Class: 2013 Summer Accelerator

Company Description

A mentor and funding platform for women entrepreneurs.


On Thursday’s (August 16, 2013) meeting took place in a new location - Lawrence! We met in the manufacturing building of 99DegreeCustom, owned by Brenna Schneider, Founder, CEO, and a winner of Sandbox’s Winter Accelerator. The theme of tonight’s meeting was social responsibility in running a business.  

What makes her business unique is that they are a custom manufacturer with a fast turnover rate, a business that does not have much international competition. Brenna based her company name, 99DegreeCustom, on the fact that 99 degrees is one degree before boiling in Celsius. She uses the company name as a reminder to build a business that will be a long-term sustainable fire - she hopes to run it for a long time. Influenced by the number of people in poverty and people who are unable to escape from poverty, she does not want to create jobs with more dead-ends. She wants to be able to have a role in poverty alleviation as well as fulfill the city’s need for apparel.


We talked about social responsibility as a group and how that relates to how we run our business. What kind of impact do we want to make on our community with our business? Some good examples that we talked about were Ben & Jerry’s mission statement and the Grameen Bank, a previously non-profit-turned-for-profit microfinance business in the developing world. Both business have good core values that they have stuck with since forever. It is important to be clear on one’s vision and values - know why you are doing it.


Some advice that Brenna gave us was the necessity to have an ‘Exit Strategy’, for it changes everything. A book that she recommends is Delivering Happiness by the CPA of Zappos.

On Wednesday, August 14, 2013, we continued ‘Entrepreneurs Tell All’ with more war stories from Joe Lane, CEO of SafePath, a medical device company, and Parul Singh, CEO and founder of Gradeable, an EdTech company.


Joe has a background in engineering as well as an MBA. He helps physicians develop ideas for medical devices. He develops, commercializes, and sells the idea to strategic companies. His work is made up of 40% engineering and 60% fundraising.


Parul’s company stemmed from her background as a data analyst and programmer as well as from the fact that schools do not utilize a lot of technology. She wishes to give teachers better tools for data similar to the dashboards that advertisers use. She hopes to make grader easy, faster, and more enjoyable for teachers.


Some tips that we gained from this session were:

  • Don’t go premium until you are sure that people will pay for the device

  • Have a creative financing technique. Ex. The physician seed money that Joe receives

    • Don’t be shy about asking.

  • Always ask for referrals and build a network.

  • Value proposition: Who’s going to like it more? Who’s going to pay more?

  • Graduate school is not essential, but helps make connections and gives trust to investors

  • Put yourself out there (investors are putting themselves out there, too!)

  • Increase credibility: Do all research beforehand and have done everything that you possibly can on your own without money. Some other terms for this are have your ‘skin in the game’, ‘sweat equity’, be willing to make it happen - just an idea isn’t enough

  • Testimonial VIDEOS are so effective!! Adds A LOT of credibility - self-referencing helps build your case. Videos are more powerful than quotes on paper. It also makes it more realistic - the audience can see, feel, and know that it is REAL. Vsnaps is a good place to start.

  • People have to like you, not just what you are doing

  • You are never really alone - you are either constantly talking to advisors or mentors and/or talking to people in the office or offshore.

On Thursday, August 8, 2013, the topic was ‘Entrepreneurs Tell All’ - Entrepreneur War Stories. Our veterans were Trisha Blanchet, from Operation Delta Dog as well as the last Sandbox accelerator, and our very own David Parker. The main themes of this meeting were funding strategy and ‘pivots’ (a decent-sized change in direction based on market). Most of this session was question and answer.


Already Trisha has accomplished a lot in the past year: she has applied to a lot of big companies such as Raytheon, been invited to participate in the Science Expo where she hopes to gain a lot of exposure, and is currently fundraising. She is also making plans to start paying herself by the third year and someday branch-out and franchise.


David began his entrepreneurial path from humble beginnings as the first bike messenger in Boston professionally catering to companies. He has experience fundraising through VCs and Angels and as both an employee and co-founder - in leadership and in being the CEO.


