, Advice
31 March 2014

Finding Success at MassChallenge

When I applied to MassChallenge, I had recently launched 99Degrees Custom and had made some important early traction. However, I was challenged with real and pressing questions about our growth strategy. Like all founders of early stage companies, I was sprinting between day-to-day operations, planning production for the next day and next week, and strategizing about how to get us past breakeven with the kind of strategy and core competencies that would guide our future.

MassChallenge gave me the space and dedicated time to think about the big picture- how to tell our story, how to lead our growth, how to build the kind of strategy that made sense for our model in our unique market space. I worked closely with a team of incredibly experienced and dedicated mentors who acted as a pseudo advisory board for the summer. We met together every other week throughout the summer. I purposefully chose a mentor team with diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences to critically analyze the decisions we made as a team. In four months we built a detailed financial model through which we were making important strategic decisions, we honed our message and target market, we focused and we strategized. By the end of four months, I felt that both the business and I had both transformed.

The support was incredible. Just having structured time away from the day-to-day was important. But real magic happens when you carve out time to think big and you are surrounded by big thinkers and big resources. Youre able to focus, speed up, test ideas and assumptions, and move forward with more expansive and more informed thinking. In four months I felt my vision for my company and its impact grow. And now, just a few months after MassChallenge, 99Degrees Custom is growing in sync with that larger vision.

I am so thankful for the challenging four months driving between Lawrence and Boston. I feel like I am leading an entirely new company than the one I launched before MassChallenge. We have expanded to a 5,000 square foot space, weve grown our production capabilities with new skills, sophistication, and machinery, hired 4 employees and a production manager, and have acquired the kinds of sales partnerships that are fueling a new and exciting chapter in our growth. It is February and we already have contracts in-hand that double our sales from last year. MassChallenge helped me to build a community around 99Degrees Custom that continues to support and strengthen our business model and impact.

For me, MassChallenge was an opportunity to infuse 99Degrees Custom with big thinking and big resources in preparation for growth. And for all you fellow entrepreneurs, I wish you the same.

Mission

MassChallenge strengthens the global innovation ecosystem by accelerating high-potential startups across all industries, from anywhere in the world.