Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Exclusive Interview: 'Startup U' Star Sequoia B. Shares Her Success Journey + Motivational Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Photo credit: Luc-Richard Photography
“Failure is good.” - Sequoia Blodgett 

Entrepreneur and Startup U reality TV star Sequoia Blodgett  is the true definition of a BOSS! 

For nine years, Sequoia B. worked in the entertainment industry as a commercial and video producer for many mainstream celebs, such as Justin Bieber, Diggy Simmons, K. Michelle, Jacob Latimore, and many other pop artists. 

Sequoia's life quickly changed in 2014 when she began her road to entrepreneurism in a hospital bed after she became really sick and was hospitalized. While confined to her room, this prompted her to reexamine and reflect on her professional goals and dreams. 

She asked herself, 'if this was it, would I be happy creating visuals? Would I want this to be my legacy?' She says, people will remember a Justin Bieber video but not who is behind it. Sequoia then realized this wasn't the direction she wanted her life to go. 

"It was more important I was affecting lives on a larger scale, I wanted to do something more meaningful," she says. 



Changing Her Course in Life

Sequoia made a bold move and changed her direction in life by venturing into entrepreneurship. 

For those people going through challenges or experiencing a health battle, Sequoia advises to pursue your dreams and start your own business. 


“If you can still functionally move, just go out and do it, regardless of your expectations, regardless of your fears and regardless of other people’s opinions, because there will be a lot, just try it," she says. 

“We’re all put on this Earth for a short amount of time. If it doesn’t work, just pivot and do something else.”

Sequoia applied to Draper University, Silicon Valley's top entrepreneurship program founded by venture capital investor Timothy DraperThe young entrepreneur received a partial scholarship and crowdfunded the rest to get the $10,000 to attend the university. This is where she got her start and a crash course in business and entrepreneurship.

“It totally changed my life, it changed my perspective," Sequoia says."Tim has you involved in all these activities that you would never see yourself doing in life." 

Sequoia was offered the Startup U reality show which ABC Family picked up. She is to billionaire venture capitalist, Tim Draper, on Startup U what Ivanka Trump is to Donald Trump on Celebrity Apprentice.  

Sequoia describes Startup U as Real World meets Survivor meets The Apprentice meets Shark Tank. 

She recalls meeting Timothy Draper for the first time and says he is the nicest and most humble person. 

"For him to be a billionaire and so successful, I was so delighted he was such a nice individual," she says. 

Sequoia says she received plenty of resources while attending Silicon Valley, the network and capitol which pushed her forward.

"In the entertainment industry, it’s more of a craft, everyone is trying to get to a certain level," Sequoia says. "But, at Silicon Valley, it’s more of helping the next person who helps the next person get to the next level."

Sequoia also launched her new company and website 7AM, an online marketplace for personal development funded by Tim Draper. Her internet community focuses on personal and intimate relationship development. 

She says, the idea came from her fascination with life coaching and the psychology behind human relationships. 



Sequoia's Motivational Tips

Q: What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?

A: Personal and time. 

"It’s not enough to stay or be in a relationship, especially having a platform of having amazing life experiences and making sure you're the best version of yourself. To find a person who is on that level is a bit of a task. I don’t have the bandwidth or time to date a bunch of people."

"I'm super passionate about what I do, so it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all."

Q: What is keeping you motivated through this whole journey?


A: It took her nine years to get to a certain level of success as a video producer. Sequoia already reached that level of success in six months by becoming an entrepreneur. 

“I really love what I do, so that’s what wakes me up, that’s what gets me out of bed, that’s what gets me going.”

Q: Do you ever get stuck?

A: Sequoia says she looks for different options.

"I don’t think you are ever stuck, I think you have to make a different decision and a different choice to get unstuck."

“There is always a different journey. Sometimes you’re tunnel focused and you believe there is only one way. But, it’s all up to you and all your mentality to make it happen.”

Q: How can students deal with failure?

A: Sequoia believes failure is good. She also thinks our educational system is screwed up. She says Draper University doesn’t have the typical standard education system. The university is set to learn skills, and there are no grades and no professors. 

"Just because you get an A doesn’t mean you perfected the course," she says. "Most of the things you learn in school, you don’t use. The education system is archaic, it’s dated."


"A lot of people have big visions, but a lot of things don’t get done. You have to take action and get things done."

