Season 1,

Be Epic: Cheraé Robinson of Tastemakers Africa

June 05, 2017
Cheraé Robinson, Founder and CEO, Tastemakers Africa

Cheraé Robinson, Founder and CEO, Tastemakers Africa
(photo credit: Kat Araujo)

Pitch Makeover host Natalia Oberti Noguera gets the 60-second pitch from Cheraé Robinson of Tastemakers Africa, a marketplace for travelers looking to discover one-of-a-kind experiences and local curators in African cities. In the Legal Minute, Mitzi Chang of Goodwin shares tips on incorporating as a C-Corp or an LLC. Plus, Cheraé‘s tough first pitch as the only U.S. entrepreneur at a pitch competition in Lagos, Nigeria, and her most recent pitch to a VC firm. And, this week’s Investor Take from The Harnisch Foundation: manage expectations.

Music courtesy of Seven Seas Music (a Pipeline Angels portfolio company!)



by Alyssa Hrenyk

Natalia: Hi everyone, my name is Natalia Oberti Noguera. I am the Host and Creator of Pitch Makeover and I’m also the Founder and CEO of Pipeline Angels, where we are changing the face of angel investing and creating capital for women and non-binary femme social entrepreneurs.

Gina: And I’m Gina Delvac, the Founding Executive Producer of Pitch Makeover. We’re taking the concept of a fashion makeover and applying it to startup pitches. Entrepreneurs pitch, we talk, and then we share some feedback on what they should keep, delete, and maybe even more important—add to their pitch. Our goal—help more voices, as Rihanna says, shine bright like the diamonds that they are.

And after the Pitch Makeover we have the Legal Minute with Mitzi Chang of Goodwin, answering burning startup legal questions, followed by First Pitch. And stay till the end for this week’s Investor Take from Ruth Ann Harnisch of The Harnisch Foundation. [1:00]

Natalia: Hey, everyone! It’s Natalia Oberti Noguera, your host of Pitch Makeover, and I’m thrilled to be introducing you to yet another awesome *#morevoices* entrepreneur. Here with us in the studio we have Cheraé Robinson, Founder and CEO of Tastemakers Africa. Which happens to be—disclosure—a Pipeline Angels portfolio company. So, thrilled to have you Cheraé. Thanks for joining us.

Cheraé: Thank you for having me!

Natalia: Are you ready to pitch?

Cheraé: I’m ready!

Natalia: Okay. Ready? Set? Go!

Cheraé: Tastemakers Africa is an online experiences marketplace where you can list, discover, and book *epic* experiences in African cities. In just over two years, we’ve served more than 500 travelers and have made more than US$600k in revenue. Tastemakers goes beyond safari and help you travel Africa and skip mediocre.

Gina: 21 seconds.

Natalia: So are you ready for your Pitch Makeover, Cheraé? 

Cheraé: I’m ready.

Natalia: You made it easy for me because given—given that you had a somewhat [2:00] shorter pitch , I don’t need to tell you to delete anything!

Cheraé: Woo!

Natalia: Yay! (Both laugh)

Cheraé: Keep it all!

Natalia: It all stays! Yay! And before we actually, like, talk about, like, what else to add, we’re just have—going to have, like, a conversation to, like, *delve deeper* and learn more about Tastemakers AfricaSo something that you said was, “…more than 500 travelers,” right? So tell me a little bit more about, like, what your target market looks like.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Tastemakers actually just went through a business pivot. So when we started out we were doing group trips to African cities. Our target market really is Millennials and Generation Y travelers who really want to have a mix of premium experiences, but they also, like, want to keep it real and so we sit at that intersection. So we don’t call ourselves luxury, although you might do luxury things on a Tastemaker experience. It’s really about *aspiration* and so people who identify with being aspirational, no matter their backgrounds, tend to be attracted to Tastemakers.

