March 1st 2021.
I stepped into the Digital 51 hub for the first time, ready to build a business from the ground with four others. I was full of determination and ready for challenges I thought we would face. It turns out the challenges I thought we would face I was prepared for, and merely seemed like a mole hill on the mountain we have climbed. The challenges I did face, that I never expected, I was then unprepared for. At some points these challenges felt like I was on an endurance mountain hike, but after 6 months, I can see the peak of the mountain. Although I am sure I will be unprepared for some of the next challenges we will face as we move into our next stage of scaling, I have accepted that you cannot be prepared for everything in a Start Up.
I joined the Digital 51 journey because I was lacking challenge, not knowing the biggest challenge I would face would turn out to be a weakness I didn’t even know I had. It was the ability to allow change and adapt from my process, although process is a strength of mine. The ability to do this and not resist change is how I can see the peak of the mountain and why I now know how to not just be a successful Start Up, but to enjoy the journey and embrace the twists and turns up the mountain!
So where did all these changes come from?
FREEDOM, EXPRESSION & PERSONAL CHOICE
The decisions we have made as a team, and the success we have had up until this point have been based on these three concepts. With five people, now six and soon to be seven these three concepts have driven us both individually and as a team, are also why the ability to change is so important. It’s important to be supportive of each other and how we individually choose to embrace these values.
With this in mind I wanted to share what personally has changed around these three values for myself in the past six months:
FREEDOM – I personally love to work independently and with Digital 51 embracing the no place of work and no time of work, I had dived into this headfirst on what worked for me. Working remotely can be a huge benefit to me and my work personally. However, business planning and supporting others which has previously been one of my strengths, fell to the wayside. Learning that flexibility to work cannot always be a set process to adhere to, and the ability to adapt this to benefit the wider business and continually change the environment and timescales in which I work is what allows me to succeed on different levels of being a founder. It allows me to build partnerships and lead a community. The change from a fully remote business as I had perceived our vision, to a fully flexible business.
EXPRESSION – I am notorious for saying what I think when I think it. My expression towards continual change gave the impression that I am against this, which is incorrect. However, allowing myself to be expressive having ‘found my voice’ as a Co-founder can be more detrimental to continually be embracing new things. Changing my expression to what I initially found quite frustrating (having to continually adapt rather than following a process), has allowed me to think more logically and has created a space where we work innovatively to provide our partnerships with the best process and people. It has also allowed me to be continually challenging myself, which is ultimately what I was looking for.
PERSONAL CHOICE – I chose to launch the Product 51 community in the first three months of launching Digital 51. This was never the plan; the plan was always to launch a Product community once we were established. However, the community took off and I saw an opportunity to run with this, I threw myself into it, and I love it. This was a change which affected my time and plan. However, having adapted to this I have helped connect people looking to join Product in their first internship purely from networking. I have built partnerships with people across the Product community who I have a genuine understanding of and can now support their career journeys and connect them with people who add value to their business and them personally.
The last 6 months have been nowhere near what I expected them to be, they have been some of the steepest climbs and sometimes I fall flat on my face. But learning to enjoy the journey and embrace change is what I am now loving about building Digital 51 and I have found the challenge I didn’t know I needed.
This article was written by Adrienne Howlett, Co-Founder and Product Partner at Digital 51. Contact Adi to hear more about her journey and the work she has done to build her Product community on