Some of my friends think that I lead this very glamorous life as a startup owner with an internet business. And, you know, when I Skype them still wearing my pajamas at 1 PM on a Thursday or casually mention that I’m going to go live in a brand new city for three months, I can see why they would think that.

But they’ve never been privy to the private hell that comes with running your own business from home. The kind of hell that walks on four legs and systematically sets out to ruin every good thing about your day. And by that, I mean my furry feline co-worker, Ninja, who is only a productive paperweight 75 percent of the time.  

As a pet, Ninja is perfect – no question about it. As a co-worker, she’s kind of the worst.  At least that’s how I look at her after “the incident.” Observe:

The Incident

Angry Hissing Cat showing teeth

Recently after I started my business, I was pitching a deal that would have been set at about a quarter of a million dollars. It would have been huge for me and I really felt like I had it in the bag. The meeting was going super well and okay, I’ll admit, I was feeling a little cocky.

After my initial pitch, the prospect and I reverted to some chitchat; during that time, Ninja jumped up onto my desk and sat on my notes, rubbing my shoulder with her head as she always does.

All of a sudden, I smelled poo.

I looked at my gorgeous, black and white cat with elegant long fur. “Why does she smell like poo?” I wondered as the prospect got back to business and asked me to lay out the strategy.  “Well,” I said, “we’d to start by…”

I trailed off as Ninja laid down and spread her legs over my notes, revealing that she had a massive poo stuck to her fur. And it was now all over my notes.

I stuttered, trying to get my thoughts together and sound like an intelligent person. As I was laying out the strategy, I struggled to write a note to my fiancé to tell him what was happening, but all I could think to write was “Ninja is covered in $#*%!” And writing that made me laugh too much, so I stopped.

The fact that I was fighting back laughter was irritating to me. Make no mistake, it wasn’t out of any joy. I was in a silent terror. It was just like being tickled. Nobody actually likes being tickled, but we laugh anyway because someone is holding us prisoner and kind of violating us for a period of time.

I needed a clean exit strategy, but I didn’t have one.

I kept talking and got tissues to pull the clods off of her, but she started hissing and went crazy scratching me – letting out a wild scream that I was praying the President of the company didn’t hear. Then she ran over to my white area rug and began to clean herself by licking the monstrosity off herself…which obviously made me queasy.

By this point, there was poo all over my desk. And my rug.

The President kept asking me about “feasibility” and “past campaign results” but to be honest, it sounded like Charlie Brown’s mom to me. Distracted, I told him I would “email that to him” and gave some lame ass excuse about why I needed to “jump to another call.” Defeated.

I put down the phone, grabbed Ninja and marched into the living room where my fiancé was reading a book. “Ninja is covered in $#*%!” I finally exclaimed. It felt great to finally get THAT off my chest. 

He returned my sentiment with a perplexed look as I strode into the bathroom, made a warm bath in the sink, and unceremoniously dumped the culprit inside.

Needless to say, I did not land the deal that day.

But as I type this, an ultra clean Ninja is sleeping on a small round photography bounce card on my desk happily purring. I have done many deals since and business is great. The day of the “incident” seems so far away and I like to laugh at it now and again as a reminder to stop taking things so seriously!

So with that in mind, I’ve asked other entrepreneurs for their Startup Stories from Hell and let’s just say, they did not disappoint. After seeing hundreds of emails from startup founders with awesome stories, I decided to take the most relatable and start a little series based on theme. 

This week’s theme? The Revenge of the Animals. Please enjoy these hellacious stories of the entrepreneurial world and remember that no matter how crazy your day is today – you’re in good company!

Employee Perks With a Side of Ick

See my other animals:

There’s no untruth in the stories you hear from social gaming companies about the excess, especially when they have a hit. I worked in HR for one of the most notorious of them all. Without going into blatant detail, let’s just say this company had a huge hit with a certain farming game.

Now, it was no big thing for us to have weekly happy hours, quarterly parties where thousands were spent on booze, food, and t-shirts. Ah, the t-shirts. At one point, I had two drawers FULL of t-shirts from this company, in a blur of colors, cartoon faces, and various game titles. My husband forbade me from getting any more, so at a certain point in time I started bringing my shirts to Goodwill. It was not long after I started frequenting Goodwill with donations that I started to notice the local homeless population decked out in these shirts. Apparently I was not the only employee who thought to donate my cast off gaming t-shirts. 

And then there was the Great Petting Zoo Incident. Someone thought it would be a great idea to celebrate the success of our most famous game with a happy hour that featured a petting zoo, replete with livestock – goats, pigs, and chickens. Said livestock was setup inside the building, where employees could step away from the catered lunch, the in-house coffee bar with its house made chicory-vanilla latte, and homemade fried pork skins on every floor. Someone thought, “We don’t have enough, let’s bring farm animals into the workspace.” Did I mention that permits were required to have a petting zoo? Permits no one at this company bothered to get.

Nonetheless, it was a hit with the employees, who flocked in droves to pet the cuddly varmints.

It was about 36 hours later that the first case of pinkeye was brought to our attention. Another few hours after that, we had a second case. And so on. Ten people all together got it. 

It isn’t often I get to do my “I told you so” dance. That was one of those times I did. 

Matt Frassica, Sr. HR Business Partner

Monkeying Around

Young Chimpanzee - Simia troglodytes (6 years old) in front of a white background

I’m not going to lie. Pretty much none of my family understands what I do or how it is that I can afford to live in so many places. Running a .com business sends extremely vague connotations to those used to the 9-to-5 grind and a physical handshake. Working from home – for them – is akin to flopping around doing nothing. And working from a beach town in Costa Rica? Well, that doesn’t count as work at all!

But despite swimming against the current most of my life, I have to say, I have it pretty good. Most of the time. White sand, a palm-tree-fringed beach and monkeys howling deep in the jungle. Hard to concentrate? Somewhat. But being a creative type, there’s nothing like the roar of the ocean, a scorpion in your duvet, or running into a crocodile on your way to the grocery store to spark your creative juices!

No, my main problem of setting up a home office in the tropics was not concentration. It was the countless power outs and fluctuations in Internet connections. The first connection I had installed was struck by a bolt of lightning. I kid you not. As I tore up the stairs to unplug the modem, I arrived just in time to witness the black box go up in a spark of flames!

Seeing as my business lives or dies on my ability to be online, I contacted every provider in the area. There weren’t many. I had to pull out all the stops. Bribery, seduction, persuasiveness… until I eventually got three different connections installed. With the right wind and a little help from the Internet Gods, I could almost squeeze a full 3 MB out of my WIFI!

But, I couldn’t stop the monkeys. In fact, I learned to hate the freaking monkeys.

In the midst of a conference call with the CEO, CFO, CMO and some other CM in a US boardroom, I spoke with confidence from my living room in Central America, smug smile upon my face. I don’t know what the view was like from their Newark facility, but I was pretty sure they weren’t watching monkeys. Swinging on the power cable.

The more monkeys that joined the party, the more interference on the call. “Christina, can you repeat that? We didn’t hear that? Christina we’re losing you…”

The mother monkey stared me defiantly in the face as she made the definitive swing, and down came monkey, power cradle and all.

Christina Comben, Copywriter and PR

Formerly a Vice President of Content Marketing, Molly is the Co-Founder of The Unicorn in the Room, as well as a Marketing & Business Columnist for INC and The Huffington Post.

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