Let’s be honest. Mornings are the worst. You’re sleepy. You’re regretting that you watched that extra episode last night. You’re already stressing about your to do list. Your inbox is already piling up. Let’s all climb aboard the struggle bus, am I right? While most look to coffee for an energy source, Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey came up with something even better: Shine Text. This daily text message is an instant confidence boost to kick off your day on a positive note.
These two best friends met while working at DoSomething and turned the good vibes they shared with each other into the voice of Shine. And now, that voice is helping people all over the country transform their mornings. Since starting Shine as a side hustle, Marah and Naomi have gone full force with their vision to create the ultimate fulfillment resource, scoring investors, their first full-time employee, and a beautiful office in the heart of Brooklyn.
What makes Naomi and Marah the ultimate #friendshipgoals and #careergoals is their energy. It is evident with the kind notes they have written to each other on the walls of their colorful office. They are as excited to work together as they are to send encouraging texts to their loyal subscribers. Today we get to soak in their shine as they give us the inside scoop on what it is like to be in the business of happiness and how they channel their positive vibes to create positive lives for themselves and their fellow Shine texters.
All About Naomi & Marah
Names: Naomi Hirabayashi (32), Marah Lidey (26)
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Education: James Madison University (Naomi), University of Georgia (Marah)
Current job: We’re the co-founders of Shine Text!
How did the two of you meet?
Marah: Naomi and I met over four years ago at DoSomething.org, one of the largest orgs for young people and social change. I was the Director of Mobile Product and Messaging, and Naomi was the Chief Marketing Officer. We got tight in my first few weeks when we roomed together during a company staff retreat at Disney 🙂
What about your friendship made you want to start a business together?
Naomi: In our friendship, Marah and I were able to process work and life goals together because of the shared trust, admiration, and accessibility. What’s amazing is that our dynamic was both the catalyst for the product (we wanted to scale the support we offered each other through a product) and our dynamic was also the perfect breeding ground to become co-founders (shared passion, shared hunger, and shared vision to build an important and massive company).
There’s a story behind every great idea. How did the idea of Shine Text come to be?
Marah: As great friends who met at work, we would always talk about the gap in the market for accessible, tactical advice for young people around the personal and career dreams. And one day we just had an ‘aha moment’ – why not use the tool we understand best: text messaging.
What is the mission behind Shine Text?
Naomi: We’ll be the largest and most-trusted resource for people everywhere to live more intentionally and fulfill their work and personal goals.
You both come from social impact careers. Did that influence your intentions behind Shine Text?
Marah: Absolutely. We’ve both long been passionate about the power of tech for social good.
How did you decide on the voice of Shine’s messages?
Naomi: We wanted the voice to be an extension of us and our friendship. Shine should feel like the friend that you call up after a tough day and the friend you want to celebrate with after you get the raise you deserve. Combining our shared voice with Marah’s years of experience in messaging, we solidified the voice Shine.
What made you decide to spread Shine’s message through texting?
Marah: Because texting is often the most personal and prioritized channel in our lives. How many unread text messages do you have? How many emails? Exactlyyyy.
Did you originally create it to be a full fledge company?
Naomi: Shine started as a side hustle, but in the user response, traction and feedback we got (things like ‘how does this not exist’ and ‘this is fundamentally changing the course of my day’) we quickly realized that we were onto something much bigger.
You started Shine Text while both working at DoSomething. What was it like starting it as a side hustle?
Marah: The “hustle” in side hustle is very real. Balancing a full time job with a brewing side hustle was difficult and also stimulating. You become hyper-focused quickly and a master of time management. You can’t afford not to.
Can you tell us about the moment when you decided to do Shine Text full time?
Naomi: We were at Marah’s apartment doing a Sunday working session, and we were at a point where we knew we had to make a hard choice. Shine could continue on as a side hustle or it could become the company we knew it could be. We looked at each other and although we had no funding, we said ‘Let’s do this. Let’s go full time in April.” It felt bigger than us; like our calling.
What was it like pitching Shine to investors?
Marah: Powerful, exciting and exhausting. There’s a million books out there that tell you all the dos and dont’s of pitching – but you have to find what works for you and your business. We found our balance by leading with passion and being clear about the business opportunity. We were also fortunate in that we found our Investor Goddess (our nickname for Victoria Song, our lead investor) early on. As someone who lives her life with an incredible amount of intentionality, she instantly got it from the user perspective and the business side. Like anything in life, you have to find your people. You find your people, and everything feels more natural and empowering.
I’m sure every day at the office is different, but what does your typical day to day look like?
Naomi: As a lean team just starting out, it’s a combination of balancing the day to day ‘get it done’ and working on big picture product and growth. We do everything from daily stand-up meetings (where we go through to-dos for the day, blockers, etc.) to collaborative brainstorms on one particular topic (all while blasting Lemonade for the 4392432 time).
You are Co-CEOs. What are your individual responsibilities?
Marah: I oversee product and Naomi oversees strategic partnerships and growth.
You also hired Shine’s CTO, Jonathan! What was it like hiring your first team member?
Naomi: Hiring your first team member makes it all feel very real; it’s symbolic of the growth of the company, and what’s ahead. Bringing on Jonathan Uy – a.k.a. Uy – was extra powerful because we all worked together previously for over four years at DoSomething.org.
What is it like owning your own business?
Marah: Exciting, invigorating and terrifying.
What has been your most fulfilling moment thus far?
Naomi: You know those days where you close your eyes and keep them closed for 10 seconds because you don’t want to forget that single moment? That was us, walking into our new office on the first day. It all became very real and it made us deeply appreciative of having the opportunity to build our company.
What are your intentions going forward with Shine?
Marah: You can expect a lot from us to help young people everywhere live a more intentional, fulfilled life.
If you could give advice to someone aspiring to own their own business, what would it be?
Naomi & Marah: Embrace the uncertainty. Lean in to what might seem scary because those are the times that you learn and grow you most.
Behind the Scenes
When you are not working to send positive vibes via text, what do you do for fun?
Naomi: Walking through the city on the weekends, biking over the Manhattan bridge (biking + bridges = way to take in NYC) catching up with some besties over good food and getting some QT with my fiance (which usually oscillates between reading together, drinking wine, and watching Game of Thrones on repeat).
What are your favorite places in New York City?
Marah: Biking through Brooklyn and landing in a spot for some sunshine and grub never gets old. Some of my fave places to end up are Prospect Park for a picnic, Coney Island for a Nathan’s hot dog, the Sheepshead Bay Crab Shack – and of course Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. It always comes back to food.
Who is on your power playlist?
Naomi: Nathaniel Rateliff. Beyonce. Daily Lift channel on Spotify.
What are your favorite places or accounts on the web?
Marah: Everyone should follow @EverydaySexism.
What is your personal mantra?
Naomi: It all goes back to Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”