Episode 31

#31 The ‘Lightbulb Moment’: Aileen Gemma Smith on How Crisis Compelled Her to Found Vizalytics

Aileen Gemma Smith recognized opportunity as she watched her community recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  She believed in her business idea so strongly that she sold her house in order to fund it. Smith is cofounder and CEO of Vizalytics, and creator of Mind My Business, an app now helping over 3,000 local business owners get critical data specific to their geo-location. Host Kelly Hoey and Smith discuss the unique challenges of developing product for SMBs, the important role trust plays in building a strong team, and how she got her first 100 customers.

Show Notes

Vizalytics

Leaving a Six-Figure Salary to Start a Company Instead by Aileen Gemma Smith, Huffington Post

Aileen Gemma Smith of Vizalytics Technology Inc.: Helping Small Businesses Stay Up to Date on Their Markets and Their Communities

Connecting Small Businesses and Closing the Digital Divide Face-to-Face by Dave Nyczepir, The Atlantic

500 Startups’ Dave McClure on portfolio diversification and the return opportunities of “spray and pray” Harry Stabbings, TechCrunch

13 things tech founders should look for in an incubator or accelerator by Scott Gerber, Mashable

Are You Ready to Seek Funding? This 10-Point Checklist Will Decide. by Jayson Demers, Entrepreneur

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, iBooks

Staten Island Makerspace

Guest bios & transcripts are available on www.broadmic.com.

Bio

Aileen founded Vizalytics Technology, the creators of Mind My Business to serve the needs of brick and mortar businesses. The team also built neighborhoods.nyc. Mind My Business has loyal users throughout NYC and is rolling out in Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco.

She puts a strong emphasis on listening and building relationships. She prefers hard work and problem solving over fancy titles. She believes in the value of collaborative process.

Aileen and team are honored to be part of 500 Startups Batch 10, a winner at NYC Big Apps, and a finalist in the AWS City on Cloud competition.

Transcript

Aileen: As a mom with two teenagers saying, "I'm starting a business" is not what I'm supposed to be doing at this point. I'm supposed to be thinking about other kinds of things. So tremendous financial risk. I like to tell folks, you know, my seed round was I sold my house.

Female 1: I am an entrepreneur.

Female 2: Be inspired.

Female 3: We are incredibly powerful .

Female 4: Color outside the mind.

Female 5: Open your mind.

Female 6: Dream big.

Female 7: Be bold.

Female 8: Take action.

Female 9: The narrative needs to change.

Female 10: We can fix this, we can change this.

Female 11: I know we can.

Male: Think broad.

Female 12: Think like a broad.

Female 13: Think broad.

Kelly: I'm Kelly Hoey, host of BroadMic. I speak with the most accomplished entrepreneurs, investors and thought leaders about the issues that matter in building a business. You will get the inspiration as well as the picks and shovels you will need to become a better entrepreneur. Today I'm in the BroadMic studio with Aileen Gemma Smith, the co-founder of Vizalytics Technology. A New York data company bringing the information access gap between government and citizens, businesses and communities. Well, bringing it closer, bridging it, crossing it, eliminating it. We're going to be talking with Aileen about developing a product for small businesses with government data. Lots of initiatives out there over that, so look for good insights from Aileen, building out Vizalytics' founding team and co-founding the company with her husband. Welcome Aileen.

Aileen: Thank you Kelly. It's a pleasure to be here.

Kelly: So tell us more about what Vizalytics does? What's the problem you're solving?

Aileen: So the problem that we're solving is information is powerful but not if you can't have access to it and we see the digital divide as a huge problem that needs to be solved. I'm all about making a difference for main street and local businesses. So we saw an opportunity with open government data to say, "Here's how we can bring the right information to the right people at the right time." We've got a product for local shopkeepers, it's called, Mind My Business. It's live in New York, Chicago [inaudible 00:02:00] and Seattle with San Francisco and several other cities to follow after that. We've got over 3000 users all totaled. And folks love it because we let them know everything that's happening outside and around their business that makes a difference to their bottom line.

