Why I Sacrificed Everything to Run a Startup
The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you run a startup with a full-time job?” is written by Raegan Moya-Jones, founder and CEO of Aden & Anais.
In 2003, I had an idea—a really, really great idea for a company I knew could make life easier for parents and babies in the U.S. and beyond. I also had a job—a great job that I was pretty good at.
Oh, and did I mention I was pregnant?
I started Aden & Anais while working full time in sales for The Economist Group and raising three of my now four daughters, which means I had three full-time jobs.
But like all entrepreneurs, I had that undeniable sense that the idea that had come to me during my first pregnancy—recreating the ubiquitous cotton swaddle that generations of Aussie mothers have sworn by and bringing it to American parents—was an idea worth chasing, even if I was also chasing after toddlers at the time, while wearing two different shoes that I was sure matched when I was getting dressed.
I started slow, researching manufacturers and the basic fundamentals of starting a business, and went to market with my first products in June 2006, three years after having the idea. I then started to sell those products from the trunk of a taxi to the baby boutiques that I shopped in throughout New York City.
And then, I kept moving slowly, or at least by startup standards. I didn’t walk into The Economist, throw a handful of swaddles in the air and cry, “I quit!” In fact, I did quite the opposite.
I spent my days hitting or exceeding my sales goals for The Economist, and spent my evenings with my family. Every moment—from my girls’ bedtime to 3 a.m.—I allowed my business to consume me, waking up at 7 a.m. to get the girls breakfast and start all over again. I didn’t take a salary from Aden & Anais until we had closed 2009 with more than a million in revenue, and even then it was a quarter of what I made at The Economist.
Highlights from this period in my life include:
- Not washing my hair for 15 days straight because I couldn’t find the time to (it had nearly permanently formed itself into a ponytail anyway)
- Losing needy friends who couldn’t understand why I didn’t have time for brunch while I was parenting, working, and building my own business
- Total sleep deprivation, the likes of which you really don’t think you can handle after university
Looking back, it seems completely insane and I’m not sure how I did it, but that’s the point, right? I did it because I had no idea what I was doing. I hadn’t obsessed over what I was sacrificing (sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, friendships, sleep, showers) because I was too focused on what I was building.
That attitude was only possible because I had what I needed (except sleep). I had an unwavering belief in myself and what I was doing. I had an amazing husband and support system that shared that same unwavering belief. And I had clear and specific goals that the business had to hit before I even considered leaving my job for it.
This isn’t the advice that everyone would give you. There are plenty of successful entrepreneurs that believe you need to give your idea and your passion 100%, and if it worked for them, I can see why they believe that. But if you’re like me, and the idea of financial insecurity makes you itch, and you’re not ready to make your entire family (or even yourself) step away from your stable income while you chase your dream, I’m here to tell you that’s okay, and I’m proof that it can work.
It’s okay to take it slow, to play it safe, to trade financial insecurity for proper rest.
It wasn’t the easiest time in my life, but I can’t see myself changing any of it, because every sleepless night and every greasy ponytail got me exactly where I am today.
I chose a direction, and I walked confidently toward it—even if my shoes didn’t always match.