Success means… Personally, success means waking up in the morning with purpose. Professionally (for The Pride), success means that fewer women are saying #metoo and more are saying #notme.
You can’t run a business without… grit, determination, and focus – but all in proper measure, and without forgetting to take care of the people who are helping you along the way (especially your employees).
In the next 10 years I will be… happy, healthy, and successful.
The Pride directly makes women and other minorities safer, by allowing them to reach out to their personal network when they are in a potentially dangerous situation, to help end the situation without escalating it. But that’s only the first part of what we do. We also make women safer, collectively, by using the data collected through system use to be able to provide women insights into how safe a specific location is (i.e., , on Yelp, you get information about the relative cost of a place using $$$$; we want to be able to give safety information in the same way). Lastly, we make women safer by providing a backup in case their personal networks fail to act; by providing on-demand crowd-sourced help, we dramatically open up the pool of individuals who can help, in real-time, in person, in those situations.
2017 taught men something women have known for a long time: that sexual harassment and assault are pervasive in this country. Whether your harasser is your boss, a client, the guy who goes to the same coffee shop as you, or your best friend’s husband, in that moment, all you want to is for the situation to end.
Last year, I was sexually assaulted. As assaults go, it was minor, and in the middle of it, I remember wishing my phone would ring. Even if it were a telemarketer, it would have given me the excuse to end the engagement to take the call. The Pride ensures women get that perfectly timed phone call from a friend or family member allowing her to end the interaction, and provides a backup in case 911 needs to be called.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur? Is having your own business something you always wanted to have?
I came up with the idea for The Pride a few years before I started working on it. I was busy with other things and, besides, if I (non-technical in nature) could see not only how important it is to do this, but also what it takes to get it done technically, surely someone else would. I kept coming back to the idea, until it was clear that I had to do it, because I no longer could ignore it.
How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?
The story of the first time I came up with the idea isn’t interesting. The second time, on the other hand, was much more dramatic. I was watching the local news and learned that two women, two nights in a row, were abducted off of a running path in an affluent part of Northern Virginia, where I live. I was appalled. Because the thing about the path: even if they could have gotten out their phone and placed an emergency call to 911 without unlocking it, the 911 systems aren’t updated properly to have known where she was; she would have had to tell them, somewhere along a wooded path – all while being attacked.
This is not reasonable. Or acceptable. And so I started researching to see what it would take to turn my concept into a product into a company.
What were you doing before this? How did it prepare you for the entrepreneurial life?
Before this I worked as a defense contractor. For the 8 years before The Pride, I had my own company working with the Army to try to improve recruiting, training, and retraining of soldiers, as well as to help reduce fratricide on the battlefield. Working with soldiers is one of the most rewarding things I can imagine; working with a bureaucracy as big and cumbersome as the Army is as frustrating as the work was rewarding. It taught me tenacity, grit, and resilience.
Do you have a fixed work routine? Is it important to have one? Any tips for our readers?
For a long time, I did not. I also wasn’t productive. I am currently implementing a new fixed routine that seems to be working for me. My main tip for your readers is: make sure what you’re doing really IS working for you, and if it’s not, change it.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Financial security is definitely the biggest. To make The Pride happen, I sold my house to my brother (luckily, he’s letting me live with him), and am using the proceeds to build the company.
Was it difficult get capital/investors? Has anyone underestimated you as a female entrepreneur? If yes, how did you handle it?
I haven’t yet gotten any. So far, I’ve been told my idea isn’t VC fundable (it is) and it’s been suggested that I turn the company into a non-profit. That second one REALLY gets to me because no one tells a man who dreams of building a huge business based on the idea of “community” that he should make it non-profit instead. Social media is built around the idea of “community”, and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, are all huge. It’s only when it’s a woman’s -based platform and/or a female leader that the recommendations for ‘non-profits’ start. Hell. No.
Did you have to fire someone before? What’s the best way to go about it?
Yes. And it sucks, no doubt about it. Don’t do it from a place of anger. Know that it is best for all involved, as long as it is handled as well as it can be.
And always consult your lawyer first to make sure you don’t get into trouble that way.
What is one thing you find to be true that most people would disagree with?
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” and the overall pervasive mentality in startups that you should work yourself to death. Every study out there shows that level of effectiveness decreases dramatically when you do that. So have a life outside of work: take a walk on a nice day, sleep a full 8 hours a night, take care of yourself and your family, and you’ll be much more productive at work.
What is your proudest accomplishment of this year? What are you looking forward the most in the next 12 months?
A year ago, The Pride didn’t exist. I had this little idea, but that was it. In the past year, I’ve really vetted the idea, pivoted a bit, found ways to do everything on a shoestring budget, and am getting ready to launch the beta. Not bad for 10 months.