By Virgilia Singh (Co-Founder & Advisor, GenJuice) It’s amazing how our lives can change by one move, one trip, one introduction, one experience, one passion, one love, one event, one goal, one year. Here is my timeline of events:
January 2010 -- An overly-eager 22 year old, I just graduated from business school and aimlessly worked at my job at a consulting firm, constantly concocting ideas and sharing them with my friends while never actually working on them longer than the strategy phase. February 2010 -- After being persuaded to use Twitter, I began perusing the networks and found @women2 -- a network of women entrepreneurs, specifically, female founders. My heart started beating faster when I saw a tweet about the “Will It Launch” conference in San Francisco only a few weeks after. Without thinking twice, I convinced a friend and fellow budding entrepreneur to go, and both of us jetted to SF not knowing what to expect.
What we found was a brilliant group of beautiful, smart and dynamic women who were all working on the coolest projects -- in the most diverse industries. I was in awe. Little did I know that my future co-founders were also in the midst of that conference.
We were asked to pitch our ideas to a panel, which included Dave McClure and Rashmi Sinha. At this point I was so scared to go and public speaking that watching others get torn up by Dave McClure literally made me sweat so much I couldn’t walk up to the podium. Major, major FAIL.
April 2010 -- After e-mailing back and forth with Arielle Scott about GenJuice who I met at the Women 2.0 event, we decided to take her meetups nationwide and go on tour. With Danielle Leslie on board, another Women 2.0 event attendee, we built the nationwide tour and managed to get enough sponsorships to cover our 43 cross-country trip.
May 2010 -- Quit my job. When my manager heard what I was going to do, she literally scoffed in my face.
June/July 2010 -- We drove across country on the GenJuice Tour, meeting hundreds of people in person and thousands of people online. Spent none of our own money on any of this. Turned 23 during one of our stops: Portland, one very interesting place.
August/September/October 2010 -- Once the tour high had go away, we were stuck figuring out what to do next. During this time, I got invited to the exclusive conference of achievers Dot2Dot, brainchild of Michael Skolnik and Rachel Goldstein in NYC. After being invited to the White House, conversing with brilliant minds, my mind and heart was set on moving to NYC. Not knowing anyone but my boyfriend and a handful of friends, I looked to Twitter and began reaching out to EVERYONE.
November 2010 -- After shedding my last tear of what I thought was failure, Gary gave me a free ticket to New York Entrepreneurship Week, and for one week I lived and breathed networking. Listening to story after story of individuals who had already made it, my original connotation of success was redefined. Instead of focusing on networking just for business, I networked now to create long-lasting relationships.
December 2010 -- It was time to go back and get a “real job” after bootstrapping for nearly 7 months. Vic Singh and Brett Martin taught me the art of true hustle and how to properly launch a startup.
March 2011 -- To find more motivated female friends, myself and fellow Sandbox Network Ambassador Niamh Hughes started a Brunch Club for motivated young women in NYC. Our first event filled up in 30 minutes and we currently have over 100 hand-selected women in our system. One of my good friends and someone I truly admire, Dario Meli, offered me a job at his company Invoke. The position allowed me to focus on building new mobile and web ventures in a diverse cross-sector of industries.
April 2011 -- Thanks to Nicole, I was invited to Summit Series. Listening to Richard Branson and Jacqueline Novogratz, having dinner with LivingSocial’s co-founder, partying with Pitbull -- this event will change your life and perspective of how one voice can really make a positive change.
May/June 2011 -- The organization that was essentially in sparking this crazy adventure, Women 2.0, was starting something called Founder Labs in NYC. For 5 grueling weeks, my amazing group and I worked on a mobile application called Exhale. Under the mentorship of individuals such as Fred Wilson, Frank Harris and Janet Hansen, we miraculously managed to build a functioning app. Currently in talks to merge with a large health and wellness company. This incubator program is definitely legit. Turned 24.
Before I end, there are 4 crucial introductions that truly shaped my mindset as a woman and as a future innovator over the past year. This is what they have individually taught me:
- Reshma Saujani (Deputy Advocate for Special Initiatives in NYC and was the first South Asian American woman to run for Congress) What she taught me: Don’t follow the traditional path. The years of having to go to an Ivy League school and get an MBA/JD/PhD have passed. While that route may have worked for the generation before, what makes the young generation special is our ability to hustle and make concrete change happen. Using technology to spark change is government is what our future is about. Follow her on Twitter at @reshmasaujani.
- Nicole Patrice Johnson (Serial entrepreneur, bad-ass and “Good Brain” keeper) What she taught me: Be positive. Don’t approach situations with a negative mindset and do not have an ego. Ego is what will hold you back from greatness. Follow her on Twitter at @effigyfarm.
- Sara Holoubek (Founder/CEO of Luminary Labs, brain behind HealthTechFood & afieldguideto, and on the Board of the Step Up Women’s Network) What she taught me:Understand your personal strengths and know that it’s the educated, honest and humble women who are bound for success. Follow her on Twitter at @sarita.
- Shaherose Charania (The ever inspiring Co-Founder/CEO of Women 2.0 and Founder Labs) What she taught me: Focus on actually solving one problem as opposed to pursuing something that will just bring quick monetary rewards. Money will come from hard work, perseverance, forming a solid team and a good [viable] idea. Follow her on Twitter at @shaherose.
Anyone who has any one of these women in their life as a mentor especially, is one lucky person.
The biggest lesson learned that I have realized over the past year is understand your worth and don’t spread yourself thin. As opposed to doing multiple things at once and only being average at it, focus your efforts on one thing -- and crush it.
About the guest blogger: Virgilia Singh is currently building a new ventures program for ASU's College of Tech & Innovation, enabling more startups to launch in Arizona and bringing more capital into Arizona. She co-founded GenJuice and now serves on its Advisory Board. Virgilia holds a B.A. Honors from ASU and a M.S. from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Follow her on Twitter at @VirgiliaSingh.