Welcome to Chief Magazine. With us today is Elizabeth Dodson, who is the co-founder of HomeZada. HomeZada is a platform which helps home owners in managing all the information during the homeowner cycle including owning a home, selling or buying a new home. As a cofounder, Elizabeth looks after business development, partner management, marketing, sales process and strategies, partner program development, partner qualification and budget management.
Elizabeth will be sharing her experiences with HomeZada and how they took it to a successful stage and advices for aspiring entrepreneurs.
- What made you start HomeZada and how did the idea come up? What is the current status in terms of achievements, customer acquisition and turnover?
Like most companies, HomeZada was created out of personal need. As a busy professional and a homeowner, I was struggling with how to manage the details of my home. Details like maintenance schedules, repair projects, budgets for design and remodel projects and the overall finances that I need to manage my house to keep it operating properly. Not to mention, I want to keep my house looking fantastic because a well-maintained house is worth more.
HomeZada is an all in one suite of apps to manage the home that can be used on any device. HomeZada has customers in every US state and in 20 countries outside the US. Partner companies also use the HomeZada platform to create customer engagement and extend the partner brand by gifting or introducing HomeZada to their customers.
- You have been looking after business development, channel development and marketing with HomeZada and also in your previous career engagements. What inspires you to stick to business development?
I find that creating value for companies and their customers is rewarding. Business development is a problem-solving exercise that helps all companies find value and that value must extend to the end user. Each partner company that I work with at HomeZada has a unique situation and business structure that I can help find ways for HomeZada to benefit that specific organization.
Business development also gives me the opportunity to extend my knowledge about different industries. For instance, HomeZada works with insurance, financial, real estate, construction, retail, and many other industries that provide value to the homeowner. Each of the organizations in these industries provides a unique value that I can bring together to help homeowners in one place. To me this is challenging and yet rewarding.
- How did you build up an entrepreneurial spirit? Did you inherit the trait from family or it started with you?
I found the entrepreneurial spirit by watching others around me who had their own businesses. I found this very intriguing and learned the nuances of running a business. I then had the opportunity to work for a technology startup and that experience was exhilarating. I started out contributing in a variety roles to help this company grow which contributed to my knowledge of building a company. Every day at this startup there was a new problem to solve and a new opportunity for growth that was exciting for me.
Finally, an opportunity presented itself to become my own entrepreneur and I took it. I needed HomeZada to solve my needs, but I also realized that almost every homeowner was also struggling with managing their home. It did not take long for me to realize that solving my problem could help millions of others and I could help build a company around that mission.
- How often do you face problem explaining customers on how to use the platform? What are the problems you want to solve related to customer handholding?
Great question. Often times, there is one event or trigger that drives a customer to use HomeZada. That event or trigger could be I saw my neighbor’s house burn down and the difficulty recalling what they owned, so I am going to take a home inventory because I do not want that to happen to me. Or it might be that I am a new homeowner and I do not know where to start. Help me manage my home maintenance and projects.
These specific events are the reasons our customers choose to use HomeZada initially. Then we help explain the details around how to manage the home in its entirety and the benefits that result from complete home management.
When it comes to our customers, we want to give them as many tools as possible to help them understand the value of home management and how HomeZada can help them. Sometimes this is in the form of tutorial videos. Some customers prefer a step by step written blog post on how to use the specific feature in HomeZada. Others look for live chat to get their questions answers. We realize that our users are different genders, all age group and in different regions. And with that, they each are looking for information in a different format.
- Struggle follows an Entrepreneur throughout the life. But the initial days of acquiring customers, explaining your idea to customers and investors is almost like hell. How do you keep moving on in spite all of these?
This question makes me laugh and cry at the same time. It is true that is hard to grow a company. It is hard to establish a new market category. For me, I love solving problems and all of these conversations are more problems to solve. It is sometimes that same problem over and over again. But I know that HomeZada provides value because my customers tell me. My faith, desire and passion for HomeZada’s long term vision is greater than my desire to give up.
