The Startup Journey - powered by Precursa

EPISODE 10

Reframe Pitching, Celebrate Everything, and Find Your Purpose

Pitching tends to be labeled “difficult”, and we as founders usually even lament doing it at all. But what if our frame for what it means is wrong? What if what we call “pitching” isn’t actually pitching at all? In this episode, we explore a reframe for pitching that will restore your power when fundraising, and it leads us to a conversation about the importance of celebration and how the entrepreneurial journey is actually about the journey.

In today’s episode, Cynthia discusses reframing pitching and the importance of celebrating the wins and challenges of your journey. 

To begin, Cynthia states the importance of having a coach or mentor to help you work through challenges. In a recent conversation with a mentor, Cynthia asked for help rethinking the dreaded pitching process. She left the conversation feeling much better on the subject and determined her strengths and weaknesses, which helped give her a new perspective. First and foremost, pitching is an opportunity to create relationships with other people, assuming your idea is viable and you have put in the time and effort on research. The pitch is less about the idea and more about who you are and how you create relationships with others. Second, pitching is being able to present your idea in a clear and efficient way. Third, and perhaps the most intimidating, is understanding what you want, knowing whether you’re willing to say yes to what is being offered, and being able to negotiate. If you don’t have an idea of what is ideal, you won’t have any comparison to what’s being offered to you. 

Entrepreneurs should be cautious and understand that having the wrong investor can cause even more loneliness and demoralization. Just as you should be able to say yes to an offer, you should feel comfortable saying no if it doesn’t feel like the right fit. Because she was able to move through the feelings of loneliness and fear, Cynthia feels she now has the clarity to move forward in bigger ways. This journey is not a perfectly straight path and investors will be looking out for your ability to handle adversity. 

It’s imperative to know how to celebrate and feel every individual victory. If you can feel the wins and challenges equally, you will stand out as a founder amongst the crowd. Relish in the fact that you were present for the journey regardless of its outcome. Passion, generosity, ability to grow, and empathy are keys for good founders. Additionally, allow yourself to daydream about where you want to go and know that it is attainable.

Ultimately, you can’t build a business that is bigger than your identity. Part of growth is about experiencing all human emotions and the entirety of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur on a startup journey. Stay present in the journey, and you will see how every step contributed to you becoming the person you daydream about being. 

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 (startup@precursa.com) with any questions or comments. 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.

Hello everybody. Welcome back. This is Precursa: The Startup Journey. Today, I want to talk about… so last week I was kind of vulnerable and emotional ride for me, but it was really good. And like I said, at the end of the episode was super cathartic and it gave me a huge opening over the weekend and over the past week to kind of work through some of the pieces related to fundraising and some of the pieces related to pitching. And I wanted to share this with you because I thought it was a really great way of reframing what pitching is. You know, I hear this all the time: fundraising is people’s least favorite activity; pitching to investors is like a nightmare, or I hate doing it or, you know, all that kind of stuff. And I’ve, I’ve said the same thing, right? So I work with a coach who is, you know, if you, if you don’t have a coach or a mentor in your life, who’s been where you’ve been or who can help you work through the complicated stuff, you really should get one of those. I actually have two right now and you know, two coaches, and then I have a couple of mentors who are working really closely with me. You’re going to hear a lot of times as a founder that your team matters. Consider that it’s not just the people who you’re paying or who have equity in your company who are part of your team. Your team is also made up of the people in your life who are supporting you and coaches or, or, or mentors that you have, who are supporting you and who are helping you work through things, right? They may not all be paid players, but they’re all very important players to keeping your head on straight, giving you perspective, and helping keep you on the path that you’re on so that you do feel less lonely. I mean, it is lonely. And if you’re the founder, you’re the one. But having the right team around you, including coaches, mentors, people in your life, friends and family who have done what you’re doing, or who have done something similar to what you’re doing, and so they can understand some of the challenges and kind of help you get some perspective, that’s just as important. And those people are part of your team too. So that said, one of my coaches, I talked to her on Monday and kind of told her, man, I just, I would really love a different relationship to pitching. Like I would love to not feel dread. I would love to not feel overwhelmed. I would love to not feel like I’m begging for money. I like there’s all these things, right. And I said, but the reality is, that’s how it feels right now. And that’s why I think I hate doing this so much. And she was like, okay, well, let, let’s talk about what pitching actually is. And I was like, well, it’s telling your investors, we’re telling investors what you’re doing and asking them to put money into it. And she’s like, yeah, no. So the way she broke it down, which I thought was really great and really useful, and it gave me so much of a different perspective and helped me understand what are the pieces I’m good at and what are the pieces that I have that I’m challenged in, so that I can focus on the pieces I’m challenged in, but not feel like it’s the whole thing that’s bad, right? So more than anything else, what pitching is, is the opportunity to create relationship with other people. Now, those people happen to be investors and you’re going to make an ask of them. But here’s the thing. They’re adults, you’re an adult. You all know that that’s what it is. But remember, people invest in people. People are what matters. There’s a reason why a lot of times, most times, probably 95 plus percent of the time when you’re talking to investors, they’re, they’re interested in the idea and what you’re doing, but they’re more interested in, okay, is this is this thing viable, which we’re going to get to in a second, but more to the point does this person and the team they have assembled have the ability and the skills to actually execute on the plan that they’ve laid out here. That’s why it’s about people more than the idea. It’s not that the idea doesn’t matter. If you come to someone with a really stupid idea that has no shot at viability, it doesn’t matter how great you are, what you’ve done in your past or your credibility or the amazing team you’ve built, they’re going to be like, you’re crazy, this is never going to be viable. Right? But assuming that the idea actually has viability and you’ve done the work you need to do to be able to prove that the market’s there, the market size is good. You know, we’re going to talk about a bunch of that stuff in coming weeks. But then what’s left is how confident is that investor that you can execute this strategy or that you have the right people in your corner to execute on that strategy. That’s why pitching is about building a relationship first.

