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How I Landed a $250,000 Investment From the Co-Founder of Netflix

Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch is the show where contestants get into an elevator and have just 60 seconds to pitch their business. Our board of investors is watching, and if they like what they hear, they open the doors and the entrepreneur steps into the boardroom to try to seal the deal. If they don’t like what they hear, the entrepreneur gets sent back down.

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It’s fun, it’s intense, and in this ongoing article series, we’re celebrating the entrepreneurs who walked out with a win and sharing their tips for pitching success.

Who are you and what is your business?

Hi, I’m Sheena Jongeneel, CEO and co-founder of Stylette, the children’s clothing rental platform that’s revolutionizing the future of fashion. Our sustainable approach to style lets kids look their best, and parents spend less, all while keeping clothing in use and out of landfills. From high fashion to cool and casual, we rent curated collections for special occasions, as well as everyday fun.

I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life, including two health and wellness businesses, each with a successful exit. I have a master’s in medicine and an MBA, but most importantly I’m a single mom to an eight-year-old girl, so I really understand the need for our service. Kids grow so fast, and their tastes change so quickly, often while that expensive must-have item is forgotten in the closet. Stylette is here to solve that problem!

Related: Watch Sheena’s winning pitch

How did you prepare for the show?

Wow, that is such a crazy story! I literally heard on a Monday about a spot opening up on the show for the very next day. I had just attended a Women’s venture Summit in San Diego, and Kim Perrell’s book was in the event gift bag. I had her email, so I dropped a quick note mentioning that I’d seen that she was a judge on Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch, and I’d love to be on the show.

I was thinking maybe sometime later in the season, but the production team emailed back at 2 p.m. the same day, asking if I could be in Florida at 7 a.m. the next morning. As an entrepreneur, you say yes and go for it! I threw some things into a carry-on bag, called my ex to let him know he had to take care of our daughter and hopped in a car to the airport. I missed the 4 p.m. flight by minutes and ended up on the red-eye from Los Angeles.

Related: What Do You Do When an Investor Suddenly Changes the Terms Mid-Deal?

Well, 2,000 plus miles, and too many cups of coffee later, I was on set! I used the five hours on the plane to practice my 60-second pitch. I used the timer on my phone to go over and over the pitch in my head – or perhaps, I was saying it out loud as the passengers around me kept staring. Needless to say, I had zero sleep, and nowhere near as much preparation as I would have liked, but I knew my product and the company inside and out and just spoke from the heart. It was the perfect mix of adrenaline, exhaustion, excitement, and maybe a little too much caffeine.

What did you think was going to happen? What was different from your expectations?

I like to go into situations thoroughly prepared, maybe even overprepared, which allows me to focus on the best possible outcome, but the timeline was so compressed here that I had to wing it a little. I didn’t know much about the judges besides Kim, so when I got the email from the production team, I caught up on the most recent episodes, and read up on the other judges.

From that moment I knew that I wanted to work with Marc Randolph. We were busy scaling Stylette to be a subscription-based model, and I thought his experience with Netflix would be perfect for us. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, or how I’d get there, but as I began going over all the potential synergies in my mind, I knew that I needed Marc on board. Some of the questions from the other judges were really intense, and I could feel some doubt creeping in, but in the end, I think they all wanted to support Marc and Stylette on this partnership!

Why do you think they opened the doors?

A solid pitch is the only thing that opens those doors. Mine may have been crafted on a red-eye, but I know the brand and the numbers by heart. A lot of pitching is formula – who you are, your background, the product, how it works, the ask and the return – but nothing can replace the passion and excitement you feel for your own product. The valuation was reasonable, especially in today’s market, and I had a great offer.

How did the negotiations go? Would you do anything differently?

Yes, I meant to negotiate Marc’s offer to get his valuation up higher (we made a deal for $250,000 on a $4.5 million cap) but my adrenaline was pumping and I was just so excited. He said yes. I said yes. And then it was yesses all over the place. We were shaking hands, then hugging – it’s really hard not to get lost in that moment – and it wasn’t until after I got back in the elevator, that I realized I didn’t negotiate the valuation. I wanted to go back in, but that’s for an offline chat now. The bottom line is that Marc Randolph said yes to me!

What do you plan to do with your investment?

This new partnership will allow us to scale the company and take Stylette to the next level. One of the benefits of a high-profile capital investment like this is that it helps to attract other investors. Our immediate spending will be on tech and key hires, and going forward we will strategize with Marc to build our network of angels, investors, and advisors.

What did it mean to you personally to get in the doors and walk out with a win?

As a first-generation American, a Latina founder, and a single mom, I’ve had to work very hard to network and build relationships as an entrepreneur. Stylette grew organically out of my own experiences, but not without negotiating obstacles along the way. I felt like each small success, every tiny triumph, not only moved me forward but also held me up as an example for people like me who might follow in my footsteps. Walking out of Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch with a win has been my biggest accomplishment, solidifying the idea that other people believe in me and are willing to support me.

Related: Here’s the Difference Between a Pitch That Nets a $100,000 Investment and One That Nets $0

But even more than that, it meant the world to me that my daughter was able to see me win. She’s been my biggest cheerleader, from the early days when she helped me practice my MBA PowerPoint presentations, right up to being on my one support call before I entered the elevator to pitch. She reminded me to articulate because she knows that when I get excited my brain moves too fast to get the words out. And she also reminded me, without saying it, that I’m doing this for her as much as I am for myself. This entrepreneurial journey has been long and rewarding, but not always easy, and not always smooth. I think we both needed this win, and it felt wonderful to be able to share it with her … and everyone who watches the show.

What is your advice for anyone thinking of applying to be on a future episode?

Well, definitely try to give yourself a little more lead time than I had, and if you do get the call, don’t overthink things, because that can make you nervous! Then remember to follow the formula when you make your pitch: introduce yourself, state the name of your company and your tagline, describe your product, and have a well-thought-out ask along with your valuation and how you plan to use the funds. Sixty seconds go by very quickly, so relax, remember to breathe, have fun, and as my daughter says, articulate.

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