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- Ex-Googler Tabitha Salomon poured her life savings, as well as money from family and friends, into her dream company, a party-supply startup called Party Dash.
- It launched in February 2020, and weeks later, the pandemic hit. Parties were cancelled and she was facing financial ruin.
- As a black female founder, VCs had already turned her down.
- But she was determined to succeed, no matter the circumstances.
- The solution came in part from her actress sister. The two realized they could match out-of-work teachers and performers with parents desperate for childcare and home-schooling help.
- And her new startup was born: Dash Camp, a virtual live summer camp, featuring high-level talent.
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Tabitha Salomon is the kind of meticulous overachiever who was born to be a party planner.
A Harvard MBA who spent four years at Google, she always dreamed of running her own company.
After four years at Google with little career advancement, she realized, “I can’t work in a place where someone else is determining my destiny.”
So in February 2019, she quit her Google job — over the concerns of her parents and childhood friends — to found a party supply startup.
“When I left Google, everyone called me crazy, right? It’s the number one best company to work for in the world,” Salomon said. She spent months pitching Silicon Valley VCs to raise the capital she needed to build her website, buy the stock, do the marketing, she said, all of whom took the meetings thanks to her Google resume, and then promptly turned her down, she said.
As a black female founder CEO, Salomon felt like investors were imposing a higher bar on her for the level of homegrown growth they wanted to see before they wrote a term sheet. But she took it in stride.
“I just didn’t get frustrated. I said, okay, it’s different rules of engagement for me. So I’m going to go out and do what I need to do to come back with the numbers and the traction that is required,” Salomon said.
So she raised funds from family and friends and a few angel investors that she politely declined to name, who invested an undisclosed amount. “But it wasn’t like the millions of dollars that I saw some of my peers do,” she says.
It was enough to pay a CTO, a UX designer, a marketeer and an intern and to buy stock.
The startup, Party Dash, launched on February 2020. Click a button and get everything you need to throw a space-themed party (or safari, unicorn, rainbow, etc) including cake, biodegradable serving utensils and decorations.
Salomon nabbed some early customers and thought she was on pace to “disrupt” the $6 billion party-supply market, she says.
But the euphoria didn’t last long. In March, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and everyone scurried into quarantine. Parties were dead.
“I invested in my entire life savings. I had secured investments from friends and family who all believe in me and my vision to help people celebrate better. And then the pandemic happens. It wasn’t just me, but the party-supply industry dropped by more than 50%. And there was really no end in sight,” she said.
People started ordering Party Dash supplies as a way to thank hospital workers and essential workers, but that wasn’t enough of a revenue stream to really save the company.
And if fund raising from investors was impossible before the crises, it was a pipe dream now.
Determined not to lose everything, Salomon hit the phones, talking to her customers and target customers to find out another way to serve them.
Their unanimous complaint: balancing child care and home schooling while working their jobs. How could she possibly pirouette her party-supply company into a business that would solve that?
Discussing that with her Hollywood-actress sister, Nhadya Salomon, held the key. Salomon, has appeared in shows such as NBC’s Chicago Med, Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, and was lamenting how the quarantine had put all of her actor and performer friends out of work.
So the sisters hatched a plan: what if they had the out-of-work performers entertain the kids? And Dash Camp was born.
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In a matter of weeks, they had a curriculum, hired teachers, athletes and performers and through word-of-mouth, had a waiting list.
So they doubled down to add more teachers, more classes and, for the second time this year, Salomon, with her sister as cofounder, opened her startup to the public.
Dash Camp charges $99 per week for a two-week camp, delivered virtually, with live classes from 10-noon ET and same-day replays available from 1-3ET.
Meanwhile, as the economy reopens, her party business is showing sings of life, too, she says. So instead of going under, she’s now running two companies.
“There will always be parents who have some need, with kids at home, instead of them popping on TV or YouTube” Salomon says. Ultimately, she’s got a vision to marry the two, where parents can order live or virtual entertainment as part of their party packages.