- What is the usual mindset you carry as a mantra to be successful? How do you make your day productive?
A quote by Neale Donald Walsch, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I have learned to push outside my core comfort zone and realize that what was once uncomfortable becomes easier to accomplish. I wouldn’t say that is comfortable, because certain aspects of business are still uncomfortable and hard. But I push through.
Making my day productive starts by getting organized the night before. If I know what my key items to accomplish each day are, I focus on them. This sounds simple because it is. Other situations throughout the day will come up, and they go on the priority list like anything else.
- I am always eager to know how an entrepreneur maintains work-life balance. Recently I came across a blog post, which says – “there is nothing like work-life balance, you just need to blend in”. What is your point of view on work-life balance?
I agree with this blending process. However, one step I take is to focus one task at a time. To really be committed to what I am doing. So for instance, I like to cook. I focus on making a meal as a way to start the separation of work and personal. So for others who are struggling with work life balance, choose a walk, a yoga class, cooking, going out to dinner or some other event to separate the work and personal. And commit to not talking shop. This is most likely harder to do. Another tip, don’t sleep with your mobile phone.
- How many members are there in HomeZada? In your point of view – what is an ideal approach to build the next leadership team in a startup
Our team is lean. We have three cofounders and 15 other members that provide services to the help grow HomeZada. This team is made up of developers, marketers, business development, legal, and finance.
When building a leadership team, I like the approach of finding the best fit for the organization. Each company needs specific skills to build the product or service. However, there are individuals that may not have all the necessary skills yet, but they have a desire to contribute and they have the will to gain knowledge. These types of individuals are extremely valuable. They are loyal and they will be willing to perform in any capacity to help the company.
- What advice will you give to the aspiring entrepreneurs on how to pitch or sell your idea to the prospects or the investors?
Be clear about what your company does. Understand the value that your company provides to your customers.
And be confident in your communication of your company. If there is any uncertainty about your business model, the value of your solution or your team; investors, partners and prospects will sense your uncertainty. And no one wants to invest in a company that does not believe in what they do. No prospect or partner wants to work with a company that is unsure.
- You have aged closed to 6 years with HomeZada. What advice you will give to those who are getting ready for their entrepreneurial journey?
If you truly believe in your solution, and you have vetted the market opportunity, then go for it. But understand that you need thick skin because you may need to talk to a lot of investors. You will need the ability to keep moving through when everyone else thinks you might be a little crazy. The entrepreneurial journey is not easy and requires a lot of persistence. But you will learn how to get out of your comfort zone and you might find that you like it.
On a final note, how near are we from fully smart homes?
I think we are a long way off from a fully smart home. There are so many areas of home management that tie into other aspects of life that require human intervention. Our appliances talking to us and telling us what to expect and how to care them, sure. But is the appliance going to replace itself when it breaks. Every homeowner will still need the necessary experts to replace the equipment and appliances around the house. Many homeowners will still need someone to lay tie or carpet. Homeowners will also need the necessary financial details for complete home management
I think we are some ways off from deep market penetration of fully smart homes. New homes being built have more smart devices in them, and we are still in the early adoption phase of consumers fully automating the daily control of their homes. However, the inventory of existing homes in the US is huge, and it is going to take more maturity of these products and a common secure, platform to make all the devices and brands work together before greater adoption occurs. In addition, a smart home for us is the ability to control the day to day usage of the home. There is still the need for homeowners to not only manage the financial aspects of the home, but also the ability to either perform maintenance and remodel projects themselves, or to hire contractors and service providers to do it for them.
For more information on Elizabeth and HomeZada, please visit the below links:
HomeZada’s Blog: The Zen of Zada https://zen.homezada.com/
HomeZada on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HomeZada
HomeZada on Twitter: @HomeZada
Elizabeth on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/edodson/