What I'm Reading: Tools of Titans

This is a great book for an entrepreneur, or anyone who wants to maximize themselves and find deeper purpose in life. I picked up this book after finding it lying around during the holiday's at my partner's mom's house, and I couldn't stop reading it. It's organized into three sections: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. The sections are collections of chapters. Each chapter is a brief Q&A interview with a person. While I skipped the first section for the most part (it's all about how to become an ultra athlete and how to lose body fat, pretty much), I really enjoyed the rest of the book. In Wealthy, the best advice I found was for how to achieve a work-life balance. In Wise, I learned about how I could infuse more meaning and intention into my life. Overall, this was a great read for creating New Year's Resolutions. I have given this book as a gift to fellow entrepreneurs.

Source: https://toolsoftitans.com/

What I'm Reading: Return on Relationship

Unicorn Goods is built on the idea that people want what we have to offer. We have spent $0 on advertising in the past two years. Everything we have done has been word-of-mouth and social media. We have managed to build a following over 1K+ on Facebook and 6K+ on Instagram, but we can always do better. We have 10% growth goals for our Facebook and Instagram, and I'm determined to make sure we meet them. This book is great for anyone looking to gain better insight into just how a social media strategy should be though about and implemented. I highly recommend it. It's a quick read, under 3 hours on Audible or 2 hours on 1.5 speed (you know, I'm busy). I knocked this out this morning during my extra long weekend workout.

I Pitched To A Male Investor, and This is What Happened

I participated in a pitch event whose mission was to elevate women founders in tech. I have an obligation to all of the women out there working to start and grow tech companies to share this experience and speak up. You hear about this happening, but nothing can prepare you for it happening to you. Here is the feedback I left from the event:

I believe in elevating women entrepreneurs, and I believe in this event. However, I had a disappointing experience. As a woman entrepreneur and a leader, I am obligated to say something, and I want to say it directly so that this can be avoided in the future. I leaned in to this uncomfortable conversation, but I didn't think the person I was paired with, who was an older caucasian man, was qualified to make advisory comments, and I fear that this person may have made similar comments to other participants.

These comments were dejecting and discouraging, leaving a bad taste in my mouth and me questioning why I got involved in this event in the first place. On the positive side, I learned how to converse with people about our venture who do not have the social impact background or balanced gender images that I normally find in even moderately savvy investors. I was able to steer defensive and offensive questions back to the topic at hand.

There are three specific points that I continue to think about after the experience:

  1. The first comment was a defensive comment about my personal ethics, and not the venture. After I finished pitching, the person asked, “So, do you think I’m a bad person for wearing down? What would you say to that?” I was able to kindly steer the conversation back to the venture’s mission itself and market that we are addressing, but this should not have been the person’s mindset from the start. It was self-centered and selfish, and demonstrated that I wasn’t being taken seriously as a founder, and that our venture wasn’t being taken seriously.
  2. The person told me that my idea was a "lifestyle business" which is highly offensive and sexist, especially since I had just said that ours is a growing $200 billion market and we have already made money with a proof of concept. We are already making revenue and are scaling, which is why I’m pitching to investors in the first place. A lifestyle business is a business that is started by a founder to afford her a certain lifestyle income and no more, and is intentionally not meant to scale or have real impact. I was able to flatly reject this accusation, but I wish it had not been brought up in the first place. The fact this this comment made by a man during an event that is supposed to elevate and support women entrepreneurs is discouraging and frustrating. It reflects every other conversation I’ve had with male investors over the past six months. 
  3. I was asked which I would personally choose if I could make a lot of money or have an ethical business. I explained the concept of social enterprise to this person, but he immediately dismissed my answer and said, “No, I don’t care about the business, I’m asking you as a person.” This was so inappropriate and distracting from the point of the event. I answered, “I reject the premise of your question,” and he said “Fair enough.” I flatly rejected the the premise that one cannot make money and make the world better at the same time. Social enterprise has been around for over a decade at this point, and now includes publicly-traded companies. I shouldn’t have to explain this concept to someone who is supposed to be  knowledgeable about the current startup landscape. This comment demonstrated an ineptitude and lack of knowledge about the sphere they purport to be advising in. 

In all, I hope that by my speaking up that this can be avoided in the future. If other founders reach out to you with similar complaints, I am more than happy to meet with them and give them good feedback in a way that empowers them. I have advised and worked with 200+ entrepreneurs, many of them women, and I would like to support your mission moving forward.

Let's not forget how far we've come, and let's not forget how far we still have to go. After all, the first programmers were women. Rock on, girl bosses.

