The Power of a Cup of Coffee
Meral Arik: Cofounder at String
Being a founder can be a lonely experience. One where you can easily work 18 hours a day, and none of your friends understand what you’re doing. You feel like you’re missing a tribe. So I want to build that tribe for other people like me, and everything I do is to empower entrepreneurs. I co-founded Hello Chava, a business messaging tool for entrepreneurs, and founded DOER Society to build a community for female founders based on mentorship and networking. Experiences are valuable, and I make sure to share mine so others can learn from them.
I started UCLA as a pre-med student, but decided to switch to communications studies and entrepreneurship. I remember when I had just decided to drop pre-med and was nervous about it. All my friends were getting these phenomenal internships, and I felt a bit lost about my future. Then this guy reached out on Facebook, telling me about a company he wanted to start. He asked me to grab a cup of coffee and I was excited at the opportunity that lay ahead. Meeting and hearing about his vision, it was the first time I felt like I could provide value as a co-founder and not just an intern. I went in feeling really lucky to even be having a conversation with this person, and walked out realizing how much I could bring to the table. This meeting resulted in incorporating my own company for the first time. I got a sense of what it felt like to put my own money into something, help it grow, and see it fail. Its eventual failure led me to work at a Mark Cuban company, where the CEO mentored me for a year. This set me up for the entrepreneurial life, and I am now settled in Silicon Valley.
Even though I am confident in how much value I can add to a company, it took a while to feel like I could succeed in tech because I don’t have a technical background. It was my mentor who believed in me and made me push my boundaries, so that’s how I became passionate about mentorship and building a network. Startup life isn’t easy, but I’ve learned to ask. I ask for more, and more often than I initially think is appropriate. I wish more women would do that because it’s how I’ve ended up with the opportunities I’ve had. I’ve come to realize in the past year that you have to be patient with the pursuit of your vision. Macro-patience, micro-speed. Your day-to-day has to be quick and efficient, but you have to go day after day without expecting things to change. While you don’t see it in the world of social media, everyone is working hard behind the scenes and nothing happens overnight.