Some of you know me from my previous career stop (Nine Lives Media Inc.). But, that’s not where my journey began. I want to share my entrepreneurial story as a way of reintroducing myself to the IT channel market -- and my way of welcoming you to ChannelE2E.
My entrepreneurial career has had four big stops so far - I’m not talking about lemonade stands or driveway shoveling gigs. These are real, all grown up, businesses.
Chapter 1: When I Left Corporate, For the 'Last' Time…
The business was successful, in that it provided a lucrative paycheck and a solid living - it allowed me to balance work and family and gave me my first taste at ‘going it alone.’ But that’s what it was: Alone. I didn’t have a business partner, I didn’t have a product. It was “AaaS” - Amy as a Service. It was a successful business, but I was missing the fun and collaboration I desired.
What I learned: The art of sales - not to sell a magazine page or a banner ad, but to gain a customer for life. How to budget time for different projects and how to work within tough deadlines. I also learned that working alone wasn’t what I wanted to do long-term.
Chapter 2: When I Joined a Startup and Got My Business Degree…
I kept an open line between my former mentors and business associates, and when I saw a note from one to another somewhere online, I knew there was a startup business in the works.
So, I immediately called my dear friend and mentor and said “What are you launching and when do I join?” A week later we met in Providence, R.I., and agreed on next steps.
During that chapter in my career, we launched several niche blog sites, roundtable and multi-day conferences, a quarterly magazine and more. I served as VP of sales and learned how build business plans, balance a budget, manage a team and develop strategic programs. We did a lot right and made a few bad decisions along the road too. All have helped me to grow and focus as I move forward, and I’m lucky to have had these three years.
But the plan was always to use this stop as a step in my career, not my final destination. When the time was right -- Joe Panettieri and I decided we were ready to take on a new challenge.
Joe and I made many of the same stops along our career path. We met at Ziff Davis Media (my last corporate gig) around 1998, worked together doing custom media programming for some well known brands in the corporate business market , and as full-time employees at our most recent startup.
We were always on the same page in terms of our goals- - financially, family-wise and business focused. We both wanted to ‘own’ something. And we both now had enough experience under our belts to make it happen.
What I learned: How to build a real business with real products. How to scale, and how to scale back. When to say yes to a customer, and when to say no thank you. How to deal with multiple personalities and multiple markets. And that money shouldn’t be the goal behind every business stop you make -- sometimes you have to focus on the education you are getting, not the size of your wallet.
Chapter 3: When It All Began - Again…
And so came the launch of Nine Lives Media Inc. in 2008. What seemed like a risk to many felt as comfortable to Joe and me as an old pair of jeans. We worked together seamlessly, agreed on growth plans and found focus in places where our minds didn’t meet.
We developed and launched four online media brands. Some took off fast, some grew more slowly and one we shuttered after about a year. We took the fail fast approach with brands and products, knowing that focus was our ally. It felt good to fail because it keeps things real and keeps success in perspective.
Things grew nicely and we were being courted by companies who wanted our brands as their own. We declined offers in order to stay true to our business. Until we hit the point where we knew we couldn’t sustain the business growth trajectory without help.
Enter the ‘exit’ phase of Nine Lives Media Inc. We talked with many companies over a period of time, negotiated with more than a couple and ultimately found a new home for our business at Penton in mid-2011.
What I learned: How to build brands that stand the test of time. How to work with a collaborative partner. How to strategize and how to succeed. And, that working 20 hours a day for too long is too much.
Chapter 3.5: When I Went Back to Corporate. Wait, What?
OMG, how did this happen? I’m not going to lie; the day the sale went through, I cried. Like a baby. Not because I was happy - but because I was scared half to death. Did we do the right thing? Did we pick the right home? How in the name of all things holy did I end up back at a corporate media giant?
My days changed. My job shifted. Instead of the intense focus I gave to our customers and readers, I was spending more time focused internally in meetings and in spreadsheets. It was different - it was fun. I enjoyed my team, I enjoyed navigating the corporate waters, but always tried to keep our focus on serving the customers and readers my top priority. But I’m not sure I was the perfect corporate employee anymore -- I fought hard for what I believed was right for the brands, I said no to revenue growth opportunities when I felt they would hurt the brands and I passed up job promotions to stick with what I loved.
I also got pretty sick during my time at Penton. Talk about ‘contingency plans' and the absolute need to have them... I will always be thankful that we had a great team in place and a solid backbone to move the business forward when I was absent dealing with my own health. No one ever questioned me and there was nothing but support (Here’s when it became clear that yes, Joe and I did make the right choice back in 2011.)
That timeframe in my life gave me amazing perspective as well. It made me look at work and life differently than I had before. It made me realize you need to love what you do in order to do well. And although I liked my job, there were things I really missed: Strategic planning, Creativity, Being my own boss, Moving quickly, Trying new technologies and angles.
And so in May 2014, right after we celebrated my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, I left Penton. The time was right for the business -- I believed in the new management and I believed that the team we hired understood our original mission and would take care of the brands Joe and I brought to market.
What I learned: Corporate is not entrepreneurial. And that’s what I missed.
Chapter 4: Hello, When Did You Enter the Room?
I took May through August 2014 off. I went hiking. I went to the gym -- a lot. I spent a considerable amount of time hanging out with friends and family and explored the North Shore of Massachusetts with my husband on our tandem bike. It was awesome. But I missed working. Yes, I did.
Fast forward to September 2014. Joe and I connected, and again, we were in the same place. We were ready to return to our entrepreneurial roots and do something groundbreaking. And boy, did we have ideas. So many ideas.
Welcome to Your Journey -- and Ours
When we launched After Nines Inc. a year ago, we didn't have any specific plans to develop a media platform. Instead, we did some IT consulting and we went on a journey of discovery -- again. We’re happy we had the time to think, and re-think, our mission, our values, our potential approach to content and what we can do to move the market forward.
This site -- the mission, the content strategy, the database tools -- means a lot to us. It’s the market we grew up in, and the market we love. We’re reconnecting with many old friends, and we're rapidly making new connections as well. We believe we are bringing valuable content to the Channel. We want our conversation with you to be exactly that -- a two-way conversation.
This site is about your journey from entrepreneur to exit -- but it’s also part of our journey.
Thanks for being here. We look forward to joining you on the road from entrepreneur to exit (E2E). As my own story shows: The journey isn't linear. It doesn't have a clear beginning, middle and end. Like life itself, E2E is about the journey -- and the connections we make on that journey.
Amy Katz is a technology entrepreneur who has launched, built and sold a range of IT media platforms. As president and CEO of After Nines Inc., she oversees business development, sales and finance for the overall company and ChannelE2E. Read all of her blogs here.