Q. 1. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
Ans: Twtote.com is a subsidiary of Thomas & Wynter R&D, based in the DC/Maryland area.. The parent company creates unique products, focused on the customer. Research, user experience and customer feedback are at the core of what we do.
Q. 2. Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Ans: We are both first-generation immigrants from the Caribbean. Shallon has an MBA and is a Certified Project Manager (PMP). He has a background in quality engineering and data analytics. Sherika is the manager of product and strategy at a small consulting firm. She was the only black woman to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree from RPI that year. Sherika has a background in product and project management in the web and software development space. This company is our first entrepreneurial journey and we have learned a lot to get to where we are today. Twtote.com, our 2nd product, has been recognized and featured by google, GQ UK magazine and Fox national news.
Q. 3. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Ans: Frustrated with the traditional 9am to 5pm and having more than 30 years until retirement, we decided to start our business on the back of a napkin at a restaurant. We had no idea what we would do but we decided that focusing on meeting people’s needs and innovation would give us the most enjoyment.
Q. 4. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
◦ Share your ideas. People are often afraid to share ideas, assuming others will steal their ideas. This cannot be further from the truth. Friends, family and even strangers will help you make connections and brainstorm ideas. As much as it takes to build a business, no one has the time to dedicate their lives to a stolen idea.
◦ Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Comfort in the entrepreneurial world means you aren’t growing and you are likely not putting yourself or your company out there enough.
◦ Plan and strategize everything. You will quickly find yourself reacting to everything if you don’t have a plan that keeps you focused and on course.
Q. 5. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
◦ 1- Patience. No company is built overnight. Any overnight success is usually gone soon after. Learn from mistakes and progressively improve your product or service.
◦ 2- Soft skills. Tensions will run high at times and you will have to learn to resolve issues with your partner, customers and stakeholders.
◦ 3- Confidence. Networking is essential to growing any small business but you have to be confident in yourself and what you bring to the table to gain people’s trust.
Q. 6. How many hours do you work a day on average?
Ans: 6-10 hours daily is average. As our company grows, time will decrease and you will move into a more managerial role versus doing all the work yourself.
Q. 7. To what do you most attribute your success?
Ans: Our success is based on our ability to adapt, innovate, and communicate. In the entrepreneurs world, things change by the minute. You have to be agile and flexible enough to move with the times.
Q. 8. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Ans: We use social media as our primary marketing tool. The instant feedback and customer interaction allows us to be much more concise with ad spend while building rapport with customers.
Q. 9. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Ans: We funded our company ourselves. This was a great way to make sure we were spending strategically. Many times businesses raise capital before the venture. If you are not a seasoned entrepreneur with a successful business track record, this can be dangerous. A new entrepreneur with investor capital typically spends money in the wrong places and risks profitability. When you feel the pinch of every financial decision, you operate very lean. Profitability is found much sooner with the bootstrapping method. In our experience, seasoned investors seem to be attracted to businesses that are self funded until their growth justifies that it is time to raise funds. Now, as we are starting to see exponential growth, we are considering options for angel investors and other forms of financial partnership.
Q. 10. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Ans: Long term success is about building a brand, not only for your product or service but for yourself. While companies come and go, someone who believes in you and your abilities will be a customer no matter what business you’re in.
Q. 11. Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Ans: I see us working ourselves out of every position in our company. Our goal is to have a company that can run successfully without us.
Q. 12. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ans: From a product perspective, we love Tumi and Taft. Both companies have built a great brand based on quality and design. We seek to do the same. From a parent company perspective, we love Procter and Gamble (P&G).
Q. 13. How important have good employees been to your success?
Ans: Finding the right employee is hard but once you have them, they make your life easier. Never forget employee’s are the lifeline of any business. You should treat them as such. Find ways to help them grow and be successful working with or for you.
Q. 14. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Ans: 1-2 years. We had a product that we thought was a complete failure. Instead of giving up we decided to double down and bring it out in different sizes. That product now sells itself with zero advertising. If we gave up at the first sign of trouble, we would never have seen it turnaround.
Q. 15. What motivates you?
Ans: The growth of our company excites us. It’s a new horizon and a new opportunity to learn every time we hit a growth spurt.
Q. 16. What are your ideals?
Ans: Servant leadership is at the core of our ideals. As co-owners, we know what it is like to have a boss treat you badly or not care beyond getting work done. We rather build a community that knows they can depend on leadership to have their best interests at heart.
Q. 17. How do you generate new ideas?
Ans: [Shallon] Growing up, my family did not have much. Instead of getting new toys, I made what I wanted out of legos. My mind still works the same way. When a useful product or service comes to mind, I enjoy using household items I have already to make it work.
Q. 18. How do you define success?
Ans: For us, success is defined by the lifestyle we hope our company will eventually allow us to have. Creating our own schedules and having financial freedom for allot less time worked is our ideal. What good is all this hard work if you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labor at some point?
Q. 19. How do you build a successful customer base?
Ans: Friends and family. People underestimate how important it is to share your business. We launched our company with a party for friends and family. Those friends and family told others and shared our story. After having multiple national tv spots in the first year, we can attest to the fact that your grassroot supporters make a big difference.
Q. 20. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Ans: [Shallon] As an entrepreneur, I love the fact that you are constantly learning new things. This keeps me on my toes and doesn’t allow me to get complacent in anything.
Q. 21. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Ans: [Shallon] My most satisfying moment was having Google and their creative team, filming our company for a campaign, in my home. My second most satisfying was getting a phone call from a friend saying they saw someone on the train carrying our bag. I was so proud because a stranger was proudly wearing my bag and someone was excited to share it with me.
Q. 22. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Ans: The difference is your comfort level with the unknown. You can take the most common path which is less risky but yields common or average results. As an entrepreneur you are choosing the uncomfortable, higher risk path. This path however can yield unimaginable benefits. My life has forever been changed by taking the leap into entrepreneurship. After all, if I had not decided to become an entrepreneur you would not be reading this.
Q. 23. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Ans: We like our West Indian culture to shine through our products. There aren’t many West Indian influenced companies in the US which makes us unique. Internally, our culture is all about servant leadership. We want to set everyone up for success no matter where they are in their career journey.
Q. 24. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Q. 25. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Ans: [Shallon] If I had a chance to start over, I would have started my entrepreneurial journey sooner. It’s exciting and rewarding.
Q. 26. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Ans: Often times, our families are more excited to hear good news than we are. My journey has also shown them that anyone can do it and has encouraged some to start their own businesses.
Q. 27. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Ans: [Shallon] Failure is my greatest fear. However, my theory is there is no such thing as failure. Good or bad, you are constantly learning what to do next time.
Q. 28. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: Everyone’s entrepreneurial journey is very different. The only traits we’ve noticed that all successful entrepreneurs share are networking and tenacity.
Q. 29. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: [Shallon] Being a successful entrepreneur will always mean some form of sacrifice. My dating life and family goals have been placed on pause until my company requires less of my attention. The trade off is, one day I will be able to do all the other things I want on my own terms without a boss to tell me when I have to be at work. More importantly, I won’t have to date on a budget.
Q. 30. If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
Ans: [Shallon] How can we help each other grow?
Google Interview Link TBD
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