Episode 34 - Entrepreneur Experience: Sarah Jolly, Ops Maven and Finance Genius

EPISODE 34

Entrepreneur Experience: Sarah Jolly, Ops Maven and Finance Genius

In this episode, we have a very special treat to kick off the New Year. Joining us today is COO, CFO, and co-founder of Precursa, and accounting genius, Sarah Jolly! Sarah shares her story of the transition from corporate to entrepreneur, talks about the challenges women and minorities have with raising money, and shares her thoughts about what we can do to shift that dynamic to create a more equitable world for all founders. This episode is absolutely packed to brimming with wisdom and insight you won’t want to miss!

Today’s guest is a wealth of wisdom, knowledge, and insight (in addition to being one of our favorite co-founders on the planet!), COO, CFO and co-founder of Precursa, Sarah Jolly. Sarah is rocket fuel – a powerful mixture of multidisciplinary experience, leadership, and gifted at simplifying and solving complex problems, if you have a problem, (yo) she’ll solve it! After spending over a decade in corporate accounting, Sarah found her passion in growing companies where she could rock all the aspects of the business. And of course, she’s a finance ninja. In our conversation with Sarah, she talks about her story, her passion for female entrepreneurs, and her experience with advising and investing in women leaders and founders. Our conversation ranges from whether credentials really matter, to why funding is such a challenge for women and minority founder, to what contributes to inequity in funding and leadership across all segments and industries. We also discuss whether the path for women to succeed looks like “being men”, or if there is another way forward that allows us to be authentically ourselves. Sarah’s story and passion will make you feel brave, and he wisdom and insights will make you go, “Oh, right!!” Follow Sarah Jolly on LinkedIn. Check out Sarah’s recommended resources here: “Grow the Pie” by Alex Edmans “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott And here’s that link to Dr Dana Kanze’s TedTalk about why female entrepreneurs get less funding (and the research she did behind it). Be sure to like, share, and subscribe to Precursa: The Startup Journey on your favorite podcasting platform and tune in for the next episode! Email us with any questions or comments (startup@precursa.com). Check out our website (https://www.precursa.com) for more information on getting your startup rolling.

Straight to you from Denver, Colorado. This is Precursa: The Startup Journey. We share the ins and outs of building a tech startup from inception to launch to revenue and beyond. If you’ve ever wondered what building a startup from scratch really looks like, you’re in the right place. With full transparency and honesty, we reveal it all about Precursa on our ride from idea to exit: the wins, the lessons learned, and the unexpected twists and turns. Hey everybody. And welcome back to another episode of Precursa: The Startup Journey. I am so excited about today’s guests. So she is no stranger to the podcast or to Precursa. She scaled small companies up to big ones, has run organizations across a variety of industries, and she knows her way around how to manage people and resources like a ninja. In addition to being an ops Maven and a finance guru, she’s also a Precursa. Co-founder here to tell us her story. Please welcome Sarah Jolly. (01:12): Hello. I’m so excited to be here today. (01:14): Oh, I’m so excited to have you here. You know, everybody gets to hear my voice a lot and that’s a good thing, right? Because most people are founder and creators and they wanna hear, hear the journey of a, of a founder and a creator, but they don’t get to hear your voice very much as much as I would love. And you have so much offers yeah. Behind the seeds, you have so much wisdom. And so maybe you can just start by telling us a little bit about yourself and sort of your journey and how you became an entrepreneur. (01:45): Sure. Yeah. So I started out pretty traditionally double major in accounting and finance. So, you know, I’m a real good time. Um, <laugh> so I, I, I just kind of took the traditional corporate path, right. Went into corporate accounting, found myself in the oil and gas industry. And there I up bored <laugh> honestly super quickly shocking. Yeah, I know I got kind of pulled into a variety of special projects and acquisitions system implementations, all that kind of fun stuff. And, and that’s what I found out. I really love when things kept changing and there was always a challenge and a problem to solve. And I found that I enjoyed the challenge of getting print groups of people to work toward a goal. Not everyone has the same goals as the accounting department <laugh> um, and so people were often at odds, but, but kind of kind getting the buy-in of everyone and getting them to work towards something. (02:35): And seeing it across the finish line was, was really fun for me. So I left corporate life in oil and gas. It was tough and it was a little too traditional and good old boys for, for me. So yeah, I got recruited for an accounting consulting firm, um, at the time and started off as a consulter, but pretty quickly moved to the CFO seat for them, um, became part of the executive team. And it was a super small firm. I was like employee number eight. And so having the chance, like that was a huge shift, right. To go from public oil and gas corporation to, you know, this tiny little boutique firm <laugh> um, but being in the CFO seat there just exposed me to everything about running a business and I couldn’t get enough of that. Yeah. Um, it was like, you know, the problems and challenges and getting everyone to work together that I loved from corporate life, but times a billion <laugh>. (03:34): Yeah. Um, and so I, I loved wearing all the hats, you know, just helping to set the direction. It was like there was no defined role, you know, what made it, what it was and every day was different. So I, I really love that. So I was with that company and, and we grew from, you know, eight people to over a hundred and launched offices in multiple cities and, you know, kind of helped spearhead the initiative to, to do that multi-office launch and create the playbook for that. And then join forces with Paige at point solutions group, you know, all the listeners are familiar with Paige as well. (04:13): And we’re gonna get to hear from her soon too. It’s very that’s (04:16): That’s right. She will bring the energy. I’m sure. Yeah. <laugh> um, but yeah, so at point solutions group, my focus I’m the defacto CFO, but my title is COO. So really embracing a lot of that side as well. So, you know, it is kind of related to what I started out being in my career, but so much more. And I don’t think I could ever go back to defined corporate life, sitting behind a computer all day working on just a fraction. I, I just really love that big picture. I love, you know, having a goal and just seeing the steps it’s gonna take to get there and kind of keeping everyone on track to, to get it there. So I, I love kind of buying into that vision and, and I, I love the, do you have a startup? I love the ups and downs. Um, some days more than others, <laugh> (05:05): Some more ups and downs <laugh> yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. (05:09): Um, but I think, I