Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball

Show Me the Money

October 05, 2020 Julie Ball Episode 42
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
Show Me the Money
Chapters
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
Show Me the Money
Oct 05, 2020 Episode 42
Julie Ball

#042 - Julie shares a recorded interview with Brittany Rhodes of Black Girl MATHgic. The interview is from the Women in Subscription event held by SUBTA last September. They talk about getting free funding for your business from pitch competitions and grants.

Links:

Sparkle Hustle Grow
Subscription Box Bootcamp
Black Girl MATHgic
Subscription Trade Association (SUBTA)

Show Notes Transcript

#042 - Julie shares a recorded interview with Brittany Rhodes of Black Girl MATHgic. The interview is from the Women in Subscription event held by SUBTA last September. They talk about getting free funding for your business from pitch competitions and grants.

Links:

Sparkle Hustle Grow
Subscription Box Bootcamp
Black Girl MATHgic
Subscription Trade Association (SUBTA)

Julie:

So you want to launch a subscription box and don't know where to start? Girl, you are in the right place. I'm Julie Ball, a subscription box coach and your host here at Subscription Box Basics, a podcast for new and aspiring subscription box entrepreneurs that want to avoid overwhelm. So grab a coffee, some pen and paper and let's have some fun! Hey everybody. And welcome back to subscription box basics. The podcast. My name is Julie Ball and I am the founder and Chief Sparkler of Sparkle Hustle Grow a monthly subscription box and online community for female entrepreneurs. I'm also your host here at Subscription Box Basics the podcast. Today, I am sharing a(n) interview. I did with Brittany Rhodea of Black Girl MATHgic. She is one of my bootcampers and she is a mover and a shaker that's for sure. Brittany is the founder of Black Girl MATHgic, which is a subscription box to help increase math competence in young girls. It's such a great concept and I love it. And I interviewed Brittany because she has a great track record in earning free money through grants and pitch contests. And so the interview that you're about to listen to is from the Women in Subscription event, held by SUBTA this past September. So if you haven't heard of them before they are the subscription trade association known as SUBTA and SUBTA is filled with great content and events to support your company's growth specific to the subscription box industry. I'm a member and I've gotten a ton of value from it, and you can get more details at subta.com if you're looking for resources to help start or grow your subscription brand. So I interviewed Brittany at the Women in Subscription event and she just dropped so many great tips and some reality checks about finding pitch contests, finding grants, how to prepare for them and how to win them. So without further ado here is that interview. My name is Julie Ball, and I am your host for this fabulous fireside chat today where we are talking about pitch contests and grants. That's right. We are talking about getting free funding for your business and stick around to the very end because we're going to be covering tactics and tips on how to win. So if we haven't met before, I'm the founder of Sparkle Hustle Grow and a coach at Subscription Box Bootcamp. And I have the pleasure today of chatting with Brittany Rhodes , founder of Black Girl MATHgic subscription box. Welcome Brittany.

Brittany:

Thank you so much for having me, Julie . I'm so excited to be here.

Julie:

Me too , me too . So not only is Brittany a graduate of Subscription Box Bootcamp, but she's also a friend of mine and I actually got to hug her in real life last year at the Sub Summit in New Orleans. And she has been wildly successful in earning no strings attached funding for her business through pitch contests and applying for grants. So I think the best place to start here is to tell our viewers a little bit about your subscription box and about your journey. And then we'll dive into the details of the topic.

Brittany:

Absolutely. So I had loved math my entire life. I don't remember a time in my life where I did not enjoy math. So I love math so much that I got a bachelor's degree in it. I absolutely majored in it, you know, and then a lot of people are surprised by that. Like who would do such a thing? And I started tutoring when I was in college. And so tutoring became my side hustle, whatever full time job I had or whatever career I was in tutoring was always my thing. Helping kids feel better about math and were confident about math was my thing. And in 2015, actually in 2014, when I met who is now my husband, he introduced me to the wonderful world of subscription boxes because he doesn't like to shop, but he had a ton. He had the full boxes, he had the clothes boxes, you name it. He had it. And I was intrigued with the model. I just was enamored. And I was like, this is so cool. How about a year later when Sub Summit had their very first summit in my hometown, Detroit, which is also where they're from and I got a free ticket,

Julie:

Man , you got to love that.

