RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – It’s great to have passion for your startup. But when it comes to actually achieving success, what it really comes down to is grit, argued Jenny Bonchak, CEO and founder of Raleigh-based Slingshot Coffee Co.

“That’s what gets you out of bed in the morning,” she told the 80-strong crowd gathered for WRAL TechWire Live at Wake Tech Community College’s RTP campus on Wednesday night.

That’s how this “little farm girl” from rural Pennsylvania, as she tells it, went on to become a nationally recognized chief executive of her own company.

Back in 2012, the national award-winning barista founded Slingshot to bring ultra-premium ready-to-drink cold brew, cold brew concentrate, and cascara teas and coffee sodas to the masses. She started in the back of a restaurant kitchen, working through the night once the staff had cleared out. Then she’d go home, sleep for two hours and get up to work her corporate day job, and repeat.

This was just one of several startup stories shared at TechWire Live, a quarterly event sponsored by Wells Fargo with the support from several TechWire partners that aims to coalesce industry experts around a central topic facing the region.

Wednesday’s theme was “Fueling Your Startups,” with Bonchak sharing the stage with three other Triangle-based female founders.

They included Heather Maxwell Chandler of Whole Brain Escape, an escape room in Apex; Megan George, creative designer, shop owner and author behind the ZEN Succulent, a modern terrarium and plant craft line founded in 2012; and Em Sexton, owner of Raleigh boutique and online shop, The Flourish Market and The Locality, a co-working space for 60 female entrepreneurs.

Em Sexton, Jenny Bonchak, Heather Chandler, Megan George, WRAL’s Quinn Novels.

Each woman shared their own unique experience on their journey to success.

Among the challenges: wrestling with feelings of self worth.

According to Sexton, who worked in the corporate world as a vice president of Communications before starting her own business, women often have a hard time with this.

“I’d always heard if a job becomes available, when a man looks at it, if it has 20 qualifications, if he even has one, he’ll apply. But if a woman looks at it, and she has only 19 of the 20, then she won’t apply. That’s true,” she recounted.

“I got to see that in my job and I see that in entrepreneurship. So I do think it’s a universal, no matter what sex you are, that humankind struggles with worth. But for women, there are 10 other levels to it stacked on top of us.

“For me, a big part of my journey has been being around people who can speak truth to me, so I can learn my worth and face my demons and bring up all these untrue stories I’ve told myself and been told because when you go to sell your business, you really have to feel on firm ground and believe in what you’re selling.”

Jenny Bonchak and Heather Chandler.

It also helps to have mentors.

Bonchak said she met John Replogle, partner at One Better Ventures and former CEO of Burt’s Bees, in the early days of her startup, and he has been a mentor to her ever since.

“Sometimes it can be hard as a female entrepreneur when you have a male mentor because there’s not always the same connection and similar experiences there,” she said.

“But what I have come to realize is that there are a lot powerful males out there who want to support women and make sure their voices are heard.”