Now [3:00] we have pivoted the business to be a peer-to-peer experiences marketplace and the reason we did that is there are fifty-four million people going to Africa every year. Thirty-three million of them fall into our target demographic of people who are twenty-five to forty years old and nd they’re going to our target countries which are Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, and Morocco. And so, what we realized was, by doing these group trips we were only going to be serving a very, very small percent of the market and we couldn’t scale it. What we recognized when we surveyed the travelers that have gone with us is that the power of a business is in the people. So people are drawn to Tastemakers because they’re meeting local influencers in places that are misunderstood and *that’s* what’s making their trip epic. And so we said, “Well we need to put these local influencers and curators at the forefront of what we’re doing.”

So now, Tastemakers experiences are anything from two hours long to ten days long and they’re curated by locals [4:00] who we vet onto the platform which allows us to serve millions of travelers in a year versus hundreds. So, we’re really, really excited about that.

Natalia: When you mentioned, you know, meeting local influencers in places that are misunderstood, I was like so—and curators at the forefront—I was like, “What does that mean?” And it sounds like it’s, a little bit.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm

Natalia: Like you’re connecting—you’re finding business for these curators.

Cheraé: Absolutely! Like, our goal at the end of this year is to have 1,000 curators and we look at them as like micro-entrepreneurs. These are people who—maybe they’re a DJ, maybe they’re throwing events—they know the nooks and crannies of their city. They’re passionate about the way they experience it and they’re passionate about sharing it. So with a little coaching and a little help, they can actually be literally the keys to the city for you. So Tastemakers is designed to be your “cool friend” in every African city.

Natalia: And you mentioned that your target countries are Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Morocco.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm. [5:00]

Natalia: How did you choose those—

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: —and why?

Cheraé: So, Morocco is the number one tourism destination in Africa and South Africa is number three. And so from a numbers perspective and from an influence perspective, we couldn’t really be truly disrupting travel in Africa without addressing what’s happening in the two biggest markets. Ghana and Kenya really came about from a demand conversation. So Tastemakers got started when I posted a trip to Ghana that was, like, curated through this very specific lens, on my Facebook, and it sold out in two weeks. Hadn’t even incorporated the company yet.

Two years in now, our Ghana trip sells out first *every* time. Even though Ghana is ranked at, like I don’t know, like number twenty-something out of the fifty-four countries in Africa on, on tourism. But for the market we’re *serving* it’s a place that holds a lot of value. And so—and Kenya we felt like had a huge potential, but from a disruption perspective, Kenya is probably [6:00] marketed the most for safari. Yet there’s so much happening culturally in Nairobi, and even on the coast, in Mombasa and Mamu and particularly American travelers just have no clue. And so, it just seemed like a place where we could really illustrate our value proposition in a place that people watch anyway.

Natalia: You share, like, a lot of stats which I *love.* (Cheraé laughs) You mentioned, like, fifty million people and twenty-three million, can you tell me those stats again?

Cheraé: Yeah, so fifty-four million people are traveling to Africa every year. Thirty-three million travel to our target countries over the next five years. I think the number that *most* people don’t know is that in the next three years there will be 100 million Africans in the middle class. These are people living on the continent that are looking to explore their own continent.

Natalia: You used the word aspirational.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: And maybe—I don’t know if it’s like Gen Y issues with “luxury” and what that means.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: Like aspirational also means, like, [7:00] it might not be realistic. It’s like something in the *future*. So like, what would you call aspiration when it’s *today*?

Cheraé: Right.

Natalia: Right? Because usually aspirational is for tomorrow.

Cheraé: Right.

Natalia: And, like, right now it’s that sense, but like bringing it *today* for Gen Y, like your target demo.

Cheraé: Right. The use of the word “aspirational” really came from this sentiment, from our curators themselves. So these are people who are growing up as—mostly, a lot of our curators are young people. And they are existing in a space that’s maybe fifty years after independence. Their parents decided they were going to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and their whole goal was like to move outside of their country. Move to the US, move to London. They’re not in a place where they’re decidedly like, “No I actually want to stay here in my own country, but I have to actually remake what that looks like.”

So a lot of the experiences that are happening on the Tastemakers app [8:00] are things that are actually being created. They don’t already exist. And so, our curators as *people* like as *humans* are reimagining what their *countries* will look like, what their *cities* will looks like, what their families are going to look like, what boxes they don’t have to exist in anymore. What does Africa look like in the lens of those people who are creating the future of the continent? And so, for me, that’s why we chose this lens of aspirational Africa.

