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DAY ONE – AUGUST 26TH, 2013

Erin Hopmann

What did you guys talk about today?
Mostly this project: how we want it to go, but mostly the fact that we’re unsure of what to expect. And we’re a bit nervous to put it all out there. And some customer service issues, all very minor.

What’s the plan?
Ah, how quickly it changes. Three months ago, the plan was to hire for identified positions following raising additional capital. And then, growth! Expansion! All the while, identifying alternative paths in case we weren’t able to take in capital (and also discussing the advantages and disadvantages to raising another round).

Now, a dwindling bank account before our eyes, we had to make some tough decisions and enact our contingency plan – basically cutting back staff and doing everything we could do to eliminate expenses.

The plan today, August 26, 2013, is… part Hail Mary, part “we can do this!” The “we can do this” involves trying our best to automate what we can, so that Dabble can continue in the background if we need to seek alternative sources of income for ourselves and are unsuccessful at bringing in additional capital in the short-term.

How do you feel about Dabble right now?
Jess and I have often said, “we’ve reached an inflection point with Dabble.” This time, though, feels like the inflection point of all inflection points. Why? Well, I think it’s because what’s entered the equation is a certain personal limit. Or at least dangerously approaching that limit. How long can I continue making very little to no money? How long can I feel ok with employing people at far less than they’re worth?

All this said, I also still have a lot of confidence in Dabble’s potential. If the last two years are any indication of where we can head, it’s reason enough to be optimistic.

How do you feel about this project?

“When start-ups stop being polite and start getting real.” The wisdom of Real World is what kept popping into my head when we first talked about doing this project. I’ve struggled a lot lately with all the different faces I feel the need to put on. I consider myself a pretty real, genuine person. And when you have your own business, without anyone to answer to (in theory), shouldn’t you feel more real than ever?

If only it were the case.

I’m not sure how these next 30 days will go. But instead of wishing for the proverbial crystal ball or having increasing anxiety over the future of Dabble, a cathartic exercise like this one we’re taking on will hopefully shed some light on what’s truly the right direction for us – personally and professionally.

“Entrepreneurs have struggled silently. There’s a sense that they can’t talk about it, that it’s a weakness.” This line, in last week’s much-shared Inc article, The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship, is precisely the reason we’re motivated to do 30 Days.

Additional Comments
Here goes nothin.’

DAY ONE – AUGUST 26TH, 2013

Jess Lybeck

What did you guys talk about today?
Erin & I talked mostly about this project. We were thinking too hard about everything and just realized we needed to start writing. It’s funny how we’re starting a project about honesty and we still end up thinking about how to “filter” how we word things (i.e. how will our investors react to the About page?). It’s still a bit scary to just expose our underbelly.

What’s the plan?
Our plan is to put everything we can into Dabble over the next 30 days. We’ve tried a lot of different things over the past few years – and we haven’t hit a sustainable business model that is good for our students, teachers AND gives us enough revenue to keep our lights on. It’s a tall order to make something happen in 30 days.

Since we weren’t able to raise additional funds, we need to shift gears towards some fun / free ways to get the word out as well as automating as much as we can (so we can operate well with 3 people). We thought about listing funny fake classes, showing up to classes in costume, setting up “singles” classes and some other publicity stunt type stuff. Erin & I plan to talk through an action plan tomorrow to just start executing on some of these things.

It’s tough though, how can these little efforts build into something sustainable? I bounce between feeling hopeful about some of the initiatives we’ve talked about and wondering if those things are really enough to make a difference. There’s only one way to find out.

How do you feel about Dabble right now?
I’m still optimistic about things – believe it or not. We’ve been on this edge between success and failure since the very beginning. Erin & I are sort of used to it by now. We’ve had a series of seemingly catastrophic things happen recently (having to let go employees, move out of our office) but we’re still going – and we’re still growing.

It makes me think that as long as we act for the best, hope for the best and work our asses off – things will be fine. They might look a lot different than we planned, but that’s just part of the ride.

How do you feel about this project?
Ask me tomorrow – I’m all over the place right now. I swing between thinking this project will be really helpful and thinking we’re crazy. All flavors of self doubt happening right now. Will people actually read this? Will they give a shit? Will it matter? I’m not very good at being vulnerable. My personal identity is so tied to Dabble, to entrepreneurship, to being strong. It’s scary to let go.

Additional Comments
Despite all the craziness, I’m still pretty happy right now. I found this book “The Dude & The Zen Master” a few months ago. It’s a spiritual book based off the main character in the Big Lebowski (it’s as awesome as it sounds). The main lesson is to just let go. Throw the fucking ball. The dude abides. Stop worrying about what you can’t control and just see what happens. I’ve changed my screen saver to a picture of the dude to remind me to smile, laugh and just live everyday. It helps not to take yourself too seriously.

 

We plan on answering different questions every day. Submit a question you’d like answered by emailing 30daysofhonesty@dabble.co.

