Happy Belated Mother’s Day To You, Yours, and Mine

My Mom (Jane) and Older Sister (Michelle) out in front of the first house I lived in before I was born.

The last 7 days were a whirlwind. Last week was a crazy week split between LA, Las Vegas, and the Bay Area. On top of a week that took every minute of my focus, Saturday was my best buddy’s wedding (which I was officiating) and Sunday was Mother’s day. The last 72 hours were definitely one of those phases that only come along every once in a while, where you have no choice other than to throw your hands up and say:

I’m doing the best I can and that’s all I can do. I have a feeling that the mothers reading this post know that feeling all too well because it probably happens all too often.

So here I am on Monday night writing the post I wanted to send to our viaONEHOPE community yesterday… better late than never. I wanted to share a story from Mother’s day 10 years ago. Many of you know that I worked at Gallo before starting ONEHOPE; What many of you don’t know is that while working at Gallo I started working on the weekends and late nights on another startup with a friend from college too. We had started building this company a year before I ever marketed the first bottle of ONEHOPE, and for almost 6 months after I left Gallo and before I went full time on ONEHOPE. We had raised a little bit of capital at this company and although the company to this day was built on a really great and innovative idea it never really got off the ground and we were never able to fully fund it. For a year I poured almost every spare minute and dollar I had into it, and some dollars I didn’t actually have (debt) into the company. I took a small loan from my parents… and then another small loan… and then another small loan… . My mom (and her mom) had built their businesses from the ground up so she had an innate understanding of the stress I was going through even though I would never admit it to anyone at that time. I was working 80-100 hour weeks between my full time job and this startup and it was starting to show. I was gaining weight, grey hair, and bags under my eyes. Meanwhile, I was losing my confidence, charisma and zest for life that everyone had come to know me for. It was one of the saddest and most challenging periods of my life.

My mom had told me a couple times that she wasn’t that confidant that the company I was trying to build would work, and she would always say “ONEHOPE is the best business idea you’ve ever envisioned to date”, and that “You should put all your energy towards that”.

It was May 13th, 2007 and I decided to drive home to surprise my Mom for Mother’s day. I hadn’t been home in a few months and I knew she was worrying about me. She could tell things were getting a little bumpy at work. I guess in hindsight, I told myself that I was going home to surprise my mom for Mother’s day, but I think I was really going home because I really needed my Mom to confirm her unwavering support and love in this next phase of career and life. When I arrived she had tears of happiness. But within about 15 minutes she went through the standard operating procedure — first, grilling me on my dating life (which I managed to fend off successfully), and then right into checking on how the business was going. I told her that I wanted her to be the first to know that after trying to make the other company work for a while now, I had decided that the guy I was building it with wasn’t the right long-term partner and that I had resigned the week before. I told her that I was ashamed that it didn’t work out, and that I didn’t have the foresight to see that this would be the outcome. I told her that I had $200 to my name and $37,500 of credit card debt that I planned to pay off some how, plus the thousands of dollars I owed her and my dad... And I told her that “I wasn’t a quitter, but this time I just have to cut my losses and move on. I’m sorry I lost your money, but I will make it up to you.” As I started telling her this I saw her eyes start welling up, and she started to cry, and it made me start to cry while I was delivering this news. When I was done, she said:

“Well I don’t care about any of it, I just want you to do what makes you happy and be happy.”

I gave her a hug and we just sat there for what felt like a 10 minutes looking at each other. My eyes telling her I was sorry and ashamed, but also that this was not the end to my entrepreneurial journey…. After that silence, I finally spoke up and said:

“… So I have a plan…
…and it involves me going double or nothing, and since right now I’m basically at nothing I don’t think it’s a big risk…
You know the wine license I’ve been working on for the last year since I told Morgan I was going to start ONEHOPE… well, I finally got it in April, and I think I’m gonna go full-time on ONEHOPE, and there’s a bunch of other people who started at Gallo with me who really believe in the idea like you and want to be co-founders and build it with me!”