Sequoia suggests asking yourself, "Are you the right person to make the opportunity come to fruition? If not, do you have the right team around you to make things happen?"

"If you have drive and passion and you take action, all you will do is move forward and bring your vision to life."



Advice For Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Q: What are the loop holes that an independent startup business person can take to attain an investor?

A: "To get investment, you have to have a strong team, so yourself and a co-founder, and that co-founder should be the opposite of you. Whatever attributes you don’t have, the co-founder should have. You want to have traction, which shows whatever your product is, so people are interested in using and continue to use your products, and it's growing. Even if a couple of costumers are using it, so people show an interest in using the product. For venture capitol investment, they want to see market size. So they want to know how big of a marketing opportunity it is, they want a big market size." 

Sequoia equates her business as her child and says she has a motherly connection with her business.

“It [her business] was born and now I've got to grow it, I'm literally like nursing the thing at this point, it’s not a full grown adult and I’m like a mother nursing it.”

Juggling a Part-Time Job and Becoming an Entrepreneur 

Sequoia offers her advice and says, savings all depends on how much you bring in and how much you’re spending. The norm as a college student is to save 10 percent. 

In the entrepreneur world, there's something called runway, she explains. Monthly burn is the money you’re burning through and how much money you have until you run out. You have to work out how much money you'll have at the end of the month. 

Sequoia suggests, cross collaboration when starting off new and leverage off each others audiences. For example: ask yourself, "how can I incorporate my content into my blog and yours?"

“You can’t do it by yourself.”

"You can’t really grow on your own that quickly, if you're trying to do it all by yourself. You can grow your company faster with someone who is doing something similar, not in direct competition with you, you can partner up. Collaborate together to help use each other and grow your brand."

“Savings does nothing for you, it gives you a little bit of a runway, but at the end of the day you want to raise capital and the way you raise capital is by raising numbers, which comes with followers, viewers, etc... this equals advertisers. Figure out the fastest way to get those numbers up to show an investor how you're growing."

"You will die trying to save. Use other people to grow your brand," Sequoia suggests. 

A lot of people have kids, families and other duties, so it's hard to commit 100 percent out of the gate when being an entrepreneur, she says. 

At Silicon Valley, they do validation surveys. Sequoia advises newcomers in the entrepreneur world to validate your idea in the beginning and when you know you have something (a product, etc.) that is valuable, something that people are willing to pay for, willing to download or use, whatever it is, then you can start making products and gain traction or revenue. This is when you can say bye to that other company you work for. But, don't jump ship in the beginning, she advises. 

Don't Forget to Do Your Research When Naming Your Company/Business

Sequoia explained how her website '7 AM' was initially called 'Love Uncut' which started off as a relationship site. When she went to trademark the name of her website, she found out someone else was already using the name and therefore had to brainstorm for another name. 

"When starting your company, make sure you research your name and trademark."

When explaining the new name of her site, she says, "7 a.m. it’s the beginning of a new day and 7 a.m. is here to help you start a new journey, no matter what happened the day before." 

Sequoia wants '7 AM' to be known as the company that changed lives on a daily basis. 



Fashionable #GirlBoss On the Go

Sequoia is a very busy woman. So, when it comes to fashion, she says she is all about the 'girl boss' trend that is in right now. 

"I'm into making the professional woman look cool."




Sequoia loves sporting blazers, especially a blazer with gold zippers. To top off this look, she may pair it with leather pants and cute heels for a new, modern edge and twist.



   What Sequoia Wants Her Legacy to Be

Sequoia's mentor is motivational speaker, Tony Robbins. She wants to be that person who changes and effects people’s lives for the better. 

“I love seeing people happy and being successful," she says. "It's important for people to reach their full potential.”

If she could capture her life in a photo, Sequoia says her picture would include a big black hole. 

She further explains, “I just don’t know what the next milestone, what the next journey is... I’m kind of just blindly going into the mist and whatever happens, happens." 

“I want to see people become the best version of themselves as they possibly can on this Earth, that’s what sparks my passion."


The season finale of Startup U airs on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 5 p.m. EST on ABC Family Network. 

Check out Startup U for more tips on how to launch your own business, catch up on episodes HERE

Follow Sequoia on Twitter and Instagram, visit her new company 7 AM


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