There is no secret sauce. The best way to bring an idea to life is to make sure the idea is viable, count the cost, and then go for it.
Kristi Taylor is the founder and CEO of MonkeyWish.com, a universal gift registry that allows members to build lists from any website or store either online or through the use of MonkeyWish.com’s exclusive smart phone application. A wife and mother of three, Kristi’s family was the driving force behind her vision, spurring her to create the website to fill what she saw as a major void in the retail world.
As Gainesville native and serial entrepreneur, Kristi’s business experience began at a young age, working at her family’s self-storage facility and often tagging along to learn the ins and outs of her father’s real estate development company. Inspired by huge risks and even bigger rewards, Kristi followed her father’s footsteps into the world of real estate, where she spent nearly 15 years and met her now-husband and business partner, Eric. Since 1997, she has participated in more that $75 million in real estate sales, and obtained success through diverse experiences from negotiations and acquisition to construction.
It wasn’t until her real estate experience introduced her to innovation via Progress Corporate Park in Alachua, Florida, that Kristi discovered her passion for technology development. She tapped into her inner entrepreneur during a pre-holiday shopping trip to ToysRUs. Kristi was attempting to help her children make wish lists, while trying to find gifts for other members of the family. What she found was that the antiquated pen and paper method of making lists was simply not working. As a busy mother of three faced with the daunting holiday season, Kristi looked for a digital way to make creating lists and shopping easier, so that she could enjoy the holidays as well. When she found nothing, Kristi set out to build something that would solve the problem so many people face.
When asked why she created MonkeyWish.com, Kristi Taylor will you tell, “As a busy mother, I embrace the tools that help make life more efficient. I hope MonkeyWish.com allows all the busy bodies in the world to stress less about ‘what to give’ and instead spend more quality time with their loved ones.”
MonkeyWish.com’s current home is at Innovation HUB at the University of Florida and Kristi and her family reside in Gainesville, Florida.
What are you working on right now?
After recently redesigning and launching our new website, we are working on a fabulous iPad version of MonkeyWish.com. For us, a top priority is to improve our user’s experience and we continually strive to enhance the functionality and ease of our site as well as our mobile platforms. As the holidays approach us, we are also making sure to spread the word about MonkeyWish.com, since it is the best tool for handling all of your holiday shopping, wishing and gift giving.
Where did the idea for MonkeyWish.com come from?
MonkeyWish.com spurred from a love of gift gifting, but being terrible at knowing what to give. Being a working mother of three, there is little time for creative shopping! After growing frustrated while shopping one day, I observed that there were wedding registries and baby registries, but never any registries for all of the other significant events that happen in our lives. So, I set out to create a gift registry that would accommodate this. I knew I wanted to develop a mobile app and a website and knew exactly how the functionality would be. Implementation has been challenging, but we have arrived and are improving by leaps and bounds – daily. We are proud of the amazing tool we have created and look forward to sharing it with the world.
What does your typical day look like?
Balancing family life with a startup has plenty of adventure. I literally have two full time jobs, mommy & CEO. My day starts very early with mommy chores like lunches, coordinating the day’s after school activities, and making sure everyone is out the door with everything they need. Then I head to the MonkeyWish.com offices where everyday we work hard, have fun, and enjoy being creative together. I leave the office a little earlier than most startups, around 5:30, because we have made eating together as a family priority. After the occasional weeknight post dinner family dance party, homework and bedtime stories, I work from home on the laptop for a few more hours. We joke each morning when the alarm goes off and say, “it’s groundhogs day”!
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing ideas to life is what motivates me. Each idea is different and requires different implementation; figuring our “how-to” is the thrill! There is no secret sauce. The best way to bring an idea to life is to make sure the idea is viable, count the cost, and then go for it.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
One trend that excites me is using my mobile phone to pay for things. For example, the Starbucks mobile app is amazing. I look forward to the day that I don’t need to carry a huge wallet filled with all of those frequent buyer discount cards, credit cards, loose change, etc. Thank you, Starbucks!
