The spring of 2018 would prove to be quite busy and super exciting; beginning to meet the people in our crazy rich entrepreneurial community of greater Burlington, Vermont.
I am thankful that I am a journal nut and that I have kept somewhat decent notes of meetings with the people that I have been blessed to learn from along the way. Each of them have had one special thing in common – a positive, encouraging willingness to help. They all have been eager to share what they have learned so that I can use their knowledge to build my own way. Here was the first of such encounters.
My very first meeting was at a place that would later become my home for StrollRunner in it’s early stages – #VCET, or Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies. It’s kind of like the speakeasy of co-working spaces, tucked somewhat secretly on the top floor of a plain brick building housing a utility company. It was one of the coolest “new age techy” redesigned spaces I had ever seen in person.
Totally in awe, I followed Sam (start-up mentor extraordinaire) up the stairs and past barnyard adorned walls, large-lettered quotes, pictures of Bono and Bernie, glass-enclosed communal meeting spaces, a Spiderman-themed conference room with a ping-pong table centerpiece… to think that THIS is where some lucky people get to “go to work” everyday? Sign. Me. Up.
Sam took me to the room that would later become my favorite – the Bucket Chair Room. It has the best light streaming in, four old leather bucket chairs around a marble top round table, a whiteboard wall, and a wall of glass that separates the room and the hallway. Love.
Showing My Stuff
For sure I was shaking as I pulled out the prototype and laid it on the table. I also wanted to puke. To look at the prototype in its then current form, you would have zero clue what the hell its intended use was. Reactions were priceless as people tried to use logic to figure it out. It was also embarrassing, but to the people I was sharing it with, it was a damn good start. They knew far better than I that you have to start at the start – not the final version – it’s the beginning for fuk’s sake – and even getting that far is leaps and bounds ahead of many people who don’t choose to take their ideas beyond just that, an idea. Still, I felt unworthy of her time with my design only in it’s infancy.
I wish I could recall the exact conversation we had but I was NERVOUS, which is validated in the notes I took from that day. The proof is in the rush of my handwriting as I tried to document what my head wasn’t allowing me to process in the moment. I was excited to even be there with someone immersed in this world and it made what I was doing feel real.
It’s fun to look back on this now – I see names jotted down that I was hearing for the first time, but who I know intimately now. I see common themes of direction from one to another of the people I met with. All universal intelligence repeating itself so I would follow.
What resonated for me that day was that VCET was not the place for me to begin at my stage of mentoring needs – yet. They were best at helping startups that were further along in their business stages. Where I really needed to be was at VtSBDC – Vermont Small Business Development. They were a stone’s throw down the same street, housed in the Chamber of Commerce building. (Many moons ago I was on the Ambassador Committee for the Chamber, which meant I went to all the monthly events, got free drink tickets and made friends. Good times.) I had a name, number and email for a contact there and that would be my next focus – a meeting with Densham.