Season 2, Episode 2: Transcript
Hello and Welcome to Atlanta Business Impact Radio!
This is Veanne Smith, and I am excited to have you join us for our second episode of Season Two.
In Season one, we explored the world of Healthcare IT and covered so many excited topics. I want to again say “Thank you” to all of our guests who shared their stories, and to our listeners who made our first season such a great success.
In season two we switch gears to growing careers and building businesses. Today we talk with Renee Walsh from Wiithyu about finding your big idea and pursuing the entrepreneurial path with passion.
Renee is a native of Washington D.C. and earned her degree in Public Communications and Marketing at American University. In the past ten years since college, Renee has held several management and lead marketing positions for companies such as AirWatch and Syrup, where she has been responsible for both digital and traditional marketing, branding, and revenue management initiatives.
With an idea in hand for an online service, Renee made the leap from the corporate world to full-time entrepreneur as the founder of her company which is called Wiithyu.
In full disclosure, Renee is a SolTech client, and I am personally excited to share her story with our listeners.
Renee Walsh: Hi, Veanne. Thank you.
What Was Your Inspiration For Launching Your Business?
Veanne Smith: It’s great to have you. It’s so exciting to have you on our show. We’ve had the pleasure of working side by side with you as you’ve ventured out on your own to launch your own company, and I know how exciting it has been for you to get from that moment when the idea hit you to now when you are about ready to launch your software product. Please share with us your story. What was the inspiration for launching your business?
Renee Walsh: Yeah, so I was about to turn 30, I was happy in my career, and I just had this feeling of wanting to do more. It’s that feeling of just I’m content, things are good, but there’s something else for me to do; there’s something bigger out there for me to do. I didn’t know what that looked like. I didn’t know what it would be. I didn’t know it would turn into Wiithyu. I just had this, okay, something is going to come; you just don’t know what it is.
I was working at an agency, and I was talking with my colleague who was getting married at the time. She was sitting there saying, “I wish I could plan my wedding using our project management tool,” and it was this aha moment. It was just like that’s it. It was more powerful than a lightbulb going on. It literally just filled my entire being, my head, my heart, my gut. I remember going home and immediately starting work on the presentation, and the pitch, and what this thing was going to be. It was just this all of a sudden this is what you’re going to do.
Did You Have To Deal With Overcoming Fears?
Veanne Smith: That’s so great. What a great story. I think there are many people out there who have those lightbulb moments, but they don’t carry through with them. It sounds like you took action immediately once you had the idea and you never looked back, but I imagine that there still might have been at that time, maybe not, some fears or challenges that you had to overcome. Were there any before you got started? Was there any trepidation at all?
Renee Walsh: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the things anytime you have an idea to go out on your own, there’s always going to be hesitation and fear, the what-if questions. What if I fail? What if I run out of money? What if I don’t make any money? There’s always going to be 1,001 reasons not to do something always, but there’s always 1 reason to do something, and that’s your idea.
I think at the end of the day you know what you’re passionate about; you know if something is a good idea, if you are going to drive it and make it happen and really give it 110%. If you do that, it kind of washes away all of the doubts, and it’s just something that you’re going to do regardless of any road bumps or challenges. The idea that you have and the potential success that it could bring really blocks that. It’s kind of like blinders. You’re just focused on that one thing, being the best at it, and making it happen.
Veanne Smith: I’ve always had a saying when I started my own firm here a number of years ago that failure is just not an option. I don’t know if some of us are just wired differently, but it sounds like the same might be true for you. It’s like I’ve got this vision, I’m going after it, and I’m going to be successful. It’s just that simple.
Renee Walsh: Yeah, and I think there’s a difference between failing and being a failure. If you fail at something, you tried, and I think at the end of the day, as long as you try and you give it your best, that doesn’t make you a failure; it means something didn’t work out. If you can look at something and say, “I gave it my all. I worked my butt off, and it just didn’t work out,” that’s failing; that’s not being a failure. I think if you can separate those two things, you won’t focus on being a failure. You’re just going to do what you have to do and make it happen to succeed.
Do You Have A Mentor Or Outside Firm That Supports You?
Veanne Smith: Right. I think that there are a lot of people that struggle with that idea of making mistakes. You can subscribe to the notion that basically you’re not succeeding or progressing if you’re not making mistakes. I’m kind of curious, just on that note, being a sole entrepreneur, I respect that in you because I think that would be hard. Have you sought any outside advisement, or do you have any mentor or outside firm or person that you go to, or do you just have it all internally?
