Still Holding

Last night was Mentor Idea Review at Founder Institute. Man, I was so nervous going into this one. The whole premise of this session is to give a 3-minute presentation to several mentors (investors, CEOs, etc.) and then receive ratings and feedback from them. If your average rating is too low, you could be asked to leave the program or be given a “special assignment” to further validate your idea before continuing. I really wanted to be above that line.

I spent A LOT of time building a powerpoint presentation to go along with my pitch, with my fancy charts and stats, pictures of stressed moms, etc. But we didn’t know the format of how we would actually be giving the presentations, and it ended up being in a small conference room using a laptop just on the table (no projector). My slides were not ideal for the small screen and the remote clicker didn’t work well for me, so I ended up forgoing using my slides entirely and just spoke my pitch from memory. Thankfully, public speaking and presentations are something I’m usually good at, especially given my passion and comfort with the topic, so I was able to convey my story and idea pretty well I think.

We were split up by teams and gave our pitches three times each as the mentors took turns rotating through the conference rooms. By the last pitch we had mastered our pitches and our nerves pretty well. You could quickly see how beneficial the practicing-in-front-of- the-mentors piece is.

In the end, I got good feedback but it was also tough. Which I needed to hear for a good reality check. Their overall notes were that I was a good presenter with a good story, show passion for the idea, and know my market. But they all wanted to see more as far as how am I going to differentiate myself in a crowded market, and what team is going to build all the complex programming I’m talking about?

Valid questions. I’m not as concerned about differentiation at this point because I haven’t found any existing company offering everything I want to, but by the time I have a live product that could be different. As far as the team goes, yeah, I need help in that department. I’m not opposed to educating myself in coding and programming, but there’s no way I can gain the level expertise required for this kind of work in just a few months.

I need a technical co-founder. But before anyone would consider working with me, I need to prove myself with a basic framework, landing page, demonstrated interest etc. Lots of work to be done here.

So, you’re wondering if I made it above the line? I did! Yaay. No special assignment. But I wasn’t terribly high above the cutoff, so I have plenty of  work to catch up on. The name search is still underway, but I put in a few work orders on fiverr to see what the professionals might come up with. Will reassess after those come in. Hopefully my next post will be announcing my company name! Fingers crossed. Til then….

Still holding. (Note: I am not a smoker. Gross.) 


Startup Mom is written by Coralee Dixon, a NJ mom trying to launch an online business aimed at helping parents solve their memory-keeping needs. Is she “having it all” or losing her mind? Follow along as we find out…I’m just as curious as you are.

House Money

Yesterday was hard.

We’ve been assigned by FI to choose a name for our company this week. I worked all day Thursday brainstorming and am on the right track, but no name. I thought it was going to be easier. But finding the right name seems so critical to success. Since I also feel the pressure of a deadline, on Thursday night I discussed with DH the possibility of paying for a naming service like crowdSPRING. This resulted in him pointing out to me that I should have started thinking about this sooner so we don’t have to spend money (not helpful), which made me feel defensive, and hello weekly cry #1.

More helpful was him saying that the more I stressed about it the less likely I would be to think of a name, and that another way to be productive would be to start going through the upcoming weeks’ assignments to figure out how much lead time they might need so I don’t find myself in this position of needing more than a week to get the work done.

So I started doing that. It seemed productive. And then it seemed like OMG I am already behind on work for the next week and the week after that too! Aaaargh. Begin self-pity and self-doubt spiral. “I’m never going to be able to do this. I’m so far behind compared to everyone else in the program. I’m going to embarrass myself when I have to give my pitch next week. No one’s going to think I have a good idea or know what I’m talking about. I can’t keep up with this pace. I’m going to have to drop out.” etc.

Yesterday I just had to completely shut my mind off from work. I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. Babygirl and I packed up and drove down the shore in the morning to beat the holiday traffic, and once we arrived I was on mommy duty for the rest of the day. We are staying with family and cannot babyproof, so that meant I really couldn’t just put her down and do other things the way I can at home. I did set up the “baby octagon” gate so she had a safe space to play if I had to put her down, but she was 50/50 on being in there. So mostly it was me holding her, me following her around the house, or going for a walk in the stroller.

