Tolli, a location-based app that connects artists based on career needs and interests, isn't a household name yet, but that may change soon.
Tiffany Carvalho, Darrel Kennedy, and Olli Payne created the app on TLC's new business reality show Girl Starter (which wrapped its first season Friday night), and won the competition with their idea.
"Sometimes women are portrayed in a way that makes it seem like when we come together in a group or when we compete or anything like that we are catty," says Payne in an exclusive interview with Inc. "It was amazing seeing the exact opposite of that."
Carvalho, Kennedy, and Payne won $100,000 in seed money and services to get Tolli off the ground, along with valuable business lessons that were accrued during the show's six episodes. But their work isn't done yet. The co-founders plan to launch a crowdfunding campaign and beta test their product. They hope that Tolli will do more than help artists network; they want users to be able to build resumes and find jobs on the app.
Carvalho, who is originally from Queens, is 22; Kennedy, who hails from Los Angeles, is 20 and Payne, who is originally from Buford, Georgia, is 21. The trio met as strangers and will now grow together as entrepreneurs. The group talked about business lessons, what they hope to accomplish, and what they want other young female entrepreneurs to know.
Here is an edited version
What's it like to be entrepreneurs?
Tiffany Carvalho: It's all about communication and trying to understand each other's point of view. As long as you keep that mission there, nothing else really matters.
Darrel Kennedy: This is such a great movement, such a great idea and it really could become such a staple to people--and not just artists, but people in general because there is a business aspect to it.
Olli Payne: Saying, "Hey, I'm a co-founder," makes you feel good. It makes you feel like you're doing something. Especially when it's a passion-driven project like what we are doing.
What did you think of the 'Girl Starter' process?
Darrel: I was on the plane to New York, and I thought, "They are going to send me home, I don't know anything about business." Then I got there, and that's what the six steps are designed for, it's all to democratize information on starting and running a business. And it's fantastic.
Tiffany: Its given me much more of a business-minded mentality, which is really great because I've never had that before. Being on a TV show is hard, but it was fun and gave us a whole new experience that we will never get again.
What was the most important lesson you learned about entrepreneurship?
Tiffany: Its given me that business-minded mentality which shows me that artists can be entrepreneurs, and that's something I want to show other artists out there.
Darrel: Something that continued to repeat itself throughout the process and it was to use the people around you as resources. Going through Girl Starter and having the help there and meeting these mentors really taught me there's no shame in saying, "Hey, I need help."
Olli: You wouldn't believe how the girls in the house lifted each other up. Yes, it was a competition. Yes, it was fierce a competition--especially towards the end, everyone was helping each other out before final presentations.
What lessons or advice would you pass on to other young entrepreneurs?
Olli: Take the leap. Don't let your doubt get in the way. Always find something you're passionate about because if you find something you're passionate about, its fulfilling, its not just work.
Tiffany: One of the best ways to put a good idea into perspective for someone is to ask what problem are you really solving, and how can you do that successfully that sets you apart from other people already doing it.
Darrel: Really stand your ground, be your number one fan. At the end of the day, you are the only person you have--whether you have your business or not. You have to be your best, your healthiest and your most self-loving in order to make sure that your business succeeds, because it's an extension of you. And make sure you don't let your business define you.