MEET Selene

Selene Cruz is founder and CEO of the seed-stage startup Re:store, which offers online brands retail space and coworking facilities in one shared location. Her other “claims to fame” include a two-year winning streak in Settlers of Catan and being a very loud clapper.

What is something you’ve learned that you lean on daily?

There’s an old saying about how people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in a lifetime—I try to remember that every morning when I wake up. Until recently, I always felt I needed to move as quickly as possible, like if I didn’t do something right that minute I’d never have a chance again. And when I took the rare vacation, I would never disconnect from work. I thought that would mean I wasn’t passionate enough.

I’m learning that I work better when I step back from time to time. When I went to Europe this past December, I let myself unplug. That was a big accomplishment for me, and I realized allowing myself to be distant from work could inspire me to do bigger things. When I got back to San Francisco, I felt energized. I had all these new ideas. And I was also less afraid of failure.

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting a company?

Try to stay happy in the moment and don’t be too hard on yourself. Getting stressed out only makes things harder. With fundraising, for example, which I recently went through—that’s such a naturally stressful situation, but you have to try to remember nothing is make or break. There’s always an option B.

The trick for me is to be grateful. Even in stressful situations, I remind myself how lucky I am to be living my dream. These are problems I wanted to have for so long! I also wake up every morning and say, out loud, what I’m most excited about that day, whether it’s a meeting I have with someone or just breakfast. I even do what I call “jump for joys,” where I literally do jumping jacks. I think if you start the day happy, you’re more likely to stay that way—in the gym, in the shower, when you walk into work. And that’s contagious.

What small change has made a big difference in your life?

Before I moved to San Francisco a couple of years ago, I don’t think I realized how important community is. If I had some crazy idea that wasn’t an obvious success, I didn’t feel like I could talk about it. Here, people ask you what you’re working on—and they’re excited when you tell them. That’s helped me open up and made me want to support others the same way. I started going to hackathons and pitch events, just putting time and love into building my community. Groups like Female Founder Office Hours have been especially helpful. Growing a company comes with doubt, and connecting with other entrepreneurs has made me feel stronger and taught me a ton. You need good people around you who believe in what you’re doing.

What don't you know that you wish you knew?

I wish I had a quick glimpse into my future, so I could know whether all the passion I’m putting into my work and relationships will have an impact. That’s my biggest driver, to make a difference in people’s lives. It would be great to know if I’m on a path to accomplish that, so that I could change course if I needed to.

What books are on your nightstand right now?

I just finished The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, which is about how focusing on a single big goal can have a huge impact on all the other, smaller things you want to do. Right now, my one thing is becoming the best leader I can be as we launch Re:store. I’m doing some leadership training, and I also ask founder friends for advice. I love hearing from people who have already dealt with what I’m going through.

The book I’m reading now is Brotopia, by Emily Chang. Since I’m relatively new to San Francisco, it’s been interesting to get context on how things are changing for women. I’m excited to be part of a new wave of female founders gaining influence in the valley. There are a lot of good people working toward progress.

When did you realize you were wrong about something?

I’ve had to learn not to compare other people’s work to what I would do, or the way I would do it. I’m a control freak, and it’s easy for me to jump to conclusions based on the way someone does their work, rather than on the work itself.

I’m learning to take a step back and try to understand their approach. I start with the assumption that anyone who took a chance to join Re:store did so because they believe in what we’re doing, and they’re putting in their best. In the past, if someone didn’t do what they were supposed to, I’d just take care of it myself. But that doesn’t serve either of us. I’ve realized my job is to make sure people know what’s expected, so they are set up for success.

What unit of time matters the most and why?

My commute is my favorite time. I like being present—if I ride my bike, I’m 100 percent focused on the environment, and even if I take the train, I rarely check my phone. I love little moments of interacting with strangers, and if I have a long day at the office, the trips to and from work might be my only chance to do that. I’m also a big people watcher. I’ll often think about how what we’re building would affect someone and whether they would like it. It puts things in perspective.

Hard-won advice