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Finishing my salmon and pasta at 37,000 feet on June 2 I realized that my life was about to change. I had been dropped off at London Victoria station a few hours earlier and on the London Eye the day before. The week before I had been given an eighteen hour baptism of fire in Dublin—partying from 7pm until 1pm. Two weeks before I had relaxed in the seaside town of Southsea, finished the plan for the next fifteen months of my life, and enjoyed a football match or two.
Now, however, I was on a plane to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. I would arrive in five hours and enter a new world—a world of working one hundred hour weeks, obtaining insurance, paying bills on time, filling out forms, defending lawsuits, hiring employees, signing contracts, fighting fraud, maintaining records, having to deal with rent and taxes, and keeping track of financials. In short, I was beginning the first week of my life as a full time entrepreneur.
I came in around 3:30pm and made it to a taxi by 5pm after passing through very tight security. I took a taxi to Chapel Hill and was dropped off at my office. With no apartment or dorm, I would have to sleep at my office. I walked in and experienced the second greatest moment a serial entrepreneur can have—an empty office—an office devoid of material things in sight, but an office full of vision and imagination of what soon would be.
With the prior tenant, my friend Wes, having moved out two days before, I walked into that empty new office at 101 N. Columbia St. Suite 400. Seeing the office bare (minus seven boxes containing all my personal belongings in the corner) for the first time struck me. There were so many goals I wanted to accomplish, a company I wanted to build, and so many memories I knew were to come. During that moment I could envision my future and see a well-decorated busy room with four employees. I saw the blank walls and floors that would hold my whiteboard and desks for at least the next six months. It was an experience that will only be superceded when the company born in that room is successfully sold or goes public.
I went to bed that night on the floor after being awake for a full twenty-four hours. I fell asleep at 2:00am and curled up with a few shirts bundled to serve as a pillow. I woke up the next morning with a stiff neck. I washed up in the bathroom, stretched, and began my work. I began scheduling meetings, ordering business cards, and getting my personal and business finances in shape. The next evening I went out to the Rathskeller with my business partner Aaron, his girlfriend Sarah, Sarah’s roommate, and Aaron’s business partner Erik. I had such a feeling of accomplishment that night as a downed two hot plates of All-You-Can-Eat Spaghetti in the Chapel Hill landmark.
Over the next week that empty office would go through a transformation. After meeting with a friend from Kenan-Flagler Business School and UNC’s Entrepreneurship Club, he decided to come on board and work with me as a partner in building Broadwick. He allowed me to store my effects in a spare room in his apartment and began to help me furnish the office. I inherited a glass desk from the former tenant and we purchased a classic wood desk at the UNC Surplus Auction.
Getting that one-hundred fifty pound monster from the auction to the second floor office was an adventure. We rented a U-haul to bring the desk to the door and the hired two homeless men for $5 each to help us bring the desk up. After we each had desks we ordered a whiteboard, desk pads, pen holders, staplers, staples, and business card holders. My new partner had his parents bring over a mini-fridge that helped reduce our eating-out expenses and purchased a multi-function machine from our new homeless friend Bates we had met a few days prior. We also purchased a white loveseat from a graduating senior and moved that up to the office and inherited a black futon from my friend Erik that turned out to be a lifesaver. No longer would I have to sleep on the floor!
That second night my new girlfriend Erin came by to see me and the office. Living on the same dorm floor as her since August 2002, I had only met her in late April. It was such a relief to have someone to go out and have fun with. I was very glad that she lived in Cary, about a half-hour away, and took the time to come and see me. The office was almost as good as an apartment. We could watch movies on the board room projector and had a television with cable, a George Foreman Grill, a futon, phones, a loveseat, two mini-fridges, broadband internet access, a water cooler, and a bathroom. If we just had a shower there I’d never have to leave.
During those nine days in Chapel Hill I made a point to meet with a least one person each day and was working to ready the IntelliContact Pro software for launch. I got my first lesson as a full-time entrepreneur a few days in as our hosting company filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy forty-eight hours before we planned to launch our flagship product—always backup your data and code and always plan for things to take longer than you expect them to.
On June 12 I took a taxi back to Raleigh-Durham airport. I was off to Baltimore/Washington International for training for the LeadAmerica CSLC Business & Entrepreneurship Conference. I would have the chance to teach entrepreneurship and leadership to high school students for ten days and I was very much looking forward to it. I went from being all alone in my bare office to having a business partner and a fully furnished office, a growing network, and a new company ready to launch. I had made it through the first week of my life as an entrepreneur.