Episode 12: Knowing When It’s Time to Call it Quits as a Startup Founder with Kat Brendel

Apr 25, 2023 | podcast | 0 comments

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You can find the full transcript for this episode at the bottom of this page

What if you realize that the day-to-day of bringing the vision of your startup to life requires you to ignore parts of yourself that are incredibly important?

What if you’re still passionate about the mission behind your company, but realize that life as a startup founder/operator is not the way you want to bring it to life?

Today I’m introducing you to a former co-founder who struggled with these same questions and ultimately decided that being a startup co-founder wasn’t the right fit for her. Kat Brendel, was the co-founder of CoWomen, a coworking space and community club for women in Berlin, one of Germany’s first coworking spaces for women.

The public aspect of [failure] is of course, huge. I think it’s one thing if you try something and like 10 people see it and it doesn’t work out and you’re like, “Okay, still sucks, but okay.” But this was big. We were in magazines, we were in newspapers, we were the first doing this, and we wanted to prove that it worked.

Kat’s love of stories led her to study journalism and build a career in media. Through getting a boatload of marketing experience in South America, the US, and Europe, she learned not just how to tell good stories, but how they can drive businesses forward. In 2017, she launched her first podcast and was immediately hooked.

Since then, she’s not only become a serial podcaster, but has also helped dozens of people & organizations launch and grow theirs. As a podcasting & storytelling strategist, her jam is helping bold business owners become the orca of their industry’s ocean (aka the biggest, baddest, most big-hearted thing around).

In this episode we explore how Kat found herself in a co-founder role, the moment she realized it wasn’t the right fit, and what helped her to make the difficult decision to step away, and how she overcame this so-called “failure.”

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • The challenges of calling it quits when you’re so passionate about the startup’s vision and mission
  • What Kat wishes she would have done differently before diving into her role as co-founder
  • The moment Kat knew that her role as co-founder was not the right fit for her introverted side
  • The unique challenges faced by female entrepreneurs, such as having your company viewed as a “hobby”
  • What helped her recover from the so-called “failure” of stepping down as co-founder, and what she learned in the process
  • The entrepreneur path she’s found that’s provided more flexibility and creativity, while still allowing her to continue on her mission and passion for creating change for women 
  • The words of wisdom (and encouragement) Kat has for anyone who is considering pursuing a new opportunity or business idea

Find Kat Online:

Resources & Inspiration from the Show

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About Founders’ Fears & Failures and your host, Dr. Melissa Parks

Melissa is an entrepreneur, former therapist (PhD in Clinical & Health Psychology), and an executive coach for entrepreneurs with a special focus on startup founders. Her passion for supporting startup founders in particular began after witnessing firsthand the emotional rollercoaster her husband experienced as a startup co-founder.

She started the Founders’ Fears & Failures podcast with the mission of shining a light on the mental and emotional challenges that come with life as a startup founder. Having lived abroad for 10 years herself she realizes how much we can learn from hearing stories from around the globe which is why the show doesn’t focus on a country-specific startup ecosystem.

Melissa is also the co-founder of the Location Independent Therapist Community, and a mom to a toddler who keeps her on her toes, and fuels her passion for helping to make the world a better place.

If you are interested in coming on the show, please get in touch. We would love to hear your story.

Want to connect further? Get in touch with Melissa on social media:

Want to work with Melissa?

Melissa is a former therapist who provides mindset coaching for ambitious professionals around the globe. Schedule your free discovery call HERE.

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Did you enjoy listening to this episode? Leave your review on Apple podcasts or Spotify.

Disclaimer: The Founders’ Fears & Failures is for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes only. It is not meant to be used for personal health advice and should not be construed to constitute personal or professional consultation or guidance, or to replace medical or mental health treatment. The opinions expressed by this podcast, including the podcast guests, are not meant to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of a medical or mental health provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your medical and/or mental health needs. If you are in crisis, please visit this website to find a list of suicide hotlines around the globe. 

Episode Transcript

Melissa Parks 

Alright, Kat, thank you so much for coming on the show today. I’m so happy that you reached out to me to share your story.

Kat Brendel 

Hi Melissa, I’m so excited, especially that you’re doing this podcast. I know you were thinking about it when we like talk way back when. So when I saw you’re actually doing it and about this topic, I was like, oh, that’s exciting. And we actually have something for this.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, well, I mean, I was thinking about it. And really, when I, you and I, we met in a mastermind, and I attended one of your workshops. And that was really the first time I thought, hey, this podcast idea I’ve had kind of spinning around in my head, I could bring it to life sometime. And then just towards the end of last year, 2022 it really, it seemed like the right time. So it was I feel especially honored because you were part of the story actually, of planting the first seeds to bring this to life. So really, really excited that you’ve reached out.

Kat Brendel 

I love that.

