I married a chronic entrepreneur

I met my husband, Dan, the summer he started a landscaping company with his best friend. They thrived off of mostly mowing and mulching, but also weed-whacking, planting and edging. The drive they had to work all day to pocket the money and save it was definitely a spirit I hadn't seen before.

I was a saver of money, but I wouldn't say I hustled to get it. I got an allowance, I would occasionally babysit and I usually had some kind of part time job (Manhattan Bagel, Coldstone, summer camp counselor, dance teacher's assistant and so on). I didn't mind working, and I loved the income but I was not nearly as driven as Dan was at the age of 18.

I learned that he would sell snacks at his swim meets when he was like 9 years old for income (although of course my mother in law was the one buying them, she graciously let him run his own snack stand).

Then in college, he attempted to make a custom board short company and they tried to raise money with selling t-shirts, and they got a prototype and they did a lot of research. And their Moms were willing to help with the sewing and manufacturing of it all. I remember just nodding and smiling, because I loved the spirit but was totally confused at the same time. We were in college, with no money, and they are talking this huge ideas. It never took off, but he learned a lot from the process.

But alas, internships took place, college fairs came to town, exams were passed and Dan got a job as an actuary at a great firm in Chicago. But, I kid you not that we were moving out of the 2 month corporate housing and Dan stopped me and said, "I can't do this job. I don't like it." I was not surprised really, but also was like well... you need to put up with it for a little because we just moved here, I have jobs now and you can't quit. Although, he did start looking for new jobs.

This is the day we were moving and he told me he hated his job. Despite his true feelings, he was/is such a happy guy.

Dan was a math and business guy and had a few different job offers out of college. So he back tracked and saw if they would still take him and he got an offer at a trading firm. (Dan is the guy who will cold call anyone and he truly believes and lives the saying if there's a will, there's a way). He was going to start after the holidays but then he learned the bonus structure at his current job, and it was like golden handcuffs. Not something you can walk away from easily at the age of 21. So he stayed there for another 2 years. Long, unpredictable hours and definitely work-a-holic atmosphere. But he was crushin' it. They loved him and we fell into our routines and it was the way our lives were for a few years.

But probably every weekend, if not more, Dan talked about quitting to pursue something else. I don't remember his ideas now at the time, but he was (is) always spinning new ideas.

So whatever, the point is we ended up having the financially means and stability to dive into the entrepreneurial lifestyle.

Dan and two of his friends applied and got into a three-month long incubator for start-ups and that's where COMMIT started. The incubator allowed for a work space, some networking abilities and lots of resources.

At this time, we didn't have any kids, I was working a few different part time jobs and it seems so long ago, I can't remember how the days went or how many hours a week he spent on it.

Flash forward a year after the incubator and we were pregnant with Will. In my old post you read how sick I was, so these are my observations from the couch. Dan would get up, care for the dogs and me and then work. One of his partners moved across the country, and the other lived about an hour away, so he mostly worked from home.

There is no way I could work from home day after day like he did. Somehow, through distractions and to-do lists, he was so focused and able to go into his office and work away. He was coding a lot of the time, but always thinking of ways to better the product and dealing with customer service and marketing too.

He would admit it was frustrating to work with others, even his best friends, and I think it was mostly because his work ethic is so intense and strong. Which is good, but also hard to relate to others and work along side people who may be more relaxed and flexible.  They were probably annoyed and frustrated with him!

We'd talk through a lot of things each night and he'd show me process in his product and everything. And he was dedicated. Free time= work time. [**This is not always healthy, and he changed through the years for mental health but initially this was how his brain was wired].

He always gave me quality time, and our families and he really did try to separate work and home as well as weekdays verse weekends. But sometimes, when you own your own business and are running things, you feel like you are always on call. Or downtime could be-should be- used to strengthen the business and earn more revenue. I know he struggled a lot with being able to sit back and relax and enjoy just regular down time at home.

But there are times you can't take off. We were on our "babymoon" at the jersey shore, and since I was sick anyways and mornings were SLOW, he would get a few hours in. And I kid you not, we were in the hospital after Will was born and he was answering emails and handling work.

Working on vacation.. although this is him sleeping technically.

Let me clarify... I was never ever mad at this. It wasn't like he was glued to his computer or phone and being rude. He always did it the times I was sleeping, or busy myself.

This is the first morning home with Will and Dan headed off to a conference for the next 2 days! We had planned ahead and my parents were with us to help, but just is the reality when you run your own business that sometimes timing won't matter! (FYI- If Will was born on those days he'd obviously wouldn't attend.)

I feel like Dan's personality too is that he just handles shit. If something comes up, he doesn't play victim, he doesn't complain, and he just does what needs to be done. And I love that. He is truly one of the most positive guys I know and I think that is what keeps him going in the entrepreneurial world.

So life goes on, and he pushed himself, and soon had to start pushing his co-founders too. He would have to find ways to re-motivate them, and keep them going.  The company was making money and slowly growing, but not enough to pay all of them. Eventually they got other jobs, but Dan was not willing to do that. He did not want to go back to working for someone else, especially when he saw how it was growing and the potential for Commit.

So about a year went on and Dan struggled with the work load and the division of labor. And everyone was living such different lives and yet Dan, with maybe some fault of his own, was on overload and doing a lot. And he started to see issues like that he was now stuck in this swimming-specific service pathway and needed to gain some own personal background and networking in order to ever have the ability to go onto the next venture.

