Meet Miki Agrawal, serial social entrepreneur, author, and friend of General Assembly. Miki has launched a number of companies, from an organic farm-to-table pizzeria in NYC to an underwear brand for women in the developing world. Miki also recently wrote the book Do Cool Sh*t, a guide to starting a business and living a more entrepreneurial life. We’re happy to have her share some thoughts and advice on non-traditional fundraising here on the GA blog.
– Matthew O. Brimer, Co-Founder, General Assembly
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of raising money. I found out recently that a few people I know are having a real hard time getting funds for their passion projects and I’ve been thinking critically about the psychology behind this process.
Over the years, my twin sister Radha and I managed to raise over 4 million dollars for our various passion projects — SLICE NY (now WILD), Super Sprowtz, WILD Las Vegas, THINX — and we have a much clearer understanding of the emotional process of raising money that just about anyone could apply.
Identifying the Problem
I remember when I first started going around and “setting up investor meetings”, I was nervous, I fidgeted a lot, I forgot some key points, didn’t have all of the answers on the spot and I just wasn’t myself.
After many failed attempts at one-on-one meetings in every setting possible (coffee shop, conference room, their office, my office, etc.), I took some time to evaluate my methodology.
I realized that the biggest, most glaring problem in all of these instances was simply that I wasn’t myself at all.
The sparkle and fire that I usually have when I am with my close friends just disappeared in these meetings. The way I talked with confidence about my business idea with my friends was replaced with cracking voice and jumbled thoughts.
Why was this happening??
That’s when the “ding ding ding” sound appeared in my head and everything became clear.
My new goal became to put myself in a place that made me most authentically ME while I was pitching to investors so that my best self came out when I needed ME to appear the most.
I asked myself in what settings did I feel most authentically myself and realized that it was when Rads and I were hosting our friends at our house, just like we used to host people growing up with our family.
When I figured this out, I did a few key things:
- Organized a “Fundraising Dinner Party” for anyone and everyone I thought may/could possibly be interested in my idea and/or people who believed in me. The dinner party was FREE so it made it easy for people to say yes.
- Did NOT cook the meal myself and did not run around trying to make the food while hosting people. (Go through Kitchit.com and hire Chefs super cheap and so you could focus entirely on connecting with your guests.)
- Invited only a couple of key close friends who make me super comfortable.
- As for the rest of the invitees, I invited only really interesting people so THEY could connect with each other at my dinner party and build friendships through me.
- Hosted it a really cool venue so that it gives people the “ooh, ahhh” factor.
- Most importantly, I brought in someone else to give my pitch (preferably with a British accent) so that I could relax and focus on being my most awesome self (unless you are uber comfortable presenting your idea to a room full of people staring at you)
- Created a postcard with an “ASK” to all of the invitees to pledge their support to the mission. This postcard was placed on the tables during dessert and gave the perfect lead to follow-up with the potential investor.
All of this worked beautifully and I was able to quickly raise the money because I had “GROUP BUY-IN” as well. At the events, you want peer pressure to work in your favor. Get everyone in the room to be smiling and nodding at your project and wanting to collective support your project.