Leaving Austin Was a Good Thing For This Entrepreneur

I never thought I would leave Austin.  If I did leave it was going to be kicking and screaming… and yes, that was pretty much the way I left.   An unexpected, hairy split from my ex shot me out of a cannon and landed me out in the hill country.

When the change of locations happened,  I was a part time entrepreneur and full time caregiver.  I had a business working with clients to create detailed plans for families if they encounter a crisis such as illness or death.   I work through financial, legal and logistical details to help them create their plans.  www.survivorshipnow.com

In the Austin start-up world, if you had a service business, the common question was, “How are you going to scale it?”  I had a lot of interest from some medical centers, benefits providers and individuals looking for leadership in this area so a new online, scalable model seemed to give me a new path to meet the need.

Like most budding entrepreneurs, I had joined a co-working business accelerator in Austin.   There I learned about lean start-ups, how to pitch for funding and programming stacks.  In this environment, I met and hired team members to help me run this train down the “scale and sale” track.  After all, that is the direction I was told I had to go to succeed.

I was working with my small team to launch my online planning product.    We were working hard on our MVP (minimal viable product for those of you not in this startup world) and started with some pretty cool online webinars where I was teaching people how to get ready for the chaos of illness and death.  I was hot on developing this new model because that is the way you scale.

When my personal life shattered, I quickly moved and tried to collect the flying pieces and reassemble them the same way I had them in Austin.   It didn’t work well for life in the Texas Hill Country. The next couple of years I found myself trying to catch my breath of a new normal life. I had very few cases coming my way but in reality, I needed the time to heal from the chaos.

Here I was running a “newly-launched” online planning service from the little office of my new home in a small retirement town. My stellar marketing director was leading me through “speak to sell” process, how to do online webinars, how to create lead pages and maintain great messaging for the business.

Then came even more changes.  My marketing director relocated back to Australia. Then my lead developer died suddenly of stage four colon cancer.  My online business died with him.   I had about 80 customers on the MVP system and his backup team was of zero help in migrating my system to new servers.  I personally called every single one of my users and explained they needed to print everything out because I was having to take the system down.   Fortunately, I had developed a good rapport with my users so most of them wanted to come back when the new system was rebuilt.

Let me tell you that my new home in the small retirement town is an arid desert for entrepreneurs building an online product.   I spent the next 2 years still trying to get on the “scale and sale” track again and it was full of futile trips to Austin and San Antonio to find qualified, affordable developers.   I tried out 3 teams and fired them all.    Their process and deliverables were not as promised and I had no wiggle room for their errors.

So, here I was with a broken tech based business model living in a retirement town where there aren’t a lot of people who speak the same language.    “Scale and sale” from my new digs was a dismal possibility.    Development and talent were in the cities and it had become cost prohibitive to execute my plan.

I had never met a situation I could not match with some type of solution, but my financial situation weighed like 10,000 pound weight on my shoulders.   I was on the brink of shutting down my business and dumping over 15 years of experience into the trash.    To add insult to the situation, being over 50 and going back into the job force was another high hurdle no matter what technical skills and experience you have.    My rather menopausal shape and sagging neck did not scream “qualified candidate” for the positions I knew I could easily fill.

My-oh-my what to do.   My long dog walks were filled with podcasts.   I stumbled across The Goaldigger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher.    The lightbulb went on.   Here was an individual with a very human experience of losing something very important, starting a service business and growing her brand into a million dollar business without having to follow the “scale and sale” model.

Then I revisited one my standard business podcasts I hadn’t heard in awhile –  Entrepreneurs on Fire with John Lee Dumas.   Again, another success story of a guy who made a personal platform work for him without the usual goal of scaling it to sell it off.   He provided value on a consistent basis and tells you how to do it step-by-step.    These two podcasts were free information and a good boost to step up the ladder and take a look around a new horizon dotted with possibilities.

I coupled these podcasts with my usual Tim Ferris podcast and my north star started coming into view.    Not only did I have very unique skills and experience, the tools are now readily available to small businesses following a very different model.

As I was going through this very personal struggle, there just happened to be a lot of data breaches in the news.    The Equifax data breach came just days after firing my third development team.   That is when I finally HEARD my clients. My top clients voiced to me they wanted nothing to do with having their very personal planning information online.    They wanted the plan and the education.   That was important to them.       So, the manual, off-line process was fine with them.    LIGHTBULB MOMENT!

The Austin way of life has a tunnel-vision of its own.   It’s fast, high-energy way of life is filled with infinite possibilities of sexy tech solutions you can develop to meet just about any need.

The personal crisis that set off a series of events that took me off the Austin track was a big dark cloud!    It forced me to look for new ways of doing things that reside off that fast track.   And that, my dear reader, is my silver lining.    I’m now on a road less traveled out in the hill country with views of new things at a slower pace.    At night, in the hill country, the stars are brighter.    Especially, the north star.




Posted by Kristi Curry

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