Lessons Learned: The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

Brooklinen is a direct-to-consumer home goods brand that offers exceptional quality at affordable prices while demystifying the process for its customers.

My cofounder, Richard Fulop, and I have already learned so much this summer during our experience in Summer Launchpad. Not only have we been pushed to question our hypotheses daily, but we’ve also had to learn a new vocabulary and a new set of tools for thinking about our ideas. Oddly enough, the one phrase that keeps turning over in my mind doesn’t come from the Lean Startup methodology we’ve been learning, but rather a US Navy SEAL motto I first heard 20+ years ago: “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.”

Life as an entrepreneur can be a constant fire drill, and we've learned that we can only plan so far ahead. With regards to this aspect of startup life, Matteo Franceschetti, the cofounder of Morhpy and one of our LaunchPad mentors advised us to, “have a 3-5 year plan for yourselves so you can have a sense of where this thing can go, but when making plans you really need to focus on the next 6-9 months, because that’s all you can control.” To be honest, sometimes the pace of change can make even a six month plan seem optimistic!

At each step in the process of building and growing Brooklinen, Richard and I set goals for ourselves and measure our relative success against those goals.  One of our earliest setbacks was production delays that pushed back our scheduled launch date by a few months. But, even our successes have been challenging.

For example, as a result of selling nearly 1,800 sets of sheets during our Kickstarter campaign, we outgrew our storage capacity and management systems overnight.  We also spent our graduation ceremony responding to customer emails!  While our successful Kickstarter felt like a win, in reality the work had only just begun.  Achieving this success didn't mean we got to ride off into the sunset. Instead it gave rise to an entirely new set of challenges regarding fulfillment and financing that we are now solving.  I'm confident that we'll find the answers we're looking for, though I'm also certain that we'll uncover new challenges around each corner as we grow. It's never getting easier.

Ultimately, I believe that the sense that anything could be around the corner is what startups are all about.  As Nihal Parthasarathi, cofounder of CourseHorse and a guest speaker at Summer Launchpad, advised us in relation to hiring for startups, “Don’t hire people who are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel; rather, hire people who want to be there in the dark in the tunnel.”   It may not be easy not knowing what challenges tomorrow will bring or even where it will all end, but it sure is fun.

This post is part of the Lessons Learned series featuring NYU entrepreneurs’ first-hand accounts of challenges faced in starting a business and the lessons learned along the way.