I killed my startup… and then some crazy shit happened

Closing your business? You might be in for a wild ride.

Want to know what it feels like to kill your business?

 

You could describe it as a “rollercoaster.”

But it’s not just any ol’ rollercoaster. It’s like the x-Scream rollercoaster at the Las Vegas Stratosphere.

 

It’s a rollercoaster where you’re flung over the side of a 900ft building again and again and again.

You expect sudden death as you dangle over the edge. Then, suddenly the ride is over. And you’re still alive, but you’re not the same.

If you’ve ever considered closing down your company, this post is for you.

 

A few weeks ago… I was deeply depressed.

 

I wasn’t sleeping.

I was stress eating like a mo-fo.

Cortisol was ravaging my body, I had stage four adrenal fatigue, and I was carrying around so much guilt that it was physically exhausting.

After a year of operating in cockroach mode, I had just decided to close down my tech startup. I was scared.

 


I didn’t know what was coming next, but I was preparing myself for the worst…

 

I braced myself for disappointed investors, judgmental whispers, and angry calls from creditors that I couldn’t afford to pay.

I was ready to face the storm.

But then something surprising happened. In fact, the last month has brought one surprise after another.

 

Surprise #1: My investors became my biggest champions


We’d set a specific goal that we needed to hit by March for the company to survive.

We didn’t hit it.

I’d been transparent with my investors about our situation. So, they weren’t shocked when I called to tell them that we’d failed.

 


But their response to the news certainly shocked me.

 

They weren’t angry or frustrated or disappointed. Instead, they immediately turned their attention to my well-being.

“How was I?” They asked. “And how can I help?”

My lead investor took the news particularly well.

In fact, after a few questions and words of support, he encouraged me to apply for a job… with their investment firm.

Yup, he wanted to hire me.

And one of my angel investors called the firm to recommend that they consider me for the position. He called them the very same day that I’d broke the bad news. The very same day that I told him that his money was gone.

I was flabbergasted.

In the end, I didn’t get the investor gig. It came down to me and one other candidate who was a better fit for their new investment fund focus area — ocean tech. 

But I did learn an important lesson that day….

The Lesson:  

If you choose investors who believe in your mission and believe in you, they’ll have your back even if you fail.

 

In addition to getting oodles of loving support from my current investors, I also had three people contact me out of the blue to tell me they’d invest in my NEXT startup.

How wild is that?

But the surprises didn’t stop there…

 

Surprise #2: I was given a free vacation… seriously


For context, you should know closing my startup meant facing another harsh reality.

For three years I’d invested everything I had in the business — all my time, energy and money. All of it.

From the outside, I know startups look glamourous… I was flying all over the world, winning awards, and getting press attention from Forbes and Inc.

But the reality was that I’d bootstrapped the business for the first year, lived on next to no salary, and racked up a ton of debt in the process.

 


Walking away from the business meant that I’d have to go personally bankrupt.

 

Suffice it to say… going on a vacation is pretty much the last thing I was thinking about as the company was circling the drain.

Besides, even if I wanted to take a vacation, I certainly couldn’t afford one.

I didn’t have time to lick my wounds or cry into my mojitos.

I needed money.

Which meant I needed to start working… immediately.

Then something astonishing happened…

 


Three anonymous donors from the startup community got together and decided to gift me with a free vacation!!!

 

Can you believe it?

I couldn’t.

I still can’t.

These incredibly generous human beings gifted me with the one thing I reeeeally needed, but wouldn’t give myself… a break.

I blubbered like an infant when my friends at Volta told me the news.

See that adorable little pineapple below? Well, that’s actually a drink holder.

Sooooooon… @mennamennadoodoodoodoodoo @voltaeffect #vacation #bosslife #startuplife

A post shared by Katelyn Bourgoin 👓 (@katebourgoin) on

It was a gift from Volta — a gift for me to take on my free vacation to the Dominican Republic next week!

Here’s a picture of where we’re going…

I’m still absolutely gobsmacked. This is amazing, right!?

Now I can’t promise that you’ll get a free vacation if you choose to close your company. But I can tell you this…

The Lesson:  

Entrepreneurship is fucking hard. Surround yourself with people who will take care of you when you’re too tired (or too stubborn) to care for yourself.