think the more I’ve kind of leaned into making things my own and exploring what I’m passionate about, you know, the more I’ve kind of a identified as an entrepreneur and been like, oh, I, I am kind of starting these waters and clearing this path and it’s new for me, but that’s the thrill of it. (05:30): Yeah, totally. So tell us a little bit about, you’ve got a bunch of irons in the fire. So tell us a little bit about what you’re working on and what kind of projects you’re involved with and what drew you to the projects that you’re involved with with now? (05:43): Sure. Yeah. So most of my time goes to point solutions <laugh> um, so that one, you know, is a, a technology and engineering consulting firm. Um, you know, I, I knew I wanted to partner with an entrepreneur who is looking to take things to the next level and really scale and not just, um, kind of maintain status quo. So, um, Paige was definitely in that spot. I loved that tech doesn’t traditionally have a ton of diversity and, and that was kind of one of her focuses. It doesn’t I know this is shocking for all of us. I’m sure your listeners have no idea. Um, so that was, I mean, definitely like as a personal passion that kind of drew me there as well. So, um, you know, we’ve grown that for the last couple years, that’s a super fun ride. It’s been cool to kind of hit some milestones and get some recognition in the market as quickly growing company and yeah. Things like that. Um, but, but I also have a huge because of my personal experiences and just what I see, I have a huge heart for women mm-hmm <affirmative> who are doing this business thing basically. And, and sometimes that’s on the side of becoming investors and realizing that that’s an option for them. And sometimes that’s on the side of trying to money and it’s just not a fun thing to do. <laugh> um, (07:02): I don’t know what you’re talking about. Mm-hmm <affirmative> nine months later. <laugh> right, (07:06): Right. We totally be done with this by name. Yeah. (07:10): Um, did we ever think that, were we ever that naive? I know we were so cute and we were so cute, so adorable. (07:18): Totally. So I, you know, Paige and I have kind of committed to investing our own money in female entrepreneurs, and we’ve done that a few times and some of those companies, uh, I’m involved with as an advisor and I love that piece too, cuz I think a lot of times we don’t realize what we’ve learned through all of our experiences until we kinda look back to offer a hand to someone and we’re like, oh yeah, I did totally make that mistake and stuff on that landmine, let me help you avoid that. <laugh> so that that’s been super rewarding for me and I, what I love most managing people and helping these companies is just helping to empower people. Right? Yeah. Like if I do nothing else, but leave them feeling more confident in their decisions and their own skills, then that’s enough. So that’s a big piece of what I do. (08:09): Um, Precursa obviously falls right in mind with that <laugh> and you know, I, we kind of talked about this and how we all got together. I was pumped to work with you, Cynthia. I, we were kind of looked for a way to make it happen. Yeah. Um, but the, just the vision and heart behind what Precursa’s doing. Yeah. I mean that, that’s what lights me up. Right? Yeah. Let’s give people the tools. They need to bring their ideas to life level, the playing field and take some of the mystery and you don’t fear yeah. Out of starting and running a business. (08:43): Yeah. So I don’t know that we’ve ever fully talked about your background like that. And so now that people have sort of a feel for you are you’re a legitimate, like you’re legitimate. Right? You have, like you said, a double, double, you know, degree in accounting and finance and you know, you are Paige. And I kinda, I think we both view ourselves as fly by seat of our pants entrepreneurs. Right. <laugh> although Paige is legitimate too, because she’s got a degree as well. I’m the only one with no with, without a degree. (09:14): Not only my matters (09:14): To a point, but I know, I know. Well, 25 years later, six startups, I think I’m okay. I think you’ve figured it out. Yeah. There’s this perception. I think that word legitimacy keeps coming to me. Mm-hmm <affirmative> that like that legitimacy is what makes the difference. Like I, I could hear people in their mind saying, well, the reason you’re struggling so much Cynthia to raise money is because you have a degree and you’re a unknown factor. Right. You have been on the other side of this, you, you, you are a finance geek, you know, what’s going on in that world. Why is it so difficult for women to get funding for people of color to get funding? I mean, it’s even worse when you go to women of color. Right. I mean, the statistics are they’re horrendous and horrendous and I can’t even, I can’t even look at it. It’s so bad. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and why is that? Why should that be? I mean, is there something that we’re doing wrong? Do we have any control? Like what is (10:09): It? Yeah. Yeah. I was actually talking about this with someone just the other day. I mean it, the difference is real, right? <affirmative> the statistics speak to themselves. Yeah. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I can say from my personal experience, you know, I’ve worked closely with two CEOs now to raise funding yeah. For their companies. And primarily that was through banks as opposed to investors, but still the, it sucked both times. I’ll I’m not gonna say it was a breeze. However, the questions we were asked when Paige and I went after versus when I was sitting next to a male CEO, different questions, different mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah. Um, no doubt about it. Yeah. And it becomes nearly impossible to shift that conversation. So I think that’s truly one piece, I, I know that happens on the investor side as well. We’ve seen research, we have about that. The questions are a lot more kind of fear based as opposed to growth based. Yeah. And I mean, there are things you can do to kind of pivot and, you know, twist the question to still work in your advantage. But at the end of the day, if someone’s coming in with that mindset, that a much bigger hurdle to get past than someone not facing it. Right. Right. So that sucks. I think additionally, we can see real numbers and statistics around women in leadership, just not always giving the same number of opportunities. (11:36): And that’s not only in tech. Right. I mean this isn’t, I mean, a lot of times we talk about tech because we’re, we’re helping people build tech startups. Right. But this isn’t just in tech, this is leadership across the board. This is absolutely, uh, boards of directors across industries. There is not a representation that is the workforce. Makeup is not represented in leadership. Is that correct? (11:59): Oh, AB absolutely. I mean the last study I heard was that for boards of directors on, um, fortune 500 companies. Yeah. There were like six of them who had decent of women and minorities. Right. Like six, six. Yeah. Oh geez. Yeah. Which is, I mean, it’s, it’s real and it’s sucks. But the fact of the matter is investors and banks looking at buying into a leadership team often look at past experience. Yeah. And, and if we, as women or people of color just aren’t given those opportunities, then they don’t have it to show once again. Yeah. We come in kind of with a disadvantage. So I think there are several factors at play. I mean, I do think that women make an astounding percentage of consumer spending decisions. It’s like, like a to 90%. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But if you look at the percentage of women who make investing decisions for their household, it’s flipped really it’s, it’s not that much. (13:03): Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so I personally think that we need to see some of those numbers shift yeah. To really kind of change the tide. I think women, when they feel empowered to invest when invest in things they care about. Right. Yeah. We see that in brands that people buy all the time. Yeah. And I think it will be this whole wonderful cycle of investing in companies who do things that matter, who then treat people the way they should be treated and give people opportunities. And it kind of flows from there. But so I, I guess I’m answering your question and saying, yes, it’s real. Like we’re not imagining it. Yeah. It’s not you doing something wrong. <laugh> but I, you know, I wish I had the answer. I, I don’t, it’s still something that I have to kind of fight against, you know, it’s every company (13:47): It’s interesting because it would, you know, you mentioned when women start being investors that will start to shift the tide. Right. And mm-hmm <affirmative>, but what’s interesting is when there are women investors on the other side of the table, this is referencing that research. You were talking about Dr. Dana, Dr. Dana. That’s what I refer to her as I’ll, I’ll put a link to it in the show notes, but, you know, she even found that even having women on the other side of the table, as investors, they had the same biases towards men and women as founders. And I wonder, what do we need to bring consciousness to, or awareness to in order to start to shift this? Because it seems like from Dr. Dana’s research women do it too. We look at, we look at white men and say they have a history being able to seed. I’m gonna bet on that. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, (14:38): Well, I would be interested and I guess, I don’t know the details, but I I’d be interested to know what groups those women were a part of. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> were they part of a fund that was primarily male and this is like, they had a particular thesis. This is the expectation mm-hmm <affirmative> or were they acting independently? You know? And I don’t disagree. I think we all have kind of unconscious bias that we need to work to be aware of and correct. So I don’t doubt that that’s the case at all. I think, I think we, as women have the opportunity to show up a little differently at work now than we did a few years ago and sure. And absolutely I can look back at even my own career. And there were times I felt like I had to play with the big boys and fit in and, you know, right. Bring my masculinity. Right. And, and that a shift, I think we’re starting to be aware of and be more open to, but there is reality. Like I’ve like, we talk about it’s in tech, but I’ve also been in finance in, in oil and gas and yeah. And all of those places, it can feel very hard to show up authentically. Yeah. And a lot of times it feels like the requirement for success is kind of falling in line. (15:47): Yeah. It’s interesting. Cuz the, the one company that comes to mind that in a really traditional industry manufacturing, right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, I worked with a startup a few years ago that had a hardware device and they were looking at options for how to bring the, the manufacturing of that into the us and how to, you know, make it cheaper and whatever. And uh, you know, the founder found this company based in Indiana that was run by a woman, a manufacturing company run by a woman. And I was like, this is awesome. I gotta meet her <laugh> and she was the, if she was not a woman, she would’ve been the stereotypical white male mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative> with all the same, all the same ruthlessness and all the same. And I was kind of like, huh, like, is that how we’re gonna to get there is to emulate, you know, the Enrons of the world, like that doesn’t feel right to me. (16:39): And you know, I had a conversation the other day with the founder who was like, she, how she and I got introduced is she’s actually listened to every episode of the podcast and loves it. And she was like, can I talk to you about my idea? And so, you know, we’ve been having some, and she said to me, you know, the thing that I wanna build is a B2B SAS company or whatever. And she’s like, but my actual, why is I wanna prove that you can build a company culture first from the beginning and have it be successful. And she said so many times I see companies that are like, she was actually referencing Gimlet media who has been in sort of under the spotlight a little bit in the last year or so for some stuff that’s gone down inside their company, but she was like, you know, they didn’t start thinking about it or addressing it until it was already a problem. And it was too big. And then, and then it’s like having to turn an aircraft carrier around, you know, where you’re like, we’ve been going this direction and we’re doing it really fast to go. (17:35): It’s like, yeah, (17:37): Yeah, yeah. And so I guess the question I want, I wanna know is do we have to be men? I mean, I, you know, I’m sort of making this gesture with my hands. I mean, do we have to like bring the masculinity and bring the, bring the ruthlessness in order to be successful and to shift this thing? Or is there another path and is it just that we don’t have decades and, and centuries of success to point to for the path? (18:02): Yeah. I mean, I absolutely believe it’s the latter. Right. I think, I don’t think the way things are right now is working for anyone, even the few, the, you know, top 1% or whatever, who, who hold a lot of the money in power. I don’t think they’re happy. Yeah. Um, and, and so I don’t really think this is benefiting people. It’s interesting, I’m reading this book called grow the pie. Mm. Uh, and the concept is that for decades, we’ve had this concept that if the value of a company is a pie yeah. Then in order to get more to shareholders or leadership or whatever we have to take from the other parts, someone right. The employees, the customers, like whatever it is. Yep. But what if instead, you just grew the pie and everybody had a bigger share if you’re making decisions that instead of thinking about like, well, I want more for this group over here, I’m gonna take from this group, but it’s like, how can I help both? Yeah. What if I do what’s and not just employees and shareholders and leadership, but the community. Yeah. And stakeholders at large. Yeah. Um, what if I’m making products that actually benefit people and, you know, I’m worried a little bit less about my bottom line profit and a little bit more about how we get there. Yeah. Knowing that will benefit everyone and more will come. Yeah. And I think that’s kind of the shift people want. Yeah. But to your point, there’s not a charted path. Yeah. (19:29): We don’t have a model for it. Right. And it’s so easy to slip into the old way. And it’s interesting the, the