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
In high school, I was a cashier at SAM’s Club. While it was the worst job, it was the greatest learning experiences. I went, applied for the job and they threw my application in a pile and told me they would call me. I asked to see the hiring manager, who was on a lunch break and they agreed to let me see her if I waited. I really wanted that job! It was a while before she returned and when she did I asked her for the job. She said she would review the application and call me. I adamantly explained I wanted that job and was not leaving until I got it. She smiled and hired me on the spot. I worked very hard for her and was proud of my work. Working at SAM’s taught me the value of hard work; that you, not only work hard, but smart as well.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would not do one thing differently. This journey has been amazing, and I feel blessed to be able to say that I would not change anything.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
“Never, never, never give up” -Sir Winston Churchill. Exercise. Be thankful.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Before tech, I was very successful working in my family’s real estate development business and then the market collapsed. There was one specific development project that I would rather call a “trial” than failure, because so much good came from that experience, the failure label would not be fair. That trial taught me more than any success did both personally and professionally. It taught me that no matter how safe and/or conservative you try to be in life, there are no guarantees. It taught me that with every trial comes a new opportunity and to always keep a lookout for that new opportunity. After lots of tears, I had to pick myself up and go find the opportunity that failure presented. I am thankful to have found that opportunity with the creation of MonkeyWish.com.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would make the world a happier place. Here’s how…(at least in America) I would lobby for a federal law that would require aptitude testing in all schools for all children. So many adults are frustrated with themselves and their careers, because they became what their parents wanted them to be and spent years in college chasing a financially lucrative career. Most people aren’t happy because they are frustrated with their careers and where they are in life. If they were aware of their natural aptitudes long before having to decide what career path to choose, everyone would be significantly more fulfilled and infinitely more happy.
We took my daughter, a high school student experiencing pressure to decide what she wanted to do with the rest of her life (there is way too much of that type of pressure on kids these days), to the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation. That was the greatest gift we could have ever given her. I’d like to think we saved her years of frustration trying with her trying to become what we wanted for her; rather we helped her find what she is naturally gifted at. That experience was the most enlightening and should be a requirement for everyone young and old, single and married.
Everyone is good at something. Some people never find out what that is. Implementing aptitude testing would, at least, give young people and their parents the gift of knowing their child’s natural aptitude and using that knowledge to build them to be the best happy adult they can be.
Tell us a secret.
I’m in love with Willie from Duck Dynasty! Together we would be a couple of powerhouse of CEOs!
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
1. Instagram! I love the way it connects me to loved ones using photos. Those photos always brighten my day. Plus, I love the pretty filters!
2. Twitter – I always find myself overwhelmed by the constant barrage of information. Twitter provides a place to sift through and update me quickly on the things I care most about.
3. Dropbox – It’s such a valuable tool!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. It is one of my favorite books! The message is profound, especially to entrepreneurs and it’s also a very easy read.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Three significant people to follow on Twitter are @TimTebow, for his constant inspiration, @ShoeMoney, which is slightly unrefined yet refreshing and resourceful and @JerrySeinfeld, because who doesn’t love a good laugh?
When was the last time you laughed out loud?
It is my goal to laugh out loud every day. I love to laugh. The last time I laughed out loud was around the dinner table. What caused it? Our little five year-old is quite the comedian!
Who is your hero?
My dad. Actually, both my parents! My dad instilled in me the value of integrity, honesty, hard work, and an insane ambition. My mother is absolutely brilliant and taught me, by example, how to have compassion; she is the most selfless person that is alive today. She also taught me to not be a respecter of persons. Someone once said about her, “Whether the bum from under the interstate bridge or the President of the United States came to dinner at her home, she would treat them exactly the same”. That is profound. Together, they have instilled within me the belief that I can do anything I set my mind to.
What influenced your decision to give part of your proceeds to the Tim Tebow Foundation?
In short, my upbringing. I was raised in a home where giving was a part of our daily life and my parents were a shining example. They taught me that giving is a far more rewarding than receiving. Actually, it was the idea of giving that was part of the inspiration of MonkeyWish.com. Supporting a charity was part of the plan from inception.
At the time we made the decision to choose a charity to support, the choice was easy. We decided on the Tim Tebow Foundation because we share the same core values. Tim’s accomplishments on the field are impressive, but his initiatives off the field are extraordinary. He is making a huge difference and we are excited to support his mission.