I never planned on being an entrepreneur. That label always sounded far too lofty for me.
Entrepreneurs were guys in suits working everyone in the room. Entrepreneurs only got three hours of sleep a night because the rest of the time they were hustling. Entrepreneurs would look at someone like me and realize right away that I didn’t belong.
But that picture — my picture — has changed.
Women now make up 40 percent of new entrepreneurs in the United States. And startups these days don’t have to be about in-office kegs and sleeping at your desk.
In fact, in 2014 I was lucky enough to join Buffer, where we focus on transparency, gratitude and inclusivity. Here, I’m encouraged to take healthy risks, get out of my comfort zone and expect more from myself than even my teammates do.
As it turns out, that’s been just the recipe for entrepreneurship of my own.
Today, my social enterprise business Girls to the Moon is in year three of empowering girls age 10 to 14. We’ve had important conversations with them about consent, body image and sexuality. We’ve introduced girls to incredible women — everyone from astrophysicists to venture capitalists. And we created a membership program to help us grow beyond our city and impact more girls around the U.S.
And every step of the way, I’ve been amazed by how much my startup experience at Buffer has guided my entrepreneurial journey at Girls to the Moon. If you’re sitting on a side hustle idea and ready to pull the trigger, here are five big lessons I’ve learned so far that might help guide you from startup to scaleup and beyond.
1. Your values will guide your course.
Before Buffer, I couldn’t have imagined what a difference it makes to work at a company where values are more than some words on a wall. Instead, they’re a true testament to how teammates treat one another and make key decisions.
Our 10 core values have had a big impact on our trajectory and on my own life, so I knew my side business should find its own values early on, too.
After my first big Girls to the Moon event, my co-founders and I holed up in a Chattanooga loft to determine our values.
We followed a simple process of sticky note brainstorming, revision, editing and finalization. Here’s what we came up with:
Inclusivity: We seek out diversity and welcome all
Respect: We know our worth and speak positively about ourselves and others
Empathy: We challenge ourselves to see things from others’ point of view
Fearlessness: We encourage one another to take chances and healthy risks
Truth: We speak openly and honestly.
And being at Buffer has also shown me a great model for staying true to our values. When the rest of the Girls to the Moon team and I are faced with conflict or a challenging decision, we immediately go to our values for guidance.
2. Do the scary thing