Molly Bradford – Co-founder of GatherBoard

Molly Bradford - Co-founder of GatherBoard

Don’t ruin good with perfect. That’s not to say don’t go for Great and Awesome regularly. However, if we’re developing a new feature or trying to close a deal, and we bend too far or develop too far, we’re either compromising our core ethic just to win that one sale, or we may waste hours and dollars on a feature folks don’t want or need. It’s okay to say no, to pull back.

Molly Bradford is the co-founder of GatherBoard, customizable and monetizable online community events software for small- to mid-sized communities of like interest – those connected by geographic, issue, hobby. GatherBoard is the maker of flagship site MissoulaEvents.net and bootstrapped by Missoula Indoor Ads. Prior to GB, Molly was the Director of Sales and Marketing for NewWest.net and the lead ad rep at the alt-weekly, Missoula Independent. With degrees in German and Math from the University of Vermont, and a few study abroad semesters under her belt, Molly finds herself to be a connector of people, products and idea as a self-taught marketer who finds inspiration where art and business intersect. As an active member of the Missoula startup ecosystem, you’ll find her organizing a 1 Million Cups session, at the Missoula Downtown Association luncheon, speaking at the Hellgate Venture Network or quaffing a frothy beverage at a local taproom fundraiser. In her spare time, Molly is an avid yet amateur gardener, cook, skier, and hunter. She coaches her daughter’s U-10 soccer team and likes to put up mass quantities of food for the winter with her toddler on her work-from-home Fridays. Molly and her husband met telemark ski racing at the local mountain nearly two decades ago and make it a priority to connect in the mountains year-round. This year they are making a family goal of 4-weeks telecommuting from Mexico.

Where did the idea for GatherBoard come from?

My business partner, Colin Hickey, started GardenCityEvents.net a decade ago. It was bought by NewWest.net and turned into MissoulaEvents.net. At the sunset of NewWest, Colin and I exercised his buy-back clause and took ownership of sites in Missoula, Bozeman, and Boise, as well as Missoula Indoor ads. With the advent of web 2.0 and mobile media, Newspapers going online and having a hard time with monetization and maintaining their role as the community connector, folks started calling us to buy our calendar for their town. After 3-calls, we decided to start a software company… GatherBoard.

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

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are my official “office” days. I bounce between calls with current or prospective license holders out of town and local ad meetings. Our other venture, Missoula Indoor ads – or the potty advertising – has bootstrapped our entire software development. This means I handle local ad sales and national software sales.

On Monday and Friday I “work from home with toddler.” This means we may take a local meeting or do some office errands in the AM. Then during naptime I schedule calls or do computer work.

At least two nights a week I do late-night computer work, like invoicing and contracts, after my kids go to bed. And at least once a week I head to a local startup community event in Missoula.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Our best ideas for development within GatherBoard often come from current or potential license holders, our MissoulaEvents users or our interns. They are on the ground, in the software, working with end-users. After an idea comes up twice we really pounce on it. Colin and I vet the idea with a few core license holders and our head programmer. We also run it past some of our local partners, and finally test it with a user group of locals and license holders. Then we roll it out.

This Fall I have an intern from the University of Montana MIS department specifically working on bringing new ideas to life. We’ve written a guided script of Q&A. She’ll talk with each license this fall to get thoughts, ideas and suggestions based on our ideas for dev.

Personally, with a good idea, I find like-minded folks whom I trust and have skills I don’t, and then we get ‘er done.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Leveraging technology as a tool for face-to-face human connection. The internet can be a great divider. It can also be a connector of people, places, and things. I like connection.

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

Don’t ruin good with perfect. That’s not to say don’t go for Great and Awesome regularly. However, if we’re developing a new feature or trying to close a deal, and we bend too far or develop too far, we’re either compromising our core ethic just to win that one sale, or we may waste hours and dollars on a feature folks don’t want or need. It’s okay to say no, to pull back.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Barista at the first Starbucks in Vermont… I was 20, just back from a year of study abroad, finishing college, and got a job at the first Starbucks in VT… back in 1998. This was a really big deal and coveted job. It was tucked inside the first Barnes and Noble superstore in a multi-state region. The long hours on my feet of making coffee according to very strict timing and temperature standards for each shot of espresso pulled, running the dishwasher and restocking, baking off food items that came frozen in huge cardboard boxes wrapped in plastic, dealing with very snobby coffee people early in the coffee era – they sucked.

What I learned – oh what I learned. So much. First – did you read that paragraph above? Multi-task. Not only did you do all those jobs, but if you were the Barista, you had a long list of at least 10-15 drinks waiting at any time. I studied Math, Engineering and German in school – my mind loves a puzzle. I would look at the next three, five, seven drinks and figure out how much of each kind of milk to foam to last, how to pull split shots and shared shots for a few drinks at once… all while staying compliant of time and temperature standards. Multi-task.

