November 22, 2013

How I became an entrepreneur without even realizing it...

I had every intention of blogging my little heart out about Global Entrepreneurship Week since Monday but then, our new business got in the way of things. Funny that. I also didn't realise that the finals of a competition I entered coincided with #GEW so I'll dedicate this post to the last few months of my life..

2 and a half months ago, my friend Sheena and I entered our Island Sitters agency in to the Automotive Art Entrepreneurship competition. We saw it as a great opportunity to push ourselves and the Island Sitters concept even further, working side by side with the competition deadlines...not realizing that this would require sacrificing our every single breathing moment to this competition and our business. We were pushed a lot further than we had anticipated and in hindsight, I'm so grateful for it. What started with a simple, straightforward 'side business' has now developed into a full-time start up thanks to the competition.

The competition was advertised in September, and the first phase required a 2 page concept paper. From there, our entry was narrowed down to the Top 10 from over 75 entries.

Phase 2 included a 15 page business plan, outlining things we didn't even know existed. Neither Sheena nor I had ever taken business course, far less started something ourselves. So we batted our eyelashes at our amazing boyfriends and family members, asking for help wherever possible. We couldn't have done any of this without our support team! We also attended the workshops which were organised by Automotive Art and the UWI Business School and they were so incredibly helpful. I also had a chance to meet some of the other contestants (sussing out the competition) and talk about their experiences so far. 

When we heard that we made it to the Top 5 we nearly peed ourselves. Not only out of excitement, but genuine fear; the final round included a detailed financial forecast and a 20 minute business pitch - Dragon's Den style! Cue more hours and late nights and weekends sat around Sheena's dining table trying to figure out Excel, sipping way too much coffee and tea. This, coupled with the actual running of Island Sitters as well, put quite a bit on our plates.

It was on one of these late nights, after declining yet another social event, that Sheena and I turned to each other and said "Wait, We're entrepreneurs now." It wasn't a very grand moment, it was more of a harsh dose of reality: THIS is what they're talking about when people tell you it's not going to be easy. It's fucking hard work and sucks sometimes. But we kinda laughed about it and continued with our graphs and pitch deck.

We amped things up in the final week, tweaking our presentation and doing practice pitches on many  occasions. THANK YOU again to everyone who endured these, you don't understand how much it meant to us. Our presentation was ripped apart and put back together piece-by-piece thanks our significant others. Those boys knew how to get the best out of us and we love them for it.

Pitch day came and went, but not without a fair share of of stress and anxiety. We finally did our thing in front of 5, ahem, male business execs. I was shocked to see that a competition of this magnitude wouldn't even have ONE female judge. Hopefully they will next year...

Needless to say, it was the fastest 20 minutes of my life.  Sheena and I rocked it as a team because we had practised SO much and we know our business inside out. We may have cracked a few awkward jokes here and there, AND I forgot a few chunks of my pitch but nobody noticed...We've been eating, breathing and sleeping Island Sitters for the last few months and we covered all of our bases. We received great feedback from the judges, who are all successful businessmen. I was really proud of both of us after walking out of that conference room! We were giddy with happiness and relief and treated ourselves to an afternoon swim and a yummy dinner with some of our favourite people that night.

Tonight we'll be attending the prize giving ceremony and networking with all those involved in the competition. We don't know where Island Sitters placed out of the Top 5 finalists and it's freaking me out, not going to lie. We're both pretty competitive and gave this competition our all, not to mention feeling like we've just completed our second Master's degree.

Fingers crossed peeps, it's going to be an epic night.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh I missed reading this post earlier but now that I know all the effort you guys put into this competition and your presentation esp. in front of an alllll male panel, I can't help but think "Girl Power!" haha. Again, Congrats Malou! You and Sheena deserve it :)