Mentor Progress Review – Completed!

At FI, we had our second round of mentor reviews last Wednesday. I was working all week to improve my PowerPoint and finish the week’s assignment, then spent the last day memorizing my updated pitch.

DH & DD left for Florida vacation time on Wednesday morning with my in-laws (pre-planned trip we all received as a Christmas gift), so I finished getting them ready to go on Tuesday night, knowing I would have all day Wednesday to myself to finish everything I needed to do for the session that night plus pack for myself.  (I had changed my flight to Thursday morning so as not to miss the big presentation session.) But it turned out I needed all the time I had to prep for the presentation. So I figured I would get it done and then leave right after the session to head home early for packing and prepping for my own flight on Thursday morning. I got the work done and headed in to the city for the session.

I was nervous about how my presentation would be received, but was confident that I would present the material that I had well. Our larger group was split into four smaller groups in conference rooms, with the mentors in groups of two rotating through the rooms. We each gave our pitches a total of 3 times to 6 total mentors. Some of the feedback was tough, but all of it was helpful. I was proud of myself and my groupmates – we had worked hard and came away with a lot of great insights for our businesses.

Overall, I feel good about my performance. I continue to receive good feedback about my presentation style and natural way of speaking. But my actual PowerPoint design got dinged for not being creative/compelling enough, especially for a business concept with great design as one of its key differentiating features. (They were right, and I’m working on a better design now.)

Again, the main points the mentors were driving home for me revolved around how will my business stand out from competitors. Even if I offer a slight difference or focus, what’s to stop an established competitor from seeing my success and simply adding that feature into their existing products? I don’t want to be competing with the big guys on price, because I will most certainly lose.

They encouraged me to remain focused on my initial concept – automating the process of photo book and baby album creation. Customers sign up, and then they receive the (well-designed) product in the mail with little effort. Get that right first, then think about expanding into other options. “Simple, simple, simple”, as mentor Gabe kept telling us. Automate this time-intensive process.

In the end, I scored slightly better this time than I did in the first mentor review round, so that felt good. But the session went late, so my idea of leaving early had to be scrapped. I joined my colleagues at the bar while I waited for the next train, but I was so glad I did because I ended up having really great conversations with my friends and a few mentors. They had so much great feedback and suggestions for me on how to move forward with my business. I actually ended up staying even later so that I could keep talking with everyone.

I still was able to pack for vacation and got to bed in the wee hours. Overslept a bit, but rushed around and made my flight to FL. I was so exhausted. I knew I still had the next week’s assignment to do, but I’d be able to make some to relax with the family in FL, go to the beach, the pool, out to dinner. I really felt like I had EARNED this vacation. Woo hoo. I got to FL, picked up my rental car, and couldn’t help smiling as I caught my first glimpses of the gulf. :)

Then two hours later I received an email from FI detailing my first special assignment, due in four days.

Stitch has such range.

(To be continued…)

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.)

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.