Small businesses have been under tremendous pressure since the pandemic. While there are many tools and platforms being developed no one has really addressed having a place for small businesses to find new customers and connect with resources to grow. But that’s about to change. We chatted with Amber who is the Founder and CEO of ThinkSmark. After spending 15 years in corporate business development she decided to make her mission to help small businesses succeed.
1. Describe what you do in 140 characters or less.
ThinkSMARK is a digital marketplace for small to midsize businesses to get listed, discover new resources and gain new customers. We do that by incorporating 10 Fundamental areas of business to help companies learn, grow, scale and sustain.
2. What was the inspiration behind ThinkSmark?
I had a consulting firm prior to starting SMARK and spent almost 15 years in corporate in business development, indirect/ channel sales, marketing and corporate retail strategy; and what I found was that many people in small business don’t understand fundamental business practices and how all of it integrates together to create a more seamless business process and helps them gain and retain more customers.
We hear that capital is a big component of businesses failing, but I believe it’s more fundamental than that – it’s also business education or experience – which many companies do not have. I didn’t have it honestly, when it came to actually building a business – I knew the working parts – but how to implement on a nimble, less corporate scale to grow. I had to learn by myself.
So as a result, I decided “I can show you better than I can tell you”, and that’s how SMARK was created. How can we create a marketplace that incorporates all business disciplines and create an ecosystem of consultants, software tools, products, services and business listings that connect everyone and create clarity in the small business world.
3. What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
Funding. We are bootstrapping now, I found myself running into a lot of investors that promised a lot and delivered nothing. So deciding the best way to maintain supply and demand while accelerating has been a challenge, but we are moving through it.
4. What advice do you have to those starting a startup?
Focus on your mental health. Focus on you and securing your personal finances and at least (3) team members, – including an assistant. If i could have learned this earlier – things would look different, find the loopholes of being in the weird start up hole of funding vs operations. Money can be made, but you have to be in a good mental state and stable to think clearly. No pun intended.
Also, be creative. That’s why you are an entrepreneur – it’s thinking out of the box and pivoting when you need to, that’s going to make you strong. I’ve pivoted so much, the original idea for SMARK isn’t even our first product to market.
Lastly, be careful what you promise. By nature, you are generally going to be a visionary – and there is a fine line between big thinking and appearing dishonest when things don’t work out. That was a hard pill for me to swallow a couple of times – and I’ve learned to not count anything until it’s in your hand for about 3 days. Whether people have signed a document, made a payment, sent it to the bank. Anything can happen. It’s hard to step back from a promise once it’s made.
5. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Don’t lose yourself in all of this. Find a balance – keep your workout routine, hangout with friends, build a healthy relationship or date, especially for women – your beauty routine and health. Just, Don’t lose yourself.
6. Where can people learn more?
Connect with us on our website and social here.