Part of the joy of building in public is the open dialogue about the journey of building a company, and part of the joy of building an early-stage startup is that this journey includes a good deal of wayfinding. Who is our specific audience? How might we best serve them right now? Who are we to them and to the broader landscape of brands in the market? Positioning is key to all these questions — and it shouldn’t be a static, fixed element.
We launched OwnTrail with a hypothesis that the primary motivator for women to add their trail would be altruism — how you might help other women — which is why we positioned ourselves as a solution to the mentorship gap. It’s still true that the complex set of problems and needs we are meeting are often shorthanded by “I need a mentor” and/or “I want to be a mentor”. That’s what led us to initially say that OwnTrail was mentorship reimagined. But mentorship itself is not the problem, and OwnTrail isn’t aiming to replace it. In fact, we’re building community, experiences and tools that complement traditional mentorship, corporate sponsorship, coaching and other avenues of personal development. In a way, sharing your trail and interacting with the trails of others on OwnTrail is a form of mentorship (we call these micro acts of mentorship).
So while providing mentorship and giving back to other women is certainly still a driver for the OwnTrail community, we’ve learned over the past few months that there’s also a major internal motivation at play. Simply put, owning and sharing your own story is a mega-powerful act of self-empowerment.
Having dual motivators that bring women to our community and keep them engaged in a meaningful way (as opposed to doomscrolling or creating unhealthy attention traps) makes sense for the ‘yes, and’ type of platform and brand we envision. Binary thinking of mentor or mentee, giving back or giving to yourself doesn’t fit with the very values that guide our work. Reimagining mentorship was a way to reference an existing paradigm in our initial positioning, but it doesn’t fully reflect our intention or where precisely we sit in the space. Because we aren’t reimagining mentorship — we’re creating new pathways to advance women individually and systemically (more to come on this last bit…but the potential for impact is B-I-G).
The answer to more accurately positioning OwnTrail was in front of us the whole time — there is no right path, just our own.
OwnTrail is the community that advances women individually and systemically. We help a diverse array of women authentically own their stories, see people who look like them in the places they aspire to, and mobilize to create more equitable systems.
You’ll see this new positioning reflected on our homepage and a more robust about us page, as well as integrated into our messaging in our product and marketing. (Now’s a good time to remind you to sign up for our occasional emails and follow us on social!). As we continue on our journey, we want to hear your feedback. Because we succeed by building OwnTrail with you, not just for you.