Kelly: So give us an example of, like if I was a bodega owner on the lower East side how is Mind My Business gonna help me?

Aileen: I'm gonna to let you know when that sidewalk shed is going up or when it's coming down, I'm gonna to let you know when the DOT is going to break up the street, I'm gonna to let you know whether or not anybody's rang from 311 to complain about your business and if you're at risk for a fine and I'll keep you up to date on changing regulations. So if the $0.10 bag rule actually comes into play, I'll let you know what you need to do about it and when that goes into effect.

Kelly: So these are like really practical day-to-day things that affect the bottom line of a small shop owner...

Aileen: Absolutely.

Kelly: ...who, you know, those things like one fine or having your store overstaffed and then find out the road's ripped up and you've got no customers. I mean that can be...I mean to say life and death kind of decisions.

Aileen: Absolutely. For folks that are on super tight margins that does make the difference because $200 here, $400 there in some cases is the difference between, "Did I make payroll? Can I pay this month's rent?" So a lot of shopkeepers really appreciate like, "You're giving me specific, you're giving me precise to my business, you're letting me know what I need to know and then you're getting out of my way so I can do what I love."

Kelly: That's like so helpful. So helpful. Okay, I want to talk more about all of this and we're going to get into all that, but let's take a step back, what factors do you think influenced you to become an entrepreneur?

Aileen: So a long time ago when I worked at larger companies, the feedback that I always got was, "You think too big and you care too much." And I kind of took that like, "Well, I actually want to solve these problems, I'd like to do things about that." So I was driven to make a change but really what was guiding me...

Kelly: It's got to be the funniest thing. Those were like criticisms and like performance feedback, "You think too big and you care too much."

Aileen: It's like, "Stop being a visionary. Just do this little part here and don't worry about these kinds of things." I was like, "But we could do more." And I was frustrated that it's like, "No, no just don't care about this kind of thing." And I'm like, "But I want to care about stuff and I'm willing to make those commitments." So yeah. In some ways I consider myself always an entrepreneur because I'm always figuring things out.

Kelly: That's phenomenal. So what was the origin story for Vizalytics?

Aileen: So...

Kelly: What was that like, "Aha! I have to do this."

Aileen: So the aha that I had to do was two part. On one hand I was like, six figure salary, life is great and I'm saying, I really don't want to make six figures like doing Excel spreadsheets and not being invested or being explicitly told don't care about what you're focusing on. I wanted to do something different. So I said all right, "If you're going to make a change like commit to it and do it." Then there was this shall we say weather event that hit my hometown which was Superstorm Sandy. And that was really the driving between why we needed to do something for small businesses and how I said, "Well, small businesses need this information, they're on super tight margins, they're on immensely tight deadlines." And nobody's making tools for them because it's not a sexy problem and it's a really hard problem. I said "Well, I think too big and I care too much, so let's go solve this problem."

Kelly: And your hometown is...

Aileen: Staten Island. So we got hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. I stood with a neighbor of mine when they knocked down a house. The HPD came down, shopkeepers they had 6 feet of water in the store and it's...you don't forget that. You say you got to do something and that's really what drove me to say, "We can make a difference because you know I'm a content person." It's like information is all there, nobody has assembled it for you. Nobody's been willing to say, "Let me provide it to you in the context that you need, understanding and honoring the fact that you're kind of busy with other stuff too." And that's what we decided to build.

Kelly: Amazing. Amazing. I want to say what were the risks for you? What were the personal risks for you when starting a company?

Aileen: Personal risks for me? So as a mom with two teenagers saying, "I'm starting a business" is not what I'm supposed to be doing at this point. I'm supposed to be thinking about other kinds of things. So tremendous financial risk. I like to tell folks you know my seed round was I sold my house that's a line on table and when you think about your co-founder and your CTO also happens to be your husband, there is no fallback, second salary, "Here's what we can do. Go play entrepreneur and if it doesn't work there you go." It's like not actually...we are all in this and if we don't work it out well then we're going to have some really hard problems. But it was that kind of commitment and having the support of family to do this was tremendous because on one hand my boys look at me like, "Okay, we don't have the usual mom." But on the other hand they also look at me like, "Well yeah, of course she's going to start a business." And they're kind of gender blind to "Mom is a woman CEO. Mom's a CEO. Does it matter that she's a woman?" And I love the fact that they're blind in that way and they don't think of it in that way but yeah, that was a big risk and a big commitment from a financial point of view. Sure.

