Sometimes, without even realizing it, we can let moments go by without celebrating them.

So many of us tend to hustle and focus on the next goal, the next project, the next chapter of our journey. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned as the co-founders of Shine, it’s that there’s so much to be learned when we stop and savor the big or small wins we experience.

This year, we’re making time to do just that by honoring a big win: Shine is celebrating its 5th birthday, and we’re full of gratitude for each and every one of you that have joined us on this journey throughout these years.

Only about 50% of startups get to make it to this point. And only about 2.8% of venture capitalist funding even goes to women-led startups.

As two women of color who have made it to this milestone, we want to celebrate the hard work we and the Shine team have put into building a community that so many incredible individuals (like you!) have joined on your self-care journeys.

To honor our growth over the past five years: We wanted to share the five things we’re proud to have learned on this incredible journey. They’re things we’ve learned as co-founders and co-CEOs, but also as humans trying to build meaningful and fulfilling lives.

1. Authenticity can be scary, but it's worth it

Entering the startup world as women of color isn't easy.

There’s a lot of pressure, especially when you’re just starting out, to use existing models of leadership as the “way to be.”

But when we made a conscious decision to stay authentic to who we were rather than conform to how we thought we should be—as CEOs and as female founders—then we found our version of success: Owning our unique experience and style.

What helped us: We recognized that because we were struggling to see examples of leadership that resonated with us, we had to be that for ourselves. We had to honor our own style.

We accepted that we were trying to do something different. In our case, widen the representation of what it means to be a CEO—and bring more compassion, humanity, and inclusivity into positions of power.

In the last five years, we’ve honored our differences: How we grew up in this world, the values we led with, how open we’ve been with what we struggle with, and our goal of elevating the communities we represented.

That authentic approach has helped us stand out and create a business built to honor others’ authentic experiences, too.

This lesson didn't come easy. Like many female founders, and especially women of color founders, we’ve felt otherized in the venture capital space. We went from uncomfortable in rooms where nobody looked like us to being told in our first year that we were “too nice.”

Despite the bumps along the way, we’ve learned there isn’t one “right” way to do things—but there is one north star that we’re glad we found: Honoring what makes us different and not shying away from leading as our authentic selves.

Despite the bumps along the way, we’ve learned there isn’t one “right” way to do things—but there is one north star that we’re glad we found: Honoring what makes us different and not shying away from leading as our authentic selves.

2. You get to rewrite your own story

"Let go of the narratives you’ve built that no longer serve you."

That’s a theme you might have heard in a Daily Shine before, and it’s a critical lesson we’ve learned over these five years in particular.

It takes time to unlearn the stories you’ve told yourself.

Whether it’s “I should be more like that person as a leader” or “I don’t deserve __,” those debilitating narratives can have an impact on your mental health. Letting them go is an intentional practice that can be hard—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

We met as co-workers where we leaned on each other to get through some rough moments. That support is what led to the creation of Shine.

Let go of the narratives you’ve built that no longer serve you.

As co-founders, when we embraced a new relationship with autonomy and released the negative experiences we held from our previous work experiences, we realized we could rewrite our story—and that was empowering.

We did the work of shaking those narratives, and we let that frustration fuel us to create new ones about ourselves and the kind of company and culture we wanted to create.

3. There’s value in having rituals

You might have unintentional rituals that you’ve come to rely on: The coffee you drink or the time you spend with Shine. But one thing we’ve learned is that there is value in making intentional time for the rituals that ground you and help you care for yourself.

Building a ritual of reflection has been one of the most important practices we’ve cultivated over the past 5 years. It’s something we do as co-founders together, but it’s also something that we do as a team.

Every other Thursday, we gather for a group reflection—sharing the highs and lows, lessons we’ve learned, and what we’re focused on.

It’s a special ritual that we share, and it's further emphasized a big realization we had: If you don't build in reflection time it won't just appear.

It’s also a chance for our team to practice what we preach. As we encourage our community to honor their progress, it is always really important for us to make sure we're doing that as a team, too.

For us, rituals include P.F. Chang's (it’s a long story), sleepovers, Friday wine-downs, and Monday Zooms. Whether they’re together as co-founders or separate as a part of our self-care routines, we hold them close.

4. What’s in the way often is the way

Running a startup is hard. It’s also a privilege and something we’re so proud we get to do each day alongside our team and our community.

There’s definitely been tough days: Days where you doubt yourself or where you’re struggling to see the clearest path through a hard decision.

In those tough moments, a mantra that’s helped us is “what’s in the way, is the way.” This mantra helps us meet the experiences that come from building something big, different, and impactful with a sense of vitality.

It reminds us that creating Shine is something we “get to do” versus “have to do.” The challenges are part of the experience, and by meeting those experiences head-on, and acknowledging the difficulties with self-compassion, we’re able to play the long game: Practicing sustainable ambition as we continue to grow and scale Shine.

Honoring that inner strength—and being sure to greet it with compassion—doesn’t come easy. But tapping into that resilience and helping each other remember our power helped push us through the struggle forward.

5. Build a foundation of inclusivity—from the ground up

Shine wouldn’t be possible without our community—including members like you. Being intentional about the people we surround ourselves with from the beginning has been instrumental in creating an inclusive community that feels welcoming, supportive, and full of care.

We realized quickly that we had the power to create the systems of community care that we wanted in our life, and prioritizing that in the structure of Shine helped us bring that sense of community care into the app.

It shows up in the values rooted in support and empathy that we carry with us closely at Shine HQ, and it shows up in the community discussions Shine members have about their struggles or wins.

We’re grateful for all the ways that this inclusive community has manifested itself. As we continue to forge on, we continue to hold each of you close and we thank you for celebrating growing and learning alongside us.

Cheers to many more Shine birthday celebrations in the future. 🎉✨

Help us celebrate 5 years of Shine by sharing how Shine has helped you on your self-care journey! Take 1 minute to share your story here.