Tell us about yourself?
At 21, I had recently graduated college, gotten married, and was beginning to realize that I had a real passion for technology. I began my career in marketing, and over the years, I worked my way up to creative director positions at top creative agencies and fortune 500 companies.
Things were good, and I loved what I did, so I decided to start my own creative agency, Brandcave. However, over the course of my career working as a creative, I noticed that I was coming across the same issues over and over again – collaborating with clients was inefficient, time-consuming, and often downright frustrating.
So, I decided to take a stab at solving those problems with my current venture, Ashore. It’s a passion project of mine that ended up helping nearly 40,000 creatives worldwide.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
Starting a business has taught me to double down on the things that work, to not go above your means, and to strive for excellence in all things. That’s actually a foundational principle in our company. We focus on what we do well, and we do that thing to the very best of our ability.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
You don’t have to have it all figured out from the get-go. Instead, find a career that interests you and work your way up. Once you thoroughly understand the market you’re operating in, opportunities for improvement will become apparent.
Find one that speaks to you, give yourself the mental and physical space to explore it, and don’t take yourself too seriously – no idea is too “out there” to consider.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
I’ve seen a fair share of startups fail because the founder burnt out. CEOs are under a lot of pressure to grow and produce at a pace that isn’t always realistic, and that can take a toll.
As someone who is inclined to overwork myself, I’ve had to set some boundaries that I will not cross. I don’t work on Sundays, I don’t work at home, and my family and I are better off for it.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
I saw Ashore as a financial opportunity, but more than that, I saw it as a potential solution to many of the problems that I faced throughout my career. Burnout thrives on poor feedback and unclear criticisms, especially in creative industries, and I’d be hard-pressed to find a creative professional who hasn’t had their work harshly and vaguely critiqued.
Ashore was designed to solve my own problems first.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
Most of our competitors are companies with serious investments, but we’ve opted to remain bootstrapped. This structure lets us operate lean and experiment with our pricing.
We can compete feature for feature with other proofing and approval software, but our price remains much lower. So, we can position Ashore very strategically as both the price-advantaged product as well as the feature-advantaged product.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
We’ve found the majority of our customers through organic search traffic. When we first launched the beta version of Ashore, we created a landing page for people to sign up, and after we released, we continued to focus our efforts on organic traffic. So far, it’s worked.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge we’ve faced so far was with the software itself. After building the MVP, we realized that the infrastructure was poorly designed, and in the end, couldn’t be scaled.
The more features we added, the more technical debt we accrued. So, instead of doubling down on an imperfect product, we decided to completely rebuild Ashore.
This time around, we utilized a lean development model that allowed us to implement the feedback and suggestions we received from clients. Now, Ashore has flexible features that can fit any type of workflow, which goes to show that sometimes there’s an ROI in rebuilding.
What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in Texas over other states in the US?
In Austin, we are surrounded by the best talent. It’s an attractable place for meeting, networking, and recruiting people to your company. There are more resources available to entrepreneurs than in most states.
Are there any disadvantages of operating our business in Texas?
Although finding talent is easy, it is a competitive space for entrepreneurs to retain quality talent. The result is still a net positive for employees; the competition ensures they have the best wages, work-life balance, and benefits possible.
Texas has a pretty diverse population. How have you found the quickly changing demographics have impacted your business? Have you got new opportunities? Managed to expand your business into new areas?
The changing demographics in Texas do not have a strong impact on our organization, as we run a software company that operates globally. We’re more largely impacted by global or national changes.
It is often reported that, in Texas, politics and business are intertwined. Have you noticed this? Has it impacted your business?
I don’t know personally if that’s true. It might be more true in my experience that industry and politics are intertwined. The software industry is largely left.
With rising prices across Texas (and the US as a whole) have you been impacted? Do you have a plan for dealing with inflation going forward?
Inflation affects us all, and it has a significant impact on new sales. When we anticipate new sales being affected, we look at opportunities for revenue expansion on our current customerbase (adding features that have more value to our users, cross-selling products, etc).
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years with your business?
We’re on a mission to make collaboration accessible to everyone. To fulfill that brand promise, we have a lot of work ahead of us. We aim to build an ecosystem that supports the creative process end-to-end.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
You can learn all about Ashore on our website, ashoreapp.com, or follow us on Twitter @ashoreapp for important updates!