What I'm Reading: The Everything Store

This well-balanced look at the story of Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos provides wonderful insight into how a tenacious and unrelenting leader can push an idea forward in the face of countless setbacks in old markets. Amazon, by innovating in the traditional and stale retail industry, shook things up big time. My favorite lesson is on frugality, which is one of Amazon's leadership principles: "FRUGALITY. We try not to spend money on things that don't matter to customers. Frugality breeds resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for head count, budget size, or fixed expense." This comes through in the iconic Amazon door desks, which I used in my first startup as a cheap way to create desks and which Amazon still uses to this day in its offices. I recommend this for any entrepreneur with big ideas starting small with no budget.

What I'm Reading: The Advertising Effect

The Advertising Effect is a great compilation of case studies from the advertising world about how marketing can be used to influence consumer decision. I found this book interesting from a social enterprise perspective given the author's stance against using advertising to sell more products, and for advertising as a potential force for good, especially for social entrepreneurs. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning how advertising and marketing shapes consumer decisions, especially as it relates to social enterprise products and causes.

What I'm Reading: The Advantage

The breakdown of most unsuccessful organizations is communication. Good communication can make a good organization into a great one. A health organization is one that is conducive to good, effective communication, but this has to be nurtured, much like a plant. 

The Advantage is a great book for any entrepreneur who wants to learn how to run an effective organization. I would recommend this for any entrepreneur at any stage development, but especially for those who want to build a vibrant and healthy organization that people want to work on every day. In it, the author, a business consultant specializing in corporate culture, discusses how healthy organizations function and what drives them. I've taken these learnings and turned them into a how-to for effective organizations. 

How to Communicate

  • STEP 1: DISAGREEMENT
    • Strive for disagreement in meetings. Disagreement is healthy. It means that people are voicing their true opinions.
  • STEP 2: DEBATE
    • ncourage lively debate. Make sure everyone feels that they can truly express themselves and work through issues together. This is the concept of the ancient Greek agora.
  • STEP 3: CONSENT
    • s a leader, your role is to get direct consent for each individual at the end of big decisions. Literally go around the table and ask each person, "Do you consent to this decision and will you fully support its implimentation?" This ensures that everyone is clear and on the same page. 
  • TEP 4: COMMUNICATE
    • fter big decisions are made by leadership, it's the responsibility of the leadership team to quickly and directly communicate these changes to their teams by means of an in-person all-staff meeting. This should happen within 24 hours. An invitation should also be extended to anyone who is confused or who wants to discuss the decision to approach the supervisor at and time.

Another helpful thing I learned was that there are different types of meetings for different purposes. This helps everyone save time, and increases effective communication.

Types of Meetings

  • TYPE 1: The daily check-in
    • his should take no more than 5 minutes, be done in person, and be done standing. It's a chance for everyone to get face time, work through small technical detail questions, and get on the same page for what everyone's working on that day.
    • THE POINT: To build commeraderie.
  • TYPE 2: The weekly project management meeting
    • his should be done via color-coding red-yellow-green by project and should take no more than an hour.
    • THE POINT: To get on the same page and establish priorities.
  • TYPE 3: The topical strategic meeting
    • hese are called on an as-needed basis and last from 3-4 hours. 
    • THE POINT: To work through strategic problems.
  • TYPE 4: The quarterly off-site
    • his is the company retreat.
    • THE POINT: To take a step back and plan for the future.

What I'm Reading: The Innovators

This book is about the leading entrepreneurs and thinkers who contributed to the digital revolution. I love that it begins with Ada Lovelace, the first programmer, and goes all the way up to Al Gore. I found this book illuminating. It's written in a unified sequential narrative that makes the progression of innovation over long periods of time easy to understand. Walter Isaacson also wrote Steve Jobs' biography. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of digital innovation and they types of entrepreneurs who have had the most success in this field.

Things No One Tells You About Being An Entrepreneur

I loved this post by Sascha Camilli, Founder and Editor of Vilda vegan lifestyle magazine. Sascha is so passionate about her business, and such an inspiration. I completely agree with her perspective on entrepreneurship, especially being a fellow entrepreneur working on a vegan startup! Every day is a struggle, but it's the struggle that makes the work grand. 

 Editor’s Notes: Things No One Tells You About Being an Entrepreneur, by Sascha Camilli, Founder of Vilda Magazine

Editor’s Notes: Things No One Tells You About Being an Entrepreneur, by Sascha Camilli, Founder of Vilda Magazine

Starting Up On A Dime

Starting up with no money can sound intimidating. Here are some lessons I learned by making a lot of mistakes and reading some books about how to get your ideas off the ground without investment. It just takes some good old fashioned scrappiness and a lot of hard work.