Debbie Sterling is the Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, the award-winning children’s multimedia toy challenging gender stereotypes. After Sterling graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford, the fact that there were so few women in the engineering industry bothered her. She became obsessed with the notion of “disrupting the pink aisle” with a toy that would introduce girls to engineering at a young age. Cue GoldieBlox.
Sterling was named TIME’s “Person of the Moment,” honored by the National Retail Foundation as one of 25 “People Shaping Retail’s Future,” and was recently added to Fortune Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list. In 2015, Sterling was also inducted as a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship and honored by the National Women’s History Museum with a “Living Legacy” Award for her work to empower girls around the world.
In a recent Inc. video Sterling discusses how success for the company did not come easy. When Y Combinator rejected her project, she almost shut it all down. Sterling tells us how she overcame this rejection and grew GoldieBlox to the company it is today.
“I’ve always faced adversity in tech and engineering really my whole life. The whole purpose of starting GoldieBlox is really the idea that, by inspiring these girls from a young age, that I would be able to nurture this generation. So that the girls wouldn’t have to face the adversity that I’ve faced,” says Sterling.
Sterling pitched her idea to Y Combinator, but received notice of in the final round.
Moving past rejection
“I was devastated, I was confused, I was kind of angry,” says Sterling. “I think what was most hurtful about the ‘no’ was that now I can’t go out to all those girls who I want to inspire and say ‘look GoldieBlox broke in.'”
Two days after GoldieBlox the rejection from Y Combinator, her co-founder quit. But it didn’t stop Sterling from pitching her idea to potential investors shortly after.
“When I flew out there and I met with everybody, the crazy thing was that they didn’t even care about Y Combinator, and they didn’t even care about the co-founder,” says Sterling. “Once I had showed them the videos I had taken of little girls playing with my prototypes, they kinda nodded and said ‘yeah I want to be a part of this.'”
Sterling’s rejection allowed her to realize that she didn’t need validation for her product. She simply wanted to create a product that would inspire, and that’s what she did. Today GoldieBlox has sold more than 1 million toys to girls.
View the full video here.
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