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To Get People to Back Your Ideas, First Find the Right People Tap relationships – and needs – to get traction for your projects.

By Poornima Vijayashanker

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Recently an entrepreneur reached out to me with a question that hit home. She said she wanted to strike out on her own but the idea struck her as lonesome. She asked me, "How do you get people to believe in you, and support the work you're doing both emotionally and financially?"

That's a good question. I know I've had moments where halfway through a project I felt lonesome and overwhelmed by everything I needed to bring the project to life. Just last year, I decided I wanted to write my first book but then stopped short, realizing all the things I didn't know how to do, like finding an editor and printing and distributing copies.

This project, and others, taught me the importance of reaching out for help, both for the support and the backing that makes any project succeed.

Related: Coping With Anxiety, Finding Support: One Entrepreneur's Story

1. Recruit your close friends. Overwhelmed with my book project, instead of working, I popped in one of my favorite teen movies: 10 Things I Hate About You. In it, a character can't date a girl he likes unless her sister has a date as well. So, two of the characters, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and David Krumholtz, decide to pay someone to date the sister.

But to pay the date, they'd need money. Which leads to Krumholtz's character's lightbulb moment: "Yeah, well, what we need is a backer." Joseph, then proceeds to ask what a backer is, and David responds, "Someone with money who's stupid."

This was a lightbulb moment for me, as well. The characters had it partially right. Backers are important. But you want them to be smart, not stupid, and to have a vested interest in your success. I began telling my closest friends about the project and most importantly – what I needed.

While none of them had written a book themselves, that didn't stop them from helping me. One friend recommended someone she knew who was offering editing services while others suggested printers and designers. Slowly, I gathered the resources I needed to bring the book to life.

2. Find kindred spirits. Of course, you can't just depend on your friends. While it was wonderful to have their help and know they believed in me, I needed others to believe too. I wanted to the book to have a wide audience. And since I was bootstrapping the project, marketing and selling it myself, I also wanted a sponsorship to cover print costs.

I made a list of about a 100 companies that I thought would be interested, had my assistant look up their contact info, and then proceeded to send them all a short email explaining introducing Femgineer, the book, and ask if they'd be interested in offering a small sponsorship.

But we didn't email them just once, we proceeded to email them a few times until we got a clear response.

Out of the 100, 15 people actually responded to one of our emails. I hopped on a call with each of those people. I started the conversation out by asking them about their company values, goals, and what caught their attention about Femgineer. Instead of just asking for the sponsorship outright, I crafted an offer, emphasizing how I could showcase them in the book, and how it would be aligned with their company's values and goals.

I ended up convincing 7 companies to sponsor and help market the book to their audience. That success rested on just three factors:

  • Communicating my passion for the project.
  • Finding alignment with companies in a position to support the book.
  • Crafting an offer, knowing not just what I wanted but how it could help the other person.

It's about engaging with people and remembering: nothing great is ever done alone. Respect that, and you'll find the right help for the right projects.

Related: To Hit Your Goals, Get Help

Poornima Vijayashanker

Founder of Femgineer

Poornima Vijayashanker is the founder of Femgineer, an education services company dedicated to helping tech professionals and entrepreneurs better themselves in product development, communication, and leadership.

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