Publicist turned App founder - Interview with Amanda Spann
Amanda Spann is a publicist turned app founder. She works with aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs daily through her consultancy Spann & Company where she provides brand building resources and programming. She previously was a co-founder of tiphub, an accelerator and innovation community for entrepreneurs in Africa and the African Diaspora.
The Florida State and Georgetown grad has been honored as one of Business Insider’s 30 Most Important Women In Tech Under 30, BET’s Blacks on the Brink of Greatness, and as one of 5 future leaders in technology by Black Enterprise Magazine.
What are your current projects?
My current projects include:
CultureCrush helps black daters make cultural connections. From Rio De Janeiro to Richmond, users can search for potential mates of their nationality, ethnicity or tribe, in any city on the globe. CultureCrush is not only ideal for those looking for someone special in their hometown, but also for expats, travelers, and immigrants looking to to find a match for themselves, or a friend, as they travel the world.
TipOff Game - TIPOFF is the word guessing game for the culture. The game is similar to Taboo, but for you.
It's a multi-player game which can be played in-person or remotely. Users will divide into teams and enter a game room to take turns TIPping each other OFF to the keyword without saying any of the 5 words listed on the card. Each team member will have a turn as the “PLAYER” and as the “HATER”. The player describes the keyword while the hater guards the player on each card to make sure they do not violate the rules.
The game can be customized with different word packs. The packs available upon launch include “Classic Black Culture,” a “Chicago” themed bundle, “Black Church” and a “Bougie” pack created in affiliation with VerySmartBrothas.com. City specific packs will be offered for .99 cents. A portion of the proceeds from each of the respective city packs will benefit STEM education-based non-profits in that market.
Spann & Company - We're a consultancy that provides business resources, content and tools for aspiring and emerging entrerpreneurs
What was the first company that you started?
Tallatainment - An entertainment and events portal for the city of Tallahassee
Why did you start it?
I went to Florida State University for undergrad and every night people wanted to know where the party was at. So I created the platform to curate events and happnenings for all entertainment seekers in the city.
How did you start it? Did you have any previous experience as an entrepreneur?
No previously experience, I was just innately scrappy and resilient.
Did you build the platform yourself or did you get a team/co-founders ? Did you have the technical skills? How were the early days?
Almost everything I've learned about technology was self-taught or I learned by way of immersing myself into experiences and picking things up along the way. I knew I was a skilled project manager and as a publicist by trade, I became skilled at wearing many hats seamlessly, but most of the early days were just me, alone, at a computer, with a pen and paper mapping models and growth strategies and meeting with my developer weekly to track the progress of the site.
How did you validate your idea?
I surveyed my peers and young professionals living in the market.
How did you know you were building a profitable business? Were the entertainment seekers willing to pay or the event creators to be listed on the platform?
I wasn't! lol I actually turned a profit in 3 months, but within weeks of launch I realized that didn't full understand how to scale the company and began to realize I may not be the best person to execute my end goal.
How did you finance your project?
I received a grant from the College of Communications.
How did you market and promote it when you were launching?
I formed a street team and partnered with a sister website to cross promote one another.
How did you evolve from your first company to your current projects? What were your motivations to branch in these different ventures?
I think of new business ideas every day. Generally they start with small problems in my life and the lives of those around me...I think to myself...I can solve this. Then "well, why hasn't anybody done it already". If I can validate the problem and find a simple solution to fix it within my immediate bandwidth, I proceed.
What do you like most being an entrepreneur?
I enjoy the healthy hurdle of taking an idea from concept to creation. It feels like I'm in competition with myself to bring things to life.
What has been your biggest challenge/failure as an entrepreneur?
I think initially it was just access to capital. Even if I could build a product, did I have the monetary or even human capital to disseminate it to my target audience consistently.
I've had a lot of small failures, but nothing that wasn't setting me up for something greater.
What are your business goals for this coming year?
My goal is to streamline the way I work so that it's more in line with my personal idea of happiness.
My objectives include increasing downloads of my app, launching a course and possibly writing a book.
How do you manage building different companies at the same time while keeping focused and not burning out?
Its definitely a juggling act.
For one, transparency is a must. Everyone I work or partner with knows about my other projects so they understand the demands on my time. Two, I try to communicate when I am burning out and when I need breaks to replenish. And lastly, I put EVERYTHING on the calendar.
What's your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
1) Instead of focusing on raising a round to build your idea, focus your energy on building a product, solution or service in a way in which you can gain traction and earn revenue to self accelerate. If you can accomplish this, all the resources, capital and insights you need will find you.
2) Learn to be resilient. Its a rocky ride.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I train my mind to see the opportunity in almost every situation.
What's your favourite quote?
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” ― Audre Lorde
To find out more about Amanda's projects, go to her website at www.amandaspann.com
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