Since I was a young girl, I’ve fantasized about the sweet life of becoming an entrepreneur and likened it to that of a fairy tale princess. You know . . . obtaining unimaginable levels of success and freedom, having buckets of money to take care of family and self, and best of all, no supervisors. Well, after going through Upstart, one of the world’s first accelerator programs designed exclusively for women-led startups, I realized that the fantasy life of an entrepreneur is far different than the fantasy life of a princess. Upstart helped me shift from princess to warrior princess. Here are some insights into my transformation during the accelerator program.
Embrace Emotional Versatility
Emotions make female entrepreneurs versatile and enable women-owned businesses to grow at 1.5x the rate of other companies (Source: StartupNation). To be clear, I do not mean it is okay to play the “Damsel in Distress” or be a diva. One must be balanced like the warrior princess – neither damsel, nor stoic – both fierce and feminine. Upstart and our mentors helped me tap into my emotional intelligence appropriately in support of my startup’s growth.
Worst Enemy of Female Founders Isn’t Me
As I was growing as a female founder, I was also learning how to better support future female founders. Let’s face it: some of the worst enemies of female founders are women. Coming into Upstart with a cohort of other women-led startups, who were as equally fierce as I am, could have been a recipe for trouble. Through the experience of Upstart, the warrior princesses in all of us shone as we led our teams and went beyond diplomacy and lip service to help our fellow female CEOs grow their businesses. Madeleine Albright put it best when she said, “There’s a special place in hell for women that don’t help other women.”
Before Upstart, my tender, fantasy-oriented self had never before experienced the high rate of mistakes and missed opportunities encountered in only the first 100 days of the program. As a former athlete, I took pride in bouncing back from setbacks, but I hadn’t truly faced crippling failures. So when I went through the fast-paced, structured acceleration process, the concept of “failing fast” and “failing cheaply” were foreign to me. As an athlete, I wasn’t really taught that failure is part of the pathway to success – it was just something to forget before the next competition. At Upstart, I fought with myself to accept the logic. I had to rewire my thoughts to say, “if a failure is one step closer to winning, then bring on more set backs so I can get to sweet success faster.” The warrior princess fights with resilience, understanding that a set back is part of the process.
If you’re thinking about starting a business, especially if you plan on using an accelerator program as a starting point, begin asking yourself some important questions. Do you have the emotional intelligence to create a shift in your industry? Will you allow yourself to be fierce yet help others along the way? Going through Upstart changed and helped me rise to answer these questions correctly. The new me is a result of being forced to dig deep, deal with toxic emotions, and come up a fighter, like a true Warrior Princess.
PS: Kind of fitting, I went to Auburn . . . War Eagle to Warrior Princess.
Kelli Meade, Founder and CEO of GemPhones,is a graduate of Start Co.’s Upstart Accelerator for women-led startups. Through GemPhones, she is bridging the gap between lifestyle, fashion, and electronics for women and is passionate about answering the call to the question: “Women love our fashion and we love our tech…so why is there a disconnect?” She moved to Memphis, TN in 2009 to work for the US Navy in emerging technology development, and created her first pair of earphone necklaces in 2012.