I have an investor ya’ll!!! (in a good ol’ southern drawl)
I knew my days at Opportunity.Up would grow me as an entrepreneur, but I didn’t anticipate it was going to be SO pivotal…
January 9th, 10th, and 11th were profound days in my life as an entrepreneur. Truth be told, in my personal life as well. These are the kind of days that cause you to reflect back on everything it took to get you to this point. It’s a moment that also shifts how you project your life forward to something more bright than you were able to envision before.
Let me share the back story…
My background is clinical social work. I have a LCSW, and worked with troubled teens in different capacities for over 15 years. In 2007 I got a debilitating heart issue that eventually led me to make a difficult decision in 2010 to leave my career and the life I had built on it’s resources. What was I going to do now? What COULD I do now, with this heart issue mitigating my ability to work as hard as I was used to doing? I’ve spent almost 4 years learning that answer, which has led me to the depths of my soul to face my deepest fears, and also taught me the beauty of finding joy in even the smallest things.
Anyway, as part of this 4 year journey I was led to start this company, The Allergy Friendly Vegetarian, for people who are vegetarian and vegan with multiple food allergies, and to launch the allergy friendly dry muffin mix as our first product. This is something I NEVER saw myself doing. I resisted my husband’s direction to do this for a couple years.
When I “officially” decided to move forward with this endeavor, I started seeking out free resources and mentors for new start ups. I figured there MUST be something for women in business, so in June of 2013 I did an internet search and came across the Women’s Economic Development Agency (WEDA), and began meeting with Wendi Dillard for start up coaching. Connections are important, and this one has proved pivotal!
Now, WEDA was sending me updates. I was interested in attending the Friday night Shark Tank networking events advertised in their new space, in Opportunity Hub, at the 200 Peachtree building, but had not been successful in all it would take to get me there and back on a Friday night (it ends at 11 p), when hubby generally leaves for his out of town gig early the next morning.
In November, I see something called Kingonomics would be featured at the Friday night event in December.
I read on… It piqued my interest… I dig deeper…
It’s a system of 12 currencies applied to business, “inspired by the economic ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as interpreted through the lens of serial entrepreneur, investor, author and consecrated bishop, Rodney Sampson[.] Kingonomics is the definitive access to capital platform providing access to expert knowledge and expert practitioners in innovation, entrepreneurship and investment.” (Kingonomics website http://www.kingonomics.com)
OH! I’ve gotta be there for THIS one!
Maybe it was the social worker in me inspired by Dr. King’s message in that platform. Maybe it was the spiritualist in me who LOVES the beautiful marriage of eastern and western spiritual doctrine. Or maybe it was the timid first time entrepreneur longing for the answer to “How am I gonna create wealth and maintain my spiritual principles?”… Maybe ALL of those, honestly.
And, that night I saw before me something I wanted to connect with. Someone before me who I felt understood me, and where I was coming from as a new start up, how to help me create solutions to perceived obstacles, and understood where I was aiming… He inspired me to aim higher, AND to remember my spiritual teacher, Master Choa Kok Sui‘s saying (paraphrasing), “It’s not how high you go up the ladder, but how many people you take with you that makes you successful.”
Rodney was there promoting an upcoming conference, and his movement, Kingonomics. His book is profound, with timeless spiritual knowledge applied to the world of business.
This was the “soul” I needed as I stepped into the business world, to know I could be wildly successful and remain in alignment with my spiritual ethics. I wasn’t even conscious this was one of my driving fears until I was sitting in front of the solution. I made a decision that night I HAD to attend the conference, and I approached him with a proposal to work for a ticket. Without hesitation, he said, “Give me a call, and we will make sure you are there.” He was walking in alignment with the philosophy of his teachings… Dr. King’s teachings, and with the teachings of ALL great spiritual teachers.
I probably hounded him a little bit. Until it was set that I was going. Now, my job was to follow through on my part; follow up with him AND show up! …joyfully capable.
The funny thing is… two days before the conference, I was actually gifted a ticket. I’d be lying if I denied the thought selfishly crossed my mind to use the ticket instead of still volunteering… It would have been SO much easier on the health of my heart. We ALL have that selfish voice inside. Yet, I KNEW in my spirit I needed to follow through, because Rodney had met my need without ANY hesitancy. If I could do ANY small thing to be of service to this event, I needed to be the vessel for that (and rest my butt off later…lol).