Brittany:

Man, it was like, okay, is this divine order or what? So that time I was working on a different subscription box idea. And I like to share this story because it speaks to the journey and that just because we have an idea that we're working on, that doesn't mean that that's where we're going to land on ultimately. But guess what the learning you get from that will serve you no matter what you ended up doing. I soaked it up. I soaked up Katia Beauchamp DIA , uh , Nadia from DIA and Co and all of these amazing subscription box owners. And fast forward, three years later, I decided that I was going to do a math subscription box because I kept seeing time and time again. So at that point I had been tutoring for almost 15 years or maybe more than that. And I just kept seeing time and time again, my students were lacking basic competence, competence in basic math and mastery in basic math. So I'm talking about fractions, negative numbers, decimals , all of the things that we're going to use. And we do use as adults. They were not feeling confident in it. And especially the girls, the girls could be sitting there actually doing the work and saying, I don't get this. I don't like this. I hate math, et cetera. That's how Black Girl MATHgic was born in 2018. It is the first and only monthly subscription box dedicated to increasing math confidence and decreasing math anxiety and girls on the third to eighth grade math.

Julie:

What a mission. I love that so much. So you started the box in what year again?

Brittany:

So I pre-launched in 2018.

Julie:

Okay. Us a little bit about that.

Brittany:

Yeah. So I was in pre I actually pre-launched on my birthday. My birthday is six days before Christmas. So everybody's like in giving, you know, in the cheery spirit and of my birthday, I'm going. And if you know, a child or a family who would be interested in this solution, please join my email list. So that was my initial foray into building my email list. So I was in prelaunch for six months and that's actually when I started won my first pitch competition before I even launched my business officially. And so I launched in June of 2019 and I just have to give it a quick shout out to Julie and Subscription Box Bootcamp because I literally used the templates from Subscription Box Bootcamp to announce my prelaunch.

Julie:

Thank you. That's awesome! It's so good to hear that. So let me take a step backwards a second here. So you did your first pitch contest before you launched, is that correct?

Brittany:

That is correct.

Julie:

Okay. So you hear that everybody as you're listening, that she actually went and pitched her her subscription box that didn't even exist yet. It was still in that idea stage. And I think that's super important to know because the things that hold people back besides fear is lack of funding. And I started with a pretty much a $0 budget as well. And I launched my business using a presale meaning that I opened it up early to my VIP list to earn some funds, but I can imagine how helpful that would have been to have earned some money through grants or pitch contest before I started. So you'd have money to actually buy some products and buy the boxes and do some marketing.

Brittany:

Yes.

Julie:

So tell us about that first pitch contest.

Brittany:

Yes. So as I mentioned, a proud native of Detroit and there is an organization in Detroit called the Michigan Women forward. So it's a nonprofit that's dedicated to advancing equality for women and girls specifically. And so they host multiple pitch competitions and grant opportunities every year. And there was a particular one that they had, or they still have it called Power Change and they do it in partnership with the Ford Motor Company fund . So there's some corporate involvement as well. And they had three categories for where you could page . So ideation growth and launch. I was in the ideation phase because the Black Girl MATHgic was literally an idea at that point. And I was like, Oh my goodness, here's an opportunity that doesn't require me to already have revenue or customers or traction. Like I can just apply with my idea. And it was a reality show to apply for that because I actually was still working my full time job at the time I was actually on a work trip. I was in California at a conference and I was out to dinner with some of my friends from business school. And there were, it was like minutes to, till the application was done and I was trying to hurry up and get it in. And I got it in maybe with minutes to spare. And I was like, I don't know. I don't know if this was my best work.

Julie:

So that just shows that you got it done and you were multitasking and this can be a side hustle. So , um , okay. So before we continue on and I want to talk about like, give us an idea of how many events, you know, how much you've won just to quantify it for everyone, because it's easy for someone to say, yeah, I won $250, but it's another thing someone's like, yeah, I won $2,000. So give us a little kind of the quantity of how you've been rewarded, you know, how many you've won , how many, maybe you've even lost if you're willing to share.

