Everything You Need to Know About My Capital One GDTB Journey

5 Lessons Learned From Being a Participant and Program Manager for the Capital One Getting Down to Business Program

Lesson #1: Mentorship is Necessary

Mentorship has never been a foreign concept to me, but I’ll admit I wasn’t running to get in line for a mentor. I thought of mentorship as a tool more for young adults who needed guidance through life. I was one of the few program participants having a SCORE Houston mentor prior to entering the Capital One Getting Down To Business Program.  As a matter of fact, my mentor suggested I apply for the program.  A suggestion that forever changed my life and the trajectory of my business. What I realized after facilitating and participating in the program was many new business owners are much like young adults who need guidance because they are new to the business arena. They require guidance to help set expectations and support through rough patches. Having someone with a mature/veteran approach to business, someone who has experienced failure, success and has testimonies is paramount to setting the right foundation and structure of a startup business. Most importantly, mentors give small business owners “true grit” stories that set the right expectations for the arduous expedition of entrepreneurship.


Lesson #2: Nobody Cares About Your Excuses

As a new business owner, you may experience a strong tug to become stagnant and overthink everything after a couple of failures. It’s easy to come up with every excuse as to why you’ve not done the things needed to be successful. The biggest excuse for most small business owners is …you don’t have enough money and/or you don’t have a team (you’re doing everything yourself). Happens all the time.  Plenty of business owners are experiencing the same. What’s important to realize is…those are truly excuses. If you want to be a successful business owner, you will be. If you want something bad enough, nothing can stop you from it. You’ll find the money. You’ll build the team. You’ll read more, network, find more clients, ask for referrals, attend workshops, get a mentor and/or apply for the Capital One GDTB program to get the savings match!  Whatever it takes to elevate your business and promote growth.

Every small business owner has critical moments when they feel like giving up. If you are determined to be successful in business, you will learn to identify those moments for what they are, just moments, critical moments when you must question your commitment. In those moments when you having doubts and considering giving up…ask yourself, is it worth one more try? Are you keeping your promises to yourself? Or are you making excuses?

Before you answer those questions, take a couple of deep breaths, envision the successful business you want to have, dig deep inside yourself, push past the excuses, answer the questions honestly and make a choice to try hard one more time or not.

My last-ditch effort kept me in the game.  One more try led me to the Capital One Getting Down To Business Program, improved my confidence, gave me guidance and tools, and provided the relationships and resources necessary for the elevation of my business.

When 2 or More Gather…

Lesson #3: Masterminding & Team Support

Small business owners often isolate themselves from others for several reasons.  Many isolate themselves because family members and friends do not understand their entrepreneurial journey.  Some isolate themselves because they’ve collaborated with others who’ve hijacked their ideas.  Others hide from the shame of failure because they’re not generating profits and trying desperately to maintain a facade.

This year as program managers for the Capital One GDTB Program we decided to institute mastermind power sessions. At the beginning of each class, we took 30 minutes to do an accomplishment and challenge report encouraging participants to share best practices, resources, and solutions. We discussed immediate issues impacting participant’s ability to grow business relationships and revenue. We focused on the individual experience of each business owner and provided practical tips for applying concepts learned in the program.  Lastly, the facilitation of masterminds helped us uncover the resources business owners need to grow the 4 R’s of business: Referrals, Retention, Revenues & Reviews.

Network With Intention

Lesson #4: Networking

When I first became a business owner, I went to every networking event possible.  Most of them were free or low cost. I eventually started to invest in supporting business colleagues’ events, etc. It took about 9 months for me to become disenfranchised with networking experiences offering no return on investment. I began attending industry-specific events and workshops for entrepreneurs hosted by the Small Business Association, SCORE, Small Business Development Center, and the Women’s Business Center.

After participating in the Capital One GDTB Program I adopted the practice of networking up/networking with intention. Below is a list of Suggestions & Tips for Networking w/Purpose:

  • Write down your specific purpose for attending the event.
  • Identify the exact resource or connection you need to move your business forward.
  • Pick a specific number of valuable connections you’d like to make at the event (3-5 is my number of choice).
  • Talk less and listen more when engaging.
  • Listen for cues to help you connect and build a relationship.
  • Follow-up in a timely manner.

Participants also get the benefit of networking with each other, facilitators, panelists, and strategic partners. Collaborating with banking and finance partners helps participants learn to build and manage personal and business credit, financial documentation, and human resource to improve the small business owner’s funding opportunities.

Know Your Numbers

Lesson #5: Finance

I started the program during the worst part of my business owner journey.  I’d lost everything, my apartment, my car was about to be repossessed, I could no longer afford my office space, and I was generating no revenue. I slept in my car for a couple of days because I was too stubborn to let loved ones know I needed help. I was ready to give up on my entrepreneurial dream and re-enter the job market. My credit score went from a 725 (Pre-entrepreneur journey) to 428 (at the point of entering the Capital One GDTB Program).  I was in the second year of full-time entrepreneurship and I needed a lifeline.  I was looking for a reason to remain committed and hopeful.

My SCORE Houston mentor strongly suggested I apply for the Capital One GDTB Program.  I did research and learned more about the program. My mind immediately played a soundtrack filled with fear and doubt. The movie playing in my head was saying “You’ll never get accepted”, “You don’t have any financials and what you have is not showing profit”, “You’ll be in competition with more successful business owners”.  Finally, I made myself push past the fear.  I realized I was at a pivotal point in my life and it was time for me to do something drastically different.  It was time for me to take control of my business by gaining a better understanding of my finances.

In the program, I completed a 3-year business growth plan, drafted a pitch, learned the importance of financial statements and how to tell my business story via numbers.  I increased my credit score and more importantly I learned how to save money, and how to make risk-mitigating decisions.

I will be honest and tell you the savings match helped infused my business with much-needed capital and the cash prize for winning third place in the pitching competition gave me the capital needed to invest in systems to automate some of my business processes, such as invoicing, project management, social media, and a website.

The five things I learned from being a program participant in 2017 and the program manager in 2019 have first and foremost taught me the value of nurturing relationships and staying connected.  Personally, I increased my belief, faith, hope, and action. As an entrepreneur, the program taught me to delegate, invest, prioritize, and streamline processes for efficiency.  The Capital One GDTB Program changed my life and renewed my determination to become a successful and profitable business owner.

Copyright 2020, Tiffany Hicks, All Rights Reserved


  1. Stacey

    Thanks for sharing your experience! Sounds like a pretty intense program. I just finished the SURE program at U of H and we learned and completed some of the same tasks. I wonder if it would be worth while to take this program as well?

    1. tiffany

      I believe the program is helpful even if you have been through a previous cohort. We’ve had several people that did the SURE program first and then did our program. The important part about the Capital One GDTB cohort is the networking and the resources you gain. I also believe it forces you to stay focused on your business and your business financial goals. I will be posting more information and details about the application process in the next coming weeks. Thank you for taking a moment out of your day to read my journey and to offer a comment. I appreciate you!!

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