How to Get Your Startup Past the Debbie Downers
You may have read about out our "tween business" in my last post, when I talked about how my company S.W. Basics, a natural and simple to use skincare company, had been presented with the opportunity to pitch to Target executives.
While we were definitely petrified and running around like crazy preparing for the meetings, I can now (calmly) say the experience was completely lovely, pleasant and honestly, surprisingly real. The team is incredibly down to earth, warm, and they truly believe in their mission. No matter the outcome, we know we'll look back on the experience and feel that it was worth it.
And while we felt fear before the meeting, the surprising thing has been the fear people felt for us after the meeting. Here is a sampling of the reactions that we've had from people we tell about our meetings. (Remember, we haven't even been told yes yet.)
"How will you possibly be able to fulfill that? Are you in any way ready?"
"Are you worried that's going to cheapen your brand? I mean, you won't really be cool anymore."
"What will your other accounts and customers think?"
"Oh I bet they're really terrible to work with, you need to be careful. Hope you have a good lawyer."
This is only a handful of the things we've been told. Two people have been just genuinely excited sans warnings or reservations. And of course everyone else we've told cares about us, they care about the brand, and they only want what's best. But they are scared for us.
Even fear can come from a good place. But when you really look at it closely, it's still fear. It's a gut reaction in people to think of all of the negative things that may happen, all of the things that have gone wrong in the world and all of the ways in which naïveté can have serious consequences. The problem with these responses for us is they only serve to stop us or make us question ourselves. Good intentions or not, it's not really fun to have an amazing opportunity in front of you and to spend all of your time legally preparing rather than celebrating.
For those in the same predicament as myself, here are a few pointers:
Be careful what you disclose. You know the whole, "Your business name is like your baby's name, don't tell people until it's born?" I'm starting to feel that it should be more like, "Your entire business is your baby. Protect it and keep most of its life details private." The more vague we are, the better. Imagine how much better the conversations will go if they start with, "We're available at Target!"
It's natural for people to be scared. Fear is everywhere, and it shouldn't stop you. It's safe to say that most people (at least in my immediate network) have not sold a natural skincare line that they created to Target. Of course they're afraid, it is completely weird and foreign to anything they've experienced. I probably would say the same things.
Take insight with a grain of salt. When people offer advice, it is still meaningful. It takes a lot for someone to feel invested in what you're doing to the extent that they want to protect you. That should matter, and I've learned to appreciate it tremendously. But I've also learned I don't have to panic and change everything I'm doing because of it.
And if you're friends with entrepreneurs but not one yourself let me just say this, be gentle with us. Any scary thing you want to bring up we've already thought about a trillion times -- sometimes before even getting out of bed in the morning. You know what we don't do that much? Congratulate ourselves. Take the time to think about how cool our companies are. Think about the massive implications of growth and success. Feel free to remind us about any of that!