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Poppy founder Avni Patel.
Poppy founder Avni Patel Thompson.

Avni Patel Thompson had a great idea for a business — a vetted, on-demand childcare service — but like many women considering taking the startup plunge, she faced barriers to entry.

So instead of jumping in head first, she decided to start by getting her feet wet. She took the $180 that remained in her bank account after her first unsuccessful startup and gave herself four weeks to get 100 paying customers. Instead of a launch, she called it a “test.” The result was Poppy.

“Calling it a test made it feel less daunting to me and gave me an easy out if it was an utter disaster,” she said. “Committing only four weeks made me treat each day with urgency because I only had 28 of them to prove that my idea could become a viable business. Using less than $200 made me scrappy and forced me to find solutions I hadn’t thought about before. Finally, seeking just 100 paying customers (and just four that first week) made me focus on a goal that seemed within reach.”

Patel Thompson believes following this model can help other women become entrepreneurs and she’s launching a program to prove it.

She’s inviting women in the Pacific Northwest, who have an idea, to take the “4-week startup” test. Those accepted into the program will take $200 of their own money (financial assistance will be available for those who need it) and spend four weeks building their products. The goal is to reach 25 paying customers with 30 percent weekly growth.

“There is a lot of research that shows how women pursue perfection, or are more risk-averse or are less likely to talk about their ideas,” said Patel Thompson. “Well, using this approach helps overcome much of those inclinations. I realized that having a structured, approachable way for female founders to get off the ground is the best way to get acting on the problem instead of dissecting it more.”

Patel Thompson is aiming to have 10 to 20 entrepreneurs in the program. She already has a handful committed. She and a group of Seattle entrepreneurs and investors will meet with participants each week to provide mentorship, guidance, and “someone else to be accountable to.”

After the four-week test is complete, Patel may be able to connect startups with investors in her community.

“There is no ‘good’ time to have kids or launch an idea,” said Patel Thompson. “This I know to be utterly true. And if there are any lessons to be salvaged from this election cycle it’s this: It is women’s time to be big and bold and brave.”

(Editor’s note: GeekWire Chairman Jonathan Sposato is an investor in Poppy).

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