There’s a lot of people who, when they think authentic and Africa—I just had a conversation with one of our travelers the other day. I said, “Okay. What do you want to do?” And she said “Okay. I want to go to the slums in Nairobi.” And I said, “Well, why do you want to go to the slums in Nairobi?” And she was like, “Well I want to see how the *real* people live.” And I challenged her. I said, “So when you’re in New York, do you go to East New York? When you’re in Atlanta, do you go to SWATS?!”

And she was like, “What do you mean?!” And I was like, “When you’re in *America*, do you go to [9:00] the hood to see what people in the hood—like is that a thing you do? When you go to *Europe*, when you go to *Paris*, are you going out to the Parisian suburbs to see what those Muslim—like is that what you do when you go to Paris? Or do you go to the Eiffel Tower?” And so she was just like, “Oh, I guess you have a point.”

And this idea that authenticity in Africa has one face is something that Tastemakers, in particular,  is really trying to challenge. That’s where this lens of *aspirational* Africa comes from for Tastemakers and why we situated ourselves there from a—from a positioning perspective.

Natalia: Well, I just have another tagline and please, you know, feel free to give me credit (Cheraé laughs) if and when you use it—Africa’s future today.

Cheraé: Oh, I love that!

Natalia: Are you ready for the Pitch Makeover? 

Cheraé: Yes! Make me over. Make my pitch over. (Both laugh)

Natalia: Okay, so keep—of course, like, I just wrote down some—like, keep everything because you have enough space (Both laugh) for all of the stuff I’m going to ask you [10:00] to add.

Cheraé: Okay.

Natalia: At the same time I do want to acknowledge—keep the online marketplace, that’s spot on. Keep the “more than 500 travelers” because you’re giving a sense on how, you know like, the traction you’re getting.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: Keep the “travel Africa, skip mediocre.”

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: Keep the word epic. (Cheraé laughs) I love the epic! I love how, like, it really kind of gives a sense in like the—the culture and the vibe—

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: —that as a *leader*, you’re creating and you’re infusing in the experience, right?

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: And, at the end of the day, travel is about experience, right?

Cheraé: Yes, for sure.

Natalia: Okay. So delete—not available. Add—add the peer-to-peer experience.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: And, you know what? *B2B*.

Cheraé: Mmm.

Natalia:  Why aren’t we talking about peers?

Cheraé: Well it’s—That—That’s a good way to—

Natalia: Or like C2B, right?

Cheraé: Yeah! Yeah!

Natalia: If you want to be like C2B, right?

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: I think peer-to-peer, I can see that. I also feel like in terms of just like the business aspect of it, like, giving a better sense that these curators [11:00] actually are…businesses.

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: So I’d say like—let’s add—I’ll call it peer-to-peer, C2B…the numbers! Fifty-four million traveling to Africa each year.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: And like twenty-three percent—twenty-three million traveling to the target countries that you talked about I thought was really important. The *other* one was like the 100 million Africans in the middle class and really kind of stressing the Africans and exploring Africa component. And then *only* if you have enough time, just talking about the target countries. Because especially when you talked about the fact that why it’s Morocco—it’s number one tourist destination. And I also liked Kenya because in some ways it’s going beyond just like traditional stats—

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: in terms of like, “We’re looking at number one because the numbers—”

Cheraé: Right.

Natalia: “—because the volume.” And it’s actually about, “Hey! There’s this thing that hasn’t been explored, which is *beyond* safaris.”

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: Right?

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: And you have—like it it’s so the narrative, it’s the story telling that you’re providing, right?

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: To [12:00] summarize, keep the online marketplace. Keep the “more than 500 travelers.” Keep the “travel Africa, skip mediocre.” Keep *epic*!

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: Delete—not available, that was your situation, Cheraé.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: Add peer-to-experience, you know like the C2B conversation, the fifty-four million traveling to Africa each year, the twenty-three million traveling to the target *countries*.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: Talk about Morocco.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: Talk about Kenya…and talk about the Africans exploring Africa—

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: —and the *huge* number—

Cheraé: Yeah—

Both: —the 100 million.

