"Things will go wrong and it will be hard and scary, but it’s still worth it."
Morgan Berman, founder and CEO of MilkCrate
Morgan Berman is the founder and CEO of MilkCrate, a mission-driven company that helps empower organizations through the production of custom apps. As MilkCrate evolved from passion project to a full-fledged enterprise, Morgan learned how to navigate her fears, find a work-life balance, and keep doing what she loves.
What sparked the vision for your company?
My initial vision was to help people live their values. For me, that started with building an app that was very much based in Philadelphia and helping Philadelphians live their values. And what that grew into is a platform that helps any mission-driven organization get their own app.
What drew you to starting a company?
I grew up with two social entrepreneurs as parents. Both my parents created companies that were about helping the world through business. I ended up working at Apple for a while and I was really inspired by the idea that tech could be a solution for social problems.
Did you have any fears about becoming an entrepreneur?
Every day. They haven’t gone away, but I’ve gotten better at handling them. It’s more like getting comfortable with your fear. But if you keep doing it when you love what you’re doing and believe in what you’re doing, and if those two things hold then you’re probably gonna make it regardless of what may come. Things will go wrong and it will be hard and scary, but it’s still worth it.
What has been your greatest struggle in founding MilkCrate?
It was my passion project. I was just trying to solve a problem. I wasn’t trying to create a company per se, with staff and payroll and insurance. And that has been a whole separate undertaking. It’s like there’s the mission, and there’s the product, and then there’s the company, the living organism of a bunch of people moving towards a goal together. As an only child with recluse sensibilities, it can be challenging to give that as much attention as it needs because it’s not enough to have the vision or the product or the clients. It’s the team that’s really gonna carry it forward.
What has been your greatest triumph thus far?
MilkCrate has changed in every way multiple times. Everything has changed. And I’m proud of the fact that we’ve stayed true to our mission. And I’m proud of the way that we’ve navigated what the market has told us and what our customers have told us. That it’s been a process of growth to create something that truly meets the need that is out there and not just what was in my head. You lose over and over and over again. And you have to see that as an opportunity for growth and learning, to get better.
What has been your biggest sacrifice?
For the first couple years, it was definitely mental health. I was way too anxious about success or failure.
MilkCrate isn’t the only thing I’m ever going to do in my life and it’s not the totality of my life right now. And that’s an important thing that I think a lot of entrepreneurs lose sight of. There’s a lot of pressure to think of your company as your existence, and if you don’t do that, you’re doing something wrong. Who knows what’s going to happen? But we’ve been around for five years, and I think that’s a pretty good sign that this approach can work at least this well.
You don’t have to be a neurotic mess living off Ramen who never sleeps or goes out.
"You lose over and over and over again. And you have to see that as an opportunity for growth and learning, to get better."
Morgan Berman, founder and CEO of MilkCrate
Did anyone in your life try to dissuade you from becoming an entrepreneur?
My sister. At the very beginning she was like, “Can you go back to Apple?” Risk means different things for different people. For me, the risk was living a life where I never felt like I took chances or tested to see what I was capable of or what I could create. For her, risk was not having a stable income.
From my perspective, going and getting another job that I didn’t care about or where I didn’t have the control and freedom to explore what I was capable of or get to work on something that mattered to me, that was the risk. I think it’s really about what matters to you.
Has anyone in your personal life been a constant source of support?
I’ve been with my boyfriend for a year now and he’s been incredibly supportive. He built our latest video on our website. And even early on when we first met, though scary stuff we were dealing with [at MilkCrate], he was just feeding me and giving me backrubs and driving me to meetings and just being my life and work assistant while also doing his own life. He just picked up so much slack for me so I felt like I had that safety net. He really helped me breathe.
Did you ever come close to giving up?
Not really. It’s kind of an "out of my cold, dead hands" situation. There have certainly been moments where I thought it might be falling apart, but it wasn’t because I was ready to let go.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
Learning how to breathe. I’m still learning.
This interview has been lightly edited from an in-person conversation for clarity. Capturing Lightning is a project from Woden, a strategic storytelling agency in Philadelphia that helps organizations articulate who they are and why people should care. To learn more about how to tell your story, visit us at wodenworks.com.