 

I am so grateful for my startup family. I know I would never have made it this far without their support.

When I get back from the beach — and I’m all tanned and relaxed — I have a plan for how I can pay-it-forward!

Stay tuned for details… 😉

 

Surprise #3: I fell in love with baking


One of the unexpected upsides of putting a bullet in your startup is that suddenly you have A LOT more time on your hands.

Now don’t get me wrong…

I’m still doing heaps of consulting work and have been busy wrapping up the business, but I promised myself that I’d slow down for awhile.

My version of “slow” is only working 40-50hrs a week (about half of what I was used to for the last 3 years).

 


So I asked myself… “What would I do with all my newfound time?”

 

I could learn a new language.

Or take up knitting.

Or play video games.

Or go hiking.

Or, I could start a crazy new diet and commit to losing every last pound of my “startup-baby weight” in under a month so I could wriggle into my bikini for my fast-approaching down south vacation.

Which one do you think I chose? Haha. You guessed it! I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.

I had a few friends who were raving about the keto diet, so I decided to give it a try.

Keto is a low-carb diet, meaning I’d need to give up bread — my favourite food group. So, you can imagine my delight when I was scrolling through keto recipes on Pinterest and found a few keto-friendly bread recipes.

That’s when I realized… I LOVE BAKING!

 

Low carb bread! #flourless #almondflour #eatfats #keto #yum

A post shared by Katelyn Bourgoin 👓 (@katebourgoin) on

I started the diet about 3 weeks ago and I’ve already lost 6 pounds!

The Lesson:

Startup stress can make you want to eat your weight in cheeseburgers. I know it’s hard, but try to resist the urge to eat your feelings.

 

I gained 20 pounds since starting my company 3 years ago, which sucks.

But I’ve also gained a helluva lot of wisdom and a wicked-awesome community of people who have my back, so in the end it was worth it.

Which brings me to the final surprise….

 

Surprise #4: I was offered 5 dream jobs… and I turned them all down

 

I had no idea what I was going to do when I closed my company.

I figured I’d find some general consulting work for the short-term and then think about my next move.

Getting consulting work has been easy enough because I’ve built an amazing network of great entrepreneurs who were keen for help.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that there are some amazing grant programs in Nova Scotia that allowed them to hire me free-of-charge 😉

Getting short-term work wasn’t a problem, but I definitely didn’t anticipate having six other amazing job opportunities fall in my lap.

I was offered:

  • 3 x Senior Marketer roles with tech startups
  • 1 x Marketing Manager role with a publicly traded tech company
  • 1 x VP of Marketing role with an advertising agency

These are fantastic jobs with fast-growing companies and killer teams that I respect the shit out of.

I was humbled by each offer.

I was insanely grateful.

And I also learned something important about myself…

 


I think I may just be unemployable.

 

I’m not “unemployable” in the sense that I can’t get a job. But, unemployable because I’m not sure I really want to. Here’s why…

I’ve already built my own tech startup.

I’ve already run my own branding and consulting agencies.

Maybe I’m crazy, but joining another startup or consulting agency as an employee kinda feels like a step backward.

I am hungry for a new challenge. Something that forces me outside my comfort zone and will allow me to grow.

After 8 years of entrepreneurship across the marketing, tech and restaurant sectors, I feel like I’m crazy enough to try anything I set my mind to.

For me, the question isn’t what CAN I do? The question is really what do I WANT to do.

I know what kind of work I love doing (and what I hate doing). And I’ve learned 1,000 things that I should never do again.

I am hungry for a brand new challenge. But this time I’m going to do things differently.

The Lesson:

Rather than focusing on the business you want to build, focus on the life you want to build and work backward.

 

Since closing my company everyone keeps asking me the same question…

“What’s next?”

And the truth is… I don’t know.

I have about 6 ideas that I’m chewing on, but I’m in no rush to pick one. I spent the last 3 years moving lightning fast. I spent the last 3 years putting my business first and my happiness second.

I don’t want to do that again. This time I am going to design the life I want first and then design a business fits that dream.