Dan landed a job at a company that had a lot of remote employees and he was hired as a developer. His "professional" resume was actuarial and now he had Commit to show of his self-taught abilities too. He got the job- because again, Dan does not stop and will prove himself for the things he believes in and wants. Since he was "new" to the field, they asked if he would move to Cincinnati to be present in the office to have a lot more opportunities to be hands on and train.

He liked the company, and the founders and everything. And he was hired to be a developer- which would be helping build and maintain an app and do whats told of him. But Dan had ideas, and sales strategies and things he was excited about. So, Dan being Dan, tried to pitch it and take it and truly wanted to help the company grow. He believed in it. However... after trying and being shut down, and having to follow policies and protocols (which is normal and expected), Dan already was planning his exit.

::Sigh of breath from tired wife who is trying to keep up::

When Dan left jobs, it was never ever in a negative way. It was in a day-dreamer, what-can-I-do-to-better-myself way and his exists were always thoughtfully planned and appropriate. But he knew he'd have to power through for a while until the next opportunity.

And this is when I REALLY began to see his entrepreneurial fighting spirit. And I can't say I'm surprised, but I am impressed. He would wake up, go to work all day, come home to pregnant/sick wife, do the whole family and bedtime dance, brew a pot of coffee, chug it back, and open his computer up once I went to bed (let's say on average like 10pm) and work on Commit for hours into the night.

Not pictured, the coffee mug beside him to recharge before his night work.

Hit repeat and this was his life for a year. In the thick of it, he admitted it was not sustainable but if it means he can get Commit off the ground and running and do what he needs to do to be able to sell it, or go back full time and receive enough money to provide, he will. And that's just what he did.

Never once did he ask for me to get a job to help, or plan on getting a job when I was able. He talks budget constantly, but never once did he withhold us from experiencing life and taking Will and Liv to things that would enrich and expose them (i.e. aquarium, zoo, music classes, out to eat as a family, beach trips, etc.). We weren't planning extravagant vacations to the islands, or buying a new car, but we were totally 100% provided for. I never had to walk the grocery store isles with a calculator in my hands and count pennies at the counter.

We moved back after a year in Cincinnati and he was going to continue doing both jobs for a little for money stability and to be fair to the company.

I think week 2 of being back in PA, he was already struggling to stay at his job. Working on the projects he was, for the times he was, under someone else's management was killing him.

{Side note: at some point in this crazy busy summer of ours, he became fully in charge of Commit and the other two founders left working on it and moved to board seats only. A bittersweet outcome but one that was ultimately the best emotionally and mentally for Dan to grow the business and the other founders to explore their next journeys to the fullest.}

We moved into a new house, and with help from some family and friends and contractors were able to move everything in, paint the whole entire house, get some "improvements" done and be unpacked within a few weeks. This involved Dan swapping out some Commit nighttime work for house projects like trim work, or unpacking, or installing TV mounts and all those other random housing needs.

And as I'm writing all of this, I'm like...WTF?. We had just moved, had a newborn, a toddler, 2 dogs, house things to attend to, he had 2 jobs and at the time I had one evening of work and I'm just curious how we made it through. Dan NEVER complained.

Dan was/is really just always looking for the next thing. Knowing he will have to work and grind and that there are so many other components needed to stay the path to get there.

And fast forward a month after move in and he was just so unhappy with the day to day. As we were talking it out, I remember being like "Dan, just quit." And I feel like I visually saw all this weight float off his shoulders. And the next day, Dan gave his 2 weeks.

It meant money would have to be tighter and reasonable. But, he did it and never really looked back. He gained control of his days again and was totally renewed and revitalized. He had fresh ideas, he set his home office up to help creativity and productivity soar (i.e. a whiteboard wall, standing desk, natural light, and space). He got down to it, and has been doing that since.

And he's working on the next things too, and attending Philly meet-ups to gain networks and attending conferences and so on to continue growing and learning.

Dan has a work ethic like no other. He will slave away on something, but also call something quits before wasting time and energy down a dark hole. He's quiet but has so much knowledge to offer. He can be intense, but he is it's because he is determined and willing.

Our conversations are filled with new ideas, or what ifs, and the dreams and desires, and the ideal work load, and so many other things that all point to the same thing: Dan cannot easily work for someone else, ever again.

Will he? I'm not sure... I hope not. I love his spirit and optimism and ability to have an idea and go for it. His mind while focused, also allows for growth and change and adaptability. He has learned so much in just the last 4 years alone from starting his own company.

Most of the conversations I would say I'm supportive of, but I'd be lying if I didn't say its exhausting sometimes. Dan would agree! He wishes for the simplicity of being able to go to work, "clock-in, clock-out" and come home and get a paycheck and benefits and just do that for the next 30 years. But Dan needs to control his work day, and his ideas and his business creations.

Which is amusing, because he has no control over the day otherwise. Aside from life with toddlers and babies switching up everyday, he also has our demanding dogs and then there's me, who controls the rest.

Being married to a chronic entrepreneur I think has opened up my eyes and taught me that: work hard play hard, to think positively but realistically, and to always try. It doesn't mean everything will go your way, and there are still external forces that will block you and could bring you down, but accepting those things can turn your life into a new direction.


***I would be doing disservice to expose all of my husband's hard work and history without giving him a shout-out and linking you to his current company mentioned above.

It's relevant to a swim coach or swim team, but he's busting his butt all the time to bring a great service to the swimming community... So check it out!

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