When she did finally take a nap in the afternoon, I was so exhausted I napped the entire time she did. No shower. No snack. No work. Just badly needed sleep.

DH took the train from the city after work and met us at the shore. He’d started celebrating the unofficial start of summer around lunchtime, but must have been doing some thinking on the train too because he arrived with some good feedback for me. It echoed the sentiments of one of my group members as well.

It all revolves around me working to change my mindset as I approach these problems and assignments. This is my company. It will be what I make of it. No one can force me to make choices I don’t want to make. If I’m not ready to name my company I don’t have to name it. If my pitch presentation isn’t perfect, I can take the feedback I receive and make it better. There is no downside to being in this program as long as I remember that I am in control of my choices. There is no reason for me to feel that I should quit out of fear that I cannot complete the assignments. I should get as much out of it as I can for as long as I can.

DH’s analogy for this is that I’m playing with house money. Let it ride as long as I can and see where it takes me. I’ve got nothing to lose.

Deep breaths. Smile. Back to the task at hand. If I don’t come up with a name this week, so be it.


Startup Mom is written by Coralee Dixon, a NJ mom trying to launch an online business aimed at helping parents solve their memory-keeping needs. Is she “having it all” or losing her mind? Follow along as we find out…

Post-Session Update

It’s 11:45 PM – just got back home after our latest FI session in the city. So many thoughts, ideas, and to-dos are swimming in my mind! It can be really hard to figure out where to focus my limited time when there is so much to be done. But I know my number one priority for tomorrow at least – this company needs a name! Brainstorming starts tomorrow morning. I have an idea of the direction I want to go in. Might post some options here to try to get an audience poll. Need to move fast on name selection so I can move on to logos, website, email account….etc.

Tonight I got to meet the FI mentor who I’ve been wanting to contact since the first time I reviewed the mentor list, which is very exciting. Her background is in tech for parents so I am very eager to hear more feedback from her. She doesn’t think my idea is strong as presented today, but I’m not discouraged because I have more to tell her than I could get into my one minute pitch. She says the photo book market is crowded, and she’s right, but I still feel good about there being a need for a better product. Plus she said that her original company probably wasn’t a strong idea either, but it worked.

I found out a bit more about next week’s session, which is going to be focused on the first mentor idea review. We have to prepare a three-minute presentation with slides and receive feedback and questions from mentors. If they think our idea is weak or we are not prepared there is a chance we could be asked to leave the program. I also heard that one of the mentors coming is a big investor in female-led/female-focused startups, so I feel extra anxious about being very prepared. I want to make sure I really put my best information out there so I can get quality feedback about my venture’s potential. So nervous, but also feeling excited too. There is so much potential here if I can get all my ducks in a row. Eek!

My mom’s been visiting this week which has been so helpful because babygirl is being taken good care of and receiving the loving attention I haven’t been as available with since I started FI. Plus it’s just so nice having my mom with us for a few days.

It’s Memorial Day weekend in a few days, so there will be a lot going on to take me away from work and I’m nervous about that, but I also think it could be helpful because there will be family around to help watch babygirl. I know DH (that’s Dear Husband in internet slang for you newbies) is going to want to study for the CFA exam too though, so it will be hard for us to balance us both getting our work done. I know we’ll figure it out somehow, I just need to be clear about my needs while not always expecting him to revolve around my schedule. We’ll see if I can remember that come Friday – I tend to get caught up in my stress and what I think my needs are. Last week I cried three times – let’s see if I can get it down to two this week. Baby steps.

In other news, DH & I celebrated our two year anniversary earlier this week by watching the two final episodes of Mad Men together. This is no small feat – taking two hours in one night to watch television together. So now I know Don Draper’s fate. If that is even possible. Also – DH sent me flowers. This is kind of a big deal. He does not do this often and I really love it. It’s funny how receiving flowers can make you feel loved. <3

IMG_1008


Startup Mom is written by Coralee Dixon, a NJ mom trying to launch an online business aimed at helping parents solve their memory-keeping needs. Is she “having it all” or losing her mind? Follow along as we find out…

Making progress, but still no Sunday TV for me tonight. Don Draper’s fate remains unknown. (At least to me.)

