The spark of entrepreneurship has always been what it is. Rewind a couple thousand years, and there was someone who thought, “Hey, I think my fellow caveperson might be into these wheel things,” and someone else who said, “Hmm, this fermented grape juice is kinda weird, but it makes me feel nice and I bet other people would dig it.”
The creative impulse of humanity is timeless. On the other hand, the tools we use to build on those ideas are forever changing. And to that end, the moment we’re living in right now is different than any before it.
The Girlboss Rally in NYC this month was something special, not in the least because it marked the debut of Startup Studio in partnership with Google Chromebook—a series of workshops that delivers education, products and capabilities to the creators of today. Chromebook moves as quickly as they do, meeting them in their need for a tool that is versatile, nimble, and seamlessly integrated into the connected world we live in.
Thus, we brought together candid, intimate advice from experts who’ve been through it all before to speak to the resources that have enabled them to get where they are. They shared invaluable insights with the next class of ambitious creators on why setting yourself up with the right tools is essential to startup success.
To kick things off, Rally attendees were offered workshops on “Brand-Building 101”; “Navigating the Wild World of Venture”; “What Good Internal Communication Looks Like”; “Productivity, Flexibility, & The Future”; and “Getting Your Finances In Order.” Workshop leaders demonstrated how seamless these tricks of the trade could be implemented on a Samsung Chromebook Pro and Acer Chromebook 15 CB515-1HT, which were set up for attendees in the studio.
And, while we always knew the spots in these sessions would be a hot commodity with all you hustlers out there, we didn’t anticipate just how overwhelming the response would be; spots for the workshops filled up within a matter of hours after we made the announcement.
Here’s the good news, though: If you weren’t able to make it off the waitlist into a session, or even if you couldn’t make it out to the Rally this go-round, you can still catch every workshop that went down with a digital ticket. Plus, we’ll be rolling out a webinar version of Startup Studio in the very near future, meaning you’ll soon be able to access to a veritable smorgasbord of essential small-business insights delivered straight to your devices.
Below, we break down the most essential bits of advice that shared at Startup Studio. So, file these away, get your hands on a digital ticket, and get a feel for what’s coming down the pipe.
What Good Internal Communication Looks Like
With more tools for communication at our disposal than ever before, the things that are supposed to make us more efficient can often make us less efficient if used without awareness or boundaries. Reese Evans, Founder of YesSupply, struck at the heart of the issue, reminding us what good communication looks like: “When you can share with your team what it is you wanna create and you can communicate it with your team, it makes a powerful movement.”
She went on to share some terrific, habit-busting tips using Chromebooks:
- Schedule specific times to check your email, in your calendar, two or so times a day
- Only touch the same thing once. For example: if you open an email, deal with it or take some action then and there.
- Streamline frequent communication updates to live on Google Docs (preferably just one) to eliminate the need of multiple emails.
Dara Deshe Segal, founder and CEO of Simply Framed, echoed that sentiment and the need for clear delineation of what constitutes work and what doesn’t: “The software is helping you do your work; it’s not your work.” Deshe Segal then went on to share some of her most effective Gmail hacks, walking attendees through creating new tabs and implementing an autoarchive setting on their Chromebooks in order to keep their inboxes manageable.
Navigating The Wild World Of Venture
People wanting to invest in your company is undoubtedly a good thing. But is it always the best thing? There’s much to consider when it comes to raising venture capital, and pitfalls abound. Heather Hartnett, founding partner and CEO of Human Ventures, and Lindsey Taylor Wood, founder and CEO of The Helm, broke it down for attendees. So, how do you know if you need venture? And if you do need it, how do you get it?
To start, Wood cautioned against tunnel vision: “It’s not just about funds. It’s also thinking about the types of support that you need as a company.”
And Hartnett agreed that clarity of priorities and vision is essential: “Before you go talk to investors, you should know where you are with your business and how much money you need to get your business to the next level.”
“It’s not just about funds. It’s also thinking about the types of support that you need as a company.”
And of course, preparation is everything. When it comes to presenting your company to the people who can provide you with make-or-break resources, conveying your message in a compelling, convincing, and authoritative way is essential. “It’s the new business plan,” said Wood.
“You are selling a vision, not where you are right now,” Hartnett added.
Productivity, Flexibility, And The Future
Study after study shows that greater flexibility in the workplace is a top priority for job seekers. And while many companies say they get it, do they really? Annie Dean is the co-founder and CEO of Werk, a job-search platform that focuses on flexible jobs for mid to upper-level professional women, and she brought her expertise and insight to this buzzy topic.
Citing a statistics that 70 percent of women who exited the workforce after having children would have stayed in their jobs if they were permitted greater flexibility, Dean highlighted how this plays an integral part in the gender pay gap. “The structure of work is systematically holding women back,” she said. “You shouldn’t be trading flexibility for dollars, especially if you’re going to do your job just as well as your co-workers that are at the office 9 to 5.”
“You shouldn’t be trading flexibility for dollars, especially if you’re going to do your job just as well as your co-workers that are at the office 9 to 5.”
How does one go about breaching that conversation? Dean advised preparation, preparation, preparation: “Approach it is from a business-first, strategic way. Not when you’re in a moment of crisis, but after you consider what your needs are, how your employer can address those for you, and how you’re going to enforce that flexible schedule to make it work.”
Getting Your Finances in Order
Amidst all the uncertainty that comes with starting a business, there is one thing that is almost always true: Money is messy—especially in the early stages. And they way you handle money can make or break your business—literally. When it comes to figuring out what funds you need to allocate and where, Lindsay Bressler, senior vice president of finance, operations, and strategy at Hatch, had a valuable piece of insight for entrepreneurs trying to strike the right balance between paying their bills at work and paying their bills at home:
“I suggest paying yourself a modest salary, say 30-50% of your market rate.”
“As a founder, you want to put every dollar into your business, and it feels unfair to take any of it for yourself. But this creates an unhealthy dynamic. I suggest paying yourself a modest salary, say 30-50% of your market rate. It’s important to make sure that at the end of the day you stay inspired to keep doing what you’re doing and the lack of salary isn’t a distraction.”
Designing a logo and picking a color scheme are the fun parts—but that’s not all there is to building a strong brand. It takes some serious consideration and foresight. In this session, Kiki Von Glinow, founder of Toast Media Group, emphasized the importance of avoiding the young-brand mistake of aiming too wide: “When you’re trying to reach everyone, you reach no one.” She walked attendees through a presentation on their Chromebooks highlighting the way companies like Outdoor Voices and Netflix have managed to create an engaged relationship with their audience by speaking to them on authentic, no-marketing-BS terms.
“When you’re trying to reach everyone, you reach no one.”
Denise Lee, founder and CEO of activewear brand Alala, added to that with an emphasis on keeping your specific customers’ needs in mind: “Focus on her. Know what she wants. Serve her and make her life better because she has your brand in her life.”
Catch full videos of the Startup Studio workshops with a digital ticket, and stay tuned for additional, can’t-be-missed Startup Studio webinars, coming at you in the very near future.