Tips that we gained from these two entrepreneurs were:

  • As you grow, keep your vision/mission in mind. Make sure that it is in sync with what you are trying to accomplish and keep repeating it.

  • How are you going to treat people? As you manage employees, you are managing their life (they have a say in this).

  • Be true to yourself -  know why you are doing this. What is your goal? Is it to make money or to start a non-profit?

  • Don’t underestimate yourself - sometimes you may not need a lawyer or a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) to fill out paperwork.

  • Learn as you go.

  • Penny-pinching will keep your company longer - keep expenses as low as possible.

  • Make sure that consumers are happy, and that bigger companies are as happy as possible.


Something that David would NOT recommend doing is fundraising at the last minute.

Being an entrepreneur is all about coming up with an idea and making it happen.

On Thursday, August 1, 2013, the topic was ‘Raising Capital and Asking for Money’. As usual, for the first hour, David lead a discussion as we went around in a circle sharing any good news for this week. Some helpful tips and insight he gave us were:

  • “it is a big world with a lot of wealth and value - keep in mind how different audiences view you.”

  • Even if you don’t feel like you need to ask mentors for help or information at the time, make sure to conduct weekly check-ins with them over email or phone even just to let them know what you are working on. There will be a conversation that they can instigate from there like talking about priorities for example. Above all, it is important to keep your mentors up-to-date on a regular basis.

  • Pricing is something that all business people worry about, so make sure to test.

  • Goodwin Proctor - for one reason or another, EVERYONE needs a lawyer, but make sure to read the fine print.


Now on to the main topic of this post: HOW TO RAISE MONEY!

Joining us were Dan Pullman, Partner at Fresh Source Capital, and Barrie Atkin, Founder & President of Atkin Associates, with David as our host, and who also has a lot of experience in regards to this topic.

The topics of discussion were:

  1. Sources of Money - Which is right for you?

  2. Attitudes about money / asking for money - Are you comfortable talking about money?

  3. Why do people or organizations give/invest?

  4. Preparing for the Meeting

  5. Resources


Some points from each topic

1. Sources of Money

- Questions to ask: Which might be best for your enterprise? Who might be interested in your project/business/idea?

  • Professional Investors: Angel investors, venture capitalists, social venture capitalists... but there’s more...

    • Angel Investors/Seed Stage ex. Kapor Capital (an unusual case): invest at a small level, are involved earlier than VCs, are easier to work with, and can be individuals or groups

      • However, they take a long time to process an application and you will be competing against thousands - so keep your expectations low.

      • They do lots of networking.

      • They tend to like tech-based companies because they are looking for returns that are still high ($5 million is at the low end of what they want)

        • So you need to show a big market.

    • Social Venture Capitalists: within the grant-world, willing to take more risks and forgo return unlike private investors/VCs. They may even give up return for the mission.

    • Venture Capitalists (“vulture investors?”): have a lot of money and congregate in Boston, San Francisco (Silicon Valley), and New York. They are looking for people with big ideas for the next billion dollar company.

      • Have generated revenue and reliable customer base

        • Because they want to take control of your company :(

  • Friends, family, business colleagues, advisors

    • Advantage: they trust you, and will hopefully will be around you for a long time

    • Disadvantage: may ensue awkward family gatherings? So be sure to send out monthly/quarterly notices, THINK IT THROUGH, and make an AGREEMENT.

  • Credit Cards, Loans, Banks

    • Banks require collateral - expectation of 0% from banks

  • Grants - Government & Foundation

    • Grant-makers

    • Relationship - contact well before the deadline; try to meet people on a more casual basis

    • Sponsors

  • Crowdfunding

  • Strategic Partners / Collaborators

    • marketing, promotion - Who will be using/having an interest in your service?

  • Potential Customers = self-fund growth by selling product/services

2. Asking for money - Putting yourself/business out there.

  • Know who you are talking with and what their interests/benefits are - do the RESEARCH.

  • Arrive early, dress well, and PLAN

  • Establish a personal connection


3. Why would someone give you money?:

  • To make more money - in which, you will need a compelling story.

