We got it…We got Forbes


I remember the first time I heard about the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. I was in college talking to someone a few years older than me that had just entered into the Raleigh workforce. She was talking about wanting to become a 30 under 30 for the Triangle. I asked her what 30 under 30 was and she told me each year 30 people under 30 years old are chosen as the best and brightest stars of the Triangle that are expected to continue to shine brighter and brighter.

I remember thinking to myself, “being a 30 under 30 for the Triangle would be so cool, but….I wonder what the biggest 30 under 30 is…whatever the biggest one is…that’s the one I want to be on one day.” I went home and looked it up.


A Forbes 30 Under 30 was what I wanted to become one day. I remember pouring over all of articles of the entrepreneurs, all the athletes, all the entertainers that had been given the honor.  I was inspired. I wanted to do something that would make enough of an impact in the world and the people within it to be part of this list too. Mind you, all of these feelings and hopes happened before Bee Downtown was ever even a part of my life.

But then, Bee Downtown came into my life, first as a passion project and then as a full-time job. For the past four years I’ve been able to spend each day working on building a company I love with all my heart. A company that I believe makes that lasting impact on the world and the people within it.

On November 10th I left for my first real vacation since starting Bee Downtown. Two weeks in Europe. Two weeks with a goal of intentionally trying to rest my body, my mind, and soul. As glamorous as the startup life is made out to be, it is one that is exhausting in every aspect and takes an unbelievable toll on your body and spirit. As entrepreneurs we keep going though because we know we are working towards something so special to us all.

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From the minute I landed in Europe I felt my body and mind resting for the first time in longer than I could remember and I immediately made a promise to myself that I’d start creating more intentional time in my life to step away to just breathe. It became very clear that if I didn’t start prioritizing myself, I’d burn out. Burn out is not an option though because I believe too fiercely in all the good work our team is doing, and believe we really are changing the world.

On November 13th I landed in Rome. Despite promising my team I’d stay off email, I jumped on quickly just to check if I’d gotten anything important that I needed to respond to. The email I found was one I wasn’t expecting, but was one that reinforced my new commitment to taking care of myself so I can continue pursuing Bee Downtown with my whole heart.

Sitting in a tiny AirBnB in Rome, at 25 years old I stared down at the name of the sender.


There it was written plain as day in the subject header.


I immediately flashed back to the day I learned about the illusive Forbes 30 under 30 list and how I told myself I was going to be on that list. I had no idea at the time how I’d get on it, but I told myself I would. Somehow. Someway.

Dear Leigh-Kathryn,
“Congratulations! On behalf of Forbes, I’m thrilled to welcome you to the 30 Under 30, Class of 2019. You’ve joined the most exclusive club in the world for young entrepreneurs and game-changers, from Kevin Systrom to LeBron James, Daniel Ek to Kate McKinnon. And now you.”

…“and now you.”

My friend was sitting across from me when I read the email and all I could do was smile and shake my head. He asked what was going on multiple times before all I could get out was a quiet, “I got it…I got Forbes…I got Forbes.”

So what does one do when they find out they’re named a Forbes 30 under 30 list while visiting Rome? They find the closest pizza place and celebrate by popping champagne and eating an entire pizza!

We all have dreams in our lives. Hopes for our lives. Wishes for our lives. Many times we go through our whole lives and so many of those dreams and hopes don’t come true…but sometimes we get lucky and a few of those dreams turn into a reality.

As the initial shock of this dream becoming a reality began to wear off, my thoughts from “I got Forbes” changed to “we got Forbes”. Because here’s the thing, I didn’t do it alone. Far from it. I’ve had so many absolutely amazing people propelling me forward and cheering me on each and every step of this journey.

My heart began to fill with so much gratitude and thanks for all of the people that believed in, invested in, partnered with, and took jobs with this quirky little bees-ness that many people thought would never succeed.

Gratitude. It seems like such a simple emotion, but it’s one I think we forget to express all too often. We assume people know we’re grateful and we forget to intentionally share that thanks with the people who mean the most to us.

So to everyone who has been part of the Bee Team and relentlessly cheered us on…WE. GOT. FORBES.


Now go and have a drink, or two, or three because…. WE DID IT!

With a heart full of gratitude and joy,