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Starter Series: GatherBoard

Starter Series: GatherBoard

The Mamalode Starter Series is an exciting opportunity for us to introduce you to some of the amazing people we get to meet. Starting something takes enormous amounts of work, faith, help and community. Every week we'll share another story of starting. So, community of Mamalode, read up, get inspired and check out these wonder-folk.

Today we feature an Interview with Molly Bradford, Co-Owner of GatherBoard

Tell us a little bit about your business and how you started it.
GatherBoard started as an idea in 2011 that grew out of a local community events website (MissoulaEvents.net) that my business partner, Colin Hickey, started in 2005. Our mission is to provide monetizable and customizable events software with elegant design and easy accessibility to communities of like-interest. We have a vision to keep communities around the world connecting with one another. 

The official launch was in 2013 and boy was that a big year! Colin and his wife welcomed their second child, my husband and I welcomed our second child, and Colin and I welcomed our third child, GatherBoard! Right now, we’re operating three company held licenses in Missoula, Bozeman and Boise. Since we officially launched the software in summer 2013, we've expanded to eight licenses including Hamilton, Helena, the Flathead region, and Butte, Mont. as well as Coeur d'Alene, ID, Superstition Valley, AZ, Pueblo, CO and Hood River, OR. We’re also experimenting with a beta license in Voss, Norway.

Many of our early adopters have positively shaped the product since we modeled it off of our original site MissoulaEvents.net. Simultaneously operating our own license in Missoula while launching the national software has given us a great case study for sales, an excellent pool for testing features, and more business leads than we ever expected. Our sister product, Missoula Indoor Ads, has been most profitable , and allowed us to bootstrap the development of GatherBoard. Having a local, profitable product is quite rewarding—we're greatly connected to our local community and haven't had to give up any equity in our company to investors. It's a win-win.

In addition to the EventsBoard product, there is interest in a JobsBoard. The rest of this year will focus on developing this new service. It will operate similarly to the EventsBoards, but have information on employment, internships, volunteer opportunities, etc. It is something we thought about from the beginning when developing GatherBoard as a company. We never wanted to be limited to the EventsBoard. A couple license holders in Idaho both had local colleges ask about a volunteer-internship board for students. When asked we were already half-way there in our minds, so now we're starting on product number two.

The start of GatherBoard is rather different in that it grew out of an existing, very small and local website. As the internet became more popular and widely accepted we started to receive numerous, unsolicited requests along the lines of “how can I get your calendar in my town… for my newspaper… for my company…” At that point it became clear that we needed to stop cobbling together replications of our calendar and create an actual software product. It was actually at a BlogHer Women Entrepreneurs in Tech Conference that some very important mentors were met and valuable business development strategies crystallized.

What do your kids think about your job?
Elizabeth is seven-½-years-old. I think most of the time she thinks my job is pretty cool. She also tells it like it is and lets me know when I've had too much screen time. She's been in our radio and TV commercials and spoken at nonprofit fundraisers about local kids activities. Together we’ve been guest "Recessionista" models for the local YWCA resale stores. She's really proud when she sees our logo around town or hears our name. Every month she joins me on a special "walking" part of the local indoor advertising route. Part of the gig is getting either a cupcake at this great local bakery or a root beer at the local tap room (while I quaff a pint.) 

My son is 15-months-old, so he doesn't have much of an opinion yet. This past year, I’ve toted him along to business meetings, changed out 100's of indoor ads with him each month and spoke on a panel at the Butte Economic Development Summit with him in an ergo (nursing!). This flexibility has afforded us a very special bond during the first year of his life, one that I did not get with his big sister. Now that's he's toddling around, things are getting more exciting, and it's harder to pack him into a stroller or ergo for work. But, I will say, his drunken jazz-hand walk is very cute.

Tell us about a total mom + biz fail?
I can think of mom fails and biz fails, but not two in connection, so I guess that's lucky, right? Total biz fail; overdrawing our bank account by mismanaging timing on reimbursement funds from a trip, paying our annual taxes, paying our annual GL insurance and covering salaries...that sucked. We are 100% bootstrapped so money gets tight. Making that call to my business partner was terrifying. Thank goodness Colin was very understanding. Luckily, we talk early and often with our banker and were able to squeak by with very minor financial ramifications. 

Total mom fail; saying "just another minute" too often when I'm working from home, which turns into 10-20 minutes, tired-hungry-strung-out kids, rushed work by me, and generally a pretty negative family vibe. I'm finding this is easy to overcome. The more I compartmentalize work and mom, the better I am at each. When I'm doing them simultaneously, epic fail.

Share with us a total win (brag away!)
GatherBoard itself is the big brag right now. When Colin and I got started we thought we'd operate a few city sites and some potty ads. To have a viable software product that is relevant in any language, in any market, big city to rural is pretty awesome! We’re also excited that a national newspaper chain has bought our license in three different Montana markets. And without giving too much away, we are talking with some folks pretty high up in the state about collaborating. If we can expand to a few more of these newspaper's cities to "land" this national media chain and close the deal on a state government contract, that'll be the next big brag!

Locally, we are tickled pink to have won best website awards for the 5th year running this summer. It's also been a sneaker sales tool as some of our license holders went to school or have worked here in Missoula. Upon moving away, they've found their new city sorely lacking in a great one-stop shop for community events. They’ve called us up to say, let me bring the events calendar here. That's been awesome!

What's your relationship with Mamalode?
On a personal level, I've know Elke Govertsen and Sarah Millar for 15 years and Dori Gilels for nearly 10. When Elke started Mamalode, I had just been fired from an online ad sales position. She gave me a little consulting work at Mamalode before she was even paying herself! What she really gave me was something to keep my chin up about.  I was feeling pretty down and embarrassed. But for her, I was a friend needing a spark and a professional with valuable knowledge in sales. That moment of "I have your back and you have mine" was pretty profound for me as a fellow-mom, friend and professional. It was one of many occasions for Elke and I have have each other's backs. 

What I find so compelling about Mamalode magazine and Mamalode.com is how that feeling, message and spirit that Elke created between us personally exudes through their print and online pages: "Mamalode has your back." And you know what, Mamalode, I've got your back, too.

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