Each month we feature a woman in business who personifies what it means to be a Business Betty- she is confident, smart, stylish and successful. Do you know a woman that you consider a Betty? Tell us about her by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back in May I took a trip to Richmond, Virginia to meet Andrea and Scott of CorgiBytes. I was glad Andrea was up for the photo shoot considering she was about 8 months pregnant. I’d never been to Richmond before, so I combined my “work trip” with eating some great food and visiting some nice vineyards near Charlottesville, VA.
CorgiBytes are software developers who focus on making existing applications better. They help their clients reduce technical debt, fix bugs, integrate with different systems, upgrade versions safely, and build new features. You can think of them as the “This Old House” of the software world — rather than new construction.
How did the idea for Corgibytes come about? What does the name mean?
At my ten-year high school reunion, my good friend Scott, one of the most brilliant software developers I’ve ever known, approached me about joining his startup. When I came on board, the name (which Scott chose as a tribute to his adorable little Pembrooke Welsh corgi, Ein) was already established.
Scott had built a software product eighteen months prior, but no one was buying it. He needed marketing help: a Jobs to his Wozniack. My background in marketing and communications, coupled with my interest in tech, was appealing to Scott. So, we joined forces and revamped the business to be a consulting firm.
Along the way, we decided we wanted to be life partners as well. Maybe one day I’ll turn our story into the screenplay for a romantic comedy.
When I was twelve, I quickly learned that solving other people’s problems earned you more money than a fixed allowance.
Did you always know you wanted to create a company? What’s your career been like?
I was raised to be an entrepreneur. My parents ran a graphic design business from our house my entire childhood and I started my first business when I was twelve. I quickly learned that solving other people’s problems earned you more money than a fixed allowance. Throughout my career, I’ve excelled in roles where income isn’t fixed (sales, freelance writer, CEO, etc.) in large part because of how I was raised.
How have you combined your background in marketing and communications with coding?
For years, one of my specialties was writing business websites for highly technical companies so they made sense to a non-technical audience. I became really good at translating Geek into English. This is especially important in software because while everyone uses it, the process of creating software can seem almost like magic. Software isn’t something you can see or touch, either — so using techniques like metaphor and story becomes critical when you’re describing the value of what you’re doing.
As CEO of Corgibytes, clear communication is one of the biggest values I’ve instilled with our team. I simply don’t accept the stereotype of software developers as being socially inept and incapable of human interaction. Communicating well is a skill. It’s something that can be learned with proper training — just like learning to code.
Is it challenging working with your husband?
The first few years were tough, mostly because we hadn’t learned how to communicate effectively. I’m the big vision, futuristic thinker and Scott is a detail-oriented, in-the-moment type of guy. One of the best investments we made was proactively going to couples counseling. We learned a framework for how to talk about our feelings and opinions in a way that the other person could understand. This reduced the amount of arguments and really bolstered our productivity.
Today, I love working with my life partner. We’ve found our groove and it honestly seems weird that most couples don’t work together — it’s so much fun to create something meaningful with your best friend.
You’ve also started another company called BrandVox. Tell us about that.
Ten years ago, I set out as a freelance copywriter and made a name for myself as the human voice behind some of the worlds biggest brands. When I started to get more involved with Corgibytes, I needed to move away from writing copy for individual clients to free up more time. So, I launched BrandVox as a way to teach other people how to develop an engaging voice for their business. I developed online classes, began writing a book about my process, and made myself available for individual consulting.
What is a typical day like for you?
One of my strengths is adaptability, and it’s a good thing, too! No two days are ever alike. Monday through Thursday are packed with meetings, networking events, strategy sessions, sales calls, and more. I try to delegate as much as I can so that I can be available when things inevitably come up. I’ve found that I need to have a certain amount of white space in my schedule to be successful. On Fridays, I focus on financial matters. I manage our cash flow, look at sales projections, pay bills and taxes, etc. It’s a good way to wrap up the week. I seldom work on the weekends. That time is dedicated to my family and recharging my batteries.
What do you do to grow professionally?
For example, while I was watching an episode of “This Old House” on PBS, I started thinking how Corgibytes remodels software like they remodel houses. That metaphor has influenced our brand significantly and helped us communicate our ideas to both technical and non-technical people alike. I wasn’t particularly interested in remodeling a house when I watched the show, but I love it when a spark of inspiration will randomly appear like it did then.
When I’m feeling down, I try to transform my fear into courage.
Who and What inspire you?
Luckily, Scott is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. We’re constantly talking about our ideas and perspectives and how we can make the business better. Brené Brown is another huge inspirational source. When I’m feeling down, I’ll pick up some of her work on shame, empathy, and vulnerability and try to transform my fear into courage.
What is the one tool you couldn’t live without?
My iPhone, which is basically a digital Swiss army knife. I can’t imagine running my business without it.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I almost became an opera singer. My first major in college was going to be classical voice, but when I thought of the grueling lifestyle that would accompany that choice, I decided that I could get my singing fix from church choirs and karaoke.
What career advice do you have for women launching a startup?
Focus hard on your business model — that’s the key to everything. Being passionate about something will only get you so far. Success comes when you align your passion to a problem.
Like the photography? Business Betties can bring out your inner Betty. Learn more about un-corporate business portraits that show off your personality.