05:17

So when you go into a pitch, if you’re thinking about, okay, I want to connect with people. I want them to see my passion for this. I want them to see my commitment to turning this into something successful. And I want to build that relationship. And yes, I only have sometimes a very short time. I think I talked about the minute and 39 second pitch, uh, last week and the week before. But you know, usually you have between five and 30 minutes to pitch and build that relationship. How you do that will oftentimes be the thing that makes or breaks. And so a lot of times you’ll hear, like one of my mentors said, you know, you’ve really got 60 to 120 seconds, one to two minutes to engage them. And it’s not about the idea it’s about who are you as a human and how do you create relationship in the moment? Okay. So I think it’s, I think this is a really brilliant reframing of the first piece. And there’s a few pieces to this, but the first one and probably the most important one is building relationship. So let’s just say, for example, that you went into a pitch, you did, did a little bit of chatting, get to know people a little bit, if it’s that kind of environment. And the pitch just kinda like, you don’t feel like you’re on or, you know, but along the way, you’re not afraid to acknowledge your weaknesses and you’re not afraid to acknowledge, you know what, guys, I totally messed that up. Here’s what I was trying to say. And you clarify, and you’re, you don’t step over that. There is relationship building in that, and there is credibility and trust that happens even in something as simple, that feels really awkward as that. That’s what we mean when we say building a relationship, all the pieces of yourself have to show up in your pitch because all the pieces of yourself is what it’s going to take to execute on taking an idea and turning it into a viable business that gets an investor a return that they’re happy with. So part of building relationship is not being afraid to be yourself and not being afraid to have your true self show up fully and have investors get who you are. You know, there’s a reason why, and I always find this so interesting. There’s a reason why sometimes in a pitch, you really want to like the idea you really want to like the person, but something about it just feels like it’s too polished. They’re too together, whatever that is, right. And I’m not saying you don’t, you need to practice your pitch. Okay? You need to have it cold, backwards, forwards, left, right? Whatever. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times where you have off days. And that doesn’t mean that you’re practicing out the vulnerability and the humanness of you. This, this is the thing that shows up when we feel like we’re being sold something. And I want to caution you because although salespeople are typically very good at pitching and a lot of the time, very good at doing fundraising or getting investment, it’s not about sales. It’s not about selling them something. It is about, they’re going to be on a journey with you, someone who invests in your company, they’re not just handing you a check and then you go off into the sunset, and then someday several years down the road, you come back and hand them a bigger check. This is a relationship. And how you, how the relationships starts with you being your full self and recognizing that they’re going to come on a journey with you. So they want to see what are you capable of, who are you as a human, and can they connect with you. Because that’s how they’re going to feel like they have the ability to call you when they’re freaking out about their investment. And you’re not going to try and convince them of something or sell them something that isn’t true. Does it makes sense what I’m saying. So not everybody will resonate with what I’m saying right now, and that’s okay, but I want to put it out there because it resonated hugely with me and shifted immediately that a large chunk of pitching is this, and I’m really good at this. I’m really good at creating relationship. I can, I can create relationship with anyone at anytime, anywhere, and it’s authentic and it’s honest and it’s vulnerable. So that gave me some freedom.

