Putting Pando on hold.

I’m going to be honest here. Not just for others, but for myself.

For the past 1.5 years, I’ve been working on a start-up called Pando Projects. It has been my motivation, my child, my dream. But I’ve decided to put Pando on hold. I don’t really have any other choice. I’ve done my best, but I haven’t been able to raise the money that I need to support myself or the growth of the organization. I don’t blame this on “the down economy” – I take full responsibility. At this time, I simply don’t have all the business skills or the right team to help me execute the vision. But it’s okay. I’ve decided to apply to business school. There, I’ll have two years to learn how to take Pando to the next level, while also meeting amazing people who will later contribute to the dream.

I love Pando completely, from the depth of my soul. I still believe that Pando is what I’m meant to do with my life. I believe that Pando is the reason I exist. But I just have to admit, with modesty and a little bit of shame- that I can’t pull it off just yet. I need to learn about business, and I also need a few more years to grow into a more mature leader. When I graduate from b-school, I will try again. And next time I will do it right.

I don’t want to indulge in sadness or embarrassment or shame, even though it’s so easy to feel all those things. I promised a lot of people that I could do this. I took money from people who believed in me. And I feel like a failure. (And I know, I know, I’m not. But I still feel like my heart is smashed in, my ego is deflated, and I’ve been stripped of the one thing that ever made me feel alive.) It’s been a hard few weeks. I’m so sorry if I’ve not reached out to you directly. I’ve been marinating on this and what it all means. I’ve come to peace with the decision and am now super excited about the next steps. I don’t feel like I’m abandoning my dream, I simply feel that I’m being re-routed in a beautiful, unexpected way.) But it took time (and a lot of nights of sitting alone in my darkened bedroom) to get to the moment where I can write this message without feeling the need to cry. Okay, maybe I’m still crying a little – but baby steps!

I’m going to celebrate what went right. We got projects going. We showed that the concept works. I met the most amazing effing people in the world, who I am now lucky to call my friends. This has been the best two years of my entire life. Thank you thank you thank you to all the people that believed in me and helped me and were there for me when I needed it. I wish I could have been a more reliable leader and friend. I wish I were better/stronger/more relentless/more self-aware. I mess up a lot. I make promises I can’t always keep. Sometimes I hurt people. But I’m really trying. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing by applying to b-school. But all I can do is try to live big, have adventures, treat people well, learn from my mistakes, and go after my dreams. That’s all I can ever really do. And I promise to keep trying to do it.

What I’ll never forget:

I will never stop feeling grateful for these people, even though I've always struggled to express it.

Finding the brilliant Braxton Robbason, Traci Paris, and Randy Kato to help me build a prototype of the website. Sitting in my apartment, eating lasagna and drinking wine, feeling so scared and excited that Pando might become more than just an idea.

Finding 15 New Yorkers with amazing ideas for projects that they believed would make their communities better. The photos from their training can be seen here: http://tiny.cc/iznf3

Pando Projects Leaders and Mentors at the January 2011 training. I was so completely terrified that weekend; I couldn't sleep the night before. But I was full of hope, too.

Joyce, one of the Project Leaders, teaching a girl in Chinatown about different cultures

Some of my favorite project pages that show how Pando works: http://pilot.pandoprojects.org/ying, http://pilot.pandoprojects.org/ashleywilliams, http://pilot.pandoprojects.org/joyce.

Attending Summit Series, a conference for entrepreneurs from all over the world. I will never forget dancing on the cruise deck at 3am, feeling so completely happy and certain that everything would be okay.

Winning $25,000 at the We Media Pitch competition! We were chosen out of 187 start-up ideas. Here’s the video interview of me, after the win. http://tiny.cc/75joc. It was one of the best nights I’ve ever had.

Having the MacArthur Foundation declare us to be, “the new face of activism.”

Super cute kids in the Bronx, learning to grow fresh fruits and vegetables as part of Ying's project. She helped over 200 kids start community gardens in just a few months!

Having two investment funds commit $100,000 to Pando. I would have gotten this money if I had been able to raise another $100,000. Dror Berman and Eliot Durbin, I will never forget our meetings. You have no idea how much they meant to me. And you will be hearing from me again in two years. :)

Ashley's project was an afterschool reading competition in West Harlem

Sitting in my apartment, staring at my blinking inbox. Seeing emails and not responding. Seeing opportunities, and looking the other way. I think the most fascinating part of starting Pando was seeing just how much I self-sabotaged my own success. Over the next three years, I’m tackling all of my demons until I’m no longer scared to live big. I won’t undermine my own happiness again.

Being called, “the greatest woman of the day” by The Huffington Post!

Right now. This moment. Looking back on what we’ve done. I’m really happy that I tried. And I’m really happy that despite losing all my money and having the most RIDICULOUS ups and downs of my entire life, I still care and want to do it all over again after business school. I WILL BE BACK! Thank you thank you for reading and for believing in me. I will never forget this experience and the amazing people that I met along the way.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jazzmine presenting her idea for I Care 4 Me

A project in Chinatown that took off beautifully

Jodi started a choreography class, to teach kids confidence and creativity

Kids in Harlem visit Columbia as part of a creative reading project

Hannah started an art class for kids in a school without an art program

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About Milena Arciszewski

I'm the Founder of PandoProjects, which empowers people to step up as leaders and develop innovative, local solutions to the problems in their communities. You can reach me at milena@pandoprojects.org or follow me on twitter: @pandoprojects.
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2 Responses to Putting Pando on hold.

  1. Kristen Dolle says:

    Milena, you are an incredible woman and an inspiration. You will be back and better than ever. As most things in life, this will be a blessing in disguise. Don’t cry too much and HAVE FUN! xoxox <3

  2. K says:

    Hi Milena
    the blog post that presses the ‘pause’ button is basically the first thing I read about Pando. It made me read a great the of the rest of your website. Pando is truly astonishing, inspiring and worthwhile project, and it’s obvious how much courage, heart, and soul in this. Takes a great person to do this, especially in your 20s when everyone around you is busy making money for themselves. Wishing you best of luck at business school, no doubt I’ll read about Pando again in a few years. All the best,
    Katrin

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