Melissa Parks 

So I when I introduced you, I shared with people your current role as a storytelling, and podcast strategist. I don’t know if that’s if I remembering correctly your official title, but I, you, you’re you have a different another story that you’re gonna share with us today. We’re gonna start off started off with more around the failures piece. And I’ll put failures in quotations, right? Because this this podcast is about redefining failure, but maybe so to speak, when things don’t go according to plan with your business.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, totally. When you share what the podcast was about and obviously, yes, that is the official title, as storytelling is what I do. I think I have this brain that’s always like, okay, what are my stories? And what are the stories that shaped where I am now. And I also think, I love that you said in quotation marks, because I’ve grown into this part of like, not seeing anything as a failure, though, even in the moment it might feel like it. And it did remind me of the story of when I co-founded a coworking space and community club for women in Berlin, which was actually Germany’s first when we opened, and which was really, really exciting and very public and very big. And then one, I exited out. And two, we had to close our doors as well, shortly thereafter. So that was if you would look at it from a distance, you could interpret that as a failure.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah. Tell us more about maybe some of that backstory about the co-working space. How did that idea get started? And I’m sure along the way, we’ll also look, we’ll bring it to the so called failure part of it. But how did you first get started?

Kat Brendel 

So it actually happened very randomly. And through podcasting, which is a funny coincidence. So when I started my very first very first podcast is like 2017, I was the head of marketing and PR at a tech startup. And there were not a lot of women in leadership in a tech startup, unsurprisingly, sadly. And I wanted to learn from other female leaders kind of find my own style. And I have this background that I studied journalism and media. And I said, Hey, I’m hearing other people be interested in this topic, as well. And let me do something with it. And I landed on doing a podcast, which was my very first, and through that, I started attending a lot of like, women’s events, I’m gonna say like, very broadly, I went to like conferences, and you know, networking, chats and all these things. And through that, it popped up on my radar that there was a woman, Hannah, who was thinking of opening a coworking space for women specifically, which didn’t exist at that point. And she was looking if some people wanted to, like, drop by and have a chat about a kind of like, knowledge exchange. And I was like, Yeah, I’ll share some stuff. And it was actually at Hannah’s home. And I don’t know how it happened, to be honest. But I got roped in the idea. She had a former colleague from her employed work in Munich that also had come on board. And then we became this three person founding team, with me and in communication, since that’s kind of my background. And then we just like, got to work. I quit my job, kind of coincidentally with this, and we started with a pop up meeting, and it was a very small space. So we were like just testing the idea that people actually come to this, which they did. We then expanded to a proper, really big space and it just kind of like grew from there.

Melissa Parks 

Okay, well, some of the best ideas start in people’s living rooms, right? Or garages, or, you know, these days. Yeah, informal spaces. So it sounds like at first things were really going really well. Right. It’s like kind of you’re living the dream, so to speak.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah. It was really exciting because you know, we were one of the first or the first back then a space that was doing this coworking in general was pretty big. The the focus on women and business and women entrepreneurship and all that stuff had also grown massively people were noticing, hey, there’s a gap here that we need to close. And so the demand was high, we got covered in newspapers, people were, you know, actually coming into the space, which is kind of the point. And it was very, you know, very exciting. We had a lot going on, which was great. For sure.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, let’s, I mean, it sounds like, especially just thinking back to that time. You know, like you said, there was a gap in the market and that you were filling that gap. And so I can see why that there would be quite a demand. Can I ask What year was this? Because I’m also thinking as you’re talking like, when was the pandemic, right, I think you mentioned 2017. At what point were you in time?

Kat Brendel 

Yeah. So this was all when we started was all pre-pandemic. So that was like, I think, I’m fairly sure was 2018. I will double check that for you before like, just to be sure. But yes, I’m fairly sure it was 2018. So this was all full on before the pandemic in like two years, until the pandemic was going to happen. So we had a couple of years of runway before that all was there. So yeah, it’s funny, like, even now, the scale of amount of things that we did is like really not, you know, imaginable, almost. But yeah, so this was all definitely pre-pandemic.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, it’s just interesting, because so many of the guests I’ve had come on, when we’re starting to explore their stories, the pandemic features into them in some way or the other. So, I think that, you know, that’s just a useful thing for thinking about an offline business where people are still, like, you know, those before we all get comfortable with working from home. Okay, so I’m imagining this, like, a couple years for the pandemic, you’re, you have this very successful, coworking space that that you’re starting with these other two women. At what point did you start to think? Well, we’ll say, at what point did things stop going so well? Or? Or did you start thinking about exiting?

