Alyssa J. Rapp is the founder and CEO of Bottlenotes, Inc., the leading interactive media company in the U.S. wine industry. Alyssa is the author of Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips was named as one of Inc.’s “30 Under 30” coolest entrepreneurs in America. Alyssa has appeared on THE TODAY Show, Fox Business Network, The Rachael Ray Show, ABC, and NBC and more as an expert on wine and entrepreneurship. Follow her @alyssarapp.
Who is your hero?
In life, my hero is my mother, U.S. Ambassador Fay Levin.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
“You have to be present to win.”
(Source: Emily Melton, Retired Venture Capitalist, DFJ, USVP, Mayfield Fund)
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
The biggest mistake I have made as an entrepreneur to date is assuming that smarts and a dogged/highly efficient work ethic can completely compensate for being undercapitalized. What I have learned is that no matter how smart you are and no matter how hardworking you and your team are, and no matter how creative or cutting-edge of a concept a company creates, you have to have enough runway to both build the proverbial plane AND get it off the ground. To continue with the metaphor, having ample runway to get a jumbo jet off the ground is crucial — no matter how spectacular the jet, without the runway, it will never reach its full potential.
It’s better to prioritize products/services — and even abandon some terrific ideas — in order to reserve adequate capital to both build AND invest in product/service marketing, versus ongoing investment in new products/services and expecting that “if you build it, they will come.”
I’ve also learned that the easiest invested capital you will ever raise is when you are selling a hope/dream – so raise more early on than you think you’ll need.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I clear my email inbox — whether that’s at 6 a.m. from my bed or later from my desk. I clear out the drafts that weren’t sent from the night before and address immediately pressing issues so I can avoid having my inbox “run my day” once sit down to tackle the priorities/objectives I have set forth for myself.
I also call my East Coast office to clear off those immediate management to-do’s before walking into our West Coast office so that everyone gets their needs addressed no matter where in the country they sit, right out of the gate.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Whatever you think you might need to get your company launched, expect it will take 3x as long and cost 2x as much, or vice versa. So either shore up your savings and wait as long as possible to take invested capital and/or raise more than you think you’ll need at the seed level from friends and family.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Work out everyday. It clears your mind, keeps you healthy and energized for the battle at hand.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
My definition of success is delivering a best-in-class product to our consumers and delivering best-in-class service and results to our brand partners.
I will have finally “succeeded” in this business when our investors and key stakeholders (i.e. the team) have made a meaningful return on their investment.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.