July 31, 2020
Tenacity Tales #22: Dawn Verbrigghe & Jottful

Leslie Youngblood

“Iteration is inevitable, and it is constant.”

No, it wasn’t Steve Jobs or Bill Gates who uttered this phrase.

It was Dawn Verbrigghe.

She may not be a household name yet, but her startup, Jottful, is paving a new way for small business owners and the self-employed to manage their websites.

For most smaller enterprises, paying a designer or agency thousands of dollars to build a website is out of the question. Yet tackling the task on their own with a DIY platform also feels incredibly daunting.

Dawn and Jottful deliver a simplified and complete solution.

“Our mission is to make it possible for every small business to be found and tell their story online.” Dawn shared.

It’s a revolutionary idea that’s even more timely in lieu of the pandemic, which essentially forced everything and every business online. Read more about Dawn’s entrepreneurial journey and Jottful in this month’s Tenacity Tales.

What’s the obstacle that you have overcome that you are most proud of?

Jottful is the second business I've started. I managed to get my first business to a place where it was profitable (just barely) but it took a lot of time and money to get there. And by the time it did, I'd totally lost the passion for it. So I went back to working at early-stage startups and swore off launching another one myself.

But five years passed and I got the itch to do it again. I had an idea and some space to test it out, but I was terrified. It's so much easier to just work for someone else: to have a steady paycheck; to not fret about making payroll; to not care quite so deeply about losing a customer. As I debated taking a new job or testing out my idea, I leaned toward the new job. Because I remembered how harrowing my first entrepreneurial experience was and I didn't want to go through all that again. But then my mentor squinted and said, "but, Dawn, you're an entrepreneur." I put my head down on the table — because I knew he was right.

So, I leaped. Every leap like that takes courage. I'm inspired by entrepreneurs every day.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started?

The world is not going to end because you didn't grow as rapidly as planned, or you lost a big customer, or you had to pay your vendors late, or you were forced to let an employee go. Yes, there are hard times in entrepreneurship and all those things suck, but entrepreneurs are exceptionally resourceful and creative. Somehow, *we find a way.*

I learned this with my first business and have found it really reduces my anxiety now in my second business.

What’s your best advice to other small business owners?

Learn from other entrepreneurs. Work for them; observe them. Meet up with them; ask lots of questions. Read their books; follow their stories.

We can learn a lot by making mistakes. But we can learn a lot faster and cheaper by listening to others talk about the mistakes they've made.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I have a daughter, a cat, and an ambitious vegetable garden. That's a lot of things to keep alive. So my day starts with feeding, watering, and two cappuccinos. Then I look over my to-do list and ask myself, "which of these things could have the biggest impact on the business?" I use that to prioritize, then I sit down and get to work. I know I'm better at concentrating in the morning, so I try to keep that time clear of meetings and avoid getting stuck in my email inbox.

After lunch, I nap. Yes, I nap! I know that napping doesn't work for everyone, but I find it makes me much more productive. And then I have a third cappuccino. It's like starting the day all over again. In the afternoon I usually tick a bunch of things off my to-do list.

After dinner and the bedtime routine with my daughter, I'll reply to a few emails. Mostly, though, I'll just decompress. Watch a little tv. I'm a current-events junkie, so the news is often playing in the background. I head to bed by 11 pm and read myself to sleep. I normally read 1-2 books a week this way, primarily non-fiction. But, since the pandemic started, I've found myself reading more news sites instead. I hope that doesn't become a habit...

What’s next for Jottful?

At Jottful we make and manage websites for self-employed and small business owners. We're really focused on making it easy and affordable to get a website. Before Jottful came out, you could either get a website that was easy (hire someone to build it for you) or affordable (do it yourself), but not both. And small business owners need both.

Now, with workplaces closed, we're finding a lot business owners want to: get a website; or improve the website they already have; or start selling online. We're able to help with all those.

We were already entering a growth stage and this is accelerating that, so it's getting exciting. At the same time, the economy is in a tough spot. Ultimately, I'm not sure what's going to happen as those two competing forces meet. So we're just really focused on keeping our customers happy and growing in a very sustainable way.

Want to learn more about Dawn and Jottful?

Check out the Jottful website.

Follow Jottful on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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