Leadership Lesson: Find a Cofounder

This year has been dedicated to the journey of starting Coastside Leadership Academy, a gender inclusive homeschool nature program for high school girls. As programming for the first cohort came to a close, I was having trouble finding the words to express my experience in the inaugural year. I have many thoughts and feelings about what it takes to start your own business, but the one I feel the deepest is grateful to have a cofounder. Leadership can be lonely, but when you have someone living and breathing every moment with you, it makes blazing your own trail feel doable. My biggest leadership lesson to share with people who want to start something new, is to find someone who will help with professional and personal balance, be a powerful thought partner, and a sharer of joy. For me that person is Lindsay Stewart. 

Lindsay and I have been friends for the last eight years, and while people usually say don’t go into business with your friend, there is no one else I would do business with. We have different backgrounds and expertises, but our strengths and interests complement each other. Lindsay’s background is in science and math education and mine in journalism and physical education. She is a master teacher and healer and I am an administrator and leadership coach. Lindsay is interested in the business side of things and handles finances and insurance, while I enjoy telling CLA’s story through marketing and social media. With this polarity, we also have many things in common and this creates a synergy for a working partnership. We both care deeply for teenage girls and are passionate about serving this population of students. We love nature, the ocean, and prefer to be outside over working on a computer. Our brains think in logistics and we naturally create documents to keep us organized. The best part of our cofounder balance is that we do most of the day to day work together, which is fun, because we are hanging out with our best friend. 

On a personal level, as cofounders, we lean on each other when things aren’t easy. Difficult situations came up for both of us throughout the year. I have found that if one of us is struggling, usually the other is feeling grounded and we are able to help each other. I always appreciate when Lindsay reminds me that I am enough!

This year I have felt how powerful creating with another woman can be. We have a process that starts with meditation and ceremony before we venture into the other logistics. This has helped us stay clear on our vision of reimagining the high school experience for girls and building a different type of life and work environment for ourselves. We always lean into “how do we want to feel?” when we are doing something and let that energy be the guide. Whether it is creating our mission statement, building our website, or cocreating curriculum with students, we are intentional to stay true to the feeling we want to bring to our community. 

For tasks big and small, having a thought partner to bounce ideas off of before settling on a final direction has been invaluable. With two of us working together, we are able to be intentional about our decisions and detail oriented. Unit lesson plans are beautifully laid out and emails are proofread twice. Our projects always come out even better than we expected, and are completed much faster than our predicted timelines. I am in awe of the community we have built, the programs we imagined, and how successful our students have been because we are able to combine our gifts.  

I am grateful and proud to have Lindsay to share the joys of starting a business with. There are days where we dance in celebration and there are days that we sit on the beach and cry. She is the only other person who truly understands the amount of dedication that has gone into making Coastside Leadership Academy possible. Leading CLA side by side has been the confidence we needed to live our own life’s purposes of empowering girls and women. We are forever connected through living CLA’s mission.

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