Being laid off can really sting.
A feeling of betrayal, rejection and anxiety about “what’s next” can be a wicked combination. However, often a layoff can provide essential headspace for reflection and ideation and can often create the fire for creating something new and an opportunity to forge a new identity.
When Astrid Benedetto was laid off from Target, she took the opportunity to start her own business. Several months later, she secured a dream corporate role as an inclusion leader with U.S. Bank. Deciding that she was passionate about both paths, she developed each of them.
As an entrepreneurial novice and a mother of two, Astrid’s journey has not been easy. We sat down with Astrid to learn more about what she has learned along the way.
How did Picabash come about?
Picabash is an online platform that brings together small businesses that specialize in party products, services or venues and people looking to create a unique party experience. I started it after being laid off from Target in 2015 after I was frustrated with finding ideas for my oldest son’s birthday party. Luca is a creative kid who always wants to do something different and unique, and I was unable to find what I was looking for through a simple Google search.
Along with helping busy people who wanted to throw a great event, my hope was that Picabash would connect party planners and small businesses, creating a supportive network to allow small businesses in the Twin Cities to thrive.
Being laid off can be a challenging emotional experience. How did you motivate yourself to start something new during that time?
When it is not your own decision to leave, it is never easy. I have always wanted to do something on my own, however when you work for a corporation and are moving from one role to another, it’s difficult to find time to pause and think.
The layoff gave me that opportunity to pause and reflect on what I want to do for the rest of my career.
I came to two realizations. The first realization was that my true passion is in inclusion. I was born and raised in a country where my family was discriminated against and treated differently. That personal experience has ignited that inclusion passion within me, which led me to my corporate career in diversity, equity and inclusion where I want to help make a difference.
The second realization was the business idea for Picabash, where I want to create a supportive and thriving local business community of women and professionals of color.
What motivated me to start something new was my belief that I was solving a problem (one-stop-site resource for quality, one-of-a-kind party for busy people) and that I was trying to help small, women and minority-owned businesses succeed.
What has been the biggest trade-off you’ve made as an entrepreneur?
Less family time. I worked on Picabash full-time for about a month and then landed a full-time corporate job. After I started my full-time day job, the only time I could work on Picabash was when my work as a parent is done for the day which meant many late nights for me. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is fully supportive of my entrepreneurial journey but his work travel sometimes meant he was not always there.
During the first year of prototyping, I was in front of my computer for the full weekend, from 3 a.m. to midnight. Yes, I was averaging 3 hours of sleep the first 2 years. My husband helped occupy the kids during the weekend. After the first year of prototyping, my husband and I made a decision where I committed to spend one weekend day with the family and one weekend day dedicated to Picabash.
What is the one thing you wish you had known when you started Picabash?
I wish I had known more about effective ways to launch a brand. Marketing is one of the most important components of a company’s journey. You could have the best product in the market but if nobody knows about it, what then?
What were your biggest challenges as you started the business?
When I had the idea for Picabash, I knew that there would be three main challenges:
How I’d create a website when I had no knowledge about coding.
How to convince people to use Picabash. Like any start-up, you have to start from zero and build the brand up.
How we’d stay relevant once Picabash has gained recognition.
What are you most proud of now?
I am most surprised and proud of my own resiliency. While building Picabash, I wanted to show my kids that if you truly want something and you put all of your effort into a project, you can overcome any challenges in your way and build something worthy.
Do you have any words of advice for women who are considering starting their own business?
Do your due diligence. Understand what you are getting into and have a discussion with your spouse/family. You are not in it alone since whatever you do will affect your family.
Network like there is no tomorrow. There are many resources out there, especially for women. You cannot be an expert at everything and that is okay. There will be many times where you want to give up and you feel that no one understands your journey, which is another reason why you should join a support network.
Get a mentor (or two or three). Everyone has different strengths, different journey. Learn from those whom you admire. This will help expedite your own learning curve by learning from their past mistakes.
Be a connector and work your network. There will be times when you need a big favor, so try to pay-it-forward whenever you can and it will pay off.
When you feel burnt-out, give yourself permission to take a break to re-charge. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint.
It’s okay to let certain things go. You don’t have to be a super woman and do it all well. I used to be a neat freak; my house is always clean and in order! Soon I learned that if the laundry is not folded right away, no one will throw a fit.
Do make time for family. Kids grow up fast, and you don’t want to look back and regret missing important moments. Remember that they are watching you as their role model.