In 2006, three college friends and I traveled across the country in a 28-foot RV to discover how chasing your dreams can be the best career move you ever make. In the end, the "Pursue the Passion" RV traveled 16,000 miles over 38 states. We interviewed more than 300 people who love what they do for a living and created a sweet website at pursuethepassion.com from those experiences.
Sponsored by Jobing.com’s Foundation, we now recreate the Pursue the Passion experience for other students across the country, promote our book and documentary, and speak to audiences about what we learned in presentations. That’s our job.
This article is based on what I learned in attracting capital for the funding of Pursue the Passion. After pitching the idea to companies, corporations, angel investors, magazines, TV shows, and my business school, I learned that success is determined by finding the right fit.
I’m assuming that if you’re interested in this article, you have an idea, or will potentially have a business idea, that you’ll need funding for. When reading, keep in mind that finding the right fit isn’t defined by finding money. After taking your idea through these steps, I hope that you’ll have a better idea of what I mean.
1) Answer the essentials. What’s your mission? What are you trying to accomplish? Why are you doing this? What do you need in order to reach your goal? Who is on your team? What is the potential? Why would someone invest in your idea? The clearer the answers to these questions are in the beginning, the stronger your search for capital will be throughout the process.
2) Get creative. Outside investment doesn’t just come from angel investors. The list is not limited to family members, friends, growing companies, established corporations, book publishers, or TV shows. Funding can come from anywhere. It’s a matter of getting creative. Who would really care about your product? Try starting with friends and family, and if they wouldn’t invest, then why would anyone else?
3) Identify your suitors. As bad as you need capital, you don’t want that capital to come from an investor with the wrong intentions. This could sabotage your idea or company in the long run. You differentiate the good investor from the bad by aligning your mission with their values. Simply read their mission statement and see if your idea falls under their umbrella. Compare your long term goals with their business interests. If there is a sufficient amount of similarities, then contact them.
4) Go straight to the decision maker. There are lots of gatekeepers that come in the form of assistants, secretaries, and people low on the totem pole who stand in the way of actually talking to the person who makes decisions. You absolutely have to contact the executives at the top. They will be impressed with your initiative, your idea will not get lost in translation, and it will save a lot of time.
There are two tips I’ve learned in navigating my way around gatekeepers. One is to call the executive you’re trying to reach before, or after their gatekeepers are in the office. This is generally at 7 a.m. or after 5 p.m. The second way is to guess their email address. There are typically six options for any email address, granted that you know what comes after the "@" symbol. Using myself as an example, here they are:
firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
If either of these options fail, you’ll have to navigate through the gatekeepers.
5) Ask for help. Ask often. Ask for what you want. Have reasons behind the asking, and you shall receive. It’s as simple as that.
You can’t expect that an executive will call you back because your idea is brilliant. You have to follow up, generally one week after your email or phone message was sent.
When you follow up, or if you have a meeting, know what you are asking for. Are you asking for a meeting? Money? An RV? Whatever the case, be specific. Ask for a meeting next Wednesday at 10 a.m. at their office. Ask for $10,000. Ask for a 1995 Ford Four Winds that will cost X amount of dollars. But whatever you are asking for, have an answer when they ask the simple question, "why?"
Your answer should usually start with the phrase, "This will enable me to do…" and somewhere in your response, incorporate "which will provide the return of… to you." Depending on how your answer fits with what was discussed in step 3, you may have found the right fit for your capital needs.
6) Use the word "no" to your advantage. Use the word "no" as a motivator rather than a detractor. Don’t allow a simple rejection to kill your enthusiasm. Instead, use it as an opportunity to find out where the weaknesses are in your first five steps.
Usually, most of the evaluation comes in the analysis of your idea. It is equally important to evaluate the whole process and make the appropriate changes for the next go round. If you budget for 99 "no’s," then eventually you’ll find that right fit.
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