Natalia Petraszczuk and Stephanie Dionne are the founders behind Visionboards.co, the startup idea that lead them to become the champions of the 2013 Global Startup Battle’s “Innovation Circle” and the winners of Startup Weekend Detroit (November 2013). Since then, Visionboards has become much more than a concept: the two founders have met with mentors, high profile advisors, gone to LAUNCH festival in San Francisco, and have intrigued potential investors along the way. We decided to catch up with Natalia and Stephanie amidst the chaos of their newfound entrepreneurial lifestyles to learn about the highs, lows, and learning experiences of their journey.
Share a bit about your company and some of the highs/lows associated with your entrepreneurial journey — biggest learning curve?
Natalia: After brewing the idea of Visionboards.co in my mind and on paper for over 6 months, I decided to pitch the idea at Detroit Startup weekend. I happened to catch a local news story about Startup weekend, and realized it was an opportunity to make this concept a true reality. At some point, you need to take the plunge.
Stephanie: As it happened, I had been setting the groundwork for several months prior to open an Ann Arbor-based marketing agency focused on (surprise, surprise) helping technology startups define their brand, develop a business plan, and take their product to market. November 15 was my last day at my former employer, and I left my office and drove straight to downtown Detroit to participate in Startup Weekend as a potential networking opportunity. Out of 50 pitches, Natalia’s concept immediately resonated with me because of my background as a sports coach and a huge proponent of visualization techniques. With two other people, we formed a team that worked 54 straight hours to bring the idea to fruition, then went on to take first place.
Natalia: Through winning the competition, we were connected to support from local Detroit organizations like Grand Circus (a Google Tech hub) which gave us 2 months of co-working space, branding consultation from Lowe Campbell Ewald, and a meeting with the Director of the Michigan Women’s Foundation – who also serves as a managing director for a local VC firm. Other forms of mentorship and support have followed, and it’s truly been a significant help in this process. We also went on to compete and win the Up Global “Innovators Circle” Start Up championship, beating out over 200 cities worldwide. We were the only US City to win one of the global contests (awww yeah, Detroit!).
Since Nov. 15, 2013 (Startup Weekend), we formally founded and established a C-Corp and are poised to go-to market by April 2014 with over 1,000 people registered for our beta product line. Furthermore, we have cultivated a variety of prospects for a first round of seed funding – ranging from the First Step Fund in Detroit, to heavyweight Angel investors and VC firms. Finally, we have garnered a variety of endorsements and testimonials from all market segments we intend to approach – most notably, NBC’s Biggest Loser – Pete Thomas, and NFL Wide Receiver, Glen Earl.