 09:37

The second piece of this obviously, is being able to present your idea and your, you know, essentially your business plan or your, you know, sort of all the different pieces and to do it in a clear way. I’m also really good at that. Like, that’s why, that’s why I practice. That’s why I talk to people all the time about what I’m doing. This is why I encourage my founders that I work with, you need to be talking to people all the time about what you’re doing. That is actually how you get better at talking about it and, and having people get it right away. And that is, that is a big part of the pitch as well is being able to present and do it clearly and have all of your data points be there. Okay. So I’m two for two, so far, all of a sudden pitching isn’t looking quite as scary. The third piece and in the piece, that probably feels the most scary. And there were some other pieces in there that she and I talked about, but I think these three are really the big ones for, for the purposes of our conversation. The third one is understanding what you want, knowing whether to say whether, whether you’re willing to say yes to what’s being offered and then being willing to negotiate, right? So in order to do all of that, you actually have to know, what do you want, what is your ask, what are you willing to give in return for the ask, and what kind of investor are you looking for. So understanding how much money you’re trying to raise, how you’re going to use that money and how much equity, or if you want to do debt financing, like how that debt service is going to, whatever, whatever the terms are, you have to understand what you want and what’s ideal. Otherwise you can’t compare it to something that’s being offered to you. So if they come back and say, well, we’re willing to give you the full half a million that you’re asking for, but we don’t think 4% enough. We’d like to see 6%. Then you can make a decision against what you were going after and say yes or no. Okay. And the other piece of that is negotiation. Just the way that you are making an ask, that’s ideal for you, you also need to understand that they’re making an ask that that’s ideal for them. And how can you negotiate and come to terms that you both can live with, starting with, is this really the right investor for you. Which is why I say you also need to know what is your ideal investor profile. Do you want someone who’s going to take an active role? Do you want someone who’s going to be on your board of directors? Do you want someone who has had experience in a particular area that you don’t? So I’ll give you an example. For Precursa, Paige and Sarah and I, we’ve always built B2B businesses. Okay. And there is a lot of, there are different things that you do building something where you’re selling to businesses than if you’re selling directly to customers and selling, or what’s called direct to consumer. And direct to consumer requires typically a lot more volume than business to business or B2B because the sale prices are usually a lot lower, the deal prices are a lot lower. So where you might be, you know, in my consulting practice, you know, a lot of times I’m, I I’m working with business owners who already have a business and they’re hiring me as a fractional CTO. Well, that can be a 50 to $150,000 engagement over, you know, six months to 18 months, depending on what they’re doing, right. I can’t go into a consumer market and do a six-figure sale, right? So the dynamics of B2B selling and building a B2B business and a business development strategy and a marketing and sales strategy is a very different than building, you know, a sales strategy and business development strategy for direct to consumer. So we understand that we have a lot of experience in B2B, and we’re going to leverage that experience by, by working with strategic partners, to get them on board, to have them be feeders for us. There’s lots of ways we can leverage that experience. We don’t have direct experience in doing direct to consumer. So if we could find an investor who had direct to consumer sales experience and wanted to put in money, that ticks some serious boxes that are really big on our ideal, our ideal investor profile. So I’m saying that because most people think whoever’s willing to give me the money. If I get the terms I want, I’ll take it. I want to caution you. Having the wrong investor can cause more loneliness, more demoralization, more frustration, more of that like, oh my gosh, if this guy doesn’t quit calling me five times a week asking me what’s going on, it will drive you crazy is what I’m saying. So sit down, you know, if you’re the only founder, if you have co-founders, if you have a team or whatever you have, sit down with the people who are involved and invested in what you’re doing, and get insight about who do we want, what is this person look like? What are their skillsets? How, how mature are they as an investor? All of those things matter. 

