Kathryn Decker

Co-Founder of Softly

Kathryn Decker is Co-Founder and COO/CFO of Softly. Kathy enjoys a challenge, solving puzzles, and exploring locations off the beaten path. She has experience leading corporate teams focused on new product launches, technical customer support, and global strategic initiatives. Kathy has a BS in Forensic Science from Michigan State University and holds an Executive MBA from the Quantic School of Business and Technology. Fun Fact: Kathy lived in Perth, Australia for 4 years and loved experiencing the land down under as an ex-pat.

Where did the idea for Softly come from?

My co-founder Mollie Hughes and I met while completing our EMBA online during the pandemic. We both faced the problem of wanting to be able to align our purchasing decisions with our beliefs and values but found it time-consuming and difficult to do so in practice. Mollie also saw her college-aged daughter going to great lengths to identify products that were in line with her social values.

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

My typical day involves tracking KPIs, communicating with the team on what has had the greatest impact on them and how to course adjust to maximize our impact.
As an early stage start up, a lot of time is also spent learning more about our potential uses and how we can iterate to improve our product.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Through hard work, focus and creativity. New ideas are constantly coming up to the surface and the key is to identify which ones are important to act on now, and which can be delayed and considered as a future product enhancement.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Augmented reality. I think the ability to have additional information available in the moment you need to make a decision is going to be an application of augmented reality that we are on the cusp of exploiting. We’ve moved from PC browsers, to mobile phones and augmented reality is the next jump in making curated information accessible in real time.

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

I have a tremendous capacity for focus when it is needed, but easily shift to periods of time where I allow my mind to wander in order to allow for awareness of new ideas. I’m not sure who said it first, but boredom is the mother of creativity for me. We should all sit in stillness for a little while and listen.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Nothing, because I probably wouldn’t have taken it.

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

Elon Musk is not the founder of Tesla.

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

Talk to your customers. Listen to your customers. Do what they want, not what you think they want.

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

At this point in our growth, personal contact is essential. Once we get larger and have more users we can rely on the power of compounding returns and the referrals of our users, but this early in the game we need to be actively seeking out new users on a daily basis.

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

Trying to do what worked for others. There are times when that is a good idea, but it is very important to make sure that it makes sense for your business. And that it makes sense for where you are in your growth cycle. The advice that others give you may be very good advice, but you may not need to implement it right away.

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

The best $100 I have recently spent was on Canva. It’s amazing.

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

My favorite software for productivity is SmartSheets. It can be used for almost everything related to workflows.

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

The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. It helps you avoid a lot of mistakes.

What is your favorite quote?

The future influences the present just as much as the past
– Friedrich Nietzsche

Key Learnings:

  • Talk to your customers before you start building anything, and continually after you start.
  • Don’t assume your way of doing something is the best way. Be open to letting others find a better way.
  • Listen to the advice of those who have gone before you, but be critical of it and make sure that it is right path for you.