Time spent: 16 months, 2 weeks.
Time to launch: 4 months?
$ Invested: 460K
When are we launching?
It was July. November. February. March. But really, how long is a piece of string?
Of the many fucked up things social has done to us, the one I think I notice most is how it’s distorted our expectations. And while expectations can be great and inspiring and motivating — we need reasons to do things — they can also be crippling if you become attached to the outcome.
It’s why I feel quite strongly (negatively) about social media ‘support’ groups, and ‘public figure’ pages. I believe they do the opposite of what they set out to do; they gloss over the grit, increase unrealistic expectations, and further segregate us from reality. Rather than debunk the myth of the founder, they feed it: I’ve got a disruptive idea, I’m a CEO, I’ve got my own online store, I’m working from Bali, work/life balance is important. (As a sidebar, I’m particularly suspicious of these aimed at women. I think they alienate us unnecessarily.)
Perhaps our focus could instead shift to finding contentment in whatever we do, be that working for or running a company of 10, 25, 100 or more staff, or embarking on a side project and owning it for exactly what it is. Surely this is far more liberating than any calligraphy script Instagram post could ever make one dream, believe, achieve.
Success takes time. Success consists of failure. Success is about collaboration, not segregation. Success isn’t overnight or fun or even fulfilling — at the best of times. I think this is what we should be sharing too. Our disappointments, and our frustrations. This, for me, is support.
Right now, I’m limping.
It’s reasonable to say that every fortnight I have some form of outburst about where Fluff is at. We’ve spent over a year working on this, and while everything is so close, everything still feels so far away. Right now, the only finished product I have is about 50 rolls of packing tape. Some days this thought makes me cry. Most days it makes me laugh.
What all this extra time is teaching me however, is perspective. And the positive tension between patience and persistence.
We closed our seed round with less than expected, but with enough.
We’re in our office and showroom and while I expected it to be perfect, I’m still staring at half empty spaces and cords and stuff everywhere. But we’re here, and it’s great.
I expected we’d be selling product already and yet we’re still finalising our formulations and packaging options, but what this does mean is that when they do arrive, they’ll be better than we ever thought possible.
I expected everything would feel right with my business partner this time and it hasn’t. It’s been harder than either of us imagined. But I know we can talk and be honest with each other, and that ultimately, we want the same thing for Fluff. This is the best work we’ve done, yet. And the most important.
I expected people would care like I do. They don’t. I expected people would be the same IRL as they are on social media. I don’t know why; they hardly ever are. I expected that people would take a leap of faith with our idea, something that wasn’t already a trend. I expected that people would have an opinion and support the unknown. But I’m learning from all of this, and all of this only makes me work harder.
Most people think that the important thing about starting a company is just starting. Having something ‘out there’ in the world.
Starting a business has become this achievable-for-anybody-lifestyle-choice thing. Which it’s not. We read Tim Ferris and think about passive income streams and imagine a life where we don’t have to do the shit work our boss asks us to do. Which is ridiculous as soon as you think about it: shit work is part of any business. And if it’s your business, it’s your problem.
In pursuit of this lifestyle goal, we take advice about ‘failing fast’ and ‘getting something to market.’ We cut corners and do things we don’t fully understand — not in order to learn, but in order to get a business happening.
Not many of us view having something ‘out there’ — iterating, getting to market, failing fast — as a step on the path to making something great. Yes, it’s a way of getting revenue through the door to mitigate your burn rate; it’s about getting some consumer feedback before overcommitting your capital; it’s about getting to market sooner so you can begin a conversation with your audience — but this is only worthwhile if you’ve got a goal that’s bigger than any one product you sell (or, your first attempt at that one product.) It’s a means, not an end. And it’s meaningless if there isn’t a purpose beyond a personal lifestyle choice.
“There’s 2 kinds of growth, one where you grow stronger and one where you grow fat.” Read this.
When it comes down to it, so many people aren’t motivated by the thing they are making. They’re motivated by the status and the money they’ll get from making the thing successful. And so they use these methods, and inspo-quote these insights, without understanding the reason for them. And then they don’t understand why they fail.
“Efficiency is a goal, quality is the goal.” Read this too.
Our focus at Fluff is building a strong company that is around for a long time. Not just for the good times. But I personally believe this is the only payoff. And the only way I know this can be achieved is by “Focus[ing] on what we can control.” Currently, there is so much out of our control — and, save me jumping on a plane to Italy and sitting on the production line — we’re doing everything we can to launch this brand within our forecasted timeline.
All I have to rely on in these times of frustration when I’m deciding whether to just get something out there, or wait until it’s right, is a goal bigger than my product or the success metrics I can share on social. With this in mind, I can remind myself to enjoy the process.
Barry Schwartz says the secret to happiness is low expectations. And I find that funny. Because it’s true. But because it’s absurd too. Because if you don’t have high expectations of yourself, and of what you’re putting out there in the world — if you don’t believe in what you’re doing when nobody’s looking, or listening, or following, or liking — what’s the point?
Just don’t get too attached.
Right now this business is:
Talking to makeup artists
Fitting out a shop
Going on holiday