Elizabeth Dodson is Co-Founder of HomeZada, a mobile and online home management portal that helps homeowners manage their largest asset – their home. Elizabeth’s career reflects the adaption to change from a corporate job to join an early stage startup that grew to a successful acquisition, to recently being a co-founder in her own consumer internet start-up. Her skills in sales, marketing, and partner management have supported her career growth and benefited her passion to mentor other entrepreneurs and women through various organizations. Elizabeth has an MBA from Loyola in Maryland, and a BS in Business from Stevenson University.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
My background started when working for a technology company in the commercial construction industry. This company was a young growing company and with my experience in the commercial construction tech industry, I wanted to help this company grow and provide its clients with valuable solutions to help their businesses. I realized that I enjoy being part of a growing company. I appreciated the chaos of growing and the opportunities that aligned with the chaos.
What inspired you to start your business?
While working for the construction project management software company, I realized that I had a need to manage my home in a similar fashion to these projects. I wanted an all in one solution that I could access anywhere, and it had to assist me in managing all aspects of my home. I looked for years trying to find the solution that could assist me. Yet to my sadness and frustration, nothing existed. So it was either I start this business or I continued to be frustrated with my situation.
Where is your business based?
HomeZada is based in El Dorado Hills, CA, a suburb of Sacramento, CA.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
My two co-founders and I reviewed the opportunity for a solution like HomeZada and we agreed to join each other on this journey. Each of us has a different skill set that was needed to grow this business. We have marketing, business development, software development, product management and overall corporate management skills in our cofounder makeup. To find the right skills and partners you trust is key to starting a business. Once we had the initial people, we then set up our corporate structure. Legal incorporation of the company, determining a company name, securing URLs, business licenses, emails, etc. These were all necessary to get started.
Once all these details were set up, we each divided tasks and went to work. Like Nike says, ”Just Do It.”
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Raising awareness can be tricky in this noisy world. HomeZada successfully uses pay per click, keywords, website, blog, social media, and building relationships with influencers. We also get our work out with our own personal contacts.
As we continue to grow HomeZada, we also partner with other organizations that want to enhance their connection with their clients. For instance, insurance, mortgage, real estate, homebuilding and other homeowner related industries are partners with HomeZada.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
As I indicated, HomeZada continues to partner with organizations in a variety of industries. These organizations are generally very large and because they are large, they have a lot of processes. These processes and procedures often lengthen a business development cycle and do not often work well for startups. The HomeZada team has experience with large corporate processes, but many startups do not.
We overcome this issue by staying focused, managing the corporate process with the organization, and continuing to build our brand with homeowners directly. We also balance the number and size of partners that we do business with as smaller partners can easily secure a relationship with HomeZada that can be effective immediately.
How do you stay focused?
Focus is key to what we do. We leverage a few tactics to keep us focused. First, we know who we are and what our strategic mission is. It is easy to deviate from your mission when people are asking for all kinds of options. Our team is confident in our no’s and we also help provide workarounds for these types of situations where folks are asking us to create something completely different than what HomeZada offers.
The next tactic that keeps us focused is that we have regularly scheduled meetings on topics that require updates. Meetings can often be burdensome, but with the correct structure, all team members can be on the same page and offer solutions if a problem arises. Our meetings have a rhythm and process that we can easily get through them quickly.
The third tactic we leverage is using technology to keep us focused. Whether we use Jira for development management or Salesforce for partner management. We use solutions that can quickly keep us organized and informed.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
The challenge with HomeZada is that our competition for most homeowners is - do nothing. Assisting homeowners in understanding what their options are for home management and introducing them to HomeZada and how it works is critical to our differentiation. Our biggest opportunities are education and awareness.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
We have several marketing strategies that work. All aspects of digital marketing and our partner opportunities together are HomeZada’s most effective way of getting awareness and education out to market.
HomeZada is quick to test specific marketing programs, measure these programs and learn what works and what does not. If the program works, we can continue with the program. If the program does not, then we stop performing that specific program.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
This was a hard question to answer because I feel like there are so many pieces of advice to give entrepreneurs depending on the stage of their business.
But the one piece of advice I think can work for everyone is to find a team that can support and assist your company in growing. Whether these are partners in your business, staff or contract staff that can help you perform the tasks in business or fellow entrepreneurs who meet regularly to help you stay focused on the business. Building a team around you is instrumental in growing your company. Like any team sport, you have players playing different positions on a field, you have coaches, trainers, and so many other folks that are needed to win a game and bring fans to their seats. Remembering this concept and knowing when to ask for help is critical to growing a business. You do not have to go it alone.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
I consider myself a constant learner of all things. I once had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation from an IDEO partner. This partner explained that when you learn from multiple and different sources, you can gain more awareness. He also stated that something unusual or least expected could lead to a new and fresh decision-making experience.
Like the IDEO partner, I read a lot online from all different types of sources and I read a book almost every week. I surround myself with different types of people from all different types of backgrounds. I basically embrace knowledge.
So my suggestion is to keep your mind open and learn from as many possible situations and sources. You never know when something might apply to your business.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
My Microsoft Surface is my favorite business tool. I can use it for work, to access the internet, and as a tablet to demonstrate HomeZada at tradeshows. It is light an easy to carry anywhere. I was an early adopter of the Surface and it has been a dream solution.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I think Sara Blakely is an amazing role model for entrepreneurs. I appreciate what Sara has accomplished and what her values are for herself and her company. Sara was frustrated, sought out a solution (aka a problem solver), and went out and built a company. She will tell you it is not easy, and she will do all of that with a smile on her face. She will embrace the good and the challenging and realize that you can learn from anything.
I believe that if you are open enough to the situation, you can gain perspective. You may not always like it, but you will gain something no matter what. I believe that Sara Blakely may also believe in this concept.
Not to mention, Sara Blakely pays it forward. She has gratitude for her situation and built a program called A Leg Up to help others get more exposure. I mentor folks today and I look forward to the day when HomeZada can offer programs like Spanx’ A Leg Up Program.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
We plan on continuing to scale HomeZada by targeting homeowners, securing more partnerships, and securing the next funding round.
How can our readers connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/edodson/ (Introduce yourself. My parents raised me to be polite and shake hands. Even on LinkedIn you can introduce yourself while connecting with me. I look forward to meeting everyone.)