It was the summer of 2021 and the world was still in the grips of Covid-19. Days bled into weekends, weekends bled into days, and life felt like an endless loop. Creating a DTC brand that sold cool, sophisticated party shoes was not enough to make ends meet, and it just seemed more and more that the timing wasn’t right.
While running the company, I used all my entrepreneurial skills to leverage other opportunities by starting a creative marketing consultancy and doing business development for other companies. Still, soon, I was burned out again and felt that I was running out of escape options. I had no energy left for me, my son, and no friends time, so not much left for my team either, which meant morale was not blooming.
As a “mompreneur” of four years, I was very familiar with routines, and I knew they were a part of life – but I also knew that there was a lot more to living than simply going with the flow.
And one sunny afternoon, my flow changed.
My mentor and dear friend, Kam, invited me to play ping pong at Monsanto Park – and I eagerly accepted. But as we played under the sunshine, a thought came up: “Why don’t we open this up to the community?”
And so, the Monsanto Ping Pong Club was born—pure serendipity. No rush. No plans. No predicted outcomes. How is this possible? I have only known so far the life of hustling, of pushing so hard and fast. Was this really possible?
One Meetup page after, and even in the sweltering heat of 36-degree days, people showed up to play. At first, they were just a handful of curious onlookers – but it quickly grew to a group of 10, 30, 50 people. Suddenly, the four ping-pong tables we had weren't enough – we needed a bigger space to play.
After a little convincing, we found a home in a local high school: a safe, fun, inclusive space where families, locals, and expats alike flocked to join the fun. Today, we are a group of 20 community managers – always looking for new members to join the party!
A few months later, in April 2022, whilst still pushing the DTC brand forward and as a last resort move, I went on a 3-month trip to New York looking for investment. Two days in the city, an eczema outburst happened all over my body and stayed for weeks. My nervous system wasn’t okay and investors kept saying, “I would invest in you, but I'm not sure about your company.” Halfway through the trip, I finally had clear headspace to think, and a friend brought my son to visit for a week. The urge to close the brand was so glaring that I decided to do it. After all, what’s the point of making yourself suffer in that way?
I spent the last month in NY working for an AI startup, and just before flying back to Portugal, I heard the founder say, “we were thinking about the fact that you have a young son, and we are not sure if it’s compatible with start-up life.” I wondered to myself if this guy (with no kids) had any idea of what I was able to create. I decided to have some self-respect and said, “Yes, you’re right. I am not ready for this kind of treatment and won’t continue helping you out.” God! Does this still happen?
As I go up to Lisbon and visit the club, I find it overbooked and starting to have complaints as if we were providing service. Oops. What was once a fun event was now perceived as a business. I had to step up and hold onto the only thing I had. The club's success was helping me recover from the imposter syndrome I had felt throughout the failure of the DTC and to tell myself, “You are capable of a lot. Keep showing up, regardless of the outcome. Something good will come out of this”.
Tired of being a solo founder and pulling the truck with such a fragile structure as a part-time mum and no financial reserves, I was determined for this time to be different from the DTC brand. I reached out to all the passionate members and delegated at least half of the operations, applied my strategy, branding, and business development skills and voila! We improved the management and organization of the club and had a new website and socials up and running.
With the stepping up of the club branding and expanding our activities to roller skating, ecstatic dance and others, I got reached out by a company to do a teambuilding for 30 people and uah. Another victory. In the meantime, got hired as an Investment Portfolio Advisor for Ground Capital, a VC firm based in Lisbon, Portugal. This full-time job has given me the stability, structure and peace that I wished for myself and the ones I love. It's been a hell of a ride and I deserve it! As an intrapreneur full of energy, knowledge and passion I am happy to help others who are like-minded and would love to connect with you!
Ping Pong or Investment Portfolio Advisor, the true wins lie in the smiles we share and the connections we build and that seems to be my path.
When life throws you a curveball - paddle up and get ready to smash! Keep showing up and open to receive life's goodness and things will unfold!