Get to Know WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program Finalist Shelby Baldwin, Co-Founder of Rocketing Systems, Inc.
After interning for a woman-owned tech start-up and falling in love with entrepreneurship, Shelby Baldwin, as a senior at Mississippi State University, co-founded her own company, Rocketing Systems— the company behind Buzzbassador, a software as a service platform for e-commerce store owners.
Shelby was the third-place winner in the 2019 WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program (SEP) Pitch Competition, which took place in June during the WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Baltimore. As the premier startup program for collegiate female founders, SEP fosters growth for the next generation of women-owned businesses through a tailored entrepreneurial curriculum, mentorship, and a pitch competition, where students compete for $25k in seed capital.
We interviewed Shelby to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey, her advice for other female founders, and what’s next for Rocketing Systems.
What has the entrepreneurship journey looked like for you so far?
My entrepreneurship journey has been nothing short of empowering. I have learned so much about myself, grown past what I thought were my limits, and made impactful connections along the way. It’s also important to point out that there have been rough patches: feelings of insufficiency, moments where nothing seemed to be going right, and problems that felt like they would be impossible to overcome — every entrepreneur can attest to that. However, what’s most important is how we react. One of my favorite quotes is, “You have to see failure as the beginning and the middle, but never entertain it as an end.” The journey has definitely been more like a roller coaster than a smooth drive, but it’s worth every bit of stress and struggle to do what I feel like I’m called to.
What has been the most rewarding part of being a young female entrepreneur?
The most rewarding thing about this has been the opportunity to help others, and in so many different ways. As a business executive of an e-commerce and software company, I’m able to help thousands of customers around the world to grow their online brands beyond what they thought was possible. As a young female founder, I’m able to teach young women to push past the limits and expectations set on them. I’ve had the opportunity to tell hundreds of young women on my college campus about entrepreneurship, how to find your passion, and how to get started. None of these opportunities would have been in front of me without my entrepreneurship journey.
What three traits define you?
- I’m allocentric: I’m community-minded and I often find myself concerned with the interests of others more than my own.
- I’m meticulous: I show great attention to detail and I am very careful and precise, especially with my work.
- I’m venturesome: I am always willing to take risks or embark on difficult or unusual courses of action.
Where do you see yourself in one year? How about 5 years?
In one year, I see myself and my two co-founders all working full-time on Rocketing Systems. We will be gearing up to move to a new city and hire more employees. I see us having a direct sales team to focus on building a corporate-level client base. Buzzbassador will be officially listed on the Shopify app store.
In five years, I would like us to have exited (sold or went public) with our first software project, Buzzbassador. I see Rocketing Systems having scaled with corporate-level clients around the world. I will be continuing to vivaciously pursue entrepreneurship while mentoring female students to do the same. I also hope to one day fund and direct an Entrepreneurship Center on a university’s campus close to where I live so that my business partners and I can be actively involved in investing in students who are starting out exactly how we did.
What are you reading or listening to now?
Now that I have graduated, it’s been a little weird not having summer reading or studying to do, so I’ve definitely tried to fill my free time with things that still educate me and further my development as a business woman. A few books on my recent reading list have been “Lean In For Graduates” by Sheryl Sandberg, and “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World” by Tina Seelig. I’ve also been making an effort to listen to more podcasts, and some of my favorite podcasts are “The GaryVee Audio Experience,” “Entrepreneur on Fire,” “How I Built This,” and “The Art of the Hustle.”
What advice would you give to other female founders just starting their business?
The number one thing I hear women my age ask throughout new ventures is, “How do you stay motivated?” The honest answer is, you can’t just wait around to feel motivated. You can’t let your entire entrepreneurship journey depend on a feeling of motivation, because feelings come and go. There will be days that you don’t feel motivated at all — you’ll be tired from countless hours of work, you’ll feel like nothing is going your way. In those times, since you don’t “feel motivated,” are you just going to give up? No! Your business has to be based on a solid foundation of unwavering execution. Everything you want for your business is on the other side of consistency. You have to work hard no matter what. What makes a successful entrepreneur is not how good they are at staying motivated, but how they deliver even when they’re not feeling motivated at all.
How did you first learn about the WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program?
A fellow Mississippi State University student entrepreneur, Rontier Whitfield, participated in the WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program in 2018. She told me about the program and encouraged me to apply, and I would have never known about it if not for her! She’s a great example of women empowering women — she lifted me up and pushed me towards something that she knew would help me grow, and I’ll always be thankful.
How would you describe your experience?
My WBENC SEP experience was absolutely amazing. The camaraderie among the cohort members was incredible: everyone was constantly cheering each other on, always lending a helping hand, and so curious to know about what each other was doing to impact the world. My mentors were also a crucial part of my positive experience. I was blessed to have the best mentors in Ann Ramakumaran from Ampcus Inc., Sue Pettit and Lynn Boccio from Avis Budget Group, and Rose Wong from Kolohe Ocean Gems. Each of these inspiring women generously gave up countless hours of their time to invest into my life and my company’s success, both throughout the program and in the weeks before and after. The programming was extremely well put-together and well thought-out, and I cannot compliment Andrew Gaeckle and Mona Amin enough on all the hard work they put in behind the scenes to make a truly flawless week. I proudly and eagerly recommend WBENC SEP to anyone who may be interested!
What did it feel like getting up in front of an audience and judges to pitch your business?
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t intimidating to stand in front of all the accomplished judges and audience members and pitch — but it was also invigorating. My WBENC pitch was only my second time pitching my start-up business, and my first time ever pitching our new software product, Buzzbassador. I can’t describe the feeling of taking a pitch I spent months preparing for a business I’ve poured my heart and soul into, and standing on a stage to proudly pitch it to an audience of decision-makers and business leaders across so many industries. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life, and I was humbled to be able to share everything we’re doing with Buzzbassador and Rocketing on a national scale.
What did you learn during the program that will help you grow your business?
First of all, the network WBENC provides is invaluable. The connections I made throughout the conference led to really pivotal conversations for the growth of my business. I learned that just because I have a new business or product doesn’t mean I don’t have anything exciting to offer. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to not take myself seriously enough and minimize the impact I’m making because I don’t have millions in revenue or a bunch of impressive accolades. However, WBENC taught me that people are just as excited about new ventures as they are about corporations, because start-ups are the future! My business can shape the way the world will look in a few years, and that’s something to be proud of. I also learned important things about financing my business, scaling, marketing, and more that I have eagerly applied to Buzzbassador upon my return.
What’s next for you and your company?
I graduated from Mississippi State University this past May, so I am looking forward to fully transition into full-time status. Just after my return from WBENC SEP, we secured our first round of funding, which we are using to make exciting updates to the Buzzbassador application, and scale our customer base. We have also just moved to our own brand new office and will begin hiring our first set of employees in the fall, which is really exciting! I have really enjoyed applying everything I learned from WBENC to the company’s growth, and could not be more optimistic about what the future holds for us.
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Original story written by WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Conference)