I respect entrepreneurs and enjoy the challenge of working with them, but admit that I don’t always understand them. So I’m delighted when someone is generous enough to allow me to peek behind the curtain and see how they think. This kind of self-disclosure (that inspires others) doesn’t happen often and when it does and I’m there, I consider myself lucky.
This was the case at a recent Evansville Tech on Tap meet-up where Kate Doerksen, founder and CEO shared her start-up journey with her company, Ditto, an e-commerce designer eyewear business with patented 3-D virtual try-on technology. Kate is a native of Evansville and graduated from Ball State with a degree in Entrepreneurship. She started her professional life at Citi in M&A; became a free agent in the WNBA and ended up at Stanford, where she completed her MBA and where she started Ditto in 2012.
Ditto’s headquarters are in San Francisco, but the back office operations, accounting, finance, fulfillment, software engineering, etc. are located in Evansville. So, while she was in town on a business trip last year, she took the time to speak to group of entrepreneurs and business owners to share her very personal experience starting Ditto, including the scary moments (the trough of sorrow),the scarier moments (crash of ineptitude) and rewards (entering the promised land). She was also willing to give advice to others who were starting a business. Here are a few of her words of wisdom:
- I do not believe in making a Plan B- it just messes up your Plan A
- Do your homework, talk to customers, be intellectually honest with yourself and develop deep convictions about your business’ reason to be
- Find cofounders that are NOT like you; complementary POVs and skill sets will make you great
- Don’t let someone else’s story define your situation; people only know their story
- Don’t write business plans
- Create presentations that are succinct and make you better at verbalizing your story
- Get constant feedback from customers
- Don’t get lost in your own BS, get out there and get feedback from actual customers
- Follow every single lead you get; it’s time consuming but worth it
- Never leave a meeting/call without asking “Do you know anyone else that I might be able to talk to about this?”
I’ve given Kate’s advice to clients to help motivate them during the rough times. Hearing her share her candid experience is one of the best ways to eliminate the feelings of isolation and doubt when someone is starting their own new venture. After all, who knows the pain of the trough of sorrow and the high of entering the Promised Land better than another entrepreneur?