Renee Walsh: No, absolutely. One of the things that I can admit is I am not proficient in the arena and world of technology. I am not a web app developer. I’m not a software programmer. That is not my bread and butter. It’s not my background. For me, when starting this thing, it was really important to find a team of people, an advisor, and a company. Like you said, I am a client of SolTech. It has been awesome working with the entire team.
Sara Blakely, she has said this time and time again – she’s the founder of Spanx – hire your weaknesses. That is so important to me because I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to code a web app. I know the feature functionality, but I needed to hire a team of advisors, engineers, and architects who were going to build this thing and make it come to fruition, and that’s what I did in the partner I found in SolTech.
Veanne Smith: That’s great at such a young age you’ve come to that. I have to admit, it’s taken me a number of years. Internally, I’ve felt like I should be able to do everything, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that hire for your weakness. Realize the things you can’t do. There are things that you do well, and do the things you do well. Hire somebody better than yourself for the rest.
Renee Walsh: Yes, exactly. [laughs]
What Advice Would You Give To Others Who Have An Idea And Don’t Know How To Get Started?
Veanne Smith: That’s awesome, very impressive. I’d love to get advice on these shows when we talk to people, so now that you’ve gotten past that first big hurdle of just taking action on the idea, what would you say to other people who have the idea but just don’t know how to get started? Do you have any advice for those folks who might be sitting listening?
Renee Walsh: I think the first thing you have to do is make sure you have clarity on what your idea is. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog, or if it’s a web app, or a full-blown company or product; have clarity. What does it do? Who does it serve? Does it cost money? Get some foundation points done and make a presentation for yourself. Pitch yourself. If you can’t pitch yourself on the idea of your product, no one else is going to buy into it.
I think that’s the first thing that people really need to sit down and think about, and then it’s the research to find advisors, or find vendors, or partners, or people who are going to help you bring this. For me, it was SolTech. It was my design team. It was my web developers. Taking the time, not rushing, but really taking the time to find the right people that you’re going to work with.
Veanne Smith: I would imagine a lot of times when we’re not quite sure, we share items. We’re looking for reinforcement. I would imagine along the way there might have been people that have said, “Oh, you should do something else, or you should think of this and maybe change your vision.” Did you ever have that happen?
Renee Walsh: Yeah, it’s funny because Wiithyu is a web app that is designed for brides to help them plan their weddings. When you’re planning a wedding, you’re going to get 900 opinions about everything. That kind of applies to life and starting your own business. You’re going to hear me quote a lot of entrepreneurs. Alli Webb, who is the owner of Drybar, she said focus on one thing and be the best at it. What is the core purpose of what you’re trying to do?
With a web app, something like Wiithyu, there are tons of features and functionalities that hopefully one day we’ll get to if we choose to do it, but I want to be the best at focusing on this one thing that we’re doing now and making sure that it’s the best it can be for the people who are using it because, like you said, you’re going to get a lot of opinions. You’re going to get a lot of, “Well, you could do this.” Exactly, you could do that, but if you spread yourself too thin, if you cast your net too wide, you may lose the original purpose or the integrity of what you were trying to do in the first place.
Veanne Smith: Be diligent. Write it down, store it for later, and maybe it will make sense, but now stay focused.
Renee Walsh: Yes.
How Did You Fund Your Application?
Veanne Smith: Yeah, I think if you get off the track, you never cross the finish line. Very good. Another reason I think people sometimes struggle to go after their dream is money. I kind of know your story, but do you mind sharing how did you fund your development effort, and at what point did you know or decide that it was time you could leave your full-time salary and safety job and work exclusively on Wiithyu?
Renee Walsh: I’m a saver. Both of my parents are accountants, so I learned the value of saving and putting money away at a very early age. Wiithyu has been solely funded by myself. I didn’t go out and find investors. I don’t think a lot of the time that’s the best approach because for someone like me personally I view investors as debt, whether it’s they have a stake in the company or whether they’re making decisions. For me, it was really important to back myself, which is what I’m doing.
