The Hive Five Podcast
5 Key Takeaways from Chris and Erika Lucas
1. Make sure that the problem you’re aiming to solve is disruptive enough and don’t be afraid to AIM BIG!
2. Make sure to constantly be growing your network and be everywhere.
3. Be flexible and resilient, even with a plan. (Don’t be afraid to pivot.)
4. Launch early to allow you time to pivot based on feedback. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
5. Break all of the rules (even the ones we just listed.) Build your own pathway forward. That’s what entrepreneurs do!
Join the Hive Five swarm on Episode 2 where Keagan and Katherine sit down with Chris and Erika Lucas, founders of StitchCrew and co-organizers of the Thunder Launchpad.
Chris and Erika have a background in startups, but just recently embarked in StitchCrew back in 2016. Through StitchCrew, they created an accelerator for local Oklahoma startups to help grow and shine a light on the burgeoning Oklahoma startup scene. They talk about their background in creating StitchCrew and why they chose to base it here in Oklahoma City.
In this podcast, Chris and Erika also discuss the purpose of the Thunder Launchpad, as well as the founding 12-week batch. BriteBee was honored to be chosen among the first batch of founders for Thunder Launchpad, so not only does Keagan look at it from the perspective of being a founder in the program, but Chris and Erika discuss the background of the accelerator. In addition, StitchCrew discusses how they, as a startup, were able to partner with an NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in helping to promote Oklahoma’s entrepreneur community.
However, just because they are partnered with an NBA team, doesn’t mean that StitchCrew doesn’t still have the same struggles other startups have, so they talk about those challenges and how StitchCrew deals with them.
The importance of local investment is discussed, as well as how StitchCrew is aiming to mobilize the local investment market and push them towards early stage investments vs. traditional medium-late stage investments that they are comfortable with.
Lastly, Chris and Erika give some insight for entrepreneurs looking to apply for the Thunder Launchpad, or any other accelerator, as well as some tips and things to do in order to stand out and have a better chance of acceptance.
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Thank you so much for being here today. This is Kagan Henson with bribery and we also have Katherine Parker, marketing director of bright beyond as well and today we are so excited to have some amazing people on and their names are Erica and Chris Lucas and they are which stitch crew. How are you guys doing today?
Good. Good. Thank you for having us. Doing Great. Thanks for having us. Thrilled to be here.
Well, thank you so much. We know that you guys are super busy and we have had many problems today with our audio and sound, but appreciate your grace and your forgiveness.
Hey, it’s the startup life, right?
It is the startup life, so every single day, so every single minute, but we want to just get to know you guys a little bit better and understand what stitch crew is and also you are a part of the thunder launchpad and want to know the first 12 weeks of your first launch of founders and how that went.
Yeah. So I’m super excited. You know, it was a lot of work and you were part of it, part of it. Um, so you kinda know
uh, everything ran, but I think a lot of lessons learned. I think a lot of energy, we were very pleased with the quality and the intensity that at all of the founders brought to the table.
Uh, would you agree? Think one thing that’s interesting about what we just went through on these 12 weeks is the balance of, you know, we’re, we’re kind of a startup ourselves really. And here we are working with 10 companies in roundup mentors and trying to advise them and walk them through this startup life. And same time in parallel, we’re doing, we’re doing the same thing. So it was fun. Um, we learned, we’ve said this over and over again. It’s just, it’s true. We learn as much I think from the founders than 10 companies as I’m sure they learned from us. And we probably learned more, but it was, it was fun. I mean, we’re ready to do it again.
So Chris and Erica, tell us why in the world would you start stitch crew, like what actually made you want to do something like this because you guys had a good jobs, you had some great success and what you were doing and so why would you go back to the startup life?
That’s a great question and we’re still trying to answer that. No, really trying to understand that to be, to be really honest with you, we were a little bit frustrated with the fact that we felt our community within coming in for, for the founders. So we need it to do a little bit more because we strongly believe that most of the challenges that we face as a society are not going to be solved through traditional mindset and policy and traditional institutions providing minimal support. Um, it’s really going to. Those problems are gonna be solved by, by bold founders like yourself and other entrepreneurs who collectively come together to help each other and figure out how to solve those problems together. So I think that that’s what drove us, you know, we could have continued to do what we were doing live, lived a, I’m healthy and stable life, but, but we felt like we needed to be part of the solution and bringing people together and providing a platform that supports that entrepreneurs and enables them to tell their story.