Brittany:

Yeah Yeah. I know . I absolutely think that that, that people, we all need to talk more about our losses, especially in business and in the Instagram, it's the shiny social media world where people only post the highs and not the lows. So there've been at least 20 that I've applied for and I have won eight. So I have won five pitch competitions and three grants. And that is that totals about $19,850.

Julie:

What's amazing! Brittany. Congratulations. And those are really good stats. And I'm, I assume that as you continue to pitch more and more and more, you kind of get honed in on your message a little bit better and you kind of learn , um, what to say and what not to say is , would that be correct ?

Brittany:

Absolutely. When you're in pitch competitions, you literally have sometimes three minutes to make, to get your point across. I've even done a one minute pitch competition. I've even done a 15 second pitch competition. Wow. One minute and three minute ones, I've won the 15 second when I didn't win, but you'll be surprised at how much you can get how much you can squeeze into a limited amount of time.

Julie:

Yeah, I would agree with that and you know, the story, but some of our audience might not know that I tried out for shark tank and I did not make it to the production round, but I did make it through a couple rounds. And the first round, when it was open casting was I had 90 seconds. It was quite a challenge to get everything that I wanted to say in that 90 seconds. So it really challenges you to , um , figure out what's most important. What's most going to move the needle, but also what do they want to hear? And I know you're going to talk to us a little bit more about that, about following the rules and reading the instructions. But , um , before we get to that, let's talk a little bit about the benefits of, you know, these grants and these pitch contests. Um, it's more than just money. Yes. It's great to get those no strings attached funds for your business. But we were talking, you know, as we prepared for this about the ripple effect. So tell me a little bit about the ripple effect, how that, how you've seen your involvement in these pitches play out in other areas of your business.

Brittany:

Absolutely. So I always tell people that, yes, of course you want to win the money, right? Like we all, we could always use money for our businesses, but just because you doesn't just because you don't win the money, that doesn't mean that you haven't won something. So as you mentioned, Julie, the ripple effect, I would just, I could list a ton of them, but for brevity sake, I will list three. Number one, marketing and visibility. So this is your, you're a front of a captive audience. They are listening to you pitch your business and they are there specifically to listen to you, pitch your business. Sometimes they're actually judging you. And you know, I have a hand in whether you win or not so much can come out of that. For me, that has been podcasts invitations that has been pressed. As I mentioned that the pitch, the first pitch competition I entered was in conjunction with the Ford Motor company. Fun. Four has done multiple posts on their social media, about black girl magic. They have created, they have written articles about us and features. So I want a pitch competition earlier this year. And one of the other women in the pitch competition has an organization for military spouse entrepreneurs. My husband is a Navy veteran and thanks to that connection, I was recently featured in the Stars and Stripes military magazine. You just never know where the opportunities are going to come from. And again, these were offering pitch competitions. Another one is you will find, you could find people to help you grow your business. You don't know who you will meet at these competitions. These are like-minded folks. You can meet the founder. If you're looking for one and employee, a subject matter expert or consultant, you know , who can help you grow your business. And last but not least you can gain new subscribers and customers. I got a subscriber from the pitch competition I won in October. She is still with me.

Julie:

I really believe in the phrase you got to show up to be seen. So if you want people to see you and trust you, and then eventually convert into buyers or somehow support your business. You got to show up. And sometimes that means on stage . Sometimes that means on a Facebook live. Sometimes that means in an event like this, that we're doing online.

Brittany:

Absolutely.

Julie:

So I applaud you for showing up and what some great wins you've had from that ripple effect. And I hope that you're putting that stuff on your website too guys, if you , um, if you win these contests, just like if you were to get a media feature, so you could put as seen in Stars and Stripes.

Brittany:

Thank you for reminding me, cause I do need to do that.

