The journey is a long one — perhaps never-ending.

Sometimes, it feels like you’re shining bright in daylight, yet it’s dark because no one sees you. I know how that feels. It doesn’t always feel good, but it leads to greatness. I’ve learned this along my journey:

Darkness is not merely an absence but a canvas of infinite possibilities.

Consider your dreams — whether good or bad, happy or sad. They happen at night in the dark.

Consider planting. Seeds are shoved down into a deep hole and covered up. It’s seeded in the dark.

It is in this primal state of darkness that potential is boundless and from which all things, be it dreams or seeds, begin.

I remember our first pitch competition at Start Garden in 2022 — just 1 year after we began selling in the marketplace. Dominique and I were happy to learn that we were selected as finalists. We prepared our 5-minute pitch presentation and drove 2.5 hours from Detroit to Grand Rapids to pitch. We were confident in our origin story, current growth, and mission.

We arrived in time, met the other contestants, and we were finally called up to pitch. We felt good about our pitch. I don’t remember thinking negatively about our first time pitching together — I remember sitting on the edge of our chairs to hear the winner’s announcement.

It wasn’t us. We didn’t win. We asked one of the judges on the way out the reason, and he said: “Everything was great about your pitch, but you didn’t communicate how this award would create a catalytic impact on your business growth. You had the perfect pitch, but we felt the money would better impact the contestant we selected.”

We took the feedback, but we were shocked and equally hurt. I can tell you from that moment onward, we focused heavily on communicating the catalytic impact.If you’ve heard me speak or share about the business in any way, I have a habit now of using that very specific phrase, as that will never be our downfall ever again.

Founder’s Fellowship kickoff session sharing about hopes and fears and the catalytic impact we’re aiming for

We created another opportunity to win a pitch by applying again. This time, it was a pitch sponsored by Samuel Adams titled Brewing the American Dream. The big difference about this pitch was that there was no PowerPoint presentation. It was a 2-minute practiced pitch to an audience in a theater.

The environment (the rules of the game) changed, but our strategy didn’t, and that was our next downfall. Dom and I tagged-teamed the pitch as we had done at the Start Garden pitch, but it didn’t align with our strengths. Although we had been assigned a coach and learned our part in the script, it didn’t translate in the new environment — and for that reason, we didn’t make it through the pitch in the allotted time.

We didn’t have to wait for the judges to make the announcement; we knew right there on the stage. We also forgot to share our marketing material with the judges. Talk about fumbling at the end zone.

Fortunately, everyone was surprised with a $1,000 grant for participating and becoming finalists in the pitch. This elevated the hurt a bit, but it still felt dark.

Founders (left to right): Achsha Jones, Tripslip, Sheri Washington, Michigan Mobility & Logistics, Wendy Ekua (W.E.) Da’Cruz and Dominique Da’Cruz, The Mushroom Angel Company, Ann Larson, Intermode, Karissma Yve, Gildform

They say the third time is a charm; we can attest to this.

Dominique and I applied for the Making it in Michigan Pitch competition sponsored by the Michigan Good Food Fund. I remember Dominique and I recording and submitting our pitch while vending at Expo West in Anaheim, California. We submitted it just in time before the deadline on the East Coast.

We were selected as finalists and allowed to pitch live in person at the Making It in Michigan food show a few months later. The rules of the game changed again. There was no presentation, on a stage but ONLY ONE PERSON could represent the company. We too changed our strategy.

Dominique is the best quarterback in the game. He threw me the ball, and I ran it across the end zone.

For the first time since the inception of our business, we won our first pitch competition for $3,000. Talk about a comeback!

You see, we had experienced a series of dark moments up until then. But, the darkness implored us to keep dreaming and seeding, ultimately creating the opportunity for a significant win.

Those experiences reminded us of this principle truth:

There is nothing to find in life but everything to create.

This is why the journey to being “found” as a “Founder” is perhaps never-ending. This is because creating not finding is the goal.

Being found oftentimes limits our focus to what has already been done when the weight should be on what more there is to do.

How do you do this? Good question.

Loose the title and win the experience.

This was our approach when we applied for the Founder’s Fellowship sponsored by NewLab Detroit and Michigan Central.

We focused on communicating the catalytic impact that could be created by receiving an award and access to mentorship.

We’ve gone from winning $3,000 to $30,000 — that’s 10x. See the power of darkness?

We’re grateful to have been selected as part of the inaugural group at NewLab Detroit. Thank you to all those who helped make this possible. Your selection to include The Mushroom Angel company will not be in vain.

To all those reading, we invite you to support us on this journey by purchasing at a local Meijer near youhere. Like, share and help us spread the good gospel of mushrooms.





The Digital Diplomat