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.