I can't tell you how many times I've sat down to write this story. A lot has happened in the past siz months, so much that it's been hard to sit down and share it. There are a lot of moving parts. I've kept notes, journaled, saved sketches, texts, etc. Each time I would sit with this to tell the story, it would shift or something new would happen and there was never a complete way to share what we were experiencing. When I sat down and started piecing it all together it dawned on me that there's a book here. A really good book, which is now in the works. It's the whole story of COTERIE Company, from start to finish. The finish of this story... because it's coming to a close.
I'm still sorting through all of the details, the lessons, the funny stories, and look forward to telling it all. The past two years have been nothing short of a beautiful, brutal, exciting journey and that richness can't be contained. My hope is that by sharing the stories someone will take some little nugget away that will keep them from tripping as much as I did. And, because I'm looking forward to spilling the tea a bit.
One of the biggest challenges for me this year has been watching how the half truths and blatant falsehoods printed by certain local media outlets has impacted the team that worked so hard to bring the COTERIE vision to life. While I am no stranger to the ways people can twist words and experiences, many of the team who pushed through this year with me are new to this, and their pain was palpable. They remained strong in the face of some classic media bullshit, and stood by our brand. Ultimately, a story is a story, and with limited resources, our choice was fight the media or continue to build our vision. We chose to go high. They continued to go low.
The development of this vision was a high bar from the start. Bootstrapping a vision to serve women worldwide? It takes big balls. We had them. Maybe we still do... time will tell. It also takes deep pockets. We did not have those. Walking into a space dominated by men, funded by men, primarily serving men was like the Wild, Wild West and we did not have enough ammunition. I didn't know that in the beginning.
In life, and/or business, there's a few sets of knowledge:
- Things you know you know.
- Things you think you know.
- Things you know you don't know.
- Things you don't know you don't know.
My ratio was off. It's important to be realistic about this ratio.
We learned hard and fast the difference between legit investors and the not-so-legit kind. As I will outline in the book, we were taken for a ride. It was not fun, it was not pretty and it resulted in the company losing everything. We may have been able to recover our Pittsburgh community, but the assault from paragraph #2 swiftly and succinctly ended that recovery. To the credit of our ownership we are able to exit later this year, in an attempt to recover losses and repay debts. Here's to the hustle required to pull it off, the goodwill of the beautiful people of Pittsburgh, and the power of community.
The list of things I've learned is about as long as the list of things I messed up this year. Too long for here, but suffice it to say that hindsight is 20/20. The team who worked with me through this year was incredible. I cannot begin to tell you the talent and heart I witnessed from that team. True visionaries, exceptional communicators, women who do what they say they will, and a team who owned their role at COTERIE. There is no amount of thank yous that can be said. The same can be said of our countless community partners, vendors, colleagues, journalists with integrity and the men + women behind the scenes who help me drive forward. I have been blessed beyond measure with extraordinary allies. Thank you to the many people who stood by me while I learned.
What's next? The book will launch later this year. A strong, healthy, fun filled fall in Pittsburgh before we return Henry's clubhouse to some lucky corporate office. Then I'm going to take a nap; regain some personal time. And maybe, just maybe, I will build a new rocket. We blew up our first one, as tends to happen when you're building something revolutionary. I believe that with the right investher(s), a fresh start, and lessons applied, the next one may be the one that soars. Time will tell.
Until next time . . .