By Sarah Haggard Founder & CEO, Tribute
I began Tribute with a radical idea – that I could help busy professionals, like me, discover and connect with mentors in a more meaningful way by using the ancient art of storytelling combined with modern technology, an app, to make mentorship more enjoyable, accessible and efficient.
In the almost two years since founding Tribute, I’ve learned many things about starting a business, but mostly, I’ve learned how powerful our stories are, and how healing, inspiring and game-changing it is to create a space that allows people to be fully seen and heard.
Today, Tribute is live in both the Apple and Android App stores and is the platform of choice for Microsoft’s Diversity and Tech Community Mentors Program, a public community of over 5,000 IT Professionals across 80 countries worldwide. We’re working with several other large, Fortune 500 brands to begin pilots later this year and have ambitions to become the defacto standard for mentorship software for all corporations, large and small. Geekwire recently dubbed us the “Bumble of Corporate Mentorship.”
But let me go back and share with you how we got here It all began with a crowdfunding campaign. Six months into my idea, I was stuck. I had a prototype, lofty pitch deck, big dreams and a dwindling bank account. I didn’t know where to go, or what to do next. I stumbled upon IFundWomen, who had recently opened a Seattle chapter in June of 2018, and was immediately intrigued.
I scheduled an introductory call and signed up for personal coaching to hone my pitch and decided this would be a great way for me to get organized for my investor pitch. At the time I thought this was the obvious next step, and then money would magically appear. I know that sounds ridiculous now, but that was the god honest truth. What I didn’t know then, and what I know now – is that crowdfunding is about proving you have customer demand before you pitch your business to investors. It’s a necessary step in the process of bringing any idea to life, and one that smart and savvy entrepreneurs do not overlook.
Through my crowdfunding campaign, I learned many valuable lessons. Thanks in no small part to Karen Cahn, who bluntly and kindly, coached me out of trying to be everything to everyone out the gate – a common mistake of first-time Founders. And to the entire IFW team, and community of other Founders, who ebbed the feelings of loneliness, isolation and uncertainty that I experienced in putting myself, and my idea, “out there.” Being part of the IFW family was a blessing I didn’t know I needed until I needed it most.
In the end, I raised $22,000, beating my goal of $20K, and was able to use those dollars and customer momentum to keep going, which has led me here-- one year later, to today. With a product in market, our first paying customer and a strong pipeline of additional deals.
In June of this year, I participated in IFundWomen inaugural Seattle pitch competition and took home an additional $5,000 in winnings thanks to their partnership with Systane. It was an incrediblefull-circlee moment to pitch Tribute to Karen and team, knowing their instrumental role in helping shape what Tribute is today.
When people ask me why I started Tribute, the answer is simple – I want everyone to feel a sense of belonging and purpose in their lives. I believe our stories inspire action, and that when we use our stories to help mentor others, we help ourselves grow into the most authentic leaders we’ve always wanted to be.
If you’re looking for a mentor, you can join Microsoft’s Diversity and Tech Community Mentors Program at https://aka.ms/communitymentors, and then download Tribute to join us!