 


I’m going to take my time, explore multiple business ideas, and document the whole experience to share it with you.

 

If you want to learn how to design a business that complements your life (instead of the other way around), subscribe here!

And if you’re looking for help with your marketing or growth strategy, hit me up 🙂

P.S. I’m working a lot from home these days, which I’m loving. Mostly because I get to sit across from a total hottie…

Working from my new and improved home office. My coworker is #hot.

A post shared by Katelyn Bourgoin 👓 (@katebourgoin) on

I know that “an option to work remotely” will be on my must-have list for the new business.

Want to see what else made the “must-have” list? Check it out

28 Comments
  • Brian Best
    Posted at 08:30h, 26 April Reply

    Good on you Katelyn, went through similar things when my start up went under. Always great to have good investors, even better when those investors are just great people too.

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 08:42h, 26 April Reply

      You are so right, Brian! I was so blessed to have incredible investors — amazing people who helped me through an extremely difficult time. We’re so lucky, aren’t we?? 🙂

  • Nancy Rogers
    Posted at 09:20h, 26 April Reply

    My Dear you wrote : “Rather than focusing on the business you want to build, focus on the life you want to build and “work backward”.
    Well just this morning I was listen to CBC’s Information Morning radio show (Young Halifax filmmaker gets big break with Einstein) according to the filmmaker on the topic of Einstein, in the interview he suggests , this perspective of ”working backwards” is how Einstein thought… not bad “likeminded” company to find yourself in! Don’t change a thing and continue to blaze forward! You are a super star!!!!!

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 09:30h, 26 April Reply

      Awww shucks. Thanks, Mom!

      • Nancy Rogers
        Posted at 11:58h, 26 April Reply

        Ya I should have done the full disclosure thing (AKA Mom…) but if anyone can compare you to Einstein (cause yes you are are frek’en brilliant!!!) I believe your Mom.’s can….call in artistic license…lol xo

  • Andrew Button
    Posted at 11:27h, 26 April Reply

    Thanks for having the courage to share your story and your experience Katelyn! SO many aspiring Entrepreneurs need to read this… will be sharing for sure! All the best…. and enjoy that vacation!

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 11:36h, 26 April Reply

      Thank you, Andrew! It’s been one helluva journey. If sharing my story helps even one other entrepreneur, I’ll be happy <3

  • Paul Farmer
    Posted at 16:04h, 26 April Reply

    Good luck in your next role/adventure Katelyn.
    You are bang on about the importance of building a great network.
    You are a high energy gal, so I am looking forward to seeing what crazy things you get involved with in the next few years.
    It was a pleasure getting to spend time with you at “Volta 1.0 & 2.0”!

    Enjoy the sun.

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 08:15h, 27 April Reply

      It’s been a wild adventure hasn’t it, Paul? Who knows. Maybe we’ll get to work together again at Volta 3.0, haha! Life is full of surprises 🙂

  • Hawk Gudjonsson
    Posted at 02:51h, 27 April Reply

    Thanks so much Katelyn, I really enjoyed what you wrote as I went through almost exactly the same things as you when I killed my business.

    Just be careful now because you’re used to the extremes and anything that you do next will be influenced by those extremes, wether it’s baking or exercising. So if you enjoy baking just do it because you enjoy it and not to become the best baker in the world, when I was in your position I started an extreme diet program where I lost 10kg (22lbs) in four weeks. At the same time I had started 2 pretty big real estate deals and was determent to prove to myself that I wasn’t a failure. I had become accustomed to doing things full throttle and it was difficult to change that. Eventually my extremes following my failure made the whole thing so much harder on me and it all ended terrible. So my advice would be to breath, relax and take some time to find yourself before you commit your whole soul again into a venture.

    P.S. You’re awesome as always, keep up the blogging and good luck 🙂

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 08:14h, 27 April Reply

      This is such fantastic advice, Hawk! I am definitely used to the “extremes” so I will remind myself to slow down and avoid taking too much risk again too fast. I’m excited to follow your journey too as you come back to finding more balance. Living a “normal” life really is a big change, isn’t it? Hahah. Miss you!

