The Hustle

How I Locked in Venture Capital at Age 24

Securing a business partner early on allowed the founder of MEND Jewelry to quit her day job.

How I Locked in Venture Capital at Age 24
Necklaces by MEND Jewelry (Photo courtesy of MEND Jewelry)

“You only succeed by doing a huge amount of training and then having great stamina, understanding that other people are also feeling tired. So when you feel tired, you should accelerate. That's when you start winning.” —James Dyson

The Meeting

I sat anxiously at Starbucks, checking my email constantly to make sure nothing urgent had come through from my day job. I was waiting for a woman whom a co-worker said I must meet. I wore a bright red and navy striped shirt, so I couldn’t be missed—it’s my strategy for coffee meetings with people I’ve never met: “I’ll be the one that looks like a traffic cone.”   When she came in, I saw a gemstone necklace I had made—the product that is the crux of my brand—swinging around her neck. We started chatting like old friends. I began to share the different parts of my life, from growing up in a big Italian family and moving to a new city, to the challenges and experiences I had faced to start my own business while working a day job.  I paused to come up for air and jot down any resources or recommendations she had for me. 

But instead of advice, she offered me an opportunity to turn my side hustle into my full-time hustle. “Are you looking for a business partner?”

I wish I could have seen my own face. I picture a mix of excitement and nausea.  All I remember saying was, “I have not even thought about it.” The meeting ended with her asking if I was ready to bring all of my financials and sit down with her and her husband for breakfast in a few weeks.
 

My Shark Tank Moment

I’ll never forget the car ride back to my day job, I cried tears of joy the whole way knowing my life was about to change.  This woman, who managed millions of dollars for individuals and businesses, believed that my jewelry business was worth investing in. More than that, she believed I was worth investing in.

In full transparency, this process was terrifying and self-doubt inducing.  There’s someone out there who wants to fund me for two years?! Why? How do I make sure I’m protected? What happens if the business falls apart? But this is my CHANCE and I’ve worked my ass off! But who am I to get this funding? All of the excitement and fear gave me whiplash. 

All of these questions swirled in my head as I teetered back and forth about quitting my job.

Last October, I had my Shark Tank moment of negotiating equity, salary, and important terms that kept me protected.  I had to prove why my business was worth $700,000. (Mind you, my business checking account barely had $1,500 in it at the time).  I sat on multiple phone calls with an expensive attorney reviewing a 70-plus page partnership agreement.

In November, at age 24, I became the full time CEO and founder of MEND Jewelry.
 

The Ride is Just Beginning

After months of working together, I finally had the courage to ask my investor what it was she saw in me.

“I knew within 20 minutes of meeting you that you had the IT factor.  Passion for your brand that you built with meaning and intention.  The ability to work hard fearlessly.  Courage to make quantum changes.  Open-mindedness and flexibility to build a business in whatever direction the facts presented themselves.  I have had over 17,000 client meetings over the last 22 years and have met a lot of people.  I knew you were special.  Above all, you have character.  You care about the community and others.  You want to give back.  You put this calm confidence and energy into the universe that is contagious.  Simply put, I invested in MEND because MEND is YOU." 

While I’m still early on the journey, here are the most important things I’ve learned:

  • Know the numbers. Track everything in a system (such as Quickbooks) and know exactly how much the business has made and what are the expenses.
  • Protect yourself. Have an attorney look at all agreements. If you can’t afford one in the beginning, Legal Corp offers free legal services on a monthly basis.
  • Take a conservative salary. If you get funding and demand a large salary, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.
  • Stay committed. YOU must be your brand’s number one supporter. All along, I’ve had unwavering commitment to MEND. I was going to keep running the business even if I never got funding.
  • Envision the success. Put your dream and money where your mouth is. I would envision myself leaving my day job the minute I started my business. The summer before I met my investor, I wrote myself a check for my business. I put it in my wallet and looked at it weekly for motivation. Since then, twice that amount has found its way into my business checking account.

Best of luck to everyone venturing out on their own!
 

Jordyn DiOrio
CEO
MEND Jewelry

Jordyn designs each treasure with one keen eye on current fashion and design trends and the other on powerful, healing symbols that both ground and inspire women. Her debut year included the launch of five collections, being featured at Nordstrom and MartinPatrick 3, and locking in venture capital. She is the recipient of Twin Cities Start-Up and Rising Young Professional awards.

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