Yeah. I think one thing I would add to that is I think eric and I and our family were at a little bit of a crossroads with what we were doing prior to the launch pad. I mean, we, if we were to continue to do what we were doing and we were profitable and we were in, we were doing well, but it most likely would have taken us outside of Oklahoma City to, to continue and we made a decision, a Derek is point that, you know, that it was important for us to see it happen here. Uh, our roots are here and it was just important. So we made that decision and yeah, it was, I dunno, I guess maybe a little bit of a sacrifice on some ends, but at the same time that the rewards were worth it. And so we jumped in
when you guys started out pretty well, uh, you know, to get the thunder to partner with you guys. I mean, how, how in the world did you guys get that done?
They, they came begging. No kidding. They came to you were knocking on your door, super proud and grateful for our partnership with a vendor and it came together. Hopefully you guys were able to develop relationships through, through the accelerator program. It came through a relationship. I mean, we knew some of the executives that the vendor, um, ever since they moved and then made the decision to move to Oklahoma City, um, and had really strong relationships and really how it came about is that we were discussing the state of our state and we were talking about how come Chris and I weren’t doing more deals here in Oklahoma and we talked about it, we talked about, you know, it’s hard to identify the startups that are doing things, you know, we don’t see as much deal flow. So we kind of started talking about the problem and then together we collectively discuss ways that we can maybe offer a potential solution. And that’s how through a lot of coffees, maybe a beer or two, we plan on a Napkin. That’s how we came to, to what is now the under launchpad in the accelerator program.
I think it’s funny because we get asked a lot about our partnership with the thunder and people kind of as along the same lines of why, why are you guys doing this? Why are they doing this? And it honestly is strictly the genesis was a community play. I’m just trying to get it started here and support and cultivate to community and honestly was as
It is simple as that really. Um, it wasn’t, there was no hidden motive. There’s no hidden agenda or profit motive to this for free the side right now. So it just was a community play
and Kudos to the vendor too because they could have, they could have gone the traditional route, maybe partner with, with an existing institution perhaps in a university that doesn’t have some entrepreneurship programs or just just somebody more stable. And, but, um, I, I will always be grateful that they decided to partner with screw. Although we had only been doing what we had been doing for about a year and a half. So. Yeah.
Right. Well, and honestly I was, I was just thinking myself, what makes you guys so special that the thunder would, the choose you to work with? And, um, I think, you know, you guys say it best and in a very humble manner is, you know, your experience, but, but also just the relationships that you were able to create and the communication you were able to have with them. And that says something also about the, uh, about the thunder. Wouldn’t you say that they were willing to explore and also, uh, you know, have those conversations.
Yeah, definitely. At the end of the day, I think that, to be quite frank, when we were having these discussions, Chris and I, we’re happy to help. Um, it started as an ideation. We didn’t know if we want it to commit to doing a longterm accelerator play. We hadn’t ourselves, although we have worked with accelerators and what the startup community and the investment community, we’ve never run an accelerator program. So we didn’t, we didn’t, we weren’t sure if this was the right play for us, although we were passionate about helping founders. But I think that what, what made the pitch was that we aligned and cultures. So something that we told the, the thunder from the very beginning is that if we were to do this, that we would be founder friendly, uh, and found her first, uh, that that’s always been our ethos with stitch crew is that, um, you know, we, although before we partner with the thunder, we, you know, we got our paychecks from investors.
Our, our ethos has always been we work in partnership with the founders because they’re really the ones that are solving problems. They’re really the ones in the front lines. I’m getting hit by all angles and defeating the odds. And so I think the vendor appreciated that because they, they themselves were a startup, right? They came to a market unlike their competitors. It’s not, it’s not as big of a market. Um, it’s, um, it was new to Oklahoma in. So they also are in a way defeating the odds and started as a startup. So I think the culture was definitely something that brought us together and that collectively we made the decision that, that we matched our personalities and the way we go about doing business and our business protocols were aligned.