Kat Brendel 

Well, I think there’s two sides to that there’s one for Cowomen, and then one for me, which were a little bit separate. So for me, it was this point of noticing that I kind of went like, I’m kind of this person, I will go well, and I’ll just jump in, I’ll do it. And it was very much in the doing. And then I realized that it was like, very encompassing for me, and I am, I’m somebody that’s really good with people. And then the moment I’m good at events, I you know, speaking and all that stuff is usually good, but I need a lot of like recovery time from that. So I’m not introvert in the sense of like, when you put me in social situations, people wouldn’t say I’m introverted, I’m very extroverted. But like, that was interactions take out a lot of out of me, and then I need a lot of like, recovery time. And, of course, mistake, that didn’t happen because we had events. And then the next day was like, full on, you know, the space again. And so you were in this, like, 24/7, I’m gonna exaggerate. But you know, it was a lot of like, being around people. And clearly, of course, as being as the founders, we’re not in the space, just like quietly working in a corner where obviously, you know, managing and talking to people, and you get new people. And, you know, there’s a lot of interaction that takes place. So I noticed for me, that, like, the work for me was not balanced enough, I needed a time where I felt like I was creating, because that’s like a part that’s very important to me, where I was, like, quiet concentration time. And that was very much missing. And clearly, this was not a like, Cowomen thing. It was a, you know, being the owner of a coworking space, kind of, you know, that was like it was it was carries with it, which I think I would have been a little bit of aware of before but other than not as massively. So yeah, that was definitely the I think, for me one part that it felt very one sided. And then also, I think we realized that we, what we had as a vision for the space was very big. We want it to be about having more business leaders in corporate so like having more women that, you know, we’re training but our negotiations, you know, went up higher levels, we wanted to help women, you know, start businesses, grow businesses, like we our vision was very much in this community aspect of it, you know, creating connections between them. And then, however, especially in the beginning, since we were kind of running everything ourselves in the day to day, we kind of felt more like service providers. You know, it was more like checking people in, refilling the coffee, making sure that this works. And that felt like very removed from like, the big and we honestly just didn’t have the capacity to have other people take care of this like organizational stuff. While we didn’t do that, and we focused on the bigger version of it. So then also like the day to day work, didn’t feel as fulfilling as we maybe maybe wanted it. So I think that was the internal things. Yeah, I’ll leave it there for now. I can tell you the external stuff later, but maybe you get a word in edgewise.

Melissa Parks 

I’m just thinking, it’s interesting, because a lot of the founders I’ve spoken with talk about how they love the work that they’re doing when their company is small. And then as it begins to scale, that’s when they realize, Oh, I do not like this. I do not like being a leader. I do not like having less contact with my, with my clients. But it sounds like for you, for you, and probably for the other co-founders, too. It was almost the opposite, right? You the vision, the big vision really connected with your strengths and what you want it your big, why will say. But then, actually, that that period at the beginning, where you really needed to grow and get things kind of get the momentum going and get to a place where you could outsource more. There was a miss mismatch there, right between that and that big vision.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, and I think also, that was difficult to say, in hindsight, if it was, we didn’t position it correctly, or people were just not in that mindspace. But I think very often, we also attract to people, which I understand now, if I was, you know, working for myself, if we go to space, some people just want it as workplace, right? They just want to go, they want to have to sit there and want to have their coffee. And that’s it. And we were like, but this was not just an office basically, right? Like our thing was like, This is not like, you know, come whenever grab a coffee, be silent for eight hours and leave. And I think so we also didn’t have like the 100% like resonance, we did have a lot of women that did have that, but not everybody. So it was also harder in that sense, to build this bit, which admittedly was a newer concept coworking existed, but it was very much like a convenience thing. I think a lot of spaces, said slash say it’s about community. But in fact, when you walk in, it’s more of like, something useful to not work from home very often.

Melissa Parks 

That’s it. Yeah. But it sounds like you were trying to disrupt the industry a bit right, by by making it specifically for women and really making it a community space for women. And perhaps it’s not what the market wanted at that point.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, I think it’s always difficult. In hindsight, I think sticking a longer slash having more funding slash having our things, it would have been possible. But on the other side, also things happen, that wouldn’t have changed that, like the pandemic did happen. And that would have been, regardless of what we did before. A huge cut, right? I think also, it’s become a bit more of a complicated topic now about like, women only spaces, it was already back then. But in a like, clearly sexist way. Like we would have men basically, who would complain about why am I not allowed anymore? Why is this for women, and we get called sexist, which was been quite funny, like reverse racism, which doesn’t exist. But But now, but not for that target audience, but now talking about, you know, more fluid genders, and how do you decide that? And how do you support that? And how do you actually are and encompass a community, you know, that that would have been a much more so exciting, but different conversation, I think, than it was in 2018. So yeah, there would have still been external things that would have impacted us, regardless of what we did in those two years.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, it sounds like even if it wouldn’t have, you wouldn’t have had to close the doors if you wouldn’t have walked away. And there still would have been a lot of pivots that you would have had to make and and we don’t know if it would have succeeded still.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah. So but yeah, going back to the external thing, for sure, the pandemic was like one of the biggest hits, because clearly we are a business that thrives on a lot of strangers sitting together in a closed space. So the whole business model was like very anti, what you needed during the pandemic. And that it for the business itself, that was the part that kind of made us close the doors. We tried downsizing first, to a smaller space, but even that was just not like it just I think everybody will agree, it just took a lot longer. And everybody thought or we just thought like, hey, we have to write it out for like, our own couple weeks, couple months max. And then it stretched and stretched and stretched, and we’re like we can’t, you know, hold this. So that for the business was definitely the biggest death nail.

Melissa Parks 

Okay, so do you mean that that is when the coworking space had to close their doors? It was during the pandemic?

