There comes a time in the life of every child where the parents need to loosen their reins and let her spread her wings. Remove the training wheels from the bike. Wave goodbye on the first day of kindergarten. Running a business in many ways is like raising a child – or, I’d imagine as such. (Disclaimer: I don’t have a child.)

You pour a lot into it in its infancy. You sacrifice a lot of your own life in order for it to succeed and thrive. You feel a lot of pride in its accomplishments, and also are sensitive to – and at times defensive of – its shortcomings. You worry about its future. It keeps you up at night.

But ultimately, if you don’t work to help shape it into its fully realized, independent self, you’ve failed as a parent. Ahem, (co)founder.

Dabble has almost two candles on its birthday cake. It’s walking on its own, getting into some mischief, making friends, and taking on a life of its own. Jess and I, the proud parents, are learning what it’s like to give up some control.

Here are some of the lessons we’ve had to teach Dabble (and by extension, learn ourselves):

1) You’re not always going to be the popular kid. We’ve at times been reluctant to change our child. What if we get backlash from customers? A snide remark on Twitter? But gradually, you learn it’s not so bad. And having conviction feels good. No one likes a people pleaser. It’s important to know where you’re willing to be flexible and what is so core to your being that you’d significantly compromise yourself, your vision and your ideals if you made exceptions.

2) To learn, you must stumble. Learn by stumbling and falling a few times, maybe getting bruises (sometimes visits to the ER). But you’ll be all the stronger for it. We launched subscriptions a few months ago. One version of the offer – unlimited subscriptions – was sorely underpriced. We lost a LOT of money on it. So what? We actually learned a lot about our customers’ behavior through it. This is the time to be falling, and we’ll have the scars to remind us to do it differently next time.

3) Growth means taking chances. And usually, you’re not going to feel 100% confident saying “yes” to chances. By definition, that’s why they’re called chances. Dabble launched with just $20 classes. We wanted to be the advocate for the “dabbler” mentality, and we thought price was one of our unique selling points. Soon, though, we realized the restrictions of this model. Now, we let teachers set the price themselves. Turns out, it was a right chance to take. Instead of having our fears of angry customers and falling sales come true, we’ve seen a big uptick in sales, and our customers are happier than ever.

4) We are not our business, nor are we defined solely by it. This is perhaps the lesson with which I’ve grappled the most. When you’re working on a start-up, it becomes part of your life in a way that no other job does. Like parenting, it becomes so much more than a 9-to-5. It requires conscious effort to take “me time” to maintain some semblance of sanity, especially – and particularly – when things are rocky. But ultimately, no matter what happens to your business, you will still exist independently – and so should take the appropriate measures to ensure that you don’t lose yourself in your business.

I find that I can make decisions with more peace of mind when I’m armed with these lessons. Most recently, I made the decision to move from Chicago to San Francisco. It was tough, to be sure. How could I still tend to my child while being more than an arm’s length away? What are people going to think? My decision was driven by a personal reason (I have a great guy out there), and so reason #4 became especially important to remember. As it turns out, my move will facilitate growth for Dabble, as we’ll be launching in San Francisco in the next few months.

Dabble’s training wheels are coming off. I’m guessing that Dabble – and I – will get a few scrapes and bruises as a result. There are some unknowns, and unknowns can be scary. But there is one thing I’m certain of: in order to see my baby mature and thrive, these are necessary steps for both parent and child to take.

– Erin


Dabble couldn’t be more excited to announce our launch in San Francisco! And, while I’m out there, I’d love to meet some new faces & make a few friends. Know someone who’d be a great business connection for Dabble, margarita drinker or hiking buddy? Let’s get in touch! Send an email to and say hello.