3 lessons learned after launching our startup
Six months ago we had an idea. An idea that we first discussed over lots of wine very light-heartedly, and discussed similarly to the other conversations we have had in the past about previous ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and Silva and I have come up with our fair share, some of them more outlandish than others. One of us usually declares “startup idea!” while the other writes it down in the ever-growing list of ideas (some of our latest include a podcast named “Two Llamas” and our reinvention of the tumbler “the Mixy cup”). But this time the discussion led us thinking about the idea far after that dinner. Both of us, on our own, started researching online, looking at if someone else had done this idea, if there was any market data to show this was actually a sizeable problem with no real solution yet. And when we got together again, we decided there could be something here, and started doing some market research on our own…
Six months later, we talked to over 50 work-from-homers, a handful of Austin restaurateurs, signed three restaurants, gathered a waitlist of over 200 people, opened our doors, and made our first sale. It’s surreal to think that we’ve been tinkering away at this for the better part of this year, and now it’s reality. It never felt like work really, even when doing the most mundane tasks like setting up our LLC or setting up payroll. And the euphoria we experienced on that first day, seeing people come try us out, hearing them talk about why they were excited about our space, and having our first repeat customers – it was amazing. I'm still reveling in that feeling.
Reset opened last Monday at the beautiful Nightcap on West 6th in Clarksville. We’ve been planning for months, bought our supplies, set up our software, and even hired our first host, all before the opening. But of course, in true startup fashion there were things that we forgot to account for, or didn’t even know to know. Here are a few lessons and realizations we learned from our first week of launching that perhaps can help other entrepreneurs as they go along their journey:
Find a forgiving business partner
We chose to open with Christin at Nightcap for a bunch of reasons, mainly because 1) she’s awesome, 2) her restaurant is beautiful and 3) we trusted each other. That last reason was far more important than any other reason we found, especially since that trust allowed her space to be a forgiving one that allowed us to make mistakes and not stumble too badly during our first week. These moments included finding space to stow the items necessary for our business, operating in the space along with her restaurant staff, coordinating schedules with her cleaning crew, alarm codes, keys, parking, the list can go on and on. But Christin was lock step with us the whole time, helping us problem solve, finding us temporary solutions until we could dedicate time to figuring out something more permanent, and compromising on ways the restaurant was run before to allow us to try to make something of our startup. Our first week would’ve been way harder without her support and flexibility, and that is something we will never take for granted.
Continuously build trust with your co-founder
Amidst starting and now launching our own business, Silva and I kept our full-time jobs, have our own travel plans, have our own lives – and this is all possible because of the trust we have for each other. We knew that we would make great co-founders as we have very complimentary skills and that our different backgrounds allow us to bring ideas and solve problems from various perspectives. And we lucked out in the fact that we’re also great friends. What we didn’t fully realize was how important trust was to this whole process, and how it’s allowing this process to be less stressful (don’t get me wrong, it’s still stressful, but we’re not pulling our hair out yet). Even after all of this, there’s still trust to be built between us. We’ve done it through a clear delineation of responsibilities, a set of Trello boards that border on OCD, and comfort of being able to call each other out when necessary without feeling hurt. This allows us not to worry if the other will execute, to be able to depend on each other when life calls, and to not step on each other’s toes (at least not too much) – without this, our first week would’ve been WAY more stressful.
Always check the bathroom
We ran through opening day logistics in our head a thousand times, made checklists, operating manuals, and even acted it out. When opening day came, we found out shortly after start that we completely forgot to buy paper towels for the bathroom. We were operating on the assumption that bathrooms were usually always stocked, or that a cleaning crew took care of this. What we didn’t realize was that Nightcap uses handcloths that they launder instead of disposable towels, and that they don’t account for (nor should they) the added number of people we were bringing onto their premises during the hours they typically don’t work. Of course, with the ever-forgiving Christin, we were able to get by for the first day and added “paper towels” to our growing list of items we forgot that first day (like sugar and stirrers, woops). This may be a lesson specific to our startup, but in more broader terms -- you’re not going to think of everything before you start, so be prepared to think on the fly and be flexible when you first start.
At the end of the day, be easy on yourself and surround yourself with people who create a safe space to stumble. It’ll make this roller-coaster of a journey less harrowing and more enjoyable.