Resource Nights: Top Three Tips for Entrepreneurs

This recap of the Business Plan Practicum (Resource Nights) course at UW features three tips all entrepreneurs need to know from Ambika Singh, CEO of Armoire.Each week you can read a recap of the previous Entrepreneurship Resource Nights (Business Plan Practicum) session. This past week, instructor John Zagula (founder, Ignition Capital) lead a class featuring Ambika Singh, CEO of Armoire. Lectures will be recorded and the links posted to our website weekly.

 

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

“Inertia is a powerful and scary thing–it keeps us on track, makes us move forward, get up in the morning. We are routine-oriented, inertia-driven creatures, so if you want to do something different then what you were doing before, you need external pressure to change your trajectory.” – Ambika Singh

FIRST RESOURCE NIGHTS SESSION

The guest speaker for the evening was Ambika Singh, CEO of Armoire, a clothing rental company based in Seattle that uses customer data to power a personalized retail experience. Ambika shared her startup journey and how she came up with the idea. She started with just 20 items of clothing and the company has grown 4x in the last 12 months. Armoire now has an inventory of over 25,000 items.

Watch the class in its entirety now or skip ahead to 54:46 to hear from Ambika

AMBIKA’S TOP THREE TIPS FOR ENTREPRENEURS

Reverse Inertia

As noted in the quote above, Ambika believes you need external pressure to change your trajectory. She created that pressure by applying to an accelerator program, applying to a pitch competition, and adopting aggressive targets to reach new goals. Even now, 3.5 years later, she routinely rethinks assumptions that are known to be true by asking for outside advice from people who are on the inside, and recognizing when internal groupthink is preventing innovation. As she said in class, “don’t believe anything you ‘know’ to be true.”

Sell Stuff

Ambika pointed out that “building cool technology is really fun” but you have to ask yourself does anyone want to buy it? She suggests figuring that out on Day 1. If your business is based on a transaction, make sure you have early indication that people really want to buy the thing.

Passion Produces Insight

Ambika told the class “I think about the business all the time. I’m fully obsessed. I think about this thing all the time because I like this problem and my view of the world is through this different lens, and that has helped me in the hiring process to hire people who are like that as well. As an employer, you’re capturing 40 hours of people’s time–but if they really love the problem and they’re passionate about it and they’re curious, they’re going to be on the soccer field with other soccer moms talking about stuff and thinking about your problem.” For her, what has been valuable about the word “passion” and trying to hire for it is that the people who are curious are more innovative and productive because they are thinking about your problem all the time. She suggests starting a business that consumes your idle mind–and finding teammates who are the same. “You won’t be bored thinking about it–and in that way–you’ll out-innovate the people who are just showing up for a job.” Ambika strongly believes that passion multiplies the effectiveness of the individual and of the team.

Ambika also spoke to empowering women to take charge and start their own businesses. She believes data about women running companies–particularly technology companies–in terms of venture capitalist dollars flowing in their direction is something that has to be fixed. However, what the story doesn’t tell is the fierceness of the group. There are probably 10-20 women in Seattle who she calls her “She-Dragons.” She told the class “they are on text with me about crazy stuff you shouldn’t be texting about, like ‘what should I pay my CFO–I have 30 minutes to decide!” She calls it a strong competitive advantage that any potential “She-Dragons” thinking about starting companies will be walking into the “most powerful network of incredible women who will pull you up in all kinds of different ways.”

ENTREPRENEURSHIP RESOURCE NIGHTS LECTURE SERIES

Resource Nights (ENTRE 440/540 Business Plan Practicum) are each Tuesday starting January 7, 2020 from 6 to 7:50 pm in PACCAR Hall 192 (Shansby Auditorium). Can’t make it in person? Lectures will be recorded and the links posted to our website weekly. View the Resource Night schedule for links and complete listing of topics and guest speakers.

WEEK TWO AND THE PANEL OF PAST PARTICIPANTS

Tuesday, January 14 at 6:00 pm in PACCAR Hall, Shansby Auditorium (room 192)

Students will get a chance to pitch their business ideas and recruit for a team at the beginning and end of class. The special guest is Renee Wang, CEO and founder of Castbox, who is flying in from China to speak. The class will also feature a panel of past student competition participants including Jenny Steger of Nanodropper (2019 HIC Grand Prize Winner), Harrison Sarsito of ElectroSolar Oxygen (winner of the $5k Social Impact Prize at the 2019 Dempsey Startup Competition), and Susan Tai of Yumso (winner of the $2,500 eBay “Best Marketplace Idea” prize at the 2018 Business Plan Competition), and Randolph Lopez of A-Alpha Bio (Grand Prize Winner of 2018 Business Plan Competition).

Reminder, you can drop-in or catch the recording of this weekly course.

APPLICATIONS ARE NOW OPEN FOR INNOVATION CHALLENGES

Apply for the Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge by Monday, Feb. 10 at https://app.reviewr.com/s1/site//HIC1920
Apply for the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge by Tuesday, Feb. 18 at https://app.reviewr.com/s1/site//eic20

Learn more about the Buerk Center student competitions at startup.uw.edu.

Students can can apply to both the HIC and EIC! We see several student teams from around the region compete in one or both before advancing their idea beyond the prototype stage and setting themselves up for startup success in the Dempsey Startup Competition. Our competitions are open to undergrads and grad students at accredited colleges and universities across the Cascadia Corridor–Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia, as well as Alaska.