WHEN I WAS A KID, I HAD WANTED TO BE THIS WHEN I GREW UP: Out of the Closet. A QUALITY ABOUT A PERSON THAT CATCHES MY ATTENTION: Creative Positivity. WHAT DO I DO WHEN I'M STRESSED: Getting a dance party going with other moms and kids at the playground. A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: New Music Fridays.
Eliminating obstacles for Herself and Her Clients
CAREENING OFF SUCCESS INTO IMPENDING DOOM. Andrea Breanna, founder and CEO of RebelMouse, a creative agency with a publishing platform, faced a hard decision. She had raised over $18 million; there were high-profile salespeople moving the product; and notable clients had signed off on it. In the four years since it was founded, RebelMouse had become the darling of the marketing world. All signs pointed to success. But Andrea was not content.
And even though she had raised a lot of money, the company had a lot of costs as well. RebelMouse was burning through $800,000 a month, and it wasn’t clear it could easily raise more money, leaving it with just three months of capital left. When Andrea had left Huffington Post as its chief technology officer in 2012, her reputation followed her, helping RebelMouse raise its first $10 million easily. But reputation and buzz can only go so far when it comes to raising capital for your new company, and at some point it becomes about the numbers, she says.
TAKING THE RIGHT LEAP. Andrea approached a therapist and coach. The easiest breakthrough she held onto was this: every key business decision should be based on her personal happiness. “If I’m going to keep this company alive, it has to be not just because the company will be successful, but because I will be happy running it.”
She let go of everything that made her unhappy. She closed the SoHo office and employees began to work remotely. She got rid of the toxic salespeople. They had seemed perfectly nice during the job interview, but how they ended up treating prospective clients was very different from how they treated engineers, Andrea says. It was hard to let go of these high-performing yet high-drama employees, especially in a venture-driven company with high expectations for growth.
Just before Andrea drastically transformed RebelMouse, she came out to her wife. “It was terrifying but she accepted me. We were great friends before, but coming out made our relationship go from good to amazing.” Their three children—then ages 6, 9, and 11—accepted Andrea easily. “I was worried my son would be bullied in school, but he told me his classmates were jealous of him because his dad was so cool,” she laughed.
The last frontier was coming out to her company. Trans people who come out later in life often say they regret missing out on their chance to be cute as a teenager, she says. But for Andrea, coming out in her 40s was in some ways a blessing. “I had built measurable success in my life, and the board knew I was capable of delivering what I promised,” she says. “Perhaps if I had come out in a dysphoric and less confident way, they might have been more scared and not accepted me as easily.”
RebelMouse’s burn rate dropped drastically, and its customers were happier. Employees noticed that Andrea had become warmer during company-wide meetings. The company turned profitable and has been growing every quarter, year after year. Andrea notes that so many factors in her life had held her back from coming out as a Mexican trans woman. “It’s so hard, I wish it was simpler. But there are really a lot of good people in this world. What you have to do is find them and you have to give them a chance to give you a chance,” she says. Life is too short to waste on shame, she adds.