I glanced across the stage and then down at my watch. I nodded to Daniel – we were finally up.
We made our way behind the black curtains to the back of the stage and took a few long paces in the dark to do a speed run-through of our pitch one final time. Late Date, the first team to pitch, was about to be called up. We sat down separately on the edge of the mini black stage set up for the reception to be held immediately after Daniel and I, the last of the 3 teams, were finished. This was our last moment to ourselves before show time.
I took a sip of water and a couple deep breaths and was surprisingly relaxed. Daniel looked at ease too. Then our names were called and my ease vanished with a rush of adrenaline that hit me as I walked up the stairs while looking out at the thousands of people in the audience. I spoke into my microphone for the first time and a surge of happiness overtook me as I realized that we were talking about our vision, our company, our product that we had been tediously crafting for over a year, in front of a group of successful people from all over the country — and they appeared to be listening.
I’m still trying to figure out the sequence of events that took place after we left that stage. It was a whirlwind. We met successful entrepreneurs and interested investors, reconnected with alumni friends, and made new ones. One couple, parents of a current student, was so incredibly kind that they offered me to stay in their house in San Francisco while apartment hunting once I made the move out there in early June, after graduation. (Long story short – I stayed there for two weeks and I will remember, and will try my best to pay forward, their generosity for the rest of my life.)
We had some interesting conversations. We met some folks who talked to us about tax loopholes and international restructuring, and why we should invest our future earnings in racehorses. One man was adamant we move our accounts offshore. Somehow my love for aviation came up in one conversation around midnight with a fascinating alum who had flown his plane to Hamilton from Texas; two days later we were at the airport and I was at the controls of his plane.
No matter how fuzzy the sequence, what became crystal clear after Entrepreneur Weekend is that no matter the fate of Sapling Advisory, Daniel and I get to walk away incredibly rich. What we have learned and the experience of meeting so many incredible people, can never be taken away. The quick fluctuations between apparent moments of success and moments of failure throughout this whole process are teaching us to be level-headed and hopeful in the face of troubles, and humble in the face of triumph. As Daniel just reminded me after a long phone call: starting a business involves the constant fluctuation between despair and euphoria. It has been one amazing educational journey and one heck of a ride, one that we would not have been on if it wasn’t for the Thought Into Action Entrepreneurship Institute. From the bottom of my heart – thank you Wills, Bob, Andy, Mary, Dan, and everyone else that built and supported this program.
Now that the caps and gowns are forever stored away, Sapling moves into the summer months full-steam ahead. Our newest team member, Adam Buys ’17, started work June 2nd and has already hammered out a solid content marketing plan that will be one piece in a larger marketing strategy. Sapling is looking to grow its advisor pool, advance its marketing strategy, and undergo market testing to vet out the most viable product before scaling up. We have already made some substantial changes since the night of our big pitch, including shifting to a fiduciary only platform. We believe it is the right thing to do for our clients, and thus, is the right thing to do for our business. We have made some other changes as well and are continuing to keep our pipeline fresh with innovations.
We welcome input and would love to talk to anybody interested in learning more or getting involved. Sapling would not be where it is today without numerous and patient mentors and market experts willing to share their time and expertise. We are, and will always be, so appreciative.
-Josh Lasker ‘14
Josh Lasker ’14 was a geology major with a minor in ALST Caribbean Studies which he declared after studying abroad in Kingston, Jamaica. He started Sapling Advisory with his business partner, Daniel Swiecki ’14 as part of the TIA Student Incubator and both he and Daniel pitched Sapling to the panel on Friday night of Entrepreneur Weekend. He accepted employment with Proctor & Gamble post-graduation in the San Francisco Bay area and continues to work on Sapling with Daniel and Adam Buys ’17, which he hopes to make his full-time career in the near future.