by Brandi Mikula
Last November, I was sitting with two people in a dark and freezing cold office on the Fayetteville square, working on a new company that didn’t have a name yet. We spent our days brainstorming what we want to do and where we want to take our new company. Not what I expected when I started the gig, but I knew I had an opportunity to be a part of something great, and I was excited. After the beginning of the year, John’s focus turned to starting a venture capital production studio. We would be building startups into businesses. Not at all what I signed up for in the beginning, but exactly the type of opportunity I hoped would spring from this project. I was excited about the possibility of seeing so many ideas and early stage companies come through our office. As a binge watcher of Shark Tank, I love getting to hear pitches, evaluate the company, and brainstorm ideas to take it to the next level. The only problem was, I had no idea what my role would be, so I started dreaming it up. I wanted to build the community around Hayseed – marketing, PR, outreach, events, social media – anything that involved fostering our presence in Northwest Arkansas, I wanted to be the lead. And so that’s what I do. My goal is to create a community around us. To let people know we’re here. To become a resource for entrepreneurs in Northwest Arkansas. I was able to be apart of building the foundation for Hayseed. From naming the company and dreaming up my own role, to designing our office, picking the paint colors, and building the furniture, I’ve been right in the thick of things. And because of that, I have such a unique sense of pride in what we have built so far.
I get asked everyday ‘so what do you do?’ I hate the question, partly because it’s really hard to explain what Hayseed does in a couple minutes, but also because people just don’t understand the concept of working at a startup. It’s foreign to them. People look confused. The option of working at a startup is not something we were taught in high school and college. It’s not even on the radar for most young people. The only way I found out about the possibility was through the Arkansas Fellowship, a program aimed at keeping young entrepreneurs in Arkansas by matching them up with high-growth startups throughout the state. That’s how I ended up at Hayseed. That’s the only reason I even know this world exists. There are incredible opportunities outside of the corporate world. Vendorville is not the only option. There is a budding startup community right here in Fayetteville that is a perfect opportunity for young entrepreneurs to get hands on experience in an early stage company. People just don’t know about it. When I was looking into working at Hayseed, I remember asking around for advice on whether to take this job or another offer I had at a larger company. The best piece of advice I got was from a former co-worker who told me ‘one year there is worth ten at JB Hunt or Saatchi.’ He was right.
Startup life is unpredictable. It’s unstable. Sometimes I come into the office and everything has changed. We shift focus often. Sometimes it feels like we still don’t know what we’re doing. There’s no dress code, there’s a ping pong table in the back, and the schedule is flexible. The fridge is stocked with alcohol and you can work from home. There’s nobody checking up on you everyday. But there is a lot of pressure. Your team is small. Everyone takes on tasks they didn’t sign up for (somebody’s got to keep the mini fridge stocked and light bulbs working). The toilets stop working. The internet goes down on a daily basis. You all work in one room. It can be loud. There’s no structure. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re doing. You get paid less. Things move fast. Keep up or get left behind. And whether you like it or not, your performance has a direct impact on the success of the company.
I want to run my own business one day. What business that is, I have no clue. But I’m an entrepreneur at heart – have been since I was five years old. I don’t even know where to start though. I need to learn. I get the experience of running my own business, but I don’t have any of the risk. I have been given time to figure out what I want to do. I probably won’t start a company that checks the boxes Hayseed looks for, but the principles of entrepreneurship are all the same. During my time here, I have the opportunity to work with the best and learn from the best. I get to see mistakes made firsthand and take notes on what not to do. I get to learn how to manage people and create a culture that fosters relationships. I get to meet tons of entrepreneurs. And build my network. I get to ask questions. And make decisions. I get to work in every area of the company – I am involved in operations, and marketing; I get to look of the shoulder of our designer and growth hacker. I get to see areas that I’ve never been exposed to. It’s the next best thing to running my own business.
I often get asked by my brother if I’ll even have a job in 6 months. He doesn’t understand why anyone would want to work for a company that is so unpredictable. I think that’s what goes through most people’s minds when I tell them about Hayseed. I don’t really know the answer to that question. Maybe that makes it more exciting. It’s definitely not for those looking for security. But the opportunity is so great – I am just over one year out of college and I have responsibility. And autonomy. That doesn’t happen other places. More risk? Sure. But way more reward.