Nervous. Ecstatic. At the brink of a major change.
When I was going through my day on Tuesday, November 8th, all these feelings were circulating through my mind. Just a few weeks before, I had planted the thought that I wanted to try out an “idea seed” at Women In Entrepreneurship’s first pitch competition, WE Innovate. It wasn’t until I told the rest of the WE-board and those in my cohort that I started to put in motion.
Throwing my idea out there and giving it to others made it more than just a thought. It made it more tangible and a concept that others could hold me accountable to following through on. While I thought putting my business idea out there and my goals would be the scariest moment, I was pleasantly surprised that my friends, mentors, and peers had good feedback. More than anything, they saw the potential in it and they saw the potential in myself. They could tell it was an idea I was invested in and aligned with my interests. They could tell that my idea wasn’t completely driven by a desire to make money. I believe businesses that start with making money as the only goal don’t make it past the test of dedication that inevitably happens to every business.
Through the process of applying, I was asked crucial questions that began to evaluate what the motivation and goals of my business were. Questions included:
Why are you pursuing this idea? What excites you about it?
Tell us in less than 10 words how your product would impact or affect your customers
If you were given $3,000 to spend on your idea/ company, how would you use it?
My idea started to become a business when I started thinking through these questions and evaluating how I could make it happen. Upon getting accepted into the pitch competition, the next step was in presenting my idea. I had to share the idea in a succinct way to a room full of people who don’t really know me or my background. YIKES! I know I wasn’t the only one experiencing this feeling either. Luckily, W.E. knew that too. All the pitchers met the Thursday before the pitch to go through what makes a pitch successful and how to showcase all the important pieces of our businesses. Led by an entrepreneur with quite a bit pitching experience, W.E. President, Zoe Zappitell, had us all go through our rough drafts and give and receive feedback on our content. While the advice was helpful, I got more out of the experience of being in the room with my competition and realizing that regardless of the outcome of the pitch, we are supportive of each other’s efforts.
The morning of the pitch competition, I realized I no longer felt the coldness of competition dividing us but instead the feeling of encouragement. We were all getting ourselves outside of our comfort zones and sharing our businesses with a larger audience. I woke up that morning knowing that, regardless of the outcome, each of us would be motivated forward by the experience of this competition. It would change each of us to continue working. It would prove how much passion we had for our ideas.
And that passion is what showed in our presentations.
I was beyond nervous upon arriving to Dublin at 6:30. I felt a bit unprepared. I was shaking with so many emotions. I couldn’t stop talking one minute and then would sit down and get so micro-focused on a single thought. I didn’t feel myself because I had never been in this sort of setting before. No matter how many times I had given a presentation or danced on a stage, this experience of displaying my plans for a business idea against a panel of judges who had so much more experience than myself freaked me out. But, I got up there and took a breath. And I shared my passion with them.
Upon finishing my pitch, a huge weight was off my shoulders. In the in-between time while the judges were deciding on the winners, I was approached by friends and peers who mentioned the confidence they saw from me. I couldn’t help but laugh because I was definitely faking it while having ‘nervous knees’. When the judges came, among all the competitors, we were just proud of each other for getting this far and chasing after what we wanted to do.
I was captivated when I got called up for 2nd place. As all the pictures after the announcement show, I was part shocked and part enthusiastically charged. I went to bed that night knowing that this was the start of a journey. I am psyched, nervous, and unsure all at the same time, but I’m moving forward to get my idea rolling. I came away that night seeing that someone believed in me, but ultimately realized that this was my time to get to work.
I have the funds to get started, but I am about to face so many more challenges on this entrepreneurial road. However, I've got the support of a community behind me and a fire within myself to get going. This was only the beginning of a chapter. The rest is being written each day.