Talk to your customers. It’s easy to keep the computer screen between you and your customers…I take every opportunity I can to talk to customers (and prospects) about their needs, hopes, desires, and experiences.
Julie Fajgenbaum is the Founder and CEO of Tweed Wolf, a NYC-based start-up launched in 2015. Aimed at helping frustrated people everywhere to enjoy their photos again, Tweed Wolf uses machine learning and talented designers to take the work out of preserving and sharing your memories.
Prior to founding Tweed Wolf, Julie was the CMO of OPEN, a division of American Express, where she focused on supporting small business owners and launched the award-winning initiative, Small Business Saturday. She also held the position of Credit Card General Manager, a portfolio she grew at record levels. Prior to OPEN, Julie spent four years at McKinsey and Company in the Global Marketing and Technology groups.
Julie speaks frequently on the intersection of small business and the digital economy and is also an Adjunct Professor in strategy and entrepreneurship at NYU’s Stern School of Business. Julie has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in Economics from University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. She lives in Greenwich Village with her husband and three children.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Like most people I have thousands of photos on my phone and computer that I never look at. I wanted to provide a way for families, newlyweds, and travelers to enjoy those photos again.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I check my work email and site stats pretty late at night before going to bed so I don’t need to check my phone when I get up at 6:30am. I focus on getting my 3 kids fed, dressed, and packed off onto their school busses by 7:45. Once they’re on their way I can dive into my day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’ve learned since starting this business to iterate, iterate, iterate. Instead of waiting until something is perfect, I put it out into the world (maybe only to a few people) in early form and then modify it over time based on feedback and usage.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Machine Learning and AI are fascinating to me. We use some open APIs for image recognition in our work and the advances are accelerating rapidly.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Coming to entrepreneurship after 20 years in the workforce I’m able to bring lots of experiences to my own business. I have experience from prior roles in things like developing a good customer experience, negotiating vendor contracts, and basic project management. I’m incredibly productive because of that history.
What advice would you give your younger self?
TAKE MORE RISKS! I was certainly too cautious (especially career-wise) for years. If I could, I’d go back and tell myself to be more daring.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
You don’t have to be in your 20s to start a business. You don’t have to raise VC money to run a successful startup.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Talk to your customers. It’s easy to keep the computer screen between you and your customers. But even communicating over email leaves a gap. I take every opportunity I can to talk to customers (and prospects) about their needs, hopes, desires, and experiences.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Great word of mouth. From launch I’ve been measuring Net Promoter Score (likelihood your customer will recommend your business to a friend.) We action every score (positive or negative). That attention to great customer satisfaction has led to strong word of mouth and repeat business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
At the start, tech talent was a big challenge. I ended up hiring an agency to build out the site to get it ready for launch. It was expensive and disappointing. I now have a lead developer in house and it’s be life changing. Having someone on my team who’s vested in the success of the business is critical.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Someone should build block chain for medical records. I’m sure there are people working on this but it seems the perfect application of the technology.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I love my Kindle. I read fiction every night before bed and the Kindle is perfect for that low-light, sleepy feeling.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
There are so many great cheap/free services out there for business owners. I love Canva and Gorgias just to name two. Canva let’s my team make gorgeous, professional designs, quickly and easily. Gorgias saves us tons of time answering customer service emails.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’m a big advocate of reading fiction. For me, it’s not just an escape, it’s an exercise in stepping into others’ shoes and developing empathy. Some of my favorite authors are: Jennifer Egan, Lauren Groff, and Curtis Sittenfeld.
What is your favorite quote?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
• Talk to customers/prospects as frequently as you can – that’s never a waste of your time
• Progress is iterative. Your bias should be action and learning from those actions
• Whatever your background, you can leverage skills you’ve acquired in your life to start
your own business.