We know a lot about branding, and entrepreneurship; But there are so many things that we’re not experts on when it comes to running a business. Those are things that we turn to others for help.
Since its launch in February, Suzanne and I have been looking for opportunities to grow our newest venture, Better Than Stock. Recently that opportunity knocked (in the form of the Valley Venture Mentor program), and we’ve spent the last month hustling through the rigorous application process.
And guess what? We made it! We were accepted.
Which is why, with a big sigh of relief, we’re now ready to share with you our Shark Tank-esque experience.
The application process for Valley Venture Mentors is a five step process; compressed, and highly competitive. (Though they say the only person you’re really competing with is yourself. At which point everyone stifled a knowing eye roll.)
Round 1: Basic Application
Go online. Fill out some basic info.
Our names. Check. Name of business. Check. Type of product. Check.
Easy peasy. This whole thing should be a piece of cake.
Round 2: In Depth Application
We’ve made it through round one! Yee-haw! Now on to fill in our in depth application.
We have 48 hours to essentially develop a business plan and formally articulate it.
Maybe not a piece of cake.
Step 3: The Screening Party
That must have been a kick-ass business plan because we’ve now moved on to round three- the screening party.
We’ve been given 24 hours to develop a Powerpoint presentation and figure out how to tell people everything they need to know about our business in 2 minutes flat.
We dug deep, finding our inner college students, and finished our presentation that night fueled on Scotch and fancy popcorn.
The next evening we delivered our presentation four times, consecutively.
We were extremely humbled by people’s (kind) criticism.
Step 4: Pitch Camp
We survived the Screening Party and moved on to round four- Pitch Camp. This is the part of the game where we take everything we’ve done in the past three rounds, cut it up into little tiny pieces, throw it away, and start from scratch. By the time we were done with Pitch Camp we had a finely polished gem of a presentation. (And a lot of jokes about Pitch Perfect. Seriously, how could we not?)
We worked with Paul Silva, director of the Valley Venture Mentors program and expert in pitch development. He gave us new perspectives about our presentation, and our business as a whole.
Who knew the mentorship process would start before we were even accepted into the program?
Step 5: Audition
So now we get to show off Better Than Stock, in all it’s glory, to about 200 people. No biggie.
Suzanne steps up to present and nails it.
We then get to answer questions from the audience members for about a half hour. Some people still don’t get it, some people think Better Than Stock is crazy awesome.
It’s enough to drive you a little nuts if you think about it too much.
After the Q&A session, all of the presenting entrepreneurs are sent to the bar next door so that everyone in the room can talk about us. Again, nerve wracking.
It does give us the chance to chat with some of the other people applying to the program and use our collective anxiety as a way to bond.
In about three days we see our names on the list of businesses that have been accepted into the program! I then proceeded to text about 5 people with the good news and call my mother. (I mean really, who’s gonna be more proud?)
And now, the journey has just begun.
Over the next six months we’ll be working with our mentors to build and refine Better Than Stock into its full potential. We’re excited to share with you all the ways that it will be changing and adapting as the mentorship program goes on.
What we learned from this process:
Just because you know what you’re talking about doesn’t mean anyone else does.
Being concise is a difficult skill to grasp.
Sometimes you have to let go of perfect for the sake of good.
Being vulnerable and open to criticism can lead you to incredible results.
There are people in the world who are eager to help you. You just need to know where to look and how to ask.
Have you ever participated in a mentorship program like this one? What was your experience?
If you haven’t, do you think you would? What parts seem the most exciting (and/or scary)?
If you’re in Western Massachusetts and interested in learning more about Valley Venture Mentors (and finding out when the next application process begins) visit their website at www.valleyventurementors.com.