14:46

So when you put these three pieces together, what you realize is the framing and the context of pitching has nothing to do with begging for money. It has nothing to do with being perfect. It has nothing to do with trying to convince anyone of anything. What it has to do with is building a relationship with the people who are sitting across the table from you, being clear and concise about your presentation and what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and why it matters to you, and then knowing what you want and being willing to negotiate and, and being willing to say no, if it doesn’t work, right. So just as willing as you are to say yes, when somebody offers you something, be just as willing to say no if what they’re offering, you doesn’t work. I can do all of those things. So if that’s actually what pitching is, all of a sudden pitching, isn’t scary anymore. It’s just the process we go through. And it takes the time that it takes, and you know, sometimes it takes six months to a year, depending on the size of the raise that you’re trying to build. But that’s the process. And if I know that I’m doing these three things, every time I talk to people who are potential investors, that I know I’m going to get exactly where I need to be, and the timing will be perfect. And I may not be able to see that right now, but I trust timing works out and things work out exactly the way that they’re supposed to. And everything that I learned along the way is growing and shaping and molding me to be the founder I need to be, to make this business a success. So I, I tell you that because last episode I was pretty vulnerable and I was pretty scared. And I was sort of walking you through why entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, right. And it’s important to see how acknowledging all of those things, stepping up in the ways that I could, which is reaching out to my mentors, reaching out to my coaches, getting some support, getting some help, made a huge difference in my outlook on this process going forward. Okay. So in reality, we’ve had some great conversations in the intervening week, but nothing’s really shifted other than my emotional and mental state and my mindset around, okay, this is the process we’re in. This is what’s next. Let’s do it. As Paige always says, LFG, let’s effing go. Right. I’m ready. And it’s because I could move through the space where, where I was, where I had fear or where I had loneliness or where, where I was confused or… makes sense what I’m saying. So I wanted to kind of bring that back around because first I really appreciated you as an audience, giving me the space to sort of be in that really vulnerable place. But also because what I recognized was that vulnerable place is exactly what investors are looking for to understand how are you going to handle adversity? Because it’s never going to be a perfectly straight path that’s clear of branches and trees and at the end of it is a rainbow with a pot of gold. That’s just not how this process works because we’re learning, we’re growing, we’re making pivots and shifts along the way. What an investor is looking for is, are you capable of doing that work? Because again, they’re investing in you and your ability and your capability to follow through on the journey and turn their money into more money.

 

18:20

So that said, now what I want to talk about is, and it all kind of plays together actually now, now that I’m thinking about it, but you know, a couple of weeks ago I said, I want to talk about what is it like to see something that you’ve created, something that you’ve thought about for a long time, something that you have dreamed about and put lots of time and energy into creating and validating. What is it like to see that come to life? Specifically, the experience that I’m thinking about is, you know, it’s been about eight months now, I guess. Yeah. About eight months since Paige and Sarah came on board, you know, I was doing this for almost two years by that point. I had, I’ve talked to over 200 entrepreneurs about what we’re doing. And I have been doing this for a long time, right? Since October of 2018, I have been pursuing this thing. And the specific experience that I have there, there was, there was something about Paige and Sarah saying, yes, we’re on board. We wanna, we wanna, we wanna do this journey with you, that was sort of validating. But what really did it for me. I told you guys a few episodes ago, we had been working with a UX engineer to help us design some really high fidelity wire frames to demonstrate the platform so that when we’re, because typically in a pitch, you want to do some kind of a demo that shows either, you know what you’re building, or you have something that you’ve built, even if it’s a prototype or a wire frame or something like that. You want to be able to visually communicate what you’re trying to say in a, in a demonstrable way. Okay. So our UX engineer, while we were working on building out our website and sort of engineering all of the content and everything, she helped us put together a high fidelity wireframe that communicates the value and some of the, some of the flow, the, the main workflow for an entrepreneur through the system. And I’ll tell you what, when she presented the first round of wireframes, which I think, I think we did two or three, like one or two rounds of revisions, and so either version two, version three was the first, I almost cried. When she showed us that first round, because what happens is what I realized in that moment is I have honed and refined my idea enough that I could communicate to someone very effectively and they could produce something that, that was an execution on my vision.