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, it was a little bit. I think we actually did stick it out quite a while. As I said, we moved to a smaller space and we’d still were open. incrementally, like we obviously closed the doors during certain times. And then we started to implement roles and, you know, trying to manage it in some way. But clearly, during that time, memberships were very, very low, participation was very, very low, understandably so. So yeah, that definitely was for the business a very bad thing.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, well, no, but I think you’re in good company. Right. I know that. From what I’ve heard. That’s what’s happened, what happened exactly what happened to a lot of coworking spaces, especially. I mean, even some of the larger chains that I’ve heard of didn’t need to close down or completely changed their business model.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah. Yeah. And as I said, like, what what I said earlier about, like, thoughts about the industry is shifting, I think we had in the beginning, has a very positive example of the wing, which is like US based and has started in New York, and then had lots of chapters across the country up and wanted to expand. And then they got in really hot water and got bored and didn’t work out. And there was a lot of like, negative press. And then I think it was that combined with in general spaces having to close plus, because of the pandemic and also cultural stuff. I think that was like a small storm build light to it. Yeah.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah. Well, tell me more though, about because you said that it’s, it’s partly right, this, it’s partly all of those factors that led to the coworking space needing to close but it sounds like there before that you were already thinking this might not be right. You exited before that, right?

Kat Brendel 

I did. I did. I mean, we always say I’m officially co-founder, I still am officially co-founder that never changed. But I did have a conversation with my co-founder saying that I’m gonna step out of the day to day that I am not gonna like actually participate. While we still had the space, I would still drop off by occasionally. And there will be small things I would do, but I was not like heading communications anymore. Like I used to. And yeah, so those reasons were very non pandemic related. That all happened shortly before the pandemic, if not, like, just around the time. And yeah, those were those those I would say, like intrinsic reasons of finding that the working mode and the work itself was both, not what I wanted to do.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah. And were there like, did you reach in? Did you reach a point of burnout at all? Would you say to go so far as to say that or were there some signs you noticed, like that just helped you realize, this is not the right fit for me?

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, I think one good story about that, whenever I couldn’t, we had one very, very big party wasn’t wearing our biggest space. And I don’t remember what the reason was, either was our anniversary or with some special day, but anyway, we had a very big party. And we obviously have a speech where mainly a lot and I literally somewhere a couple hours in went to like one of our meeting rooms, which was the you know, like on the side and closed off and just like, sat on the couch and read. It was just like, I need to remove myself. Because it was just like too much. It was nothing bad. Like, there was nothing bad happening. And it was clear for us and it was like full party. So it was like, you know a success. But I was just like, I can spend like the entire time were there. So it was like I was like reading my book for some time before going back out there. So I think things like that, which were like very clear, like my energy reserve for this is just not what it what it needs to be. I think that was that was like a very clear sign.

Melissa Parks 

I’m laughing so much. I’m trying to hold back my laughter so I don’t interrupt you. But I can I’m I do consider myself an introvert. I consider myself a social introvert though. So because I too, would love a party like that. And I would love to go read my book in a corner. And I’m sure we have a lot of people listening who can relate. So you knew what you needed. But it probably wasn’t like, it sounds like yeah, that that moment just really showed you like I can’t I can’t keep doing this role.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, because I mean, for that role. The point is being there, you know, the whole time. And to be fair, I had love like, my co-founders are amazing. And they never were like mad at me about it or anything. Like, where would you go or anything like that? They were totally fine. I think they did visit me at some point. We’re like, oh, here, you’re interesting. But they never like, you know, made me feel bad about it. But yeah, but that role was very, you know, externally focused. And to some extent, I really liked it, I love you know, meeting people connecting with them speaking all that stuff, but it was just like, the amount of it was more than I and again, working in the space was for me nearly impossible. And I am somebody who’s like a big fan of deep work and hates interruptions. And that was like, just like interruption central, right, any like five minutes somebody would come up with a question or they started remember or, you know, so yeah, that also didn’t lead for my like days to feel like I advanced or were fulfilling are produced or did what I wanted to do.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah. And do you know, like, was that something that do you know if you’re co- founders found that to be a difficulty for them as well.

