I know rejection is a reality of entrepreneurship, and I am pretty well-adapted to the impersonal rejections of starting a business. However, when it comes to being personally vulnerable in learning new skills or meeting new people, I, probably like a lot of you, fear rejection. Like most fears, this one is at odds with one of my goals--to meet and collaborate with successful innovators I admire. In particular, I keep a short list of female entrepreneurs to watch and learn from; to discuss business (however briefly) with these women would be a dream.
I know Sheryl Sandberg says I shouldn’t ask these women to be my mentor, but what about a business coffee? With sxsw coming up, I thought I’d email 3 successful businesswomen and ask them to meet while they are in town.
With no email address, phone number, or friend-of-a-friend to introduce me, I figured LinkedIn would give me my best shot at a response. I cashed in my InMail credits and sent three quick notes that went something like this:
Request for expertise
Dear [fabulous entrepreneur],
I’m the founder of an Austin-based startup, Trainca.se, and saw that you were on the RSVP list for [this sxsw event]. I really admire what you’ve done with [your awesome company] and would love to buy you coffee when you’re in town to learn more about your experience. It’s rare to get the chance to meet a fellow female entrepreneur who has had such amazing success, and I’d be delighted if you had 30 minutes while you’re in town to chat. Also--happy to give advice on what to eat/do while you’re in town!
Response so far? Nada. Though who knows? Maybe I’ll spy a name on a badge or a nametag and get to buy them coffee or a cocktail anyway. My learnings:
1 Focus on what you did, instead of what they didn’t - Maybe I didn’t get any responses, but I took a risk and reached out in a way that felt authentic. Nothing to be ashamed of here.
2 A quick and honest “no” is a great personal and professional courtesy - This experience reminds me the importance of responding to people, even if your answer isn’t what they want to hear. Yes, even sales reps.
3 Rejection can lead to new opportunities - When I told Jia this story, he asked me to share it on his blog the very same day. If I hadn’t taken the risk, I would have never had the opportunity to share my experience with you all.