21:05

And it’s one thing. If I put together a bunch of materials and drawings and wireframes and whatever that tries to communicate my vision, it’s something else when someone gets it and they can do it. And that moment, what we’re trying to do as founders is find as many of those types of moments as we can, because those are the moments that feed your soul. Those are the moments that, that are the, that little click that you need of energy, of power, of this is doable, because look, this is the next milestone. And it’s a big one because other people are getting it, right. And there’s something about when you have a vision and it turns into something real, you know, obviously it’s going to be a huge day for me when it launches and real entrepreneurs start signing up for the platform and are using it and getting value out of it. I mean that I can just envision that day, and it also makes me want to cry. But each of these steps along the way where something that is just an idea, and I’m putting that in quotes, just an idea or lives only in your head, and you’ve managed to communicate it in a way where now it’s living in the world. In this case, it’s just a wireframe, right? Which now our developers are developing against that wireframe to start building data structures and all that kind of stuff. So, so it’s becoming real in multiple ways now, but having it come out of idea and concept into something that you can touch and something that you can see, there is a gravity to that. And that gravity is that it starts to anchor your idea, right? So if you think about the way, this is really interesting. So if you even think about the way that we conceptually visualize the concept of an idea, usually it’s a light bulb that’s lit. And a lot of times, if you notice it’s floating, right? So it’s kind of floating there in space. And if you think about an idea, they’re fleeting, we get a lot of them all the time. The ones that we choose to grab onto may or may not go anywhere, right? What happens when it starts to come to life in the real world in a very real, tangible way, your light bulb is no longer a floating light bulb. You have now grasped it in a way that tethers it to reality and tethers it to the earth in a way that wasn’t possible the moment before that reality existed. Right? So the moment before we saw the wireframes, even though we were all really invested, and we’re spending money, we’ve got developers working on stuff, and we’re putting money into advertising. Before that wireframe was presented, there was still a floating intangibility to it that the second the wireframe was in front of me, it was like, oh, I have it. It’s right here in my hand, I can grasp it. And it’s got gravity and it’s got weight and it’s, it’s starting to become larger than just me and the vision and my idea. I’m telling you this because these moments are really important. And there’s a tendency among founders that I work with to blow by these moments like, okay, we got that done, now we got to get right on the next thing. Now I’m not telling you to stop executing. And I’m not telling you that you get to rest on your laurels, but I am telling you, you need to learn how to celebrate. You need to learn how to feel in your heart, in your, in your gut, in your soul, in your mind, in your whole body, you need to learn how to feel the wins, because here’s what I can promise you.

25:13

You feel the losses already. We are really good at that as human beings, because that’s our survival instinct. The losses, tell us how we can do better, how we can prevent feeling that way in the future. They teach us lessons. We as humans do not learn how to celebrate as fully as we learn how to experience fear and sadness and, and the low points. If you can learn how to experience, I’m going to call it the ups and the downs, but if you can experience the wins and the challenges equally and fully, you will become a founder who can lead a team who can have empathy for your customers, for your vendors, for your strategic partners, for your advertisers, for your partners, your employees, for your investors, in a way that will make you stand out. That will make you a unicorn founder. Because there are a lot of founders, I work with them at all different stages of the startup process and the company building process. There are founders who are holding on by a thread, not allowing themselves to feel the wins because the fear is so overwhelming. And they’re just making it through the day and making it through the week and making it through the month and making it through the year and looking for the exit so that they can take a breath. You don’t want to be that founder. You want to be on a journey. You want to feel it all, you want to experience it all, you want to relish in the fact that regardless of how it turns out you were present on the journey, and that makes you a better founder. Because here’s the thing that I know; most founders who get capital, get outside capital, whether it’s friends and family or angel money or seed capital or VC, or if they go as far as PE… Even if you fail, even if it doesn’t turn into a big win or a big exit or whatever it was that you envisioned it to be, you’re going to go again. And the thing that makes the journey enjoyable, regardless of the outside circumstances, which you have no control over. Let’s just be honest. You can’t control when you’ve got an investor that backs out at the very last minute. You can’t control, there’s a pandemic and it totally completely, 100% pivots your business 180 degrees. And you weren’t prepared for that. You weren’t thinking about that. Your roadmap didn’t, I mean, you have no control over most of the stuff that’s going on. What you do have control over is what your thoughts, your actions, and how you operate in the world and how you operate in your company. If you will learn this lesson early and learn how to celebrate, because I promise you don’t need to learn the other thing. I know there are people who push away their feelings and they’re like, you know, I’m scared, but I’m pretending like I’m not, and I’m operating like a robot. Here’s the thing. If you learn how to celebrate the wins, no matter how small they are, you will get more comfortable with feeling the losses or feeling the fear or feeling the loneliness or feeling the negative, I guess. But just the, the things that we’re not always excited have in our lives, right? You will get better at that, and you will be a better founder all the way around. People want to work for someone who, when things happen that are good, they get excited and they celebrate. And they’re like, you know what, guys, this was amazing. And I know we’ve been pulling some all-nighters, but this looks so great. And I know we have a lot of work, but I just trust that, take the rest of the day and the weekend off. Like, let’s do that. I think that feels really good. I know we got a lot of other issues, but this is a win and we’re going to celebrate it.