analogy that you’re drawing with a pie because people compare the economy to a pie a lot too, but the economy grows. Like if you look now to a hundred years ago, the economy is way bigger. Yeah. It’s not that the dollar shifted hands it’s. There is more going on. Our GDP is bigger. What we produce is bigger. So it’s that that’s really, really fascinating. What tips or strategies or advice, or what would you say? You know, obviously we are in this position and we’re just kind of doing everything we can, but mm-hmm, <affirmative> a woman out there who’s looking to raise money or she’s like to have this idea. I don’t know how to fund it. Like, what would you tell her to do? What are the strategies? Where should she go? What should she look for? Cause, cause we’re gonna have to overcome this thing somehow mm-hmm <affirmative>. And until we do, what do we do? <laugh> right. (20:30): Yeah. Uh, yeah. I, I mean, that’s a huge question obviously. Um, and I would love to say I’m I have a fund of a billion dollars. So any woman who has an idea, just gimme a shout. We’re working on that so far. I don’t. Yeah. So, I mean, I think, I, I really believe the entrepreneurs who succeed are the ones who kind of feel that fire in their belly. Right. And have that north star, I think anybody talking to investors, but especially women, we know we’re gonna hear a lot of nos and we know we’re gonna hear a lot of advice solicited or not. So most (21:02): Of it, bad (21:03): Uhhuh, Uhhuh. Yeah. So maybe some mansplain sprinkled in here and there. Um, and it, it can be super tempting to kind of shift and change and evolve to try and fit in a box so that someone will give you money and maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But at the end of the day, like, is that the company you want to have, is that, was that the dream you started out with. Right. So I, I do believe that people who can stick with it, we’ll find the investors that are aligned, who are aligned with them. Yeah. Um, they, they are out there and it’s obviously easier set than done. And when you’re in the midst of your 50th, no, it’s like, whatever, I’m just what will convince people to just get me some money in the bank. But I, I, I really think that by kind of sticking to our guns and building these companies that change, not just our lives, but the lives of many. Yeah. Um, that’s, what’s gonna have the ripple effect we’re looking for. Yeah. (21:58): Yeah. I love that. It, I love that. You said it’s about fire and the belly. It’s about the, the passion. And that’s why, you know, we come back to this almost I, every episode it’s kind of funny, but the why really matters. And, and like I was talking about that, other fun that, that other founder I was talking about, the why doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to the product you’re putting out or the type of, of company that you’re building. It could be about something else. It could be about your family and your kids being, being the first generation to go to college fully funded without debt in your family. Like, there’s lots of different things that could be a why that your company, that you’re building and the product, your, or service that you’re offering is the means to that. Why? Right. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, mm-hmm <affirmative> and that’s really what we’re talking about. I mean, you know, I’m, I’m gonna kind of paraphrase you and say, you gotta get kind of scrappy. Right. Totally. I mean, it, that, that’s where passion and fire comes in is you’re like, yep. All right. What can I do today to get to tomorrow? Right. (23:00): Absolutely. And I think that’s where I, maybe this is my unconscious or conscious bias coming up, but I, I kind of have a, a, a bad taste in my mouth with a lot of institutional investors, you know, private equity firms and stuff. I, I, I think it can be really hard for a founder to stay true to the identity of that vision they started with. Um, and so there are some great ones out there don’t get me wrong and, um, you know, keep, keep looking and keep talking with them. Absolutely. But I think, uh, scrappy is exactly right. Um, most of the companies I’ve started or worked with are bootstrap for a reason, right? Yeah. Because it, maybe it started that way intentionally, maybe not, but at some point a decision was made like we’d rather not take bad money <laugh> than, you know, than worry about not having money in the bank. (23:57): Um, and I think the thing that all companies who bootstrapped realize at some point, you know, when you start out and we did the same thing, you start out in your life, oh man, this is gonna take so much money. We gotta get some funding in the door. Like, what can we do to start now? But, but we got, we gotta solve the funding problem. And here we are almost a year later. Yeah. And somehow every time, pretty far down the path, we’ve worked it out. Right. And I think, I, I think that’s the other thing about being scrappy is you learn to get super creative and you will realize looking back, it’s hard in the moment, but when you look back, you’ll realize you actually got a lot further and you did a lot more than you probably thought you could when you started (24:37): A hundred percent. And I mean, talk about defining a true MVP. I mean, a lack of funds will force you to, to really evaluate, you know, what do I need? And, and what’s really getting me to the goal. And, and I think we see that a lot, you know, we’ve talked, we kind of joked on here before about unicorns and stuff, but how many companies, you know, raise round after round, after round without seeing profits. And, you know, at some point it’s like, are, are you using the money for what you should be using it for? Like, are you reaching, what is the end goal here? Yeah. So I think, I think funding can be awesome and it can definitely push you forward and accelerate your progress, but you don’t have a clear vision and you don’t know what specifically you’re working toward. I mean, that money can go toward all kinds of things and you don’t have much to show for it. (25:29): Well, and we’ve talked about that. Like, if we had gotten that money that we, you know, we’ve talked about on the show, the, what was essentially loan, you know, last February, March, April timeframe, we would have done very different things and not have the resources made us have to get really intentional. Yeah. And pay very close attention to what we were doing, you know? And, and we’ve talked about this before, but we only ended up spending like 12 or $13,000 on a marketing strategy that ended up being the wrong one, where if we’d have had three quarters of a million dollars sitting in the bank, might’ve cost hundred thousand way longer. Yeah. We might’ve been like, oh, we just, we need to optimize it. It, and you know, before you know, it it’s been a year, give six months. Yeah. And, and all of a sudden you’re, you know, 70 or a hundred thousand dollars in, and you’re going, yeah. That that’s wasted money. When we, we, we were able to learn that lesson a lot cheaper mm-hmm <affirmative> and the, and the further we get, the more, I feel like we know exact, how we need to use the money and it’s different than how we would’ve used it a year (26:32): Ago. Absolutely. And, and talk about fire in the belly. Like, what else motivates you then using money from your own bank account? Yep. To push