In the next month and a half, you’ll be hearing a lot about our Annual Startup Competition as we call for applications for the 2018 cohort. A lot of you may be wondering, why should I apply to the Zahn Center’s Startup Competition? What will it do for me? The answer, of course, is different for everyone. However, we hope to shed some light on why some of the entrepreneurs in our community applied in the first place, and what they got out of our program.
In this blog you’ll hear from Elizabeth Bitis, Co-Founder of FxN Cosmetics, a startup that competed in last year’s competition in the Social Impact track, and was accepted into our Accelerator Program. She’ll share the four life lessons she learned from entrepreneurship.
I started experimenting with makeup in high school. It was a copious amount of heavy eyeliner; contour wasn’t a thing back then and I had no idea how to create a wing. Fast forward to the beginning of college, a lot of YouTube videos, an excessive amount of trial and error, and I finally got the hang of it. After diving into the beauty industry, following the trends, experimenting with different things, I was hooked. It was literally a fantasy of mine that one day I would be like the YouTube stars and create my own line of makeup, and here I am three years later starting my own cosmetics line.
I first heard about the Zahn Center through a mentor of mine that transferred from working for admissions to being part of the team at the center. Then my friend was part of one of the startups that was competing in the competition and I followed her journey through the adventures of entrepreneurship.
During this time many people were affected by random slashings in the NYC area, including one of my friends from City College. Although we had drifted apart from the beginning of college, whenever I saw her she was a beam of light, always happy and cheerful. It was then that I got the idea of a foundation that would help her improve the appearance of her scar while still covering it up.
It was definitely not an easy journey, however, I am beyond grateful for the support from the wonderful people at the Zahn Center. If I were to try to do this completely on my own, I would have given up before I even started.
Along the way I learned some lessons that spread beyond entrepreneurship.
Teamwork. Surround yourself with individuals that share your vision and are just as driven as you are. The attitude and the motivation around you really affect the way you work and grind. Your team must be encouraged and have an interest. There must be a flow, friendship, and it has to be fun. Of course it will be stressful but it has to be overall enjoyable. If you dread doing the things you have to do to get things done like meetings, pitching, brainstorming, and pivoting, then you will not get the most out of the experience. This is the backbone of your company. Each person has a job, has a responsibility that is crucial to the success of your company. It teaches you responsibility. Your work is no longer just a representation of you, but your team and your company.
Support. Make sure you have support. I felt like giving up so many times. I would think this will never work, this is pointless, and this won’t go anywhere but I had so many people behind me pushing me, supporting me, encouraging me. Yes I can, and yes you can. The Zahn Center is your number one fan. They want to see you succeed; they will literally do anything and everything to help you. They were my most important support and helped me make connections that would later continue that support. Your friends and family are also extremely important during this time. You will have long nights, and early mornings to get things done, but when you have people empowering you, it makes it just a tad bit more bearable. I would brainstorm with my friends and get them to get other people to do interviews and trials as well. I would ask my mom who would then in turn ask her friends and so on. Your friends and family are your best networking system. Use it.
Organization and Time Management. As college students this is something we constantly hear. To be honest I still don’t apply this to my schoolwork, but when starting a business this is one of the most important things. Everything has to be in its place. Your calendar will be absolutely full with meetings, workshops, events and deadlines, and as harsh as it may sound, if you miss one of these things it could hinder your business’ ability to advance. One workshop that you forgot about could have helped you figure out a new way of obtaining customers, or a meeting you weren’t prepared for could mean that you lost a potential investor. You want to constantly work forward. You did a lot of work last week, that’s great, but now do even more this week. You want to constantly meet those deadlines, those milestones, and most importantly those goals you set for yourself. There is no snail pace allowed in entrepreneurship.
Confidence. My mentor, Namisha Bahl, VP of Marketing at Mogul, told me something that really was something I had to hear. Nobody will talk you up as much as you do yourself. You are your biggest fan and motivator. You have to believe in yourself. You will obviously have other people who will love what you are doing and believe in you, but in reality, if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to? As a woman in business and STEM, the reality is I will be put down; I will be told my idea is not good enough, I will be told I am not good enough, but I will not give up.
When you start building something you get a rush of empowerment. I definitely felt like I was doing something amazing, I was doing something that could possibly change people’s lives. I was meeting amazing people. I met with the CEO of Stowaway Cosmetics who solved the problem of finding the right-sized makeup, as well as the Senior Medical Director and Head of Medical Innovation for Nestle SHIELD. The amount of brilliance and encouragement from fellow entrepreneurs is immeasurable. It’s like you are joining a family of invention and originality. I met with women and men who shared their stories with me and thought that my product could really help them, which just pushed me to keep going, get this business up and running, and try to help those people.
My point is go for it. If you have an amazing idea to solve a problem that you think is important, create it. You will be faced with problems because nothing is perfect the first time around, however, you will be met with amazing support, ideas, people, opportunities, and satisfaction to figure it out. Do not wait for someone else to come up with it, do not wait for a job you might like, do not wait. Create it. Create something that can help people, create something that can change the world. Create that dream job you’ve always wanted, run your own business, be your own boss. It will not be something you regret. You will gain skills and experiences; you will create connections and opportunities for yourself and for others. I think the most important thing I gained out of this was a new sense of meaning as well as satisfaction with what I’m doing and who I am.
The only question left is what are you waiting for?
If you’re interested in applying, don’t forget to check out zahncenternyc.com/apply.