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How the first month of an accelerator program is just like having your first baby

by Yasmin Grigaliunas, World's Biggest Garage Sale

You may have read recently about the RCL Accelerator BNE4 program, where our World’s Biggest Garage Sale startup/scale-up was announced as one of the teams in the BNE4 cohort.

We’re now 1 month in and I find myself likening the experience to be exactly like the first month of being a new mother. Let me explain…..

Giving Birth

All new mothers have a ‘birth story’ to share. Mine is fairly short and simple. I was ‘booked in’ to have a caesarian on 15/06/06 and had planned to work right up to the day. Our little one inside had other ideas!! While at a conference at the Brisbane Hilton just 8 days prior, I had a little cramping and it was recommended I head over to the hospital as a precaution…..only to find out that I was 6cm dilated. Before I knew it, I was taken to theatre and in less than an hour our first Little Miss was born via C-Section.

Ironically, the timing of considering an accelerator happened over a period of 9 months and the ‘birth’ of the World’s Biggest Garage Sale entering the RCL Accelerator #BNE4 program happened much like my daughter arriving a little unexpectedly. Every month we got a little bigger and bigger, before eventually getting to the point where we needed to get uncomfortable and ‘give birth’ in order for our startup to scale-up and grow. The initial RCL Acceleratorbootcamp was just like being in theatre, with a whole group of people poking, prodding, asking questions and trying to make me comfortable (and some not so comfortable) in a first time experience. After being operated on by a team of highly trained professionals with precision, the birth of our entry into the RCL Accelerator #BNE4 program happened. Just like that, we were new ‘parents’ to a scale-up.

Hospital Stay

As a first-time mother, I remember my hospital stay vividly, because it was an extreme customer experience. I still don’t know how it happened, but after the first night on the ward, I was moved to the ‘master suite’. It was quite luxurious actually, with a queen bed, ensuite and spacious room. My husband stayed the whole time too, which was a real treat. Nursing staff were on hand for mentoring, questions, guidance and support, happily at our beck and call. As new parents, we were very low maintenance and the 5 days in hospital were more like a holiday than recovery!!

Our first few days of the #BNE4 program were just as memorable. We were taken to Reflections — Lake Cooby, an incredibly beautiful location, staying in tents that included full privacy, beds with innerspring mattresses, power, heating and even electric blankets!! It was glamping to the extreme! We ate chef prepared meals and had mentors and experts on site to help us navigate the first few days as accelerator ‘parents’. We spent the first few days learning the ropes and even climbing ropes. It was an extreme customer experience from both the RCL Accelerator team and Reflections — Lake Cooby. Prior to going away, we didn’t know much about the program or the other accelerator teams. By the end of the trip, we felt like we’d just been on holiday with close friends.

Sleepless Nights

When I first became a mother, sleep was irregular. I remember expecting it and being OK with the fact that I wasn’t going to have long stretches of sleep. On reflection, I feel like expecting this meant that I was never really bothered by the irregularity of having a new baby being at home. It was a simple approach…..If she woke, I would feed her. If she slept, I would sleep. I never thought about the sleep I wasn’t getting, instead taking a positive approach of being grateful and appreciative of any regularity that came from patterns as they emerged. Our daughter was a dream child, sleeping in 3–4 hour blocks before waking for a feed. So just like clockwork, we went with the flow and rolled with the patterns.

Being in the accelerator brings back memories of the first month of having a new baby at home. Once again, I’ve taken the approach of not putting any expectations on the first month. Sleep is irregular and I’m taking an open minded approach to patterns. Some nights my mind is buzzing and regardless of what I do, I just can’t get myself to sleep. So I read, I plan, I reflect and I work, but it doesn’t feel like work. It feels more like I’m tending to and caring for a new baby, with all the excitement of enjoying the little things. My usual nightly sleep pattern sits most comfortably around 5–6 hours, but since being in the accelerator, I am finding that my body is waking every 3 hours and I’m finding it challenging to get back to sleep without ‘feeding the baby’. I’m confident everything will regulate as weeks continue to pass, but right now, I’m listening to my body and letting new patterns emerge.

