This 26-year-old Went From College Side Hustle To Running A $17M+ Funded Company.

6 Min Read

Her Secret? "Just fake it". Beatrice Fischel-Bock wholeheartedly believes that failure isn't the end—it's just the beginning. The 26-year-old CEO and co-founder of the home decor tool Hutch (it mixes 3D technology with online shopping to let you virtually decorate your space) took the company from a college side hustle to business venture with over $17 million in funding. All in just six short years. And the secret to her success? The failures along the way.

"Fail fast, fix fast, and learn fast."

Fischel-Bock and her co-founders were interior design students at George Washington University with friends constantly calling them for home décor guidance. “It seemed crazy that no one knew how to buy furniture. They didn't know where to go. They didn't know what to buy or what would look good in their space," Fischel-Bock says.

So, Fischel-Bock and her friends put together an executive summary and entered a business line competition at their school and were immediately denied. That was their first failure. “There's nothing very calm about the journey and you have to accept the failure and make it part of the process. Others might have said, 'Okay, well, I guess I'm not moving forward.' But that's not what happened to us," she recalls. “We considered the executive summary we put together as our first step, and we just kept going on our journey. We built a website, did things for free and tested out our whole concept."

“The only thing you can count on is change"

Fischel-Bock readily admits that the only constant over the past six years is the rapid amount of change that's taken place. Something Fischel-Bock has embraced rather than resist. “Today, I take solace in counting on change because you know what? Things are going to change no matter what—so just go with the flow," Fischel-Bock says. “If it's not going well, you know it's going to go better. If it's going well, don't get an ego because it can go back and become bad again."

In college, after a lot of sweat and sleepless nights, the business made almost one million in revenue. Fischel-Bock worked as a cocktail waitress until 2 am on Friday nights and then was up at 7 am to do installs. “There were a couple of major breakdowns. My roommate was picking me up off the floor—but we were doing it with each other and that was huge," she recalls. “We fought but we had a support system with each other. And we just felt so strongly about what we were doing."

“There were a couple of major breakdowns. My roommate was picking me up off the floor—but we were doing it with each other and that was huge," she recalls. “We fought but we had a support system with each other. And we just felt so strongly about what we were doing."

After graduation, Fischel-Bock and her co-founders knew they couldn't abandon all their hard work. So, they went to the mecca for entrepreneurs—Shark Tank. Even though they received an offer from Barbara Corcoran and accepted—the partnership ultimately did not come to fruition. “It's a handshake deal on the show and then you start to the due diligence. That's when we realized the terms weren't that great. We were asking for $100,000 for 33 percent of our company and that was crazy. We raised 17M for similar terms," says Fischel-Bock. Even though Fischel-Bock would have liked Corcoran as a mentor, the deal wasn't meant to be.

Being on Shark Tank, however, was instrumental in Hutch's growth. Watching the show that night was Sean Rad, founder of Tinder, and he changed everything. “Connecting with him was the only good thing that came of Shark Tank. He's a fan of the show and always reaching out to companies he thinks are interesting," says Fischel-Bock. “He actually had thought of some furniture ideas before launching Tinder. He reached out and we really clicked."

"If you take a bunch of rocks and put them in a tumbler overnight—they'll make a ton of sound. But in the morning, you'll open it up and they'll be smooth stone."

Sean offered up the money and resources Hutch needed to get to the next level. He also brought Fischel-Bock and her team out to LA (where they're now based) and introduced them to key business players. But, Rad also reinforced to Fischel-Bock why a mentor is so valuable. “I've always sought out advice from people who've done anything before me. I don't have that ego that wants to do things my way," says Fischel-Bock. “People love giving advice. I know now I will always be available to anyone who wants mine.

Fischel-Bock loves that parable famously told by Apple founder Steve Jobs because it's inspired the way she tries to lead her company. The story is a metaphor for a team that's working really hard on something they're passionate about. Yet, that team bumps up against each other and has arguments. Even so, they're still working together to polish each other and polish their ideas. The result? These beautiful stones.

“At Hutch, we're very opinionated, and push each other—but in the end, hopefully, we're making the right choices," Fischel-Bock says. As a boss, she prefers to be collaborative. She doesn't want to lead by dictating her vision and giving everyone no choice but to see it through. “Spencer Rascoff, the CEO of Zillow, says being a boss means 'finding people to empower that do things better than you do,'" says she says. “That's really changed my perspective on how to hold my vision and keep everyone in the same direction—yet empowering those who might make a better decision than me to make it."

“Just fake it"

Here's a secret about being a massive success story at just 26-years-old: “Everyone acts confident, but no one really knows what they're doing," Fischel-Bock says. “That's what I've learned by meeting these larger than life entrepreneurs—they're all human, they all don't know everything, and you're probably at par." Project confidence until it catches up and you really start feeling that way. Fischel-Bock wants to empower women to embrace their inner confidence. She wants women to stop second-guessing their decisions or doubting their abilities—something she rarely sees men do. “It holds you back and becomes emotionally damaging," she says. “I spent so long questioning if I wasn't good enough and wondering if there were others who could do it better. But, as I get older, that's gone away and I get more confident."

This piece was originally published in May 2019.

​4 Min Read

Please Don't Put Yourself On Mute

During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.

When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)

This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.

By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.

But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.

I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.

If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?

At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)

At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.

They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.

  • Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
  • Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
  • Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
  • Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
  • Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.

It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.

So please don't put yourself on mute.

Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.

But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.