My little nest egg became the money that would fund this project and this company. Deciding when to leave work full-time to pursue Wiithyu was a conversation that I had to have with my fiancé. We’re going to be bringing together our household income, and knowing what I had in the bank and what he would need to start contributing, because it wasn’t going to be 50-50 anymore, and really having a conversation about saving, and money, and what that would like, but we figured out close to the launch date, but not too far in advance that it was uncomfortable. It’s worked out so far. [laughs]
Veanne Smith: That’s so commendable. It really is. Congratulations.
Renee Walsh: Thank you.
Veanne Smith: It’s so commendable, and now you’re in control, right? You haven’t given any control away, which is so fantastic.
Renee Walsh: Yeah, keep it close to home.
Veanne Smith: That’s awesome. Your software product has been built, it’s tested, and I understand it’s about ready to launch. It might even be launched by the time this gets aired.
Renee Walsh: I think so.
What Advice Do You Have On Marketing A Product Launch?
Veanne Smith: I would imagine that you’re focusing now a lot on marketing. This is your area of expertise, so maybe you can share some advice on how to make effective use of marketing and social media channels for launching products in the marketplace.
Renee Walsh: Yeah, I think the first thing that anybody really should understand about marketing, whether it’s digital marketing or tried-and-true paper marketing, is simply one size doesn’t fit all. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, your marketing efforts have to really work for you and your target audience, the people that you’re trying to reach and establish relationships with. For me personally, again, it goes back to doing your research, doing your homework, seeing what people are using, what’s the most effective, and seeing what new tools are out there. I think sometimes people can get a little overwhelmed by marketing because there’s that everyone needs marketing. I’m doing little quotes with my fingers now.
Veanne Smith: Tick marks.
Renee Walsh: Check marks. In a sense, yes, everybody needs marketing, but it can be something as simple as your visual identity. That can go back even further to what’s your purpose, who are you, what are your values, and understanding that. People tend to eat with their eyes; I think people also buy with their eyes. You need to make sure that what you’re displaying and communicating from a visual standpoint is appealing.
You could have the greatest product or service in the world, but if it doesn’t look that great, because the consumer market is a little fickle – we like things that are pretty and look put together – they may not be as interested and could click off your page. I think it’s important to invest in your visual identity, and then from there determine if you’re a service or even a product. With marketing, it can’t just be automated; there’s a very human component to marketing, that at the end of the day you are still working with humans, not just computers, and you need to be able to be relatable and reach out and talk to your consumer base so they feel like they can trust you and establish that kind of relationship.
Veanne Smith: I think in the space that you’re in with wedding planning and everything, I think that the visual and the pretty, you’re appealing to the bride, and the wedding party, and things, so everything is always beautiful. I have to commend you – our listeners will get a chance to see this when you launch – but you have a really great design on your logo and even the name of your company. Maybe you can talk about the Wiithyu. It’s spelled W-I-I-T-H-Y-U, correct?
Renee Walsh: Yes.
Veanne Smith: Maybe you can explain how you came up with that and what’s the two I’s. Talk to us about the one word of Wiithyu.
Renee Walsh: I will say Wiithyu was not the original name of the company. It was my second choice. At first, I was a little devastated that I couldn’t use the first name, but it’s been such a blessing to have this new name. I think it is so much better, and I love it even more than the original. My designer, Ray, who has been fantastic, he’s done everything from the website design to my favicon, to my logo, everything, he was playing around with my business card design, and he created the two I’s. It’s supposed to look like two people; it’s the couple.
I just thought it was one of those things that kind of came out of mid-air from his creativity. Again, hire your weaknesses. I’m not a designer, but I hired someone who is fantastic and who really understand what I was trying to achieve, and he did it in a very modern way, not a lot of frills. It’s not overly girly, but it’s still very structured, modern, and feminine, which I think describes today’s bride, so he really hit it on the head.
Veanne Smith: Right. It looks great digitally.
Renee Walsh: Yeah, and then the name itself, Wiithyu, our tagline is your best day ever, together. Really, when you’re planning a wedding, there are brides who can DIY and do it themselves, but the majority of the time you have your mom involved, your bridesmaids, your maid of honor, the groom, the groom’s mom. There’s a lot of people involved, and it’s with you. We want to help plan your wedding with you, so it’s a play on the words there.
Veanne Smith: That’s great. That really is great. I’m so excited about your launch.
Renee Walsh: Thank you.
What Are Your Thought On Leadership And How You Want To Run Your Company?
