Read our interview with Triangle-area Jody Porowski, founder and CEO ofAvelist and speaker at NC State’s Innovative Women Conference. Avelist is an online social network where people share, save and discover lists of useful information. Prior to founding Avelist, Jody worked as a social media analyst in the Advanced Analytics Lab of SAS Institute and as a content manager at Funcation Marketing Agency. She is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill. Meet Jody at the Innovative Women Conference Oct 23-24 on NC State’s main campus in Raleigh.
This interview was conducted by Leah Haile, second year full-time Jenkins MBA student.
1. What is the most rewarding aspect of working for yourself?
It’s pretty incredible. I’m the kind of person who has a lot of ideas and wants to move quick and get things done, so it really suits me to be in a position where I can be the visionary and operator behind a company. I love feeling like I can focus my time and energy and talents on the things that I believe will really have a big impact on my company and on the world. That said, I also believe I have a huge responsibility to my investors and my employees so even though I’m the founder and CEO, I actually believe that I’m working for them and accountable to them (rather than to just myself).
2. In your experience, what are some of the biggest challenges of being a woman entrepreneur?
You know, I think the biggest challenges that I face are probably the same challenges that any entrepreneur would face regardless of gender. These include (but are not limited to) long hours, living with a of unknowns, mental and emotional roller coasters, lots of rejection and bouncing back, etc. That said, there are most definitely some specific challenges to being a female entrepreneur in a male dominated space like the technology industry. I think one thing that’s been hard is that many of my peers are male and realistically there are some boundaries or limitations to those friendships that wouldn’t necessarily be there if they were female peers.
3. What was a mistake you made along the way that also served as your most important lesson?
I think one of the biggest mistakes we made in the beginning was trying to do too much at once. In a startup it’s really important to be laser focused because time is money. You’re always in a race against the clock. One specific example is that in the beginning we tried to build a web version of our website and also an iOS app, an Android app, and an iPad app all at the same time. Looking back, it’s absolutely crazy that we tried to do that. We soon learned we were in way over our heads. I’m proud that we were able to pull back and re-focus (we actually decided to pull our apps out of the app stores when we realized we couldn’t support and maintain them and only focus on the web version moving forward) but we did lose money and time because we had initially tried to do too much.
4. Why is it important to have mentors and how do you choose them?
Mentors are incredibly important. I can honestly say that Avelist would not be where it is today without our mentors and advisors. I’ve found that I have many mentors who each serve a specific role. I talk to one mentor about marketing, another about finance, another about technology, and another about leadership, etc. It’s really important to find mentors who understand the industry you work in and can contribute to your company with specific niche advice.
Most of my mentors were found pretty organically through networking and personal introductions and then once we met the relationships evolved quite naturally. That said, you do have to be bold and strategic as well. When I meet someone who I know could impact me and my company in a great way, I tell them! I let them know that I value their advice and ask if I can come to them in the future with more questions. I’m always careful to thank them for their time and I try to be really respectful of their time.
5. What is the most rewarding aspect of living and working in the Triangle?
I love the Triangle area. From a business perspective, I love how talented the people are in this area. I constantly meet so many intelligent and gifted people who inspire me and who I would love to work with. From a personal perspective, I’m actually from Raleigh and went to school at UNC-Chapel Hill so it’s awesome being close to my friends and family.
6. If you could change anything about your career path, would you?
Truly, I wouldn’t change a thing. Each tiny part of my career path has brought me to where I am today and I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to own and operate my company.
7. If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Hmmm…good question. I’d say that it’s really important to set your expectations before you jump into entrepreneurship. Specifically, it’s very important to know going into it that entrepreneurship will be one of the hardest things you ever take on. It’s challenging in every way – physically, mentally, emotionally. And it takes a long time. Think marathon and sprint at the same time. Think years years years of your life devoted to one mission and one company. That said, if you go in knowing that it will be hard, you won’t be shocked when it actually is and you’ll be prepared to work hard and persevere no matter what challenges you face!