What do $20k in start-up funding and free professional services mean to a fledgling business? We sat down with Sashee Chandran, founder of Tea Drops and winner of 2017 Women Founders Network Fast Pitch event top prize to find out.
WFN helped accelerate Sashee’s and other top 10 finalists’ success through an ongoing network of experienced businesswomen and extensive resources such as free professional business services, one-on-one coaching, mentor matching, “meet and greets” with the advisory board and sponsors, and connection with Venture Capital Funds and Angel Investors focused on women founders.
Sashee entered the competition to help launch Tea Drops, a California based, woman and minority-owned, organic tea company making innovative, bag-less, dissolvable teas. Made up of delicately ground tea leaves, organic spices, whimsical shapes, and organic raw sugar, Tea Drops has since been named Most Innovative Beverage, touted as “Clever, unique, and delicious too!” by the Specialty Food Association and “Best Foodie Gift” by the Los Angeles Times. Tea Drops provides an all-natural, visually appealing, and convenient full loose-leaf experience for tea lovers “on-the-go.”
ENTERING THE WFN FAST PITCH COMPETITION
Sashee came across the Women Founders Network while researching on Facebook. Going through the process, she had these insights to offer about the competition:
“Each event provides value and exposure to crafting your story, learning about each person’s unique style as well as as an opportunity to glean from unique business ideas.”
“Applicants gain valuable experience and skills while learning from other inspirational entrepreneurs by attending the workshops, going through the entire application process and, if you are one of the top 10, being able to practice your pitch!”
Sashee added with enthusiasm, “All women entrepreneurs should apply and create pitches despite the company size–even if they don’t make the final top 10. If applicants have a great business concept, there is still an opportunity to receive funding from investors who reviewed their application/deck.”
She elaborated that the Fast Pitch experience forces applicants to think about the “the financials, vision, and the “nitty-gritty” of their business.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A MENTOR
Throughout the prep process leading up to the competition, Sashee noted she was honored to receive “access from the best mentors with diverse skill sets and talents who approach business differently, offering a wealth of expertise and experience in all aspects of the business.” Her WFN Pitch coach and trainer, Lisa Elia, served as a critical resource for helping her win the entire competition.
Lisa’s assistance included reviewing content, condensing the pitch, working on overall delivery, and building confidence. Lisa guided Sashee by reviewing the pitch deck as an objective “outsider”, providing tips on refining and streamlining the pitch, preparing for the Q & A session, and offering beneficial feedback.
Sashee continued to refine and rehearse her deck again and again, until it was so ingrained she could relax, enjoy, and “shine on stage”. In doing so, she was able to effectively share her passion and effortlessly tell her story on competition day.
Sashee leveraged Lisa’s mentorship to help hone her successful appearance on Home Shopping Network as well as her pitch that led to winning the grand prize, $100,000 dollar Top 10 Female Entrepreneur 2018 Tory Burch Foundation Fellowship, beating 1,000 other women founder startups from around the country!
After the WFN competition, Sashee hired Lisa to continue receiving impactful guidance and training. With more than 20 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY Show, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E! and many others.
Tea Drops has picked up tremendous momentum and continues to benefit from the support of WFN. After winning the pitch competition, Tea Drops scored an investment from WFN Advisory Board Member and Venture Capital firm, Halogen Ventures.
We’re proud of Sashee and all of her accomplishments. And as a WFN panelist, she gives back by offering valuable insight to our attendees as a woman entrepreneur running a business.
SO WHAT IS THE WOMEN FOUNDERS NETWORK FAST PITCH EVENT, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
Women founders and/or CEOs of an early stage, high-growth potential business can apply for the competition where they’ll pitch on-stage to judges, investors, and executives from the LA business community to compete for cash awards and professional services.
In order to qualify for the WFN Pitch competition, startups must fulfill certain criteria, including having raised less than $1 million dollars in outside funding, excluding research grants. All the Top 10 companies receive professional services such as Legal, Coaching, Finance & Accounting, Banking, Branding, Marketing, PR, Sales Training, and more — while the top 3 winners are additionally awarded cash prizes!
Good luck to the WFN 2018 applicants! We’re excited to hear your stories on October 16, 2018! (Applications close on June 10, 2018).