This piece is a guest post written by Tami Nutall Jefferson, a married mother, grandmother, and non-traditional student with a professional real estate background. You can find her original post here.
So, this month – at startup camp – I made history. In my own history book. This past weekend was the first time I have ever pitched a real business idea to a room full of anonymous people. I talk about my dreams and goals with my friends and colleagues all the time, but when it comes to public speaking – and especially about things that are close to my heart – I feel like I have a watermelon in my throat, my mind goes as dark as night, my voice vibrates like I’m yelling into a fan on speed 3, and I start crying inside. Public speaking is my number two fear. Speaking in public to people I don’t know, is number one – which is why my past business endeavors (cough) failed. Because, I refuse to talk to people. Who knows the psychosis behind it, who cares. What matters is how palpable the fright is at that moment – coupled with rejection and embarrassment. So let me tell you what happened.
The Chosen 50
When I first decided to apply at Texas A&M, I started investigating their student entrepreneurship culture online where I discovered this nifty experience called 3DayStartup. Basically, for three days (Friday-Sunday), a group of TAMU budding student business leaders are locked in a room where they flesh out a business from idea to pitch – and deliver that pitch in front of real industry experts and venture capitalists. I kept 3DS on my mental future-things-to-do list while they kept reminding me about it via email almost daily; probably because I signed up for the email list. Then one day in late September, I received an email that said applications were open for the Fall 2017 3DayStartup. A couple of days later something said “Apply!”. As I give in easily to inner-peer pressure, I applied with a non-descript business pitch idea. Soon after, I received another email saying that I was selected. I was one of the Chosen 50! That was impressive to me, until I found out that every student in one of my peer’s startup living community applied but only 6 were selected – my impression instantly elevated to awe. I knew at that point, God put me in that room. Why? That had yet to be revealed. But I digress.
The Struggle Is Real
After acceptance, the reality of The Pitch set in. How do I pitch a real estate development idea that is sexy enough for a room full of college students to vote for? How do I not die in front of people I don’t know? When I went to the orientation, I found out that pitches were optional. Best news ever! I could NOT pitch and just focus on how to build a business as a team – a new concept for me. But, the Thursday night before 3DS, I realized that I am a old @$$ woman, and I can not waste my time, tuition, and opportunity on being scared to talk to people anymore. If I can’t do this now, then what is even the point of me being in University, Leadership Plenty, Central Texas African American Chamber, and all these other organizations I purport to enhance through my service? I have to do it. And I have to kill it. I worked all night on an idea to pitch, and I came up with a clever real estate one. It had to be real estate, because I had to rep my College of Architecture while the other 49 students repped the Engineering & Business schools – which meant app after app after app. So I built a 60 second pitch in that 1 and a half hour drive to College Station on Friday.
The Struggle Is Over
I stood up on stage. I went blank at first. But I did it. And my pitch was chosen for round 2! Round 2 was a follow-up 60 second pitch with audience questions – for which I had no prepared pitch. I wrote one on the spot, but pretty much had to wing it on stage. My idea was ultimately not chosen for the Final 5, but I did get great feedback and interest and much love from the students and our Austin Capital Factory facilitator. I was first pick on a startup team for a business card app where I learned how to lead, co-lead, and fall back as part of a dynamic team. The best part of the weekend – aside from all the great free food and snacks – was when I got to encourage my teammate to deliver our pitch to the crowd. Her fright was real, as evident in her hyperventilating, but she killed it too. I was so proud of her. I loved seeing her growth. I loved this whole experience and I love the energy of being in a room full of millennials (sans the Ma’ams).
The point in all of this is that – first year, fifteenth year, student, professional, stay at home parent – great experiences and great people live on the other side of fear. Go ahead. Jump that bridge.
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