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Launcher Stories

Tirlena Lugo

By February 26, 2021May 12th, 2021No Comments

Back in October, I just turned 30 and was looking for a change from my current job. I wanted to make a change in my life and do something that aligned more with who I was and what I cared about. So I got in touch with the Small Business Bureau who suggested to me that I sign up for Launch1000. I applied and didn’t think I was going to get it because it looked so cool. But I did!

As I started the program with Phase 1, I didn’t expect it to be so touchy-feely. I was already starting to form a business on my own. I had already thought of the name and how I was going to go about it. I was planning to do an interior design business. I was looking at the market. I was trying to figure out how to finance myself. I was looking at other famous interior design firms like Studio McGee and House of Bohn. I was really thinking about how these people have stepped their way up and how I could do it too. So I was already in overdrive, I wasn’t thinking about my feelings or what it meant for me to be in that industry or anything like that.

But when I started exploring what was important to me, something changed. I  started to look at not only how this was going to fulfill me as a business but what this venture meant for me as a person. It’s not that I didn’t understand what was important to me before, but I guess I had never written it down. It was almost like writing a diary in Phase 1.

It kind of also challenged me to deconstruct these pre-conceived ideas of what a business was. It was kind of like, “Wait, hold up. You’re a person. Other people are people too. You have emotions. Other people have emotions too. What is your purpose, what is important to you.” That made me start to analyze a business not only as a means of income but almost as like another person. How am I interacting with this person? How am I going to make them thrive? I realized I might have almost moved from working at one institution that was leaving me unsatisfied to doing something working for myself that was probably going to eventually have left me just as unsatisfied.

As I moved into Phase 2, that realization from phase 1 brought some new context to my curiosity conversation. Initially, my target market in phase 2 was people who have used interior designers before. I figured if they’ve used them before, they’re the most likely to use an interior designer in the future and I can also get information from them about how their experience was. And I kept coming across, “Well, I had the money and I wanted my space to look nice so I just wanted them to take care of it and do everything for me.” It reminded me of the situation with my job now where everything is just handed off and there’s something disconnected and unfulfilling about it. So even though designing would have been more creative, I still was picturing feeling the same disconnection when I put all of my creativity into something for someone who doesn’t really appreciate or really care about it more than just getting it done. It felt like in reality, my venture was going to turn into just another cold and transactional job.

My accountability partner is also in the interior design industry and she was also feeling the same thing. She’s a brilliant designer with a master’s degree and as someone without a degree, getting to see her experience all the same feelings as I have about starting a business, the fear, the anxiety, the stress has really been meaningful.

We actually text each other and call each other now daily. We’d stay up until 11, 11:30 talking to each other. I’ve really found a sister in her. We not only help motivate each other in the class, but we also help motivate each other in life. She’ll text me and say, I’ve just had a really hard day with this and that, the children are sick – I’m really tired and I feel really discouraged. And we just talk about lifting each other up and keeping going and not letting that get to us.

That happens with the other launch members as well. And the workshops too. Sometimes I’ll be having a really hard day and Pam will say something that makes me go, “Wow, how does she even know that I needed to hear that today?” It’s almost cosmic – the experience I’ve had with everybody in the launch program, because they’ve given me everything I need to keep moving forward even though they don’t realize it. Every person I’ve had a meeting with, every person I’ve had a curiosity conversation with, everyone is about not only bettering themselves but bettering the next person. It’s fostered such a nurturing environment. And I don’t know if it’s because we all started with our sweet spot and we had to get very vulnerable, but it’s very special. Especially during a pandemic. Life has gotten turned upside down and I’m not the only person going through economic hardship. Sometimes I see our meetings like going to church. I know that we’re not speaking about God or anything like that, but I just feel love and encouragement, and support. I’ve never met such encouraging people. I’ve never felt like I had a whole cheerleading team behind me.

Getting into phase 2, my first 1-15 conversations were about connections in the interior design industry. I was making connections with furniture manufacturers, slab yards, contractors. But I knew I wanted my business to give back so I was interested in being able to help do interior designs for people leaving homeless shelters. But in talking to them, I realized there was no one doing furniture right now. And I just felt like there was so much more need for that than just another interior designer in the field. And that was my ‘divine aha’  – having the last five conversations with the shelters. Those were the most jaw-dropping, heart-wrenching, most motivating conversations. And that’s what made me want to change my whole concept.

Because of this big pivot in Phase 2, when I got to Phase 3 I redid my work in Phase 2 again but this time for my new idea. So I was going out and meeting with places like Furniture Share House. I’m starting to volunteer there and understand how they provide furniture and what’s going on and where I might be able to supplement what they do. I needed to buckle down and get clear on this so that I knew where I was going in Phase 3 and 4.

Going forward I think I need to change my business plan for how I’m going to help this community. I need to start at a much smaller scale so that I can eventually work my way up to the larger-scale solution I want to create. I feel like a plankton working themself up to a whale. Success to me right now is figuring out a good model for accomplishing what I want to accomplish even if it’s a small-scale solution.





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