This is a story of starting a business from scratch, told in real time.

It’s my true story of building Polynate from idea to execution and — hopefully — to success.

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    008. LABOR OF LOVE



    The past two weeks have been spent quietly laboring over a few profiles. After endless hours of toiling, the first is finished and the second is this close. I am by no means an editor by trade or nature, so faced with the task of distilling pages and pages of conversation into a handful of purposeful Q&As took more time and effort than I originally imagined. Add the dilemma of design and what you get is weeks of meddling.



    The good news is that things are finally coming together. I have a workable page layout I am happy with and am increasingly able to sort and edit content more efficiently. What at one point felt nearly impossible is now feeling more achievable. Such is the nature of new things.


    When I was younger and perhaps more naive things seemed all around easier. There was less second guessing, less doubt, less fear of failure. As I ease on into turning 30, I’ve found myself more a deer in headlights than a lion on a mountaintop. I’m unsure if the paralysis is a product of age, or as Tim put it, “You’re attempting harder things now than you were at 25.” A fair point.



    As I enter this next decade of my life I am feeling the pressure of playing for keeps. Logically, I know turning 30 is really no different than any other birthday, but I’ve been unable to shake the idea that whatever I do now will heavily influence the shape of my future. The career I choose, the money I make (or don’t make), the city I live in, the man I love, all these factors that felt relatively arbitrary in youth now carry the profound weight of permanence.


    But turning 30 is not a sentence. It’s just another year. I have the same ability to change the course of my life now as I did in my twenties. I guess the point is that beyond feeling like the choices I make now will directly affect my future, I actually want them to. I want to take steps that will lead to the type and quality of life I envision for myself.


    Play time is over. It’s time to build!

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    Yesterday I worked on Georgia’s interview. The audio is transcribed, the photos are resized and retouched. The page layout is in progress and responsive design is slowly in the works. The story itself, however, is… dragging.


    The content is all there but I’m having difficulty constructing it into a solid read that is engaging and informative. Not that Georgia’s story is lacking in any sense, but my intention with these profiles is to pull out the best parts of the interview and pare them down into something not only worth reading, but also inspiring and enjoyable to read. (Obviously.) I care about these people and their stories, and I guess my hope is that you will too.


    So I wrote and rewrote and deleted and sifted and read and edited until my eyes were dry and my head empty. It’s the first profile, so I don’t want to be too hard on myself. But I do want it to be good and representative of Georgia and her endeavors. Plus I’m anxious to get this one done and press on with the others.


    I find one of the best things to do when I’m up against the wall is to simply give it a rest. Walk away, clear the air and take a breather. In the midst of pressure, self-inflicted or external, sometimes the most productive thing you can do is put a little distance between yourself and the issue. Hopefully by the time you revisit it, the solution will be less elusive.


    I’m giving it another crack today.

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    I’ve made a handful of small leaps that I’ve failed to document. (Did I mention I’m learning how to be disciplined as well?) In terms of concrete progress, last I mentioned was interviewing Georgia about opening her vintage shop. Here’s a quick rundown since:



    I connected with my friend Roman about his company CNNCTD (pun intended). I’ve known Rome since we worked together at A Bathing Ape back in the day. Young and wild we were, with a handful of equally frivolous shared memories to boot. I visited him on a particularly sticky Wednesday afternoon and got the skinny on what he and his crew are building downtown.


    A couple days later I visited Meagan at her ladies boutique The Rising States. I had stumbled into her sunny shop a few weeks back and found her inviting and friendly demeanor to be just what I needed to cast my line. I told her about Polynate and sheepishly asked if I could interview her about opening her shop. A few days later, I had my third interview.


    Fueled by my small but significant bouts of progress, I did a little cold call outreach. Well, cold emails. Tim found an article in The New York Times about a fledgling class of 30-something Brooklynites who are trading in their city grind for new business ventures upstate. A bold and inspired move that goes one step beyond starting a business to include starting a whole new life in a whole new place. I was intrigued. And if I made contact, it would dovetail perfectly with our annual Fourth of July trip to the country.


