Aline Mayard
Feb 7, 2016 · 5 min read
The view from the office (credit: The Blue House)

I’ve always said that I didn’t want to start a business. Helping others build theirs and having side projects was one thing, starting a company another. Still, everybody around me told me I’d change my mind, that I was clearly an entrepreneur at heart.

That brings us to July 2014 when I couldn’t find the job I wanted and had this crazy idea of a startup getaway in Morocco, a place where entrepreneurs could take a step back and rethink their strategy in front the sea.

Actually launching it myself was a bit crazy: I knew nothing of hospitality, had never run a business before, never lived in a city smaller than a million inhabitants and wasn’t so fond of Morocco. But I knew Morocco startup scene extensively being a tech journalist there and was convinced this idea was amazing. So I found myself a business partner and started The Blue House.

Fast forward to now. My business partner left a year ago, but I have a company, we’ve been featured on CNN, The Huffpost and ZDNet to name a few, and recently reached over 2,000 Facebook fans.

But here’s the but: those six months have been the worst of my adult life, by a long way.

A few weeks ago, I decided to shut down my company and I know I won’t regret it.

Ever since my partner left, I’ve kept asking myself ‘Am I happy?’.

According to my entrepreneur friends that was normal, I shouldn’t let doubt bring me down, and I wasn’t one to quit. I believed them and, even at the worst time, I told myself it was too early to stop.

That was true. Had I stopped before, I would have regretted it.

And then, one thing leading to another, I had a full-fledged company, a beautiful house, a staff, and increasingly regular revenue streams, and I realized the loneliness and blues wasn’t going to go away.

I’ve learned a lot and thought I should share.

I assume most people will read these learnings and think that they don’t apply to them — I know I didn’t listen to all the warnings I’ve been given. But if they can help just a few people, they’re worth sharing.

Build a strong support system around you

Going to live in a village, 6 hours of bus from the closest town where I had some work friends and €150 of plane from home, was idiotic.

You need to have friends and family who can bring you up when you’re down and with whom you can have fun.

I’ve moved to new cities and made new groups of friend before, but somehow I didn’t here. Maybe it was because I wasn’t a surfer, because I was working too much or simply because I didn’t meet the right people. Whatever the reasons were, I was bored and lonely.

Believe it or not, but I got tired this. Maybe I am indeed a whiny Parisian (credit: The Blue House)

Don’t take too many bold moves at once

I did know some of the reasons why I was feeling so blue: I was living in a village, in a rural part of Morocco. Couldn’t I have started my first business somewhere I knew, in a setting I was feeling comfortable with?

I started missing paved sidewalks, bars, supermarkets, movie theaters, life!

I was growing increasingly wary of the way of doing things in rural Morocco: unpredictable, time-consuming, tiresome.

Also, I was missing home so bad (I’m from Paris, how could I not miss such a beautiful city?).

Know the industry you’re getting into

Another bold (stupid?) move I took was working in a business I knew nothing of: hospitality.

At the beginning, I thought I wasn’t going to manage a hotel, I was going to do community stuff and communication and my business partner would be doing the rest. But we parted ways, I suddenly had to handle everything: administration, negotiating contracts, budgeting, fixing the house, doing sales, and mostly hosting people.

Smiling all the time, always being there for clients, having zero time off was much harder than I thought.

Save before you start

I’m not going to lie, business could have gone better. The season was hard for everyone around here with all those terrorism talks everywhere, and I wasn’t really sure yet which of the programs I was selling I should focus on, and how I should sell it.

I started the business with zero $$$ in my pocket. I bootstrapped the pilots, crowdfunded during the summer, and opened the house on a very tight budget. I ended up living in a room with no window at the center of The Blue House — talk about privacy… Now was the time to raise money again.

If I had saved money, I could have lived more comfortably and have given myself a few more months, but in 2014, I was in a hurry to launch and didn’t want to wait.

Money wasn’t the only thing I should have saved.

I started this whole adventure after almost two years of traveling and living abroad, often times having two jobs at a time to make ends meet. I didn’t know it at the time, but my mind and body were staring to get tired.

Sometimes I wished I could be one of my guest and take a few days off (credit: The Blue House)

Now, I ran out of energy.

So here it is, I’m talking with buyers at the moment who will turn the company into a surf camp or a hotel.

I book my ticket back to France (easyJet, 40 kilos of hold luggage) and I’m looking forward to drinking in bars with my friends, taking on improv classes, getting involved in fighting racism and homophobia one dumbass at a time, going to the theater, playing tennis, climbing walls… The world is my oyster.

I long to focus on what I love, building communities and telling stories, for an accelerator or collaborative spaces in Paris.

I’ll continue blogging and curating content on the future of work (you can subscribe here), and, if I find a co-organizer, maybe I’ll use my spare time to organize retreats in the future ;)

This was a beautiful ride, and I’d probably do it all over again. Humans are a stupid race, aren’t we?

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The Blue House

Great ideas don’t come in a board room.

Aline Mayard

Written by

Journalist 🏳️‍🌈♀️🤓 // La Funny Feminist // @ilikethat_NL, la newsletter popcorn unicorn // Previously @HackEcritureInc @thebluehouse_io

The Blue House

Great ideas don’t come in a board room.

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