The On Deck Fellowship Week 4: The Setback

Amanda Emmanuel
3 min readMay 17, 2021


Four weeks into building my idea — an online store builder for curators- and I finally hit the bump that derailed me. Here’s a recap of my journey

Week 1: launched a landing page

I took “building in public” within the OnDeck slack channel quite literally, leveraged a moment of bravery and shared the landing page I’d built. I asked for feedback and the community helped me see my idea from different perspectives to make small adjustments.

Week 2: prospect outreach

Armed with a simple Figma mockup and my finalized landing page, I jumped into cold emails. I simply attached a personalized mockup of my product and waited to hear back.

The results: I got ghosted 👻

The nature of building while in OnDeck means you have several 1:1s throughout the week and I chose to use them to candidly chat about where I was in my journey. Despite the embarrassment, I shared my poor results and several OnDeckers helped me pivot my strategy. They suggested using a working prototype where I do the work for the customer and use the cold email to deliver the results.

Week 3: build an MVP

I wrangled my year of self-taught Rails skills and built a bare bones MVP in 1-week.

It was very far from what the eventual product was supposed to be, but it still delivered value. I was soooo proud of myself!

Week 4: Prospect outreach round 2

With a working prototype, I confidently started outreach again. I identified a handful of potential users, used my prototype to build their shops to deliver it to them on a silver platter (via cold email).

This time I received a few positive responses, but as conversations progressed I got ghosted again 🙃

This was the bump that derailed me.

I didn’t realize how much I’d expected my outreach to ‘just work’. The disappointment of it not panning out how I’d hoped shook me. The thought of quitting was starting to rear its head.

The one thing that kept me going was on Friday (of week 4) I had a few pre-scheduled 1:1s with OnDeckers. I hyped myself up to ‘soldier on’ and just get through the few meetings before attending my pity party.

I wasn’t expecting it, but each conversation helped me get back up. Here’s how

3 Ways OnDeck 1:1s helped me with my “bump”

1. I chose to be vulnerable

First 1:1 of the day annnnd my tears decided to show up 😭. I was so embarrassed, but also incredibly appreciative of the safe space I had created with this fellow OD-er to be open and vulnerable.

She helped me remember to ‘find the joy’ in everything, especially in this entrepreneurial journey.

2. I was open to iterating & brainstorming

A few conversations turned into brainstorming sessions.

As a solo founder talking things through with another person is often a luxury, so I truly enjoyed the conversations which helped me remember “how else can I solve this problem?”

3. I built in public and asked for help

In a 1:1 with an experienced OD-er, we talked about how ‘setbacks’ in entrepreneurship aren’t shared enough even though that’s what we’re all actually going through. Perhaps because we’re afraid of the judgement, we end up keeping things to ourselves.

That conversation sparked me to share my story by “building in public” in our OnDeck slack channel once again but this time ask for help. Specifically I asked for intros to potential customers. I was so nervous because no one ever shares the shitty stuff. But of course so many people were in the comments and DMs connecting over feeling the same way and encouraging me to keep going!

Looking back I could have iterated faster, and moved away from “the bump” earlier but I didn’t know any better at that time and simply didn’t catch myself early enough.

I cancelled my pity party and instead chose to take Saturday “off” (aka take a break instead of giving up completely). Hopefully it will help me to collect my thoughts and get back to everything again next week!

I’ll be posting a weekly blog post about my experience so come along for the ride 🌊 🚢



Amanda Emmanuel

🦄 Product & Growth at early-stage startups 🚀 3X founder 😎 Blogs about entrepreneurship, mindset & startups 🏗 Always building