Catie Cole is a native New Yorker, currently in her Senior year at Harvard studying Psychology. She is also a Co-Founder of Froth (i.e., First Round on the House), an application-based drink subscription membership, now live in NYC. Learn more about FROTH at www.froth.nyc.
What motivated you to start your business?
I have always been intrigued by the challenge of creating something from nothing – of identifying a need that exists and actually developing a concept that could fill that need.
This past summer in NYC, I began to realize how difficult it is to navigate the bar scene and meet new people, especially when the cost of a single drink can be so expensive. I came up with Froth, or “First Round on the House,” with my friends Dae Lim and Harry Lee, to solve this problem. Froth is a drinks subscription membership, providing members with a smarter way to explore their city’s night life and engage with our community.
What is the greatest barrier you faced in launching your business and how did you overcome it?
I started working on this venture as I was coming back to Cambridge for my Senior year at Harvard. I knew that I would need to dedicate significant time and energy to the idea to learn if it could work, but I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to balance my Froth work with my academics and social life. It took a few months to learn how to be most efficient with my time — working closer with the Froth team to divide responsibilities, taking classes at school that could actually help me with Froth, and recognizing that after a long productive day of work, it is okay to power down my laptop and email to unwind and spend time with my friends.
Do you have a mentor? How did you find him/her?
I am very fortunate to be surrounded by mentors — my parents, sisters, friends, and professors have all “mentored” me to some extent throughout these past months. The best mentors are individuals who are willing to do more than just support you; they challenge you and motivate you to do better.
My parents have informally been my mentors since I was little, leading by example and demonstrating how important it is to be dedicated to and passionate about the work you choose to do, while also showing me how to effectively balance this work with family and everything else.
More formally, I have been lucky enough to have amazing mentor relationships through the Harvard Innovation Lab — meeting regularly with my mentors, Sung Park and Jill Becker, to learn from their years of experience and get help navigating this new world.
If you could go back in time to when you were first starting, what would you tell yourself, with the intention of avoiding mistakes and heart ache?
I wish I realized then how valuable and ultimately beneficial each unsolicited suggestion and piece of criticism would be in the end. It is of course difficult at first to hear anything but support and praise about your project that you are spending all of your time on, but in the end, it is because of these people who said “no” and who offered constructive criticism, that we were able to refine our plan, take slight pivots in every which direction —and end up with a company that we are now so proud of.
What resources have been most helpful to you?
My team’s motivation and determination has been the most constant source of support throughout this journey. Starting a company is a true roller coaster of emotions; there are inevitably frustrating days when you question your choices and the future, and then there are happy, successful days when everything seems to align. Having friends along with me on this roller coaster is invaluable, as we are there to help each other work through the difficult times, while also celebrating the many little successes along the way.
What does success look like for you?
My definition and understanding of “success” is always changing. When we first started Froth back in September, I would have considered the point we are at now to be “success.” While I am definitely thankful and excited by the progress we have made, I now feel that until we make Froth into a service and community platform that members come to depend on, we will not have a sustainable business that we can confidently call a “success.”
What do you do to recharge?
I usually try to recharge by going for a run, watching some mindless TV, grabbing a Froth with friends, or venting on the phone to Dae and Harry.
What’s your advice for a woman that’s considering her own business?
If you have an idea, just run with it. While it is important to be realistic and go about it in the most strategic way, the amount that you will learn and the confidence you will build will make it all worth it — no matter what the end material result may be.
During the month of May, National Women’s Business Council will be profiling young women entrepreneurs—many of whom are still students. Visit the NWBC Blog every Tuesday of the month to learn more about these inspiring women.