Founded by tech entrepreneur Erica Bishaf, a 20+ year veteran in market intelligence, strategy, and trade shows, CampfireSocial is a white-labeled social network and e-commerce platform that provides organizations a new way to stay better connected to their industry, further extend their brand, and monetize interactions and real-time audience insights — through mobile or desktop 365/24/7. CampfireSocial’s business intelligence data and social listening algorithms seamlessly provide your organization with the trends your industry cares about and enhances your existing customer profiles to allow for more personalization. The platform also offers meaningful monetization opportunities for your organization that are unrivaled by other digital tools. To learn more about CampfireSocial, visit: www.campfiresocialagency.com
Where did the idea for CampfireSocial come from?
CampfireSocial originated from my first tech company, Pet Gotcha Day, which is a pet adoption platform that uses immersive video to find pets homes. I wanted to build a market network approach that brought together entities that support pet ownership: rescues, adopters, vets, trainers, manufacturers, etc. I realized that in order to bring together this wide audience that it would make the most sense for the pet industry associations to own this infrastructure. At the same time, I was consulting for trade & professional associations and realized that the same need existed across a multitude of industry verticals. Trade verticals were looking for ways to modernize to strengthen member stickiness all while finding non-dues revenue opportunities. I realized that this concept would solve these needs and decided to span the reach of the platform outside of the pet space to serve more industries.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Wow, my typical day consists of a bit of everything. I meet with my team, consult with my development team to further progress on our innovation roadmap (we are always looking for ways to improve the product to meet the needs of our customers and customer feedback drives the roadmap), participate in sales calls, check in with our existing customers, and since we are in growth mode I have a hand in HR, Finance, and Marketing. Days are busy. I do make time to snuggle with my Great Dane mix, Piper, and watch home remodeling shows with my daughter. I make my days productive through planning, organization, and partnering with my incredibly talented team who is always ready to roll up their sleeves and dive right in.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I sketch them out, discuss workflows and logistical requirements with our development team, and importantly, thoroughly vet with our customer network. Ideas are nice, but they become great when we ensure that they can fit elegantly into our customers’ own workflows and solve problems. One of my advisors told me that the best way to bring a concept to life is to document all of our plans on a giant whiteboard. I took him seriously and bought the biggest whiteboard I could fit into my house. This giant 7 1/2ft x 4ft whiteboard is parked in my dining room. It’s like art now. Once ideas become formalized they go on the whiteboard. Having these ideas written down somewhere highly visible helps keep the team organized and accountable. I like seeing my ideas every day. When you live and breathe an idea it becomes part of you and you become responsible for seeing it through.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Trade verticals creating a true omnichannel presence for the first time. Associations tend to be habitual with an important focus around their trade event(s). Given that there is a multitude of options for industry personnel, the need to strengthen one’s brand is crucial. CampfireSocial allows for brands to expand their presence and create a consistent member experience both during their trade event and the other 51 weeks of the year.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m not sure if this is a habit or a personality trait but I am laser-focused. I don’t get distracted from the goal and surround myself with reminders of what the goal is (thank you giant whiteboard). I’m constantly thinking about my customers and the CampfireSocial brand. I could be reading an article or listening to a Clubhouse talk or podcast…at the same time, I am reflecting on what I can learn to improve our processes, the product, or customer experience. For example, I was listening to a podcast on social psychology and loved what the speaker had to say. I reached out to her on LinkedIn and ended up having a consultation with her in which she provided invaluable advice for our platform.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Take the leap…Now…Seriously, do it. I’ve always been an entrepreneur but never knew how to take the leap as having job security and a healthy salary were important to me. The problem was that entrepreneurial thoughts kept creeping into my brain. Solid ideas would pop that I would explore, but I’d get consumed by thoughts of just how would I go about fundraising or commercializing. I had no idea where to begin and did not have mentors to guide me along the way. The reality is when you dive right in and go for it you figure it out. My favorite quote is by Susan B. Anthony…’Failure is Impossible’. It is true. If you try hard you’ll figure it out or pivot and figure that out. It took me 20 years of corporate jobs and 20 years of not being true to who I am to finally say, hey I’m ready to take the leap today. Better late than never.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m sure I will get flack for this, but I just didn’t see anything special about Book of Mormon and Hamilton!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Find a mentor. I have three that each serve a different purpose for me professionally. However, they all have one thing in common. They are my cheerleaders. They know how to remind me of my mission and point me to my North Star. The advice is important but acting as a compass is more valuable. Find someone who you trust and can be real with. You want a mentor who can either validate your ideas or provide you with thought starters to help you see things differently. A good mentor will also let you just come to their office, share a pizza and laugh about your day.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I listen to my customers. Rather than tell my customers that CampfireSocial is what they need, I present the platform looking for feedback and guide my customers to see how it can solve their problems and fit within their organization. The platform may not be for everyone and that is ok. If I can leave a sales call with at least one key learning I consider it a success.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Back when I created Pet Gotcha Day!, I spoke to countless shelters and rescues about my business idea. They all told me that they loved the concept, needed the concept, and would use the concept. So, I built it. Guess what? The original idea wasn’t used or actually needed. This was my faceplant attempt at thinking I knew what product market fit truly was. The reality was that I didn’t ask the right questions and I tried to retrofit an idea into an industry that didn’t have a true need. Lesson learned! I pivoted, reworked the idea, and Pet Gotcha Day! is now a thriving non-profit. When I launched CampfireSocial, I not only did my homework but also focused on deeper customer research and testing to be sure we developed a product that solved a real need. The Pet Gotcha Day! experience taught me that product market fit is elusive, but when you believe in your product and brand, you pivot and learn and eventually will find the fit.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Technically I spent more than $100, but I booked an Airbnb at a llama farm. I’m a traveler, but with COVID and working around the clock on CampfireSocial I haven’t made time for myself nor left my house in about a year. I figured why not enjoy the simplicity of staying in a barn with llamas next door to play with. They were beautiful and it was refreshing.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Originals by Adam Grant. This book highlights those who have had new ideas and the obstacles they hurdled to make change, influence, and create. Whether you are an entrepreneur or someone looking to be influential in your workplace, this book will provide inspiration on how to be a champion of ideas and when/how to act on them for maximum effectiveness.
What is your favorite quote?
Failure is Impossible by Susan B. Anthony (see above) and Patience, Persistence & Perspective from my advisor and friend, Dr. Catherine Kleinmuntz, Ph.D. (all necessary when launching a new product — it is easier to be patient and persistent, but perspective is often hard to grasp.) It is important to challenge your own perspective. Mentors and advisors are helpful in doing that.
-Just leap! You’ll figure it along the way. Don’t keep waiting for the “perfect time” as it may never come. The risks that you take and the challenges you overcome will give you courage and so much confidence.
-Master the art of listening. Being a good listener is essential to being a good leader and being a successful business owner. People love being heard. Stay open and listen with sincere appreciation and understanding of your customer’s needs — it enables you to gain new perspectives and identify opportunities for growth as well as improvement.
-Surround yourself with people who will support and push you forward. Look for people that will help keep you on track and want what’s best for you — even if that means providing you with constructive and actionable criticism. And if you are looking to expand your support system, don’t be afraid to reach out to people you admire on social media!
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.