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High of 26F/3C in Toronto today and I counted six (!) bike commuters out and about on just my 2 block walk to a coffee shop this morning.High of 26F/3C in Toronto today and I counted six (!) bike commuters out and about on just my 2 block walk to a coffee shop this morning.

High of 26F/3C in Toronto today and I counted six (!) bike commuters out and about on just my 2 block walk to a coffee shop this morning.

It’s been a big week for Bike City.

Last Wednesday I had a final presentation for one of my classes and as I was packing up to head to a meeting I noticed that David had texted: “call me when you can. I have some nice news.” Being the understated Brit that he is, I guessed/hoped that his news was a little better than “nice” and rushed into the hall to call him.

It was definitely better than “nice.”

We are very honored to have been awarded a $10,000 Sobtoka Seed Stage Venture Grant.

I know.

In the flashy world of high tech start-ups, $10,000 may not seem like much. But for us, it’s a good boost to get us going on our next pilot.

And, while the money is super helpful and important, it’s always nice to get some external validation that this is an idea worth exploring. Encouragement and feedback along the way helps us learn and recalibrate as we go. Which is the best you can hope for, really. 

When I read some of the feedback from the grant committee I had another moment of “welp, let’s just pack up now because these are really good points and I don’t have a clear answer right now.” Ugh. Come on! They just gave us $10,000.

I know.

That is not the signal to pack up and go home.

But I sure could use some of that oft bemoaned MBA hubris right about now.

Fortunately I’ve rallied and re-focused on our stupidly long to-do list. Plenty to keep us busy over the holiday break.

And yes, if you ask me about Bike City at a holiday party I will talk your ear off about it until you send a strong signal that you’ve had enough. You’ve been warned. 


What have I done?

Right after clicking “save & publish” on that last post, I had a phone call with someone who has been working in the cycling space for several decades. And right after hanging up with her, I was seized with regret for having posted it. 

What is up with this sharing thing? This is a horrible idea. This may not even pan out.

How embarrassing would that be?

Oh, hi Perfectionism. Not so great to see you again. 

Part of what I’m enjoying about Bike City is that because there are no set rules or expectations, I’ve been able to (mostly) work through the moments of paralysis that used to stop me in my tracks.

Today I was trying to imagine being back in my old job (a job I loved and that I was pretty darn good at) and doing something big and brand-new like this. To be honest, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it. I’m not sure that I would have been able to muster the courage and harness the slightly blind optimism necessary to start something from scratch in a band-new field. I’ve always gotten done what I’ve needed to, but I also became quite good at working around the stuff that felt too overwhelming. Which is either smart or cowardly. Or maybe both.

But I’m realizing more and more what I’ve learned over these past 21 months (!). And a big one is that there’s no right way to do something and it’s usually a lot more fun if you figure it out yourself.

So, back to this phone call. People (strangers!) have been very generous with their time and advice which is, of course, super valuable to us. But it’s so easy to let one conversation send you down a rabbit hole. Or make you second guess yourself. Or make you want to toss it all out and give up. 

We definitely need good, smart people to poke holes in this thing. But I also definitely need to remember that this is our thing. And we get to decide what it looks like (for better or worse). We also have a bunch hypotheses that we need to test out. Which is part of building something new – there is no perfect model for what we’re trying to do.

So then, a few days after the phone call I had a meeting with someone who advises entrepreneurs and knows the start-up space super well. An entirely different perspective. And also a helpful place to test out some of the new thoughts the earlier phone call had spurred. Guess what? Different perspective, different opinions.

Something she said must be changed didn’t jive with what we know is a key part of our value proposition and our go-to-market strategy. So who’s right? No one, exactly. It’s just up to me and David to decide what we’re doing and why. Sure, no problem.

I think the biggest hurdle for me to get over is the thought that if this was a good idea, someone would be doing it already. It’s not like we think this is a wholly original idea (it’s certainly not), but it’s hard not to think that with so many smart, passionate people in this space someone would have given it a go if it was a good idea. But maybe the need exists (at least that much we’re fairly sure of) and it’s just up to us to figure out how to make it work for the customers, the riders, and Bike City. We’re giving it a shot, anyway.

The sharing bit is still slightly nausea inducing but I figure that means it’s worth pushing myself to do it. Maybe people will find some of this interesting. Possibly even useful. At the very least it gets me writing and nudges me to reflect a bit in the midst of what sort of feels like building a bike while trying to ride it. Wait. That’s exactly what we’re doing.  

The thing

So, here’s the thing. 

We started a business.

David and I. 

It’s called, Bike City.

We are on a mission to democratize bike commuting and make it a whole lot more fun.

Why? Because traffic. Because climate change. Because community. Because men are still two times more likely to commute by bike as women. Because you shouldn’t dread your commute every day.

This wild ride started back in the summer when we were living in Palo Alto. (apparently there really is something in the water there.)

David came home from his internship one day with an idea that he had been mulling over and we went for a long walk to talk about it. David is an adventurer at heart while I tend to have a lot of questions about practicalities. He also knows that I’m often skeptical of his start-up ideas.

But this one felt different right away. It served an actual need. It had a bigger mission. Bingo.

For a while it was his project until we realized we were both spending a bunch of time on it and then when we back to school, we decided to give this thing a go for real.