Head down – mouth shut. Sometimes it’s just time to get ‘er done.

Demand respect, defend your position and know when to quit. Management got wind that I might be out the door and wanted to fire me on the spot. I defended my position strongly and retained my job. They had no grounds to fire me without a single warning or write up. That said, I was looking for other work and I did get hired at the ski resort – so I quit 10-days later.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I’m not sure I’d change much. A little extra capital in the beginning would have been helpful, but I think with too much we’d have blown it on conferences, hardware and feature development we didn’t really need.

The big X factor is working alone. Colin has another full time job running VidCon. This means it’s me, 4-walls, and an intern now and again. We’re about to hire a part-time support, person. Having this sort of person in place earlier would have been better.

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

Ask for it… If you don’t ask, the answer is already no. If you do ask, and it is a no, you’re no worse off than before asking, you can learn why it’s a no, and perhaps it’ll be a yes later. And if it’s a yes – win! And in terms of “it” – whatever you need to ask for. Ask for the sale. Ask for the job. Ask for the raise. Ask for help. Ask for lunch, coffee, beer meeting. Ask for advice. Ask for a board member. Ask for time off. Ask for it.

Then pay it forward.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

See  above. I mean this seriously – Ask for it; then Pay it Forward.

With that in mind – be your own disciple and find disciples. You need to be comfortable evangelizing your product. And when you find someone who loves your product and wants to spread the good word – let them!

Keep in mind, once you start putting yourself out there, you’re out there and it’s vulnerable territory. There will be haters and trolls who will slam you on social media. Be resilient. Stay honest. Keep it interesting. Stick to the topic. Keep your chin up. Surround yourself with supporters.

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

About 12-years ago I tried to start a nonprofit, The Ripple Project, with two other women. We were working with women’s based projects in Southern African countries. We asked friends and family for donations, we funded a few projects. Then one founder moved away and one became very physically and emotionally sick. I was the least experienced with the most to lose, and the one left at the helm. I ended up liquidating my savings to pay off any debts for which I was unable to negotiate relief. I had to write letters to all of our donors explaining the closing of the nonprofit and where we did and did not spend their money.

It was frightening and humbling. I overcame this by making swift decisions to end before the deficit was too great, immediately asking advice on handling his, immediately letting donors know the situation, immediately shutting down all recurring expenditures while honing some fine negotiating skills for debt relief, and shutting down the nonprofit at the state and federal level as quickly as was prudent. People appreciate the honesty and hard work. My mother says it’s better to eat crow pie when it’s warm, it tastes worse cold.

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

A new kind of tights, stockings, pantyhose … all the same colors, patterns, styles we love today, but with a totally different top area. Instead of ending in a skinny tight band that causes horrible indentations along your torso, end in a long, wide smooth band – like the top of yoga pants – something that slims on the way up, and quite likely reaches to your bra.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I can wiggle my ears independently of one another and I can cross my eyes individually.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Google Suite, Dropbox, QuickBooks, TurboTax, PayPal, Pandora, Netflix, Amazon, GatherBoard (duh!), Submittable, Picasion, Microsoft Office, VRBO.

At this point, I am drawn to services that are easy, reliable and are something I actually need. As well, they need to integrate fairly seamlessly between my phone and laptop. Things that save me time and money are wonderful. Services that I spend a few minutes to set up and then auto-synch or save info based on preferences are fantastic, too. Like sending photos from my phone automatically to Dropbox and Shutterfly for back up. Or recurring monthly statements in QB. Or subscribe and save for organic diapers, wipes, vitamins, stain remover, bubble bath, dog treats, coconut water and more from Amazon for my kids. I save a ton on price and the box arrives at my door each month when it’s supposed to.

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

The Art of Communication by Thich Nhat Hanh

This is an enlightened Buddhist Monk. His teachings are simple to understand, yet some quite difficult to implement as they require self-examination, a willingness to change for the better, and the discipline to do so. This is so not easy to do. As a sales person, I must seek to understand first. To hear you is to understand your suffering. Then we can engage in dialogue. Great book. I’ve read it a few times already.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Thich Nhat Hahn – http://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/
Daniel Pink – specifically the book Drive – http://www.danpink.com/books/drive/
Thomas Friedman – The World is Flat, as a starting point – http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/bookshelf/the-world-is-flat
Michael Pollan – http://michaelpollan.com/
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – start with the book Flow – http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?language=en
Jakki Mohr – https://imensch.wpengine.com/jakki-mohr/
The concept of Biomimicry – Janine Benyus – http://biomimicry.net/
Brad Feld – Startup Communities – http://www.feld.com/
Karen McNenny – http://www.karenmcnenny.com/

Connect:

http://www.MollyehBradford.com
http://www.gatherboard.com/

Twitter: @mhaislnut, @gatherboard, @missoulaevents
Molly Bradford on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/molly.bradford
Molly Bradford on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/mollybradford