Miki Agrawal has launched multiple businesses, is an angel investor and also the author of “Do Cool Sh*t,” being published this week by HarperBusiness and available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Indiebound. I recently asked her about her book, the lessons in entrepreneurship she’s learned, and what advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurial minds.
So much advice for entrepreneurs seems to be about coming up with an idea or what to do after you’ve got your funding, but not about the long path between those steps. How does your book tackle that gap, and where did you look for advice or inspiration when you were first in that position?
I agree with you when you say that there is little information in the honest “how to’s” in fundraising. This is one of the reasons I wrote the book: to give specific details on things like “exactly how did I raise money when I never did before” or “exactly how did I get press to write about me” — understanding specifically what I said and did will allow readers to come up with things they could do too that make the most sense to them.
I remember when I first started going around and “setting up investor meetings.” I was nervous, I fidgeted a lot, I forgot some key points, didn’t have all of the answers on the spot and I just wasn’t myself.
After many failed attempts at one-on-one meetings in every setting possible (coffee shop, conference room, their office, my office, etc.), I took some time to evaluate my methodology.
I realized that the biggest, most glaring problem in all of these instances was simply that I wasn’t myself at all.
The sparkle and fire that I usually have when I am with my close friends just disappeared in these meetings. The way I talked with confidence about my business idea with my friends was replaced with a cracking voice and jumbled thoughts.
Why was this happening?!
That’s when the “ding ding ding” sound chimed in my head and everything became clear.
My new goal became to put myself in a place that made me most authentically me while I was pitching to investors so that my best self came out when I needed me to appear the most.
I asked myself, “In what settings did I feel most authentically myself?” and realized that it was when my sister Rads and I were hosting our friends at our house, just like we used to host people growing up with our family.
(It’s kind of like when you’re trying to impress a new boyfriend/girlfriend and you have them come and meet your friends so you can show them how cool you are or have them watch you play in your intramural soccer game so they can see you shine on the field because you’re really good at soccer. Same principle applies here.)
When I figured this out, I did a few key things:
- Organized a “Fundraising Dinner Party” for anyone and everyone I thought may/could possibly be interested in my idea and/or people who believed in me. The dinner party was free, so it made it easy for people to say yes.
- Did not cook the meal myself and did not run around trying to make the food while hosting people. (Go through Kitchit.com and hire chefs. Super cheap and you can focus entirely on connecting with your guests.)
- Invited only a couple of key close friends who make me super comfortable.
- As for the rest of the invitees, I invited only really interesting people so they could connect with each other at my dinner party and build friendships through me.
- Hosted it at a really cool venue so that it gives people the “ooh, ahhh” factor.
- Most importantly, I brought in someone else to give my pitch (preferably with a British accent) so that I could relax and focus on being my most awesome self (unless you are über-comfortable presenting your idea to a room full of people staring at you).
- Created a postcard with an “ASK” to all of the invitees to pledge their support to the mission. This postcard was placed on the tables during dessert and gave the perfect lead to follow-up with the potential investor.
All of this worked beautifully and I was able to quickly raise the money because I had “group buy-in” as well. At the events, you want peer pressure to work in your favor. Get everyone in the room to be smiling and nodding at your project and wanting to collectively support your project.
You’ve mentioned that your definition of success is “freedom of time.” But being an entrepreneur can take up a tremendous amount of time even if you love what you’re doing. Did you test whether Slice/WILD would give you that freedom of time? Do people sometimes simply have to get started and see what happens?
Yes, the beginning part is insane — you work all day and night — but the goal is to put enough systems in place where you can take yourself out of the equation. It became all about creating training manuals that allowed me to step away. I achieved freedom of time after six months of busting my tail to put the initial systems in place. Then, it’s all about small positive iterations.
What about readers who may not be ready to start a business, but have an entrepreneurial urge? How can they apply the book at their jobs and in their personal lives?
This book gives you the opportunity, and more importantly, the tools, to do something meaningful in your life, whether entrepreneurial or a side passion project. Or, simply the motivation to eliminate negative relationships in your life to make space for inspiring ones. And really, who doesn’t want to “do cool sh*t” in this very short lifetime? Everybody does. But people are scared. Scared of failing. Scared of their idea being rejected. Scared of going outside their comfort zone. If all of these societal feelings can stop paralyzing people from doing something, then magical things will happen.
This book teaches you to remember who your authentic self is, challenges you to push your boundaries and just put one foot in front of the other so you can truly suck the marrow out of life.