How Hemingway Kept Us From Launching Our Company

We didn’t launch our greeting card company on Saturday, and it’s all Hemingway’s fault.

Over 12 hours on Saturday we set up our Shopify store, found a Los Angeles-based drop shipping company, established social media presences, used Fiverr to get a logo designed quickly, and wrote the greeting cards for our Los Angeles-centric greeting card company Sweetcards.

There were a handful of choices we had to make that caused us to change course and ignore the 12-hour limit we’d imposed on ourselves. The most fateful one was the decision to make a card for every neighborhood in Los Angeles, including such classic LA neighborhoods as Unincorporated Catalina Island and Northeast Antelope Valley. For those of you playing along at home, there are 265 neighborhoods in Los Angeles, which makes for 265 cards. Or, a card a minute for 4 hours.

Plus, we didn’t want to short change the densest neighborhoods, like Koreatown, or the ~*cool*~ ones, like Silver Lake and West Hollywood, so those got more attention, and more cards.

A lot more.

We ended up with 423 cards by 4pm, and we hadn’t yet given serious thought to templates and design. We only had one computer with any working design software, and we were faced with our next defining choice: to compromise, or to call it a night. With a compromise, we could’ve had poor quality (albeit hopefully clever) cards, a working site, and the launch would be over.

Or, we could call it a night, and spend the remaining time to plan our attack for the next few days. I blame Hemingway for the path we took.

One of the popular strategies taken from Hemingway’s writing is his following quote about maintaining progress:

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

After writing over 400 jokes and odes to Los Angeles, we were feeling great. So, rather than burn ourselves out on throwing together a design for cards we wouldn’t have been thrilled with, we spent our last hours scheduling out how to use the momentum and the good feelings of the day to approach the remaining, significant hurdle: getting all of the cards designed.

As a byproduct of pushing our launch, we also now have time to do marketing tests. The experiment to launch, originally slated for 12 hours, will now span 5 days, and will allow us to learn even more over the following 2 weeks.

To us, putting the emphasis on quality cards and additional opportunities for learning was worth falling short of our original goal.

That’s not to belittle the effort we put in, either. The 12 hours we spent working on Saturday were an absolute flurry of site integration and idea generation. Our brains became 46% coffee. I ate more almonds than I’d ever eaten in one sitting. Despite all that, we still have work to do.

Perhaps if we had used the neighborhood density list as a way to focus our cards on people living in the most populated neighborhoods, we could’ve met our goal. Instead, we were of the opinion that every neighborhood in Los Angeles deserved to have a greeting card written about it, and though that choice ended up delaying our project’s launch, we had a blast along the way. I can’t wait to show you the terrific, nonsensical, Randy Newman-esque odes to Los Angeles we created.

Now, maybe we should have known from the beginning that our timeline wasn’t practical. Still, in failing to reach our goal in 12 hours, the effort we put forth has us in a position to have a well-regarded, charming, slightly sexy greeting card company that serves the lovers in every neighborhood in Los Angeles.

So thanks, Hemingway. We owe you one.

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