Published on October 9th, 2012 | by Kailei Carr


Nine Takeaways from FOCUS100

By Kailei R.

Picture this: I am sitting in front of Majora Carter and Mayor Cory Booker while being surrounded by a room full of amazing Black female tech entrepreneurs from all over the country. No, this was not the twilight zone, nor was it a dream. It was what I experienced on Saturday at the FOCUS100 Symposium, led by digitalUNdivided — the first of what I am sure will be many to come, with a mission for 100 black female owned tech companies to receive funding by 2015. The day and a half event started on Friday and included a pitch bootcamp for entrepreneurs. On Saturday, we spent the day in seminars including interviews and panel discussions with some of the most impressive people I’ve seen, discussing everything from how to best start a company, to raising money and pitching best practices. If you are starting a company or even thinking about starting a company, here are a few key takeaways I captured that can help you along the way:

1. Find and Cultivate the Right Advisors: You should have a group of advisors who can add to your credibility, have expertise that you can leverage and can help you financially when the time is right. Your advisors should also evolve, just as you evolve and grow. Charisse Conanan from Smarteys mentioned that entrepreneurs should understand that they are fighting for share of time with advisors, so find out what motivates them: is it equity? share of revenue?

2. Get the Right Support: Rachel Brooks from Citizen Made said that you should assemble your cast of characters —  the people you are with day to day. You should also make sure your support network is behind you. After all, this is not only impacting you, it’s impacting your family and loved ones as well.

3. Leverage other Entrepreneurs: As you’re looking to hire people to help build your business (think web developers, accountants, attorneys, etc), consider other entrepreneurs who are starting up just like you. You may be able to get their services at a much lower cost than a larger, more established company, and they will likely be excited to obtain a new client.

4. Get a Male Perspective: As a female entrepreneur you may feel like you have all that it takes to make it happen. And though you are fully capable of having a successful company, don’t neglect getting other perspectives because, let’s face it, if you’re thinking about pitching for funding at some point, you will likely be pitching to men. We think differently and though we may think we’re nailing it, we may not be tapping into what they need to hear to give you funding.

5. Don’t Devalue Marketing and Design: Anyone can code, but don’t devalue marketing and brand experience. After all, the end users don’t see the coding, they see the front end experience. Your product can’t be a superstar if it doesn’t look good.

6. Don’t Get Too Caught Up on Protecting Your Idea: It’s okay to share your idea and get some feedback. Many people don’t do so because they’re afraid someone else will steal it, which is a valid concern. But remember: it’s not only about the idea, it’s about who executes the idea most successfully.

7. Take Advantage of Low and No Cost Resources: Here are a few:

Base Camp: Project management tool

MailChimp: Email marketing

99 Designs: Web and logo design

Shopify: eCommerce software

Quick Books Online: Accounting software

8. Share Your Story: Put your story out there, even if it’s scary. Look for ways to share to publicize you and your company through blogs, press, etc. Don’t only focus on the large ones since many of the small publications may have smaller but loyal and connected followings.

9. Focus on Yourself: Your business will get better when you, as an individual, gets better. Enough said.

Check out our photos from FOCUS100 here.

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About the Author

Kailei is the co-founder of The Vyne. She is an expert shopper, digital marketer and has conducted extensive research on African American women.

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