You know how you think when you take on new responsibilities that you’ll find the time but you’re not sure how? Apparently TV is the first to go in a timecrunch this significant. (Did I mention I worked 40 hours on last week’s FI assignment? As in 4-0? When they said we’d likely work 20-25? Yeah. Ask me about that sometime.) Missing TV isn’t much to complain about, but I’ve found it to be followed by exercise, cooking, laundry, errands, taking Daisy to the park…pretty much anything non-essential is out. And brings on new things to feel guilty about. Yay having-it-all!

Case-in-point: My husband and I have a Sunday ritual of watching Game of Thrones and Mad Men. We’ve made time to watch these shows together for the past several years, and look forward to it with anticipation in the off-season. Tonight is the series finale of Mad Men. The SERIES FINALE. As in someone tell me wtf the past x-years were about please? Is there some meaning to it all? Did I miss Matt Weiner’s little clues all along to some as-yet-unknown ending? Did he set us up for disappointment or something amazing?

But am I watching it? Nope. My husband either bless his heart. (To be fair, I would cause him physical harm if he watched it without me after all the years that it’s been our thing.) I didn’t see last week’s episode either and am trying so hard not to see any posts or articles about it online. I’m going to have to have a news blackout this week after the finale airs tonight.

So, what am I doing instead you ask? Revenue models. Apparently this is either very important or very unimportant depending on who you talk to, but I get that it’s a worthwhile exercise either way. You need to think about how your business is going to make money and be aware of the expenses that are going to pop up so you’re not surprised later on (I need to pay office rent and legal fees? Ugh.). Some investors will want to go into all the dirty details, and some will say “eh, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

Still working on finding “revenue stream experts” to interview. None of the fancy experts I contacted via Twitter/email have gotten back to me, so I’m going back to my roots and working my personal network to find people who run their own businesses using these models. Hopefully these will yield better results.

I liked this scene from the last episode I watched. Nice one for Peggy & Roger.
Who wouldn’t want to roller skate in the office while your boss plays the organ?

Get advice from experts. Yeah. Right.

Feeling discouraged. One assignment this week is to find experts in the revenue models we’ve identified for our business idea and interview them for 30 minutes to learn from their expertise. But how to find an expert in these fields and then get them to talk to you? I’ve just submitted a few tweets to CEO-level women asking if they’d be willing to talk to me, but now I almost feel foolish, and exposed. They don’t know me from Adam and are very busy executives – I can’t imagine them responding to my little tweet, ever. Sigh. :( Am I doing this right?

(Originally written as a draft on May 15, 2015)

Look Mom! I have a blog! :)

Hey you! Thanks for finding my little website thingy here.

[This is my first blog. So it’s going to be pretty basic for a little while til I can get more fanci-fied. I’ll try to get some color themes or something up in here soon.]

So here’s the deal. About two months ago I got an idea for a new business. I got kind of excited about it, told some people who got excited for me, spent some time researching it, and decided to make the jump and follow the proverbial yellow brick road to see where it might take me.

I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM for those of you not familiar with mommy acronyms) since March 2014 when Daisy was born. Worked part-time for about six months doing some consulting work, but didn’t feel really passionate about it. Waited for inspiration to strike and [cla-click] got a lightbulb above my head in late February 2015.

Joined the Founder Institute in NYC in mid-April 2015 to jumpstart the process. It’s been intense. As in, this is the most challenged I’ve been professionally and personally. Ever. Did I mention I’m (still) a SAHM? So I’m working two full-time jobs for all intents and purposes. /whine

A few days ago, one of my group members (hi Dee!) suggested the idea of creating a blog to chronicle my experience as a new mom going through the crazy startup experience. And I thought – I absolutely should do that. There is no downside, because I’ll enjoy reading this even if zero other people do, and journaling my thoughts and experiences will probably be very therapeutic. Cause there is A LOT going on in my head nowadays. Writing it down might help me straighten it out a bit. And who knows – maybe somewhere down the line someone will read this and think “I’m not crazy! This lady knows what I’m going through.” and he/she will feel validated, understood, and a bit more confident. That’s the dream anyways.

So…welcome! Let’s see where the journey takes us…

~Coralee

We’re not in Kansas anymore.