Ash Cintas, founder and CEO of City Shoppe, an eCommerce platform dedicated to supporting local retailers, left her corporate job to start the company, bootstrapping it with her savings until she landed venture funding back in August.
She says with fundraising, it's imperative for a founder to learn and understand three things quickly: what kind of investor do you need? Do you need it quickly or can you continue to build before obtaining capital? And what version of the story is going to resonate with your audience.
"The first two I learned pretty quickly," Cintas says. "The last one took me a while. But we're lucky enough where the City Shoppe story is just so strong and it's such a compelling resonation with a lot of people already that it didn't take as much refining as I thought it would need."
While money was an obvious need as she pitched investors, she was also looking for alignment.
"I'm a former athlete, so I look at capital partners as this stage of our company to be our coach, to be someone who's meant to guide and lead and be there for the startups early-stage journey," she says.
So when meeting with potential investors, she says it's important for founders to remember that it's not just them interviewing you, it's you interviewing them.
"This is a partnership and it really needs to be somebody who can be that coach for you that you need to navigate the up and down roller coaster at the stage that you're in," she says.
The corporate world Cintas had been a part of for the last 12 years were startups that had either just received their first institutional check or were expanding. She's had to wear multiple hats and get accustomed to what is often the chaos that is the startup world. But, as the CEO, it's a much different experience.
"Going from being an executive at that level to actually being the CEO and having everything on the line with that it's been a learning experience, especially when it comes to the hiring side and making sure that you're bringing on the right team for this stage," she says. "And also, the decisions that you make are more imperative when you don't have as much of a team to be able to rely on. So, it's some sleepless nights, but it's been worth it and it's been exciting."
Cintas spoke at the Texas Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about her experience launching City Shoppe, fundraising, and what she looks for in an investor. Hit play on the video above to catch the full conversation.