I graduated college in 2012, wide-eyed and ambitious as ever. I wanted to fling myself and my new bachelor's degree into the real world and I wanted to do it fast.
Within a few weeks, I found myself at a crossroad. I had a promising interview scheduled at a major Condé Nast publication. Condé Nast had a lot to offer: competitive salary, health insurance, a large team, and of course, a world-class brand.
Just the week before, I'd met with Bridget Hilton, founder of a startup called LSTN Headphones. Her goal was to merge social enterprise and music: for every pair of headphones sold, proceeds would be donated to help provide hearing aids to someone in need.
The company hadn't officially launched yet. There was no real office. There were no employees. In fact, there was no job offer. There was an opportunity for an unpaid internship with no promise of a paid position.
I canceled my interview with Condé Nast.
My decision wound up being much easier than I expected. Ultimately it all came down to my personal needs. While Condé Nast had amazing perks, they weren't the perks I needed at the age of 22.
I needed room to grow, creative control, flexible schedules and opportunity to travel. I needed to wear a dozen different hats to figure out what I loved and what I didn't. Most importantly, I needed to be part of something I believed in. I believe that what's good for business should be good for the world. And so, I gave LSTN my all.
It's been four years since I stood at that crossroad. In that time, LSTN grew from a small operation to a multimillion-dollar company with distribution around the world. We hired more employees, moved into a large office, launched new products, entered premium retailers, partnered with major brands, and most importantly, traveled around the world to help over 25,000 people hear for the first time using proceeds from our sales.
Also in that time, I grew from LSTN's first intern to its business development director.
Startup culture is completely disruptive of traditional, corporate atmospheres. We have alternative work hours; we spend less time in the office and more time traveling. We welcome new creative solutions and discourage old, tired methods. Everything winds up either being a great idea or a great lesson.
Working at a startup is a roller coaster in every sense of the word. It's not for the faint of heart and requires an immense amount of commitment. But I knew it was what I needed, and if I could go back to that crossroad, I'd make the same decision a thousand times.