Shopperations “fits like a glove”, because it was designed for our niche. We actively listen and collaborate with our clients to improve our platform, and our domain expertise allows us to quickly understand the essence of our clients’ work and their business challenges.
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Product / Service Offering: SaaS solution for marketers in consumer packaged goods enterprises
Founder Interviewed: Olga Yurovski
Other Key Management Team Members: Ruby Garage, Development Partner, Ukraine
This article is part of our Women Entrepreneurs Spotlight Series featuring female entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope these founders’ interviews 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 emigrated from Ukraine in 2001 and always knew that someday I would become an entrepreneur. It is why you come to America, right? I worked in marketing and product management all my life. While starting a tech company was a bit intimidating at first, creating a product that solved a real problem and getting the word out about it was second nature to me.
It is extremely gratifying to see how clients use our software, to get their input on what future features to develop, and to figure out how to make their job even easier. I can empathize with them because I used to be in their shoes! Also, I love to see that clients often view Shopperations not just as a software vendor but as their mentor, an advocate, or sometimes even a therapist.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
Shopperations was established in September 2014. The idea came out of my personal work experience and frustration while working in marketing functions at large consumer packaged goods companies. My colleagues and I spent too much time in manual, back-office activities (e.g. sorting spreadsheets, gathering information piecemeal, updating cross-functional stakeholders, tracking data in static and offline documents) instead of thinking strategy and implementing and analyzing our marketing programs.
Enterprise automation seemed to be happening all around us. Human resources, sales, supply chain and finance seemed to have new tools and systems while marketing was the last frontier of automation.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
Shopperations helps our clients manage budgets, promotional plans, calendars, and marketing collateral and analyze program results in a real-time, intuitive, collaborative, cloud-based interface.
Shopperations “fits like a glove”, because it was designed for our niche. Because of our domain expertise, we can quickly understand the essence of our clients’ work and their business challenges. We implement our software faster than any major software company. We actively listen and collaborate with our clients to improve our platform. Our UX design is much more attractive and intuitive than typical enterprise software.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
Securing early clients was hard and took a while. We had to offer very attractive rates to mitigate their risk. Also, sharing our bigger vision for what Shopperations will be in the future helped turn clients into partners.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
We were fortunate to get an Imagining Grant form CincyTech USA that allowed us to build the product. Also, getting a 90% startup discount from HubSpot software allowed us to ramp up our inbound marketing capabilities for a fraction of the cost. We had to be a member of Cintrifuse to qualify for the discount. The Cintrifuse membership itself is very affordable and offers many perks, among which is the $1,000 AWS credit, training, connections, free coffee, Wi-Fi and comfortable workspace.
Not many founders know, but RICE/MIT paid founders $1,000 for participation in their longitudinal study that required them to fill out a few surveys.
Finally, we are now in the UpTech accelerator program that helps us with funding, mentors, co-working space and a structured curriculum to get ready for raising funding. Any B2B tech company in the area should consider them as a resource.
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?
So far we have invested our nest egg, got a state grant, and went on a road trip to Chicago, Illinois, to talk to potential Angel and VC investors. Some have pledged toward our seed round. If I were to do it all over again, I would do the same but would go faster and would be more decisive.
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?
How to balance networking with productivity? As a natural hustler, it is hard for me to say no to meeting new people and to entertain all sorts of opportunities. However, they come at the expense of producing great marketing content, doing sales follow-up calls, or designing the next great feature. Until a startup can expand a team, it will always be a struggle.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
The challenge is how to explain to non-initiated investors the intricacies of my B2B domain. Most investors have no prior knowledge of CPG marketing. Also, I am challenged with how to find and recruit an A-team. I strongly believe in hiring people who are smarter than I. How to afford them and expand the team in a sustainable way is also my current challenge.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
This is not a ‘hack’, rather a piece of good advice: “Start building an audience, reputation and authority in your domain before your product is ready.” I waited two years to start inbound marketing. I wish I had started from day one. The Q&A with HubSpot’s co-founder Dharmesh Shah should be a required program for any fresh founder.
Shopperations won the Path to Purchase Institute’s Women of Excellence award in the Innovation category in the fall of 2017. It was a meaningful recognition because our clients nominated us.
Advice to female entrepreneurs…
My advice is to band together. Women can teach each other so much. We started a networking female founder group in Cincinnati. The six of us meet for early coffee bi-weekly to share advice and support each other as friends.
When you start a company, your former colleagues no longer can relate to you, and your existing friends and relatives cannot comprehend what you do. Therefore, some friendships wither, at least temporarily, until you can afford to have a personal life again. New friendships must be forged, so reach out to your local startup network to create a new circle.
Do not paint yourself into a corner. This is true for all genders and not just in professional life. It is essential for women founders to have a plan B for everything. It is easier to stand up to intimidation and pressure and make rational decisions when you have options.
If your clients are large corporations, get WBENC certified, it is cheap and easy to do yourself and may open new doors.
Are you familiar with other Women-led startups? If so, we would like to hear from you. Tell us about them in the comments below!