A PITCH finalist on how she went from being a wantrapreneur, to a real entrepreneur with real customers in twelve months. By Ashley Wilson (Co-founder & CMO, RenterResume)
It has been just over a month since our company, RenterResume, took the stage to pitch for this year’s Women 2.0 San Francisco conference (#w2sf14). The event was an exciting experience for me as well as other fellow entrepreneurs! The positive energy, brilliant minds, and the optimistic spirit showed us that there truly is something magical about a room full of entrepreneurs, an energy that I had not yet experienced prior to this event.
Everyone I met had ambition, curiosity, and a level of friendliness that made it clear that great entrepreneurs, whether novice or seasoned, want each other to succeed.
No matter where your ambitions or entrepreneurial ventures stand currently, I’m going to show you how you can harness this spirit to build every entrepreneur’s best friend: momentum.
Find a Champion
Every successful entrepreneur knows that a strong founding team is essential. In fact, I believe that building a strong team is THE single most important thing you can do to transform your idea into a company, and to make your company a success! Finding our third co-founder was a long journey of awkward meetings at local coffee shops and constant disappointment. We turned to CoFoundersLab, and after a year of searching we finally found someone who fit with our vision, personalities, and goals. Don’t stop until you find this person, and don’t build your dream with the wrong person.
After working together for about twelve months, we shipped our MVP, acquired our first customers and started making real money! In that same time period, we spoke with CoFoundersLab about featuring some kind of "success story" blog post, but eventually agreed to shoot a video. We were nervous (never having done this before) but obliged, and it turned out pretty well for both of us! This was our first small ripple, the essential start to any wave of momentum.
Measurable results: marked increase in web traffic, three beta sign ups, and one new added account.
Lesson learned: find one champion for your company who is invested in your success, and leverage that relationship!
Build Social Credibility
A few months after the video release, we were spreading it over blogs and social channels, & ran across a tweet that changed our future:
We fit the criteria perfectly so we decided to apply. I knew that we needed to stand out, and including our video could help us do just that. So after a few days, the application was complete and we very stealthily included a shortened link to the video in the 'about us' section. Since all companies were compared solely on applications, I really believe this helped us stand out from other applicants.
We were accepted to PITCH, and spent five amazing days in San Francisco. While there, we took part in everything possible to enhance our experience. We pitched, shook hands, drank lots of wine and connected with so many amazing people. If you get the opportunity to pitch at a future conference, do NOT let it pass you by!
Measurable results: Selected to pitch at #w2sf14, 25% increase in web traffic, 3 beta sign ups, 1 new account
Lesson learned: Leverage your mini successes (especially from other respected organizations) to build “social credibility”
Hustle Like Hell
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or in need of a vacation, I cannot recommend San Francisco enough. The sense of community, the energy, and the people were so different than anything I had ever experienced….and I was hooked! I’ll never forget the mini depression I felt after arriving back in Baltimore from our amazing trip. I knew we belonged there, and I had to find a way to get back.
The day after we got back, another magical Dave McClure tweet changed our future plans. This time he said there was a week left to apply for the next 500 Startups class, and there was no doubt that this was a perfect fit! So I followed the same formula that had led me here: I leveraged my past achievements and connections to help me achieve the next big thing.
This time, I leveraged all of the connections I had made from the Women 2.0 conference trip to provide recommendations for our company to members of the “500 family”. In total, we received eight awesome recommendations to mentors, partners, and even co-founders of 500 startups! Undoubtedly this helped in landing one of the 100 prestigious interview spots for batch nine.
Measurable results: temporary spike in web and blog traffic, 2 new beta sign ups, 1 new customer
Lesson learned: hustle like hell to get noticed, and build momentum by finding champions for you, your company, or your vision
Lots of amazing people have graciously helped us along the way, and I will be forever grateful. I will certainly do my part to pay it forward, and hope the same for each of you. Entrepreneurship is a special journey, and it takes all of us keep the magic alive.
About the guest blogger: Ashley (@AshleyWilsonRR) is co-founder and CMO of RenterResume. Prior to co-founding RenterResume, Ashley was one of three women on a real estate sales team that sold over 60M in 2 years. It was this experience that fueled her entrepreneurial aspirations, and she hasn't looked back.