Fantastic. And so I want to jump on and highlight a little bit about what you said about defeating the odds and I really would like for you guys to give insight on, on what that truly means, because when, when Brian was going through this program, I think we had an idea of that meant but moving forward and going through some of the trials that we’ve experienced and just some of the different challenges, uh, in general defeating the odds meant something completely different. And so if, if one of our listeners was to come and say they want to be a part of stitch crew and the thunder launchpad and you were to say, we’re going, we’re going to help you defeat the odds. What, what does that look like? Can you give us an example?
Yeah. So again, when we were dating, you know, what the accelerator would look like. Something that was really important for us is to have cohorts of factors, right? So we create a little bit of a tribe, have a problem solvers because we tell the founders all the time, if you’re looking for an accelerator and you come in with the mindset that the accelerator is going to solve all of your problems, then you’re in it for Chris and I don’t have all the, all of the answers. But I think that what we figured out is that collectively, if we do this as a cohort and we put smart people together, willing to help each other out, um, we are in a much better place at defeating the odds. Right? We could problem solve together
if somebody were to come to us and want to work with us and you know, and you guys will understand this too, I think, think that ms.one of the misconceptions of many is the old business adage of if you build it, they will come that, that doesn’t happen. You guys are experiencing that right now. I think. And same with us, just because we opened up and accelerator here in partnership with the funder doesn’t mean that we have people knocking down our door to, to, to apply, apply and, and fundraise, invest. I mean just that doesn’t happen. So you know, you have to get past that mentality. I’ve always going to be super easy. All we gotta do is curate this business and we’re on easy street. I couldn’t be further from the truth.
That is so true. I mean I think that a lot of people, and not necessarily competitors of ours, but people that are paying attention to what we’re doing have this notion that because we did partner with the thunder and because we are a little bit unique in our approach that, that were just, you know, investors are pouring in and applications for the batch to or a name, but we have to hustle. Yeah. We have to go and find those, those startups that we feel would be a good bid. We make calls, we, in fact this week, that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been reaching out to founders just to learn a little bit about what they’re building and encourage them to apply to our program and make the case right. We don’t take anything for granted, even though we are partner of with offender, even though we’ve had an amazing batch comprise of really cool entrepreneurs, we realized that we still have to get out there and do, do recruitment ourselves.
Right. So you would say that one of the challenges would be just the recruiting aspect. Would there be any other challenges that you guys have faced recently that you’ve been working through?
Oh my gosh. So many. So there’s the recruitment of applicant, applicant’s founders, and there’s the challenge of recruiting investors and, you know, and that’s, that comes in many ways, right? One, mobilizing the local investment community, um, to perhaps grow the appetite to invest in early stage. Um, Oklahoma is sexually, uh, we, we have a lot of wealth and to state and a lot of investments, um, arms, um, they tend to deploy that capital. However, in latter stage investments or industries and sectors that they’re comfortable with, which there’s no problem that however, in order to at create and cultivate a thriving startup community, we need to have more investment board in, into early stage. Um, and so that, that’s a challenge, you know, mobilizing the local investment as it relates to attracting out of state investors. Um, you know, it’s a sense that because they don’t know Oklahoma, it’s happened to do a lot of education and awareness of all the neat things that we have going on in our community and making the case that we do have really viable and talented founders and startups. I’m here that they should be investing in. Um, right. So, I mean it’s some of the challenges that we deal with everyday.
And would you say that the support, would you say that the support has been good? Has it been well received and what you guys are doing or is it still something that you’re trying to get your brand out there and also help people understand the mission of stitch crew?
Yeah, so I think that that support overall from the community has been outstanding and really, really for it. Um, I think that there’s still, you know, although there’s a few programs that support entrepreneurs, whether they’re incubator, some others are accelerators, but they’re tied more to university programs. So I think that the whole notion of accelerators and startups even it’s a little bit new, so we have to do some education of how we, um, you know, most of the economic development arms, for example, um, evaluate and do their key performance metrics based on job create created by companies. Well in startups is the opposite, right? In fact, we don’t want you guys to hire too many people at the beginning because that’s the beauty of technology. Perhaps you can infuse a lot of technology to be able to minimize your cost and your overhead. And so that’s, you know, that’s just one example, for example, that we have to, um, educate our fellow economic developers around here and community and civic leaders that you can’t just evaluate the startup community the way you would normally evaluate other ecosystems based on how many jobs they create right off the bat because it’s, it’s contradicting to our culture of doing things.
