Recap of Kaneisha’s 2017 Shark Tank Speaking Engagement at SXSW

Guest Post from Renata, Executive Assistant for The Art of Applying 

TAOA Executive Assistant, Renata

Recently, Kaneisha has the awesome opportunity to speak on a panel organized by the world famous show Shark Tank during the SXSW Interactive festival The panel was titled, “Power Play: What to Expect for the Road Ahead. An Intergenerational Discussion of and for Diverse Entrepreneurs.

In my last guest post for The Art of Applying blog, I talked about me and Kaneisha’s week we spent in downtown Austin to participate in SXSWedu. In this post, I spent an early afternoon on the first day of SXSW with Kaneisha and four other entrepreneurs as they discussed the ins and outs, and ups and downs of entrepreneurship. 

What is SXSW?:

According to, The South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference & Festivals celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Fostering creative and professional growth alike, SXSW® is the premier destination for discovery.

 Panel Discussion

(from left to right) Kaneisha Grayson, Founder & President of The Art of Applying; Sterling Smith, Founder & CEO of SandBox Apps, Inc.; Jonathan Robb, Founder of Watch The Yard; Shelly Bell, Founder & CEO of Black Girl Vision; Lahoma Dade-Roberts, Founder & Owner of Events Unleashed.

Shark Tank asked Kaneisha and other entrepreneurs to provide advice, guidance, and encouragement to the 30+ entrepreneurs who were waiting for their moment in the spotlight to pitch their business idea to the Shark Tank casting call team. The panel took place in the waiting area for the Shark Tank casting call.

Kaneisha (right) with Shark Tank casting call entrepreneur Jen Du, CEO & Elixir Mixer of Before Elixir

The panel discussion flowed well, and was insightful and eye-opening. Some of the questions they addressed were:

  • What challenges have you faced as a minority entrepreneur?
  • How do you calculate the valuation your company?
  • When did you first fail in your business and what did you learn from that experience?
  • How did you know when to move from your day job to running your own business?

Of course their responses varied, but I will share paraphrased versions of some of my favorite responses.

What challenges have you faced as a minority entrepreneur?

Kaneisha: In some ways, in the early days, I blocked myself from moving forward in my business, because of my own preconceived notions of other people’s expectations.

Jonathan: Analysis Paralysis: Not just as a minority entrepreneur, but as any entrepreneur, too much time spent planning can be time wasted. Don’t wait until things are perfect, test things out as you go and be okay with failing so you can hurry up and grow.

How do you determine your prices and calculate the valuation of your company?

Lahoma: Determine how much time it takes you to do a certain number of tasks to get to the end result and list out how much each of those tasks are costing you to do.

Sterling: Pay attention to the unit economics of the business and be sure to do your market research. Ask yourself, “How many people are going to use this platform? What would it take/cost to reach a certain number of people in a specific amount of time?”

Kaneisha: Pay attention to whatever your exit strategy is. Are you trying to sell your company? Get it acquired? Run it until you die? Is it scalable? You have to keep these things in mind when determining how much to charge people for your services.

When did you first fail in your business and what did you learn from it?

Jonathan: Once I was trying out something new with my website, and I took a certain action that almost destroyed everything, but advice I give from this experience is to plan so you “fail correctly.” I was able to bounce back from my mistake immediately, because I had a plan of what I was going to test that day and could undo my mistake since I could pinpoint where the plan went wrong.

How did you know when it was time to move from your day job to your own business?

Shelly: I’ve always been the type to try and be the best at whatever I’m doing, but I’m also a serial entrepreneur so I’m always looking for that next project to start up. My employer could tell it was time for me to move onto my own project, so they provided me with one more month’s pay before letting me go. They also let me keep my benefits for two more months, and allowed me to collect unemployment. When that happened, I was ready to go. I invested money I had saved and money from my mom, and started my screenprinting business.

Sterling: I learned about Javascript on my own. After 2.5 years of doing that, I moved to Texas and started looking for a startup to work for in preparation of the startup lifestyle I was heading towards. Three years ago, I started my own app development company and there were plenty of dry spots inbetween that made me question some of the work, but I’m happy I did it.

Kaneisha: I spent the last year of grad school preparing to run my own business. My first client was actually my, then, boyfriend. I got him into grad school and then we parted ways (haha)…but some of your first clients may be friends and family, and that’s okay. I must point out that in a lot of our stories, we bridged into entrepreneurship rather than dropping everything and starting an entirely new life and project. I would say that while you are employed, and even if you don’t love your job, learn as much as possible from that job, so you will be better prepped for your dream of entrepreneurship as it starts to become a reality.

In addition to the above responses, some notable takeaways from the panel were:

Kaneisha: Be careful not to charge less than you are worth, or to charge less than the competition simply because you are the new kid on the block.

Sterling: It can cost too much to have a client that doesn’t fit your vision.

Jonathan: Push yourself into uncomfortable territory because that’s where the most successful people are.

Shelly: There’s never a good time to start a business just like there’s never a perfect time to have a baby (haha), but sometimes you just have to jump off the cliff and make your parachute on the way down.

Lahoma: Failure can come in comparing yourself to others and not evaluating yourself and where you are ceasing to adapt. Failure can also come when you don’t reach out for help knowing you need it. Be careful of the well-meaning input you receive from others, especially if they’ve never done what you are trying to do.

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