Jess Koscher is one of the co-founders of Write Connections | strategy + design, LLC. With Michelle Sokol, she is proud to celebrate the first year of business.
One year ago, so much was different.
The biggest and most scary thing facing me was following the steps set out by the Indiana Small Business Development Center’s “How to start a business” brochure.
I had set aside the entire day to launch a new company and start a new life. Who knew it would only take a few short hours, and I would have a shiny new EIN, a real business banking account, and (stupid) Quickbooks loaded on my laptop. We were officially open for business.
My story is like so many others. What had seemed like one of the worst days of my life was the catalyst for an idea that wouldn’t go away. Eight months later, on October 1st, 2019, I found myself at my laptop launching Write Connections | strategy + design, LLC.
I’ll always be grateful for the kindness of my network. So many individuals not only supported my new business in spirit, but they also took a chance and hired us early on. They trusted us with their own businesses and believed together; we could make magic happen.
I’ve had the chance to talk to a lot of startup entrepreneurs this year. I’ve read a lot of startup books as well. One of the biggest struggles we face is imposter syndrome.
I knew I knew how to raise money, run a nonprofit, strategize, and lead a team. I believed I could get the same results for places like restaurants, theatres, and other businesses. But I was plagued by the weight of responsibility to the people who hired us to do a job, who counted on us, and believed we knew what we were doing.
The thing I can say to any other startup entrepreneur is if you’re doing something that is in your skillset (something in your bones you know how to do), keep your head down and keep hustling.
Fear is your enemy, and failure is its best friend.
Fear was not an option for me; it couldn’t be. Failure also was not acceptable. However, success was not something I ever really thought about and still don’t. I watch our bottom line, and I plan for 12-24 months out. I’m a strategist and not always a dreamer… it gets me in trouble, and I often find I have too much on my plate.
In the first five months, things were going great. We were crushing our early projections and negotiating several very interesting projects, including projects on both the east and west coasts. Then in March, COVID-19 hit.
We all have a COVID-19 story. For us, the first weeks were our busiest. We worked many hours helping clients pivot and reposition themselves. We dreamed with them about new ways to do what they do.
We launched a website called shopnorthernindiana.com as a way to help. It provided the public a directory to see what local businesses were still open. We kept our heads down and did the work. It’s what we do.
I’m not sure where the next twelve months will lead.
I do know this past year has set the tone for this company Michelle and I are building. We’ve learned what kind of work makes us buzz with energy. We have clarity of when we do our best work and strive to do more of it. As most startups, we struggle to determine what growth looks like for us (growth… seriously!).
In the past year, we’ve had the chance to help local businesses, government, politicians, and nonprofits weather the COVID storm. We’ve had a voice in and an opportunity to train others on what diversity, equity, and inclusion look like. We’re working with startup entrepreneurs and long-time business people, and together we’re creating magic every day. Our days include strategy and design (whew… good thing since it’s part of our name), but also videography, web design, copywriting, lecturing, and storytelling, just to name a few.
So today, as I sit down at my laptop, I’m filled with gratefulness and a bit of pride. I’m overwhelmed by the opportunities we’ve had in the past year and excited to see what comes our way in year two.
And for others who are starting this journey, I wish you luck, fortitude, and vats of good coffee. If you want to chat, let me know. Because owning my own company means having the freedom to build community in any way I see fit, which includes sharing my startup story with others and hearing about their journey as well.
Thank you to everyone who helped Michelle and me get to year one. There are too many of you to name, but I am beyond grateful for every cup of coffee, phone call, text, and recommendation you’ve lent, and I’m looking forward to many more.