Updated: Aug 9, 2020
Winning $100k investment from Steve Case and being named one of "100 Powerful Women" by Entrepreneur Magazine didn’t come easy for Ashlee Ammons. She left her great job and income to be an entrepreneur, fought self-doubt, rejection, and the challenges of not looking like a typical tech founder when pitching and meeting with investors. In this interview she talks about all of that and how she and her mother and co-founder raised their first $1M with smarts and determination.
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1:00 Ashlee & her tech startup Mixtroz are in Birmingham, AL - discussion about the special tech & investor ecosystem there.
2:40 Nashville was great but the opportunity in Birmingham was greater for what they needed to accomplish as a company.
3:40 In 2017, Ashlee and her co-founder (her mother, Kerry Schrader) went to Collision Conference in New Orleans. They wore matching t-shirts, "Black Female Founder, Fund Me - Got Seed?".
4:40 The t-shirts caused a stir, but the event yielded three big connections - an article in Forbes, an invite to Creative Startups pitch competition in New Mexico (which they won), then to Copenhagen (won there also), and most importantly, met the future executive director of Velocity Accelerator in Birmingham.
7:20 In 2018, won Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest $100,000 competition in 2018. Went on to raise more than $1M but it was hard. Fundraising is brutal, it takes invaluable time and energy away from your startup. It can also be soul crushing, similar to the superficialness of a beauty contest.
8:50 White males seem to raise six figures in about 3 months on average. White women maybe 4-5 months, women founders of color, at least 6 months.
9:30 Ashlee talks about how her and her mom had to be mindful of their appearance when they were raising money. Ashlee talks about how she keeps her hair in braids-dreads because (a) it’s ridiculously hot in the south, (b) it’s low cost and (c) it’s low maintenance - smart for a bootstrapped entrepreneur.
10:50 Allen asks Ashlee her secret to public speaking on big stages. She says it’s preparation, memorization, and practice, practice, practice.
14:00 What if you don’t look like a typical tech founder? Ashlee and her mother are non-technical black women founders building a tech product startup - none of that is typical.
17:50 Ashlee suggests founders find a partner over the age of 40, especially a woman - especially one like her mom that had a successful executive business career.
19:40 Women over 40 are often highly energized, motivated, and an invaluable source of experience and determination.
22:00 Ashlee and her Mom took personality assessment tests that identified their strengths and weaknesses, helped them with roles and responsibilities.
26:20 Ashlee was determined to be successful since a child. Her parents worked hard to set her up with opportunity. Her grandparents did the same for her mom.
30:00 Through a connection, Ashlee became LeBron Jame’s first intern. This demonstrates the power of relationships and networking.
33:20 Then with the help of LeBron’s connections, she became an event planner in New York. She went there to do all the grunt work she could get, to learn and build relationships.
38:10 Then one day she had a lackluster experience at a conference - networking disaster. She called her Mom that night and funny enough, her mom had just had a similar experience. What could solve this problem? Mixtroz!
42:40 So she made the leap, moved to Nashville, moved-in with her mom, loss of independence and income.
45:00 Ashley says that “comparison is the thief of joy.” Startup depression is real - self-doubt, isolation, and professional loneliness.
47:00 Friends and family don’t always understand, can be non-supportive (you’re going to fail) and some envious (you’re going to succeed). Ashlee says the anxiety is real and feels like a rollercoaster.
49:00 Ashlee and her Mom bootstrapped - put in their own money, then small investments from friends and family - another advantage of having an over-40 partner, her mom’s connections had more investable capital. Mom would not allow large investments from friends and family.
55:10 Is entrepreneurship a 'sport for the elite'? Access to capital, connections, and generational wealth is a big hidden success factor.
59:00 Ashlee and her Mom have had to fight to get their place at the table - even when they had to pull up their own chair.
1:03:00 Are women founders (and founders of color generally) over-mentored and under-funded? Yes. And Ashlee explains that women founders and male founders of color, it feels like they'll only get one shot.
1:07:00 Ashlee closes by talking about the opportunities and adjustments during COVID-19, their current growth capital raise, and the exciting road ahead for Mixtroz.
Full Episode (YouTube): https://bit.ly/2AELfia