How This Subscription-Box Founder Got Her Mentor, the 'Hottest Ticket in Town,' to Invest in Her Company
Rockets of Awesome founder Rachel Blumenthal had found a valuable mentor in Kirsten Green, founder of Forerunner Ventures. And when Green invested in Blumenthal's business, their relationship only got stronger.
In the Women Entrepreneur series Mentor Moments, female founders sit down to chat with their own mentors (and us!) about how and why the relationship developed, and the lasting impact it’s had on their careers.
The first time Rachel Blumenthal met Kirsten Green, she knew she wanted to be friends with her. (Blumenthal lists Green’s extreme smarts and awesome fashion sense as reasons why.) Blumenthal was working on her former e-commerce company, Cricket’s Circle, at the same time that Green was getting her fund, Forerunner Ventures off the ground. A chance meeting turned into a valuable friendship, and as Green watched Blumenthal’s business grow, she eventually invested in the brand (and has since invested in Blumenthal’s current company, Rockets of Awesome). That might add pressure to a relationship, but Blumenthal and Green’s friendship was one built on a shared passion for business. As they formalized their partnership, they maintained a balance between the personal and professional. Here’s how.
Women Entrepreneur: How did you first meet?
Rachel Blumenthal: Kirsten was giving a fireside chat at my husband [Neil Blumenthal]’s office at Warby Parker, [where he’s a co-founder]. I was starting to concept a new business, which would become Cricket’s Circle, and happened to be there that night. I was awestruck by not only how smart and articulate and interesting she was, but it was the first time I had ever seen a woman in the VC environment. I went up to her after and there was an immediate connection, enough that I was comfortable following up and asking her for more time together. Kirsten, I even remember what you were wearing -- it was this fabulous jacket, and I was like, I want to be friends with her!
Kirsten Green: She’s making me blush on the other end of the phone! I was so excited when Rachel followed up because I knew I wanted to get to know her better and learn about her company more. She had great energy, and we started a working relationship that grew into a friendship.
WE: How did it develop after that initial meeting?
RB: You always hear that you should have a mentor, and it’s like, How do I do that? You can’t walk up to someone and ask them to be a mentor. My relationship with Kirsten is a perfect representation of how a mentorship grows. We met for coffee months after that first time we met, and I walked her through what I was working on and asked for feedback. It launched a dialogue of sharing ideas and getting to know each other and eventually working together in a more formalized capacity.
KG: Mentorship happens over time. And you get out of it what you put into it. So many people come to us and ask, Hey, I’m looking for a mentor, can you help? That’s not how it works.
WE: Do you really get that a lot?
RB: Less often people will ask flat out for a mentor, but at least once or twice a week I’m introduced to someone where that is the expectation. I enjoy helping people, and supporting other entrepreneurs is a great way to grow. But beside the fact that you have to be mindful of your own time and only have so much of yourself to give, you can only be a great mentor to people you naturally connect with, both in personality and business. If you’re not excited about what they’re working on and want to share a million ideas, it’s going to feel forced.
WE: Kirsten, you eventually invested in Cricket’s Circle, and are an investor in Rachel’s current company, Rockets of Awesome. How did you end up going from friends to having a formal business relationship?
KG: I was just really impressed with Rachel. We had been on a great journey and she was showing so much promise, I wanted to make it formal and be on her team. I sought her out wanting to be her partner. She had laid a really strong foundation and was so thoughtful, committed and passionate.
RB: And now you’re stuck with me!
KG: Hopefully for life, forever.
WE: Did the investment add pressure to your relationship?
RB: Whenever you take anybody’s money, it’s scary. It’s just a whole other level of responsibility. The strength and/or weakness of entrepreneurs is, we’re idealists. We never think anything bad is going to happen. The idea that our business won’t be successful is impossible. We know challenges are ahead and that it will be hard, but the idea that it all could be a disaster is hard for an idealist to accept.
KG: I definitely have a set of people to answer to. There are limited partner investors at Forerunner, and we’re not here to invest with friends. Rachel and I had built a friendship based on a business conversation. It was a bonus that I was going to get to partner with someone that I had a great deal of respect with. We try to back those kinds of people all the time, but we don’t usually have this length of time to get to know them.
WE: How important is it to build networks of support with people who have shared experiences and mindsets?
RB: I’m a single founder, so that can be lonely and can be confusing. Having a network of people you connect with is not just a great outlet for sharing, asking questions and learning but for realizing you’re not alone and that everyone else is thinking and having and feeling the same experiences you are. And it’s less about men and women and more about aligning on interests. What I’ve been so impressed with since I entered this startup world is how generous and giving people are of their time and ideas and introductions. It creates this great dynamic, this great cycle of giving.
KG: This area of finance works off of collaboration. And you gain exponential knowledge and experience through that.
WE: How does your relationship function now? How do you balance the friendship with the mentorship with the formal business relationship?
RB: I’m currently trying to convince Kirsten to come hang out in the Hamptons, together with our families.
KG: I’m worried about the selfie you’re going to make me take for the Rockets of Awesome campaign! [laughs] Rachel and I do have scheduled calls, because I do that with all our portfolio companies, but we text all the time. That rapport has real value, and it’s a real privilege.
RB: When I met Kirsten, she was just starting her fund, and now she’s the hottest ticket in town. And she has not changed at all as people have figured out that she’s the hottest ticket in town. Her instinct, her availability, her ability to be in the moment—she’s the exact same person. She’s super human. I don’t know how she does it.