Before I say more, let me take you back to the time we first met. It was over a year ago and I was hanging in there, but I was also struggling. I had staffing problems, I was doing the work of three people, and I had to raise money to keep Oiselle going. In my quest for new connections, a friend of mine (let’s call him Bob), introduced me to Atsuko. As he quickly listed her experience, I knew she’d be of interest…accountant by trade, but then a 12-year stint at REI where she held various positions including CFO, and then CEO of a local startup, Evo (which I think of as the Nordstrom of action sports) and just a well-respected leader in the community.
When we met at Top Pot donuts, we immediately hit it off -- in part because she knew my world. “You have important people looking over you, investors who care a lot about the company. And you have great people working for you, who support the mission and vision. But you don’t really have many people sitting next to you… who can offer advice or guidance without a stake in the game.” It was true and it was powerful to hear her say it…so much so that I almost started crying onto my maple bar. There have been many times that leading a small company has made me feel trapped by stress and worry, but without the right person to talk to… it can be very isolating.
Soon after, I tried to entice Atsuko to come on as President. To help me grow Oiselle into the powerhouse I knew it could be. But she turned me down. She needed time and space to sit back and take stock of her professional life, something I could both appreciate and was a bit jealous of. But we decided we should definitely work together in some capacity, and so began a year-long collaboration where she helped me with everything from closing the round of funding, to investor communications, to hiring new people and creating a long-term budget.
I’m not sure if that year was fuel on the fire, or I simply wore her down, but the happy ending is that when I proposed she be Madame President once again, this time the answer was yes. After all, in just one year, we had doubled our revenue, hired new people, and had big exciting plans on the docket. Bottom line, the girl club needed her. And maybe she needed us. Regardless, I couldn't be happier to have my friend and mentor at The Nest...still sitting next to me.
Source Oiselle Blog by Sally Bergesen Oiselle Founder & CEO ©