Lessons from the Harvard Business School New Venture Contest

entrepreneurial meet BRIKA Q+A

Above: On the JFK Bridge over the Charles River with the HBS campus in the background (my jacket is hiding my VERY pregnant belly!). Are you the type of person who’s able to get things done way in advance or do you thrive under the pressure of a deadline? I am most certainly in the latter camp... When Kena and I started brainstorming our idea for BRIKA, we knew we were on to something but didn’t start formalizing a plan for quite a while. It was fun drumming up interesting business ventures, and we probably could’ve done it all day. But when I heard that Harvard Business School (my alma mater) had an Alumni New Venture Contest coming up, I thought it might be fun to enter; the contest would give us that hard deadline we needed and motivate us to get our thoughts down on paper. Working nights and weekends over the course of two weeks, we turned our pie-in-the-sky BRIKA concept into a 10-page business plan. We submitted it to the regional competition, where we were up against other Canadian would-be entrepreneurs, and won!  So off we went to Boston to compete against the rest of the world. There we were, on my old stomping grounds, standing in front of a panel of venture capitalists pitching our idea (think Dragons Den/Shark Tank!). We had spruced up our slides to the best of our abilities, but we were nowhere near the other finalists in terms of development - many of the other competitors’ businesses were already up and running with real revenues. However, the entire experience gave us a few key takeaways: 1.  Practice, practice, practice: I played the cello pretty seriously growing up, and the one thing I can say without a doubt is that you can never be too prepared. Given that we were working on this business plan after work and on the weekends, we were scrambling to get our pitch ready up until the last minute. Watching some of the other teams was completely humbling because it was clear that they had their presentations down to a science. We're continuing to perfect our 30-second elevator pitch. 2. Know your metrics cold:  KPIs, COAs, AOVs. People who may invest in your business want to know your targets and the assumptions to get there. Despite being told at one point that we had “girl numbers” (i.e., “Why aren’t sales $100M ?!”), we were grateful to have done the legwork beforehand. 3. BELIEVE: When I was a consultant, my colleagues and I used to joke that what was missing in our power point presentations was a slide that simply said “BELIEVE” in big black letters.  Being an entrepreneur is all about having the guts and drive to execute on a big vision. Overall we had a great experience and have Harvard Business School, all the judges involved, fellow contestants from around the world, and my baby Annabelle (for not arriving before her due date) to thank! [caption id="attachment_239" align="aligncenter" width="363"] All of the finalist contestants from around the world[/caption] As an aside, Harvard Business School alumni (female alumni at that) have spawned the likes of Gilt Group, BirchBox, Moda Operandi, Rent the Runway, Fashionstake (recently acquired by Fab.com), Baublebar and a really cool company started by a classmate of mine, Katina Mountanos, called Manicube.


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