6 Lessons from 6 months of running Lunch Pail Full-Time

Hey Lunch Pail Fam! Lola, here. I left my day job February 28, 2020 — weeks before the country would fully realize the extent of a global pandemic. As I write this, it’s September and has been a whole six months of working as an entrepreneur in this new reality. I remember being consumed with fear around the decision to leave my job but still having this deep belief that this was something I needed to do even if it failed miserably. In the spirit of celebration, reflection and being six months in the game, I wanted to pin down some thoughts.

But first, the back story.

I’ve always loved to build. As a kid, I had the most fun with math workbooks, and in school I loved the classes where I got solve problems or prototype. Following graduation, I worked for an industrial supply e-commerce company, which was not the mainstream choice among my peers at Dartmouth, but I’ve got nothing but respect for my time at that job. I learned a ton, was paid absurdly well (I made a whole 175k in 2019 🤯), got to manage people managers, and most importantly had ample time to explore my interests outside of work.

During my time at the company, I took on more product-related work in my day job, got involved in Atlanta’s startup ecosystem, and started attending a bunch of hackathons. Also during the time a close family member became ill, which became the fodder for the problem that my very first company would attempt to solve. I started side hustling on that idea for a year and saved a ton with the intent that I would be able to pursue building a business full-time one day which became reality in February of 2020. Here are the six notes I’d share with myself the day that I left.

Note #1: Trust yourself — No one needs to cosign

I’ve generally viewed myself as a self-assured and confident person but damn nothing to knock you down a few pegs than the brutal reactions of strangers on the internet. That and there’s a whole lot of noise when you’re starting something new, from articles to advisors and mentors to gurus. At times, I found it difficult to differentiate who’s advice I should be following.

Before I quit my job, I thought that there was a secret everyone else had that I would uncover if I just went to all the webinars/business programs/advisor sessions. I assumed that these other, more successful people would know what’s best for me and my businesses even if my gut disagreed. But, advice getting is full of all sorts of problems. And often the advice you give others is the advice you need to take.

Note #2: Burn The Boats

I had heard the saying previously but didn’t resonate with it until recently. The basic idea is that you leave no other option for yourself in context to something that you would like to achieve. It references , Captain Hernán Cortés who in 1519 landed in Veracruz to begin a conquest. Upon arriving, he reportedly gave an order to his men to burn the ships in which they arrived in. In essence, he gave them no other option but to succeed at the goal of conquering.

My first few months of being a full-time entrepreneur were about hedging my bets. I was optimizing for a plan z if plan a — y didn’t pan out. That’s a lot of energy, especially considering that 85% of what we worry about never happens. Our brains also like easy things, so it’s hard to go all-in on the difficult thing you’re trying to accomplish when you’re putting in energy for the soft landing in case it fails.

Note #3: Be Honest about the kind of business you want to build

I always secretly knew that I wasn’t attempting to build a venture scale business, but that didn’t stop me from participating in a whole lot of programs for companies that were. I thought the company that I was trying to build would at least be along the way to these more ambitious upstarts, so by surrounding myself with these unicorn shots I would at least set myself for my more modest goals, right? Wrong. What kind of business you’re ultimately trying to run colors so many of the decisions you’re going to make(highly recommend this strategy letter on ben and jerry’s vs. amazon, which gave me some clarity).

Also, surrounding myself with people who were focused on unicorns(when I secretly knew I didn’t want to) messed with my motivation. And as an entrepreneur, I’ve found to be very careful with the environment and the information I surround myself with. Even for people currently focused on measly lifestyle businesses, there are growing groups of capitalists, founders, and ecosystem partners that are here to support companies that aren’t trying to be unicorns. Zebras and horses are also wonderful animals (and they’re real 🙂). I think I initially joined the earlier groups because I was looking for community and support. The communities of other kinds of entrepreneurs are out there. I just needed to do some more looking.

Note #4 — Having a support system is more important than ever

I’ve found supportive communities of entrepreneurs at no code founders, Ifundwomen, Elpha, and The Lola. I’m deeply thankful for the organizations that held space for my rants and offered their journeys as support and inspiration.

In addition to systems of external support, I’ve found it helpful and wish I had invested earlier in internal support and care. It’s been paramount for having the energy and sanity to stay focused. Some regular practices I’ve developed are daily shine meditations, morning walks, and regular reviews of my values and guidelines I’d like to live by.

Note #5 — You won’t feel 100% ready 100% of the time. That’s okay, do it anyway.

90% of what I’ve experienced in these first few months have been a series of firsts. I’ve sometimes felt woefully incompetent but I’ve learned along the way. In fact, as will and Ryan of the startup therapy podcast mention in this episode, business is doing things you’ve never done.

Note #6 — Consistency and Progress are names of the game

I’m a big fan of systems, not goals; at the end of the day, we can’t always make outcomes happen (ie you can’t make someone buy from you, someone not churn, someone signup for your newsletter). I’ve learned to focus on the practices and actions that I’ll commit to every day. For me, those activities are actively shipping and building new things, writing consistently, practicing gratitude, and connecting with my community. I believe big things happen when we do the little things consistently.

Overall, these past 6 months have been a whirlwind, and have gone by fast. No matter where these next six entrepreneurial months take me, I’m proud to be in the arena. If you want to stay updated on what I’m working on, you can signup for my newsletter here or subscribe at Lunch Pail Labs.

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