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Lessons, partners, and accomplishments from first year in business

Going into 2020 with grace 

It’s Dec. 31st at 4pm, almost any other year I would have had plans set weeks in advance, the perfect outfit, perfect appetizer, perfect speciality drink – but this year, I’m tired. 

2019 has been the best year of my professional life, though toughest on my bank account.

I’ve made a lot of sacrifices – time with family, get-together with friends, monetary goals set with my husband, exercise routines – I’ve failed on all those accounts. 

But I’ve done one thing right, followed my gut and built Prowess Project.  See the lessons, partners, and accomplishments from our first year below.

To say that it takes a village is a gross understatement. I have met 100s if not 1000s of people this year who all graciously volunteered their time to give advice, share their stories or simply be a listening ear.  In all those meetings, I learned a few things. 

The “Hustle hard” mentality is bullshit

If one more person tells me it’s all about the “hustle”, “gotta grind”, etc. I’m going to scream.  Not that it’s not true. Starting a company from nothing is EXTREMELY hard. However, I prefer to see Prowess Project’s growth more like the “high tides raise all ships”  analogy vs. a race to be the first, best, baddest, out there. The race, tripping the front-runner, competitive takeout campaigns, all feel very not me. 

Collaboration over competition 

There are always going to be “competitors” but I choose to see them as collaborators.  Our mission is to achieve gender equality in the workforce and we are going to need LOTS of “competitors/collaborators” to make even a dent.

Below are just a few of the amazing organizations that I have spoken with that are also tackling gender equality, women in the workforce, etc.

Be choosy with your time 

And set boundaries.  I realized that halfway through last year that my calendar was running me, not the other way around.  I took a look at my favorite parts of my job and assessed how much time I spend doing those. I immediately knew that writing was by far the most energizing aspect of my job, yet I was setting aside zero time for it.  Until November… Friday mornings, they are sacred. You will find me at a coffee shop with cafe au lait with almond milk, headphones just typing away. I look forward to that above everything else. 

Reflect on successes

I’m terrible about this.  Something wonderful will happen in the morning and I’ve already forgotten and tackling the next problem by lunchtime.  But as a good exercise for me, below is a list of what we accomplished in 2019.

  • Founded, Prowess Project, a profitable job marketplace for women returning to work after a pause, achieving average revenue growth of 40% month over month
  • Oversaw algorithm build matching candidates to jobs based on skill, experience and 30 emotional intelligence factors
  • Developed a 16-hour certification for women returning to work and certified 20 women in first year with a waitlist of 30+
  • Spearheaded quarterly male ally panel serving as a safe space to speak on gender equality attracting 40+ attendees each
  • Secured media placements on, Silicon Hills publication, SXSW 2020 lineup and 4 others
  • Graduated from two accelerator programs, Founders Institute (20% graduation rate) and Austin Impact Accelerator (50% graduation rate)
  • Closed first venture capitalist firm, Loyal VC, for initial investment and potential follow-on
  • Nominated for Austin Chamber awards: Austin A-List and Greater Austin Business Awards

Whew! So much is in store for Prowess Project and all our fellow women empowerment partners in 2020.  Onward!

Until next time!

Ashley .

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