Advice & Opinions

For the parents out there, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that having your first baby means an overload of thoughts, advice, opinions and shared experiences from friends, family and even strangers!! Oh the memories come flowing back. Breast or bottle? Cry or cuddle? Cot or bassinet? Own room or your room? Disposable or cloth? How much sleep? Which brand? How many? What time? It’s endless and sometimes painful!!! Literally EVERYONE has advice about what to do with your new baby. It’s not a bad thing, but it can be exhausting to consider conflicting advice and opinions, especially when it comes from such credible and experienced sources.

The first month of the RCL Accelerator means being constantly surrounded by others who have ‘done it’ before — translating to everyone having knowledge, advice, experiences and something valuable to share.

"It’s exactly like being a parent for the first time again!!"
 

Mentors with proven success share their thoughts, advice and tips, and naturally you want to take it all on board…..BUT then more mentors with just as much (sometimes even more) success, have differing advice completely contradicting what you just heard from someone else. I’ve learnt that it’s a ‘thing’ in the startup ecosystem, commonly referred to as mentor whiplash.This whiplash is helping build muscle around processing data and feedback, which is what I’ve discovered our ongoing mentoring is really all about.

Then comes the fun part….

Make a decision!!
 

Procrastination can be a killer to scaling up, so I’ve learnt to critically think about the advice, make a decision, then let it roll. Mistakes will be made, but failing fast and being OK about it is all a part of the journey.

Boot-strapping

When you become a new parent, it’s fairly normal to tighten up the budget to make the funds go as far as possible. There’s always an array of new things to buy for the baby, which means cutting down your discretionary spending. Eating out slows down, then you begin making double or even triple batches of meals to stretch out leftovers for as many days/nights as possible. I remember sometimes forgetting to eat lunch and inhaling anything quick and easy from the pantry. Baked beans became a delicacy, and Vegemite on toast was considered an all-round meal as a first time parent.

Welcome to scale-up land! Where balancing ‘wants vs. needs’ is no longer about what you want, but about what the business needs. More than ever, you scrutinise spending, with a view to maximise value and impact during the early stages. Just like having a new baby, it’s important to take care of yourself, but there’s naturally an element to putting your needs second to the needs of your scale-up. Leaving the safety of employment also means leaving the executive salary, the perks, the comforts of corporate life and the support teams at all levels in the established company. With minimal financial resources, you begin to be more conscious of cashflow, not just in your own life, but in the life of your company.

Making the decision!!

It’s no secret that we spent quite some time pondering whether it was the ‘right time’ to have children. As DINKS nearing our 30’s, life was fantastic. We were married for over 8 years, had travelled regularly (for work and pleasure) and with no real major commitments, we could make decisions quickly and were aligned with goals and aspirations for the future. BUT….we knew that if we didn’t start our family soon, then we would probably never have children. So without too much procrastination, we made the decision and took the plunge. 1 month later we were expecting!!

 

Starting the RCL Accelerator evoked exactly the same emotions as deciding to start our family. Do we step into the ‘unknown’ and give up our current patterns in life? Can we afford it? What does the future look like? Are we ready? Do we know what to do? In the end, we knew that if we didn’t start to scale-up our company with the support of an accelerator program, we could be at risk of losing the opportunity to make widespread impact beyond what we had achieved in our Brisbane backyard. Brisbane is an incredible community. So without too much procrastination, we made a decision and took the plunge.

"If you think about it for too long, you may never make the decision to do it."

The past 30 days have been incredible. I have learnt more in a single month than I remember learning in the same period since becoming a first time parent. This new ‘baby’ is demanding my time, my love, my energy and my devotion and I wouldn’t have it any other way!! Now I’d better go and feed her so she can grow!!

The best is yet to come!!

Thanks to Emma McCourt.

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