Founders column – how it all started


September: This is only the beginning!

Franca: The past six months have been an emotional rollercoaster and full of endless skype calls, lots and lots of coding and way too many flights. Although, typing into my browser and actually landing on our website makes all the work more than worth it. We are online!

You can’t imagine how happy we are to have you reading this article. Thank you! Fee and I worked so hard to create this website and want to share our journey with you. We decided to write everything up to give you an idea how much stuff you have to think about. It is the 15th of October 2014 we have been working on this little project for about a month now.

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Fee and I met in Berlin during Talent Meets Bertelsmann in June, which is a sort of case study challenge. We had instant chemistry and became bffs within minutes, convincing our team to pick our case idea. After we won the challenge by pitching our strategy, we stayed in touch and began working on different ideas for new sites for career girls. One of the main triggers was me being incredibly frustrated by editorials praising the crop top for work when I was trying to decide what to wear for my first job. My company was rather conservative and I worked mostly with senior executives, so being the girl wearing crop tops was not really an option.

In September 2014, we were invited to the Bertelsmann Creativity conference in London and started working really hard on the concept. Granted, it was in the super posh lobby of the St. Pancras and we were fed every two hours with a flying buffet, but someone had to do it! The cool part was that we met Zach from Code Academy and David from Wired who were both inspirational and quite encouraging to see in a sea of middle-aged white men in dark blue suits (Grayson Perry nonchalantly pointed out that there are other options but, well…).

Talking to Zach encouraged us not to wait with the little idea we carried around with us but to actually start making things happen. And honestly, I needed this. I am, at times, equally scared of things going wrong and embarrassing myself as I am of things going right and changing the status quo. But then again, overcoming your fears and jumping right off that 10m diving platform (my childhood trauma) is just what you have to do sometimes. Although this does not mean that you’re not allowed be scared and want an unhealthy amount of chocolate, that is important to remember.

After endless skype calls and discussions, the rough idea developed into a concrete concept. And we made the decision of giving up a lot of our free time to follow our dreams and put our idea into practice. So now we are having weekly Skype calls for 3 and a half hours and discuss monetisation and liquidity as well as editorial plans quite obsessively. The amount of work is insane and so often, just when we think we have got something right, suddenly everything changes and we have to start over.

The name The Trophy is one of these examples. Both Fee and I were madly in love with the name mag204 (our room number in London) and started writing the business plan with it. Then we asked some of our friends about some alternatives and they all hated the name mag204. So we went through the five stages of grief: denial (“I am sure they will love it once they see it”), anger (“Cretins! They have no idea”), bargaining (“One of them liked it a little, maybe that is good enough?!”), depression (“I love this name! This is so tragic”) and, finally, we accepted to go for something else. After that we sort of decided to be a bit more flexible and to not obsess over things. Given that have we changed everything twice since then, this was probably one of our wiser decisions.

Although it has been a huge amount of work, often lasting late into the night, doing something that you love and trying to make your idea actually work is so exciting that it sort of becomes okay not to sleep anymore.


October: growing into a kick-ass-team

Fee: I am falling asleep with my thoughts pivoting around finance planning and I am jolted awake in the middle of the night by new content ideas. And I love it. Welcome to The Trophy life!

The first two months of constant and profound work on our project have elapsed and we have reached milestone number one: we have finalised our business plan. Franca and I have endless Skype talks, discussing and nailing down the concept. The Trophy replaced meeting friends for dinner after work and sleeping in on the weekend. The end of my office working days became the start of The Trophy working days. Or lets call it working evening, sometimes even working night. Franca has been calculating the different finance scenarios like crazy and I have been puzzling out the content categories.

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The first two months have really been all about the business plan. Unlike many other founders, we decided to use the writing of the business plan not only for the purpose of having one, but also to grow closer together. When we met in Berlin, we immediately knew we would complement one another. Nonetheless, we had to really grow into a team because we only knew each other briefly when we started The Trophy. The plan was our key to building a strong team. Also, it helped us to realise that not every detail of our project had been thought through, and showed us which areas need more defining.

Finalising the business plan – at least for now – is a good feeling. The workload was crazy. But now that we have a clear idea about where we are going, especially as a team, we are even more passionate about taking the next step: working on content. This is an even crazier workload, but step by step we are getting there. I’m really enjoying scanning different sites online, figuring out what content the target group wants, and producing it. I definitely know what my first article will be and I cannot wait to share it with you!

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