This brought a big smile to my mom’s face and happy tears started to come. She said:

“You know that I love that I’ve always loved that idea, and you know your dad and I will support you… and if it doesn’t work out, we will still support you again.”

Just 24 years before I had given my mom the ultimate gift on Mother’s day… a 24 hour birth, an almost 9 LB baby, and an emergency C-section… (Lucky her!) Now, 24 years later I was taking her on another emotional roller coaster… but with much less physical pain this time. That day 10 years ago was a turning point in my entrepreneurial career. The 96 hour period before that Mother’s day was the most lonely and lost period of my life to date. We recognize the formal founding of ONEHOPE as June 1st, 2007, but in someways I personally consider the founding and reinvention of myself as entrepreneur to be Mother’s day 2007. Every Mother’s day since (and sometimes on other days too) I think about where I’d be if my Mom hadn’t reacted the way she did… If she had made me feel terrible for my failure… if she had made me feel like these bumps weren’t part of the journey… if she had made me feel stupid for daring to be great and falling short.

So full circle back to this weekend, and the wedding I officiated. My mom and dad know the groom well since we grew up together, and he invited them to the wedding. It was really special for my mom to get to come because I wasn’t going to be able to see her the next day for mother’s day, and meanwhile I had this “10 year anniversary mother’s day” coming up. The wedding I wrote worked out wonderfully, and I was able to articulate the personal love story between my friend and his wife to a great and engaged crowd. I obviously can’t share the personal stories I shared this weekend, but I do want to share the portion I closed with before the couple said their vows. While I wrote it for the bride and groom,

I think there are a lot of parts of this metaphor that hold true for a strong relationship between a mother and her child,

so I thought it would be nice and topical to share a selection of the wedding I wrote and performed 10 years to the day (May 13th) later, with all of you, just as I shared it with two of my best friends and my Mom this weekend.

Happy belated Mother’s day for all of our CEO Moms, CEO Grandmas and future Moms. Thank you for all that you do for the world…

Excerpt From Wedding:
A Wine country wedding has been a dream of the Bride and Groom’s for a while now. Today they fulfill that dream. Many of the fondest memories they shared include wine…. and destinations and the people who they spent time with during…
So some I’ve written down some final thoughts I had around the grape vine for the two of you while I was drinking a couple glasses of wine….
There are a lot of things beyond our understanding that make a grape vine able to grow from ashes, clay, volcanic soil, and rocks with great vigor…. To withstand the heaviest droughts and the roughest rains and sometime, even snow….
Remember that creating a successful marriage is like farming in a lot of ways; you have to start over again every morning, and although vineyards are not fragile plants… they are tempramental and A successful marriage is like growing a temperamental plant — you have to work hard and tend to it carefully…
Vines need consistent care, but the best grapes also face great volatility and struggle and accelerate through it. It’s a fascinating concept… on one hand you have consistent care and on the other hand you have the fortitude to survive the struggle and volatility that life brings. The balance between consistent care and the fortitude to deal with struggle is what makes two of life’s greatest pleasures possible…. Wine… And Marriage….
Every year the vines are reflected in a vintage of wine, and some times that wine is ready to drink and enjoy today, and it can also be cellared away; a memory to be opened on a sad or happy day down the road.
It’s not only because you MUST reinvest energy, care and passion into that vintage, but it’s because you have fun doing it and you love and honor the process…
Vines are also great great metaphors for the support system you guys draw support from…
THE SOIL: …your parents and family that gave birth to your roots…
THE VINES: …your friends around you that provide cover crop….
BUT the sun, and the rain………. those aren’t up to any of us…
I think we all understand that some parts of the process are outside our control.
Clearly this hasn’t been a very religious ceremony, yet both the bride and groom agreed that there are powers and forces at work beyond just them and their families and their friends, and they genuinely understand how lucky they are for this moment, and they are grateful and humbled by your presence…

PS. Mom, if you’re reading this, please don’t bother sending me grammatical and spelling edits… I didn’t ask for you to proofread this one… :-)