Sara Capra is co-founder of Orate, an online marketplace where event organizers and public speakers can easily find one another, helping event planners find the perfect speakers for their audiences. Sara previously worked in Global Partnerships at the United Nations Foundation, where she helped develop strategic partnerships to support the organization's mission.
Q: What does entrepreneurship mean to you, and what underlying characteristics do you see in successful entrepreneurs?
Sara: Entrepreneurship means thinking boundlessly. There is a scene in the movie "Mean Girls" when the main character solves a calculus problem at a math competition with the answer, "the limit does not exist." THAT is what I think of when I think of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs have to work as if there are no limitations. Of course, there will be challenges and barriers to work through, but you have to think of them as simply that - objects you're going to work through. Entrepreneurs always need to be of the mindset that an obstacle is surmountable or that there are alternatives to get to the next step. Resilience, persistence, problem-solving skills and strategic timing make entrepreneurs successful. All of those qualities, in addition to a positive attitude and high emotional intelligence, are essential.
Q: What are you most proud of in your professional career? If you could do something over in your life, what would it be?
Sara: I'm proud that despite the challenges and the sacrifices certain career decisions, including entrepreneurship, have required, I have always made more divergent career path decisions. I have taken calculated risks and made decisions based on my passions, my skills and my heart.
If I could do some things over again, I would have participated in more entrepreneurial activities in undergrad and graduate school. I also would have spent more time working, volunteering, exploring and learning Spanish in Spain and Latin America. I am deeply passionate about the Spanish language and cultures in Latin America and Spain, and wish I would have taken more time to immerse myself further.
Q: Tell us about an instance where you had to go against the flow to realize your goal.
Sara: Going against the flow and taking divergent pathways has been a common occurrence for me. When I was working in Global Partnerships at the United Nations Foundation, I had to make the difficult decision to leave the organization to build Orate. I was in a role I thoroughly enjoyed, I worked with strong leaders and a wonderful team, and I was making an impact. It was more than tempting to stay, but the opportunity to build something from scratch and create a company that would serve an important purpose in a market that desperately needs innovation, was something I knew I had to pursue or I would regret it forever.
Q: Can you talk about what it takes to move a company from an Accelerator program to funding to launching your startup and your solution?
Sara: Our company participated in The Startup Factory accelerator program in Durham, North Carolina. During the program, my co-founder and I spent a lot of time working with our advisors and taking advantage of the expertise shared by other entrepreneurs in the community.
When there are only two people starting up a company, you don't get much sleep. We focused our energies on refining the business model and testing assumptions. We defined our sales funnels and determined the metrics we would use to measure progress during and after the program.
Being a part of that 3-month program is part of what gave me and my co-founder the validation and confidence we needed to go out and raise money. We were the first company to raise a significant round of funding while in The Startup Factory, and when we finished the program, the funding allowed us to focus on other important areas of the business, such as customer acquisition. We've kept momentum by continuing to engage our network, focusing heavily in business development, working with our advisors on new challenges, and hiring a team of dedicated, smart individuals.
Q: If you were to give advice to your 22 year old self, what would it be?
Sara: I would have said, "Sara, you need to trust your instincts. Travel more, take your problem-solving and curiosity to the next level by starting a business now, and learn more languages." As one of my mentors says, we are the sum of all of our life experiences, and traveling is a critical source of education and self-discovery. I'm grateful to have been able to travel as extensively as I have, in the capacity I did, but I would have told my younger self to pursue more opportunities to live, work and volunteer in other countries.