    I didn’t want to email them from the ole Gmail lest I come off as amateur and — god forbid, a start-up — so I decided to set up my email properly and get my site to a somewhat presentable state. As I mentioned, it’s been a long standing work in progress mainly delayed by my own obsessive tweaking and stalling. But a deadline is a funny thing, especially when there is a cottage and car rental on the line and you aren’t flush with a corporate account. If this was going to happen at all, it was going to happen now.


    I spent the better half of a day getting the site in working order. None of it is perfect and it’s still very much a work in progress — hence the holding pages and weak homepage. But the point is it’s in progress. I’ve spent so long being afraid to show it before it’s ready that now I’ve swung the full gamut and landed firmly on the other side. Not-being-good-enough has become good-enough-for-now. My main goal was only that it be roughly presentable so the good folks I was reaching out to knew my intentions were anything but glib.



    With the bare bones in place I wrote a couple of emails to a few selected upstate converts. Two out of three replied. Not a perfect score, but thrilling nonetheless. Casey, the blonde fringed fireball behind The Spruceton Inn, invited Tim and me up for an informal chat and photo sesh this past Sunday. Let’s just say whoa. Everything about her and her property are stunning. It’s a story I’m eager to tell and want to do justice.


    Mike of the Phoenicia Diner also replied. I’m not sure what it is about people who have migrated from the city to the country, but man are they solid. Mike was too busy shuffling between hungry patrons at his perfectly retro diner to sit down for an interview, but he was kind enough to offer some time once the bustle died down and he returned to Brooklyn later this week.


    All in I’ve interviewed and photographed four people and have a few more lined up. It’s been surprising and encouraging to have my humble requests met with enthusiasm and interest. And while progress on that front had been fortifying, I have my doubts about how to form these rough interviews into digestible stories worthy of their subjects and an intent audience. I only just started the laboriously archaic process of transcribing audio recordings into written dictation (anyone know of a cheap/free app or program that can do this accurately?) and am now sifting through the ramble to piece everything together.

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    005. GO FOURTH



    “Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.”

    – Albert Camus


    This week flew by. Out-of-town friends came to visit, indulgent dinners were had, slow but necessary progress was made to the site, a two-part interview took place, and a trip upstate is in progress. And of course, there is still more to do.


    A proper post is much needed but I have fireworks to see, burgers to eat and beers to drink. It is the Fourth afterall.


    In the spirit of America’s birthday, here’s a quick last thought: If you, like I, won the random crapshoot and were born in a free and independent country where choice is abundant and dreams are possible (“Yes We Can”) then why not make the most of it? Your freedom of choice may be a right, but it’s not a given. Best do what you can with it.

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    In the spirit of upholding my vow of honesty, truth be told I haven’t done much of anything for Polynate these past few days. The weekend hit, the sun was out, Costa Rica beat Greece by a hair in a dramatic penalty shootout, and I was feeling entitled to take a breather. Well, entitled and guilty.


    Whenever you hear about people starting out and doing their own thing, one saying comes to mind: “Never not working”. You hear about the constant grind, the never ending list of things to do, the up-at-all-hours hustle. But you never hear about the downtime, the sluggish lulls between the excitement, the hours or days or weeks spent procrastinating or second-guessing or wondering what to do next. I’m here to tell you all that exists, at least in the beginning phases.


    If you are trying to forge your own creative/entrepreneurial path there are no set rules. Hell, there isn’t even a one-size-fits-all formula. It’s not like wanting to be a doctor and having a predetermined structure laid out for you. There is only you and your creativity, drive and work ethic. That’s it.


    Some days are better than others. Some days you wake up inspired, ready to take on the world and make shit happen. Other days are less invigorated. And yet other days you just want to relax, recharge, and chill the fuck out.


    It could be just me, but even the days I feel entitled to “take off” are tinged with a shade of guilt. I should be doing this, or working on this, or reaching out to this person, etc. When you work 9-5 Monday through Friday, there’s a definitive line between work and play. When you are the sole force behind your own business/art/cause, the lines are less clear. In fact, everything is a little blurrier than is comfortable.