THIS ONE DECISION would prove to be my biggest blessing for these three days… THIS ONE SACRIFICE my greatest reward for my life as an entrepreneur so far!
See… I needed something to happen for me to create the remaining money for my start up costs, so I can even get this beautiful baby I call “my business” off the ground. I’ve been making steps forward in faith that I’m in alignment with my purpose, even though I don’t see exactly how I will get to the destination all the time. I went into the conference as a volunteer with this same spirit… That I could meet someone who would lead to someone who could lead me to a person willing to help me realize my dream of birthing this business into the world.
Thursday was about the investors; venture capitalists and angel investors, as well as those eager to step in to that role.
I was one of the few start up entrepreneurs blessed to be with this small group of VERY influential business people. Friday and Saturday, I was told, would be full of about 500+ attendees, all vying for time with the “money” people. But, this day was a very intimate Day 1 event.
As a volunteer, I was asked to help out the Master of Ceremonies with a specific task. She needed her business cards retrieved from Kinkos. Something told me to look at them. They did not look like the type of business card that I would envision a very successful entrepreneur handing out to people, but “hey”, maybe she was just in a pinch.
I was led to say something to Dr. Venus Reese, and she was NOT happy with the cards. I offered to go back to sort it out… She was feeling “pressed”, because she was supposed to be on stage in a matter of minutes and needed these cards. So, I did my best to soothe her and to accommodate what she needed to get this done.
…new images on my flash drive… another trip to Kinko’s, unsuccessfully, and when I got back to O-Hub she was already on stage kicking off the event. I communicated everything with her partner, and offered to help again if needed.
This might all seem a trivial description of details about my morning as a volunteer, but THIS one series of acts was what led to my investor later that day.
I saw Dr. Venus later that day. She seemed frustrated about the cards, and expressed gratitude for my help. She asked me about my business. So, I dove in to my short description (some call it an elevator pitch) of The Allergy Friendly Vegetarian and Muff’n Stuff. She became noticeably excited, as she began talking about her own challenges with food.
Then came the discussion that changed my world! She asked me about where I am with my venture, am I in stores, etc… “Not yet, I’m looking for ways to raise the remaining start up capital for all the legalities to launch.” She asked my number and I told her. “That’s all you NEED?”
“If that’s all you need, I can give you that.”
Tears sprang into my eyes… like one of those crazy movie scenes I NEVER thought would be me…
“Yes, why are you so surprised?” She starts telling me about the impression I made on her, how much she appreciated the help I had given her, and helping her to remain in a calm space, and THIS was the reason she felt compelled to help me…
Wow! I was cry-ING, and she started to cry too… “Don’t make me cry; *giggle* it will ruin my makeup.”
This is how REAL women do business ya’ll! We don’t hold back the tears (even though it messes up our beautiful makeup…lol)
Part of my tears were for the fact I would not be standing in that spot with her in that moment if I had selfishly taken advantage of that free ticket…
After we got through the tears, Dr. Venus became excited again… This was HER first toe in the waters of angel investing. She started walking around saying, “I’m an AN-GEL! I’m an angel investor!” It was SO cute!
…and she is just that! She is MY “angel”! I will forever see her as such! She is providing me resources and an opportunity to get this business going in an expeditious way, and more importantly and of even greater value to me, she is giving me sisterhood with someone who sees a “ME” that I don’t yet see… and she kept talking about this all weekend. She took me under her beautiful wings… We gabbed like girlfriends… she coached me like a mentor would… and we played like sisters, as we connected with some of the most beautiful spirits in business the rest of the conference.
We left the discussion of details for the next day, as we RUSHED off to tell the Co-Founders of O-Hub, Earl Coleman and Rodney Sampson about our new adventure together. Earl snapped a picture of us.
This is my angel… investor
We HAD to tell them! This was one of the important aspects of what this conference was all about…
Connecting entrepreneurship, investment, and innovation
The rest of the conference I floated on air, and made some other very important business connections and learned more about being a successful business owner.
And I thought ALL weekend about how if I were to change one single decision I would have missed out on this. The people I was in the same room with for these three days were such compelling evidence of all the internal spiritual work I’ve done to transform myself. We only attract who and what we are (thank you Kenya and Carl Stevens for that lesson) and THIS reflection was something for me to behold.
I’m SO glad when opportunity knocked, I answered.