29:09

That’s generosity. And you know, the thing for me, Precursa itself is born out of my heart for entrepreneurs. And for the challenge that it is to say yes to the journey of breaking yourself up, over and over again, and continually growing yourself to be the kind of founder who can build the kind of company you want to build and build the kind of team you want to build and do it with empathy and with passion and with generosity. That’s my heart for this process. It is my heart. One of the things that I daydream about, you know, if you’re not daydreaming by the way about who you want to be as a founder or what you’re going to do, if you’re successful or that, you know, if you’re not daydreaming about those things, you should be doing that. You should let yourself go there. I’m not saying it’s all going to come true, and it’s all going to be realized, but it’s a lot more likely to happen if you’re willing to visualize it and start preparing yourself, because there’s a gap between who you are now and who the person is who can experience those daydreams as real life. And the process of daydreaming allows you to, to start to step into who that person is and become that person who can have those things that you want to have and be that person you want to be and do the things you want to do. So when I daydream about my goal for Precursa being this catalyst for an enormous shift in the world of being a startup founder, how capital gets invested across different projects, in different social groups and all that kind of stuff, and ultimately what it’s like to be on that journey, what I envision is having the money to be able to go invest in companies and ideas and people ultimately who aren’t getting visibility right now, who are, who are historically underserved. Primarily for me, that’s women, women of color, white women. I mean, it’s women, you know, any woman who’s got a passion and who’s got a dream. Our challenges are unique to the challenges that men have. They’re just different, because we tend to be more about de-risking right. We want more stability. That’s sort of how we’re, how we’re geared and how we’re aligned, and when we feel like we have the stability, we can take huge risks and we can, we can create amazing things. We can go very far, but if we don’t feel like we have the stability, it’s a lot harder for us to make that leap because we feel different pressures than men do. And that’s not to deny men go through, I mean, I work with a lot of male founders. They go through a lot of, a lot of struggles and a lot of challenges. They’re just different, right? So being a woman and being a, being a serial entrepreneur and a serial startup founder, I get that in a way where I want to take the bounty of my success and put it into how do we solve the problem of stability for women. How do we give them that so that they do hit that meteoric rise that we know is possible for people when they find their purpose and when they have all the pieces that they need in order to go after the big thing, right? So my heart of generosity, my spirit of generosity, that’s what I’m thinking about when I’m daydreaming, right? Like, of course, I’m thinking about, there’s a car I really want, right? Like, I mean, I have great cars, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a car I really want. And it’s like the one that when I buy it, I’m paying cash and it’s going to be that symbol to myself that I’ve arrived, right. So of course I daydream about that. And of course, there’s the vacation that I really want to take. And I want to be able to spend a month and not care that it’s probably going to cost a lot of money to be in this, on this island, with this gorgeous setting for a month with, you know, my honey bunny and all that. Like, of course I daydream about those things. But it’s the purposeful daydream about what I can accomplish for other people in the space that I care about so much, and that is so fundamental to my heart and to who I am. That’s what I’m dreaming about. So this whole story that I’m telling you and this whole journey that we’ve been on in this episode, yes it’s about understanding, what is it like, what is that sensation, what is that feeling when you see something that lives only in your head come to life in someone from someone else. It’s extraordinary, and you should be looking for those moments and why is because when you can celebrate as fully and as wholly with yourself, as you can experience the other side, whether that’s fear or whether that’s loneliness or whether that’s anxiety, whatever that is, when you can experience all of it fully, and you can embrace all of it fully, you can become a founder who can have something that’s bigger than what you are now.