Natalia: Does that work?

Cheraé: Yup.

Natalia: Are you ready?

Cheraé: I’m ready.

Natalia: Ready? Set? Go!

Cheraé: Each year, fifty-four million people travel to Africa, all looking for things to do. But when they try to do some research, all they’re directed to is “volunteer” or “go see the lion king.” Tastemakers Africa is disrupting all of that with an online marketplace where you can list, discover and book epic experiences in African cities. Our curators from *Morocco* to *Kenya*, *Ghana* to *South Africa*, are [13:00] insiders who know the cities like the back of their hands. These people allow you to do everything from take a three hour tour with a DJ to the hottest nightclubs in Ghana to a ten day immersive wine experience in Cape Town. It’s all about traveling Africa and skipping the mediocre. To date we’ve served more than 500 travelers…and what we’re trying to do is go beyond the *international* market and—and serve the 100 million Africans in the middle class who are *also* looking to explore their continent. Tastemakers Africa is trying to be the world’s first *culture*-driven travel marketplace. Building micro-entrepreneurs in African cities who really want to tell their story in a way it’s never told before. Tastemakers Africa is the travel platform for the future.

Gina: 1 minute, 10 seconds.

Natalia: I loved it!

Cheraé: It’s all I’ve got. (Laughs)

Natalia: It was awesome! How did that feel?

Cheraé: It was interesting trying to edit myself on the spot.

Natalia: Mmm.

Cheraé: Right? I think as entrepreneurs sometimes *you* might think that part of your business, like, really resonates [14:00] and like that’s the thing! Especially when you’re thinking about talking to investors. What other people are pulling out is completely different and so it was super helpful to have someone say like, “These are the things you should say.” Because you’re in your business every day, you might think *everything* is important. And, like, the reality is…there are certain things that allow people to make inferences and conclusions about your business and the potential of your business that having someone, like, point them out to you is super helpful.

Natalia: So I say, like, today’s Pitch Makeover Tip is—yes, let’s talk about adaptability and the importance of being adaptable and also the importance of staying strong, having a strong spine. Because as an entrepreneur, like, one knows why one got into it.

Gina: Next up is the Legal Minute with Mitzi Chang. Stay tuned after that for First Pitch.

We’re back with the Pitch Makeover Legal Minute with Mitzi Chang from Goodwin. Hi Mitzi.

MitziHi! How are you?

Gina: I’m good, thank you! If I am an early stage entrepreneur, [15:00] should I have an LLC? Or should I have a corporation?

Mitzi: That’s a good question and it’s a question that I get often. I think to determine the answer, you kind of have to think about what you’re expecting. Typically on the front end, the LLC is more tax efficient because there’s a flow-through tax as one level versus a corporation which is two levels of tax. Typically, we would recommend doing a C-corporation if you are seeking VC investment in the future. Now you *can* also incorporate as an LLC and then later convert to a corporation, if you’re not sure what your plans are. But it’s really all driven by, kind of, tax planning and, kind of, what you are expecting in terms of the structure of your company, and kind of, what you want to do as a company.

Gina: This has been the Legal Minute on Pitch Makeover. Thank you, Mitzi!

Mitzi: Thank you!

Gina: Now we’re back with entrepreneur Cheraé Robinson in our segment First Pitch.

Natalia: Tell me about your first pitch that you ever did.

Cheraé: Oh my gosh…[16:00] my first pitch that I ever did was in Lagos, Nigeria. It was a pitch competition called She Leads Africa and it was two months after I’d really started thinking about Tastemakers seriously. So I actually had a really rough night the night before. I was the only American in the competition. Everybody else was, like, living on the continent—like, in different countries, but decidedly living in Africa. And so even when I flew to Nigeria I didn’t really think I was going to win this pitch competition because I was like, “There’s no way that they’re going to *let* me win.”

And so I remember the night before we had a cocktail and there are finalists and this woman came around to me and she just said like, “Why are you here?” And she was just like straight to my face and she was like, “You’re not African.” And I think as an African-American, like, it just like really hurt my heart and I was just like, “but…but…but…” like I—like inside just felt this way.

