Entrepreneur Q&A: Jayna Cooke, CEO of EVENTup

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In this quickfire Q&A we welcome the CEO of EVENTup, Jayna Cooke. After starting her career as a fashion buyer, a chance meeting with Brad Keywell (co-founder of VC firm Lightbank and Groupon) convinced Jayna to take a leap of faith into the tech startup scene – first with Echo Global Logistics (ECHS) as its leading sales executive and then with Groupon (GRPN) as one of its first employees. While at Groupon, Jayna was VP of Business Development, closing the largest deals for the company to date with brands like GAP and Nordstrom.

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Breaking Biz:

What was your first ever business idea?

Jayna Cooke:

One of the first things that I ever did was digging potting soil, putting in bags and selling it in my front yard. I think that was probably my first business idea.

BB:

Why did you decide to start your own business?

JC:

I’ve always enjoyed the process of starting a business, not as much when it gets to a huge size and you’re really narrow on focus. I’ve always liked the creative process, ironing out processes, hiring, really creating the team. I think that’s what gets me excited, building an awesome group of people to create something really cool.

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BB:

How do you identify a real business opportunity?

JC:

Generally it’s a lot of time researching it and understanding:

(a) The entire market opportunity size.

(b) What the competitor landscape is like.

(c) What’s it going take to get the MVP (minimal viable product) out the door.

BB:

What skill or ability is most important for an entrepreneur and why?

JC:

The first one is resourcefulness. You have to be one of those people that can figure things out without relying on other people. I love numbers but I’m not an accounting person and I’ve spent a significant amount of time learning different accounting processes that can make this business run. That’s comes by asking friends, but also a lot of my own self teaching like watching YouTube videos, reading about it online…just being resourceful, being able to figure stuff out.

The biggest hiccup I see in my peer group is that people can’t move fast enough. They’re not able to make the decisions, or change path, or re-evaluate something and I think that’s one of the biggest challenges as an entrepreneur. You need to really respond to what the consumers are asking for and what they want, and be able to change to accommodate that.

BB:

You know someone who wants to start a business but fears leaving their job. What do you say to them?

JC:

Go. If you’ve already had the thought then go. You don’t need to research this for a year if you’ve done a couple of months looking at the market opportunity, the competition and what it’s going take you to get an MVP. If it’s going to take you a significant amount of time to get an MVP then maybe you need to stay at your job until you get further traction.

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BB:

Are there people who start a business for the wrong reasons?

JC:

I think for the most part people are pretty genuine in creating businesses. When I look at a business obviously I want the financial payoff, but I’m not as interested in recognition. What I really want is to be able to alleviate an issue, solve a problem. That’s what makes me wake up in the morning, how can we solve or alleviate this issue and make it better?

BB:

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned?

JC:

That’s a hard one because obviously at a young age you learn some and then when you get into it there a more lessons. I think it kind of goes back to what makes people successful and one of those is being able to change your path, not taking things personally. If you reach out and create a product that consumers don’t like, don’t take it personally, ask the consumers what they want and switch to that.

BB:

Can you recommend any books or resources that have helped you along the way?

JC:

Yeah there’s been a few. One is ‘Spin Selling’. Yes it’s about selling, it gives the fundamentals. If you can talk to a consumer and understand what the issue is, and you have a product that can solve the issue then it’s sold. It’s just about going through that process and that mindset.

The second one would be ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People’ – it’s a pretty popular one by Dale Carnegie. I think there’s some really good life lessons in there, in terms of, if you’re selling something it’s not about what you want to sell, it’s about what the other person needs. If you have a product that can fulfil that need then the sale is done.

BB:

What’s the best part of your job?

JC:

The people. I hope all my team knows it but I’m really invested in everyone here and I feel really lucky to have hired these people. I like coming into work and hearing what they did last night, what their weekend plans are and I like working with them. It’s probably my favourite part about the job.

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BB:

What’s your biggest fear?

JC:

Failing. I think it’s everybody’s fear, just not making it. I go back to the people, I feel responsible for these people and I have hundreds of thousands of dollars of Payroll each month and I’ve got to be sure that we’re hitting the numbers to take care of these people because I don’t want them out of a job.

END

 

Looking for something similar?

If you enjoy hearing from female entrepreneurs in the tech space then check out our interview with Yunha Kim, CEO of mobile app Locket.

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