Leaving the Nest
Starting a company is hard. Really hard. No one tells you what to expect, what you’ll feel and the emotions you’ll go through. You’ll make what you believe at the time are the biggest mistakes of your life at each and every turn. You put your life and soul into your ideas and watch them germinate into something with its own life.
You’ll get no sleep. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
You’ll constantly wonder whether you’re doing the right thing, cautious about how each and every move you make will be perceived. You quickly realize that each and every one of your actions defines you and your brand. The sleepless nights, the pit in your stomach, the never truly knowing what the next turn holds and what may be in store. You’re challenged to your core, always questioning yourself and your decisions. As time goes on, you manage to attract one…two, then three and four to your vision and the roller coaster commences.
While you may think there is some embellishment in the above, fundamentally it all holds true. Ask any entrepreneur what their startup years were honestly like and you’ll probably get a sugar coated version of the above. Nobody ever wants to talk about the hardships – only the highlights.
Success never comes easy, but most of all, it never arrives by itself.
In life as in business, you are often defined by the company you keep. Those that surround you, support you and believe in your vision. Those that toil endlessly to ensure that you’ll continue to be successful. Those that really, truly believe in what you’re doing and devote themselves to getting you there. This has and will always be atLarge.
As a founder, I’ve been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by an amazing team who has both believed in our vision and more importantly strived to develop it. In hindsight, we’ve become a family, sharing in pains, tribulations and success just as any normal family would.
When you start a company, the culture and brand that emerges is defined by its founder. As the company grows, new people evolve the brand and over time, the brand takes on a life form of itself and fosters its own culture or way of doing things. This is how companies evolve and it’s really the people, the individuals whom shape and develop an organization’s culture.
Recently our very own atLarger Amanda Eyer, whom many of you know as a contributor to our blog, was approached with a once in a lifetime jet-setting opportunity to write for the Four Seasons with Pace Communications that she absolutely had to take. As one of the earliest atLargers, Amanda was a critical component of our early success, fostering our vision for the company into a world-class brand and spearheading most all of our marketing as we started out.
As one of the earliest atLargers, I asked her to share an introspective from her life at atLarge – from the first day through to the very last. Here is her story:
The first day
My first day as an atLarger began in a converted gas station. I waited for two hours for one of my teammates to let me in. While I waited, I wondered what the hell I was doing.
I had a good job with good people at a national software firm. But I wanted more. I took on new projects at work, started graduate school and volunteered for anything and everything marketing-related.
That’s how I met Anand. He sat next to me at a business event. He had just co-launched the S2 Report, the first digital publication in the region. We exchanged cards and a few days later he asked if I’d be interested in putting on a technology conference. I couldn’t resist the chance to take on one more project.
The Sarasota | Manatee Technology Conference was a crash course in time management. I’d written web copy, articles and news releases before but not while also helping to secure speakers, sponsors and event logistics, work full-time and go to school—and never in such a tight timeline. While it was frenzied, I enjoyed the camaraderie of working so closely with other creatives to pull off something that seemed so large.
When the conference wrapped, Anand invited me to join the atLarge ranks.
But on that first day as I paced back and forth between the locked doors of atLarge and a local coffee shop—I wondered if I’d lost my mind. I had planned on breaking out of Florida after grad school and now it looked like I might have to break into the building just to work. It was 10AM and still no word from my atLarge compadres.
Just then Anand peeled into the parking lot. He apologized profusely, grabbed my bag and unlocked the door. As I walked in, my eyes darted between the boxes stacked to the ceiling and the remains of a half-eaten pizza resting on a chair while he explained that he’d been working till 3AM and had overslept. Then, Nathan stumbled in and wearily asked who wanted to go grab coffee.
My words have found their way into video scripts, taglines, banners, blogs, websites, apps, social, newsletters, project briefs and speeches. They’ve poked their way into everything from teen adventure companies to global manufactures, film festivals to children’s hospitals and sports academies to museums. I’ve spoken with college classes, community foundations and business groups of all shapes and sizes about interactive marketing. I’ve interviewed people like Aimee Mullins and Michael Johnson. I’ve touched every project we’ve ever done in sometimes small and sometimes big ways. I still get butterflies before every project launch. And always, I’ve had the privilege of making cool things alongside smart, creative, dedicated people—both on my team and across the table.
What I learned
- Interactive marketing is a contact sport.
- 1+ 1 is more than 2 when it comes to collaboration.
- Dogs at the office are good.
- What I’m taking with me
When you work so closely—figuratively and literally—you grow up together. You argue. You laugh. You celebrate each other’s wins. And when adult life gets messy, as it will from time to time, you support each other. Over my last six years (5.75 years to be exact), I’ve:
- seen us move in and outgrow our very own building
- watched atLargers bring new people into the world
- searched for my run-away-pooch with fellow atLargers
- felt the freedom to speak (and write) my mind
- crashed on atLargers’ couch when I was too sad to sleep on my own
- swam, biked and ran with atLargers
- learned to dance from an atLarge salsa jedi
- started a comic with a wicked smart, talented atLarger
- saw atLargers get hitched
- had my desk winter wonderlanded over homesick holidays
- listened to impromptu and big stage concerts from atLarge musicians
- soared with atLargers on balloon, helicopter and rollercoaster rides
- been loved and loved
I’ll always be an atLarger at heart. Can’t wait to see what y’all do next;)
It’s hard to actually describe what it’s like to have soul mates in business and I consider my entire team in that class. I know I’m very lucky to have been surrounded and supported by an absolutely amazing group of peers through the years who have guided me to where we are today and Amanda was a big piece of that.
As Amanda moves on and leaves the nest, I know that everyone who ever had the experience of working alongside her at atLarge is truly grateful for all the contributions, both personally and professionally that she made over the years. We’re really excited to watch her career take a flying turn and wish her all the best for her next chapter as it gets written.
In the words of Dr. Seuss – “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.“