Last night I did the unthinkable – against my better judgement and my inner critic, I pitched my (very fresh, very new) startup idea to a room full of strangers.
Let’s backtrack. Two weeks ago I received a newsletter from Innovation Guelph about the second annual Startup Royale, an event that promotes youth entrepreneurship and friendly competition in a Dragon’s Den style contest awarding seed funding to the top contestants. Reading the newsletter felt a bit like a star-alignment moment because my mind immediately jumped to an idea that I’ve been workshopping (in my mind) for months and I thought: I’m going to pitch it at the contest!
I don’t know what possessed me to have such blind confidence in an idea I had at that point barely explored, but I set to work getting everything together. My typical approach to something like this is to work on it quietly, keep my head down, do some research, but not share it with others, because heaven-forbid I do poorly and everyone finds out, or I hear the idea is crap and I should toss it out. I knew that that wouldn’t work in this case, so despite every perfectionist bone in my body screaming at me to keep it to myself, I started talking about it to anyone who would listen. I spoke to dozens of people, got amazing feedback, collected really valuable information and felt the power of opening up and sharing with others.
While I chatted and chatted about the idea, I also had to do some legwork. I researched the market, I built cash flow worksheets, I calculated my profit margins and the amount of product I’d have to sell to make it a success. I also built a booth for the occasion because someone mentioned that visuals really help in the competition.
With some good data and strong numbers, I had all the answers I needed to fill out an application to compete. I was overflowing with ideas and strategies and plans and future growth opportunities, so narrowing down my answers to make them succinct and impactful actually turned out to be quite difficult.
After all was said and done, I was invited to compete in the contest. I practiced my pitch for days, I revised and edited and tweaked and got feedback from other entrepreneurs and got it to the point that I walked into that competition feeling incredibly confident.
I would love to end this story by saying: and then I won ALL THE SEED FUNDING, but the truth is I didn’t even make it to the second round.
Here’s the thing — and brace yourself, it’s going to feel like the end of a Full House episode with beautiful lessons learned and wonderful hopes for the future — here we go: though I didn’t walk away with funding from the competition, I walked away with so many valuable lessons learned. I learned about the importance of opening up and sharing your ideas. I learned that setting a public deadline for yourself is truly the most motivating way to get an idea rolling. I met some amazing people and competed against some incredible and brilliant young entrepreneurs. And most importantly, I built something from the ground up in a very short amount of time and now have very strong momentum on that idea. All in all, totally worth it. Totally terrifying, but totally worth it.
I went to bed last night exhausted but restless, with a mind racing around planning the future of this startup and my new next steps. My idea is not going anywhere.
The reason I’m sharing this story? I hope some brilliant mind stumbles across it and gets inspired to share their beautiful idea and build something amazing. And if that’s too much to ask, I hope to inspire even just one person to open up about something, anything that’s been on their mind. If I can do it, so can you, friends.