From 1-Bedroom in Gramery to Living Room Futon in Alphabet City

Today is my 28th birthday. A lot… well, literally everything happened in May actually. Therefore, I’d like to dedicate this post to an amazing startup journey so far, as I look back to what I had to give up to start my company… and how I never looked back since.

Life Before CityPockets:

  • I was a well-respected management consultant at KPMG and prior to that, Opera Solutions. However, every time someone asked me what I did for a living, I felt embarrassed about my “job”. I just knew in my gut that I’m meant to accomplish something greater.
  • As a huge foodie in NY, I was a food critique for Citysearch (read my famous post – “How To Woo A Girl In 4 Days“), had a food blog, and dined at 75% of the Michelin-starred restaurants in New York. Yes, I dined out a lot and was really into French/Italian gourmet cooking such that I enrolled in the French Culinary Institute, which I never eventually went through with.
  • I had a 1-bedroom apartment that I absolutely adore in Gramercy. Giving this up, my “home” identity and the privacy that came with it, was the hardest part.
  • Between 2008 and mid 2010, I’d traveled to 23 different countries and at least 15 different states in the US; all but 1 on business. I’ve always been deeply passionate about traveling and exploring new places but had to give up traveling since CityPockets was incorporated.
  • I used to be the New York socialite & adventurer; I went to premier scotch-tasting events and French Tuesdays, embraced the orchestra, broadway play or live music at Le Poisson Rouge at least once every other month, ran a race in Central Park every other week, hosted specialty cocktail & hor d’oeuvre parties, organized blueberry picking, white-water rafting and hiking trips upstate NY, played golf in different cities, snowboarded in Tahoe and Whistler, shopped at designer stores, and attended special museum opening nights at the MoMA.
  • Before I moved to NY, I worked out 5-6 days a week for 2 hours each. When I moved to NY, I worked out 2-3 times a week for 1 hour each.
  • I was a facebook super user. I literally checked it every 10 minutes and posted status updates or photos at least once a day. I had no interest in twitter & foursquare.
  • I was an IBM thinkpad gal and never owned a single apple product.

Life After CityPockets:

  • Jhony and I came back to NYC from our incubator experience at LaunchBox early December. By end of January, we’d ran out of the $20K seed money they had given us and started digging into our savings account.
  • Obviously, I had to move out of my lovely 1-bedroom apartment to resort to a cheaper option. Luckily, my roommate David was nice enough to let me convert part of his living room in StuyTown into my bedroom. Since I didn’t have money to build a wall, we went to Home Depot and got these curtains that we velcro’ed onto the ceiling to give me some privacy. I still remember the day we put those curtains up: I couldn’t stop laughing at the situation I’ve gotten myself into till I teared. Some of my girlfriends thought I was crazy.
  • For about a month I was sleeping on a couch. Then I decided to buy a $50 futon from craigslist that opened up to a full-sized bed. I made the headboard with wooden plank, cotton and my favorite fabric, so at least my makeshift (living) room looked somewhat cozy. Not to mention, the silk bedsheets 🙂 And the living room looked cute during the day when we pinned up the curtains for sunlight to come through.
  • For 2.5 months, I was on a shoestring budget living on a strict $35/week food budget. I managed to do it by cooking my favorite startup meals (i) kale & quinoa, both of which contains the highest amount of protein in its food group (veges & grain) so it’s super healthy and super cheap. (ii) curried lentils (iii) soba noodles with imitation crab (iv) pasta with frozen shrimp and broccoli. I also saved some when I munched on cheese & crackers at startup events. They counted as dinner. Besides, I had a ton of daily deal dining vouchers (obviously), giftcards and free wrap passes that I’d received during my days as a food critique. Oh, and make investors pay for your meal whenever you have meetings with them 😉
  • That budget has now been upped to about $60/week, which I’m still maintaining pretty well. I’ve learned to live on the bare basics and remove myself from attachment to things.
  • I hid all my designer bags and sunglasses deep inside my closet. It just doesn’t feel right to be wearing them at all. I now shop at Forever21, H&M and cheap soho/chinatown fashion stores 🙂
  • The only events I go to these days are free startup events, workshops and conferences. I get invited to the occasional dinner and social parties, sponsored by VCs or service providers.
  • I’ve stopped going to the gym. I just don’t have the time for that since I’m so obsessed with my startup. I am a super workaholic.
  • These days, I barely log onto facebook anymore? I’ve started actively using twitter & foursquare since January and now find them an integral part of my life.
  • I’ve switched from a macbookpro to a macbook air and cannot imagine myself ever going back to a PC 🙂 But I’m sticking to my Android mobile for now!

Some nights, when things were rough at CityPockets (no funding, no idea where we were headed), I would get really depressed about my living conditions and felt like running away or giving up. But I didn’t. I kept telling myself to be strong and that someday, this will all be worth it. That I will be able to look back 10 years later and see the sacrifices I’ve made and be proud of doing something that not many people (esp. women) could do.

Today, I’m proud to say that I’ve made it this far and survived. I was able to keep CityPockets alive by securing additional investments from angel investors and have even moved into a new office in Chelsea. We’ve expanded our team to 3 full-time and 3 interns an are still hiring enginerds and designers. I’m now looking for a new apartment near my office so I can sleep in a proper bedroom on a proper bed. Please let me know if you can refer a place. I’m trying to get back into incorporating some ‘normal’ NY experiences into my life and also get back into my workout routine since I need to start feeling healthy again.

In the month of June, I’m giving up meat and alcohol (for the most part) in honor of my startup journey thus far.

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5 Responses to “From 1-Bedroom in Gramery to Living Room Futon in Alphabet City”

  1. Jay Xie

    Very inspirational post! It’s interesting how founders are all the same. We had the same tiny food budget, humble accommodations, tight knit team, ridiculous work hours. Wish you the best of luck!

    Reply
  2. Mia Eleanor

    Hello! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply

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