Helaine Knapp Debuts Her New Memoir: Making Waves: One Startup Founder’s Raw, Gritty & Unexpected Journey

You know that self-help guru, the one with the perfect business and perfect life and a viral TikTok on lip glosses for success? She may have good advice, but you may not relate to her. There is a female antidote, and that is Helaine Knapp, whose inspirational memoir which just came out “Making Waves: One Startup Founder’s Raw, Gritty and Unexpected Journey” embraces the imperfections in life’s journey to realize your dreams and lets you know you are not alone. Her story follows her rise, fall, and reinvention as an entrepreneur in the boutique fitness world with her company, CITYROW. “I wanted a low-impact workout which was fun, sexy, and cool,” she said, even for those who never rowed before. It was a hit.

While she had a thriving career at a software company, Knapp knew she wanted a business of her own. In writing the book, she wanted to guide entrepreneurs, especially women, “I set out to be the person I always wanted when I was starting and growing my business. There’s a lack of that out there and especially with the tactical experience combined with the positive and emotional support needed. I’m so grateful to be able to be in a position now where I can reach back to help the women (and men too) right behind me and help build/lift them up.”

Knapp admits that the entrepreneurial road was not filled with rainbows and butterflies. Afraid to let go of the stability and income from her full-time job, she tried to juggle the career with the side hustle. In the book, she describes, “I was burning both ends of the candle right down to the wick and burning myself out in the process.” A perfectionist, she was still excelling at work while birthing her company and ended up literally not being able to walk. A silver lining was that rowing became not only a great workout but a way to address her personal injury. With both brick-and-mortar and a digital side to the business, it was a tall growth order, especially in a world where women receive only 2.5 percent of all venture capital.

“What I’ve learned since then is that the notion of giving 100 percent is ridiculous because not all tanks are the same size or need the same amount of power,” she wrote, “It’s more about having enough for your personal output. The Helaine of today wouldn’t feel guilty because I know a balanced life is paramount. But for me, at that moment in time, the guilt was all-consuming.”

The book is filled with great advice to achieve a dream but doesn’t gloss over the vulnerability of what it feels like to run out of money and have to fire your whole team. She shared, “Trial by fire and learning by doing is the truest element of starting and running your own company. You just have to take each wave as it comes. I grew to not necessarily love them, but tolerate them and enjoy the process of getting through the small day-to-day problems and the big, monstrous ones that threatened our very existence.”

Knapp is thrilled to return to the Hamptons to promote her book this summer, “In the dunes of Amagansett, we’d rent every summer, and it instilled a love of long beach days and the most amazing ocean ever. It was the ’90s, and Amagansett was still raw. It was cooking out, and ice cream, and the duck pond. It is one of our family’s favorite places, and as the story goes, my brother and I would scream and bang on our car seat ‘Amagansetttt’ for the entire drive every summer. I still feel that way when I head out there.”

Knapp’s collaborator on writing the book, Leanne Shear, also has a long history with the Hamptons, starting with her book with Tracey Toomey McQuade, “The Perfect Manhattan.” Shear said, “My real passion for writing started in the Hamptons all those years ago with our first book, and along the way, it’s become a vehicle for female empowerment. I truly love having the ability to bring the powerful story of a powerful (and yet vulnerable) woman like Helaine to life. Collaboration is something women do really well, and Helaine and I were no exception with ‘Making Waves.’” 

Perhaps Knapp’s best piece of advice? Ask for help. “Asking for help has always been hard for me. I don’t want people to be put off. I don’t want them to think I’m needy. These are themes from middle school and being a shy kid wanting to fade into the shadows and to never be a nuisance. The minute that flipped for me was when I realized that 1) people could say no, and 2) most people want to be helpful. I leaned in hard from there and have never been afraid to ask for help again, no matter how big or small.”

Knapp will be having author readings at local venues this summer. Visit helaineknapp.com/making-waves.

Heather Buchanan

Heather Buchanan is an award-winning writer with the accolades of "Best Column" and "Best Humor Column" from both the National Association of Newspaper Columnists and the Press Club of Long Island. Having first dipped her toes in the beaches of Sagaponack at three weeks old she has a long lens on Hamptons real estate both as a journalist, marketer, and buyer and seller before joining Sotheby’s International Realty. With her in-depth knowledge and personal dedication, she has been helping clients realize their dreams of a home in the Hamptons. When she is not working, she is perfecting her secret pie crust recipe, mastering the nine iron or making peace with pigeon pose.

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