Kelly: I'll say, they're also too...you are living, breathing all of these stresses with your husband.

Aileen: Yep.

Kelly: And your sons but with your husband and so one of these like really important personal relationships is also the business partner.

Aileen: Absolutely. And you want to have a really strong relationship so in that sense I consider myself supremely privileged. Chris and I had actually worked together for a year before we were us. So our relationship actually started in the context of work where he was the senior director of software engineering and I was content manager and I have got to figure out how these content model works and he's doing these updates to the pipeline. It was like we wanted to solve problems together and that was sort of what drove us and then a typo one I am made us become us. No, wait, wait a minute, wait. Time out. We like each other here. There could be something in this and we just kind of kept going forward from there. But it...

Kelly: A typo, how did you meet your spouse? A typo and I am...I've never...

Aileen: That's how the whole relationship started like he spelled my name wrong and I made a flirty comment back and I was like "Oh wait, there's some heat going on here. This could be something." And we knew each other because we work together so long and you know like same shared colleagues and stuff so it was great. It was like we started a relationship right in the middle.

Kelly: I think maybe I'll start being less of a jerk when I see a typo. Maybe that'll improve my dating life. That's good, thank you.

Aileen: Neither of us was looking. If you ask me I'd be like, "No way, no how." And suddenly there you go so...

Kelly: I love it. So any pivots today?

Aileen: Pivots. So the very first version of our product was really, really ugly and had a terrible name, it was called Bizvizer which is like you don't let the engineer and the content person come up with names. So our designer who's been amazing [inaudible 00:09:01] came to us and said, "Wow! You need my help." And he joined the team so part of the pivot was like, "I understand people and what they want, but what I don't know how to do is build that UX functionality." And one of the key things in growing a team and building a company I think is to understand, know what you know and then bring amazing people around you who can do things that you can't or who can do certain things better then you can, just say boom! We want to go forward, we want to scale, we want to grow I need more than just us to be able to do this.

Kelly: What about say co-founder relationships? Any advice or guidance to other entrepreneurs on how you negotiate, navigate a co-founder relationship?

Aileen: Yeah. I think having a shared vision is tremendously important. Chris and I again are very privileged in that we have different skill sets and different kinds of things. He wants to build the tech, he wants to build the IP and I'll leave him in code land and he is happy. I love working with people, I love doing Biz Dev, I love understanding how to work with whether it's investors, whether it's channel partners or other folks. What do they need? So there's no friction over who's taking each other's pie. So having those separate things is important but also knowing how to problem solve. Tremendously valuable because every company that I know has had hard times. And when things are sailing it's like, "Wow, we're great!" But when you really want to understand a team, look at what happens to them in tough times. How they deal and how they problem solve and how they say, "What are we going to do? The math is ugly, the numbers aren't coming in, what do we do?" How you work through those together is tremendously foundational, so make sure you have good relationships.

Kelly: Yeah. You're saying in the good times you can sort of brush problems under the rug.

Aileen: Yup. Yeah, it's kind of like a marriage.

Kelly: Well, you can say that you know...

Aileen: I'm speaking from experience. But you know, like what's the vision for the company? And what do you want to do? And it's not a blame game if there are challenges. It's what do we do now? And a lot of times you do sometimes see friction with folks but I think the companies that last are the ones that say, "Here's how we look beyond" and that communicate to the rest of their team as well as to any investors and board members and what have you, "We're in this to solve together" as different from power struggle or just mired in "Your fault, my fault, etc."

Kelly: Such good advice. So you've already mentioned part of this, the initial funding for your company was selling your home...

Aileen: Yup.

Kelly: So bootstrapping. When people wonder what bootstrapping is that's what we mean. When did you decide to go for outside capital?

