Military Spouse Entrepreneurs Share Top Takeaways from V-WISE Phoenix

It’s not every day that two military spouses with six kids between them and active duty military husbands get to meet up in a gorgeous location for three days of GIRL BOSS learning, networking and growth. But that’s exactly what MadSkills co-founders, Erica McMannes and Liza Rodewald, were able to do this past January at the most recent V-WISE conference in Scottsdale, AZ.

Here are their top takeaways…

From Liza:

Funding Options
When we first started MadSkills we were immersed in the start-up scene which means you seek funding and pass out equity like it’s candy. We weren’t comfortable with accepting funding at first so we decided to bootstrap our first MVP product. Since then we’ve been able to grow our business to a point where funding was necessary for the next growth stage. Going to V-WISE opened our minds to the possibility of other types of funding available without giving away our most prized possession: our equity. It was great to hear the different perspectives of taking out business loans to grow your business and maintaining ownership of your company. It gave us a lot to think about as we move towards the next phase in our business.

Lead like a woman
Hearing Jessica Eaves Mathews say “Lead like a woman” gave me more validation than she will ever know. I’m a software developer by trade who’s been surrounded by mostly males my entire career.  I’m always a minority in the business world. Sometimes you feel pressure to act, think and even dress the part of a man to fit in. At times I’ve even caught myself falling into this trap.  At the end of the day, what makes me a great software developer and business owner are not only my trained skills, but my ability to connect and communicate better than my male counterparts. I’m far more relational with my clients and they are very loyal to me as a result. I will remind myself of this anytime I’m stepping into a boardroom full of men again and I will lead like a woman because I am a woman and I am proud of what I bring to the table.

image of two women sitting at laptops talking
From Erica:

Refine Your Message
While we branded MadSkills and focused on our messaging as first order of business when we launched, V-WISE was the first time we found ourselves repeating the same thing over…and over…and over. And we realized what looked good on our website, blogs and flyers didn’t articulate the same way in repeated conversation with people just learning about us for the first time! This insight was priceless. Very few experiences as a business owner allow you that “a-ha” moment to happen in real time as the words are literally coming out of your mouth. We spent one night after the conference refining how we explained who we are and what we do so that it made immediate sense and had the impact we sought.

Stay Open. Be Brave.
When you’ve accepted an opportunity to learn, you have to embrace that, come fear, come criticism, come lessons learned the hard way. V-WISE was about being an open book in our availability to learn and better not only ourselves, but our business. We aren’t the experts, we came to learn from the experts and I think that mindset was invaluable. It’s not about what you know when you are surrounded by visionaries, success stories and shining inspiration. It’s about holding firm to your passion and vision for your company and allowing that to be molded by the lessons surrounding around you. Being one of 14 people out of 220 who got 2 minutes of Ms. Isisara Bey’s time during the Pitch Party will forever be a “top” moment for me. I was scared. Nervous. Intimidated. But moving past that fear earned me some valuable feedback, confidence, experience and moving up a small notch up in pitching perfection! V-WISE is a hidden gem of opportunity and we can’t wait to continue to grow as a part of the V-WISE alumni community!

Erica McMannes (CEO) and Liza Rodewald (CTO) are co-founders of MadSkills, an online platform designed to connect small businesses and entrepreneurs ready to outsource work to professionally skilled military spouses. Find them at HireMadSkills.