Why I pivoted from “founder” to “growth manager”
Why pivoting from founder to head of growth is a strategic career decision
When I closed my startup in April 2021, I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I’d put my blood, sweat and anxiety into building, launching and growing Fruitful Fertility. And after 4 years, I realized that even though we’d grown a meaningful community, it was not a scalable business. No matter how much I loved the product we’d built, I could not see a path towards meaningful revenue. It was time to put it down and move on.
I was devastated. Internally, I was grappling with the fear that I’d disappointed my users, my investors and the fertility community as a whole. Externally, I was asking myself, “Now what!?”
“Now what!!?” was one of the first questions folks would ask me after hearing that we’d closed Fruitful. What would I do next? Would I want to go back to working at an ad agency? Would I want to start another company? Consult? Write? Truly, all I wanted to do was take a nap.
So I spent the summer of 2021 on sabbatical. I gardened. Took walks. Spent time with my family. Read books. Unclenched.
When the dust cleared, I realized I could no longer keep avoiding the “Now what?” question. I couldn’t pinpoint what I wanted to do, but I knew what I didn't want. I didn’t want to start another business venture. I also didn’t want to work at a big company. And I definitely didn’t want to go back to my old job of copywriting.
I’d learned so much as a first-time founder, and I felt antsy to put these new skills to use. I’d gotten good at taking the initiative, making decisions, talking to customers, creating roadmaps, asking questions and getting scrappy with marketing and budgeting. These new skills have given me the ability to think (and plan) big, the empathy to connect with other founders and the respect, endurance and passion for building and growing businesses.
This was when I realized that the “just right” perfectly Goldilocks-esque role for me already existed: Head of Growth at a small company who was doing something I believed in.
Leading Growth at Cloudburst
In the spring of 2022, I happily accepted a role as Growth Manager at Cloudburst SBC. It felt like a great way to leverage my interests, experience and the work I’d already done at Fruitful. At Cloudburst, I get to help non-technical founders bring their vision and product to life, which I’m able to do because I know the exact questions they’re asking themselves including: How do I do this? (We’ll help you make a plan!) Can I do this? (Yes!) When can I sleep? (Never! Just kidding…)
What is “Head of Growth?”
Head of Growth. Growth Manager. VP of Growth. They all pretty much mean the same thing: you are responsible for growing the company. If that sounds big and nebulous, it’s because it is.
The Growth Manager role usually lives at the intersection of marketing and product development and is responsible for many of the following goals:
- Attracting new customers or users
- Engaging and retaining current customers or users
- Running and refining the sales and marketing processes
- Defining key performance indicators and tracking them
- Increasing traffic to the company website, app and social pages
- Learning about competition and staying up-to-date on market trends
- Forming strategic partnerships and researching possible acquisitions
Of course these responsibilities are dependent on the specific company, its size, its revenue goals and so much more. But in general, the Growth Manager is responsible for just that: growing the company.
Why Pivoting from “Founder” to “VP of Growth” is a Natural Career Evolution
Over the years, I’ve known quite a few founders who have either shut down or sold their companies and moved immediately into growth roles. Coincidence? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s an incredibly strategic career decision (not like I’m biased or anything). But why?
- Founders naturally prioritize growth. As a startup founder your main priority is growing your business. You naturally work to scale your revenue, size, team and opportunities. Your brain learns how to prioritize opportunities and capitalize on them. So moving into a role that focuses on growing a company’s sales and marketing efforts is a pretty natural transition.
- An opportunity for control. Running growth initiatives at smaller companies still gives you what you, as a founder, most likely found one of the most alluring parts of the startup process: control. So if you’re anxious about transitioning from running your own company to having a boss and team to report to, this type of role might be a great fit. It may be able to give you enough independence and creative vision to feel empowered without feeling like you have to figure everything out on your own.
- A way to leverage your powerful network. You know all those coffee meetings and Zoom calls you had as a founder? It’s time to put that network to good use! Founders have deep rolodexes (do rolodexes exist anymore?) and these relationships can be powerful, useful tools when advancing in your career - especially in a growth role that hinges so much on knowing industry players.
As Growth Manager at Cloudburst, I have the unique opportunity to work with other founders (which I love!) and brainstorm solutions for diverse products, technologies, audiences and purposes. Working *with* startups versus working *at* a startup, sounds like a minor pivot, but it’s a huge shift and one I’m excited to tackle head-first. Now I’ll be able to leverage everything I’ve learned about sales, marketing, branding and managing products to help grow Cloudburst’s clients, portfolio and team.
If you’re looking to grow your business or start a brand new venture, let me know! I’d love to chat with you about getting started and see how myself or Cloudburst can help you get things moving.
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Elyse Ash is a marketer, creative, writer, speaker, founder and loud laugher. In her free time she enjoys playing with her kiddos, going to new restaurants, reading and pretending she’s into yoga.