So a month or two back, I attended a seminar on winning government contracts. I work for a non-profit research institute, and even though I spent seven years working in the Department of Defense, I thought maybe I could use a refresher. Being in Business Development, it pays to keep abreast of new developments and funding opportunities. At the very least, I figured that if the seminar didn’t provide any new information, I’d get to network a bit and get a free lunch. The grad student in me still appreciates free food now and then.
While I was there, I introduced myself to other folks in the room, mostly men. This is usually the case in business development, so nothing new there. One gentleman sat across the table from me in shorts and a tee shirt. Having lived in Washington DC for 13 years, I still wear a suit just about every day. But I thought, ‘good for him.’ No pretenses.
After the lunch ended, he hurried over to my side of the table, and asked if I had a few minutes. On first impression, I thought he was a little scattered, and probably over-caffeinated. He’s a U.S. Army Veteran with experience in medical sales. And his company is in the special category of being a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business, or a SDVOSB. (Turns out, I spent five years in a SDVOSB start-up doing business development and building a team to support scientific research efforts in the government.)
At that point, he was a one-man show starting up a business. And he was looking for a neuroscientist with business development experience who knew his/her way around government grants and contracts. Check, check, and check.Tyson and I chatted for a bit, and then set up a time to meet for lunch. Now, Tyson is a big guy with a big beard. But we met for lunch, and he ordered the same thing I did. A salad. Granted, it had a steak on it, but still… By the end of lunch, he asked me to join his company. As a partner. And I thought, wow, can I do this again? It was a lot of work the first time, and I was employee #11 last time, not employee #2. And I’d still have to maintain my day job while getting this new company off the ground. Not to mention, I’m enrolled in a Masters Program. Oh, and I like spending time with my husband and my friends. But the first time around, I learned A LOT! And my compensation allowed me to pay off my student loans. Bonus!
So, once again, I found myself in start-up mode. The first thing I did was call a friend who makes a living of getting small business off the ground. And suddenly, we are a company of three. I have meetings in the evenings and on the weekends. I have work to do when I get home from work. But the mission of the company is something I can completely get behind. And the three of us are highly motivated people, with complementary expertise in medical sales, biomedical science, and business acumen. So, can we do it? That’s the other thing about being in a start-up. It could all come crashing down. And what will I have to show for it? Fortunately, I don’t think that way. What I see is an opportunity to expand my experience base, add to my skillset, and work with some very talented people. I think we’ll do well. And we’ll have fun doing it.
Bottom line? Sometimes opportunity is wearing shorts and has ADHD. You just have to recognize it when it’s in front of you. Being at a start-up is exciting, but I know the amount of work it takes. And I’m excited to see where this next chapter takes me.