something forward, like that’s right. It, it will definitely force you to kind of gut check yourself, like, okay, is this, do I still believe in this <laugh> yep. Is this what I, what I’m dreaming about? And it’s, doesn’t make it easier, but it definitely makes you kind of get real with yourself about yeah. Where this is going. Yeah. (27:01): All right. So what, in your experience, based on what you’ve seen and, you know, the work that you’ve done, what do you think is the most important lesson that you’ve learned as an entrepreneur? (27:13): Ooh, that’s a, that’s a good question. That’s a big question. <laugh> um, I probably think it’s what we just talked about. Right. It’s, there’s always more to learn and there are always gonna be people who can teach more, which is awesome. But at the end of the day, you are putting your time, blood, sweat, tears, you know, personal money into something because you have this vision that, you know, is meant for you to trust yourself. Yeah. And so I, I think it’s really like being confident enough in to take that jump. And so there have been a few times I’ve just kind of known it’s time to leave something behind and I don’t know what’s next. And that’s a really scary feeling. Yeah. Um, like I said, I’m an accounting and finance nerd (27:59): Likeability major. Yes, exactly. (28:02): Type a, um, so, so that, that feels scary, but that has resulted in the absolute best stuff. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you don’t know how it’s gonna work out when you take that leap, but I think there’s something too betting on yourself and sticking with that, even when you start to kind of question the path that kind of is the different friends and entrepreneurs who have that scrapiness and push through and ones that kind of throw on the towel and go back to corporate life. And, you know, (28:33): I feel like we have been trained and conditioned for so long that our instincts are wrong or we, or don’t listen to your intuition, listen to the data or look at what of works out out there that I think, you know, and I’ve heard this from a lot of entrepreneurs I’ve experienced it myself. There are times where we have that sense of this is the direction I’m supposed to go, but the fear sort of outweighs that because we don’t trust it. Like what advice would you give to someone who’s in that position who doesn’t, who who’s like, I can hear it, but how do you trust that? How do you take that step? That seems like there is just, you’re stepping into the void. How do you do that? Like what, what advice would you give to someone? (29:16): I mean, I, in my own journey have had to sit with it for a minute. Right. And, and get real with myself on, on what’s fear talking versus what’s that kind of intuition because a lot of times it’ll come kind of outta nowhere and it feels crazy. Like, I don’t know how to explain this to anyone. I just know, but then you can start to rationalize it and you’re like, well, it doesn’t make sense. You know? Like you said, so kind of sitting with it and being real about like, what actually am I afraid of mm-hmm <affirmative> and like, if that wor worst case scenario happens, can I live with it and pick myself up and go again? Yeah. Okay. Maybe it’s worth it. Yeah. But I think also, I’m sure you’ve talked about this on here. Just having some kind of support system mm-hmm <affirmative> and it doesn’t mean that they have to perfectly understand, or maybe like, I remember when I left one role, I didn’t have another job yet and telling my parents, this is what I’m gonna do. (30:10): And they’re the poster children for like, <laugh> stability, you know, this is the path you follow. And they’re kinda like, well, you, you can’t do that. Like it’s done. And I was like, yeah, I think I am. But I, I still knew like they would love and support me. Right. They would be there. I mean, they might have a, I told you, so look on their face. If it all went, it would help. But yeah. But I, I think I knew there would be people who loved me despite my failures or processes. Right. Where that was irrelevant. Yeah. Um, and so I know not everyone has that luxury with family, but I would strongly encourage people to kind of reach out and build a community, um, of like-minded people who will get it and kind of be there through the ups and downs, um, that can really make all the difference. (30:59): And some, you know, sometimes people are like, like, okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna get a coach or I’m gonna get a consultant or something like that. Mm-hmm <affirmative> how do you distinguish? We talked, we said briefly, there, there not all advice is made equal. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative> how do you distinguish what’s what’s right. What’s good. What’s the right path for you. If you’re getting advice from different sources and you you’re like, well, these are conflicting things, but I respect both of these people. Mm-hmm <affirmative> how do I, how do I reconcile that? I mean, what, what’s your advice for when to take advice <laugh> yeah. (31:32): Yeah. Well, I think some of it is that kind of feel, right. Does this feel true to me? Cuz like you said, everyone’s, you can respect both people and they could have charted completely different path. Mm. But still done great things, right? Yeah. But that’s their path. Yeah. I think for me having colleagues who are in the same spot or have gone through similar things in a business setting is helpful. Like you and I were kind of joking with page the other day about like, if you haven’t used your own money to cover payroll at some point that’s right. And I wanna hear a chest. I don’t wanna hear you. Um <laugh> so, so I think there’s something to kind of being aware of someone’s history. But I think also for me, the coach I worked with who impacted me the most, she had no business acumen. She had a, an incredible gift for reading people and intuition. And so it was really about me as a human. Yeah. And of course that’s gonna bleed into every area of my life. So I think if the advice is focused around personal growth yeah. That’s maybe more valuable even than like here’s the next step in your proforma that everyone must take. Yeah. I (32:38): Love that. I love that. Huh? I love that. That’s actually really smart. So focusing on advice and coaching and like taking in outside things that are growing you as a founder, mm-hmm, <affirmative> allowing you to hear more clearly what the next steps really are for you and your business. (32:53): Absolutely. Oh, I love that. Yeah. That’s gorgeous. I love that. What do you think is the most important, like either personality, trait or characteristic that someone has to have in order to be a successful entrepreneur? I mean, my first reaction to that is grit. Like I, I don’t know, but there’s necessarily a, you know, you have to be this big extroverted personality or have to be, you know, whatever, because it’s gonna get hard. <laugh> it’s, you know, it’s just it’s no, I know. I know. I’m sure you guys don’t wanna hear this. Um, but no, anybody who’s kind of been in it for a minute knows it’s not gonna be what you pictured. Right. Something’s going to change. And so kind of having the wherewithal to, to pick yourself up however many times it takes and to push through and, and to kinda let stuff roll off your back a little bit, cuz like we talked about, you’re