As Courtney Caldwell stood more than 19,000 feet above sea level, she felt at peace.
She was surrounded by glaciers and pure white snow. The scene looked like uncharted territory with few people and no sense of time or a reason to rush, just like heaven.
They’d done it. Courtney and her husband, Tye, had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
“What you see at the top, you won’t see looking at the mountains,” she said. “You’re up there in the clouds.”
It’s not the first mountain the Caldwells have climbed together. They’ve done marriage together, parented together, and together they started ShearShare, a web-based platform that connects barbers and stylists with empty chairs at existing salons. Last year, they moved to Buffalo together after winning $500,000 in the 2021 43North competition.
The more they reflected on the seven-day mountain journey, which they took in December, the more similarities they see between their trying trek and running a startup.
“It’s overwhelming to see what you’re getting ready to tackle,” Tye said. “We stayed close to one another, valued our opinions and thoughts. … We know we can be champions for one another.”
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A team helped the group of seven Buffalo travelers climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
To make the decision (let alone actually finish the journey) to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s largest free-standing mountain, the Caldwells had to have the right environment, the right team.
They didn’t do it alone. They had a crew of 27 people from Tusker Trail, from porters to guides to cooks, helping them up the mountain.
They also had the camaraderie and support of the group they were trekking with, which included Mike Wisler, M&T Bank chief information officer and member of the 43North board of directors. He had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro before and was used as a sounding board” for those who hadn’t completed the journey before.
The seven-day climb up and then down the mountain in Tanzania was a slow trek. Every time they passed someone along the way, they were met with the friendly Swahili greeting “jambo jambo” and “pole pole,” which means go slow.
“You have to just put one foot in front of the other and focus on the risk that you can control,” Courtney said.
The same can be said for running a tech startup. It’s crucial to have the right team and great mentors who have been on the same path as you.
Along the way, slow growth is good growth. Not everything will be in your control — like an international pandemic, for example — but focus on the risk that you can control.
“Your journey won’t look the same as everyone else’s,” said Tye.
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