    I guess the point is that you still do it. You keep moving ahead, keep trying, keep hoping, keep doing. Some days are victorious, others dismal. If anything, you move forward for fear of standing still too long.

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    This week I had a few oh wow moments. First, this story-in-progress (for fear of saying “blog”). Second, the proof is in the puddin’.


    Over time I’d like to grow Polynate into a Tiny Ted Talks with downtown swag and a passport. But that’s gonna take a while. Instead of starting with the big unattainable-for-now ideas, I’m concentrating on starting small. Doing things I know I can do with people I know are willing to help. In short: make my pudding, make it well, and prove it’s worth a go.




    It occurred to me that the little guys deserve to be heard just as much as the big guys. Yes, we all love a big name and are starstruck by their [niche] celebrity status, their air of effortless success and their go-for-it gumption, but who’s to say the underdog has any less of a story? Oh wow moment #2.


    I’ve been in New York 12 years now. If you’ve been here as long as I and don’t have any friends who’ve started their own thing, then you don’t have any friends. The very fabric of New York is made of people wanting to express themselves as openly and creatively as possible, in any way possible and by any means necessary. That’s what New York’s all about and what it’s been about for years.


    So I sent out a slew of messages to friends and acquaintances asking if I could interview them for a “personal project” about how they started their business, their first steps, their challenges and misgivings and triumphs. And I was amazed at the response. Most of the people I reached out to were from my distant past — what I’d consider “around-the-way friends” — yet not one said no. Oh wow moment #3.



    My dear friend’s daughter Georgia just opened her very own ladies vintage shop at the tender age of 23. A lovely, spirited blonde thing with sharp ambition and a lust for 1960s fashion. I had done a bit of graphic design work for her shop and met with her infrequently throughout her opening process. She kindly agreed to be my first subject.


    I interviewed her on a lazy Tuesday afternoon on her sixth day of being open. She’s the new kid on a relatively quiet block in the LES, so we had the shop to ourselves. I brought Tim’s iPad with a free “professional” audio recording app, his luxe Fuji camera I barely know how to operate, and an over zealous three page print out of my questions. And we sat and chatted about what it took to make Georgia, well, Georgia.


    That was my big breakthrough for the week. It’s not a Ted Talk, but it’s a start. I’ve edited the photos and am sifting through the audio interview. Even now, I wonder the best approach for releasing it — do you just put it out there without having more content lined up? Do you wait until there’s something in the pocket for consistency’s sake or do you just do it? I’m working on it now, and will figure it out in due time. I promise.

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    The seeds for Polynate have been marinating in thought and procrastination for the last six months. But I only just had the idea for the story-in-progress part yesterday. I figure it’s only fair to trace when and where this idea arose so you can get the whole picture and I can confess how very little I’ve done since.



    The idea for Polynate came to me on a bitter January evening this year. I reluctantly dragged myself cross town to see a speaker series on streetwear. Halfway through the lecture something in me clicked and a seed was planted: people want to learn how to start a business, and they want to hear it from those who have already done it. Simple as that.


    I walked home against the pressing onslaught of snow, head tucked into a Hungarian hood, heart pounding in my ears. I felt like I was on fire. The seed was sprouting quickly and fervently, my mind in a thousand directions. I could do this! And this! And I’ll call it Pollinate — wait Polynate! As in spreading multiple ideas the way pollen proliferates growth! Shit, man.


    I came home to my exceptionally patient boyfriend and spewed my ideas in half-thought-half-sentence fragments. My mouth couldn’t keep up with my mind. Now, not only is Tim patient, but homeboy is as level-headed as they come. Even so, he was no match for my enthusiasm. He immediately recognized the potential and even added some fundamental insight into how I could turn this idea into a business.




    The following weeks I vacillated between fanatical motivation and utter paralysis. In other words, I stood still. I’d go on benders researching people whose story I wanted to know, trolling the internet like a crazed ex-girlfriend trying to find any information I could. I read about their inspirations, new ventures, new dishes, new collaborations, new hair styles, until these unordinary but still human people were monoliths in my mind.


