5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS: “If your ‘why’ is compelling enough, it will propel you forward.” with Kathryn Rose and Mitch Russo

I think the best advice I can give is our family motto “no one’s gonna die” because unless you’re doing heart surgery or something where someone could actually die, if an email goes out on the wrong date, you have to push your go live date a week or 6 months like we did, it’s going to hurt but it’s not going to kill you or anyone else. Take a deep breath, come back to your why — why are you building this business in the first place. If your “why” is compelling enough, it will propel you forward.

As part of my series about the “5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Rose. Kathryn is the founding CEO of wiseHer, a global knowledge marketplace that helps women business owners and professionals overcome unique challenges on-demand through 1:1 access to thousands of executives, coaches/mentors, education and resources that accelerate business or career growth. She is a serial entrepreneur, former Wall Street sales leader and an author of 9 books. She has been featured in CBS Marketwatch, Fox News and more. Prior to devoting her focus to wiseHer, Kathryn was an executive marketing consultant for large global and local clients developing targeted online campaigns resulting in millions of engaged fans, followers and connections. Kathryn’s experience has taken her from startup to multimillion dollar companies. She is an award-winning Wall Street sales leader driving $100 million+ in annual sales and in channel marketing with global B2B clients. Kathryn is a highly sought after speaker at leading global industry events with technology powerhouses — Google, IBM, Dell Technologies — and women focused events such as Women in Tech Summit and the Grace Hopper Celebration focused on helping IT professionals, women and small business leaders achieve a higher level of success. Kathryn is on the faculty for the IT leading association COMPTIA, is a member of the Executive Council of Advancing Women in Technology, and is a sales coach for MBA candidates at Harvard Business School. Kathryn is regarded for her grit, tenacity, creative problem solving, glass-half-filled approach and her ability to laugh, always. A tireless champion for women, Kathryn has received accolades for her vision, commitment, and leadership. Kathryn has dedicated her career to coaching, speaking, and writing best-selling business books that drive business owners to greater success with their sales and marketing efforts. She has created an outstanding network of women at every level, and in many industries, to support and promote women in their businesses or careers.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

In 2007, I was a sales leader for a Wall Street firm and about to give birth to my first child. Then everything up-ended–the mortgage market melted down and I was laid off. At the same time my mom had a brain aneurysm leaving her paraplegic.

With no job, a new baby, and my mom in the hospital, I knew I had to do something and fast. And I wanted my son to grow up thinking his mom is a fighter not a quitter.

So I did what all good salespeople do–go to my network and see if I could start something new. I called all of my old clients offering them my services for sales training, marketing, really anything I could do that didn’t involve a true full-time opportunity (this was before the gig economy). Their main need was to get a better online presence. Specifically they wanted their websites to rank on page one for Google and other search engines. I thought, “how hard could that be?” and told my top client I would get back to him in two weeks. Well…it turns out it’s pretty hard, especially with NO internet background whatsoever.

No one I knew owned their own business — never mind in technology — so I had to figure it out for myself. I turned to online resources and found everyone wanted me to take their course or read their book. I knew that if I just found someone to talk to, someone to teach me, I could do it. I was on Craig’s List looking for something and on a whim typed in “learn SEO” and I found someone, an expert. I spoke to him every day for 2 weeks, paying him for his time and expertise, and soon I had my first paying client!

I then began to get involved in social media–again paying for expertise when needed–and quickly set up a successful SEO and Social Media consultancy. I went on to write 9 books (including two best sellers), be featured on TV (Fox News, Channel 12 and others), and became an international speaker.

I also joined a lot of women’s networking groups (like many of us do) thinking I could find clients there but I quickly found out that the statistics were true: 90% of women-owned businesses are solopreneurs and 88% made under $100k in revenue. The fact is they simply did not have the budget to hire outside consultants, so I did what I could to help them: I wrote books and did a lot of “pick my brain” sessions and coffees for free.

In 2013, after realizing I had no idea how to scale a consulting business (and after the birth of my daughter), I went back into corporate and ran sales for a software company. I had lots of experience working in male-dominated fields and thought maybe things would be different after a 5 year break. No such luck! I found out my male counterpart was being paid $25,000 more than I was!

When the company was sold, I decided that I was going to do something to help women. As I looked more into women in business and their challenges, I uncovered some alarming trends. In 10 years, women went from owning 10 million business to nearly 13 million businesses but 90% were STILL solo and under $100k in revenue–we weren’t starting more profitable businesses, just more businesses. In terms of career, the numbers of women in top posts were actually declining. I set out to figure out why and design something useful, something impactful that will help women get unstuck and move them forward, faster.

