Amber Christian

Founder of Wonderly Software Solutions

Amber Christian is the founder of wonderly software solutions. Prior to wonderly, Amber spent 18+ years implementing SAP solutions for Fortune 500 companies. Based on her experience as a small company working with a variety of Fortune 500 companies, she uses human centered design processes to build solutions that address the unique productivity and collaboration challenges faced by freelancers and small companies as they grow their businesses.

Her product is called Bella Scena. She wanted to build a solution that meetings individuals where they are at in their productivity journey and help them move forward to be their best self. Bella helps manage to-do lists, calendar, and meetings. Bella creates a unified view of the calendar, and integrates your workflow into this calendar.

Amber is a regular author and speaker on a variety of technology topics. She believes strongly that we need to involve more girls and women in STEM fields.

A lifelong learner, she has an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth in Management Information Sciences. She has an MBA in Finance from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

She lives with her family in Minneapolis, MN.

Where did the idea for wonderly come from?

My calendar used to look like a crime scene. I had too many unproductive meetings across many clients. I struggled with inadequate solutions for managing and tracking all my work. One day I simply hit the wall. The idea for wonderly software solutions was born from my everyday experiences.

My software is Bella Scena. I’ve built her to be a unified calendar, to do list, meeting planner and digital notebook. The purpose is to help create a better way to manage productivity and meetings. For me, building software is about meeting people where they are at, and being empathetic to needs. Only then can you help move forward to the best planning for an individual.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day starts early. I am an early riser- I like the quiet time of the morning to enjoy coffee and plan the day.

Once the day starts, I usually have several meetings. Meetings are generally grouped together by similar topics. I do this to get into a flow and rhythm. The rest of the day is working and checking items off the my do list like a fiend! I gain a lot of satisfaction for working my mini plan each day and figuring out how to improve each day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

There are generally two different ways I bring ideas to life:
First, I’m a noodler. I like to noodle over things in my subconscious and let it rumble around in the back of my mind. When the idea is ready, it pops out. Once that happens, it get refined and on the path to implementation pretty quickly.

The second way requires deeper learning. Learning other disciplines helps me connect dots and see new opportunities and ideas. For example, I spent several months learning about good software product design. Understanding this helped me see how to bring human centered design to building software. Exposure to new ideas helped me see new possibilities.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m very excited about the trend of working closely with customers before building software products. A number of startup companies are doing this now. Involving customers early in the process gives us more opportunities to build products that address customer needs.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I plan out the top 5 things I would like to get done each day, and find time slots on the calendar to plan to work on them. I actively schedule time to work on them on the calendar. Days when I don’t actually do them in their times helps me assess what happened, and what changes I might need to make.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You have more bravery and courage than you will ever realize. Your bravery and courage comes in the all the smaller moments when you stay the course and keep going. You aren’t always going to feel brave- and that’s okay. Keep learning and growing, even when you are shaking in your shoes!

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Waking up between 4 and 4:30 am is wonderful! I love the quiet time of the morning, and am an early bird. That time of the morning when the rest of the world around is me is not awake is when I do my best thinking.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Plan the work and work the plan. It will be easier for you to adjust course if you do plan, because you can see several steps ahead of where you are today. It is not the plan itself that is important, it is the activity of planning. Strengthening your planning muscles as helps everything run better within your organization.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Listen, listen, and listen more to your customers. Conversations with your customers are incredibly valuable. Today many customers don’t feel heard. Don’t listen to respond- make sure you are listening to understand. Innovative solutions will often appear as part of these collaborative efforts.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I try to do too many things at one time. This can lead to sacrificing all your time and energy, and doesn’t leave with you with a good reserve. It increases your risk of burnout. I’m learning to focus even more, and listen to other opinions when I’m told I am trying to do too much. Only I can really decide if it is too much, but listening can help me see early signs of overwork.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’m increasingly buying my shoes online. I wish there was better scanning technology to help me buy shoes. Something I could do right on my phone to scan my foot and tell me which shoe manufacturers and shoe types will make shoes with the best fit for my feet.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently upgraded my noise cancelling headphones. The new ones help tune out everything around me so I can concentrate even in noisy environments.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

CoSchedule for Marketing- I use this for scheduling social media campaigns, posts to LinkedIn and Twitter, and blogs. I’ve found it helps me organize my marketing efforts as well as measure them.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The CEO Next Door by Elena Bothelo and Kim Powell. It offers research based insights into the skills that make great CEO’s. I found it to be a great guide to skills that make effective leaders of an organization.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is from Teddy Roosevelt.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Key Learnings:

  • Plan out your top 5 to-do’s each day and schedule them on the calendar to hold yourself accountable.
  • Bravery comes from the small acts of moving forward day after day.
  • Don’t try to do it all at once. Make a plan, and work the plan. Adjust as necessary, but always keep planning.
  • Read The CEO Next Door to understand many skills that shape great leaders.
  • Conversations with your customers to understand their needs is critical to building the appropriate solutions.