  • Linda Wentzel
    Posted at 04:24h, 27 April Reply

    Katelyn: I have followed and admired you since your mother started sharing your posts with me. Having read the comments above, I know you are getting some great feedback from others, but your mother nailed it. Starting with yourself and YOUR life while give you the best path. I just recently closed my own business after examining my life and am amazed that I was able to move forward with a sense of peace. I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed, but I know I did the right thing and now that Nancy has pointed out that’s how Einstein thought it brings a smile to my face! I wish you all the best in your future endeavours and I know I will continue to hear more fascinating stories about you from your mother. Enjoy your well deserved vacation.

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 08:19h, 27 April Reply

      Thank you for sharing your experience too, Linda! We entrepreneurs know how tough it can be and I am so glad to hear that you’ve found peace in the process. We Einstein-types need to stick together 😉

  • Nicki Morris
    Posted at 06:13h, 27 April Reply

    Awesome post Katelyn! Love your journey and I am honoured to have been able to be involved in part of it. The stories, learnings, sleepless nights, celebrations, etc. will all be worth it as you continue on your path.

    Enjoy your VERY WELL DESERVED vacation!

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 08:20h, 27 April Reply

      Thank you, Nicki!! Thank you for coming along for this wild ride and for everything you did to help make the vision a reality. You are awesome!!

  • Stefanie MacDonald
    Posted at 06:32h, 27 April Reply

    Hi!
    You are amazing. And This website is amazing. And I am LOVING this K-BO brand. And thank you for sharing your honesty. And you’re my hero.

    Love Stefanie

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 08:21h, 27 April Reply

      OMG! I absolutely adore that compliment — especially coming from a branding pro like you! We definitely need to get together soon to talk world domination plans! I love watching you take the retail world by storm 🙂

  • Krista Butler
    Posted at 07:08h, 27 April Reply

    Ok so I am literally in tears from this article… oh my god to the people who came together to give you this trip. that is so so amazing! and also, reading your Mom’s comment is just the sweetest 🙂 and “Rather than focusing on the business you want to build, focus on the life you want to build and work backward.” Fuck Yes. xox

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 08:23h, 27 April Reply

      I literally cried for 10 minutes straight and couldn’t speak when they told me about the vacation. We have the most incredible community here!! Just amazing. Miss you and hope all is well!!

  • Sarah Hart
    Posted at 08:17h, 27 April Reply

    I feel soooo inspired reading this!! 😊😊 omg Katelyn you are amazing 💗 Im so excited for your vacay!!! You deserve all this and more! Sending you so much love 🙌

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 08:24h, 27 April Reply

      Thank you!! I love following your adventures in Bali, but can’t wait until you get home and we can hit the patios and talk business. xox

  • Phil MacNevin
    Posted at 11:54h, 27 April Reply

    Awesome post Katelyn! Mad respect for you.

    You are on to more great things, I can tell. Keep in touch!!

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 04:48h, 28 April Reply

      Thank you, Phil! I hope you’re right 😉

  • Kaela Goodman
    Posted at 13:01h, 27 April Reply

    You, my friend, are absolutely stunning. Your creativity, passion and outlook are so inspiring and while I haven’t participated in your endeavours as much as I’d like to, it’s been a pleasure following your journey. I hope you have the most amazing vacation, because I’m pretty sure you haven’t stopped moving since our days of PR school, and you’ve definitely earned the break!!!

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 04:50h, 28 April Reply

      Come to think of it, I may not have stopped since PR school. Haha. Thank you, Kaela! Cheers to the next adventure!!

  • Kacy DeLong
    Posted at 14:42h, 27 April Reply

    You’ve got this! You’ve got this all the way. Of course people would continue to have your back; you’re the best kind of entrepreneur. You collaborate freely and give of your knowledge. But you’re totally right, it’s hard to imagine that people will stick around when the going gets tough. I’m so happy to hear how it’s playing out. I’d been thinking about you. <3

    • Katelyn
      Posted at 04:51h, 28 April Reply

      Awwwww. Thank you, Kacy! All I can say is that I am incredibly grateful for the community of entrepreneurs I’ve built. Present company included 😉

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