Aileen: Excellent question. We were starting to look into that as "Runway is fine." So you have to think about what you're going to do and how you're going to make that last? And we were really privileged to go through 500 startups. Definitely recommend them. Not all accelerator programs are created equal, we loved what 500 offered to us in terms of the opportunity, not just the capital that came in but really the community that is 500. So they talk about 500 strong and that's not just a little fun hash tag, it's actually the community of founders that support each other as well as the mentors that are there in the 500 network as well as like the program founders and the advisers who are absolutely there to offer you support. And actually in the long term, that matters a heck of a lot more than a check for a certain amount because money can always be spent but relationships take a long time to build. And you really have to build them in a thoughtful way.

Kelly: I have a question, someone thinking, if a startup founder listening to this, what are the questions they should be asking themselves or asking an accelerator in terms of considering doing one of those programs?

Aileen: Yeah, absolutely. Well, it's also why do you want to do this, right? So not all programs are created equal for sure but what do you want to get out of that program and it's not just, "Hey they gave us $20,000 or $75,000" but what you are really looking to do with that program? And what are you looking to do to grow your company? Because there are some folks that don't necessarily need to take on outside investment and that's not wrong.

Kelly: That's great.

Aileen: If you can bootstrap a business and you've got independent revenue and your bottom line is like you're bringing in $2 million like I am cheering you on and that is awesome and folks shouldn't say like, "Oh, that's a lifestyle business." Like somehow, that's like lower caliber, like no. Those are folks that are working really hard. There's a time and place for bringing an outside capital and a time and a place not to. You got to figure out where you fit in that spectrum and the other thing is never walk into an accelerator like, "Oh, we can only build this if you give us this check." Like no. Here's what we're doing regardless, going forward, and here's where I think you bring value. So do your homework, talk to other founders that have been through there and really think about what makes sense for you.

Kelly: Yeah, which is the accelerator family that you're joining because this is not just like a three or four months time period, this is like where can I build the...

Aileen: Absolutely.

Kelly: Where can I accelerate and have a stronger foundation to what I'm already doing?

Aileen: Correct. And it has to be the right one for you, right? Five hundred totally made sense for us. It may not make sense for another entrepreneur, so don't look and say like "Oh, I didn't get into this one. It's not good enough." It's like no, no. Did you get into the right one for you? Did it take you forward where you need to be? Boom. Because five years from now you're the one who wakes up with those decisions that, "I did this or I didn't do this." Make the decisions that you can go to bed with.

Kelly: I'm just sitting here thinking I have to see about a podcast with Dave, I know it'll have some sort of explicit warning on it that Dave that happen.

Aileen: I will recommend it. I will recommend it. Dave's a great guy and he's a straight shooter.

Kelly: Oh he is. He's absolutely fantastic.

Aileen: And he has seen it all.

Kelly: And phenomenally supportive of diversity. You just need to look at the 500 startups, I'm going to say portfolio companies.

Aileen: Yeah, and they did diversity before it was cool. They just did it because it's practical and it's a good investment.

Kelly: Yeah, smart investment. All right, you recently made some new hires.

Aileen: Yes.

Kelly: What advice do you have for other founders who are kind of getting to that point they're going to build out their teams?

Aileen: Absolutely. Hire slowly, fire quickly. Take your time in thinking about, "Is this the right person that brings the right kind of energy to the team?" Right? Just because the resume's perfect doesn't mean, okay, if we're working together 10, 12, 14 hours, is this the person that brings the right kind of energy and spirit to the team? I'm really grateful for the folks that we have and who are here with us in this mad journey as we're growing and going forward but it is a thoughtful process in terms of bringing on the right people that share an internal sense of values that you all have and by that I mean company culture isn't about, "Hey we've got ping-pong and Beer Fridays." Culture is about, "Okay what are we all doing together? How are we understanding one another sort of life and context but also what do you really want to do together?"

Kelly: Who are the major competitors for you?

