Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Andi Cross, Growth Strategist of WILDPALM and Expedition Lead of Edges of Earth, located in Perth, Western Australia.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Since 2018, I have been running a consultancy called WILDPALM, helping build businesses and brands that fuel the future. My team and I design growth strategies that enable founders and leaders to bring their vision to global stages. Working with both early-stage startups and high-growth companies, WILDPALM identifies how to evolve businesses depending on key growth measures and desired impact. We work with those who are mission-driven and seeking impact towards a greater good—be it protecting our ocean or helping people live a more fulfilled life.
By trade, I'm a Growth Strategist. What does this mean exactly? By definition, growth strategy is "an organization's plan for overcoming current and future challenges to realize its goals for expansion," according to Gartner. But I'm not on the financial side of growth strat—I'm on the creative side. In my line of work, I'm mainly focused on the end-user or customer through creative outputs. The outcome of our strategic planning can result in brand-building, defining a go-to-market plan, or creating digital experiences that are human-centric. For these reasons, our team consists of freelance designers, developers, project and product managers, and copywriters from all over the world. We are fully remote, servicing partners in Australia, America, and Europe and putting the right talent on projects that fit our clients' interests and expertise. Basically, we help founders think about how they will move big ideas from concept to reality to best reach their audience.
Tell us about yourself
I'm originally from Philadelphia and have over a decade of experience helping build and launch impact businesses—predominantly in New York City. I became a certified scuba and freediver, and this sparked a deep personal interest in global travel. I began to shift away from working on corporate enterprise initiatives and instead began applying my skills to help non and for-profits, scientists, explorers, and ocean leaders share their life's work more broadly.
I started my business a year after I moved from New York to Western Australia. Touching down in Perth, I was working a 9-5 job that I absolutely hated. However, it was my entry point into the country and the only way to kick-start my life so far from home. Like many, I lost my working visa due to the pandemic and ultimately ended up with only a tourist visa instead. Anyone who knows ex-pat life knows this meant I was unable to work in the country legally.
Because the borders from Australia to America shut completely in 2020, I was left with no other option but to take my skills from my time in corporate America—and my skills in building startups with VC partners—to launch my own company. And with that, WILDPALM was born. With desperation fueling my fire, I managed to build a profitable business in four months. I did so by tapping into all of my relationships from the States and having faith that a remote work life would suit me and my business. Without any cash infusion or backing, this is how the journey all began. I'm quite happy to say I haven't looked back since!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment has been creating a repeatable, four-step growth model—including branding, design, digital, and marketing—to help amplify the work of those on the frontlines of conservation. With this model, businesses and individuals that did not typically have access to these types of services can now work directly with industry experts in a cost-effective and achievable way. Businesses and individuals looking to increase eco-safe tourism in their regions, support their local communities and drive awareness to their conservation or scientific work are able to leverage our services.
This is what we call the "Edges of Earth Expedition." Over 24 months, we are traveling to 50 exotic and remote destinations to test this model in real-time. We will meet with exceptional people that are dedicating their lives to our planet every day but whose stories haven't been told. We will tell the truths of life on the road and uncover what it takes to master diving, but most importantly, we'll help those we encounter share their impact stories. All locations have been chosen based on large-scale marine aggregations and the impact-driven people that are on the front lines of conservation who deserve to have their life's work elevated.
This expedition is the culmination of all of the hard work we've put in with early-stage and high-growth companies that have substantial backing—either through VCs or other investments. Since the model has worked for these types of businesses, we want to see how we can apply it to those who need the most and have the least. Not to mention, access to this model will thrive beyond the expedition itself, with the potential for further scaling.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The biggest challenge that I have found in business creation is equal parts getting started and keeping the momentum going. You have to always be on, always innovating, always networking—while trying hard not to succumb to second-guessing yourself (or imposter syndrome, for that matter!)
Getting started is hard because of fear. Fear of jumping into the unknown, leaving your cushy day job, or doing something you've always dreamed of. It's scary because of the pressure to succeed when no one but you is at risk.
Keeping momentum requires what I like to call the "hunter mindset." Like in any other ecosystem in the wild, you have to "hunt" to survive. Hunt for the right partners, the right projects, and the right outcomes. It's so much work. And while those you know to shut off at 5 pm, you often feel like you "never" really can.
And lastly, giving in to imposter syndrome is all too common. You don't have all the answers—how could you? You will make mistakes, you will have false starts, and you will mess something up at some point in your entrepreneurial journey. But, those are the learnings you NEED in order to run a successful business. Mistakes lead to growth, and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is key. But it's still one of the biggest challenges of them all.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Define what I like to call your "default mode." Ask yourself, what were you most passionate about as a child? What did people around you say you were good at? For me, it was my communication skills. So, I started to look into fields that require lots of it. And from there, I learned from the best. I did my time in the corporate world in order to learn from others. This helped to take a lot of pressure off to "deliver" as a business owner straight away. Start there and get the essential foundational knowledge and experience—it builds confidence and reduces feelings of imposter syndrome.
- Take the plunge. Once you feel you've got a good baseline understanding of the thing you really want to do, just go for it. Set up your business, give it a name, and start trialing out your product, service, or offering. Don't wait once that feeling of "maybe I CAN do this" hits, as there's no time better than the present.
- Don't give up. Being a business owner is hard work. But there's a payoff. You get to build your own culture, create something that's yours, help others with their careers, and set your own terms that work for your life and your goals. Not to mention, you will hopefully be at the helm of an organization that is creating a better future. That's monumental and something you should never give up on.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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