Danielle Lewis, CEO and Co-Founder of Scrunch spoke to us about the twists and turns in her start up journey. Scrunch is a technology platform that connects influencers with brands so companies can identify which influencers’ promotional efforts actually result in sales. With over 20 million influencers on Scrunch‘s platform, and over 10 billion blogs and posts indexed, it’s a comprehensive tool that enables companies to rank influencers, and optimise their marketing spend.
Danielle is a Founder with a non-technology background, who has serial start up experience in a succession of online technology solutions. In 2010 Danielle Founded the Brisbane Threads website to showcase the city’s fashion, beauty, food and lifestyle offerings, and she remains the Editor. In 2016, and only 2 years into their start-up journey, Scrunch expanded their presence to New York, to tap into the large digital advertising market in the USA, worth an estimated $70 billion in 2016.
Before Scrunch you were an influential blogger experiencing and sharing all the delights Brisbane has to offer. How did your blogging, work experience at Telstra and University Degree in Fashion give you the skills and experience to eventually develop Scrunch?
I love this question as I truly believe that everything I’ve ever done has led me to this moment. Without the fashion degree, I never would have discovered blogging and started writing about fashion. Without the blog, I wouldn’t have met my co-founder and understood the challenges of the industry. And without my time at Telstra I wouldn’t be able to do the work associated with selling our amazing product (proposals, meetings, lots of emails!). With the world of social media, it’s hard not to look out at other people’s lives and think you want to get there faster, but really you need to get the experience and love the process.
Your first startup was before its time. Tell us about your first startup, what you learned about working with your Co-Founder and how those lessons informed Scrunch’s success?
Our first startup was a virtual styling studio. We built a 2D and a 3D prototype with the vision of solving the size and fit problem for online shopping. Unfortunately the tech and path to commercialisation wasn’t there 7 years ago. However, the lessons learnt were many!
The top 3 things we learned were:
1. Resilience and perseverance. And this is one we keep on learning. Nothing goes to plan, but it’s how you bounce back or use the situation to your advantage that separates the pack. It’s the ones that don’t ever give up, that will win.
2. Know the tech. In the beginning we were two non-tech cofounders and made every mistake in the book. The key has been finding good people that we can trust and learning enough to understand when to call BS!
3. Cash is king. They say to raise more than you need, and they are right. When you’ve got an awesome product, the last thing you want to do is take your eye off the prize because of cash issues. Raise more than you need and focus on getting to revenue as quickly as possible.
You have achieved external investment in Scrunch. What is your advice to entrepreneurs seeking investment? How should they prepare and what are the must-haves in their toolkit?
People invest in people. But they also invest in people that know their sh*t. My advice is firstly to have thick skin as you’ll be in meeting after meeting with many a criticism, know when it’s good advice or when to back yourself. And know your numbers, even if it’s early and they are educated guesses, know every inch of your business inside out.
What professional development have you undertaken at Scrunch’s different growth stages and how has this developed your leadership style?
Running a startup consistently throws challenges at you, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. And I have relied on great mentors each step of the way to keep challenging me even further to push us to be bigger and better. My leadership style is to lead by example. Every day I am in the trenches trying to build our business into something awesome, and I expect everyone on my team to do the same thing. Mentors have helped to channel this and ensure that I am spending my time on the right things for the business, while being a good role model at the same time.
What has been your greatest challenge?
People. People are the centre of everything, they can really make or break your business. We have been super lucky to build a phenomenal team that I trust with my life (read: Scrunch). However, my background was all solo work, as a sales-person I was really self-motivated and reported to my sales target, so I didn’t have a lot of experience managing people. It’s been a learning curve, and we haven’t always got it right, but people are the one thing we are committed to ensuring are a success, because then we know Scrunch will be a success too.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of something new every day. Every time we get a new customer, every time we see an Influencer’s post go live, every time someone in the team achieves a milestone, every time we close a capital raise and take our business up a notch… I continue to be amazed at what we are able to achieve as a team every day.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Back yourself. And keep going.
Femeconomy approved brands have at least 30% of women on the Board of Directors or are 50% female owned. So far over 700 brands meet our criteria. Look for our badge to shop Femeconomy approved brands. Or, if your company meets our approval criteria, submit your brand.
Female leaders will create gender equality. #femeconomy #shop4equality