What’s the inspiration behind Curastory?
It all started while working at ESPN. I began asking pro athletes and fitness creators in my network about video. It’s the only content type where creators don't own their monetization, the platform does. Media conglomerates have so many resources to be able to create, edit, monetize, and distribute content with ease. But what happens when you’re a 1 or 2 person shop, like a creator or niche media company? I thought this could be done better. That’s why I began building Curastory.
What made you decide to take the jump from leading sports multimedia company to founding Curastory?
The creator economy wasn’t slowing down, especially when the NCAA announced that it was finally allowing student athletes to monetize their name, image, and likeness for the first time in its 109-year history. They finally could be allowed to earn from their brand, just like the other millionaire YouTubers walking around campus. I also realized traditional TV packaging as a revenue stream was becoming out of date and that the real opportunity was through streaming and other digital channels. It was time to ride the wave of the future.
You co-founded a company in the past. What differences are there between being a co-founder and a solo founder?
I’m a solo founder now, but really don’t consider myself solo on this journey. Our CTO, Shane Austrie, and Head of Customer Success, Lilliana Antequera, have been here from almost the beginning.
Co-founder disputes are one of the top two reasons why startups fail, so it’s nice to be the main decision-maker. This allows me to move quickly; I’m the main one making decisions, so I will win or fail faster.
What do you think is the most important skill founders need to succeed?
Being able to compartmentalize. It’s your job as CEO to smile during war. You need to be transparent with your team while steering the ship to success, even when you’re hitting obstacles every single day. You can show your team what’s happening behind the scenes, but only as much as you need to in order to motivate them.
- Fox Business, August 14, 2020
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenge(s) you’ve faced while launching your company?
Fundraising. It’s the hardest thing every single founder will have to do, but it’s even more challenging for minority founders. Nothing has frustrated me more than hearing that early-stage fundraising is more of an art than a science and having to be in and from certain circles to get funds.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
My persistence, tenacity, optimism, and leadership skills have been tested and have grown so much throughout this process. Building a company isn’t as impossible as everyone says, but it isn't for everyone. It’s incredibly challenging mentally, emotionally, and physically. That being said, I wouldn’t change a thing about this journey.
How has your experience at ESPN helped you grow Curastory?
Creator acquisition is extremely difficult. Running paid ads won’t work in acquiring creators for your platform if you’re in the creator economy, only word of mouth will. With that, having exclusive access to a subset of creators makes this easier, which is why Curastory is onboarding athletes and fitness creators first. We’ve been able to onboard some of the top athletes and fitness creators because of my network from ESPN. Also, understanding media has helped in building a platform that is the future of media within the creator economy.
- The Undefeated, February 21, 2018
You were the only African-American woman at ESPN while you worked there. How important is it to promote diversity in the sports media industry?
It is incredibly important, and so much so that John Skipper, former president of ESPN who reported to Bob Iger, knew me by name. I was able to accomplish so much at a young age and in a short amount of time at ESPN because of these connections. But people who look like me shouldn’t be so few and far between. That’s one of the reasons why I mentor women through programs like Women in Sports Tech (WiST); I want to make sure they are being placed in jobs like I had at ESPN to spark this change.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd?
Equity crowdfunding is the future. More and more pre-seed and seed companies are doing it instead of just relying on traditional funding like venture capital. If you only need a bit of capital to prove product market fit, why not raise from the crowd? Plus, it’s an awesome way to market to more people who could eventually be your end users. Also, the ability to build generational wealth should be equal and equity crowdfunding allows those who do not come from wealth to access these opportunities.
What’s your team culture like?
At ESPN, I had the feeling of never belonging. When building Curastory, I vowed to never have a culture where an individual felt “othered.” Our culture is extremely inclusive. I want everyone and anyone to feel welcome at Curastory in order to do their best work.
What is your superpower?
My optimism and ability to change the circumstances I can control.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
Cooking exotic meals at least once each month. Things have been hectic, so I need to get back into this routine, but I made an amazing pork belly dish from a South African recipe for my last exotic meal. It was great.
What’s your experience been like as a female founder? Any advice for women looking to start their own company?
Build the thing and pay yourself! So many of my female founder friends (even some male) don’t want to spend investor capital on paying themselves. I truly think it has the opposite effect of success. Spend the investor capital to pay yourself in order to make a living because it puts pressure on you to really focus on making revenue and growing the company to become profitable.