To Really See Your Startup Vision, Leave The Building.
“I told her who I was and she announced to the group, ‘This is the woman who came up with BizeeBee, it runs my business!”
By Poornima Vijayashanker (Founder & CEO, BizeeBee)
One day ago I was supposed to get on a plane to Paris for a 3 week vacation in the South of France, but I decided against it, changing my plans a week before take-off. I wanted to stay put in California for the summer, stay grounded, and grow BizeeBee. But still craving adventure I decided to take a road trip down south to LA and Orange County.
The primary goal of my visit was to see businesses who had been using BizeeBee. Could I have sent an email? Sure. Or could I have just picked up the phone and done a courtesy call? Yes. But had I done those two things, I wouldn’t have really experienced what I had built and how BizeeBee was impacting people’s lives everyday.
Yesterday afternoon after a 2 hour round of sales calls. I packed up and headed to Peace Yoga Gallery. I had told the owner Cheri Rae that I was planning to just stop by and say hello, nothing formal. I approached the studio in downtown LA, from the outside it looked pretty and unassuming. As I entered I was greeted by a young lady, who called out to Cheri Rae, but there was no answer. Then she suggested I walk downstairs to the actual studio. I descended the dark stairs to a large open room, and then proceeded to walk down a long hallway where there was room after room. In one room the floor was covered with pretty colorful pillows. Not your typical studio. It was probably a good 2000+ sq ft. I finally came to the room where a handful of women were seated and chatting. I had walked in on the Peace Yoga Gallery’s staff meeting. The women were having a wonderful time, and I felt bad for interrupting them. But they greeted me warmly.
I asked, “Which one of you is Cheri Rae?” And she responded enthusiastically. I told her who I was and she announced to the group, “This is the woman who came up with BizeeBee, it runs my business!” I was immediately floored. While I had only been present for 5 minutes in this studio, and I certainly didn’t think the software program myself and my team had created deserved such an accolade, but I humbly thanked her for the praise.
Cheri Rae said she wanted to make me something, a smoothie. I didn’t think anything of it, and off she went. I stayed in the room and started to chat with her “business manager”, Shabnam. Shabnam told me about BizeeBee, who originally found it, it was a young man named Ari who used to work at Peace Yoga Gallery. She told me she really valued the simplicity of it. The studio uses it to keep track of all their customers and stay organized.
Shabnam then proceeded to give me a tour. As we ventured through the studio Shabnam told me how Cheri Rae and her boyfriend Gabe built the studio. I learned about the events they host, and their approach to running a business.
I went back upstairs to spend sometime with Cheri Rae. And told her, “Wow Cheri Rae I’ve visited a LOT of yoga studios, and yours definitely is the most interesting.” I would soon learn more about my own words.
I learned that Cheri Rae had been an ice skater as a child, and then opened up peace with her boyfriend Gabe. She said, “This isn’t your typical yoga studio. You don’t walk in and have someone ask you: Did you pay for your 10 class card? NO. Yoga is more than asanas. Its more than an hourly practice.”
As she was telling me her story, she was chopping, blending, and walking through her kitchen entertaining us. And it wasn’t just me who she was talking to while she was hard at work making food, there were two other people who had stopped by to have lunch. She spoke about the amazing team of women she had assembled who were running her business so she could focus on growing it, how she had met them, and how much she relied on them.
I started to see Cheri Rae’s vision for her business. She was building a community. A community that cared about people and serving them mentally and physically. It was driven by passion. The passion to create and share Cheri Rae’s goal, peace.
I stayed for nearly 2 hours at the studio, and at one point didn’t want to leave because I was having so much fun! Everyone was warm, welcoming and business-minded. It paralleled what I had been building at BizeeBee. And that smoothie that Cheri Rae had made me, well it was the best damn smoothie I think I will ever have in my life, I licked the cup clean!
I left and immediately called Lyndi Thompson to tell her the story. We talked about how cool the businesses were that we were working with. Each one was unique, but the common theme was that each owner was driven by the need to create and service the world around them.
As I drove away I realized I had been re-invigorated and motivated even more than before, to keep building BizeeBee. I saw how an idea that I had come up with nearly 2 1/2 years ago was impacting the lives of people everyday. I saw my vision in reality, and it made me happy. Suddenly every penny I had invested into BizeeBee, all the hours of hard work that myself and my team had put in, the rejections, and hardships were all worth it. I had known it all along and felt it, but the road trip and this experience made me see it!
While Cheri Rae and other businesses may credit BizeeBee for running their business, we humbly accept such praise, but they are the people who truly run their own businesses. Myself and my team are just happy they chose us to play a part in keeping their vision alive!
This post was originally posted at Femgineer.
About the guest blogger: Poornima Vijayashanker is Founder and CEO of BizeeBee. Prior to that, she was at Mint where she began as employee #3 in 2006, and stayed through the startup’s acquisition by Intuit for $170M in 2010. Prior to Mint, she was in the Master’s degree program for computer science at Stanford University but dropped out to join Mint. Poornima holds a double degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science from Duke University. Poornima blogs on Femgineer.com and is a competitive yoga. Follow her on Twitter at @poornima.