"If happiness is the goal - and it should be, then adventures should be top priority" - Richard Branson
Things I learned.
- As an entrepreneur, don't strive to learn as much about business in general as compared to FOUNDERS in general. (example - read a founder's autobiography vs. a conceptual business book)
- Put your money where your idea is. Entrepreneur is french for "one who takes risks", so in order to truly be an entrepreneur - take that next tough step and INVEST IN YOUR IDEA. This is something I haven't been doing so well with Té Amo. I need to spend more money to get to the next level and build something worthwhile!
- Connect with people from other cities too! You never know when you'll be back in town.
Foreword. 10 days from today (November 16, 2018), I turn 21. But it seems like my birthday came early this year. See, I was a finalist in 2 competitions. One was in New York City on Tuesday and the other was in Chicago on Thursday. If that's not enough, I had to be in New Kensington on Wednesday for a speech at The Corner. But there's nothing I enjoy more than a good adventure.
I love travelling. I've been to over a dozen countries, but I'm always excited to go to new U.S. cities too. The last time I had been in Chicago was for a Future Business Leaders of America national competition in high school. The last time I had been in New York City was passing by from a trip to Rhode Island (my birth-state) when I was 9 years old, where we stopped at Peter Luger Steakhouse and I had the most incredible steak of my life.
The purpose of writing this blog post is to reflect and share my experiences in these 3 days (Tuesday - Thursday), which proved to be eye-opening in my entrepreneurial journey.
November 13, 2018. I got up at 2 am to catch my 5 am flight to NYC Tuesday morning. From the moment I awoke to the moment I presented Té Amo at 6 pm, I was listening to a 8-minute recording of the words to my pitch. My familiarity with subway systems are extremely scarce, so from the moment I arrived at Newark Airport to the moment I rode a subway to the presentation venue at CommonBond Co, I was asking people which train to take to get to my destination(s). During this whole time, I walked around with a 20ish pound box of Té Amo. My arms are still sore.
I wanted to make the most out of the NYC trip, so I reached out to people I knew from the area. One of which was a Grove City College alumnus that works at Universal McCann, one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world. I got to the UM office early, so I sat around on my laptop with my taped-up banana box full of tea next to me in the lobby. It was fascinating to see the NYC corporate advertising agency culture - everyone was dressed in a hip and clean manner. The "office" was an open floor plan with people's desks stacked beside eachother. Everyone was super focused on their Mac computer doing some sort of marketing work, other than for getting up to drink diet coke or coffee from a tap.
It was impressive, but although NYC is the "The Big Apple", I don't think I would enjoy living in such a place. This was a great realization for me - the places we look up-to in wonder aren't so great when you finally immerse yourself in its truth. HOWEVER, it's true that the pizza, bagels, and even hot dogs seem to taste better in NYC. Also, I saw a rat scamper by me - it's true that NYC has rats.
I stayed at an awesome hotel, called The Gem Hotel. I've never stayed at a hotel room by myself, so upon entering my room and seeing the Empire State building out my window, I couldn't help but feel like...
After a shower and power nap, it was time to take ANOTHER network of subways to get to the presentation venue. It was here where I got extreme lost.. with my hefty box of tea. I ended up making it to CommonBond's offices just fine.
As for the competition, shown below - they were incredible people. Ferocious competitors and young people with a trajectory towards success. I felt honored to be a part of their group of finalists. There was one pitch, however, that stood far above the others (yes, mine too). A UC Berkeley graduate student pitched a marvelous solution to wage inequality called 81 cents. She ended up winning the Social Impact Award, as she should've!! I hope my mother, sister, and future daughters will use 81 cents to gain a better wage.
November 15, 2018. I freaking LOVE the windy city. There's something about the design, the humbler demeanor of the people, and the the weather which makes me feel more "alive" (for truly a lack of better words). Upon arriving to O'Hare airport, the subway system/Blue Line treated me a lot better, as the directions were simpler for outsiders. My next competition was put on by FutureFounders, an awesome resource for young entrepreneurs to grow - they've had INCREDIBLE success with their alumni by focusing on the founder's development INSTEAD OF the business's development.
This competition was in the morning, so it was nice to get the business out of the way before having the evening to walk around aimlessly and really take in Chicago. This office was extremely impressive - it is the best co-working space in the country - 1871. The culture within the space was both very entrepreneurial and very productive.
It was at this competition I came to the realization that other young entrepreneurs across the country were on different levels from me - more advanced entrepreneurs. The most key differentiation was the fact they deployed capital, and thus risk, into their venture (outlined in "things I learned" below). It was a saddening realization that what I had built the past year wasn't even close to what they are doing, BUT I am pumped to implement more risk into my business model and just go for it, even while having to juggle college as well.
The winner of this competition was a young food entrepreneur from the Chicago area, with his awesome product Quevos. They are egg-white chips that are DELICIOUS, low carb, and high protein. He really deserved to win. Also, he was a great guy.
It was incredibly fierce competition - the most talented entrepreneurs that were my age I've ever seen in one place. They inspire me to work harder and take better risks. After the competition, I walked around Chicago for 6 hours.
I love walking around a beautiful city by myself - I think it to be one of life's simplest yet greatest pleasures. I walked to the Navy Pier, rented a bike to go to the Bean, and then ate an awesome tuna sandwich.
I loved the past 3 days. I hope I remember them for a very long time. I can't wait to make the necessary improvements to my business, and I'm glad I didn't win anything - I didn't deserve anything. These words keep reverberating in my mind "If you want to have a better pitch, make your company better". Time to get to work!