Debbie Sterling graduated from Stanford in 2005, the year that Steve Jobs delivered his now famous commencement address, emphasizing the importance of following one’s passion. Jobs’ message combined with the encouragement of a high school teacher to study engineering, and a self described “itch” to change the world, sent Sterling on a mission to create toys to “get girls building.”
Sterling launched her award winning toy company GoldiBlox in 2013. She spoke at the Leadership Perspective Series: The Female Entrepreneur’s Guide to Raising Startup Capital, sponsored by Olin’s Executive MBA program and held at the Knight Center March 26. Sterling described her entrepreneurial journey and how she went about raising startup capital.
Sterling began raising funds first by saving up enough money to quit her job as a brand manager for a jewelry company. Next, she submitted an application for an elite capital accelerator program that rejected her idea. Then she tried friends and family, and finally Kickstarter, an online threshold pledge system for funding creative projects.
She said that in the beginning, she had absolutely no interest in asking family and friends for money. “But once I asked, I believed that GoldiBlox was a great investment, and anyone who got involved would be lucky to be a part of it.”
The accolades for Sterling and Sterling’s company have rolled in steadily since she got funded. For Sterling, Time’s “Person of the Moment” and Business Insider’s “30 Women Who Are Changing the World”.
Honors for GoldiBlox include:
- Most Audacious Companies of 2014, Inc. Magazine
- World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2014, Fast Company
- Educational Toy of the Year 2014, Toy Industry Association
- People’s Choice Toy of the Year 2014, Toy Industry Association
The session with Sterling also included a panel discussion on the topic of raising startup capital facilitated by Michelle Duguid, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Olin, Maxine Clark, Founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop and Mary Jo Gorman, Lead Managing Partner of Prosper Capital.