  • The impact that you will make

  • They will receive rewards - ex. physical reward, or even just feeling good about associating with your product or service

  • Philanthropy

  • They believe in your mission statement

  • They identify with your cause/value proposition

  • Tax deduction (for supporting nonprofits)

  • They co-invest with someone that they admire - big names


4. Prepare for the Meeting

  • Just ASK! (With Passion!)

  • Get over your fear of asking

  • REMEMBER: There is a right time, right person, right amount, right message, right fit

    • RESEARCH ahead of time!

  • If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money. [which roughly means: don’t ask for money initially - don’t ask them for it, but let them know.]

  • ***What’s in it for them? Why should they be interested in you?

  • Give them a reason to have CONFIDENCE in you and our team

  • Time management - ALWAYS allow them enough time for feedback - how to improve and ask for referrals

  • Respect their time, they’ll respect you

  • Follow-Up

  • Use mouth half the time you use the ears


5. Resource: Laura Fredricks’ The Ask

Lastly, if anyone would like to begin or learn more about CROWDFUNDING, you know who to ask. :)

 On Wednesday, July 24, 2013, we invited four social media experts to the program to share with us and sixty other guests about techniques and tips in marketing businesses with social media tools. They were:


Bobbie Carlton: Founder, Carlton PR and Marketing and Mass Innovation nights

Roberto Del: Founder,

Trish: VP of community and customer experience, Vsnap

Sopheak Sam: Co-founder, FOB lifestyle and apparel and Brand Coordinator


Social media tools they talked about are: Fb, Google+, Linkedin, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube

Bobbie is really interested in Linkedin. She also uses Google+ because it helps inbound links. Google is the strongest search engine, so using Google+ is a good tool to help your Search Engine Optimization. Her advice on using social media tools are:

  • Think of your audience and target to use different social media

  • Pick and choose your social media tools because it is so massive. Focus on the thing that you pick, take others as secondary social media tools to make it alive, but not really focus on it.

  • Building followers is to build real people, constantly giving support to the audience. Provide them something they need, something they want.

  • Using google ad is a good way to test your market.

  • Word grammar and spelling checks are REALLY IMPORTANT because those mistakes can make other people think you are illiterate.

  • Start something that you are going to use, not start something and then abandon it.

  • The Linkedin paid version is not that much more effective unless you are a recruiter.

  • Auto tweet is really dangerous.


Roberto uses Twitter more than others because he thinks it is easy to follow. He also uses tumblr because it is followed by a lot of young people. He also agree with Bobbie that using too many platforms will dilute your messages, so businesses should choose the social media where your target customers are.

Trish also uses mainly Twitter because it is easier to send message to someone you do not know. She is also interested in Google+, especially google hangout which is convenient for everyone with chat, videos,etc. Her advices on using Twitter are:

  • Show passion, enthusiastic, helpful to the audience.

  • Take in consideration of personal brand, your personal social.

  • Be careful to make sure your own social media and the company's social media are SEPARATE.


Sopheak uses mainly Facebook because it is the number one social media at this time. Like other experts, he also focuses on real contacts instead of just the number.


After the talks, four experts separated into different groups to talk to one or several Sandbox finalists about their social media performance at the present. Jumply was chosen to talk to Trish about Twitter. Her advice for Jumply were:

  • Ask your friends to follow it.

  • Have a good face/present on it.

  • Make people feel special. Interact with people on twitter, follow them, ask them questions, reply to their questions even they are not business related. Having 100-200 followers that are interactive are even better than 2000 followers. Try to respond to the questions within 1 hour.

  • Have hashtags but 2 at maximum

  • Having videos and pictures is better than not.

  • Reach out to people personally if they are potential customers.

  • Follow everyone that follow us.

  • Check the city you are in and try to organize the meeting with followers in that city

  • Create videos on special days like “mother's day”, “July 4”, etc,


The event ended successfully and we learned so muchfrom the experts especially Trish, who talked to us a lot about Twitter and Jumply’s current Twitter page
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