Aileen: I love that question. And the reason why I love that question is I like looking at what other companies do and what they do really well because I think that's important to understand. So if you look at folks like Enigma.io I think they're doing some really great things. But they're geared towards a different audience than what we are. Right? And I think that there's some other folks out there that are also doing some really neat things with open data but not quite in the same space that we are. So again you look at that and you see a constantly evolving landscape where I love looking at other folks whether they're building apps, whether they're involved in, whether it's Gov Tech or Civic Tech, what they're doing and how they are doing it because it's a growing area but it's a really...it's a hard fought area to get business and to win the trust and the respect of folks in terms of working with government.

Kelly: So any tips on business development if you're in this tough space?

Aileen: Yeah and it may sound simple but build relationships and show respect to everyone. Do your homework, boring but important advice but that really matters because in government at least there are some folks that have been there for many, many years. They understand how and why things were assembled. Build relationships with them even though their title may not be the fanciest one, they might end up being your internal champion whereas the person who's got the big name is like, "Yeah, I got a line out the door but you didn't pay attention to these three people over here who actually make decisions with me." And folks noticed that but also...and I can't underscore this enough, do your homework. Know who you're talking to, what else is going on because if you haven't spent the time and courtesy of doing that, why should they give you the opportunity? Because there will be six more people saying, "I'm willing to work harder than you are and I'm going to do that work." If you're not willing to don't cry about it. Yeah, it's like tough love but somebody behind you is willing to work harder. You got to be willing to say, "I'm going to outwork, we're going to be at a higher standard than anybody else, we're going to pay more attention to detail and we're going to solve this problem so thoroughly that you'll have no choice but to say, wow, I need to work with these folks again."

Kelly: What was your customer acquisition strategy?

Aileen: For Mind My Business?

Kelly: Yeah.

Aileen: Okay, so for Mind My Business my first hundred customers I actually went door-to-door, talked to folks and said, "Thank you for your feedback and stuff." And then actually went in and said like, "So we made this for you. Would you be willing to try it out?" And that was kind of exciting especially when you know, you have somebody walk up to the cashier and say like, "Okay, here." I am like, "No, no, you can actually subscribe through the App Store. It's okay." But that was kind of powerful and then after that what we did was we used the power of open data to actually acquire more customers. So we brought in several hundreds of more customers by using targeted email profiles to say, "Here's a live snapshot for your business right here and right now. Are you interested?" And the folks were like, "Ooh! This is wicked cool." Because it's not like, "Hey this you know, long blah blah blah narrative, it's like this is what's happening on the corner of Pearl and Maine where I am." That matters.

Kelly: That matters a lot. So your customer acquisition strategy very much mirrored your plot development strategy. You were out there knocking door to door, talking to people who owned shops and stores.

Aileen: Yeah. Absolutely. So certainly in the small business vertical that's what we did. In terms of like working with governments and larger enterprises again it's high touch build relationships and that counts for a lot because we've gotten a lot of feedback that folks noticed. "You paid attention and you looked at it like you came in as knowledgeable." Instead, "Hi, I am a vendor hawking a solution." But, "I empathize with your problem and here's where we see an opportunity to help shine out the work that your team has been doing for so long. Can we talk more about it?"

Kelly: And so this is like so great hearing this from you because there's so many times I've had conversations with...it's been the person inside the big company and they've had pitches from startups and the startups have not come in understanding the problem of the company.

Aileen: Yeah.

Kelly: They're like , "Oh, here, we've got this great technology with all these bangs and whistles and all the rest of it." But instead of saying, "I understand and I have studied your issue government or I understand your problem, small business, let's talk and how would this work as a solution for you?"

Aileen: Well, yeah because it's a lot easier to just talk track and give you the glossy and, "Here's the pretty PowerPoint and we made all the fonts wonderful and look we've got a witty line" as different from, "Let me do the hard work and the homework of actually understanding what's going on here and what am I willing to bring forth as a solution right?" So when you come to the table and say, "We've looked at this and thought about this here's an example of a rapid prototype of what we may be able to do." Folks are like "Whoa, whoa!" Without like me giving anything, like they came to the table like "They want to help me? Go on." Because that's the exception and I look at that as that's the opportunity.

