Why I Stopped Taking a Salary From My Company
Photo courtesy of MEND

Why I Stopped Taking a Salary From My Company

What happens when the VC money runs out? The founder of MEND Jewelry grapples with her own definition of success.

I am no longer taking a salary from my company.

Now, before you react, let me remind you that I’ve done this whole running a business thing backwards.  Well, maybe not backwards, but in a non-conventional matter (is there really a conventional way to run a business?).

Quick backstory:

I am a venture capital anomaly. I became a full-time CEO of my jewelry / lifestyle brand, MEND Jewelry at 24.

In 2017, I started a scrappy jewelry business on the side which caught the attention of a woman who believed in me and MEND Jewelry so deeply that she invested enough money for me to quit my day job for the next two years.

Again, the scale of this opportunity against the statistics of what VC funding actually looks like is staggering. Only .05% of start-ups get funding. Last year alone, female founded companies only received 2.2 percent of the $85 million invested. These numbers infuriate and hit me with a wave of gratitude for how rare my experience has been.

When the Funding Ends

My funding ended at the end of 2019. I have decided to no longer take a salary from my company. It’s not because my business is failing or because I am unhappy with the work I’ve done. It all came down to the numbers and checking my pride at the door.

I spent countless hours in spreadsheets—playing around with sales projections and adjusting expenses to see if I could cut them drastically in 2020.

The answer was blindingly obvious: my salary is the most expensive part of my business.

And when I deleted my salary from cell M34 on the budget, something magical happened. My business projected profits. My ending balances jumped from an anxious red to a excited green color on my screen.

I want to run a profitable business. I do not want to request more funding (or risk giving up more equity) because I believe I’m entitled to a salary. I’m not here to take a salary if the business can’t afford it.

I am here to prove to my business partner that the investment has a projected return. (Cue the popping of the champagne.)

Now reality hits: I don’t have an income and bills are a comin’.

When I realized I would be working without a salary for the foreseeable future, I didn’t just get up from my computer and accept that the safety net was gone.

I felt like a loser—one who couldn’t create enough revenue to sustain a conservative salary. And then the anxiety hit of not having an income to pay my bills and keep myself afloat.

There were a lot of tears and questions of my worth. I felt as if I blew my own opportunity—and one only 2.2 percent of women get.

In moments of vulnerability I lean on a few people. First, my partner, who doesn’t question my abilities for one second.  If anything, he pushes me to take more risks and take charge. (He also has a kick-ass career, which keeps him mentally stable for the both of us).

Next, I call my business partner. This time, instead of reviewing deals or opportunities, it’s me sobbing into a phone that I have failed our company and I understand her disappointment and withdrawal.

Without a beat, her immediate response was, “Your extreme feelings are matching the extreme situation you are in. It would be weird if you did not feel this way.” It led to a conversation about what being a business owner means and the capacity it takes to make difficult decisions.

Then she said something to me that will keep me going even on my worst days: “Listen to me. Everyone says they want to have the level success that I have had.  But I promise you, not one of those people wants to work for it. Stay steady, you got this.”

Staying steady: Pivot in the pursuit of happiness

Running a business, to me, is about having the freedom to dictate my own success. Period.

Instead of taking a salary, I am now freelancing for small businesses in need of marketing and business support. It’s called the Pyrite Project.  The goal: help companies make progress in their business.

I will continue to run MEND as the CEO and grow it to its full potential. The past two years have taught me a lot. The most important thing I’ve learned? Happiness is a choice. It’s a state of mind that truly exists in the present.

I don’t tie my happiness to revenue, accolades or the approval of others. I’m happy because I am grounded in who I am: a lifelong entrepreneur who is helpful, curious and driven. And I’m not afraid to of hard work or making difficult decisions.

It doesn’t matter where I’m at. I trust I’m always in the right place.

Jordyn DiOrio
MEND Jewelry

Jordyn designs each treasure with one keen eye on current fashion and design trends and the other on powerful, healing symbols that both ground and inspire women. Her debut year included the launch of five collections, being featured at Nordstrom and MartinPatrick 3, and locking in venture capital. She is the recipient of Twin Cities Start-Up and Rising Young Professional awards.

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