Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Florence Doumet, Co-Founder of Napice, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Napice is a school and community for software engineers who aspire to grow as industry leaders. Software developers often find themselves reaching a plateau in their career, staying several years in the same role. At Napice, we guide them into going up the career ladder through our cohort-based programs. Generally taking up to 8 weeks, our programs are focused on leadership within the software industry and are hosted by appointed mentors. Napice Fellowship also enables access to our exclusive community of software engineers in which we put in place recurrent events such as webinars, tech talks, mock interview training, and networking events. Within the Napice community, we strongly encourage fellows to practice the skills they acquired during our cohorts by hosting their own webinars and tech talks with their peers as an audience.
Tell us about yourself
Before moving to Vancouver two years ago, I grew up in Lebanon, a tiny and beautiful country in the Middle East. I can fairly say that it's in my motherland that I learned to become resilient and fight for success. Living through an ongoing economic crisis and political instability resulted in an eagerness to live life fully. The literal definition of Carpe Diem (live each day as if it was the last one): work hard, love like there is no tomorrow and enjoy every opportunity life has to offer. With time, my vision of life became different. I stopped paying attention to the day-to-day obstacles and started looking at the bigger picture. My motto? Never lose sight of the objective.
Since childhood, I was exposed to entrepreneurship through male family members. As a woman in a Middle Eastern culture, I was rarely involved in business conversations but was always intrigued and curious to know more about this "forbidden land." I saw one viable solution; it was to make it happen on my own. Before working in tech, I started off my career in hotel management, and at 23 y.o only, I became Director of Sales & Events in a renowned luxurious hotel in Lebanon. I must admit that the imposter syndrome hit me hard at the time, but it did not keep me from remaining on an exponential career growth curve up until 2020. This difficult year was even darker for hoteliers whose industry was completely shut down.
It felt like all the doors were closing up in front of me: my career was on hold, and my country was drowning in revolution and inflation. Determined to build a new life for myself, I moved to Vancouver with the goal of starting over. This move was a game changer for me. I quickly realized that I was entering a land full of opportunities in the tech industry for which I had been preparing myself for a while. I do not live in contempt. Even though I was hired by a tech company, I was not losing sight of my initial mission: to get into entrepreneurship.
Throughout my quest, I met my current co-founder, who had already started building Napice and was looking for a business partner specialized in sales & marketing to complement his technical skills. Perfect match! Since then, we have been growing Napice together. Giving software engineers the opportunity to grow in their careers is a mission that is personal to me. My main motivation is to provide our Napicers with the help I did not receive when I needed it in my career. My entrepreneurship journey is as fulfilling as expected: I have been meeting with extremely interesting personalities, and every day represents a new challenge to unlock.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Welcoming new fellows at Napice is the best feeling as a company owner. Every time we receive a new application to our programs, it validates our mission. It is a source of motivation to keep on improving our value proposition. The community encloses fellows from all around the world, and we are able to give them the tools they deserve to build an international network, enhance their skills and work on their areas of improvement. The biggest accomplishment is to see your customers enjoying your service. By building trust with customers, they provide us with constructive feedback, which is a great asset that helps us deliver a better product.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
To structure your day efficiently is one of the most crucial yet challenging parts of being a business owner. When building a company, there are a lot of responsibilities to consider. Aside from executing the business plan, there is also meeting with lawyers, banks, potential investors, advisors, and potential employees, as well as talking to current customers, thinking about new revenue streams, increasing sales, etc. The difficult thing about it is to find time to do it all while keeping a healthy work/life balance.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Stop hesitating and act now. Leaving the security of a full-time job may seem like a scary risk to take, whereas it actually isn't. If you quit the comfort of being employed and step into entrepreneurship, you need to think about the best and worst-case scenarios. The best outcome would be that your business grows to be successful, and you reach your financial goals. The other extreme would be that your journey does not go as planned, and after a while, you decide to close it down and return to employment. If that happens, you can be sure that you will be hired for a much better role than you previously had. Your career will be propelled more than you think.
- Running a successful business requires two main skills: the technical skills to build the product and the sales skills to generate revenue with that product. Some people happen to own both skills, but very often, founders look for a co-owner with complementary skills. At the early stage of your startup, you might not have enough investment to hire that talent, and that is why the best option is to let a co-founder in your organization. If this is the way you are going, don't be greedy with the company's equity if you want your business partner to work as much as you do and have the feeling of ownership towards the company.
- Get 10 members of your family and friends to test your product before it's on the market and take their feedback. Understand why they use it, when they need it, how it helps them in their daily lives, and how long it takes to be efficient. The answer to these questions will be your sales pitch and is the perfect tool to attract new customers. Schedule meetings with your new customers to know how they heard about your product and why they were interested in purchasing it. Being in touch with your clientele's pain points is the key to continuous product improvement and marketing strategy.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
"Life is long if you know how to use it," said the wise Seneca, father of Stoicism. It is never too late or too early to take a new step, whether professionally or personally. We tend to get lost in the futile details of deception, fear, or hope, which results in a feeling of discouragement. Let's not stay in the past and keep on moving forward towards the objective of what we really want.
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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