see how a couple of my assumptions were inaccurate -- much of what I set out to do was based in trust. Care coordination, for example, was a service I offered pilot participants but only two moms, both of whom I'd known for years, took me up on the offer. Similarly, paying $750 for an intensive is a decision grounded in trust that the experience is worth it. The intensive got shelved due to low enrollment. I shifted focus to recruiting basic members whom I could delight with the community experience before they make a decision to dive deeper with the intensive and/or care coordination. This month I also got pro bono support from Marilyn with design and Angie with marketing strategy support.


The month's only half gone but I've been exploring funding through a shared earning agreement and a couple non-dilutive opportunities. Advice from the team at INVANTI and Mary Kay at CT SBDC have helped shape the course of empowered together. I connected with the AuthenTech and Faith Driven Entrepreneur communities. My cousin, Evan, has been a great sounding board for how to grow the business. It's starting to feel like I'm rounding the bend on actually being an entrepreneur and finding my footing.

From here on out, I'll be reporting back on the startup journey. I'm planning to reflect on imposter's syndrome, what it's like to be a female entrepreneur, balancing work and the rest of life, and how we derive our identities as founders. Comment or reach out to chat more. :)