June 5th was the day we got the email telling us we’d been selected to present! “I'm excited to inform you that you've been selected to share your Innovative Project in the idea competition at Plywood Presents x ATL Ideas this year! You're probably wondering what's next” was how the email opened, and I was super excited to call Kimberlie and tell her. We began planning immediately, and decided to use a pitch we had just done for Teach For America in May. We planned on editing it a bit, and telling more of our story to convey our passion.
However, over the course of the next few weeks Kimberlie had started to come to some conclusions of her own. She told me she “needed to talk”, and I immediately got nervous. What would my business partner say? She video-called me and sheepishly told me that she wanted to step into her role more and play the behind the scenes areas while I stepped out and led. We’d been talking about our roles more lately, so I wasn’t surprised by her mentioning it. She let me know that she’d definitely come on stage with me at Plywood Presents since we’d been preparing for it, but after that she wanted me out front.
Something nudged me in the moment, and I let her know I was willing to do it alone. I told her to take some time and decide if she wanted to be up there. After about a day Kimberlie let me know “it’s your time, you got this, and I will be there the entire time”. With that I nervously prepared my pitch. I spent hours writing, editing, deleting the words on the slides to convey why I am so passionate about Restore More. I revamped the pitch entirely, and decided to include my personal story with childhood abuse in the opening. I was nervous about how it would land in a room full of strangers, but I tried to put it out of my mind as I worked to craft the perfect words and flow.
I spent all of July working out, practicing my pitch, and pushing towards Restore More’s goals. I even decided to do JJ Smith’s 10-DAY Green Smoothie cleanse in an attempt to get mentally clear, and prepared to deliver the best pitch possible. About two weeks before the big day, I had a mandatory rehearsal with Jeff, the Founder of Plywood, talk about pressure. I did my pitch, and had to use headphones in my ear that were playing my words, so that I could remember it. Clearly not as prepared as I’d like to be. Memorizing 5 minutes of information proved to be incredibly challenging. Luckily, I managed to get through it without messing up too much. Jeff looked at me with a smile and said “Are you sure you’re ready to share that?”. I appreciated the ask, but I knew sharing my story was essential for part of my healing so I said “yes”, my voice trembling.
The Monday before the big pitch, I went to see my therapist. I knew talking about my abuse publicly for the first time was probably as good a time as any to check-in with her. She encouraged me, affirmed me, and reminded me that I’ve been preparing to do this work in more ways than one my whole life. I am one of the best to do the job, because I lived it, survived it, went to school for it, trained for it, and have professional experience in it. I left the session feeling ready and excited for Thursday. There was one problem however, everytime I read my pitch I would shake uncontrollably and my heart would pound loudly in my throat, the anxiety was real y’all.
Thursday had arrived, and I was ready mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Many friends showed up to support us including Katie Rigby, the lady who taught me how to teach Science my first year in the classroom, Folami Adams, a long time mentor who coached me in leadership, and Jimmy Starnes our business coach and all-around great soul. The room was packed and the 6 pitch participants were seated upfront. Jeff took the stage and kicked off the competition. His last statement ended with my name, I was first. I walked onto the stage, waited as he adjusted the mic, and then began my pitch. “I was born to an immigrant mother and a father, who had a debilitating disease, addiction”. The next 5 minutes were a blur, honestly. I know that there was applause at two points, and that I messed up at the end, needless to say the entire experience was pretty surreal.
It was a relief when I finally took my seat. I had done it. I told my truth, and didn’t die. This was at some point in my childhood a legitimate fear. I would tell people, and then literally die of embarrassment. Well this life-long journey of healing has taught me that what happened to me wasn’t my fault, I was never responsible for any of it, and I therefore will not be ashamed of it. I am also no victim, but rather a survivor who has been made stronger through her experiences. I am grateful today that I can tell that story about one part of my life proudly feeling worlds away from that little girl, and beyond proud of the woman I am becoming now. I hope this story encourages someone out there to seek out their own healing, so they too can tell their story without shame. That night so many people came up to me thanking me for being so brave and sharing, when I went to bed I felt like I had already won.
The next day we sat in the same room waiting to hear who would take the $5,000 prize. Jeff took the stage, along with Bethaney of Plywood People. They called us up on stage, and we stood behind them as they announced the audience favorite winner, “Restore More”. The prize, a 1-Year Membership at the Brand New Plywood offices that will open in January. I timidly stepped forward and mouthed thank you, fighting back tears. Before I could catch my breath, Jeff told us the judges had an issue, they felt like there were so many quality pitches that they wanted to offer their own money to create a 2nd-$2,500, and 3rd-$1,000 place prize. I remember thinking how amazing it was that the judges were swayed to move like that. And then Bethaney announced the 3rd place winner “Restore More”. I couldn’t believe it, we actually won again.
It’s still all a bit surreal, we took home two prizes in our very first pitch competition and we did it in our own unique way, WOW, just WOW. I am super proud of the work Kimberlie and I are doing and the support we are receiving let’s us know we are on the right track. Thank you to everyone who has ever shared a post, liked a status, commented on a pic, read the blog, or told a friend about us. All of that is support, entrepreneurs like to remind people all the time that support is a verb and you have to actually do something to support someone. Well I don’t need to tell you guys any of that because you all DO so much to show us support. That day alone we received so many texts, calls, and displays of love that seriously made us feel so special. Thank You, Thank You,
P.S. We get a high quality edited video of the pitch next month, would y’all wanna see it?
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