Two weeks into Women 2.0 Labs with three weeks to go... This week, we hear from a fresh MBA graduate working on a beauty genome website. Kimberly Dillon's Story
I had been in the Bay Area for about 4 days before I started the Women 2.0 Labs program. Since then, my nights and weekends have been completely focused on charging forward with my business idea. When people ask me about landmark/touristy things I have done in the city, I laugh because I have spent most of my free time at Pier 38 and startup events.
When I moved here 4 weeks ago, I was concerned that it would be hard to find my way in the startup scene. I was one of few women at most of the events I attended, and I was consistently the only black woman. Interestingly, my race and my gender have not mattered, in part because I am not letting it matter -- because right now I would stalk the King of Sheba if I thought it would help me move this idea forward, and also partially because it just hasn't mattered -- at least, not yet. Instead, I have been receiving great feedback, and all of the people who have helped, critiqued and mentored me up to this point don't look a speck like me.
This is due in part to programs like Women 2.0, which has played a great role in weaving women into the broader conversation. The Women 2.0 Labs program specifically has been a great immersion into the startup world. In fact, it is the perfect capstone onto my newly minted MBA. Interestingly enough, I was so caught up on being a woman and being black, that I didn't even begin to think about what having an MBA would mean in some circles in the Bay Area. My MBA has generated some apprehension among a few people I met who appreciate technical expertise over all else. It's even funnier because I come from a family where my parents didn't even know what an MBA was.
I went to business school because I thought I was lacking some of the "secret sauce" that made entrepreneurs and business leader great, but when I got to school, I found out that there was no secret sauce. Instead there were a lot of case studies based on assumptions, frameworks and hypotheses, and sometimes the difference between success and failure was a little bit of plain luck. While I am oversimplifying things a bit, I found value in learning that there is neither a formula nor a secret sauce. And while I feel like I did learn a lot in business school, for me it represents a lot of personal growth and invaluable inner awareness.
"But business school is not everything, and one of the key things that I love about Women 2.0 is the bias towards action."
Last week we had Eric Ries of Lean Startup fame present. He definitely speaks his mind, bluntly, but personally, I love being ripped apart: if I am still standing, well then, "The joke is on you, buddy!" He did not, in fact, rip us apart, but instead got us out of the "thinking" phase and into the "doing" phase.
We threw up a dummy site with a super basic landing page and survey form, and then launched a low budget paid search campaign, put up the requisite Facebook/Twitter page, and even sponsored a Meetup group. The results were pretty surprising. I mean, obviously I think my idea is the BEST. THING. EVER. But to see people sign up was a bit nerve wracking (now what?). Imagine the horror when I found a misspelling or a broken link on our quickly thrown up website. I began to check our signup dashboard on an hourly basis, and I lost some sleep trying to figure out how to optimize our keyword campaign. It still surprises me that people sign up for stuff based on a dummy landing page, and even more that people actually give us personal information about their beauty habits. One 21-year-old so desperately wanted product advice to help her shedding hair that she emailed twice asking when we were going to get back to her. In one week, we got 100 beta testers, nearly 500 Facebook fans, even though we haven't even figured out how the site is going to work yet. I am guessing that's next week's goal.
House of Mikko: Our vision is to build a beauty recommendation engine based on the reviews of like-typed women. Visit us at: www.houseofmikko.com.
You can follow Kimberly on Twitter at @prettylittleceo.