What happens when your vision of success changes while you’re building a wildly “successful” company? How do you redefine startup success?

Allie Siarto built an incredibly successful company by all of today’s metrics and standards. She and her partner were ready to sell the company—but then she hesitated.

What changed?

In today’s episode, we talk with Allie about how walking away from a “successful” business taught her to rethink what success really looks like. Together, she and her spouse decided to shut down a wildly crazy successful business and fire all of her employees shortly after having her first daughter. She realized she could not stand the thought of sending her to daycare and then going to work every day to work on something she didn’t love.

Redefining startup success: shutting down a company to build a vision of a different life.

The business had been all about making money and pursuing the idea of success that other people had told her she should pursue, but it had not been about creating the life that she really wanted for herself. When she shut down the business, she worried, of course, what other people would think and whether or not they would think she had failed as a business owner, especially. She worried about what her employees would think of her, but the result was that it left her with more time to pursue a completely different business, a more fulfilling and flexible career, one where she built a team of wedding and portrait photographers. Her clients used to call her at all hours with all sorts of emergencies and cause a huge amount of stress in her life. Now, she plans her schedule way in advance. She also spends a month in Florida every year and plans sailing trips across Lake Michigan without worrying that she will miss an urgent call from a demanding client.

Today, we’re going to talk about how she shifted from one to the other. We cover what it felt like to walk away when Allie had little kids at home and how to stop worrying so much about what other people tell you success should look like: instead, focus on what you truly want and need in your own life right here, right now.

IN THIS EPISODE WE TALK ABOUT
  • The early days of building Loudpixel (her first company), and the stress it caused on her life and partnership.
  • How she listened in to what “selling” felt like and how she realized she was building a company—and trying to sell it—for reasons that weren’t really hers.
  • Why the birth of her first daughter prompted her to rethink what she was building in business, and why she eventually shut down the company.
  • How the space and freedom from shutting down a company let her rebuild a new vision of success, with her life and priorities in mind, and what she is now doing today.

The Startup Pregnant Podcast Episode #121

SOME QUOTES FROM THE EPISODE
  • “‘Won’t I look successful if I can say that I’ve sold my company at this age? Won’t other people think that’s great? Won’t that looks so good when I take that money and make my kitchen look nicer and can put on this look of success?’ I didn’t realize that at the time, but everything that I was doing was based on other people.”
  • “Everything I was doing was based on other people. I had to redefine what I thought success was—for me.”
  • “No one ever came to me and said, ‘Hey! Do you like what you do? Do you enjoy this? Do you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?’ When I really started digging into it, the answer was no.”
  • “If I turned down the offer, which is really hard to do, I’m going to have control over my life again and I’m going to get to decide when my children are born and what that’s going to look like. I was like, literally, this is like defining what my family is going to look like in the future.”
  • “Success is more than money. Success is freedom.”
  • “I felt so much more emotionally connected to that work, and even though it was not on the outside a successful sounding career.”
  • “It was a lot more impressive for me to be able to go out and say, ‘I run a company that’s been featured in these places and won this award and works with these global companies.’ It was so much more impressive on the outside, but I’m so much happier doing what I’m doing now.”
  • “I checked all the boxes, but it just didn’t make me feel the way I wanted to feel.”
  • “When I took that new perspective and the new lens and I looked at it as what’s my kid going to think success looks like? How am I going to illustrates to my kid what success is?”
  • “It sounds dramatic to say I was a prisoner of my work, but it was very much like the work had run away with itself and I was on the ride and I was like kind of stuck doing it in a certain way and I could try to move it and grow it and whatever, but the clients were very much helping to define what my life looks like.”
  • “Journaling was huge for me figuring out what I wanted and just to be able to let go enough of the outside influence to step away from it enough that I could get my head around what I really wanted my day-to-day to look like.”
  • “I started to surround myself with people who were teachers and people who were like every kind of career possible and maybe one or two of them ran their own businesses. It was actually really nice, because when they talk to me, a lot of people didn’t even know what I did for a living. So, I finally could say, ‘Oh my gosh! These people don’t care about the Allie who runs Loud Pixel and does all of this stuff.’ They don’t care. I could start to really like get outside of myself and see what I wanted and realize that I could still be happy.”
  • “I was like camp counselor who loved 10-year-old kids and did really well with 10-year-old kids. As it turned out, newborns are nothing like 10-year-old kids. So it definitely rocked my world.”
  • “I don’t want to get taken advantage of, and that’s just what was happening. The more I was letting people take control, less control I had over my own life. So I use a calendar system and it says this is the time and this is when I’m going to meet with you, and this is where. It has to be the times that I define, or else, if doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. That’s how it is.”
  • “Every single year, one of the core things that just makes me so happy is to have some kind of creative creation. Something involved where I’m pushing myself. Making myself feel uncomfortable or trying something new. So there’s always something like that that’s going to be burning at the back of my mind that I’m going to be working on.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT ALLIE SIARTO  

Allie Siarto runs a team of award winning portrait and wedding photographers out of East Lansing, Michigan, along with the Photo Field Notes Podcast, an educational resource for photographers. When she’s not running the business, you’ll find Allie sailing on Lake Michigan, chasing after her two tiny daughters and tasting every dessert in sight.

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