CS Lewis – Author, novelist, and one of the most influential thinkers of his time once said, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” Yes, I know it’s quite a cliche to start a post with a quote but I live by quotes and this is one that I have been pondering over the past week. So, I thought I would share the reason why it has been quite impactful for me. Recently, my business partner, Ethan David, and I were able to attend the national Texas Christian University – Values and Ventures business competition. Over the past few months, we went through the initial two rounds of the competition and then were told that we were one of the 42 teams to make it to the final rounds and were invited to compete at the event hosted on the TCU campus in Fortworth, Texas. As you can tell by my introductory quote, we didn’t place, but I want to focus on the true meaning of CS Lewis’ statement. While we didn’t win money, this experience was most beneficial for the success of Resense and our future.
To kick off the event, on Thursday night, we had a “meet and greet” for us to meet the other teams and the judges. This event was amazing. In the beginning, it caught us off guard. Ethan and I did not really prepare a soft pitch that we were going to casually be giving to each of these teams. So, when we got to the event space and we met our first team, it was a little bit of a shaky start. We knew our stuff, and quickly figured out a rhythm and what we had to say, but we realized the importance of these pitches. We were meeting these people for the first time and within minutes we needed to be able to clearly explain what Resense is, what we do, and have them understand and grasp the concept. It’s a lot in a few minutes but it was extremely rewarding. By giving probably 50-60 of these soft pitches, we soon learned new, better ways of explaining certain aspects of our companies allowing for a quicker and greater understanding of different concepts, but we also learned our flow as business partners and how the 10-minute pitch for the judges was going to go the next day. The third and probably most beneficial outcome to come from this meet and greet was being able to meet the judges. These were all C-level employees, business owners, and working professionals who were all there to help guide and mentor these teams. Each conversation that we had with these judges was truly impactful but also encouraging for Ethan and I. They gave us recommendations but mainly encouraged our idea and expressed interest in the box and how it could have impacted their lives.
The next morning was pitch day. To say that I was nervous was an understatement. I probably made Ethan run through the presentation a good 50 times that morning, to make sure that we knew it front and back and were ready to pitch in front of our panel of judges. To set the scene a little bit, there are 42 total teams that pitched. These 42 teams were broken into 6 “flights” and in order to move to the finals, you need to be first or second in your flight. So, we were the last team to pitch in our flight. I hated the anticipation but the closer it got the more ready I felt.
I should not have been worried. When it came time to pitch, despite technical difficulties, we nailed it. I honestly do not know how it could have gone better. It was by far the best run-through that we had done and that was the BEST feeling ever. When it got time to Q&A, the judges were beyond encouraging but did ask us some good questions that we had not considered and that inspired us to pivot and make some changes in the future. I honestly can say that I had fun. I loved hearing constructive criticism because it allowed us to see the holes in our company and where we can improve… all free advice from some of the most successful people in their industry.
We took so much out of the Q&A session and were simply relieved that the pitch part was over. That night we found out that we did not make it on to the next round. We were disappointed, but honestly, we knew that we did our best and so we were very ok with it. This also gave us the opportunity to relax and enjoy the rest of the competition. At this point, I was sick and almost lost my voice completely, so I was grateful for the respite from speaking. Ethan and I focused on networking as much as possible. We met as many people as we could and the next day we actually got to speak 1×1 with the main speaker of the event, Barb Stegemann. If you do not know who she is, she is one to look up to. She is the founder and CEO of the 7 Virtues, the top-selling brand in Sephora and is probably one of the most successful social entrepreneurs that I have met. Her heart and ambition were inspiring but just hearing her encouragement for Ethan and me with Resense was truly wonderful. She kept reminding us that failure is necessary. She had gotten rejected from Sephora 4 times before they called her, and she encouraged us to continue competing and sharing about our company. What we took out of talking with her, listening to her talk, and watching her documentary, however, was the opportunity that we have as a company to go out of our way to create value and impact with our product. We can give back in so many different ways and we had not really thought of that before. She encouraged us to pursue redemptive opportunities for our product and we are. She was just one example of the many inspiring individuals that encouraged us throughout the weekend.
So, to close this out I want to go back to the quote I started with. “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” Ethan and I did not make it to the final round of this competition. However, it propelled us forward on a trajectory that we would have never even considered if we never attended this event. We gained so many resources, connections, and new friends that are going to be a big part of the future of Resense and we are so grateful for that. We also realized that it was an honor to just be there. TCU Values and Ventures was named one of the top undergraduate business competitions in the world and to say that we made it to the final rounds in itself is an accomplishment in our books. This is not the end of the competition circuit for Resense. We are so grateful and excited because we made it to the top 25 of another national business competition called E-fest in Minneapolis. We are taking everything we learned from TCU and are ready to go give it our all at E-fest at the end of the month! Just remember, failure is necessary and look for every opportunity you have to get advice, learn things, and meet new people whenever you can. You never know who could give you that little push that will change your path forever.