Aug 5, 2023 2 min read

Pulling Back the Curtain: The Unfiltered Grit Behind Building a Startup

Chowly Co-Founder and CEO reveals the dirty details of what it’s really like to get a business off the ground. Shoestring budgets, nutritional hacks, and manual labor all play a role in building something great.
Pulling Back the Curtain: The Unfiltered Grit Behind Building a Startup
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As an entrepreneur who’s seen and been through a lot, I can vouch that the journey is not just about chasing dreams but also about persistence, maximizing efficiency, and frugality. Earlier this month, I posted a series of posts on LinkedIn sharing some stories from the very early days of Chowly. Like very early…

So here’s a glimpse of what it’s really like getting something off the ground:

In the initial days of Chowly, I gave myself a six-month personal runway which I thought that would be plenty to get a business off the ground. Wrong. But through sheer resourcefulness, I managed to stretch six-months into 13. Whether it was using tin foil as shower curtain rings or adopting odd food habits, every hack aimed at extending my runway and maximizing the chance we could make it.

I sold most of my furniture, slept on a leaky air mattress, and lived off of discounted frozen pizzas, optimizing my resources to meet the demands of the start-up life. I researched insane KPI’s like “calories per dollar”. 640 calories was my mark for those keeping score at home.

However, these stringent measures didn't dampen my spirits. Despite the grim living conditions, there were pockets of joy and beauty. I remember sitting on my inverted laundry hamper-turned-stool, eating dinner on the fire escape with a view of Wrigley Field. As a child, I used to dream of living near Wrigley, and despite the austere conditions, it was a beautiful experience for me.

When it came to fundraising for Chowly, the task was both challenging and rewarding. Investors were under the impression that we were thriving, and while we were, behind the scenes it wasn’t pretty. I negotiated our first round of funding from a laundry hamper at my old college beer pong table, surrounded by notes that educated me about the technicalities of fundraising. It was a humbling yet exhilarating experience, a pivotal moment in my entrepreneurial journey.

Fundraising had its lows, too. There was a point where our deal almost fell apart due to a bad attorney and threatened to bring down the entire business. It was at this moment that I learned the importance of having experienced and trustworthy partners who could navigate through such challenges. Thank you Troy Henikoff at MATH Ventures and Jim Jerue at HMB.

Securing our funding marked the beginning of a rapid growth phase for Chowly. We began hiring, and soon we were doubling in size almost overnight. In true lean startup fashion, we built tables for our new employees from cheap Home Depot wood. The grind was real; the rewards, even more so.

The early entrepreneurial journey can be rough and demanding. But it's also a testament to creativity, resourcefulness, and relentless drive. It's about stretching every dollar, optimizing every opportunity, and above all, maintaining an unwavering belief in the dream. Every experience, no matter how trivial it may seem, is a stepping stone to growth. And like many others before me, it’s just part of the journey. Up and to the right they say.

Learn more about Chowly HERE!

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