Kat Brendel 

Um, I think there were a little bit different there. I think they’re they’re a little bit more extroverted in my sense. It’s funny, I’m trying to think back because way back in the beginning, we definitely did the Meyer- Briggs test. And I think they did both get extroverted on that, weirdly enough, I did, too. The first time I take it, I like switch, like my other letters are always the same, but the E or the I changes in the beginning, occasionally, but I think they did. And they were in their previous jobs, there were consultants. So they were very used to this like, being on for other people and like the interaction, and that being the main focus of their work. So I think they were a little more used to it. Yeah, for sure.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, I just I asked that because I think one thing I’ve I’ve talked with a few other guests about is just how some of the challenges we run into can be related to our uniqueness. Either our strengths or difficulties, right, you’re just our unique wiring? And so yeah, just sounds like you just were, it was becoming slowly more and more apparent to you that this role wasn’t wasn’t the right fit anymore? Well, or maybe it never was, actually.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, I think that was one of the pieces of advice that I would say, like looking at it in retrospect is kind of test out things before you like commit and go all in. When I, you know, sign on to do this, it was for the idea and vision. And, factually, I don’t even know if I’d like spent extended period of time at a coworking space. I know I’d like dropped in in some. But I think this was the point where I thought like, we are going to do things differently. Because I do remember that I went to like one of the coworking spaces when I was still employed. And you walked in and like nobody talked to you, you know, everybody’s just doing their thing. And I remember thinking like, well, I don’t know what it was gonna feel like there was no point coming here versus just like working in my home office, like interacting with everybody. So I think it was definitely about like, wanting to do things differently. And the vision and the mission, but not an understanding of what the day or two day would be like slash, if I would have know that maybe found ways in the beginning to see if we could do it differently. Or not. You know, I think it’s always difficult to say, but I think one thing that would have made sense would have been like, Hey, can we test this out? And be more aware of it. I think, for example, during the time that we had that pop up space, would have been a good time to really check in more actively, can I do this at scale? I like a lot bigger, more consistently, how am I feeling about this? Because I think you have this thing like, oh, when we grow things change. But actually, like a lot of things we’re doing did not change. Because there’s still you know, it’s just like more, but it wasn’t that different. So I think being more mindful of doing experiments, and checking in earlier is always easier, but I am also somebody who was very, very bad at letting people down, or what feels like letting people down. I think I had that feeling a lot earlier than I let than I actually did to the cut. And I tried to do like halfway times before like, my cofounders knew some of the things it wasn’t like, you know, we obviously communicate it. So it’s not like it was foreign to them. But I would like still try. I was like, Yeah, but I’ll do you know, and I was very, because I was like I can’t leave them alone with this, you know, especially at a time where I know, it’s like if the pandemic was starting or so it was like it is a difficult time. Like, this is not like everything’s going great. Well just hire somebody to do whatever you were doing. You know, that felt even more like, you know, yeah, leaving them alone, letting them down. And that made it even more difficult.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, I mean, I think saying no to something or saying no more do something is going to be one of the hardest things to do right first, well, first admitting it to yourself, and then communing, communicating it to somebody else.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, and I think that was the other piece when we like originally, or was thinking about this. The public aspect of it is, of course, huge. You know, this was not, I think it’s one thing if you try something and like 10 people see it and it doesn’t work out and you’re like, Okay, still sucks, but  okay. But this was big, right? Like, we were in magazines, we were in newspapers, we were the first we were doing this, you know, and we wanted to prove that it worked. And like one of our guiding things was kind of saying like, it is worth investing in women. Like that was one of the things so we wanted to show that and and that it’s not just worth investing in women because it’s nice, but because, you know, it’s actually also like, business wise, it’s worth it. And, you know, we also wanted to show that side of it. And then also felt like we didn’t write like, it’s not the story and it’s not the true but the truth but if you look at it like simplified, that is something that you have to think about, like how are you communicating this externally,

Melissa Parks 

yeah. Oh, but I hear what you’re saying to like, it’s so much harder when it’s something you really tied to the mission about it. And I think that’s happens for a lot of founders, like, you know, people refer to their companies as their babies sometimes and to say, nevermind, I can’t do this anymore. That’s really hard.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, for sure. And, you know, also, because we were in a sector where there were a lot of people or thoughts or other people who, again, thought, it’s not worth it, it’s not going to work. You know, it’s these women doing this thing. I think that happens often, and women entrepreneurs, women and entrepreneurship, especially when it’s around topics that have some sort of social angle or impact, that it gets, you know, put aside as a hobby, or a nice charity or, you know, this leg. thing, that’s not a real business. So I think we, we wanted to write, we wanted to show that, yes, this can be a real business, and it’s worth doing, and we’re going to create change with this, and it’s going to happen, and then it’s even more disappointing, not to yourself, but it’s also to others to see that not work. Also, because we did not see that it was like happening. I think after we opened there was one more space or so that would did that did this, but like on a bigger scale, we didn’t see that there was a huge difference. That, you know, the market could oversaturated with this offer. So yeah, we definitely, I feel like we definitely left a gap.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, no, it’s you’re bringing up so many good points. But I’ve just I was nodding along so hard. And when you were just talking about the struggles of women and entrepreneurship, I’ve spoken with so many women who they’ve you know, they’ve received immense amounts of funding from investors. And somehow people still think that their their startup is a hobby, I don’t know. It’s, it’s, it’s horrible. And I hope things change. And that’s probably why a lot of women don’t go into entrepreneurship, right? Because there are just so many beliefs about that it’s not a real thing, or you can’t really make it happen.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, and I think also, especially, I mean, the reason we created was for members, and we got daily, the reminders that it is still necessary, right? It was always it’s quite funny, we talk to people on this and like, Oh, we don’t need stuff like that anymore. And then we have daily talks about, you know, people at a corporate job, just getting the comments or realizing they’re getting paid less, or, you know, is that founders not getting funding or, you know, reduced funding or being asked if they’re planning to have kids or you know, all this stuff where you’re like, yeah, that’s, it’s still clearly a topic that needs to be addressed and worked on. So yeah, so I think that I think like summarizing, that was the thing, right, we had a very big vision for it, that we really believed and wanted to make happen. And a lot of factors why we couldn’t do it. But it of course, you know, both personally, and as a whole, then feels sad and disappointing when you can’t make that happen.

Melissa Parks 

So my question for you is, how did you deal with that disappointment? How have you continued to deal with it? Because it’s something that’s part of your story now?