34:27

So let me, let me put this another way. I, like I said, I always have coaches and mentors and things in my life because I think those people are really, really important for helping us grow into being the things that, you know, the people that we want to be. I had a coach for awhile. She was a business coach specifically, and she used to say, she would tell us, you can’t have a business that’s bigger than your identity. Now, what does that mean? It means if your identity is limited in that you don’t believe that people can make more than a hundred thousand dollars a year, you never will. It’s like sort of the self-fulfilling prophecy, right? Your business can’t go beyond the boundaries of your own beliefs and your own thoughts and your own identification of yourself as a human you’re. You can’t build a business bigger than your identity. So in order to get to whatever the thing is that you’re trying to create, you are going to have to grow as a human. Your identity is going to have to grow to encompass whatever your vision is. So part of that growth is about experiencing all of the human emotions and all of the human experience and the, the entirety of what it is to be a founder on a startup journey. And that means the losses, the fear, the backsliding, whatever that looks like, just as much as celebrating. And you should celebrate everything. Every day that your business is open, every week that your business is open, every month that your business is open, and that you’re staying alive and you’re continuing to grow. And you’re, you should be celebrating that. You know, if you’re someone who goes into the Precursa platform and you get, you know, through user validation and realize this idea has no legs, there’s no viability here. You should celebrate that. You know why? Because you didn’t waste time and money building something and investing yourself and potentially other people in something that wasn’t going to work because. And then you should celebrate that you probably are really excited and you probably have the energy now to go create something else. Right. That’s also a win, like I’m serious when I say start getting in the habit of, learn the process of, learn and in a grain in yourself, celebrating.

36:57

So like I said, last week was super vulnerable. I kind of wrapped that back into how do you deal with that? Right? Like how I deal with it. As I talked to mentors, I talked to coaches, I talked to people who were on my circle. I allow the people in my life who believe in me and who loved me to remind me who I am. And then I grow, right. And you know, this, this one is sort of about mindset as well. Just, just as much as last week was, but in a different way, which is you are the only one who can have your vision become reality, but there’s a very high likelihood the person you are today is not the person that you will be when that reality happens. That’s why this is a journey. We’ve talked about the whole myth of the overnight success so many times, and we’ll probably talk about it a lot more in the future, because I hear it all the time. The problem is if it happened overnight, you probably wouldn’t be able to handle it, because you haven’t been forged in the fire of the journey to get from where you are to where you want to go. Don’t dismiss the journey. If you can learn to celebrate and value and be grateful for every step along that journey, that gives you a little, a new little piece, or that grows you a little bitter or that refines you a little bit more, then you will see over the course of three or five or seven or 10 years, however long it takes you to get to that vision and that exit, or, you know, whatever your goal is for your business. You will see how every step along that journey and every hardship and every win, all contributed to you becoming the person who could get the, get the win, and get the vision and get the end game and enjoy it and be present in it. Because the worst thing that you could do would be go on this journey, it goes how it goes, and you’re sort of all over the place in it, and you’re not willing to give in to the winds and all you, you know, you’re hard on yourself the whole time, and then you get the thing that you’re going after and you sabotage it right. Now, I’ve talked a little bit, you know, I’ve talked extensively, you know, when I’ve been on guest podcasts, because people always tell me to ask me to tell my story. We talked a little bit about it on this podcast, but understand that my, my journey over the last 25 years has included two sales before I was 30. And both of those times I lost everything very quickly thereafter. Now, I am now exceptionally grateful for those experiences because it taught me that I am someone who knows how to win, who knows failure’s possible. But I know myself as someone who gets back up and tries again, right. And that’s immensely valuable. But here’s the other thing that I know. It’s been a while since my last sale, in fact, it’s been, let’s see, I would have been 20. I’m doing math in my head here. So I would have been just before my 27th birthday, I guess, actually just after my 26th birthday. So it’s been almost 14 years since my last sale. Now I’ve built two more successful companies in that time. And you know, I’m doing really well. I’m thriving. I’m, I’m learning a lot, a ton, but that can be, it seemed like a long time, when in the first 10 years of my career, I had two very, very good back-to-back wins. And then I went 14 years with no big wins, meaning I’d have, I haven’t sold another company, I haven’t done another exit, whatever, right? Here’s the thing that I know the 14 years. And then whatever the next three or five years, or maybe seven years that it takes for us to get to the place where we want Precursa to be, this is me being forged in the fire because never again in my life, will I have a big win and lose it all within a year. I will never do that again. I have done the work since the last time I did that. And now where not, I have systems and processes in place in my life. I have people holding me accountable. I have people who know who I can go to and ask questions and say, wow, I just, I just sold my company for this amount of money. What are the right places to put it? How do I invest it? What should I be doing with it in order to grow it and be able to help other people who are trying to do the thing that I’ve been doing, right? I have grown, I have, I have been forged in the fire of my own journey. And I can’t look at that in any other way than I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to know myself as someone who can win or fail and pick myself up and keep going. And the knowledge, the inherent, innate, system, biology, DNA level knowledge that I will never make that mistake again. That I don’t ever have to make it again, that I have done the work.

