Kt McBratney and Rebekah Bastian are the founders of OwnTrail, an online platform, community and tech startup that has imagined a new kind of digital realm for women. Through their site, women can build their own ‘trails’, quite literally visual representations of their life’s journey; with milestones, struggles and achievements. Members can view each other’s trails and start a dialogue with one another, or even signal a ‘Help Beacon’, a call for support and advice that the digital community can respond to. McBratney notes that members have given and received help on, “Everything from support during career pivots, advice on fundraising, accountability for 10k training and giving a TED talk!” Today the Seattle, Washington-based entrepreneurs are proud to have created a startup on their own terms and in their own way.
McBratney & Bastian’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
When my cofounder Rebekah shared the idea for OwnTrail with me, I knew it was something that could literally change the world. I imagined what could happen if women everywhere could take up space on their terms, instead of trying to fit into a world that wants them to play and stay small.
How do you define success?
My life’s work is to disrupt the status bro. Being successful in that means questioning and challenging oppressive and harmful systems in the world and within myself, which means there are endless areas to track progress. It also means the work will never be done-done, and accepting that is one form of success. More simply put, success is putting more good in the world than was there before, every day.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
Professionally, a huge success has been growing OwnTrail exclusively through community-led growth, especially when the conventional startup playbook is to put money in the pockets of ethically questionable tech companies. Is it harder this way? Maybe. Is it the best thing for our company and the people we serve? Absolutely.
Personally, one of my biggest successes to date is letting go of perfectionism. It’s taken a lot of unlearning and I’m still working on it, but it’s really helped me to be a better person in all aspects of my life.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
While I’ve experienced job-induced burnout in the past, those experiences stemmed from feeling like I had to do more. With OwnTrail, the challenge is that I always want to do more. That’s not uncommon with founders, especially those with personal why’s behind what they are building. I’ve found so much support and solidarity in connecting with other founders working to set healthy boundaries in work and life, and that community is a source of inspiration and accountability. I’ve also finally accepted that no one benefits if I’ve overextended myself, so trying to do all the things isn’t helping anyone. I go for walks. I don’t watch the clock or count my hours “in the office.” I let go of striving for inbox zero (I’m not and never will be that kind of person). I focus on doing the most important, most valuable thing at that point in time. Sometimes, that’s a marketing campaign. Sometimes, that’s pretending to be monsters with my kid.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Many of the obstacles in my life that have affected my career are detailed on my trail, but the individual lessons and perspectives from overcoming things like living with mental illness, experiencing harassment and discrimination and toxic work environments are things that inform not just how I lead now but how we’re building OwnTrail, full stop.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Your job is not to know all the things. Let go of being the best (or trying to be the best) in your field, because that prevents you from trying, failing and learning. It’s about your company being the best it can be, and that requires you sucking sometimes (and then not so much the next time).
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
When things are the hardest, I need a jolt of perspective to break through my mental cloud. That’s usually some time outside without distraction or some undistracted time with my kid. Those reminders of just how magical the world really is are so powerful…and necessary sometimes.
Who is your most important role model?
Cindy Gallop is a constant reminder of taking up space in life and business. I aspire to be relentless and confident as she is as she makes her mark across industries, geographies and generations.