And so it just—I was just unsettled, like the whole day. Like, the whole day [17:00] of the pitch competition I was super unsettled. I had my pitch, like, all written out and I was like ready to go and then maybe five minutes before we got on stage, I just re-wrote it like on my iPhone. And I started pitching, I was looking around the room, and I still was thinking about like what this woman said to me. I just like, interrupted my own pitch and I like, “Kwame Nkrumah,” you know, “said that I am African, not because I was born here, but because it was born in me.” And I said this, like, to a room full of investors—to a room—and I just kind of wanted to, like, *quiet* the people that like had these thoughts that were unnecessary to what I was trying to do. And, like, help them focus on the fact that, like, Tastemakers is the best business in the room. And, that’s all I wanted to.

And so…yeah! I ended up winning first place and it was really funny because they said third place like—and I was in the room for the other pitches—they said third place and I didn’t get it, and then they said second place and I didn’t get it. And I kind of had an attitude. I’m ike, “I knew I wasn’t going to win, but…[18:00] like I knew I should have at least got third place!’ (Laughs) Like, that’s what I was thinking, like, assessing myself. And so I kind of was like, in my feelings like, “I can’t believe it. I didn’t even get anything!” And…when they called my name for first place I didn’t get up. Because it was like I didn’t hear them or like it was surreal. Like, because it hadn’t occurred to me that I would actually win, like, the whole thing. And so they kept going like, “Cheraé!” And I was like, “Oh!” (Laughs) And I jumped up and I just cried and cried and cried and cried. I had like *all* the tears. Which in Nigeria, is like not a thing. So all of my American-(Natalia laughs) being-in-touch-with-my-feelings was showing in a place where, like, you do not *cry* in public like that.

Natalia: I’m having a moment because…and as much as it probably sucked having to deal with that person—

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: —like, asking you, “Why are you here?”

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: In some ways, that was such a *huge*…favor!

Cheraé: No—so—

Natalia: Right? Becau—

Cheraé: For real. For real.

Natalia: Because you included that and you addressed it.

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: And so she was, in some ways, like the [19:00] epitome of like, potentially like, who your *audience* was.

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: And it was a reminder for you that in some ways, instead of like *avoiding* it—which I don’t know if that’s what you were planning when you were saying you scrapped your—your original pitch—

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: —actually embracing that and—and saying, “Hey, I’m acknowledging this and—and—and this is—this is like my perspective.”

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: And answering that *unasked* question—

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: —that you probably felt teeming and—

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: —the *tension* or—

Cheraé: Yeah! For sure!

Natalia: —and the looks, etc.

Cheraé: For sure. For sure.

Natalia: It was like, okay, so—

Cheraé: We can all focus on, like, this business—

Natalia: Yeah!

Cheraé: —that’s in front of you.

Natalia: Yeah!

Cheraé: And it was funny because I felt it. Like, and then when I—when I said it, like, the energy in the room like—it was—it was insane. Like, it was insane, but it was good. So I thank her. (Laughs)

Natalia: Yeah! And—and how much better to have had like that horrible experience one-on-one with someone, than like—horrible experience like—

Cheraé: In this group.

Natalia: —with the whole room. (Laughs)

Cheraé: Hundreds of people. Yeah…seriously.

Natalia: One more question for you.

Cheraé: Okay.

Natalia: Tell me about your most recent pitch.

Cheraé: My most recent [20:00] pitch was actually my first VC pitch. It was *so* different than like pitching at a pitch competition. Which in some ways I’m more comfortable with because you can, like, separate yourself in some ways and kind of like get in your zone and it’s like a—because there are so many people at those things, it’s almost like nobody has a face. But when you’re like one-on-one in a room with an investor, you can see their expressions and you can see their lack of expression and you can see all these things—it’s a different ball game. And there’s a psychology to that kind of pitch that is just completely different from anything I’d ever done. It was successful in that, like,  I got to the next meeting and the next meeting and the next meeting.

But it was also probably my most disappointing moment as a founder because I got basically told that I did everything right. The Founding Partner, the VC Fund is like, “You’re inspirational, I’m inspired by—” Like, I’m like—when I’m pitching, he’s like, ‘“Wow!” The things I actually *didn’t* expect to hear [21:00] at that level.

