Sometimes our darkest moments actually turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to us.
By Daphne Hargrove (Co-founder & CEO, Yuru)
A lot of people think I’m crazy for having left a successful business to dive into the risky, unpredictable startup world. And they’re right – I am a little crazy. I’ll tell you though, while I am fully aware of the screws I’ve got loose, I prefer the term “passionate.” Mixed with a dash of “impulsive,” a sprinkling of “adventurous,” and a pretty big spoonful of “enthusiastic.”
I’ve never shied away from the unknown, and have instead embraced change and growth. I follow my dreams, and my heart. When I was eight, I decided I wanted to be a ballerina. At 18 – after a decade of blood, sweat, tears, determination, and discipline – that vision was realized when I joined the Miami City Ballet.
In the years that followed (and there have been quite a few!), I continued to follow passions, pursue projects, businesses and my dreams with fervor and a full heart. There were challenges and obstacles to overcome, but I was up for it.
And then life threw me a curveball.
Picking up the Pieces
Sometimes, things happen that we never anticipate. Our ideas of how life should go can so easily come crashing down. Three years ago, I had one such event in my life that totally shattered my dreams and altered my very being. It was devastating and painful, but was a catalyst for other things to follow.
I found myself in an unfamiliar place – I was confused, upset and heartbroken. And since the show must always go on, I dealt with this heartbreak while still trying to focus on my business and continue to earn a living.
It was a very difficult time, even though I was surrounded by an incredible circle of friends – people who have always been there to support and lift and love me. But even my best friends didn’t know what I was going through, because they had never been in my shoes. So while they could offer moral support, they couldn’t quite give me the advice and help I needed.
Identifying a Collective Need for Support
It was during this time that the idea for Yuru was born. Thoughts about getting advice and suggestions from people who could commiserate and understand what I was going through, had been circulating in my mind for a while. So when I had my “Aha!” moment, it was just an extremely natural progression.
I was at a conference, listening to a panel discussion by successful entrepreneurs share experiences on how to learn from failure and turn that knowledge into future success. One of the speakers offered a suggestion: Take something tried-and-true, make it new and put it online.
He gave examples of the Yellow Pages – put it online and you’ve got Yelp. Classifieds – put it online, and you’ve got Craigslist. In my mind, I immediately continued the thought. Advice columns – put them online and you’ve got…?
Reinventing the Advice Column
Hmmm. Now this is something I could desperately use. Advice columns have been around for ages! “Dear Abby” has been beloved by millions for decades, and with good reason.
Being able to share something personal, scary, embarrassing, or unfamiliar, in anonymity, and get a compassionate, helpful response from someone offering actual advice on how to move forward, is extremely appealing.
But the problem with advice columns, at least for me, is that it is only one person’s opinion. And that person, no matter how skilled in giving advice, may have never been in your shoes and experienced what you’re going through. And getting a response from an advice column takes a long time. When I want answers, I want them yesterday.
So I started thinking – why isn’t there a place to go that fits my needs when it comes to seeking advice? A safe place, specifically for advice, where you can be anonymous when you want, or ask openly when that suits.
Creating a Community
A place to get instant feedback, and not just from one advisor, and not just from your closest circle of friends, but also from a far reaching community of people who may have actually been in your situation, and know from experience what you’re going through and what might help. Unbiased opinions. Honest advice.
Why hadn’t the advice column been reinvented like this yet? Something easy to access and always available, where you could be both an advice seeker and an advisor. The power of the knowledge from a huge community is an incredible resource – there’s a reason that ‘ask the audience’ on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” usually yields the right answer. The collective wisdom of the community!
So, why had crowdsourcing for advice never been tapped into like this? It was time to get to work.
Making it Happen
So I went home, put on my cape (LOL), and I started feverishly writing down my ideas in my notebook. Yuru would be instant, easy, personal, relevant and fun to use. Let’s face it – life’s issues are not always heavy. Even through devastating times, there are still trivial moments, and simple, silly questions that run through our minds, for which we need help finding advice.
Yuru would have a clean feed that would allow you to see a snapshot of the community’s collective brain in relation to your questions. There would be categories to also allow you to quick poll the community for fast feedback on questions that require a simple vote. And usually the advice we seek falls into one of these buckets: Should I?, This or That?, or Have You Ever?
To give you the best possible chance of getting the answers you’re searching for, Yuru would connect you to a network of people you know, but also to all the people you don’t, which is important and allows you to cast that wide net when searching for advice.
It would put you in control of your experience: anonymity or openness, friends or strangers, and give you the ability to filter the opinions and content you see, to suit your needs. The excitement was building in me, and my brain was about to explode.
Enter my superhero co-founder, Nicole Randall. She had long been a superhero in my eyes, and in my life. She had seen me through my most difficult hours, and was one of the closest friends I leaned on for support.
When I told her my idea, she didn’t flinch. Not for a second. ‘So, would you want to do this with me? Create this with me?’ An absolutely unwavering ‘Yes! Without a doubt!’ was her answer. (And then I think she may have squealed).
While I can be extremely focused, I am also often like the dog from the Pixar movie, ‘Up’ – Squirrel! (And its focus is diverted). I always have a million ideas popping into my head, and Nicole reigns in and refines my ‘crazy’. She is the yin to my yang, and incredibly talented.
The two of us sat down together and created Yuru. And we are so proud of it.
Becoming Women 2.0 PITCH Finalists
We are constantly refining and improving Yuru, based largely on the advice we’ve received from all of you, Yuru’s earliest users. We are completely committed to providing the world with the best advice solution out there – one that is safe, fun, instant, and most importantly, helpful.
Yuru has certainly helped me! I am on our app every day – seeking advice, and sharing my own experience and opinions with others. It feels good to be able to tell someone that things are gonna be okay. That you’ve been there too, or that yes, their beard IS sexy!
Reading the Yuru feed is crazy entertaining and funny, and you’re guaranteed to learn a bunch of things you didn’t know you didn’t know. I laugh out loud regularly when scrolling through the feed. I hope you’ll enjoy using Yuru as much as Nicole and I have enjoyed creating it for you.
Yuru was one of Women 2.0’s 2014 PITCH finalists. We wish them all the best for 2015.
What inspired you to launch your startup?
Photo credit: Petr Vaclavek via Shutterstock.
About the guest blogger: Daphne Hargrove the co-founder and CEO of Yuru, one of our 2014 PITCH finalists. She grew up in New York City, and began her artistic endeavors as a professional, principal ballet dancer. An entrepreneur at heart and with passion for creative design, Daphne went on to launch successful businesses which saw her products licensed internationally, and drew international acclaim for her photography. Her business savvy drove her to the top as a sales exec for a Fortune 500 real estate developer. Daphne brings her discipline and skill to Yuru’s product development.