Photo: Suncayr, the winning pitch, is helping you never get a sunburn again. 

I wasn’t really sure what I’d get out of the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp.

Would I be laughed out of the room? Would the mentors be interested in my idea? Would I be able to pitch my company in three minutes?

After surviving, nay thriving, through the first round of the bootcamp in late August, I was pumped but nervous for Round 2 this past week.

We spent three days talking about financing, venture capital and data analytics. And we pitched. A lot. I practised in front of my co-founder, my mum, strangers. A stuffed teddy bear I unearthed from my closet.

Like all good bootcamps, or reality TV shows, there was a twist during the final session. Instead of having all 22 companies pitch for the top prizes in front of a live audience, only the top 10 would. And, oh yes, we would be helping to vote our peers to the pitch.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t make the top 10.

Here’s the deal: On Day 1 of Session 2, we were told that we’d entered survivor mode. Having gone through graduate school grant competitions, I expected the mood to become aggressive, because we were in it to win it.

Instead…the group remained friendly and supportive. We took the time to listen and give feedback to each other’s pitches. Women, technically strangers, took the time to offer pointers on where I could improve and feedback on what they liked about my pitch deck and presentation style.

Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t about to go braid each other’s hair and sing Kumbaya. This wasn’t a girly moment of feelings.

Rather, it was a testament to the strong, dynamic and competitive business people participating in the bootcamp. The kind Communitech helps support daily.

“Why wouldn’t you want to compete against the best of the best?” was the answer I received from several women when I asked why they were helping me.

So I persevered through the days, fuelled by caffeine and encouragement. My hardest struggle was internal: I felt like an impostor. I was surrounded by women working day in and day out on their companies. They were taking business calls during the day, and launching beta tests. I was just in the process of launching my company. We barely had a splash page up on our website.

It was at the end of Day 1 of the September bootcamp that I admitted these feelings to Alayne Hynes, Communitech’s Talent Programs Manager and the lead bootcamp organizer. She was succinct in her response:

“Get over it,” Hynes said. I was then told to go home, have a glass of wine and keep practising my pitch.

So I did.

The 10 women who pitched their ideas are all ambitious, competitive and intelligent business minds. All 25 of them sat in the pitch competition to cheer each other on.

I’ve used the bootcamp to help kickstart my company. I’ve signed up for Communitech’s Startup Services program and I’m working with a manager and meeting mentors. While I’ve worked for Communitech for years, I had never stepped back and appreciated how many hands touch a startup to help turn an idea into a successful business.

With my co-founder, I’ll be launching in Winter 2015. And I’ll be applying to more pitch competitions to keep stretching my comfort zone and listening to feedback.

Tough love, like “get over it,” is sometimes what inspires us to keep moving forward. Entrepreneurship is scary and hard, full stop. It can be lonely, isolating and frustrating. And as long as we acknowledge this, and make available communities like the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp, I believe you’ll see more women push forward and succeed in dreaming big ideas and making them a reality.

***

I’ll be using this weekend to recharge before the start of a busy October that will feature the CityAge conference and a sold-out Techtoberfest. Why don’t you take a break this weekend? I see and hear that… the Working Centre is hosting a series of all-candidate info sessions to inform you about the Oct. 27 municipal elections. The first session, focused on regional council, begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 1 at the Queen Street Commons Café on Queen Street between Charles and King streets in Kitchener… Household China and Gifts has a Friday Night Supper Club for the adventurous eater. Head to the newly renovated store at 300 King St. N. in Waterloo for a secret five-course menu. Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m., and you can register online… You can Shop with a Chef this Saturday, Oct. 4. Join Nick Hatten and Mike Lurz of Breadbaron Sandwiches as they shop and talk at the Kitchener Market and New City Supermarket. The free event starts at 9 a.m. Registration is required, as you’ll be joining the Breadbaron guys for lunch afterward.

 

About The Author

Kayleigh Platz

Kayleigh Platz is a storyteller and community relations manager for Communitech. Born, raised and schooled in Waterloo Region, she holds two degrees from the University of Waterloo and is interested in new media, social networks and making connections.