What if it works?

Thoughts on growing up with a startup in my basement

By Shannon McFarland

One year for Christmas, my dad built us workbench. We had a pegboard wall, with brand-new tools all lined up. He wanted to give us a space in his workshop where we could build things.

He’d also come into his shop too many times to find a colossal mess of hammers, nails, and other materials all over the floor from our “projects.” We kids had this magic way of making his tools disappear too.

Now we could mess up our own space and lose our own hammer.

Years later, the workbench where we made our contraptions and toys became part of my dad’s shop again. My dad is an engineer and our kid’s workbench become part of his electronics area. There he built a product out of his own need, to collect data, monitor, and control the wood stove that heated the majority of a two-story colonial house during New England winters. He spent nearly ten years in the basement building and tweaking his invention, SmartStove™. His product had working prototypes in homes across the country and took him to Washington DC for a wood stove technology design competition.

Now he inspires me to say, what if I could build something too?

The scariest, most life-changing question

We spend so much of our lives huddled up in fear of what will come next, the unknown, the “what if” something bad happens.

But try flipping those thoughts fueled by fear, our strongest and most subconscious emotions: what (maybe amazing thing) will come next? All the unknown possibilities? The “what if” something great happens?

What if your idea takes you somewhere unexpected? Just think, what if fear is the biggest barrier to entry?

Having an idea, saying you’d like to do something different, following a path that is totally your own is still scary. But also in a thrilling kind of way.

Searching for opportunities that lead to more opportunity

Tomorrow starts the first day of Techstars Boston 2018 and we’re welcoming in ten startups. It’s launch night. I’m looking forward to working with the Techstars team and startups as a “Hackstar” and writer/content strategist. I’m psyched for three months of conversations on storytelling, content strategy, communication, editorial calendars and other topics I can nerd out about.

For me, it’s inspiring to have this opportunity. To be in a room full of people who are willing to ask “what if this works?” To take the steps to see their idea through and build it.

Not all startups make it, even if the product works. I know, I grew up with a startup in my basement. While my dad’s SmartStove™ product never made it to market, it works. To this day, his product wirelessly runs fireplaces that heat his and his prototype customers’ homes. He built it, he learned, he solved his own need, and along the way inspired his daughter.

So you have to wonder. What if… your idea works?


Posted by shanmcf