MARY-ALICE BRADY is CEO and Founder of mosaicHub, a dynamic business community connecting entrepreneurs with the pieces necessary to create great businesses. She was recently elected by The Boston Business Journal as one of 2012’s class of 40 under 40 honorees. She spoke with JournoNews.
JN: What inspired you to start mosaicHUB?
M-AB: My inspiration came from several sources and gradually built over years of practicing law. While at a law firm and then at a financial services company I saw many smart, driven people slowly lose their passion and become complacent. I am not saying everyone loses their motivation as a corporate employee but there are many people sitting behind desks miserable because they don’t like what they are doing and don’t see any other options. They think they are too old or have too many responsibilities to do something different or they just don’t know where to start. I then spent several years at a venture capital firm working with early stage entrepreneurs.
I saw their excitement and vision, but also saw many wasting time on things that shouldn’t be that time-consuming. I wanted to see these entrepreneurs succeed, as well as encourage more people to explore entrepreneurship as a way to follow their true passion.
JN: Love the name – mosaicHUB – How did you come up with it?
M-AB: Choosing a name is hard. I wanted a simple, easy to understand name. But, these days, so many names are taken. I spent a lot of time trying to find the right name. As soon as I had something I thought was perfect, it was either taken or my friends gave it a thumbs down. When I was travelling in Greece and heard how the early mosaics were made by incredibly resourceful people from tiny bits of clay and other scraps, I immediately thought of today’s entrepreneurs, the most resourceful people I know. It just fit. And the hub is where it all comes together. Because so many people have asked about our name, I put the story on our About page.
JN: Take us through the types of Start-up Tools mosaicHUB provides.
M-AB: Here are our primary tools:
Answers: Our Answers feature provides a venue for rich content-driven discussions amongst entrepreneurs, service providers, mentors and investors.
Resources: Our Resource Center contains articles, videos and other valuable business resources to obtain more in-depth information on a particular topic.
Service Provider Search: Through our Service Provider Search members can quickly find service providers to help them with various business needs.
Exchange: With our classified ad and listing feature, members can easily request help with a project or offer a deal, job or other item.
Pitch-It!: Members can promote their startups (video examples below) to potential customers and investors and get valuable feedback from other members through our Pitch-It! feature.
JN: mosaicHUB also provides free advice and support for aspiring entrepreneurs. What do you find are the more common types of advice that members tend to post on the site?
M-AB: The great thing about our community is that we bring together entrepreneurs, service providers, mentors and investors so our members can get advice from different perspectives. For example, I recently asked a question on web hosting platforms and received great advice from other entrepreneurs on what worked best for them. These are real people who have dealt with this exact struggle so I really value their advice. We also have questions around social media, legal matters and other specialized topics and many of our members who are experts in these areas have provided very helpful and reliable advice.
JN: Best lessons learnt about starting an online business?
M-AB: To start with a minimal viable product (MVP) and listen to your community.
I get tons of advice and suggestions, from users, my team, casual visitors and potential investors, but the best advice is from people’s actual behavior. What people think they want and what they actually use can be very different. At first, I would go off and build something because I thought it would be useful or because people told me they wanted it. I recall one feature a potential investor told us would make the product much more valuable. Well, we went off and built it and our members didn’t use it much. I also have been surprised by features that we didn’t spend much time on being very popular.
JN: Describe the typical profile of a mosaicHUB member.
M-AB: There really isn’t a typical profile. We have entrepreneurs focusing on technology startups, consumer product companies and service businesses. We have experts from large law firms, accounting firms and advertising agencies offering their expertise. While a majority of our members are currently from the US given we launched here, we are attracting members from around the world.
JN: How does the Community-driven ranking system work?
M-AB: This is still a work on process. The challenge with an online community as it grows is to maintain the high quality. To help ensure great content we have implemented a voting system where our members can vote up or down questions, answers and resources so that the best materials are at the top. We believe that the community is in the best position to help drive good content.
JN: Why do you think entrepreneurs love to help others succeed?
M-AB: Because entrepreneurs are a very special breed. We are passionate people and are always looking to the future. We see possibilities and get excited to think creatively. Most of us decided to start our own businesses because we saw that things could be done better, more efficiently. Because we focus on tackling new problems or new ways of doing things we see reinventing the wheel as a waste of time, so if we can share knowledge to help others get on to bigger things more quickly we are eager to help.
JN: Your team comes from different business backgrounds. How does this mix of skills contribute to mosaicHUB’s success?
M-AB: We are diverse in age and skills. Having a range in age is valuable since our community includes members from a broad age range. People in different age groups interact differently online. It’s important to develop a site that caters to this broad age range and having team members with different ages helps tremendously with product development. I also come from a more structured, professional background and tend to be more formal online, but having team members who come from a less formal background helps keep the site both professional and fun. Again, it’s all about striking a balance to appeal to a broad range of users and having a diverse team helps with finding this balance.
JN: Aside from financial gain, what success-factors do you value the most when leading a business?
M-AB: Creating value. The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that you can create something amazing. Building a community where people share knowledge and make starting and growing businesses easier is incredibly satisfying.
If we can share knowledge to help others get on to bigger things more quickly we are eager to help.
JN: How do you and your team spend your free time outside working hours?
M-AB: For me, I am usually running, biking, skiing or doing some other fun outdoor activity, usually with my husband. Stephen is usually long boarding, Chris likes biking and they both like watching sports, which leaves me clueless when they catch up on the latest sporting events in the office.
JN: What business book has impacted you? Why?
M-AB: The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. The balance between the entrepreneur, manager and technician really resonated with me. I started my career as a technician, then became a manager and finally an entrepreneur. You need all three personalities when running your own business and I sometimes find it hard to strike the right balance. This book helps remind me to keep rebalancing, as well as to work “on” the business, rather than “in” the business.
JN: When are you at your most creative?
M-AB: When running. It’s time when I can really think with no distractions. I also tend to think more about the possibilities as opposed to obstacles when I am running.
JN: What character traits do you admire in a leader?
M-AB: Patience and perseverance. As a leader you have a lot of responsibility to tackle big problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s easy to view everything as a sprint, particularly in today’s fast paced world. I admire those leaders who can see through all the day-to-day fire drills and keep the big picture in mind.
JN: Favorite food and restaurant?
M-AB: Toro Restaurant in the South End of Boston. It’s a fun Spanish tapas bar. I love trying a variety of foods and it’s easy to order a lot of different things at a tapas bar.
JN: Best holiday destination?
M-AB: Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii. My husband and I love to travel and we’ve been fortunate enough to have visited many amazing places, but Hanalei Bay is my favorite thus far. I love this quaint little village, the people who live there and the local traditions.
JN: What’s the next BIG thing for you and the team at mosaicHUB?
M-AB: Our focus is to build a large, valuable mosaicHUB community where entrepreneurs connect from around the world and share their knowledge, advice and experiences to help more people launch and grow successful ventures.
JN: Favorite Quote?
“Life is a journey, not a destination” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
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