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Photo by  Gabemac 

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55 responses to “Day One”

  1. Florence says:

    I love the idea of being totally open about where you are in business. You guys have done such a great job and I can truly say that Dabble is one of my businesses best friends. I want to do what I can to help you guys grow. Just let me know.

    Your favorite knitting and crochet instructor,

    Florence

  2. Tina says:

    Hang in there, guys! So many of us love Dabble, and see it as a really valuable service – my husband and I did a Dabble class on our first anniversary! We’re all behind you! You can do it!

  3. Erin says:

    Rooting for you guys in SF – this city is ripe, hoping there is some heavy hanging fruit swinging your way!

  4. Meredith says:

    I think this is really awesome. I forwarded it along to my husband who is facing similar questions about his start up.
    Love the honesty.

  5. Ilona says:

    Dear Erin and Jess

    First and foremost we love Dabble. We have benefitted on both fronts – as givers and takers of classes.

    Thank you so much for the honesty and courage of the behind the scenes look, Michelle and I (founders of Urban Threads Studio, NFP) are sharing the same exact fears, lack of income and second guessing daily (without the courage of open dialog) and feel that the dust on the new economy and renewed interest in local sourcing and authentic monetary exchange models has not settled. We may all be back at the cooperate desk but for now we are hoping for the best.

  6. Cherie says:

    I love Dabble and the concept of learning classes locally from passionate teachers. Being a small business owner does have its ups and downs but it’s important to realize one is never really in it alone. Wishing you both success and peace of mind.

  7. Tom says:

    I am, as ever, blown away by the sheer momentum that you two bring to the world. This is a phenomenal experience. Erin, already it’s “here goes something” not nothing. As a one-time entrepreneur, I identify with the feelings you’re going through. As for Dabble, I think (and continue to think) that experientially it’s brilliant. So there must be a way to fix the business model to sustain it better. So many things in the world are all revenue plan and no contribution to happiness. Dabble seems to be the opposite, for now.

    I will stick with you both over the 30 days, and try to help.

  8. Frank says:

    I really really hope you guys survive and thrive. I feel for you too Jess. I’m planning a wedding as well and it’s not easy to balance that with all of life’s other problems. As soon as the knot is tied, I plan to teach a couple classes for Dabble. So I’m crossing my fingers that you guys make it through to next year. Good luck

  9. Katherine says:

    I went through this with a business on a smaller scale and I know how tough it is to constantly beat your head trying to find a sustainable revenue model. Kudos to you both for having the courage to peel back the curtain and give an honest look into what it takes to grow a business like this. Know that you’re not alone, but you’re rare in having the guts to put it out there. I think it’s a great idea. And I love Dabble. I sincerely hope it will be successful. Please keep us informed on ways we can make that possible.

  10. Beth says:

    Jess,
    I am completely awed by this 30 day exercise you’re undertaking. I still clearly remember that first transition, when we were working together in the corporate world and you decided to venture out on your own. I admired your courage, abilities, and entrepreneurial spirit then (and still do). You may not realize it, but you have really inspired me! I recently started my second company, this time working with a phenomenal partner. Anyway, I’ll be following your 30 day journey, and hope that you and Erin find the clarity and direction you’re seeking. All the best-

  11. Maggie says:

    Wow, thank you for sharing such a trying time with us. I believe every small business owner has gone through this phase of their career, asking themselves “Is this worth it? Can I really do this?” Your willingness to share these thoughts, as well as to take a clear and honest look at your future is both brave and inspiring!

  12. I have so much respect for your 30 days.

    Oh, the ups and downs of startups…

    And those downs that we have all experienced…Facing failure is so very scary. The startup community says it embraces failure. Hearing people talk about that in the abstract and knowing that people will be there if it happens are two completely different things.

    The transparency through your process is impressive.

    I am an optimist and will continue to believe you can find a road to success with Dabble. If I can help, let me know. I will continue to read and follow your journey.

  13. Susanne says:

    I am both a teacher and a student at Dabble in Denver. I love your work and your concept and have heard a lot of people talking about your classes. You are building up a pretty incredible brand. I wish that your 30 day exercise and conversation will bring about some magic. I admire your openness. As a serial creative solo-preneur I have been riding these same waves of joy and anxiety for about 9 years, after giving up a well-paid career as an attorney. I am still grateful everyday for all the pieces. Every time I wanted to give up, stop, find a job etc, the perfect client or project showed up .. it is a cycle. Sometimes you need to support your business with everything you have and then some more .. and sometimes the business supports you.

  14. Elena Arrigo says:

    As a teacher and student on Dabble in Chicago, I LOVE DABBLE! Each time I have the opportunity to teach a full class I feel grateful to you both. You see I’ve tried this before without the support of a site like Dabble, and it didn’t work! Dabble opened the door for me to start teaching and reaching interested students, and now I am closer to starting my own business. You’ve given me a great opportunity by acting on your idea and it’s changed my life for the better. Please let me know know if there is anything I can do to help you make Dabble a success. Sincerely, Elena

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