I’m not as scrappy and in and cost effective. Uh, and with low overheads, you say
the support has been great. Um, I don’t, I don’t feel like we will ever be out of, out of promoting and trying to, I don’t want to say build credibility with stitch crew, but, you know, we back to earlier, I mean we’re, we’re pretty new as far as what, what Eric and I do at least in Oklahoma City. So I think there is a component to educating people on not just what an accelerator does, but you know, who was stitch true. Um, so I think we’ll be dealing with that for awhile, but, you know, um, we have great connections here and a great network here. So I think we’re building that, that credibility.
So you’ve had 12 founders go through the program thus far, so though you’re a startup and you’ve, I just started, you’ve had a, a really good group I can say. So myself just being in it, just being with, with the founders, they were an amazing group of people. So what guidance would you have for people looking at your accelerator or another accelerator? What guidance would you give to them when choosing one and moving through the program?
That’s a great question. Um, you know, I think that ultimately it has to do a lot with culture, right? There’s always going. Hopefully that’s what we hope Chris and I, that there are more accelerators and more platforms that enable and support entrepreneurs. I think that what we would say is just make sure that you’re aligned with that of the program that you choose to go with. I mean, you’re going to identify with people because that’s the key, right, that you spent so much time with, with the managing directors of that program because they’re going to be providing you with access to other people or providing you feedback. I’m working with you to problem solve and so at the end of the day, you want to make sure that your personalities match and that your ethos alliance and that you’re going to be cool working with those people. Um, so I think that that’s how accelerators primarily will differentiate.
Of course does that, there’s always the, for example, our accelerator, um, doesn’t, um, we believe in investing in resource capital in the companies that we accept, so it’s not like we’re hinting checks out. Um, we also don’t take equity however, in the companies that we, that we host, but there are other accelerator programs that do, they offer cash in exchange for, for an equity play in your company. And there’s nothing wrong with either or is just, you know, what, what makes sense for you when I’m in that’s going to be unique to, to the stage and the type of company that you’re building and how dire you are for, for funding.
A couple of other things that are important to look at. And this is not unique to the launchpad. There’s other accelerators that do this as well, but I would look at the mentor network that accelerators have. I mean, that’s such a strong component to a successful accelerator is the strength of the mentors because know that those are really going to be resources and that the founders are going to talk to just as much as they are that the program managers of the accelerator. So I look at that and I’d also, and we don’t have this yet with the thinner launchpad. You guys obviously will be a part of this, but the alumni network as well. Um, you know, accelerators are only as strong as, as the companies that go through them. And then as, as founders graduate, are they coming back and giving to the future founders that come through and given their time and resources, I think that’s a strength. So the accelerators are strong and those two components then I think it’s well worth looking into.
Definitely. And I think that’s going to be something very interesting to see in the near future of how the founders will respond and communicate with each other. And also just stay in contact. And in the near future, don’t you guys think?
Oh absolutely. And you know, we have to have retreats and other opportunities where we still bring alumni in or you know, previous founders together, but even so, retreats for purchase, the badge itself so that you guys can get together and talk about the progress made and all of that. But also we want to bring you guys together to meet the feature or the, you know, the next batch that comes in because we’re going to rely on you guys to also become mentors and share your stories with, with upcoming founders.
Fantastic. So we don’t have much more time, but we always want to leave with five takeaways, five key takeaways and from the startup life and mentoring startups at all stages. So can you guys throw out five key takeaways that, that our listeners would benefit from?
