FRESH TAKE FRIDAY IS A BI-MONTHLY SERIES SPOTLIGHTING CREATIVES OF COLOR AND THEIR PERSPECTIVES ON CREATIVITY, POSITIVITY AND GETTING SH*T DONE.
I'M EXCITED TO PRESENT TO SOME AND INTRODUCE TO OTHERS PR GIRL TURNED APP FOUNDER AMANDA SPANN.
As a marketer, publicist and startup founder, you've got a wealth of experience when it comes to building, launching and growing businesses. When did you discover that you wanted to work for yourself, and how did you prepare for the transition from working a full-time job to full-time tech entrepreneur? What advice do you have for millennials who are looking to make a similar transition, or even balance their full-time jobs with their thriving businesses?
AS: I’ve always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Building products and programs from scratch feels organic to me, it’s second nature as if this is what I was supposed to be doing all along.
For those who are thinking about making the leap I would say carve out time to prioritize your vision and your idea every day and hold yourself, above all people, accountable for meeting the milestones around actualizing it. It may mean setting aside an hour before work or an hour after, or spending every Saturday morning in, but give yourself the time you need to groom and grow your business baby.
Secondly, focus on building a business that is self-sustaining, cash flow positive and profitable from the ideation phase. A business that doesn’t make money is a hobby and you can’t live off of hobbies alone. Pinpoint exactly how you’re going to make a profit and if you find you need more time to give the business runway to accelerate, hire and contract other people who can take tasks off of your hands so you can focus on getting there sooner.
Your newest project, AfriDate, is a dating app that helps eligible black singles by nationality or ethnicity, anywhere in the world. What was the inspiration behind creating the app, and what new lessons have you learned from launching this app that might be different from the launch of your other apps like Alchomy, Chatart and TipOff? As a black woman in tech, how have you learned to navigate such a white, male dominated industry all the while building and marketing products and resources that are necessary for our community?
AS: I’m African-American and my partner is Nigerian. We’ve been friends for years and we often had discussions about dating across the diaspora, the various cultural traditions and pressures we shared as black women as well as the ones that were unique to one of us or the other coming from two different ethnic groups. We ultimately decided to launch the tool because we wanted to provide a resource that would give black people a place where they could be celebrated and seek each other unapologetically, that secondly, wouldn’t treat us like we were monolithic or all the same and lastly, spoke to dynamics of how we live today. Black people are traveling further for both work and leisure and AfriDate is the perfect app for finding a familiar face both near and far.
One lesson I’ve learned specifically as a result of launching AfriDate is to listen to your customers but don’t take their feedback as law. People often make suggestions about your business from a self-serving perspective. Most people are always going to provide insight, commentary, criticisms from the viewpoint of the consumer and what they would like to see come out of it, for their benefit. And those comments are valuable. You want and need to know how your customers think and what they want out of it but at the end of the day, your business can’t sustain itself on opinions alone and you have to make the right decision for your company’s longevity regardless to whether everyone is on board with it or not.
As a tech founder, I vary rarely think about the industry being white and male dominated. I focus on my businesses and the tasks I set forth for myself and that’s it – their success doesn’t necessarily boil down to my color or gender. However if I was to think about it - I look at being black woman as an asset and perspective rarely seen in this industry. Tech needs people like me to mirror the audiences it hopes to serve.
In a 'perfect' world, what does a day of productivity look like to you? What tools are you using to get sh*t done, and what are major distractions you do you best to avoid?
AS: Waking up at 4 am and working until I’m finished. I love the early hours of the day because the rest of the world is typically silent. No phone calls, no texts, no distractions – just me, my phone, chrome book, external hard drive and my thoughts. Your mind is untapped at this point of the day, you’re just moving off of pure inspiration and ambition.
When you find yourself in a rut, (emotionally or creatively) what are some things that you do change your mood? Who (or what) do you turn to for encouragement, and how do you persevere, even when you may want to remain stuck in your feelings?
AS: If I am in a rut I often walk away from the project for a day or two. You can’t force creativity and it’s important to allow yourself to feel through situations. I think more people need to accept that there is nothing wrong with being in your feelings. You’re having a perfectly natural reaction to what you’re experiencing. I often think when I can’t go any further that’s God’s way of telling me to rest and reset. I talk to my friends and my sisters and they listen and offer insights but ultimately it’s a journey I have to forge mostly on my own. And I have to learn to carry my load in a way where I am not weighing myself down.
How would you describe your 'fresh take' on creativity? What keeps you inspired to develop new ideas and collaborate with other creatives?
AS: I find inspiration everywhere. Riding in the car, talking on the phone, walking down the street. Like I said, I don’t think creativity can be forced. For me, it often manifests in small challenges and I chose to look at as opportunities.