Exeleon Magazine

Interview with Founders of Rock Paper Coin

Nora & Elizabeth Sheils_Exeleon Magazine_Rock Paper Coin

What according to you makes for an inspiring leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?

Successful leaders can have many different qualities but one that always stands out is empathy. At the end of the day, a leader is only going to be successful by inspiring and supporting the team they are leading. Serving those who work for you first is a very important attribute for effective leadership.

We absolutely love a quote from Jim Collins from his book, Good to Great: “Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.”

This really sticks with us. As a startup, there will always be new ideas and directions for where to take the company. By having a team that works well together, respects each other and believes in the core of the product, we will work to figure it out together and drive the direction of the company as a team.

What was the idea behind the formation of Rock Paper Coin? What does the name of the company imply?

We were out to drinks commiserating with each other about constantly chasing down contracts, printing contracts, writing checks and—not kidding—even faxing paperwork. We wanted to save the other Bridal Bliss planners time, so we set out looking for a platform that would work not only as a CRM but allow collaboration between three parties. After two years of trying out various event software to no avail, we concluded that nothing of the sort existed — so we decided to build it.

We struggled on the name for months and couldn’t settle on the right one. We loved many names, but wanted it to be catchy, have a memorable nickname and represent what we were building. Nora and I were playing rock paper scissors to narrow down our list of names and that is when it hit us: Rock Paper Coin. We also liked that the rock could represent an engagement ring, paper for contract and coin for invoicing / money. But the name itself was generic enough that we could grow to serve clients outside of the wedding industry at a later point.

What is the approach taken by the company in ensuring optimal client satisfaction? What makes Rock Paper Coin stand out from the crowd?

The customer experience is of utmost importance to our team. From an initial touchpoint throughout the lifecycle of our users, we are there to support, listen and assist. As we are fairly new having just launched at the end of 2019, our goal is to make RPC a useful tool for the entire industry. So, while we do have a future roadmap of new features, we are also taking user feedback into account and using that as a guide as well. Not to mention, that is one of the user perks of getting in on software early!

Our account managers check in regularly with users, are very approachable and have even forged friendships with many of their accounts. Unlike some of our competitors, we are not here to turn and burn.  We value our relationship with our users and continue our support throughout their time with us.

Looking back, what would you have done differently when starting the company?

One of our biggest mistakes early on was complicating the sign up process. In an effort to get all of the necessary information from vendors upfront, we ended up driving away some potential users with our excessive questions. We quickly revamped our sign up page and reduced the friction by about 70 percent, so new users could quickly login and poke around the site. It is not until they want to take more action that additional information is needed. At that point, they are committed and answering a few more questions (so they can get paid) doesn’t feel like such a hindrance.

How’s the work culture like at Rock Paper Coin? How does the company ensure employee growth and satisfaction?

We are a female-led team and many of our employees have been with us since the inception of Rock Paper Coin. This is their baby as much as it is ours! That being said, we have a variety of different personalities between our development, sales and customer management teams. While COVID has certainly thrown a wrench into things and made having a positive company culture more difficult than ever, we diligently work on team camaraderie.

From Zoom games (Drawerful, Jindo, etc.), to surprise deliveries (Cookies, Pizza Night, Sugarwish, Cocktail Courier) to different team building activities, we love getting creative and finding new ways to engage our team outside of work-related tasks. A group that works well together and appreciates each other is very important to us. We have regular check-in’s with each team member to ensure they feel supported and have the tools they need to succeed. We also want to make sure they are having a positive experience and, if not, come up with a solution to fix it.

What was the impact of COVID-19 on the company? What measures did the company take in tackling the same?

Our platform launched at the tail end of 2019, mere months before the entire country went in lockdown from COVID. The event industry was literally halted and, still, many states have yet to resume events for more than a handful of people. So, while our transactional numbers are much lower than we expected at this point, our new user signups are through the roof.

