A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Student Life

Starting a business: an emotional shipwreck

Every day, we experience a crazy onslaught of emotion.

   From the intense dread of school in the morning, to the intense relief of flopping on your bed at night, our days are chock-full of emotional tidal waves. 

   I can heavily relate to this tidal wave of varying emotions. I guess you could say I may even be drowning in it a bit. But these emotions largely stem from the same root: Revolin Sports LLC.

   Two years ago, my brother and I began playing pickleball, a sport that’s an exciting combination of tennis, ping pong, and badminton. We were immediately hooked. Unsatisfied with current paddles, we made it our mission to make a better paddle for both play and planet alike. Thus, Revolin Sports was born. Our mission is to revolutionize the sporting goods industry with high-performance, sustainably-manufactured sporting equipment. Our current obsession? pickleball.

   So far, we’ve released a limited “founders edition” of our paddles. It’s called the FLX 1.0. They were made in my garage, by me. Hunched over two saw horses with a piece of plywood on top, I assembled the paddles with mosquitoes buzzing around me over this past summer. I put on edge guards, made handles, applied grips and butt ends. We made and sold around 20 paddles. We are now working on our plan for the 2.0 release. This will be a full market release, hopefully scalable, and USA Pickleball Association certified. We’ve got some big plans.

   So yeah, I’m a business co-founder at age 17. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. But it’s also pretty terrifying. As I said, it’s an emotional tidal wave, and I’m struggling to find my footing. 

Overwhelmed

   I am in so over my head, it’s insane. I am literally 17 years old. I need to apply to college. I need to have good grades. I need to maintain good standing at my job. I need to study for the ACT. I need to figure out the supply chain for pickleball paddles. I need to maintain friendships. I need to take care of myself. I can’t do it all. It’s astounding how much I need to do, all the time. Every time I try to simply enjoy myself, I just feel guilty about all the other things I’m not doing, that I should be doing. Everything deemed “less important” gets put off. I don’t sleep, I don’t exercise, I don’t eat dinner with my family. The order of priority is school, Revolin, college… I haven’t applied to a single college yet. And I’m starting to panic…

Awed

   I am absolutely in awe. Every time I work on Revolin, I’m struck by how huge this really could be. I’m just like “Wow, this is insane.” pickleball alone is awesome; we’re making the first sustainable pickleball paddle. But we’re not stopping there. We have plans to make longboards, skis, lacrosse sticks, surfboards and so much more. This has never been done before. Sustainable sports equipment does not exist. I’m so excited to debut our impressive paddle. I’m ecstatic to prove to the world that high performance and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive qualities.

Exhausted

   I am exhausted… all the time, and I’m starting to get sick of it. When I’m busy, sleep is the first thing to go. I stay up past midnight at least twice a week until I finish everything I need to do for the next day. I miss summer. I miss being awake and alert the entirety of the day. I miss loving every day, not just surviving until the weekend. I miss the days when I wasn’t faced with the two hardest AP classes at the same time on top of Revolin duties on top of college applications. I sit in class, struggling to find the motivation to do practice problems. I go home and I struggle to have a clear train of thought. I sit down and struggle not to doze off. I don’t know if I can do it, the doubt creeps in all the time.

Invigorated

   It’s invigorating, it really is. Building things is my passion. Not only do I get to build awesome pickleball paddles, but I get to build a business. I get to decide what meetings are like. I get to decide who is hired. I get to decide what ideas are implemented. I get to decide the assembly process of a pickleball paddle. I love it. I love meeting up with three people after school, hanging out, and building a company together. I love solving problems that apply to my real life, not a math test. I love being challenged in a way I never have been challenged before. I speed to get to our meetings; I can’t wait to see everyone and get stuff done. It’s awesome. And honestly, I kind of kill it. 

Awkward

   I just feel so awkward. I’m seventeen. When I walk into the room, I draw a lot of attention. Not only am I way too young, I’m also a girl. The startup world is dominated by middle-aged men. We, the Revolin team, decided to enroll in a 12 week course called Boostcamp dedicated to customer discovery and development. I attend weekly meetings for the course. Typically, there’s 12 tables, arranged in a rectangle with everyone looking at everyone else. That first day I walked in was so strange. It was like stepping into class 30 minutes late while the teacher is lecturing… everyone stared. To be honest, one of the rules of the program was that you had to be at least 18 years old. Yeah… I just hoped they didn’t ask my age. They tried to be polite, but it was glaringly obvious; I was the outlier, and everyone knew it.

Insane

   I feel totally insane. I’m pretty sure it’s in a good way though. What we are doing, it’s crazy. We’ve been told it won’t work. Even last night at Boostcamp we were told we are “a solution looking for a problem” and that businesses don’t succeed when they’re structured like that. That comment knocked me down a bit. It was tough to hear. But at the end of the day, that’s the exact kind of criticism we need. It’s how we grow. But it does make us question if what we’re doing is going to work. Will our product sell? Will our brand establish? Will our strategy work? Ultimately, will we succeed? The answer is I have no idea. I have no clue what people want and what people will buy. I have no clue if sustainability is the move to make. I have no clue how to start a business. And I feel crazy for trying.

   But I intend to try. I intend to work my tail off figuring it all out. I intend to prove the skeptics wrong. I intend to make an awesome company that people want to support and be a part of. So yeah, I might be an emotional shipwreck from that tidal wave for now, but it won’t be for long.

Google+