News

My Trip To The White House

by Ian Gaffney | April 23, 2012

 

Wow, one month since my last blog post. I wanted to give a “shout out” to my recent White House experience which is beginning to feel more and more surreal. Did that really happen to me?


Many of you have been extremely supportive and excited and I cant thank you enough. What an honor, an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. 


I received an email on March 31 (a Saturday) inviting me to attend President Obama’s signing on the American JOBS Act. It also asked for my social security number, place of birth and some other very personal information. I immediately ignored the email. My social security number? Over the internet? I put it in the back of my mind thinking that this was spam. It wasn’t until I received a follow up email on the following Monday that I began to realize that this might be for real. I sent an email to Slava Rubin, CEO of IndieGoGo (which was the amazing sight that we used for our Crowdfunding Campagin), and asked “Is this real?” I got a quick response back saying YES and that I better be there. This was Tuesday now and I had to leave on Wednesday. 


Now many of you have the question “Why were you invited??” The reason for my invitation is mostly because of our crowd funding campaign with IndieGoGo. Over a year ago, Ian and I launched Gift to Greatness , where we raised $15,000 so we could re-design our packaging and print custom bags for our product line. Needless to say, it was a huge success. Friends, family and fans all contributed small to large amounts of money until we reached our final goal. It was amazing to see so many people SUPPORTING our business. We were left eternally grateful and inspired. Even during the campaign, we received a great deal of support from the folks at IndieGoGo themselves. Even one of their founders, Danae, donated to our campaign. They shared it on their newsletter, on social media outlets and sent encouraging emails. When the campaign was over, they used our campaign as an example for media stories that requested them. One of those media outlets was The White House Blog. In Obama’s American JOBS act, there is a major portion that talks about crowd funding as a way to raise capitol for small businesses and this bill will allow people to raise higher amounts of money in exchange for shares of a company (rather than lovely gift boxes of macaroons like we did…). There are MANY other pieces to the bill, but this was the piece that our campaign was used as an example for. See that original blog post from the White House HERE (click on “these bakers”).
So, being that Ian and I are both very resourceful with our money while managing a quickly growing company, I got a ride to NYC and then took a direct bus to DC. I promise you, I was the only person who was invited to the White House who arrived to DC by bus…I was lucky enough to stay with a friend just outside of the city that night. Right as we got to my friend’s place, I received another email from the White House. I was invited to come to a roundtable discussion about the pros and cons of the bill with a few other entrepreneurs and members of the White House. I, of course, said yes, but admit that I was incredibly nervous. When I arrived and went through security, I quickly found Slava and some other entrepreneurs. There were maybe 8-9 of us and then a few members of the White House in the roundtable. We had a very interesting discussion about the American JOBS Act. The risks involved and also the opportunities that it provides to smaller businesses. 

I was able to share about how we had taken out a business loan but we weren’t ready to take out another one and how using IndieGoGo was the perfect solution and a wonderful experience for us. I was in that room, with an understanding that I was representing the smallest business there. No questions asked. But what was interesting was that no matter the size of the business, there were common threads, issues and needs that we all brought up. That was one of the best parts of the day, getting that we are equal players in this business game. We may have less money and less employees than the other companies, but we are all out to make things happen and that has its challenges. I should say that I THOUGHT this was going to be the best part of the day until I was asked to stay in the conference room after the roundtable. I just got a “You stay here.” So I stayed. It was me and three other entrepreneurs. I had no idea what was going on so I just talked to the other people and enjoyed myself. Slowly but surely I noticed that some of our country’s congressmen started to walk in. I went over to one of the White House staff members and asked “Why was I asked to stay in here?” He replied, “Oh, because you are going to stand behind the President as he signs the bill. He’s about to come in here to greet you all before the ceremony.” My eyes widened. I was not expecting that! Soon enough President Obama came into the conference room. We were all standing in a line and he started to make his way down, shaking everyone’s hand. He came to me, I introduced myself and he replied with a lovely “Hello Samantha” and moved on to the next person. It was a brief interaction but a powerful one at that. His serious yet kind nature was obvious and it was such an honor to be so close to him. After this we all walked out to The Rose Garden where the ceremony was about to take place. We were lined up according to height? I think? And I was placed right in front (being short has never paid off so well!). 

There was press, cameras and a full audience. It was very exciting. The President came to podium and gave a few remarks on the bill and then walked to the small table where we were standing. I watched as The President signed this bill into a law. How many people get to say that in their lifetime?? Not many. When he was done, he turned around, shook all of our hands again and left. After that I made my way to a small reception at a hotel nearby, talked to some of the other attendees, then found a taxi cab and made my way back to the bus station. In shock. As all of this was happening, Ian started getting phone calls from the press about who I was and what our company does. I teased him and said he was hired as my new publicist. 


Since I have been back, I have been sharing this story and pictures on our facebook page . I have received so much support about my adventure!! I have also been contacted by a few media outlets and already had the opportunity to write a guest post on The White House Blog. Not only was this a wonderful opportunity for me, but it has been a great way to get our name out there. We are grateful. Thank you again to IndieGoGo and all of their support. If you have ever thought about doing a crowd funding campaign, I highly recommend using them!


Please feel free to post any comments or questions you have below here.

The last thing that I want to say for now is ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
Talk to you soon.
With Gratitude,
Samantha

 


Tagged: business, Obama