    It was a double-edged sword. Yes, I was doing practical research. But the more I read and learned, the less relatable they were to me. When all you hear is that success story of 3-hour-wait restaurants, or sold-out art shows, or we-just-sold-our-first-line-to-Barney’s fashion labels, it’s hard to remember that they too had to start somewhere. That shit didn’t just pop-up overnight. Like everything worthwhile, it took time and love and hard work to get to those places.




    So I had my idea. And people I wanted to talk to — BIG people. And I’d done a bit of research for competitors, some of which existed but weren’t doing exactly what I wanted to do. So then what? Where do you start? Do you just email them from your piddly Gmail and wait for the crickets? Or do you try to appear as official as possible and come correct — website guns blazing and all?


    My thinking at the time was that the more professional you can appear to be, the better. If you’re a hotshot, chances are your time is limited and your dance card is full. You don’t want to waste it on an unproven idea nervously proposed to you by an unproven girl.


    But I’m a resourceful little fucker and just delusional enough to think that I can do and learn pretty much anything in the creative world. So I bought a $60 WordPress template and got bootstrappin. I bought a domain, got hosting, opened a Twitter, an Instagram (I don’t fucks with the Facebook), drew outlines, wrote copy, edited copy, re-edited copy, made graphics, made mock-up pages, designed a logo, and fiddled endlessly with content that wasn’t even real. Sure, some of it was — the design bits for example — but the interviews I was mocking up to show my first ten hopefuls was filled with “lorem ipsum” just so I could get my text padding right. Oye.


    I became so obsessed with getting the technical details just so that I lost sight of why I wanted to create a website, which was simply to outline the idea and my intentions as clearly and beautifully as possible. I wanted something my prospects could easily access and learn just enough to send them running for the phone, screaming “YES I’M IN!”.




    I’ve done my meddling. I’ve done my procrastinating. I’ve done my waiting. And now I’m just so sick of being stuck inside my head, inside this awesome idea, and not doing a damn thing about it that I’m finally starting to do it.


    And just a shade under six months. High five bro.

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    I’ve always been full of big, sweeping, well-intentioned, overly-inspired ideas — a great starting point for someone who has wanted to have her own business since birth. But all of my ideas — accessory line, travel site, agency, production house, restaurant, cool shit shop, etc — have been foiled simply by my lack of understanding how to start a start-up.


    Polynate is my turning point. I see it as a resource for people like me who want to start something of their own but aren’t sure where to start. How do you decide which steps to take first? What’s the most efficient order of operations? Does it matter in the end, or is the whole point to just jump in and go for it? What happens when you hit walls or criticism or rock bottom? How do you stay inspired and motivated when shit gets tough and all you have is your idea and yourself? Do you forge ahead or quit while you’re ahead?


    Such questions have been the undoing of me. I have the starry-eyed dreamer’s vision of how things will be once the business of starting is over and my idea is a functional, living thing existing in the world. I have an old-fashioned, hard-knocks work ethic that has served me — but mainly my employers — well. I have the ability to think outside the box and come up with unusual solutions in tight situations. But surpassing the paralyzing fears of what comes next and how to get there is something I have yet to figure out. So here we are.


    My goal is to do it this time. For real. To take this idea knocking around in my head and to nurture it into what I believe could be a wealth of practical information and useful insight into the nuts and bolts of starting and running a business from the ground up, as told by those who have done it before.


    I don’t know where this road will lead, what turns it’ll take, or how steep the curves will be, but I’m willing to find out. What’s more, I’d like your company along the way. It could be wildly exciting or horribly tedious — I don’t know. The point is to just find the fuck out. My only promise is that I will share with you the process, the struggle, the hustle, the highs, the walls, the breakthroughs, and hopefully the few wins I come across. And I’ll do that as honestly and regularly as possible.


    So, lest I waste even more time thinking and less time doing… Let’s GO.