So I would say the first line, you know, when you are looking, if you are looking at, I’m going the startup route, just make sure that your, that the problem that you’re solving and your idea is disruptive enough, an aim big, right? Ask yourself if what you’re building is in fact going to impact a lot of people if it’s going to be 10 times or more a different than what anybody else is doing. Um, and don’t be intimidated by your own, by thinking big and going big because the reality is, you know, whether you’re with, whether you’re creating a lifestyle business or a high growth, you’re probably going to spend the same time building. It is just whether a startup in a high growth startup, um, it’s, it’s only sustainable if your ideas big enough to, to go big. I’m the other thing I would say, um, and then I’ll let Chris finish the other ones is make sure that you grow your network and that you’re everywhere. It’s so important for, for companies, particularly technology companies, to know that it’s not just enough to build a good product. You have to get out there, you have to tell people about it. I’m not just on online but offline as well. And, and grow your network, you know, investors, advisors, employees, customers. I’m just as much as you can network and expand. Um,
so here’s one that resonates with today. I think I’m, you know, you always have a plan, but you have to be flexible and resilient, right? I mean, things don’t always. Amen, brother. All right? So, I mean, you know, I think it’s good to be as an everyday every single day. You got to run into this. So, you know, I mean, I think the word pivot
gets used a lot, but you do, you have to be able to pivot and recognize when it’s time to do that, you know, have your plan b ready. I mean, it’s scope, it’s great to have goals and a vision and you know, to be persistent, but you have to be flexible
and be able to change based on what your customers want. Um, so, you know, not and outside of what you’re, you know, not just your customers but your, your, your staff and your, you know, your mentors, your guides. I mean, whoever you’re giving your network, it’d be flexible.
We didn’t have to say to you, but to founders is, is to launch early. Um, you know, unless you’re steve jobs or some kind of mad genius, you’re going to start up with an idea and like Chris said, it’s going to pivot. So just go ahead and launch and start getting feedback from people, um, in your product. Ultimately it’s going to evolve. So something that we always tell founders is don’t wait till it’s too late, just go ahead and launch. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You’ll, you’ll perfect it as, as you start getting feedback and start engaging with, with customers. And then the last one I would say is just break all of the rules that we just said, you know, part of being an entrepreneur is to break rules. So Chris and I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does their strategies for doing things differently. Come up with your own and break the rules.
No, I completely agree. And you know, the thing is, is that the feedback that you just gave was phenomenal. But what you guys have taught me and our team has that, that feedback has to be flexible as well. A, you have to take it as truth, but you also have to know that it’s going to look different from, from each person and based upon their situation and where they are at the moment, wouldn’t you say?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, the only thing that we say is, you know, take feedback from everybody and some of it is going to be good, bad or objective. Um, your job is to discern what, what’s best for you based on this stage and what you want to build a. so. Yeah. So I mean, as you guys know, you’re going gonna hear a lot of nodes, right? Nothing. No. Has it has a negative connotation to it, but it’s just feedback. It’s just, I mean this is just to help you get better. So it’s easier said than done. Don’t take it personal. Just grow from it.
Someone told me yesterday, they said no is just two letters, so keep moving on. And I thought that was, you know, it’s so elementary and they were actually talking to a middle school group but I. But I sat back and I thought that is exactly right. It’s just two letters, so just keep moving on. There’s nothing else to it. I think that that was extremely encouraging. Good, good. Highlight there. Chris and Erica, tell us how we can help you and where everyone can find you a because we know that we’ll have people who have a startup or have an idea and they need someone to talk to and you guys would be perfect for that.
Thank you for asking that. The way you can help us as we’re actually recruiting for batch two, so if you know of anybody that would like to get through the accelerator program, send them over to our website which is www dot [inaudible] dot com and our application will be open until July 31st, but we always encourage people to apply early because we make it a point to meet with every applicant if we can. And so the sooner you apply, the more time we have to evaluate your application to ask any questions that we may have and then hopefully to meet with you prior to Mike and final decisions. So don’t wait until the last minute.
Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for being on today. You were actually our first podcast and you guys got the brunt end of it, a poor audio and microphone problems and everything else, but you guys are so flexible and so patient and so we truly thank you for that. Catherine unfortunately was not able to be on because she is actually in Florida and her Wifi is not working so tech problems all around but we made it through so we really appreciate that and we’re definitely going to be talking to. There she is. She’s. I’m listening, listening. Sorry. I’m not contributing because I don’t want to mess up the podcast. I was nodding and actively listening the whole time. Chris and Erica, you guys are amazing. I miss you guys too. That is hilarious. Well, thank you guys so much. I just remember, uh, if you, if you do a need insurance quotes, definitely go to the place where insurance quotes don’t firstname.lastname@example.org and if you have any questions, feel free to leave us a chat or send us an email and we’ll be more than happy to help you. Everyone have a wonderful, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Visit StitchCrew’s website here: https://www.stitchcrew.com/
Apply for Thunder Launchpad Batch #2 here: https://www.stitchcrew.com/thunder-launchpad
Applications end on July 31 (But make sure to apply early!)