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Let's stand together, New Orleans

DinnerLab

Dinner Lab has shut down (Photo: via The Distillery, at blog.noew.org/distillery)

Thursday morning we received the news about Dinner Lab shutting down.

I was sitting at my desk, racking my brain about a story I’ve been trying to rework for months, when I received the message from a friend.

While I wasn’t completely surprised, I was so very saddened by it.

Perhaps the emotions were a combination of the heartbreaking news we all received last week about the tragic and disturbing loss of our own former Saint, Will Smith. It feels like a heavy sense of loss has been looming over us since then.

Later in the afternoon, someone asked me, "How do you write about failure?" I stuttered, because honestly, I don’t have the desire to. As a journalist, I have lived too close to stories in the past. I have always found it difficult not to feel the story, the people’s experiences.

In writing about entrepreneurs the past two years, I’ve had intimate conversations with many of them about their biggest fears, losses, and struggles — all very real and dark things. These are the things that aren’t easy or fun to talk about, but we believe they are just as necessary as the success stories that we love to hear and tell.

And that includes failures. Following the fallout of Dinner Lab, the media will report, the critics will weigh in, and everyone will have an opinion. But I’m not writing about failure. I’m writing about loss.

Dinner Lab, like our revered Saints, had become the startup darling story of New Orleans. They’d received generous media coverage. They were a story we all took pride in telling.

And now, everyone is eager to find out what happened. But all I can wonder is how this moment feels for the co-founders at Dinner Lab, and their team. What could it feel like when everyone is counting on your success? When you have to announce to your family and friends, and community that includes doubters, that something you’ve poured your life and energy and heart into, has failed? Or the part that I find even more frightening—talking to investors who demand answers. I imagine that when you wake up the next day after delivering the news, it feels like your world has come to a standstill, but as you open up flooded inboxes, and log on to social media, and read the news, everything around you is still moving seamlessly.

It is easy to report on numbers, harder to report on experiences.

Later on Thursday, after receiving the news about Dinner Lab, I heard that entrepreneurial leaders in the community were sending an outpouring of support for Brian Bordainick and the team at Dinner Lab. While I imagine it doesn’t make the fall any easier, it lifted my spirits a little to know that.

When I’d first written about New Orleans’ budding Entrepreneurial community post-Katrina for CNN.com, I interviewed Jen Medberry, founder of Kickboard, and her last words to me were, “The entire entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Orleans understands that when one rises, we all rise.”

I think the same is true for our losses.

Perhaps I am guilty of being too close to the stories, again. But I think when there is loss in New Orleans, we all feel it.

 

Friday, people gathered to honor the life of Will Smith in a memorial, and then celebrated in a second line. I can’t even begin to fathom the tremendous loss and grief that the Smith family is enduring. Both of these are different losses, in their own respects.

I know that life, much like the entrepreneurial journey, is full of unforeseen disappointments and heartbreaks, and burdens that sometimes feel too big to carry. And sometimes it leaves us with questions of why and how.

But before we ask all of the questions, let’s stand together through these losses, and lift one another up.

Because it’s easy to stand next to one another in the light of success, but much more difficult in the shadows of darkness. And that’s when we need our community most.

We are sending all of our love and light to the Smith family, and to the Dinner Lab family. We are grateful for your hard work and commitment, and for all you’ve done for our city. We stand with you.

This article is reposted from The Distillery, a blog on entrepreneurship sponsored by The Idea Village.

Summer Suleiman is a health writer and blogger who writes about her experience living healthy (or trying to) in a city best known for its fabulous (unhealthy) food and debauchery. You can read about her journey saying no to po’boys and Sazeracs, and yes to kale and juicing, at www.HealthySummer.me or on Twitter @summersuleiman.