Kurt Knecht turned his chair toward Jennifer Rosenblatt to ask her a question. She leaned over and explained a few things and then two of them went back to their respective work. This is what running two startups with a spouse looks like, said Jenn with a smile.
She and her husband are Florida natives who joke about the fact that they’ve “survived” ten winters in Nebraska. But this Nebraska chapter of Jenn’s story is about way more than surviving the winters, it’s where she started connecting the dots.
After raising two kids and working nearly ten different jobs, Jenn is now the CEO of two Lincoln-based startups. Yes, two.
One side of her office space is home to Argyle Octopus, a print and graphic design company that started in 2011. The other side is MusicSpoke, a marketplace for composers to promote and sell their music.
You might think it’s a little wild to have two startups in one place, run by the same person, but it’s not that strange for Jenn.
Remember when we said she had a lot of jobs? Jenn said she always thought there was something wrong with her because she didn’t stick with one job, or even one industry for more than a few years.
She said it took having an “entrepreneurial seizure” to see that she wasn’t doing anything wrong, she just needed space to let her ideas grow. So when Jenn started Argyle Octopus she slowly began to connect the dots.
When she hired an intern and added employees it all felt even more real. She realized that it wasn’t about having a job, it was about doing work that felt like herself.
It was bold, exciting, fun and serious, but not too serious. She had people tell her that naming a company Argyle Octopus was ridiculous, and it probably was, she said, but now it’s just fun and memorable.
A few years later she and her husband came up with the idea for MusicSpoke and wasted no time getting the new venture up and rolling.
Jenn is proud she started two companies and has become a well-known figure in the startup community, but it’s been far from easy.
Some might confuse her bright lipstick and bubbly personality for total confidence, but Jenn said there were and still are many days when she wants to give up. Being an entrepreneur isn’t glamorous.
Sure, there’s a sense of gritty independence that comes from setting your own schedule and pursuing a problem you’re passionate about, but it’s also hard.
The fear of missed deadlines and disappointed clients is work that feels all too personal. There are complex employee relationships and realizing that your close friends don’t want to always talk about startup-ish topics. And then there’s the night you eat at Taco Bell because it’s a cheap meal and you’d rather put money into your company than dinner.
So why do it? And why do it twice?
It’s kind of like childbirth, Jenn said. If you think about it too much you wouldn’t do it because it’s painful, but the other side of it is awesome.
It’s also about context and perspective. The first few years of a startup are incredibly challenging and time-consuming, but it’s a season, and at some point the crazy ends, she said. Unless you start something else, which is always a possibility for Jenn.
But for now, she’s pretty content with the way her story is unfolding. She’s no longer the newbie in the startup space. Now she’s the one people ask to speak on panels, to students and at events, and Jenn gladly accepts.
She no longer feels like she’s doing something wrong or weird in a job that she hates. Now, she’s just Jenn – a local entrepreneur and community cheerleader – and it feels just right.