When I think of Silicon Valley I think of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, eBay, and PayPal. I think of billionaires and golden sidewalks. I attended IPNLP over the weekend; a conference that brought founders and investors together for a 3-day event to learn, network, raise capital, and collaborate. I was there to search for a mentor and funding to accelerate the growth of my business. I was blown away by the level of talent that was there. From start ups to companies generating seven figures in revenue. Before the conclusion of the event, I was offered a buy out and funding.
It was a pleasure to hear each person’s story and see how far they have come. The event kicked off with networking and workshops. I attended “The Psychology of Success” workshop by Joe Greenstein and Semira Rahemtulla. Joe is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Flixster, which was acquired by Time Warner in 2000. It was hysterical when Semira called out Joe Greenstein for swearing. On the contrary, I think swearing adds authenticity to the person. There’s no bullshit. I love real people. In fact – I recently changed all my social media account settings to public. I don’t have anything to hide. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter, FB or Instagram.
People Remember Stories, Not What You Do! Here is mine:
I started my business during my first year in college. The reason I went to school was because I received full scholarships. I come from a low income family and growing up I remember watching MTV Cribs; it lit a fire under me. I wanted the Lamborghini and big house. I’d like to re-phrase. I will get the Lamborghini, the big house, and maybe even grillz like Lil John YEAHH – kidding (about the grillz)! I worked at the Hyatt throughout high school. I started as a bus boy and worked through the ranks. Busser –> Server –> Dishwasher –> Prep Cook –> Line Cook. My manager suggested I go to Culinary school, but I really wanted to go to school for Marketing/Business. However, I didn’t want to take out loans so I asked my manager to pay for it. About 10 organizations including the Hyatt, Charlie Trotter, IRA and more paid for my schooling and I was able to attend college on full scholarships. During my first year of college, I found a niche for chef uniforms and started selling chef coats with my friend Manny. That business grew to a full service apparel company and over the years I have added promotional products and printing to serve my client’s needs. My company was bootstrapped with $1600 and hustle. Below I’ve included points to keep in mind when telling your story.
Keys elements to consider when telling your story:
- Try to connect with the audience. You can do this by asking them questions first and then angle your story to connect with them.
- Have an emotional hook, but be real! People can smell BS from 100 miles away.
- Offer to help them! When you give, you will naturally receive.
Marketing versus Sales: How I left my mark!
Sales is when I knock on someones door. For example, “Hey, would you like to buy custom t-shirts with your logo?” Marketing is when someone knocks on your door. For example, “Hey, I want to buy custom t-shirts.” With such limited time, I needed to mass market myself instead of selling myself to one person at a time. Haha, you know what I mean.
I knew it was going to be impossible to shake each persons hand and develop a dialog with them, but I wanted to make sure that each person knew who I am and what I do. I stuffed my carry on bag with as many of my custom branded pens and sticky notes as possible! During the security check, yes, TSA was wondering what was in my bag. Hah. Of course, they look at the brown guy with suspicion. Haha.
I woke up at 6AM to enact some gorilla marketing. I took all of the pens the hotel had laid out on each desk in the conference room and replaced them with my custom branded pens and sticky notes. I was running up and down each aisle as fast as I could before anyone saw me.
The pens REALLY worked! I had many people walk up to me to meet me and learn who I was. Although many people thought that I only sell pens and sticky notes – I will make sure they read this blog to find out exactly what I do.
My favorite highlights:
- Acquiring a new client at 4:45AM in line at Starbucks at O’Hare Airport. Just because I turned around, smiled and said, “Hi”.
- Chatting about business and life with Walmart’s CFO on my flight back to Chicago
- Sitting down 1-on-1 with potential investors
- Hearing the talk by Aamir Virani, founder of Dropcam – aquired by Google for $550 million
- Learning about other Founders and how they started
I met some brilliant entrepreneurs and certainly made life-long friends. The community was outstanding. Everyone was like family. What I learned is that success is about nourishing contacts and developing relationships. I don’t remember who said this, “It’s not the grades you make, it’s the hands you shake,” but I made sure to shake as many hands as I could. One way you can nourish relationships is by creating a blog and sharing your story like I did. I wrote about how you can create your personal blog here.
If you were in attendance at IPNLP, please share in the comments below something you learned from the event.