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, I think I think that’s a one of those aspects, I think I shared within our community fairly openly how I was transitioning out from the day to day and some background on that. We didn’t ever make it public because. And for that, also, that’s a big part of my co founders of how lovely they were slash are. For them, it was always like, well, you’ll always stay a co-founder, even if you’re not, you know, doing this day to day, we still, you know, created this together. And I also did say, I’m still open, basically. So if there is something that needs to be like, you know, done, or you need to help or something happens. So I think that’s why like public in the one side, we didn’t communicate in the sense that nothing changed in one way. On the practical side, of course, the people were impacted by this who like saw the behind the scenes, or, you know, who was there and who wasn’t? They were obviously told, and it was a conversation to have. I think for, for me as like part of my story, I also always kind of thought about, like, how do I weave this in or not, or leave that out. But at the end of the day, it kind of brought me first full circle. Because one of the things that obviously that led me to like me, my cofounders and do this was my first podcast. And then while I was at Cowomen, there was still a lot I was doing in that space because I loved it. Like I created a woman and podcasting panel, which was the first it’s really sad, isn’t it? I was like, I think one of the few first slot whatever that was was just women. It was a time I remember where there was another huge conference where they only had like, I think it was a really badly chosen title to it was like the voices of podcasting or something, and then it was all men. And then obviously, I was like that is. And you know, there was like, oh, but there’s no women podcast. There were obviously were. So anyways, I stayed in the topic. And I gave workshops, and I started working in it, but I didn’t feel I was like going all in as I wanted to. So one of the things I was like, okay, if I’m not doing this, then what it is that I do actually want to do. And I was like, I want to go more in depth on this, this is what I wanted to, like, invest in, because I felt like, I am doing this like evening two hour workshops, which is great to like, you know, get somebody excited for it, maybe kick off on ideas and restructure. But it’s not actually like, giving them really the tools they need, especially if there’s somebody that is a business owner, and does want to use this as like, also like a strategic marketing piece, right? This is part of their thing. And I saw that missing, and I was working with people. So I was like, Yeah, I want to go back in this. And it also let me kind of keep that mission alive. And my version, which always was that I am going to advocate for having more voices and stories, like more voices from people who were basically non white cis men, which is like the majority, and also telling stories that matter and you know, impact people and have make a difference. So I was like, This is how I want to stoke that mission, a life of creating change, just through a different avenue that also suits kind of what I need a little bit more. Yeah.

Melissa Parks 

Did you need? Did that become clear already? Before you left your position? Or did you need some time after after you left to kind of, I don’t know, marinade didn’t know about it.

Kat Brendel 

So I was already doing it while we were there. So it did happen at the same time. Because as as usual with founders in the beginning stages, it wasn’t like we were earning a huge salary, where I was like, Yeah, I can just like focus on this 1000. So I was working on projects already. So it was I think more or less like finessing and narrowing of the vision when I mean, it still keeps evolving. It always is evolving. But yeah, but there was pretty much the transition was a little bit hand in hand.

Melissa Parks 

And did you think about going back to work at another startup or incorporate? Or were you pretty it was it pretty clear for you that you wanted to stay in the entrepreneur world?

Kat Brendel 

So it’s funny that you asked that question now, because I think now I’m considering it. But I’ll back up. And I’ll say, back then yes, I was sure I wanted to these days self employed. I love the freedom of it. I was, you know, I was working at a startup before. But I didn’t completely quit just because of Cowomen. I also quit because I just needed more freedom. And I wanted to do more my things. And I think that that meaning aspect was definitely one of them as well. The tech startup I worked with, like, the mission was interesting in the beginning, but then the day to day, it turned out to be very much more commercial. And I was like, not really what I want to do. So I left the job already, you know, wanting to be self employed and being with Cowomen definitely solidified that I did like having the flexibility. Because honestly, as like, as much as you want to tell that story of me reading during an event, as you know, also like a realization, you know, in a negative way, what doesn’t fit. It’s also something I wouldn’t have been able to do as an employed person, can you imagine being like part of an organizing event at a corporate and then just in the middle of the event being like, I’m gonna duck out, I’ll be back in like half an hour like that, that wouldn’t have been possible. So it also clearly gave me a lot of freedoms and flexibility that I didn’t or wouldn’t have. So yeah, back then, definitely. decided I wanted a stay self employed. And be because of that, like, I’m gonna say overstimulation. I was like, I would like to do it alone. That was kind of a part of like saying, like, I do want to like do my own thing for a while I don’t want to like join another team of like founding team or do like another huge business that is going to require me to work with you know, employ people work with a public setting. That was then and that was already now. Two years feels like two to two to three years something like two years I’d say. And now I think I’ve like hit the point where like missed the team. I think I’ve been doing this for so long now that I’m like okay, I got it out of my system. I like you know, recharged in a way extensively. And then I had a longer project over the last year and a half where I worked. supportive for a long term a client with like audio curation was really fun, good to listen to all podcasts. And I realized I really like having a team again, and being part of something bigger. So I think now I’m like thinking, ooh, how do I like mesh this? How do I not like go overboard, like, last time where it’s like too much, but also maybe have a little bit more of an exchange and a community aspect?

