When clutter overpowers your life, it's hard to think clearly because when your brain sees clutter, it distracts you and negatively impacts your working memory. Why is this important? It drains your energy when you have to think about getting organized. It makes you less efficient. A recent Huffington Post survey found that 84 percent of recently stressed Americans say they worry that their home isn't clean or organized enough. So, when you say, "You just want to get organized," what's interpreted here is this desire to increase your overall well-being. To create ease throughout your day so that you can focus your energy on essential pieces of your life.
The Launch Of INVY
Shana Vieira was working a lot and doing a lot of consulting and was traveling a lot. It was hard for her to keep track of everything she owned, with many of her items split in multiple locations. Shana knew she needed a much better system if to sustain herself with how busy life had gotten. She thought to herself; there has to be a way for her to have mobile access to all that she owned digitally. And she wanted to create something sustainable because that avoids the duplication of purchased items.
Shana felt that hiring a stylist to organize her closet was far too expensive, however, if she could provide them access to a platform so they can do it remotely, that would be a game-changer for the everyday person. This led her to create an app called ClosIt. But after she surveyed 1,500 people, what they wanted wasn't just an application to organize their closet, but they also wanted their whole lives organized. This led her to think more about incorporating not only clothing, but she expanded the inventory to include furniture, while also offering a marketplace for obtaining insurance, selling, reselling, and borrowing items. She wanted to create a holistic platform and service. ClosIt turned to Invy, which is short for inventory, a SAAS platform.
What are you most proud of when it comes to Invy?
Black people are huge retail consumers, knowing this to be a fact, she started to explore the fine line between buying and understanding the value of the goods that people purchased. Shana believed that if a disenfranchised community can access that value immediately, either to sell or to become conscious consumers, that will have a ripple effect on the community. It also will help consumers, Shana concluded by saying, "Understanding money in a different way that actually affects their lifestyles." Shana focuses on the power of mini-economics to elevate and empower the Black community.
What's the biggest fear you had during your business journey?
"Being Black, being a woman, and non-technical," Shana said. Despite some professional successes, she was a bit nervous about managing a technical platform that she couldn't see. For her, it was like learning a new language, connecting with people in the space who have different interests, and speak differently than her, that was scary for her. She struggled with imposter syndrome and felt as if she didn't belong in the tech space.
This meant she had to find a way to bring her decades of experience in program management from some notable companies like Sony to make this app come to life. Shana had to teach herself the ecosystem. When she first started, she documented her experiences through a vlog and recalls feeling disheartened by how they greeted her when she walked into a room. She learned to be assertive enough in her beliefs without losing herself in the process. It's quite easy to mistrust what you believe when you listen to the chatter around you. Especially those who have opinions about what you're trying to create, and then you start second-guessing yourself.
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition.
This was Shana's first pitch competition, a virtual one at that. She wasn't sure what to expect, so she bought a new desk. "The lesson I learned during this pitch competition is that preparation is key, and if you don't prepare, you're preparing to fail," Shana said. Despite practicing the pitch, the minute she started to speak, she forgot everything. But Shana spoke from the heart because she knew her product from the inside out. Knowing her why and the impact she wants on the world helped her through the pitch competition.
Tell us about a significant setback you had in your business, and how did you recover?
Shana has had several technical setbacks being a non-technical founder. It was difficult for her to engage or understand how to work with a technical team. She didn't have the guidance she needed. Her first app depleted her funds, and it took a long time to develop. The vision wasn't matching up between her and the tech team, and they could not finish the product. This led her to start all over again. Then recently, while in the beta phase, her team in Colombia shut down due to COVID-19. "There's a lot of false starts in business, and you can get really down. You get excited about this next phase, and if it doesn't happen, the way that you envisioned it, it's easy for people to feel like that's a scar or something that they've done." Shana said.
Shana works closely with her mother in her business, and as a result, she witnessed her experience the ups and downs of the market. By observing that it led her to a new understanding of herself as a business owner. She said, "Life is like an ocean; it comes in waves." Shana started her business in 2017, and in 2019 she pivoted once, now with COVID-19, she had to pivot again. However, she believes in her vision and her mission, and she plans to hold on steadfast.
How do you measure success?
Shana laughed and said, every day, it's something different. "Some days as an entrepreneur, you know, success is, can I get out of bed?" Shana describes entrepreneurship as an emotional battle. She stressed the importance of being emotionally regulated to be an entrepreneur because if there are still stressors you're dealing with or deep-seated fears, you have to face those to continue on the entrepreneurship journey.
Shana said, "I think that's kinda the lie this industry tells, you build an app and then you're successful. Then you hit a million users." Successful companies grow their roots. Those roots are deep and getting deeper. And since she hasn't been able to launch, she continues to focus on building deeper roots for her business.
Despite always being a driver, this experience of solo entrepreneurship changed her perspective on success. Before this, Shana's success was checking things off the list and media recognition, because those to her were physical observations of what success was. However, after not reaching certain milestones when she thought she would have, she rethought what success meant. When Shana thinks about success, she thinks of the user and customer experience, which creates further opportunities for expansion.
As the Black Girl Ventures pitch competition winner, what tips or advice do you have for those wanting to enter (and win) pitch competitions?
