“None of us really have a business background, we’re developers, that’s what we know, so we’ve been basically making it up as we go,” admits , a Founding Partner of Far Reach, a Cedar Falls based interactive technology firm, and the guest interviewee for the May edition of the Business Innovation Zone (BIZ) Luncheon.
While Washut exemplifies the humility common to most native Iowans, the reality is that business backgrounds or not, the five former cube-dwelling friends have been very successful in an entrepreneurial adventure that sprung slowly to life as they watched a corporate culture devolve into a state that was not to their liking.
“We talked about what we would do if we formed our own company for years without really taking ourselves seriously,” she remembers, explaining that the changing culture inspired the development of a business plan and the commission of a market survey around the idea of an improved student information system that could be sold to the education community.
“In the midst of all that, we decided it was time to jump ship,” Washut recalls of their enrollment in a business incubator at the University of Northern Iowa. Working full-time on the development of the new product they did sideline consulting and web design to maintain some cash flow.
When the market research came back suggesting that the new software product would be a less than stellar performer in a cash poor industry resistant to change, a rethink was required.
“So essentially we just fell back on our consulting and web design business and have grown ever since,” she explains of a company whose pivot led them to grow to 19 employees utilizing interactive technology to provide unified holistic solutions for businesses. Recently adding a marketing and creative component to complement their software development and website design services, they have positioned themselves as a unique end to end developer for product branding and launch.
Answering questions from BIZ Executive Director Mike Colwell during the May luncheon, Washut expects to address several issues of interest to anybody considering a venture into the entrepreneurial waters.
The transition from a corporate environment to a start-up and the importance of culture is a topic this B.A. in Psychology turned B.A. in MIS is happy to discuss. “Focus on culture is critical for us, we knew that we wanted to build an environment where people wanted to be,” she explained while noting that growth from the original partners to a much larger company has required attention to cultural fit during the hiring process.
Speaking of partners, Washut will share the advantages and challenges of founding a company with four friends as equal partners, a most uncommon occurrence in the entrepreneurial arena replete with uncommon challenges.
With the group’s original sideline becoming the core of their business, re-direction is a subject Washut is well prepared to address. “The inevitable pivot is a part of business and embracing change is not a cliché,” she admonishes. “Our company completely changed direction in three months,” she remembers of a decision that no doubt has proven itself .
“We focus on what we do well, while critically evaluating opportunities and potential partnerships when they come along,” says Washut of a mindset that allows change to be an integral part of an evolving business plan and a lesson well learned. A lesson Washut expects to share with attendees at the May BIZ luncheon and networking session.
$15 admission fee (includes lunch) or Free Admission (bring your own lunch)
11: 30 a.m. May 21st 2014
StartUp City DSM
317 6th Ave., 5th floor
Des Moines, IA 50309
Purchase your tickets at https://tikly.co/BusinessInnovationZone – Contact us at email@example.com for more information.
Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact the BIZ for details.
The BIZ’s mission is to connect entrepreneurial needs with qualified community and state resources and to provide guided professional and business direction. The BIZ helps entrepreneurs maximize their successes by helping them navigate resources, strengthen knowledge, improve skills, form strategic alliances and secure proper capitalization.