Kelly: That being the exception is the opportunity.

Aileen: Well trust is earned and trust is earned through hard work. That's something just philosophically that I believe. If you earn trust through hard work, folks will want to continue to work with you again and again.

Kelly: So I remember standing on the platform on the blue line in Chicago very early one morning, getting my butt out O'Hare [SP] and in my half sleep haze looked up and I saw one of your ads for Mind My Business which was one of those very cool moments. Where do you see your company? Where do you see Vizalytics in the next 5 years, 10 years?

Aileen: In the next 5 to 10 years I absolutely want us to be in hundreds of cities throughout the world. Our goal is by the end of 2016 to be in 20 cities here in the States plus a few others internationally. We're working on closing some deals overseas, excited about that. And to continue to grow. What I want to do is I want to change the conversation with open data just the way that weather and traffic are something that you wouldn't possibly go out without checking and knowing first. I want to change that conversation and I want to put these shopkeepers in pole position for that and there's a lot of other things that we can do with governments and in working with the enterprise but really what we want to do is make a difference for these local businesses so they feel the digital divide is closed because someone decided, "I'm going to honor you first." And guess what? There's actually a business in that.

Kelly: Love it.

Aileen: Thank you.

Kelly: Love it. There's some examples of some decisions you've made that you feel has contributed to your success?

Aileen: Yeah. Well, let's see...

Kelly: Yes is not a full answer on this one Aileen, so...

Aileen: No, no, no. I mean you caught me off guard on that one. I'm thinking like decisions that contributed to success. Being decisive right? When someone asks you something right? So thinking back to the 500 startups' interview you know, they said like, "Okay you guys are husband and wife team, I understand you've got teenagers, if you were accepted would you come out here or what would it be like? " And we're like "No, no we're here, don't worry about it, grandma's got the kids, we're cool." And like boom. On the spot and also being in pitch meetings where we have an opportunity talking with the potential client like, "Can you do this? Can you do this?" "Yes we can, here's what we're able to." The ability to think on your feet. Probably the best decision that I made sometimes is knowing when not to listen because we had plenty of folks say, "Why would you bother to do this and working with little businesses? You could do these other things and whatever and content marketing." And I'm like, "No, this is what I want to do." So probably the best decision that I made was sticking with the vision that I've got in here and I've had for a long time and the other half of it is building strong relationships with people that I respect because then when hard times come you can kind of pick up your backbone to your network of folks to say, "So today is a tough day and we'll get through this however..." Can I just go [inaudible 00:23:35] for a sec?

Kelly: Yeah, go ahead. Can I have an ear for a minute?

Aileen: Yes and then like, "Okay now what? Let's strategize." But building those relationships is so key.

Kelly: So is there a moment that you think, in terms of being an entrepreneur moment that you really think of as something that was a failure or less than perfect or however you want to think about that word failing and failure? How did you handle it and what'd you learn from it?

Aileen: So everybody makes mistakes. I don't think you should be afraid about making mistakes, it's more like what do you do next, right? Because everybody's gonna flub up somewhere, somehow and it's how you handle that. So I look back and say, "Well you know, actually I could've prepared a little bit better here or I didn't walk in understanding enough of the particular biases." Probably a mistake that I made a little bit later on was maybe calling out biases in unkind way instead of in a thoughtful way to say, "Let's build a bridge." Because that can be a challenge and if you put someone in a position where they feel like they're cornered you're not building a relationship. Whereas if you say, "I hear you but can we think about it this way?" That's more effective and as I get further along I absolutely want to focus on what do you do to build things going forward instead of just slam things, kind of going down because to quote a comment that Jeff Bezos made in a commencement speech, "It's more important to be kind than it is to be right." And when you think about the long-term and really long-term of how you build business, you're better off being kind than being 'grrr' because you need those people and if you want to work together you've got to start from a place of together instead of friction.

Kelly: I'm so glad you mentioned that quote. That's fantastic. All right, now we get to the fun part, not that the rest of this wasn't fun.