We are learning a ton and making all kinds of mistakes and sometimes driving each other nuts. We are complementary in so many ways but the other day I found myself shouting “we need to fail faster!” at him over FaceTime and I realized that maybe we don’t play quite the roles we originally thought we would.

We’ve had a bunch of people tell us Bike City is a great idea and a few people tell us it will never work. We need more naysayers to help us poke holes in the business model and the value proposition (these are MBA terms that actually mean something to me now).

We are taking a big leap into an even greater unknown and you know what? I don’t hate it.

Leaving my dream job, roaming around Southeast Asia, suffering through business school – these are all things that made me a little braver and a lot more willing to ask “why the hell not?”

We are a for-profit social enterprise (more on that later) which certainly isn’t new but it’s not all that common either. So, we’re building the bike while trying to ride it. (this was just the first of what will be many references to and puns about cycling. you have been warned.)

I’m excited to start sharing more about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. With lots of funny stories and candid real-talk along the way. You can count on that.

So, here we go! Please check out our fancy new website, find us on various social media, and share with your friends, family, and co-workers (cyclists and non-cyclists, alike). Thank you kindly in advance.

p.s. I officially launched Breaking the Mold on this day six years (!) ago. Never in one trillion years would I have guessed this is where it would end up. 

An update

Hi friends,

Thanks for stopping by. You may have noticed that I paused my daily blogging unceremoniously last week after 173 (!) posts. Phew.

What started as a fun project to jump-start my creative side again became a kind of catharsis as I worked through some residual grad school pains and the still fresh agony of our presidential election. I reached a point, though, where the daily post became a chore – not the good, productive, slog that comes with anything worth doing but more like a inconsistent, anxiety-inducing daily task. 

So, I stopped. Cold turkey. And then I ate some actual turkey for American Thanksgiving.

And then I had a had a good chat about it with my partner, D, while he was in town and I thought more about what’s really on my mind these days.

I’m genuinely struggling with how to stay informed about everything that’s going on with the presidential transition and the Dakota access pipeline to name just a few of the pressing issues facing humanity right now. How do I face all of this head-on and not lose heart in the face of such overwhelming injustice?

Well, author Barbara Kingsolver has some suggestions for where to start:

“If we’re getting up in the morning, we bring our whole selves to work. We talk with co-workers and clients, including Trump supporters, about our common frustrations when we lose our safety nets, see friends deported, lose our clean air and water, and all the harm to follow. We connect cause and effect. This government will blame everyone but itself.

We refuse to disappear. We keep our commitments to fairness in front of the legislators who oppose us, lock arms with the ones who are with us, and in the words of Congressman John Lewis, prepare to get ourselves in some good trouble. Every soul willing to do that is part of our team, starting with the massive crowd that shows up in DC in January to show the new president what we stand for, and what we won’t.

There’s safety in numbers, but only if we count ourselves out loud.”

So we have a lot of work to do. And each of us has a real responsibility to stand up and speak out, because everything matters now.

In reflecting on what I can do with this small but important space, I’ve decided to let go of a bit of the anonymity that I’ve intentionally kept up here and to start sharing more about what I spend most of my time on these days (when I’m not in class, worrying about the future of America, or sleeping).

It’s not overtly political, but it’s subversive in many ways.

It’s not particularly sexy, but it holds many exciting possibilities.

I hope you’ll stick around to hear more.

Stay tuned.



Niagara Falls, Ontario - November 2016Niagara Falls, Ontario - November 2016

Niagara Falls, Ontario – November 2016

Moments by Mary Oliver

There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled.
Like, telling someone you love them.
Or giving your money away, all of it.

Your heart is beating, isn’t it?
You’re not in chains, are you?

There is nothing more pathetic than caution
when headlong might save a life,
even, possibly, your own.

Jelly Tube

For your weekend entertainment, check out the Jelly Tube by Bompas & Parr (these British dudes who make suuuuper weird jelly art).

8+ minutes

Here is over eight minutes of jello making for you to enjoy instead of reading about the chaos that is the US presidential transition or wading through friends’ ignorant posts citing fake news.

If you’re as disgusted as I am by the cesspool that is Facebook and Twitter right now, don’t forget that you can subscribe to get Breaking the Mold delivered right to your inbox every morning!

Small mercies, amirite?

Maple Panna Cotta

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What?? I know. It needed to happen.

I bought some maple sugar while I was in Ottawa for Canadian Thanksgiving with plans to use it for something blog-worthy and Canadian Living came through with this recipe. Super easy.

I skipped the vanilla and rum because I didn’t have either but I added some crumbles of maple sugar after pouring the panna cotta into glasses and it was preeeetty great.

Served with more maple sugar crumbles and some blue berries! (not very photogenic but made up for that in flavor)

Five stars, would make again.

Fridge art

Do not underestimate yourself. What have you done to make the world better today?

Dare to be

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

— Audre Lorde

Today, I am raging against the patriarchy and no, I don’t care what you think of me. 

Little things like the woman who handled the paperwork for my graduation photos asking, knowing nothing about me but my name and gender, if I was “going into marketing.”

Bigger things like This American Life publishing an entire “funny” podcast days before the election about how unlikable and bad at computers (!?) Hillary Clinton is. (I listened to it on my run this morning thinking it would cheer me up but I ended up crying instead.)

And millions of more truly blatant and rage-inducing things.

But I’m not going to shut up about it. Because these things matter. They all matter. 

And if you think I’m overreacting, you have some learning to do. Happy to chat anytime.