When I came up with the idea forFashioning Change, I had no idea what it meant to create a technology start-up. I just knew that I wanted to create something that would rival big fashion brands and e-commerce sites like Amazon, and I knew there was a lot I needed to learn. So I sought out resources to help me.
In the beginning, my search was frustrating. It seemed as though the only options I could find were women’s business organizations that would create “vision boards” for the companies they worked with using fourth-grade magazine collages or business programs led by people older than my father who had no understanding of emerging technology. I considered getting an M.B.A., but I didn’t want to go into debt learning business principles so that I could one day hope to build Fashioning Change; I wanted to build Fashioning Change. That’s why, when I came across the Founder Institute inTechCrunch, I knew I wanted to apply.
The Founder Institute is a global network of start-ups and mentors that helps entrepreneurs create meaningful and enduring technology companies. As a graduate of the program, Fashioning Change is proud and humbled to receive the support of mentors, advisers and investors who have built and sold some extremely successful companies. They are constantly being solicited for their time, advice and money, and we are very appreciative that they choose to work with us.
One of the ways I try to build our relationship with the people who support us is by sending them honest and thorough updates. I’m a big believer in proactive communication, internally and externally. Adeo Ressi, who created the Founder Institute, has credited us with having the best investor and stakeholder updates he has seen. I thought it might be valuable to share an example of how we handled updates and how they benefited Fashioning Change. Here is a link to a template that includes some sample information from an update that we sent last August when we introduced a gift-recommendation tool.
Who Gets The Updates: Investors, potential investors, mentors, advisers and other stakeholders or potential partners.
Why We Do Them: Sending out updates has helped build external confidence in Fashioning Change. As you can see in the example, we set benchmarks, which means that every time recipients get an e-mail, they can see whether we have achieved our goals. Doing this consistently shows that we have a plan and that we are executing it. In addition, creating and sending out updates has helped us rally support, deepen our relationships, open doors and obtain important insights. Most important, the updates keep the team honest and accountable for our key performance indicators.
How We Do Them: We are driven by key performance indicators. At the end of each week we plan our benchmarks for the coming week, and we make sure they correlate with our quarterly indicators (one side benefit: this helps us avoid “feature creep” — getting distracted by features we think would be cool but aren’t essential). So when the week starts, everyone knows what his or her plan of attack is and what we will be reporting on at the end of the week. To make sure there are no end-of-week surprises, we have a 15-minute key-performance-indicator meeting every day after lunch. Having these quick meetings every 24 hours helps ensure that we meet our goals and that there are no bottlenecks. Everyone on the team sends me a weekly report, and I plug the information into a template I’ve built inMailChimp, which we use to generate the updates.
What They Tell Us: When we send out updates, MailChimp allows us to track who actually opens them and what they click on. This lets us see which of our mentors and advisers are the most engaged. If I notice that someone I have been trying to cultivate hasn’t opened an e-mail in a while, I may send a quick note and schedule a phone call.
How They Help Us: Some weeks, creating a weekly update is the last thing I want to do, but I know that they go to people who genuinely care about Fashioning Change. The updates serve as a weekly reminder that we are not alone, that we have people cheering us on and ready to give us a kick when we need one.
Do you have any tips for cultivating and engaging stakeholders?