Enter wiseHer. Our platform makes it easy for women to do what I did — leverage tactical, practical advice from experts all over the world to move their businesses and careers forward and change their lives for the better.

Building a technology platform–especially a marketplace focused on one segment of the population–is not for the faint of heart. There were many times I wanted to throw in the towel but the mission and my team kept me going. We are not venture-capital funded (yet). We are a small and mighty team who are here to do what we can to help women around the world rise higher.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

After I left my last corporate gig, it was 2016 and the women’s movement was catching fire. 10 years ago when I was laid off, one of my goals was to help women businesses with SEO and social, then I quickly realized that many of them did not have the budget to hire me. When I decided to look at this years later I noticed it was the same! Plus in corporate we weren’t growing women in the upper levels, it was declining. I did a ton of research (I have nearly 150,000 women on my email list) — did surveys, etc. Then I came out from behind my computer and talked to women — went to every networking group I could find and realized the challenges and tried to solve for them. wiseHer was the solution, giving access to on-demand expert advice that was so lacking.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Well, I taught myself enough code to be dangerous, used skillcrush, free code camp, etc. during any free moments (i.e. on planes) and learned as much as I could about the development process. However, I am not a coder so it was still difficult to build a tech platform when you are not a developer and have a bootstrapped budget. I experienced some of the horror developer stories you hear — ghosting, one developer quoted me one amount and then charged me double without clearing it with me, one actually gave me the excuse that he couldn’t get my work done because there was a swarm of bees in his backyard — you can’t make this stuff up people! (It’s all going in the book)

But through it all, it was the mission that kept me going. The people around me, my co-founders, others who I’ve supported through the years who are now propping me up, my family that consistently encouraged me. I know what we’re building is important and will have an impact, and just as importantly we have a revenue plan that will make us a profitable business.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are going well, we have investor interest (we just closed our first investors) and more are coming forward to invest, which will help us get to the next level. We have over 100 experts already on board and more than 1000 in the queue plus we’ve already had our first customers out of beta which is really really exciting!!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

There were so many mistakes that I can laugh about now, but nothing really stands out. I learned from every single one of my mistakes.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think our authenticity is the key to our success. We get the challenges because we’ve been there — we really get our users and experts and genuinely want to help them rise.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think the best advice I can give is our family motto “no one’s gonna die” because unless you’re doing heart surgery or something where someone could actually die, if an email goes out on the wrong date, you have to push your go live date a week or 6 months like we did, it’s going to hurt but it’s not going to kill you or anyone else. Take a deep breath, come back to your why — why are you building this business in the first place. If your “why” is compelling enough, it will propel you forward.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are SO many people, I actually wrote about it in my LinkedIn post “who packs your parachute.”

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

We just came out of beta so we have a small number of customers, but I’ve built a huge community over the years by always leading in service. I always ask, how can I help you and mean it. Zig Ziglar said famously, “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” I truly believe that and live it. Not that you have to say yes to everything and be a doormat but be a genuine person, be that connector or that light in someone else’s life. It goes a long way and they will remember it.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know before one wants to start an app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Start with why — I know people are sick of hearing this but people keep saying it because it’s still the most relevant advice. Why would anyone care? Why this solution? Why now? Why you?
  2. Get out and ask people — but make sure you’re asking the right questions. I asked lots of questions, and was able to get to the core of the issue.
  3. Know SOMETHING about development — you don’t have to be a coder (although that certainly helps), but you need to understand the development process, how things work, how developers think.
  4. Learn how to sell — I’ve been in sales most of my career and I love it. I solve people’s problems and they pay me, it’s great! But so many founders are afraid of the sales process. You HAVE to be able to sell yourself and your ideas to potential cofounders, investors, employees and most importantly to your target audience. If you can’t sell, you’ll have a very hard time.
  5. Be able to be ok without perfection — figure out the core thing you are providing and build that, come out from behind the computer and show it to people, get feedback and be willing to mold it to what the market needs and will pay for, not what you think is the right solution.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think a movement that inspires people to collaborate more would be one of the biggest things. There is a saying, if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together. I think so many of us sit in our offices and think everyone is a competitor. Our philosophy at wiseHer is that we partner with everyone, even some groups that people would consider to be competitors for the same dollars. There is plenty of business to go around. It’s not an end sum game, if I win you lose. That mentality will only get you so far.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/katkrose/

https://www.facebook.com/getwiseHer/

https://www.instagram.com/getwiseher/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS: If your “why” is compelling enough, it will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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