Many professionals had the downtime during what would have been their busy wedding season to take a step back and audit their company and their systems. It was clear that if a wedding pro had not embraced technology into their company yet, they were losing business. Especially now, in our touchless world! Clients need easy access to their clients, a quick way to pay their invoices, and streamlined communication.

In an effort to help wedding professionals during this stressful time, Rock Paper Coin halted all subscription fees. As many vendors weren’t transacting, and likely just sending addendums or cancellation contracts, we wanted to make their lives easier with a platform to simplify and exclude the fees which may cause more stress.

What has been the biggest roadblock during your journey? What has been your biggest learning?

NORA: My biggest roadblock has easily been being a non-technical co-founder. I know the wedding industry like the back of my hand. I’ve lived and breathed it since 2002! I know how couples think, I know how to manage a team, I know how to sell and I know how to execute in stressful situations. However, I don’t know how to code and I don’t know the first thing about being a software developer! There was quite a bit of blind trust in our original development firm and many late nights looking up unknown development terminology to have a better understanding! It has been a wonderful, and humbling experience.

ELIZABETH: Looking back and at where we are today, the biggest roadblock (which also became the biggest learning experience) was around fundraising. If you are entering into technology, it is so important to fundraise money well before you think you will need it. Fundraising was one of the most stressful pieces for us, as we waited longer than we should have.

We were two newbies in a big world and an unfamiliar industry with no clue where to begin. We spoke with countless advisors who offered great advice on who to talk to and where to go, but never about when to start. If we could do this all over again, we would have saved ourselves quite a bit of midnight oil if we had just started the process earlier.

Fundraising is an incredibly difficult and humbling journey. You have to talk to dozens, if not hundreds of people before you find one who aligns with your company goals and sees the potential. It is very easy to get discouraged and forget the mission of the company. But this is part of the journey. The hardwork and perseverance in fundraising really does pay off – but start early and don’t run out of money.

What would be both of your advice for aspiring women leaders and entrepreneurs?

NORA: Don’t let tech or your dreams scare you! Elizabeth and I entered a male-dominated industry with little to no experience, but we had grit, perseverance, hustle and a little swagger. We had determination and, when someone said “no,” we said “but ohhhhh, yes.” Don’t be intimidated by something you don’t understand. We never stop learning, so continue to educate yourself and spend time networking. It’s true what they say: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Early on (and even now), we spent so much time talking with anyone that would give us the time of day. I was so in awe of how many people took the time to help educate us, give us advice or simply just learn about our platform, and I hope to pay that forward one day. Lastly, surround yourself with a team that shares your vision. I cannot stress how amazing it is to work with a co-founder. Lean on each other — when one is down, the other is likely up and so the story goes. You bring in different areas of expertise, which leads to a more well-rounded senior team!

ELIZABETH: Find yourself a business partner. The entrepreneur journey and road is very bumpy and, frankly, it can be lonely. This goes for all entrepreneurs, but especially women in technology. You are often working long, hard days and nights. Having a partner or co-founder makes this so much easier. You are both burning the midnight oil and chasing the dream. I am not sure we would be where we are today if we did not have each other.

Being able to share and divide responsibilities, commiserate, celebrate and grow is much easier with someone than going at it alone. In a male-dominated industry, it is hard to see yourself in many of the tech leaders in the world right now, so with a business partner, you are helping by clearing the way for each other. Whether you know it or not, you will gain inspiration from each other, which is what will keep you going when things get tough.

Moving forward, what does the future look like for Rock Paper Coin? What other avenues or areas does the company hope to explore in the coming future?

We are excited about our future and what lies ahead. For the foreseeable future, we are dedicated to helping bring technology to the wedding industry. We have new features being released every two weeks and, hopefully within the next year, it will be more of a one-stop shop for small to medium-sized businesses. By allowing these businesses to come under one platform for their business needs, Rock Paper Coin takes the burden off working with the suppliers to save them time and money.

Finally, what do you think is the most important trait for a leader and why?

We addressed this in question one, but it’s worth rehashing — empathy is truly going to be key and go a long way for any leader. Being able to relate and understand others is essential in life and business.

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