Veanne Smith: I can’t wait for it to be huge and immensely successful. Let’s talk about one more area here. You’re going into the next phase here. You’re about ready to launch. You’ve covered a lot of ground in a really fairly quick time. It’s been an incredible journey, but what have you realized about yourself? What conclusions have you arrived at in terms of how you want to run and grow your company now? You’re now moving to the next stage. What are your thoughts? What have you learned about yourself, and how are you going to lead?
Renee Walsh: Yeah, I think anybody who starts their own business or company, or finds themselves in a leadership position, you begin to think about the kind of manager or leader that you are going to be. You get to build that from the ground up. I think that sets a precedent for what running hopefully a successful team of people will look like in the future. For me, it’s learning how to delegate, how to trust the team of advisors, and designers, and developers that I’m working with to do what they are experts at doing. I feel so comfortable putting this product and this app in the hands of all of those people because at the end of the day I can’t do it all; I’m just one person. I can focus on what I’m good at and let the other people focus on what they’re awesome at. At the end of the day, it’s all going to come together.
Also, if you just think about management in general, I think sometimes people get a little caught up in titles and being in a position of power, but if you break leadership down, it’s a responsibility. It’s a responsibility to a team and to your vendors. Then really if you break that down, it’s being accountable. You’re accountable for your actions, and other people’s actions, and bringing all this stuff together. For me, it’s very important to make sure that I am involved, that I am making everything my business, but also trusting the team that I’m working with to just do awesome work. I think that helps in getting people to help you do what you want to do.
Veanne Smith: Yeah, I agree. I’m enthralled with listening to you, quite frankly.
Renee Walsh: [Laughs]
Veanne Smith: You’re doing something that you’re so passionate about. I sense that this was not really about financial. I sense that this is just about really an idea, and pursuing a dream, and just going with your gut and believing. It’s just so raw and powerful. I’m really just captivated listening to you.
Renee Walsh: Thank you. That’s what’s driving me. At the end of the day, this is something that I love. I’m extremely passionate about it. At a place that I was working at previously, what they define passion was is something that you’re willing to suffer for, something you’re really willing to work hard and just have true grit for. I’m passionate about my family, and I’m passionate about this app, but at the end of the day the reason why I created this, it wasn’t about the money. Of course, I want it to be successful, but really I created it to help brides because there’s a need out there.
Veanne Smith: There’s a need.
Renee Walsh: Oh my goodness. Brides could have a better way to plan their weddings that was just more fun, but really to create time and flexibility. I grew up and both of my parents were self-employed. They had clients, but they were always there. I understood that if I was sick at school or needed a ride, there was that flexibility, and I always knew that I wanted that. For my family now and my future family, I want to be able to have that flexibility, but to also show that I created something, that something is mine, that I can own and contribute.
Veanne Smith: Yeah, that’s awesome. It’s been such a pleasure having you here to talk about this. I’m glad we got to share your story. I’m particularly impressed with the wisdom you have at such a young age.
Renee Walsh: Thank you.
How To Reach Renee
Veanne Smith: I’m just so impressed. I hope your story inspires others out there who are on the fence about taking that entrepreneurial plunge and to go ahead and trust their gut and boldly pursue their dreams. I hope we’ve touched someone here who has been listening. If anyone would like to learn more about Wiithyu or reach out to you directly, what is the best way for them to do that at this point?
Renee Walsh: You can go to the website. It’s www.wiithyu.com, and I’ll spell that out. It’s W-I-I-T-H-Y-U.com. You can just go to the contact page and fill out the form if you want to get in touch with us, or just say hi, or ask a question. We’d be happy to get in touch with you.
Veanne Smith: Awesome. I wish you all the best with the upcoming launch and of course the upcoming wedding. I think it’s here in the next couple of months, if I’m not mistaken.
Renee Walsh: It is, the end of October of this year. We’re very excited.
Veanne Smith: Awesome. It’s going to be so much fun. I wish you all the best. Thanks so much for joining us on the podcast today.
Renee Walsh: Thanks, Veanne.
Angela Greenwell: You have been listening to Atlanta Business Impact Radio with Veanne Smith, and I am your co-host, Angela Greenwell. This program has been brought to you by SolTech. For more information about the podcast, including other episodes, you can visit our website at www.soltech.net or find us on iTunes. Thank you for listening, and we look forward to having you join us again.