We congratulate our cohort company, Virtanza, an online sales program company for closing their $1.4 Million in seed funding with private investors.
Virtanza is the only scalable experiential sales training solution white labeled to universities and employers. Virtanza connects employers into the virtual classroom and students into jobs. Universities get a customized sales training solution and platform that prepares students for jobs with an average salary range of $60k-$150k. Employers get a platform where they can re-skill workers; and access, monitor, and hire sales candidates.
The CEO and founder, Debbie Holzkamp believes that “sales is everything”. After three decades of experience managing sales teams with Fortune 500 and national companies to achieve more than $1 billion in sales, she set about to develop curriculum and a delivery platform to solve for the long-standing dilemma of training salespeople to fill the hundreds of thousands of open sales positions on any given day. In so doing, Debbie brought together a highly experienced management and advisory team of sales, marketing, content and technology development, and education professionals to scale the business model and build significant traction in the education technology space.
To date, Virtanza has successfully introduced its professional sales curriculum recommended for ACE CREDIT® to eleven marque universities and colleges across the nation, including multiple Top 10 Public National Universities. Among its growing clients you can find University of California Irvine, Central Michigan University, University of the Pacific, Northwood University, Ohio Dominican University, and more.
We asked Debbie to share her fundraising experience during COVID and other business advice she can give other founders. Here you have it, 7 questions answered by this extremely driven entrepreneur.
Debbie, how did you get so passionate about sales?
Figure skating at 5 years old, I did my first solo appearance to the song “Thank Heavens for Little Girls,” and I realized then I loved selling to an audience. I was raised in a family of very successful, pioneering sales professionals who all helped shape my perspective and built my determination to be the best I can be.
When and why was the idea of Virtanza born?
The creation of Virtanza actually started when I was in my previous executive roles, managing large, 450-person sales teams. Although we achieved results, I always felt that I never had time to focus on training the staff to accomplish more. My sense of something being amiss with this scenario only grew over the years, until I finally had to admit to myself that when we are forced to do too many things, we don’t do any of them well enough. Eventually, I embarked on the change from business executive to entrepreneur and full-time training professional, knowing that there had to be a better way to serve customers than the traditional, rapid, and intensive, swoop-in-and-out approach. Over many years, and many unique opportunities, including training thousands of sales professionals, I developed what would become the Virtanza process of consultative selling. In February 2012, the Virtanza brand was born. The full story can be found in my book, Virtanza: The Art & Science of Successful Selling for the Business-to-Business Sales Professional.
What are some of the challenges you faced while closing this round?
Being a sole founder, female, and mature is difficult. Less than 8% of investment funds go to females. Less than that go to sole founders. Combine all of these things, and the only way I could get people’s attention was for me to get as many contracts and traction as possible to prove my determination and value. Mostly pitching to an older generation of men, I had to sell like hell to overcome the obstacles put before me. I had to get customers telling my story. At 5 contracts, I started getting attention. At 8 contracts, a little more. At 11 contracts, people sat up and took notice. At this point, I confidently shared how much I had personally invested. I proved myself as a single female founder who wasn’t backing down. And I persevered.
How are you going to use the investment you raised?
Working capital to build our sales team, marketing to support our university partners, building out our employer portal so that we can close the loop and connect graduates of our programs with hiring managers seeking qualified sales professionals for open positions.
What is your best business development advice you can give founders currently raising investment?
#1 traction. #2 traction. #3 traction. Did I mention traction?
What keeps you motivated during hard times?
Faith and steadfast determination to solve the massive gap between employers, universities, and PEOPLE who need jobs.
What is your best advice for team management that you can give to new startups?
Hire people who have specific expertise and who are passionate about the same problems you are. Communicate often and honestly. Get buy-in and allow each person to make their own mark on the company.
Contact Debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Virtanza at: http://www.virtanza.com