gonna hear a lot of nos. You’re gonna hear a lot of advice and it will feel personal and you know, that’s okay. But just kind of remembering who you are and pushing through. Yeah. I think that’s more important than any specific personality. (34:04): Yeah. I love that. So when does a startup die? Like <laugh>, when do you look yourself in the mirror and say this isn’t going anywhere or you know, and, and I need to give it up and I need to shut it down or does it only die if you say it dies? Like what’s the point at which it’s time to let go and move on. (34:25): Mm-hmm <affirmative> that’s a great question. I Hmm. I mean, that hasn’t happened to me yet. Yeah. And so I kind of tend to suspect it happens when someone says it happens. Hmm. I think certainly there are our times to kind of reassess and say, all right, well maybe this particular path, isn’t going to be the easiest and we can shift a little bit, but I, yeah. I don’t think anything has to die. And I think especially, you know, if, if you feel like there’s just something there and you have that fire you to kind of chase it and, and be open to what that means. Maybe it’s not what you first thought, but I don’t know. I, I don’t think anybody else can tell you when it’s over. (35:12): Yeah. It’s sort of like shortening your, what, what would you say something? Yeah. It’s sort of like shortening your cat. It’s like, if you don’t yeah. Say it’s over then it’s not right. It totally it’s it’s a really interesting conversation. And I’ve had people say to me, well, how do you know when it’s time to give up and move on? And I’m like, mm-hmm <affirmative> well, if you say it is, then it is like, it kind of goes back to that intuition piece. Right. It’s like, mm-hmm <affirmative> is your intuition telling you that there’s nothing here and this isn’t worth it for you. Is your intuition telling you you’re following us something that isn’t enough, doesn’t carry enough passion for you. So I just always wonder do companies die or fail simply because the founders say that that’s what needs to happen next and that it’s time to give up in, move on. Right. And, and I’m always curious because does that mean anything could potentially be successful? (36:05): Yeah. You know? Well, and, and maybe it comes back again a little bit to that personal growth piece, right? Like why are you continuing? Yeah. Is it, you know, fear? Like, I don’t wanna say, I can’t give up on this. I have nothing else. Is it something better than fear? You know, a growth kind of thing. So, yeah. But I think anybody who has that kind of growth mindset and is willing to do the thing that benefits others and do the thing that kind of follows their dreams. Um, it’s hard for me to imagine that yeah. Truly failing. Yeah. (36:38): Huh. That’s interesting. If you could give entrepreneurs, (36:42): I’m sure you’ll have an answer for us next week. (36:44): I’ll think about it. The bow mm-hmm <affirmative> (36:47): <laugh> (36:48): <laugh> if you could give other entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be (36:54): Should do it, whatever you’re kind of noodling on or are dreaming about to do it. (37:00): I love that. (37:01): I love that there will be, there will always be reasons not to, but (37:04): Yeah. In the realm of reasons, not to a lot of times those things seem really real, right? Like, oh, well I have a, I have a family and I’m, I’m the major breadwinner or I’m the one who has our health insurance or I’m the one, you know, like there’s a lot of things that can kind of fall under that header of reasons not to. And what advice would you give to someone who’s like, oh, I have this idea and I’d really love to do something about it, but I am the major breadwinner. I am the stability of my family or I don’t know how on earth I would make it all work. Like what advice would you give to them? (37:40): Yeah. I mean, I think, I think a lot of us, you know, especially entrepreneurs who have this vision, like we see this big, huge thing. Yeah. And so we’re at zero, but we can see a hundred. Yep. Um, but the reality is there’s steps one through 99 to get there. Right. <laugh> and so, um, there, there are a lot of things I think, I think we kind of have this misconception that like, in order to be an entrepreneur, I have to leave everything behind and like live on rice for three years until I in (38:09): My parent basement and yeah, exactly. (38:12): Yeah. But like, like we talked about with Precursa, you know, the funding didn’t happen the way we envisioned mm-hmm <affirmative> and we continued anyway and made it work and we’re all still doing other things, right. Yeah. To kind of piece this together until it can be a hundred percent. Yeah. And so I, I think if you have a dream, there are probably steps you can start taking. And so think about like, what are those little chunks that I can bite off now? Yeah. And you know, this is what we encourage people to do with Precursa all the time. Yeah. It’s like, don’t go take out a second mortgage and hire a developer. Like let’s do some leg work first <laugh> and maybe that if you things up, but I think that applies to any business. Right. You can do so much kind of thought and planning and strategizing and making real actionable progress on your dream before you get to the point that you have to bet it all and, um, you know, gamble, your family’s safety or whatever. Yeah. (39:09): I love that. All right. I’m gonna switch gears a little bit and I know, you know, the statistic just about as well as I do, but I’m gonna tell you the statistic and then I just want you to tell me what you think about it. Okay. Okay. Okay. 42% of startups fail cuz no one wants with their building. (39:28): <laugh> oh, <laugh> (39:32): By the way, that’s the number one, number two at a very distant second 30, 31 or 32% of companies failed because of money. (39:42): Ugh. Yeah. I mean, it’s just so preventable. <laugh> you know, I think (39:47): Why it’s almost like we have this conversation all the time. <laugh> (39:50): I know, I know almost, uh, but tr but truly these are the steps one through nine, we were just talking about, right? Yeah. I think that fire in the belly we talked about earlier yeah. Can be such a strength, but in some cases it can be a weakness if you’re just like I’m doing it and you charge forward and you haven’t really thought through things like some entrepreneurs love to fly by the seat of their pants. <laugh> uh, like I were talking about earlier, but, but there has to be some measure of like, okay, but this makes sense because blah, blah, blah. Yeah. And so, you know, when we skip steps and we don’t, don’t have that supportive community around us who can maybe call us when we’re being a little, you know, off the <laugh> off (40:34): The reservation. Yeah. Off the reservation. (40:36): Yeah. Yeah. Then, then I think that’s where we get into these crazy numbers. But I also think, you know, one of our other favorite statistics is how many companies that people invest in actually succeed. Right. And it’s not amazing. (40:51): Yeah. Yeah. By the way, investors, get it wrong. Nine out of 10 times in case you haven’t heard us say that. I mm-hmm <affirmative> (40:58): So, but, but that again goes back to like, I don’t think we’re doing it right. Yeah. Like, you know, for whatever metric we’re using to decide who we invest in or what we expect out of a business. Yeah. Doesn’t