Shana said, "Know your product, know your customer, and know how you're going to make money!" From there, she says pay attention to when the environment's shifts because this is where you can gain traction. Next, she says it's critical that you trust your instincts, understand your self-worth and the value that you're offering to the world. Lastly, remember to tie everything back to your why, if you find yourself stuck mid-pitch.
What's the most critical lesson you've learned about business, in general?
"Relationships are key. And also, character is key. Your word, your ability to do, and bring forth what you say you're going to do, whether peers, investors, or advisors, really establish respect for you. So, when you do bring your product forward, they'll help you to succeed. They'll help you to bring it into the rooms and the markets where it needs to be."
Social capital is what helps to advance your business. Shana attended many networking events. She talked to many people and volunteered herself for speaking engagements because she knew she needed to broaden her perspective. As someone who didn't like to put herself out there, Shana had to build it. To work on her fears, she took classes from Girls Develop It and coding courses. The last thing Shana learned is to ensure your app can reach many people and that it's not singular.
Support isn't always given to women of color in business, when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Shana paused for a minute before she could answer this question. This question led her to think about the many little disappointments she's experienced being a Black woman in the industry. When she had to share a setback with five other speakers and tech consultants, she feared they couldn't see the impact between her losing $14k versus the person next to her who lost $1 million. The disappointing part about this is the inability to accept the reality of the disparities in the funding world for Black women entrepreneurs.
The misunderstanding of the biases and the inability to accept the reality of those biases is what is most disappointing. "You are requiring much more of me than you did of someone else who just walked out of the room 15 minutes ago", Shana said. Often, people are surprised that her business is self-funded.
There are times that Shana felt like walking away from it all. How many blows can you take as an entrepreneur? Every day is an emotional roller coaster, and every day you second guess yourself, every day you reorganize your priorities, every day you re-work your strategies," Shana said. But she believes you must be the best that you can be, understand your market, hold steadfast in your belief, and strive towards momentum.
What's the most exciting part of your business?
The most intoxicating part of Shana's business is focusing on her dream and the potential impact on people who use the app. However, the most exciting process is watching the small developments, being able to share with her advisors solved problems. Building the AI technology matched with machine learning, as users begin to interact with the app, Invy will know their activities, understand their personalities, and how they like to organize their items.
What do you think the future holds for Black women entrepreneurs?
Shana believes the struggle for Black women entrepreneurs started pre-COVID. Still, with COVID now in effect, everyone is fighting for the same funds, and it feels as if the pie is smaller and large companies are competing with smaller companies, and the resources are scarce. COVID-19 has highlighted the inefficiencies and limited access across all systems.
COVID has compounded and exacerbated those struggles, and everyone is fighting for the same resources. The pie is smaller, and large companies are competing with smaller companies because the funds are minimal. "They keep saying on the news this is a great equalizer, I don't believe that this is a great eye-opener to show that we're not equal and that there are many inequalities. And I think seeing that will help us to finally, really close the gap in terms of being able to relate to one another, we're all human beings, we all bleed the same blood, we all suffer through the same things, and how do we fix it?" Shana said.
Shana is optimistic despite the inequalities. Black women are not just survivors but innovators. "We always have kind of like put society on our backs and pushed society forward through innovation, through technology, through creativity and our steadfast ability to rally our communities, and I think that is kind of how things are going to change." She believes that Black women entrepreneurs will push society forward through their innovative creations in a way that reevaluates their communities and revalue those same communities. "I believe that we are going to see beautiful innovations coming at this time because of these needs and because we are creative and innovative."
What do you think is an important skill or asset you need to be successful in business?
The most critical skill in business is curiosity and the ability to continue to learn because once you believe you know something, you stunt your growth. Curiosity has been an incredible asset for Shana.
Three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel happy about your progress?
Shana would feel elated if she knew her community used the app in ways that provided value and additional resources to them, but she hopes communities worldwide benefit. She hopes that the app helps people be mindful of what they're spending their money on, to weigh the value of those purchases. But, most importantly, she hopes that the Black community sees the value of their buying power.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing, how do you take care of yourself?
Shana says taking care of herself hasn't always been easy, especially if you're leading multiple businesses and balancing home, work, and side hustles. There's a lot to balance all at once. But Shana has to walk her dog every morning, and it's through that walk she expresses her gratitude for the little moments, whether it's breathing the air or watching the sunrise. Maintaining self-awareness allows her to put things into perspective; everything adds up, whether positive or negative, so she commits to adding something positive into the mix.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
"Stay away from, they says, it's designed to thwart progress and propel fears, but do use they to inform you of what pitfalls that derail them." There are many "they said this, they said that" but ask who they is? Then, do the best that you can the first time, then you won't have to come back and do it again.
What book or podcast would you recommend?
NPR How I Built This
Book Shoe Dog A Memoir by the Creator of Nike Phil Knight
What is your favorite app or business hack that you can't live without?
Spotify and Headspace.
Name one food item you have a hard time saying no to.
"Everything, but really curry and roti," She says.
What's next for Invy?
Now is the time for Invy to re-solidify their business relationships with developers and advisors to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding the strategic vision. Shana believes that Invy serves the environment and is helpful to consumers. Despite moving into a completely digital space, Shana believes that Invy will stand the test of time.