This week’s #FounderSecrets comes courtesy of Katrina Sale - Founder of Wisetree. Katrina kindly took time out of her busy schedule to sit down with us and share insights into both her company and her personal journey of building a business.
After working in various fields and corporate environments, Katrina found that one aspect has always been essential to her but unfortunately missing in a lot of companies – mentoring! With Wisetree, Katrina addresses a problem she has experienced herself and is now working to help organisations run effective mentoring programs.
During her first steps into self-employment, the two biggest difficulties Katrina experienced were one - understanding all the different ways to use money and how difficult it can be to manage cashflow, and two - the challenge of not having a technical background.
Even though she admits it was scary to go from a good income to basically nothing, she now understands how little a salary matters in terms of quality of life.
To become successful and reach your goals, Katrina learned that it is important to surround yourself with good people. They might not be the very best in their field, but they have to be the right fit for you; someone that understands both you as a founder, and your business.
The most memorable moment with Wisetree so far was getting amazing feedback on the product at her first trade show!
Next, Katrina plans to onboard more clients, get the first full-time Wisetree employees on board and experiment with ways of running the business.
Katrina’s most important piece of advice for anyone in her position?
Rather aptly - “Find a mentor!”
For our second edition of #FounderSecrects, we welcomed Katrina Sale, full blown power woman and Founder of Wisetree. The idea for the mentoring software was born out of her own experience while working in, and with, corporates. Throughout her diverse career she found that a lot of companies fail to provide mentoring programs or, if they do provide programs, don’t match up people very effectively. Having had mentors herself, she finds it invaluable to have someone to support you both in new working environments, and as part of a longer career path - and couldn’t believe an easy to adopt and efficient solution didn’t already exist!
Before starting Wisetree, Katrina had been working for herself for a few years. Even though she didn’t have to go through the rigmarole of leaving a company and a secure job, becoming a fully-fledged entrepreneur and starting this business has been the biggest concept she’s worked on so far and it was an extremely exciting - and terrifying - step to take!
Difficulties and challenges
The biggest difficulties Katrina faced when becoming self-employed was understanding all the different ways to use money and the challenge of not being a techie. She was amazed by how little you can live on when you haven’t got any money coming in. Being used to working on quite a good wage, self-employment was a huge change - though she soon learnt all the creative ways that you can live, eat and shop well on a tight budget!
As someone that doesn’t have a technical background, Katrina’s thought process wasn’t “I want this thing to exist and this is how we code it” but more of “there is a problem and I kind of know that a digital solution would be an answer, but I have absolutely no idea how to make that happen”. She then started working with some developers that weren’t the right fit for her project, which made her realise that she had to learn enough to find people who knew what they were doing. With Studio Graphene, Katrina is certain to have found the right fit for Wisetree because she felt from the off that we could take her ideas and turn them into something beautiful.
When we asked Katrina if there was something she wished she’d known before starting this journey, she was beautifully honest, and said that it was understanding how little a salary matters in terms of quality of life!
It took her a very long time to get the courage to leave full time employment, but Katrina is absolutely convinced that her quality of life improved the second she took the leap.
Another aspect of running a business that she wasn’t really aware of is how lonely the journey can be at the beginning. When people think about starting a business, they think about having a team and working together. Only few entrepreneurs realise how long it takes to get to that point, where others get involved and support you.
Learning, successes and favourite moments
Katrina learned that the key to success is surrounding yourself with good people. These are not necessarily the best in their field (although that can’t hurt), but more essential is finding people who are the right fit for both you as a founder and your business. You have to find people who are going to empower the business in the early days. Once the business is more than just you, the roles shift and it’s not about them empowering you, but you are empowering them. Katrina asserts that is is absolutely imperative to understand how people work, or at least try to, because ultimately every business is made up of humans.
After imagining this product for a long time, Katrina’s favourite moment with Wisetree so far was to actually see the website live, to show it to others and ask for their opinion. But, even better than being in the position to ask for feedback, was getting a great response! Especially since the product was created based on her own experience and is arguably now her digital baby, the biggest triumph for Katrina was taking her own product to a trade show - and getting an amazing response from everyone who saw it.
Next steps and future plans
The next steps for Wisetree following their recent launch is to get the first full-service clients and first employees on board.
Katrina also wants to experiment with a couple of different processes for running the company, for example employing women with kids. In her opinion, anyone who’s gone through the process of having a baby and turning it into a small human has incredible skills which are completely undervalued. The idea is to provide the possibility to work from home, for complete flexibility around their kids. Another potential option in the pipeline is to work with ex-felons. Katrina thinks that they can learn a lot of new skills in the Wisetree world, and after coming out of prison and working for Wisetree, they will have a powerful story to tell. A further step will include moving forwards and raising investment for the company to be able to grow even more!
In the future, Katrina sees Wisetree as holding a monopoly in the learning and career development space because in her view, the first pillar of lifelong learning is mentoring. In five years’ time, she wants Wisetree to expand and to become a much bigger organisation - with her as CEO, of course. At the moment she doesn’t feel ready to think about what she will get out of the business financially, but rather is thinking about the future in terms of challenges that will come. There is a massive need to increase the number of skills and the level of productivity in our country and Katrina’s very passionate about being part of this journey - in her ten-year plan she also wants to enter the world of politics!
A piece of advice
Get a mentor! The first piece of advice Katrina would give to anyone is to find someone to mentor you. They don’t have to be another entrepreneur, but they need experience of working with start-ups. Your mentor doesn’t need to be hugely successful, but it has to be someone who you can be open and honest with and where you can ask all the questions that you need to ask.
When she first moved to being self-employed, Katrina had a mentor for six months who was amazing and taught her all of the tools and processes she needed. After 6 months she was as knowledgeable as he was, so she moved on to the next mentor. The most important aspect to bear in mind when searching for a mentor, in her opinion, is to make sure it is someone you can be yourself with.
Another piece of - controversial! - advice is to not hire an accountant straight away. Doing accounts is not that hard and can be possible for you to do with just a little bit advice and a bit of old-fashioned learning.
Finally, do a really in-depth analysis of your personal spending and make sure you have enough money to carry you and your business for a while - after all, cashflow is king.