Good Things Take Time, Pivots and Humility

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LL LogoToday we are happy to welcome SpringBoard graduate Rachel Mecklenborg, founder of Legacy Letters, to the blog to talk about the trials and tribulations of launching your first business. 

I first “pitched” my idea of an online marketplace for sorority alumnae to resell their sorority t-shirts to current members of their sorority at a networking event last winter.  I assumed a room full of men would zone out after hearing the word “sorority,” but they loved the concept!  I declared my idea legitimate enough to be named and combined Greek tradition with alliteration to create “Legacy Letters.” I was basically ready to launch now, right?  I’d just raise a bunch of capital for my website and voilà‎!—I’d be able to quit my job and move to Costa Rica.

A wise, successful entrepreneur suggested I test the concept before investing too much time or money.  Heeding his advice, I pivoted from my original idea and invited the alumnae and current members of my sorority chapter to be a part of a test market on Facebook.  They were sold on the idea and provided valuable feedback and support.  I launched Legacy Letter’s Facebook page in January 2013.  Several alumnae posted t-shirts and Legacy Letters had a few sales, but the posting and payment process were extremely clunky.  Long story short, Facebook is the obvious choice for social networking but fails as an online marketplace.  I was nowhere near the sandy beaches of Costa Rica.

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In March 2013, I began the SpringBoard program.   It was evident I needed a website to adequately test my idea, so once again, I pivoted.  A web developer friend developed a website without all the fancy features for a low cost.  My sorority, Sigma Kappa, would be the test market.

At the Springboard “Pitch Night” I wowed the crowd with my profit model.  With $600,000 in annual sales, Legacy Letters would profit over $1 million.  People in the audience came up to congratulate me on such an awesome idea.  After that night with an inflated ego, I reached out to the “big wigs” in Sigma Kappa and explained my earth shattering idea.  They were not nearly as impressed as I thought they should be AND told me there would be an 8.5% licensing royalty fee attached to each sale.  This really shook up my seamless profit model.  Enter humility.

While nursing my bruised ego, I attended an Entrepreneur Bootcamp hosted by Queen City Angels this summer.  A successful venture capitalist asked me an honest question, “Would sorority alumnae really be enticed to sell their t-shirts on your website for such a small profit?”  In my thoughts I answered, “Excuse me Mr. Gazillionaire, but I think I know sorority women a BIT better than you.” 

After I got over my bad self, I gave this question some serious thought.   I sent a survey to my sorority contacts and the results showed that alumnae would be motivated to donate their t-shirts if a significant portion of each sale went to something they care about.   For the umpteenth time, I pivoted.  Now, sorority alumnae will donate their t-shirts to Legacy Letters, current sorority members will purchase the t-shirts of their liking, and 50% of each sale will be donated to that respective sorority’s Foundation.  Sorority alumnae can give back to their sorority simply by cleaning out their closet.

After several months and a big dose of reality, I’ll be humbly launching Legacy Letters in a few weeks.  I don’t know what to expect, but I better be ready to pivot.



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