Julie:

Yes, you do that because that is that social proof that when someone comes to your website, now, if they are a military spouse, they might immediately connect with that and be like, yes, I'm going to buy this. Okay, everyone, who's listening time to go grab a pen and paper because Brittany is going to give us some really hot tips on how to find the right places to pitch and the right grants to apply for how to prepare for them and then how to win. Right. Cause that's, that's the ultimate goal here. So Brittany lay it on us.

Brittany:

Absolutely. So yeah, you know, I'm a tutor. So I may go into teacher mode. So i t's j ust m e just b ear with me. Number one, b ecause again, we love things in threes, especially f or those of us who are math, enthusiastic d o the same thing. So this is going to be, I just thought about this. When you said, said that J ulie, this is going to be the find prepare win i t technique.

Julie:

Love it, trademark it.

Brittany:

Yes. It's about number one. How do you even find these pitch competitions and grant opportunities? Well, the first thing is Google is your BFF. Somebody asked me once before, Brittany, how do you find all these things? And I'm like, I just spend a lot of time on Google. I really do. So Google, you can Google business grants for women. It is a wonderful time ladies for us because the world has realized that only 2% of us getting venture capital in 2018 is not a good thing. So there are a lot of opportunities specifically for women to access funding for our businesses. So you want to look on Google. You may want to Google business grants in my community. As I mentioned, the very first pitch competition I won is from a nonprofit in my, in my state. We want to look at what your state has to offer from a corporate level, from a private sector and public sector level. There are opportunities everywhere. Um, Instagram, I follow the hashtag pitch competition on Instagram. So that could be another good way, another way to find opportunities. And, and once you start applying to pitch competitions and grants and sharing that with your community, they will start to when they find stuff, they will tag you in it. I don't really like to do a lot of self promotion, but I don't feel like what I'm doing is self promotion, because I'm trying to create something bigger than myself. I talk about my wins and my losses, but I talk about on social media in , in , in my community, amongst my friends and family, when I have these wins , because I think it's not a win for Brittany. It's a win for the girls and the children I'm trying to show they have what it takes to be math start. The next one prepare. Okay, so this I'm going to spend a little more time here because the preparation, I mean, how many, how many quotes and cliches are there about preparation being the key to everything. Number one, you more than likely, not all the time, but it will in a pitch competition more than likely you will need to have a pitch deck is a PowerPoint slide or set of PowerPoint slides or a Canva presentation where you talk about your business and you go through a few different things like your model and the solution and the problem you're solving and all that good stuff. I won't go into all those details, but I will recommend the book that I read that helped me prepare for pitch competitions and actually create my pitch deck is The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. He's actually a tech evangelists early Apple investor. He's the man. So he has the , has the receipts. So definitely check out his book. U m, also you want to read, I know this is going to be a dumb mommy, but you w ould be surprised a lot of people don't do this. You want to read the frequently asked questions on the website of the opportunity you're applying for. So lay out the eligibility t here. You know, t here've been a couple of grant opportunities since COVID, you know, w here, where I have been tagged. And it says, you know, you must have been in business for over two years. Well, I'm not eligible because I haven't been in business for over two years.

Julie:

You would have wasted time applying.

Brittany:

Yeah, wasted time, apply for. You want to read the FAQ, make sure you're eligible. Make sure you satisfy that satisfy the criteria. And you want to look at what they are going to be judging you on. Some, some of them will be very specific. They'll break it down into percent. Okay. 20% originality of idea , 15% pitch competition, energy or whatever the case . So you really want to look at the rubric and the criteria and , and adjust for that. Just like when we apply to jobs and we tailor our resume to the position or our cover letter to the position, you want to do the same thing when you're preparing for a pitch competition or a grant as well. Look at the language on the website, especially if you're applying for a grant because not , you're not, they're not going to be seeing you. They're not going to hear your voice inflections or feel your passion verbally. So you need to make them feel it in written form. So the mirror, some of the things that they talk about, I also recommend watching pitches on YouTube. I actually enjoy watching pitches.

Julie:

That's a great grea tip.

Brittany:

Yeah. Before I get to my last one, under the prepare bullet, a big one is to memorize your presentation. If you're pitching, if you're speaking, don't read. And then the last one under the prepared tab is to practice, practice, practice. Did I say practice? And then the last one, how to win number one. And I mentioned this in the prepared section as well, read and follow the instructions. I won a pitch competition and they told me you won because you told us what you were going to do with the money. And the reason why I tell them what I was going to do with the money is because that's what it said on the rubric.