make sense. Like this 500% growth every year and all of these things, I think we’re kind of forcing companies to do things in a way that isn’t strategic in the long term. (41:21): And why, why has that become a thing? Because I think if you, if you looked back, even maybe I, I was gonna say a decade ago, but it’s probably more than that. Probably like pre 2000. That was never the expectation of a company being built. Mm-hmm <affirmative> it was like, you, you do the work, you, you lay the grant foundation over, you know, the first five to 10 years, you’re learning how your business operates and you’re getting to a place where you can then pour some gasoline on the fire yeah. And scale and grow at a reasonable rate that does doesn’t break you. Why do we do it this way? Why have we accepted this? And like, what is the catalyst for that? I mean, I don’t even know if we can answer that, but like what the heck? (42:05): I know it’s, it’s dumb. Right. It’s dumb. (42:08): I mean, is it because we’re in this age of technology where technology moves so fast that people are like, oh this no, see how business is supposed to work now. I mean, yeah. (42:16): And we’re in America, right. So more is better and faster is better and bigger is better gratification. Yeah. All of these things. And I mean, I think we did see kind of that technology boom. And so there were a few amazing companies who did astronomical growth the right way. Yeah. And now that’s kind of the, the bar that’s been set, which I think you’re right. Is not realistic at all, but it it’s forcing everyone into that. Mold has just resulted in companies who burn out and leaders who burn out and investors who are disappointed, which then forces them to get a bigger return from everything else. And (42:52): Right. So it’s so almost like this a cycle, the problem like grows itself. Yeah. Because they’re like, okay, if we know we’re gonna lose on, I, I think one of the investment companies in, uh, one of the investment clubs in town told me that they plan to, to miss on seven outta 10, like they plan that they’re gonna go badly, which means the other three have to make up for all of that. I, (43:14): Which is just blows my mind. (43:16): I’m gonna, it’s like choose that <laugh> yes, (43:19): Totally. If I’m gonna give someone my money to invest in stuff, I don’t wanna hear them say, well, I’m just gonna plan. (43:24): Yeah. That I’m gonna 70%. You’re not gonna get any of your money back. Yeah. I’m (43:28): Not great with those odds. Yeah. I’m with you. I don’t understand how that’s become the acceptable. No. Yeah. And you know, it’s like, even if they’re having those 30% win, right. Yeah. And the investors get their money and the PE company gets their money fine. What happens to all the people, all the employees and lives and those other 70%. Yeah. (43:52): Like not to mention the founder who was like, yeah, steering the ship that ended up hitting the iceberg and going down and in flames, what were they supposed to create? What do they have inside of them? And a lot of failed entrepreneurs, first time failures, they don’t go on to do other things. It’s too scary. (44:11): They don’t get a second shot. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And in, in even the companies that are quote unquote successful, right? Yeah. The 30% did the employees in those companies benefit truly. I mean, or do they just (44:23): Have of a fun ride, have a decent job and then they go get a different, decent job. Now (44:27): They gotta go get another. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I just, I think there has to be a different way to do it where we grow the pie <laugh> and you know, maybe, maybe it doesn’t automatically flip that stat on its head overnight, but maybe we take care of people a little better along the way and spread the wealth out and lower the demand on founders. Yeah. Um, (44:51): Just, well, and, and it’s interesting because we’re always telling entrepreneurs, like it’s not all on you and you need to learn how to delegate and you need to learn how to find people who are great at things and hand those things off to people. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I mean, you and Paige are trying to teach me that right now. Right. And it’s, it’s, it’s very difficult, but part of creating a great culture and part of having people win is putting the right people around you. So if you can’t, yeah. If you can’t do that or if you’re not good at that piece, then you’re automatically not gonna be good at building a good culture because you’re not looking for the right things. Like all these pieces kind of come into play. And again, I, you know, I think the sort of theme of what we’ve been talking about is go slow. Like go slow as smooth go intentionally smooth as fast. Right. So yeah. Intentional is smooth, smooth as fast. I like that. Mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah. Yeah. I like (45:40): That. Yeah. I think it’s like all of these steps I’m taking have a purpose behind them and sometimes that will feel faster than others for sure. But I, I think it’s that intention and purpose and kind of long view of where you’re going. Yeah. I love that. And I, to your point about kind of expansion and scale, and it is a challenge for a lot of entrepreneurs to delegate, especially when you start out scrappy. Right? Yeah. And you’re trying to do everything yourself and just make it work. <laugh> (46:09): You’re like bug Bunnys at first bases, a third base catch the ball pitching he’s bad. He’s doing <laugh> you’re supposed to be like, no. (46:18): Yeah. But I mean, not only are you like driving yourself toward certain burnout, but you’re kind of denying everyone around you, the chance to evolve and grow into those roles. And you know, like the chance I was given be you the CFO and kind of see behind the curtain of running a business. Yeah. If, if I hadn’t had that chance, I never would’ve known, like I’d probably still be doing accounting somewhere and thinking like, this is kind of boring, but yeah. This is the path I chose, you know? And so I, I mean, how cool to get, to share that experience with multiple people and kind of light the entrepreneurial fire in them as (46:55): Well. I love that. I love that. Okay. So what’s one question you wish I’d asked you and how would you have answered it? Oh, (47:04): Oh man. <laugh> um, <laugh> I wish you had asked me what my favorite part of the Precursa journey has been. Oh (47:14): Yeah. What’s your answer. Okay. I love (47:16): That question. And I would have said, I love watching you evolve. Mm. I think, you know, we’re, we’re three pretty strong women all coming in. There’s no doubt about it. But even in this timeframe, seeing you, you know, and kind of holding true to that vision, it’s all the stuff we talked about. Right. The grit, the kind of going through the peaks and valleys of like, are we doing the right thing? Everybody’s arguing with us and you know, they’re questioning us, but then coming back to like, no, I know this is right. I know this is true. Yeah. I know this is what I’m doing and what I I’m meant to be doing. And now, you know, starting to have some kind of momentum on the investor side and yeah. What that said, I, I just I’ve loved being beside you kind of watching that happen. (48:05): I appreciate that. It, I mean, I’m like probably most humans, I have so much insecurity and part of me still questions, am I, am I in the right place? Am I capable? Am I, is this possible for me? Not that this thing doesn’t need to live. And not that you know, it’s interesting because the kind of validation that we’ve gotten in the last two months, having conversations with other people, like trying to solve this problem in a different way, having conversations now with a few people who are like, well, all like, yeah, incubators and accelerators need this, but investors need this. Like how do I get this in front of my investors? Like starting to see that sort of mm-hmm <affirmative> momentum. Yeah. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it’s very validating. But then the very first thing in the back my mind is that insecurity of like, mm-hmm <affirmative> oh gosh, this is gonna, this is, this is starting to get real now, can I really handle this? (48:58): No, I have to run a real company. Yeah. Like mm-hmm <affirmative> so I, I just, you know, for me, thank you for saying that. And, and it really does make a difference having partners like you and Paige along for, because I look up to both of you, right? Like you’re doing this amazing thing. And you’ve page started this company five years ago and where it is now, and you’ve been a huge part of that growth and her ability to, you know, to maintain that and keep it going. And so mm-hmm, <affirmative> for me to have people like you on board tells me there is something here and it just gives me hope that if I don’t have the skills or if I don’t have something that I need, you will tell me and we will figure it out together. <laugh> you know, (49:41): <laugh>. Yeah. Well, I, I mean, I think kind of why we work is that we all look up to each other. Mm-hmm right. Mm-hmm it’s not just, yeah. You know, one or two of us on a pedestal here. Um, we all respect each other for different things. And, you know, I told you a while back, I have this super clear vision in my head of you just as this really confident CEO, running the show and doing the things and, and you’re doing it, it’s like it’s happening. But sometimes we need people in our corner to kind of hold that vision for us, cuz you’re right at all of us have an insecurities and every single human, if an entrepreneurial journey doesn’t force you to face some of those demons inside you, I dunno what will, right? Like, it’s just, it’s gonna come up for you. Um, it’s so true. See, yeah. Having people who can kind of say, well, I see you for this person who I know you are. Um, yeah, it’s invaluable. Yeah. (50:33): I love that. Okay. Resources, like, are there other podcasts or books or other types of resources that you would recommend for people who are in our audience who are running a company or thinking about starting a company, or maybe they’re thinking about being an investor or maybe they’re interested in the, in the equity and funding problem? Like what resources would you recommend for people? (50:55): Yeah. Um, grow the pie, which I mentioned earlier. Oh yeah. Um, great book. I’m gonna, I (51:00): Pick that one up. (51:01): Definitely. One of my favorite just kind of leadership books is called radical candor. Just about having honest conversations and like real time feedback, but in a, you know, going both ways <laugh> in compassion. Right. Um, like it’s as important for me to get that from my team as it is for them to hear it from me. Yeah. And you know, as far as people interested in investing, that’s another thing I might be working on. So stay tuned for more there, but I definitely keep all of you listeners posted, but, but I think, I think just kind of, there are lots of angel investing groups out there, right. There are lots of ways to get involved, even on, you know, whatever scale you’re comfortable with. And so I would just encourage people to start learning and start educating yourself kind of dabble here and there and you know, just take some of the mystique out of the process. Mm (51:50): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I love that. Miss Sarah jolly. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you. This was so fun. Thank you for telling your story. Thank you for being someone who is so courageous. Like, you know, I sort of feel like sometimes you’re either born with the entrepreneur above you’re not, and, and you are proof that you can do the corporate thing, do the stability thing and then realize, Hey, maybe there’s a better way and, and find a way to step out and, and do the entrepreneurial thing. So thank you for being that sort of beacon of a path that’s possible. Um, and thank you. Thank you for being my partner and for always supporting me and always being the voice of reason. <laugh> (52:32): <laugh> somebody’s gotta be the mom of the group. That’s right. <laugh> (52:36): <laugh> otherwise you just got two Cody’s running around like, ah, (52:40): Yeah. God, geez. No, it’s been amazing. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t give it up for the world. (52:46): Awesome. So if people, uh, have questions for, or you, or they’d like to get in touch with you or follow you somehow, like what’s the best way for them to do that? (52:54): Yeah. I would love that. I’m not super active on social media, but I am on LinkedIn. So definitely check me out Sarah with an H don’t forget the H <laugh> jolly, just like it sounds so Sarah jolly on LinkedIn. Yeah. Hit me up. I would love to (53:07): Chat. Cool. All right. Good. Well, clue that for notes and, um, again, thank you for being here with us today. We really appreciate it. Thank you. Thanks for joining us for this episode. Please remember to subscribe, follow wherever you listen to podcasts. The more you do that, the more we increase our rankings. If you love this show, we would love to have you post a review, give us five stars, uh, post a review, tell other people why you like the show on apple podcasts. That can make a huge difference in how we get ranked. Um, and that would be amazing. And if you wanna argue with me, if you have questions, if you wanna be a guest on the show, shoot me an email startup@precursa.com and I will make all of your dreams come true. So <laugh> as always happy entrepreneuring and I will see you all next time. Thank you for listening to this episode of Precursa: The Startup Journey. If you have an idea for a startup and you want to explore the proven process of turning your idea into a viable business, check us out at precursa.com. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts, so you never miss an episode. Until next time.

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Cynthia Del'Aria

Cynthia Del'Aria is a serial entrepreneur and tech startup ninja, specializing in product-market fit and idea validation and helping new entrepreneurs reserve their time and money for the idea with the best shot at success. With two successful exits before 30, an active high-profit-margin SaaS in the commercial airline space, and two additional startups in the works, she knows what it takes to traverse the entrepreneur journey, the highs, and the challenges of turning a vision into a successful, viable business.

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  • Denver, Colorado

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Copyright © 2021 Precursa  |  All Rights Reserved  |  Site Created by Natalie Jark

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