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, it sounds like really finding the sweet spot between those different pieces and, and that you’ve learned a lot about yourself through this journey, too. I think that’s one of the things that we can take away from failure. Right? It certainly is a good teacher sometimes.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, and I think it’s definitely important to think about it and process it. It always reminds me or like, the conversation reminds me way back when, like years and years ago, for my first podcast, one of the guests I talked to, was somebody who had this complicated backstory, but long story short, is that she got detained and then and then deported, and had to, like spend a long time abroad, even though it was not nothing she didn’t, you know, wrong. And she said, like, one of the piece was like working through this, that she still felt like, Oh, my, like, you know, a bad person, or did I do something wrong, even though she knows she didn’t, right? Like, she’s like, had we to work through this label that she now had because of this interaction. And I think it was really rough. I think it was her lawyer, who told her to write a letter from her, like, best friend’s biggest cheerleaders perspective on the whole thing to highlight not, you know, what she did wrong, where she messed up what this like, bad thing means now for her and her life, but kind of from the perspective of like, what, how, what the word, the good things of how she did the whole thing and how she dealt with it, and how she’s dealing with it now and what it, you know, mean? So I think that was a very interesting exercise to be told. And I think it’s generally something that it’s your story, you can tell whatever you want, everybody’s gonna remember it differently. They do. Like, I’m sure like, as I love my co founders and have a great relationship, I’m pretty sure if you interview them, however, they will have a different story to tell. Because from their perspective, it happened all you know differently. So that’s not like a bad thing. But it is in the good side of that is you can also just reframe it how you need to reframe it.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah. I love that exercise. It sounds like something I would give one of my clients actually. Yeah, I mean, it’s story, the way we tell our stories are so powerful, right? This is this is the work that you do now. And why don’t you tell us more about that, that work that what are the projects that you’re currently involved in? Or maybe you know, when you’re particularly passionate about?

Kat Brendel 

I say, storytelling and podcasting strategy, or strategist as my title, because I look at the big picture, right? It doesn’t matter what microphone you have, it doesn’t matter. You know, your artwork that much. To some extent, it’s more about like, what is the big picture vision behind this? How are you making sure it’s actually giving you my wants? And you could say that is also part of the lesson, right, that I had with, with, with with Cowomen was like, the big picture vision was there. But like the analysis, I would say, of like, the actual work and how that converts, and if that makes sense, for me, was lacking. And if both don’t exist, then that’s where you get into trouble. So yeah, so I do that. I do that mostly with business owners, because I love how flexible they are, how creative they are, and also want to help them grow their businesses, and actually, you know, have a bigger impact on people. So yeah, and I love the ocean, hence why the biggest orca in your industry is one of my things.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, I love that. I love that. That part of your bio. Well, tell us more, though, because I know you have a new podcast that you’ve released. Creating in the margins. Am I remembering the name correctly? Yes. Yeah.

Kat Brendel 

So I noticed, I fell into this trap after leaving Cowmen that then I got so busy in the like strategy work and doing work with others that I kind of left out my own creativity a little bit, I were focused on the work aspect of it, even if it was very fulfilling. And then I had an idea for a podcast. And it was just like, the execution was so lagging. Like, I’m the queen of like having plans and I know what to do, right? It’s not like I don’t know what to do. But I would just like always a party list, land on like, place 100, which means it never got done. And so I was like, Okay, how do we talk about actually creating something for the first time, especially or keeping to create something when it is not, you know, fueled by other people, when you are not definitely being paid for it? Or maybe you don’t have, you know, you decide the deadlines, and that deadline can be two years because you didn’t like you know, set it properly? Like, how do we make sure to still value creativity to still give it space, because we do need it like even the most left brain person or right brain person needs kind of the other side. And also with the added twist, because again, this ties into what I care about. Also people who are either like marginalized themselves, or cover kind of marginalized topics, especially because again, kind of touched on when we talked about Cowomen they often get given even less space, and support and anything else they need to actually tell little stories. So I was like, Okay, I’m going to create a podcast, dissecting this, both for myself and talking with others, we’re actually doing it to motivate people give them actual tools to prioritize their creativity, give it space, even if it is in the margins of their life to still have it happen. And you know, create change. Yeah.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, no, I love it. And I really think it could can resonate. And I hope that I’ll you know, we’ll be linking to it in the show notes. And so I hope listeners will go give it a listen as well, because so often, as founders, you can get just so sucked into the day to day of your work, like you said, in your experience. And we all need creativity. And it can be just such a great way to rejuvenate and to reset and recharge our batteries. And you don’t Yeah, you don’t need a whole whole afternoon to do something right. You can carve out small spaces to do it. And of course, I also love like I am on this podcast, I want to bring in some of those more marginalized voices as well. And so I can really, I really love that that mission that you have as well.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, and it’s all about challenging yourself because I’m doing things with this podcast that I’ve never done before because I work with people on making podcasting as non overwhelming as possible, which usually means keeping it simple. But I’ve also noticed I made a bit of this five years, the busier it gets, you also want to have like a special sauce something that makes things different right so I’m always the one who like experiments with things first because then I can like report back basically does that work? So with this podcast, like my first podcast was very much the super simple like interviews and occasionally a solo episode and then this one I’m like doing sound effects and aeration and inserting clips and like doing all this like very different things I bloopers at the end. So a lot of like this different audio elements and just playing with it to one challenge myself learning new things explore me and it also helps me grow and be able to report back and show what works and what’s worth it, what isn’t, how long does it takes. All that stuff?