Julie:

Yeah. And in stead of saying like, I'm going to use this money to grow my team. You could say, I'm going to use this to outsource our fulfillment or to hire an operations manager or something very specific so that they can see how their money is going to be spent .

Brittany:

But you know what? That example just made me think of Kickstarters , right ? And Indiegogo and all of these crowdfunding platforms. You have to talk about the rewards and dollars. You get a tote bag, it's $5, you get a tote bag and a book. You know, that kind of thing. People want to know where their money is going to go. And then in terms of how to show up excitement, passion, energy, right? You are talking about your baby. You are talking about your business. You were talking about something that you are passionate about, that you created yourself for a reason, right? You didn't just wake up and say, "Oh, I'm gonna...". Like, there was normally a very strong passion behind why we do what we do. And you are the only one who knows your business as well as you do. So show up with that energy show up with that excitement show up with all of that confidence because you know what you're talking about. And even if you mess up, you know, just play it off, just keep it going. Like, you know, like the performers do. And even if you need to channel and alter ego, that is fine too. Because I feel like when I pitch , I'm stepping outside of myself because I'm normally a bit kind of modest. I'm not really introverted. I used to be, but I , I still have some of those qualities, but not kind of modest. Um, so I, I step outside of myself when it is time for me to do pitch competitions. But I get so much energy because I'm so passionate about what I'm doing. And I'm so excited about the outcomes and the impact that the black girl magic box having on girls all over this country. So I , I channeled that when I am getting ready to go on stage and the last thing(pause) breathe.

Julie:

Breathe.

Brittany:

Yes, it is very normal to be nervous. It is normal to be scared.

Julie:

No, I think that's really great advice and fear is so normal.

Brittany:

My husband is my, is my height man and a playlist. I have a title playlist that I specifically listened to before pit competition.

Julie:

So any final thoughts on, you know , um, what the future of grants and pitch contest for you are, you know, do you have some kind of in the lineup?

Brittany:

Yeah, I think this one, one , um , last week, so that was exciting. This was a grant, but this was an interesting one because typically with the grants, you just, it's an application. You just fill it out and you care back, whether you won or not. This one, there was actually a , some round. So I had to do an interview with a couple of the folks on the judge team, which was nice. And I did, and I actually did end up doing a quick pitch to them as well. So there are , there are all kinds of, of hybrids and mixes of these things. And then I have a few others that I'm applying to right now. Um , I think many of us know that with COVID-19 and in the , the damning effect its having on our world, that there had been a lot of entity stepping up to provide funding for businesses. So it is such a good time , um, to, to get your foot in the door and to see what opportunities are out there.

Julie:

Friends. This is such an amazing opportunity to get some, no strings attached funding for your business. And, you know, that means you don't have to pay it back. I mean, does it get better than that when it comes to your business money? Um , so I hope you took notes and that I'm betting, many of you have some questions for Brittany. So we invite you to join us over in the networking area. And before we go, Brittany, where can people find you online?

Brittany:

So we are at BlackGirlMATHgic .com . And we're also on Instagram and Facebook at Black Girl MATHgic. And actually, if you go on our Instagram page, there are two videos of me pitching. So I've entered a couple of pitch competitions. One was one minute. And then the other one I I think was about two minutes. So if you want to just go and get some inspiration or some tips, please feel free to check that out on Instagram. And they were also on Twitter at BLKGirlMATHgic,

Julie:

Brittany, thank you so much for your time today. That was so helpful and encouraging. And we look forward to connecting with you. I had so much fun interviewing Brittany at this Women in Subscription event and man SUBTA just knocked it out of the park. I really recommend that you go check them out. They have a free membership and they also have an upgraded membership that gets you some perks. So head over to SUBTA.com for that information. If you liked this podcast, please consider subscribing and leaving a review so we can get in front of more people and change lives. Thank you as always for joining me and I'll see you in the next episode.