If I had to summarize 2018 in one word, it would be gratitude. This time last year, FFA was little more than a Facebook group that met in person every so often. I was focused on Venture Kits for the holiday season, but slowly coming to the realization that my company and my passion project could not coexist – that without really focusing on either one, both would wither and die.
After months of managing FFA as a side project, starting January 1st, 2018 I decided to devote myself to it full time. And even though I had a sense back then that FFA was something special, in my wildest dreams I never imagined we would be where we are today, less than a year later.
None of it has been easy, obvious, or glamorous. The challenges are unlike any I ever experienced in my 20 year career. Navigating the tension between our mission to accelerate female founder success, and our need for revenue so our work can be sustainable. Facing enough rejection, passive-aggressiveness, criticism, and entitlement to last a normal person’s lifetime. Making excruciatingly hard decisions – and worse, avoiding hard decisions and suffering the consequences. Staying focused despite a thousand opportunities. Learning to say no even though it’s against my nature. Standing up for what is right even though I hate confrontation. Feeling an incredible loneliness despite being surrounded by the most incredible people.
And then there came the pregnancy. On August 21st I found out I was pregnant with my second child. The reason I remember that date is because it was the night before we kicked off Ready Set Raise. The weeks and months that have followed have been among the hardest of my life.
Despite these challenges, our accomplishments in 2018 were undeniable. We tripled the size of our community and went from a local Seattle group to welcoming founders from across the country. We launched an innovative and highly selective accelerator, a huge success the first time around. We facilitated thousands of exposure opportunities and introductions to investors and other influentials for female founders. We partnered with world class investors, secured a major partnership with our friends at Trilogy Equity Partners, and brought in sponsorships from huge regional and national brands like Bank of America, Project W/Davis Wright Tremaine, Seattle Bank and more. Our work was recognized by a dream list of media publications like Fast Company, Techcrunch, the Wall Street Journal, Geekwire and even Elle Magazine (in print). I was honored with a Puget Sound Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award, selected as Seattle Business Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2018, and featured in Forbes Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women from Central America & Caribbean (also in print). Recognitions that, just to be clear, feel absolutely nuts.
All of this was achieved by a tiny, bootstrapped team of volunteers, advisors and contractors and one very exhausted Chief Everything Officer. Our marketing budget is near zero (basically, it’s Wix and Mailchimp), so we focus obsessively on being original, we stay true to our mission, and we prioritize results over attention. I still screw up all the time – but our growth is 100% organic and our community 100% grassroots. And even after all this, we are barely getting started. Put differently, FFA is a living, breathing little engine that could. A little engine that is fueled by gratitude.
As the year comes to a close, that’s the one thing I want to say to you: thank you. Thank you for letting us into your lives. Thank you for coming to our events. Thank you for being my shoulder to cry on. Thank you for applying to and participating in an accelerator nobody had ever heard about before. Thank you for championing each other. Thank you for pouring your heart out in a fireside chat. Thank you for watching my daughter when I had no childcare. Thank you for giving me feedback even when it was harsh. Thank you for sponsoring, partnering, investing, and otherwise helping us succeed. Thank you for forgiving my mistakes. Thank you for celebrating our successes. Thank you for being a part of FFA, for fueling our little engine that could. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
My warmest wishes to you and your loved ones this holiday season. Here’s to 2019.