Sheworx's Casie Millhouse talks startup slips & a passion to connect
Before she became the tenacious Singapore Director of Sheworx, a global collective of female entrepreneurs, Casie Millhouse was hustling for jobs amidst Singapore's thumping nightlife, with a bag full of scratched vinyls, a vivacious spirit, and dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. Back in 2001, Chicago-born Casie - then DJ Casie Lane - delighted Singapore's melomaniacs with her funky underground-house sessions and laid-back remixes.
Fifteen years later, and with a slice of life's experiences under her belt including roles as a head gymnastics coach and online craft-store owner, Casie founded her own startup company Leelapass in early 2016. Branded as an online portal to help parents discover and book affordable activities for their children, Leelapass had already generated $400 in revenue within 10 days of being set-up, and - in addition to making the climb as one of the best sites for kids activities - had made $25,000 in revenue at the end of 6 months, all without a cent of seed money.
However, Leelapass never launched. In what Casie describes as "the best decision she's ever made", she speaks of her experience founding Leelapass, which addresses themes such as collaboration and compromise; exposing Casie's softer side, albeit with echoes of her characteristic grit.
BEING ALONE IN A STARTUP IS HARD WORK
Looking back, I'm really happy that I got out when I did, before I pumped more money into the marketing for Leelapass. It wasn't an ideal business, as I was providing a service that was 'good to have' but not a 'must have'. This was a conclusion that was validated each time I talked to providers and other businesses about Leelapass. Even though I knew that I had to come up with a different unique selling point for Leelapass, I simply couldn't pivot my business. Being alone in the company was also a huge challenge, as being in a startup can never be a one-man show. I am aware that the startups similar to Leelapass as struggling today, because it isn't a viable business to be in. I still believe that there is a solution to marketing these kids activities, but I need to find like-minded people who are willing to head with me in the same direction to make it work.
LESSONS LEARNT FROM SETTING UP A STARTUP
Never go out on your own, because you need a team of people on your side when setting up a startup. I thought I could do this (Leelapass) all by myself, but didn't quite understand the gravity of the responsibility ahead of me. You need a team to bounce ideas off, and it gets pretty lonely too. Additionally, I've realised that the unwillingness to make mistakes isn't the real culprit of causing a startups' downfall, but rather having the know-how in executing a proper business plan. In fact, that was my major problem when creating Leelapass, which failed to come to fruition. I knew how to hustle, and I knew quite a bit about the business - I just didn't know how to bring those two factors together.
VIRTUAL REALITY IS A HOT SPACE
Aside from working on building communities and engaging the startups at Sheworx, I'm also currently working with a Virtual Reality startup called SW Interactive. They engage in yacht retail sales, where clients are able to view a simulation of the yacht in real-time and explore different facets of the boat and see what they're like. It's yacht shopping, without the inconvenience of needing to travel halfway across the world - It's cool! I'm also working on organising International Handstand Day on the 24 June, in partnership with BBC Sports with Gymnastics Federations from around the globe. It's basically an online movement, where people from all over the globe post their handstand pictures online accompanied by #HandstandDay - I'm doing this purely for the fun of it.
GREAT DRIVE, AND A PASSION TO CONNECT
Sheworx is trying to achieve parity and bridge the female funding gap for female entrepreneurs everywhere. The events we organise are very different from the stereotypical pitch competitions where everyone is trying to compete for the 'top prize'. For example, our larger summit is coming up soon, and it's our biggest event yet. Sheworx is not looking to hit any revenue goals; just being able to start this movement of collaboration for women is an amazing experience. Many women in the community are struggling with access to the capital, as they're in their late 30s or early 40s, often transitioning from a corporate background, or from motherhood. We are just trying to bring startups and investors together to create an open dialogue and honest conversation about the problems faced, the necessary steps needed and how each party can help each other.