Sisters in spreadsheets and in real life

It’s National Siblings Day (yes, it’s a thing!)!  My sister Kate and I have been at AlphaLab, Pittsburgh’s startup accelerator, for almost 13 weeks now, working on our startup, Go Jane Go.  Two weeks ago I mentioned in a group meeting how our mom was helping us come up with a new name for our app.

“Wait… you two are SISTERS??”

This was the overwhelming response from the dozen or so other entrepreneurs at the table.  How is that not obvious I wondered?  We talk, laugh, and look pretty similar or so I thought.

These are the faces of fearless entrepreneurship.

Truth of the matter is, few entrepreneurial teams are siblings.  Probably for good reason.  The deep and well-documented effects of birth-order and sibling rivalry preclude many siblings from working together in the high-pressure environment of entrepreneurship. Most don’t want to permanently injure the already fragile bonds of familial relations.  Many don’t even really like each other.  Kate and I naively said; “Pshaw, it will be fine!”.

We are learning.  We’re making mistakes and apologizing.  We’re sometimes overstepping and underdelivering.  We’re getting more gray hair together.  But we also forgive each other, and defend each other, and laugh at each other, and believe in each other.

Overall I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Kate to create something totally new.  Unlike me she has a thick skin absolutely necessary in this business and a can-do-eff-you attitude honed on the mean streets of NYC.  She is intuitive far more than I ever gave her credit for.  Working with her on this project has challenged my perception of her as my little sister and has made me see her as a business partner whose perspective I value and whose word I trust.

Businesses pay millions for that while I get it as part of the deal.

One of the best and sometimes difficult truths about working with my sister is we can’t ever truly walk away from each other or stay angry.  We owe it to each other to give this business everything we have because we still have to see each other at Christmas and she is an aunt to my children.  Oh, and we love each other.  And our mom would kill us.

This has to work cuz if it doesn’t mom will be disappointed.

Journey On, Janes


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Ellen is the CEO and co-head writer for Go Jane Go. She has traveled for business for over 25 years, lived and worked abroad, and speaks German. And all she knows for sure is that she never liked working for someone else – so that’s part of why her sister Kate and she started Go Jane Go – so she could work for herself and make business travel better for legions of women like her.
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