MILLIE helps military families ease stress and anxiety by providing curated content about their new duty stations. This enables them to make financial and emotional decisions. For real estate agents, they can effectively communicate with military buyers that represent nearly 20% of the home buying market in the U.S.
Name: MILLIE (AgentHero, INC)
Location: Arlington, Virginia, USA
Product / Service Offering: Content for Military Families / Referrals to Real Estate Agents / Content for Agents
Co-founder Interviewed: Ken Robbins, Co-Founder and CEO
Other Key Management Team Members: Kellie Artis – Director of Business Development, Alexis Miller – Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media, Alison Wisnom – Director of Agent Intel
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight Series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
I am a twenty-year army veteran with a very diverse background in operational military assignments as well as Washington government agencies. I am passionate about serving my larger military and veteran community.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
MILLIE started in 2015. The idea came over a discussion with the eventual co-founders about the stress and anxiety of frequent military moving (called a PCS or Permanent Change of Station). I moved 12 times in 20 years and it was always difficult for our family. We believed that we could bring a truly game-changing solution to help military families address this challenge more effectively.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
MILLIE helps our users, who are primarily military families, to ease their stress and anxiety by providing original, highly curated content about their new duty stations. This enables them to make good decisions both financially and emotionally when tackling this move. For real estate agents, we help them more effectively communicate with the veteran and military home buyers, who represent nearly 20% of the home buying market in the United States.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
MILLIE is highly focused on original content, not user-generated content scrapped from the Internet. This ensures that our information is written from the perspective of military families. It is also devoid of the typical anecdotal evidence you often see on so many social media channels.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
Honestly, getting up and running was pretty easy because one of our co-founders had extensive start-up experience. He helped us get the right structure in place early. Our first concept, which was exclusively focused on our realtor network, was lacking context. We have spent ample time revising our product and services to make them more attractive. You have to constantly iterate your product and be hyper-focused and listen to your customers. Agents wanted more access to our content, so we developed a content membership site to meet their needs. We are now truly hitting our stride.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
My team is 100% veterans and military spouses, one of whom is overseas, the others in various parts of the United States. Using effective communication systems like Slack has been critical to our ability to operate effectively.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
MILLIE was fortunate to find the funding we needed early. We now look at ourselves strongly from the social impact perspective because of how we are changing the way military families move.
I would have strengthened our social impact metrics early on. I would also pursue funding from these channels, something we are just beginning to do now.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
The hardest questions are really centered on the decision to take your company in a different direction. The reason I struggled to find answers is that there are no real answers to that decision. You have to get a lot of advice from great advisors. We are lucky to have that. In the end, neither path is a guarantor of success. You have to make that decision with the best information you have at the time. After that, you must fully commit to that new direction.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
The same challenges a lot of startups face. MILLIE has found a great product/market fit. We are now discussing whether to continue to use revenue to grow or seek additional investments. There are pros/cons to both. It is a good problem to have because we can see the path we are on is a good one.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
MILLIE at its core is all about improving the moving and home buying experience for veterans and military families. We do not think we have all the answers; therefore, we constantly look for new partners to help us on that journey. At the end of the day, we want to show that a solid, profitable, private company can also have a huge social impact on a real problem these families face.
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