42:10

So I want you to consider, it’s really easy to get to be in the execution of, of your startup or be in the execution of, of your idea validation and your product-market fit, work, and all the stuff that we do together. It’s really easy to get into the weeds with that and forget that you’re a human having an entrepreneurial journey and an entrepreneurial experience. Give yourself the gift and the luxury of experiencing it. Check in with yourself on a regular basis. If you have to set a calendar reminder or a timer on your phone to tell you, you should be checking in at least once a week and, you know, write down, what are the wins I had this week? Where have my challenges been? Where are the areas where I want to grow? And what’s the gap between who I am now and the person who is realizing the vision that I have for myself and my company. What’s the gap, and how can I take one small step this week to close that gap and to start becoming that person. This is something that if you do it for yourself, you will never regret it. I promise you, you will never regret it. And it is the way that you become the founder you want to be, the founder you need to be, and being open and vulnerable with your team, your, your investors, and even potentially, depending on what kind of business you’re building, your customers or your vendors, about that journey for yourself, it will make a difference and your business will be more successful. So one of the reasons why I feel like women are really great at this just inherently, naturally when once we have that stability and some of our stuff worked out, is because we are naturally empathetic, and it’s easier for us to learn how to apply that empathy to ourselves. And it’s not that there aren’t empathetic men. Obviously there are, and I have worked with some founders who are so good at diving into their own identity and figuring out this gap and doing this work that I’m talking about, but women, we go there anyway. You know, we go there because this is how we become moms in the span of nine months. You know, that’s how we’re forged in the fire during pregnancy and, and how we’re forged in the fire over 18 years or 20 years or 25 years of raising a child to be an adult. We, we have this built into our DNA in a lot of ways. So do this work, prioritize yourself in this process from this perspective, because it actually makes a difference and it will change not only your experience along the way, but it will change your ability to realize yourself in this journey and realize yourself in the vision that you have, as well as give the people around you, who are on the journey with you and who are looking up to you to, to point the way and to drive the ship. It will give them permission to do the same for themselves. And everyone will come out better people and more prepared people and more whole humans at the end. So do this work, prioritize yourself. You are not only the culmination of the things that happen in your business. You are the person who is the motivating force, creating those things that happen in your business. And it starts with, you can’t have a business that’s bigger than your identity. You can’t have a startup that’s bigger than who you see yourself as. 

45:45

So I’ll leave you with that. And I’ll leave you with this. The entrepreneurial journey is not easy. Starting from an idea, which is essentially starting from nothing, and turning it into something that realizes a vision is not easy, but it is worth it. And the more you see it as an opportunity for you as a human to grow and to learn and to shift and to hone and to refine yourself, as much as your company and your idea, the more worthy it will be, and the more you will get addicted to it. The more you will come back, time and time again, with that next new idea, with whatever the thing is that’s next for you to do, and it will be exciting and it will be energizing because you will realize your capacity to grow and to, to hone and refine both yourself and whatever’s next for you. And this is where purpose comes from. So how willing are you to do the work? I would encourage you to take some time and write down what, what did you hear and what we talked about today, where do you think you’re stuck, or where are you stopped, and who are the people in your life that can help you move beyond where you’re stuck or stopped? And if you don’t feel like you have anyone, I want you to write out who would be your ideal mentor, like who would that person be? Maybe, maybe you have a particular person in mind, but it’s more the traits and qualities of that person. And then go on a hunt for the person who is, who is the coach or mentor who can get you to that next level, and be open to however that shows up, because it could be very surprising and come from some very interesting directions that you would not have considered. All right. So until next time, happy entrepreneuring, and I will see you very soon.

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…

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

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  • Denver, Colorado

  • startup@precursa.com

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

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