Aileen: Yeah.

Kelly: So we're going to get to our paid for questions.

Aileen: Yes.

Kelly: So I've asked everyone these questions, so I'm going to just fire down this list.

Aileen: All righty. Homestretch.

Kelly: You know, homestretch on all of this so we like to keep this part fast. So what are your primary sources of information?

Aileen: My primary sources of information, oh gosh! I'm an avid reader, I'm everywhere. I'm on all sorts of new sites, Twitter, everything, going to open data, following other people to see like what's going on so I'm an avid and mad reader of everything I can from newspaper to digital to what have you to I don't know, Dilbert as well.

Kelly: Anything that hits you. What book are you reading?

Aileen: What book am I reading right now? I'm rereading The Hard Thing About Hard Things because it's that kind of week.

Kelly: Okay. Do you have any rituals or habits that you swear by?

Aileen: Coffee in the morning and wine at night.

Kelly: I like those rituals. Who are three entrepreneurs or leaders you admire?

Aileen: So there are so many. I admire you for all the things that you do in terms of going forward. I admire maybe some people that aren't necessarily famous like "Wow! Here millions of people know about them." But who've made tremendous sacrifices to create what may be are small things but they make a difference. A young woman that I know, she does parties for homeless children and she's done close to 175 of them over the past year and a half. Now she's not necessarily someone who's like rolled or cleaned or anything but she's brought together networks of moms and they bake cakes and they give presents and they do this to give this opportunity to these children.

Kelly: What's the best advice you've ever received?

Aileen: The best advice I've ever received. Hard to distill that down into one but probably know how to listen. And that means how to listen and how to not listen and how to get folks to share.

Kelly: I love it. Are there any particular myths that you would like to dispel for our listeners?

Aileen: In terms of being an entrepreneur it is really hard, it is not sexy, there is a lot of boring but important slog work that you must do. So if you're there for the guts and glory put that away and think, "Are you willing to do this and commit to this for five years, for seven years, for nine years?" And if that doesn't scare you go ahead. If you're looking for 'pfff' then maybe not.

Kelly: Any words of advice you would give listeners about taking risks and closing the confidence gap?

Aileen: Absolutely. Do not be afraid to take risks. Don't do stupid things just for the sake of, "Ha ha ha. Let me do this." But in terms of the confidence gap, so much of it is how much do you walk in there like, "I want this. I want to own this. I'm going to do this." instead of, "Oh my goodness! I'm so intimidated by this person. Am I good enough to talk to them?" They're just a person too. You have to walk in there and say, "This is why I want to have a conversation with you. This is what we're doing that's valuable." So closing the confidence gap. Believe in yourself. Don't let someone talk down to you because you're a woman, because you're a certain age, because you're a certain ethnicity, because you know someone said to me like, "Oh, well you didn't go to a pedigree school." Well, yeah I went to the City University of New York and when I was there Allen Ginsberg was there and that was kind of a good thing you know, like you could actually take a class with him. So don't let anybody put you down and if folks are trying to put you down that's the wrong circle. Be in the circle with folks that bring you up.

Kelly: Is there a female entrepreneur you can tell us about who's under the radar and we should know about them?

Aileen: CNC Shop, they have welding and wine classes, they have sewing classes. They actually have something called the Staten Island MakerSpace STEAM Wagon which is a mobile truck that goes around to schools that don't necessarily have STEM or STEAM programs and let the students be able to do things whether it's build with Arduino or understanding like how to work and tinker.

Kelly: So last question, what does think broad mean to you?

Aileen: Think broad means go long and go deep and do not stop.

Kelly: Thank you Aileen.

Aileen: Thank you.

Kelly: Thank you for listening to BroadMic. We welcome your feedback. Find us on Facebook where you will have show notes and additional references for a deeper dive into today's topic. Subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. Please review our podcast on iTunes which will help other listeners discover BroadMic and grow the BroadMic community. BroadMic is produced by Christy Mirabal with editing by John Marshall Media. Our executive producer is Sara Weinheimer. Think broad.

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