Gangly Sister was founded when I got so angry at how few women were raising venture capital that I felt I had to do something about it. For me, that meant influencing children before they made a career choice.
Right now, we are exposing children to media which shows that if you are smart, you’re less popular, and that it takes some kind of genius to understand math or computers. We also show them that all you need is the right break, like on The Voice, to become a superstar. This is ridiculous, when you think of the odds of the average person becoming The Voice star versus their odds of becoming a software engineer.
To transform that skewed picture, we wanted to create images and cartoons which would show average kids using technology for good. We wanted children to understand that a technology career is for anyone who is interested in helping others in a profound way.
We created Purple and Nine to be relatable for all kinds of girls. We didn’t want them to fall into any stereotypical category. It was only recently, when I started reading about the shallowness of female comic book characters, that I realised we had created something truly original. It never occurred to us to create anything other than rich characters with deep back stories.
The biggest challenge for me as the chief executive officer is with my internal dialogue. In this role, it’s up to you to lead and motivate yourself first and foremost. We all have days when we don’t want to get out of bed, or when everything seems to go wrong.
As a leader, you can’t let that stop you. You need the tools to turn yourself around quickly. If I had to pick one attribute that’s most important in a leader, it’s the ability to quickly stop negative emotional states and get focused back on the task at hand.
What has helped me the most with that challenge is surrounding myself with great people. Miriam, my original co-founder, kept me going through the video production of the first pilot. I’m the kind of person who is highly motivated by people. During times when my co-founders were less active, I was less productive. Right now, I’m looking for a new co-founder who is better on the online marketing side.
Finding the right people is the hardest challenge you’ll face in every aspect of life. We went through more than 500 artist portfolios when we wanted to move from video to comic books. Of those, we gave about 20 a trial – and chose one. When she flaked out on us, my 3D animator (Ofer) stepped in and taught himself to draw comic art. That’s the value of having the right people on your team.
Gangly Sister is a product business, meaning we make money when people purchase the comic books (and in the future apps, memberships and merchandise). Unlike a consulting business, the time invested before you see any money is huge. It took us almost two years to create a product to sell. Most of us kept working or freelancing while we were building the business.
When you are building a business, expect everything to take longer and be more expensive than you planned. Most entrepreneurs tell me it’s four to six times more time, and at least double the budget. You need to be financially and emotionally prepared for a lot of failed attempts before you reach success.
The biggest challenge is always the one you are facing right now. Whatever you just did, no matter how hard it was, it eventually fades. Right now, we are facing getting the word out about our comic books. It’s extremely difficult to rise above the noise when you are a small company with a limited (or no) budget. If you survive long enough to create an actual product, you’re ahead of the game, but the game doesn’t actually start until you sell the product.
Also when you look at how others launch, it can be overwhelming. Just to give you an idea of what we are facing, we looked at the Netflix MC2 online project. When they came out with the three-episode pilot series on Netflix, it came out simultaneously with five action figure dolls, a YouTube channel, a huge advertising campaign and a website which includes online games and member registration.
And they were mentioned in all the major outlets. That’s our competition. If you’re a three-person startup with most of the staff working in the evening after their day jobs, you can’t possibly launch like that.
Ultimately, you have to believe in what you have created. The odds are never in your favour, but if you enjoy your work and are willing to persist, it’s worth pursuing your passion.
About the author
Rebecca Rachmany is the founder and CEO of Gangly Sister LLC, a new media company with the mission of transforming how girls are portrayed in the media. Gangly Sister is creating digital comics, video and, in the future, apps to encourage and inspire girls to pursue career paths in technology and entrepreneurship. Rachmany has held management positions in technology companies for over 20 years and has served as CEO of Tech Tav and Marketecht, both profitable services companies. She has mentored at Microsoft Ventures and Google Startup Wednesdays and coaches entrepreneurs regularly on planning, strategy, positioning and team building. Rachmany holds an MBA from Kellogg Northwestern and is a graduate of Anthony Robbins’ Business Mastery and Landmark’s Team Management and Leadership Program.
You can get the comic books about Purple and Nine at ganglysister.com/comics.