I first stumbled across Circular Board as the result of a regular morning walk with a friend. I was debriefing her on season one of Fig & Dove, a line of high end Christmas decorations I had designed and brought to market in just twelve months. After a year of whirlwind best guess decisions, the press and sales had justified that there was a market for our products, yet I wasn’t sure how to surmount the steep learning curve of a startup quickly enough to keep the business alive.
Through the power of virtual networking, this friend referred me to Circular Board, an online accelerator for women entrepreneurs. It was the answer to 1,000 questions spinning through my head and sleepless nights trying to figure out how I would connect the dots on the many facets and unknowns of a startup. After a 30 minute call with Carolyn Rodz, the founder of Circular Board, where I explained that I was not interested in pitching to investors and that I wanted to operate on a line of credit from the bank, I felt that I had found my tribe.
I applied (and was accepted) to the Circular Summit, a global conference for women entrepreneurs, investors, media and strategic partners held in Houston, which was the perfect blend of inspirational women speakers covering their experiences starting a business, financial models, and how to create profit for purpose (my favorite take away and a note I taped above my desk as soon as I came home). Intermittently, women raised their hands to pitch their companies, though I was too busy scribbling notes (mostly about terms to look up). While I loved the energy of everyone in the room, I was also acutely aware that I had even more to learn than I had thought before. I came home with a stack of business cards and the feeling that I had “camp friends” – women in business all over the country that I had connected with and could call for advice. My circle had greatly expanded as had my confidence that I could figure this out.
When Carolyn referenced the stark contrast between her and her husband starting businesses, and that her husband pitched to investors first and wrote his salary into the proposition while she tried to create her start up on a much lower risk model using her own savings, I realized this is exactly where I was less than three months ago. I am no longer there. Each week in the Accelerator Program I have learned years worth of information and have a completely different approach to all aspects of Fig & Dove: how to market it, create the right partnerships, scale it, and critical for me — how to finance this. Most importantly, I have a circle of ten women who are in the same boat as me and who are willing to share any connections and advice and who are working just as hard to get their businesses off the ground. Starting a business is hard, emotionally and physically. It’s nice to know that is the norm as I’m not sure I’d have had the wherewithal to get past the self doubt if I didn’t know everyone starting a business operates outside their comfort zone — every day!
I think most people cultivate a great idea, but feel they need a business partner to validate that it is a good idea and are comforted by the fact that the financial weight of the business falls on two shoulders and not on one. This was how I modeled our start up as well. Today, I am proudly the sole owner of Fig & Dove. I scribbled all of those terms down at the Circular Summit: angel investor, private equity, venture capital, but didn’t have a clue what they meant. Last week I made my first successful pitch and have an investor behind my business. Having capital is key to helping me scale my product line because I can produce in larger quantities and stock rather than making product as orders are placed. My profit margins will be greater and I can get to wholesale pricing which I could not do last season. It’s hard to feel a win when you’re in a startup because as soon as you cross one obstacle the next awaits, but writing this has allowed me to pause and reflect on how many gifts the Circular Board has given me.
Today it feels like Christmas Day at Fig & Dove.
Founder, Fig & Dove