So I think the other thing it taught me is like—particularly as you go to a different stage of your business, what works at one stage of your business might not be what works. And even if it does work, even if you’re 100% on, it still doesn’t mean it’s going to be successful for your goal. I think my win from it was I was nervous that a VC would say, “You’re not ready for VC funding.” That’s something that people had told me, like, “I’m not sure if you have enough traction.” Even though I knew that there are white dudes in Silicon Valley doing it on a napkin and we’ve got like *real* revenue and like *real* impact and *real* visibility. And all these things that a lot of people don’t have when someone cuts them a US$1M check. But people, I think—I feel like as a Black woman they wanted me to, like, get my expectations in order. And I was just like, “No! I think we’re ready for this.” And the feedback I got from that pitch was like, “You *are* ready for this.”

And so while the loss was rough—I mean I think I cried for a weekend straight. I don’t even have this many connections [22:00] so it’s not like I’ve got ten other people lined up to talk to. But it was like, the intimacy of that pitch and like the feedback cycle was just completely different than anything I’ve done before. But I’m like really proud of like getting as far as we did after the pitch and all of that kind of stuff. But it just is like a *whole* ‘nother ball game.

Natalia: And I do have some insider info and I know that, if I remember correctly, the issue that was brought up was that they don’t invest in the travel industry? And so my question to you is, knowing that—it’s almost like I can totally see an entrepreneur being like, “Well why did you—why did you spend all this time, right? Like if you don’t invest in the specific industry like—”

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: “—where the startup is—”

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: “—in?” Are you glad that you went through that even though the answer, to your point, was just something that…they could have easily told you—

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: —before even starting?

Cheraé: Well, yeah. I think [23:00]—so their feedback was *less* about, “We don’t invest in travel,” and more about, “We don’t think we’re—we should lead your round.”

Natalia: Mmm.

Cheraé: So—so it was like there—like literally the email that I got back was like—because it moved really fast. So it was like: meet, within three days I had feedback, come into the office again. So it was, like, aggressive.

Natalia: Okay.

Cheraé: Which meant that—I think they were genuinely like—the note before the “no” was like, “Okay,  I’m  working on figuring out a path to doing this.” And that fund I think is still brilliant and amazing—maybe just not right for us at this stage.

Natalia: Yeah.

Cheraé: But I think for them it was, “What’s it going to take to put gas behind this business?”

Natalia: Mmm.

Cheraé: And “What do they need to compete with this juggernaut that is encroaching in their space?” “Who do they need to rubber stamp them, so that people will take them seriously?”

Natalia: Mmm.

Cheraé: “It’s not going to be our fund that does this specific things. You know, they need [24:00] Eric Blackford, the first CEO of Expedia, they need—”

Natalia: Yeah!

Cheraé: “—someone like *that* in their space for people to take them seriously.” I mean, they didn’t say all that, but after I’ve—

Natalia: Yeah.

Cheraé: —kind of thought about, like why would they say, “We don’t want to lead because we want—” you know the exact feedback was, “We think the lead investor, who gets that board seat, needs to be someone in that space with connections in that space,” I ultimately—just because of the way it went—they didn’t keep me hanging, I wrote back to him like, “I completely disagree with your rationale” and he spent the whole Saturday emailing me. Like…

Natalia: Yeah.

Cheraé: So I—I felt like it wasn’t like the VC like sendoff.

Natalia: Yeah.

Cheraé: I felt like it was like a genuine like, “We want you to win and we don’t think us leading is the best way for you to get there.” And even then it was like, “Keep me on your progress because just because we don’t lead doesn’t mean at a later round, or maybe depending how this—like doesn’t mean we want to be a part—like we love what you’re building…”

Natalia: Yeah. They left the door open.

Cheraé: Yeah! And so I really, I think for me from a confidence perspective to [25:00] get that far on my *first* time pitching a VC, I wasn’t confident about it. I was so scared of sitting in these rooms with the—and I think I’m a confident person. But like, sitting in the room with these older white dudes and thinking about, like, the language that I know all the other founders use—I’m a single mom. Like, I’m not sitting around in tech meet-ups everyday trading lingo. I had a lot of fear around it. So even though it didn’t work out, it taught me that these people are people just like me. And, the subsequent conversations I’ve been able to have, have had so much less anxiety than I think I had.

