Answers By: Stephanie MacConnell, CEO and co-founder of SpareStub, Astoria, N.Y.
1) How long have you been in business?
SpareStub is brand new. My partner and I formed the company in September 2014 and are currently in early stage product development.
2) Why have you chosen to dedicate yourself to this particular business/industry?
I’ve wanted to start my own company for years, but never felt that I had the right idea at the right time with the right team. I was the lemonade stand/magazine-catalogue-selling kid. My major in college was entrepreneurship and business development, and rather than getting a “real job” out of college I wanted to try to start a company. But, I didn’t have the right pieces in place. So I took a job in IT [information technology] project management and learned a lot over the course of two years. When I left my job this past April, I took two months to travel Europe and refocus myself. Shake off a little of what corporate healthcare USA can do to you. While I was traveling, I learned that one of my favorite bands was playing in my town the very weekend I was set to arrive home. I connected my little netbook to the “shotty” Wi-Fi at my charming Italian “agriturismo” just long enough to buy two tickets. I figured I would sort out a gig buddy later. Long story short, I never did sort out the gig buddy situation and when I got home I realized just how hard it is to solve my exact problem in today’s world. I still wanted to go to the show, preferably with someone, and I wanted to get my money back for my second ticket. Today it’s a struggle – tomorrow we hope SpareStub will be the solution.
3) What makes business/product unique?
No one is closing this gap today. If you are left with an extra event ticket and your friends are busy, you have two options: Sell one ticket and go solo, which many folks aren’t comfortable with, or sell both tickets and miss the fun. When you do sell the tickets, you’re going to have to deal with either ticket resellers who generally collect 20-35 percent profit margin in fees on each ticket, or something like Craigslist where there is no vetting or security. SpareStub will be a third option, allowing you to find a new friend to go to the event while also getting your money back for your ticket.
4) You could have worked for anyone and would have been successful, why become an entrepreneur?
It’s something that was never really a question for me. While working at other jobs, I always felt like I was biding my time until the time was right for me to start my own venture. What I ended up learning is that the idea of a “right time” is a really lovely farce. It’s always going to be a leap, and it’s always going to disrupt your natural, orderly way. You just have to do it. I love building things. I love consulting on projects. I want to tweak every product I encounter to make it just a little bit better. There’s something satisfying and liberating about taking an idea and turning it into something tangible. If I can do that for the rest of my life, I’ll be happy.
5) What was your last, “why did I go into business for myself” moment?
When you work for an established company, you have a few things that are easy to take for granted: marketing departments, HR [human resources], legal. There’s always someone to turn to if you’re stuck and need some direction. As a startup CEO, you are all of those departments. And if you need help, you generally have to pay for it, which is always a struggle when you’re early and you’re bootstrapping. My best advice for these moments is to double your efforts at growing your support network. There are tons of business mentors and organizations out there who want to help and support you – you just have to find and participate in them.
6) Every female professional should have __________.
Thick skin, a great sense of humor and really comfortable heels.
7) If you could steal some business mojo from another mogul, who would it be and why?
I have a lot of respect for Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. She’s managed to build the entire mammoth that is Spanx while retaining 100 percent equity, staying private, and constantly looking to grow and expand. She thinks of herself as an inventor and as such, hasn’t caged herself into just the Spanx product. She’s always on the move. I’ll take some of whatever she’s drinking.
8) What is your business motto?
I constantly have Ella Williams in my head: “Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.”
9) If you could give other entrepreneurs three tips, what would they be?
1. Begin every design and feature conversation with the user in mind. User experience is everything.
2. Begin building your network as early as possible. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, and knowledgeable about different things.
3. Read a lot. Know what the industry talk is, what’s changing, what’s frustrating people. Read your industry news, blog posts, forums – get to know your customers and your critics.
10) Has there been a piece of technology or software that has been a lifesaver to you?
Google Docs has been useful for us these past few weeks. I have two different laptops, a tablet and a cell phone that I alternate using. Being able to access all of my documents from any device and share them with my partner, while both of us can update them in real time, has made our lives quite a bit easier.
11) What is your goal for the next year?
Successfully launch and grow SpareStub! We plan to launch in early 2015 and jump right into festival season, and then we’re right into summer’s peak event season.
12) When someone is telling their friend about your business, what do you hope they say?
“Finally. Let’s all sign up.”