Tips to Start the Entrepreneurial Journey with Stefanie Curtis
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Stefanie Curtis, CEO at Pace Creative Group, graduated from the Sauder School of Business in 2006 during a period of recession. While studying at the University of British Columbia, she won many advertising competitions and loved being part of extracurriculars. However, upon completing her degree, she did find it difficult to get a job, partly because of the lack of opportunities and partly because employers were looking for people with more hands on experience. So, her and some fellow grads decided to take their future into their own hands and start their own marketing agency.
“I was young and naïve and made a lot of mistakes the first 9 years of my career. But the more mistakes you make, the more you will grow. Each mistake teaches you valuable information that will help you succeed in the future.”
Strategy is her mantra when it comes to entrepreneurship; it is important to think and act strategically, have a plan and execute. She believes in doing things right the first time even if it may take a little longer and she implements this mindset when choosing her potential clients.
She has started two prior marketing agencies before creating her current company: Pace Creative Group. Pace Creative is a strategic marketing agency specializing in content and digital marketing for B2B. The agency works mainly with Biotech, Fintech, Energy, Education and Manufacturing companies. While starting her companies, Stefanie learned that it is essential to know two things: your strengths and your weaknesses. It is important to identify what you are good at early on and capitalize on it. On the flip side, it is also important to discover where you may need support.
“As an entrepreneur, you can’t do it all, it’s necessary to identify your gaps and then hire experts to fill those gaps. It's important to stay humble and admit when you can’t do something and get help, this will make you stronger in the long run.”
5 tips for pitching
When it comes to pitching a business or business idea, Stefanie does not follow trends, she follows best practices. Her first piece of advice is to keep it short: around 10-15 slides and up to 20 minutes.
Her second piece of advice is to start your pitch by identifying a specific pain point or problem that you are solving. Despite this being extremely important to address, she has found that it is often forgotten or overlooked.
3. Market Research
Her last piece of advice and arguably her most important: do your research! She has often found that people think they have a unique idea but they don’t. This is a result of not having done enough market research to understand their global competitors. There is no problem with having competitors, but it is essential that you understand how your vision is different and how your idea adds value to your target audience(s); a value that has not been yet offered or addressed. The more research you do the better! You will be more prepared for answering potential questions and provide the best information in your pitch.
“When doing your homework [the research] you will find opportunities.”
4. Asking and Receiving Feedback
Stefanie explains it is important not to be afraid of failure or receiving negative feedback during your pitch. This is where you get the opportunity to learn and improve; the more feedback you receive the more you will learn and the better your company will be.
5. Learning from Mistakes
Keeping an open mind when it comes to setbacks will be a useful tool as there will be many bumps in the road on your journey to success. Even Stefanie herself, who has a very successful marketing agency, has had her fair share of failures and setbacks. She was open to sharing some examples of her past mistakes which include choosing the wrong business partners and neglecting to establish a clear company culture and set of values. She has learned that along with having a strong vision, developing a company’s culture with a set of values, focusing on keeping employees engaged, and keeping an open and positive working environment is key to running a prosperous company.
“Surrounding yourself with the right expertise, such as business partners, team members, mentors, coaches, consultants, a board of directors and investors helps with being successful. The entrepreneurs that figure this out early on will have the most success.”