Melissa Parks 

No, I love that attitude of play as well. Because even if you’re in a, you know, a huge startup, you’re a founder of a huge startup with a lot of money. And that’s been invested. The advice I’ve heard is play, you can’t forget the play and the fun. And there’s an element of it, that is a game. And so I think if we can kind of bring that to our lives, it can be really helpful for our mental health actually. Well, what do you think like for anybody that’s listening, I mean, any tips that you would share that you maybe something you wish that you could go back and say to your younger self, you know, right before, either before you found it, Cowomen or when you were in this, the beginning of it?

Kat Brendel 

Even if you’re afraid of like something ending, and then it’s gonna, like, not go great. You know, it could have been my case, my cofounders could have been really mad at me, I would have understood that too. And you know, could have become this whole bad thing. But that is still would have still been better than me consistently just doing something I didn’t want to do and not working for me just like prolonging and prolonging and prolonging something that isn’t working or you can’t change. So I think that’s also something to realize, like, it’s not fun, and like being prepared for maybe a non positive outcome, but realizing that even that will be better than just like, continuously, you know, part of yourself in some way.

Melissa Parks 

Yeah, absolutely. I see it a lot with my clients like the sunk cost fallacy, right? So like, I’ve already gotten this far, I’m might as well keep going, even though I’m completely miserable and burning out or, you know, like even you know, getting messages in my day to day that this is not the right fit. So, yeah, I love that. I love that.

Melissa Parks 

Well, any last things that you want to share today, before we wrap up the interview?

Kat Brendel 

I think one important thing that the last thing that I would share though, is I would still do it. I think very often. I mean, I did give tips basically on maybe avoiding some things or maybe ending some things earlier than not. That all being said, I find it worse not doing it. Right. So if you are concerned about an opportunity or an new idea or a change. And you’re thinking about it and you’re like, ooh, but it could go wrong in all these ways? I think it’d be no that would say like, Yeah, it did go wrong in some ways. But that was still like I had so much growth in that time. I built so many great relationships, we did create change in a lot of areas. I would still do it, I would do maybe things I’ve learned from it. Let me adjust No, no, all these things. But I don’t think you should not do it. I think not doing is worse than doing and then finding out. Oh, that didn’t work. So yeah, I think  I know when you hear people’s failures can often sometimes make you more hesitant yourself. And I would just advise against that part of it.

Melissa Parks 

Ya know, what you’re saying is what I’ve I’ve been hearing from the other founders that I’ve interviewed that have gone through a failed company, right. It’s a what do they say? It’s better to have a life of Oh, wells than what ifs?

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, actually, one of our like, Cowomen mottos was like, just do it anyway. I think that was what was one of our like, oh, yeah I’m wearing a Cowomen shirt today.

Melissa Parks 

Oh, we rise by lifting others. Yeah, I love that

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, I still have the merch.

Melissa Parks 

Oh, it’s such an important mission that you guys had. And I love that you’re finding your own way to continue it forward in your work.

Kat Brendel 

Yeah, I think it would have also been interesting to see how it has changed over time as new things happened. But I think it also did really well, where we were and what it did back then. And definitely all learned from it.

Melissa Parks 

Well, Kat, how can listeners find you and connect with you?

Kat Brendel 

So the hub of all my podcasting and storytelling work as tell on purpose.com? Yes, it’s a little bit tongue in cheek. So if you want to hear that, that’s there, you also find the podcast there. And I came back to social media. Recently, I had gone for nine months. So I had quite a long sabbatical. So you might find me there. But the best that is always I have a newsletter called The Inside Story. And it’s not a newsletter, because that word sounds horrible. But it really is kind of the behind the scenes on like storytelling products. So I basically go deep diving, and then I collect like the storytelling and podcasting pearls, like curate them, and I bring them up and I shine them up. And in there, I kind of share both my own stories, because it’s also practicing how to tell better stories. So I like to imagine it’s very funny and entertaining. You’ll have to ask people.

Melissa Parks 

I’m on your mailing list. And I really enjoy getting your newsletter or whatever you call it. So I would agree, sign up if you want to learn about storytelling and podcasting.

Kat Brendel 

Great, thanks. So yeah, so that’s where and actually when you hit reply, I read everything, you know, reply to everything. So actually, it’s a bit old school. But that’s usually the best way to get like, get in touch and chat. And obviously, if you want to launch or grow your podcast, with a purpose, make good stuff, then I’m here. Happy to chat.

Melissa Parks 

Awesome Kat. Well, I will link to all that stuff you’ve just mentioned in the show notes too. Thanks again for coming on here today and sharing your story.

Kat Brendel 

Thanks, Melissa, for creating the space. I think it’s super important to talk about failures, and the people you’re talking to you and also your own perspective on it. Because then I know you obviously have the knowledge and tops to see the big picture of everything. So thank you for creating this and for having me on and asking great questions.

Melissa Parks 

Wonderful. Thanks, Kat. Thanks, bye

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HI I’M MELISSA

I'm a therapist-turned-coach who loves working with clients around the world! I work with the globally mobile community to support them through transitions as well as entrepreneurs who need support navigating the rollercoaster of entrepreneur life.

I'm also the co-founder of the Location Independent Therapists (LIT) Community, a mom, a self-compassion advocate, and an aspiring author.

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