So now I’m like, “Alright, yes! I still got to figure out these intros and I still got to figure out—” but like the meeting doesn’t scare me anymore. I’m not going to go in there with all of this, like, hubbub about you being like this big VC and me being like a little founder who doesn’t know anybody. Like, for that alone, even when I emailed him recently I was just like, you know, “Thank you for the opportunity because at least I know we’re on the right track.” And he wrote me back, “You’re [26:00] definitely on the right track, *do not* change your pitch.” (Natalia laughs) So I think having that feedback, I couldn’t have asked for a better first VC to pitch, like at all.

Natalia: And—

Cheraé: So yeah. Yeah.

Natalia: —and I’m sure that, like, the feedback is applicable and that, like, get that expert, that travel—

Cheraé: Exactly!

Natalia: —industry expert, that you’re going to hear from other people. So like—

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: —knowing it ear—*sooner* rather than later.

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: If that’s important

Cheraé: And even finding others.

Natalia: Yeah.

Cheraé: Even finding—so like, that feedback helped me ask a question at the Pipeline Angels thing to one of your speakers who then introduced me to someone who *knows* all of those people. And then like, like—so it like literally was amazing.

Natalia: And I love that story because, you know, as one of my favorite definitions on—of angel investing is that smart money.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: The financial capital is important. It’s also the human and the social capital.

Cheraé: Yeah.

Natalia: Human capital in terms of the expertise and the skills.

Cheraé: Mm-hmm.

Natalia: And the social capital in terms of the connections and networks.

Cheraé: Yes.

Natalia: Being a Pipeline Angels portfolio company, you were in that [27:00] room at our conference.

Cheraé: Yup!

Natalia: You got to meet seasoned angel investors and VCs and you made that, you know like, that’s the network!

Cheraé: Yup!

Natalia: That’s the social capital! And being in the room where it happens and so I’m—I’m thrilled—I’m *thrilled* to count you as one of our Pipeline Angels portfolio companies!

Cheraé: Thank you.

Natalia: Thanks Cheraé—

Cheraé: Thank you so much.

Natalia: —for taking the time to part of our Pitch Makeover. And—

Cheraé: No, thank you Natalia. This has been wonderful—per normal.

Natalia: Was it epic?

Cheraé: It was epic!

Natalia: Okay, good.

Cheraé: It was very epic (laughs)!

Natalia: Okay, just checking!

Gina: This season’s Investor’s Take is brought to you by Ruth Ann Harnisch of The Harnisch Foundation. And today’s Investor’s Take is manage expectations. Natalia, what’s an example here?

Natalia: Well, it reminds me of the first thing that you and I did when I reached out to you to be like, “I…have…a podcast idea and I’d love for you to produce it, Gina!” And you were like, “Great! Let’s get on the Google Hangout to be specific and let’s have a conversation.” Because for you it was important to get a sense on what the commitment was going to be [28:00] like, what was even the idea. So that, like, you could manage my expectations, as well, of like what this potentially could be.

Gina: Yeah, absolutely, as a services provider, small-business person—

Natalia: Entrepreneur!

Gina: —entrepreneur! People come to me with wide ranging ideas and levels of development of their ideas and so it’s good to know what’s—what’s this person’s budget, what’s their interest level, how committed, how ready to go are they, what is it going to take? And for you to know that what we’re going right now is harder than it looks and sounds. And so, to know that your client, or your investor, or your advocate is going to be ready for whatever your endeavor is going to take.

Gina: Thanks again to Ruth Ann Harnisch and The Harnisch Foundation for this week’s Investor Take.

Subscribe to Pitch Makeover anywhere you’re listening right now including Google Play or Apple Podcasts, where we’d love for you to leave us a review. More information and show notes are at and we’re everywhere on social media [29:00] @PitchMakeover.

Natalia: Thanks for joining us. This has been Pitch Makeover. Now, go out and take over!





Scroll to top