My guest today on the Road to Seven is Sharon Vinderine. If you don’t know Sharon yet, then you need to listen to this interview. Sharon is the founder of Parent Tested Parent Approved, also known as PTPA, with a dedicated community of over 150,000 parents who subscribed to PTPA to learn about the latest and greatest products for their family.
Today, Sharon and I sit down and talk about how she has created multi-million dollar companies. She’s part of the elusive 2% of women entrepreneurs who have successfully built a seven-figure business. And she hasn’t just done it once, my friends, she’s done it more than once. So today she shares some of her secrets to building a seven-figure business.
As you’ve already heard from my introduction, I am with a woman who is an unbelievable entrepreneur, Sharon Vinderine. We have known each other (kind of) for about the last decade, but I think this is the first time we’ve actually sat down and had a proper conversation. Isn’t that crazy?
Yeah, a little bit.
Sharon, you started not one but several million dollar companies, which puts you in the elusive 2% of women entrepreneurs who are able to build companies to over seven figures. What do you think you’re doing differently than the rest of the 98% of women entrepreneurs out there?
I think that I am kind of relentless. I’m like a dog with a bone, as my husband will tell and as my kids will tell you when I’m nagging them. Inability to quit anything, and it’s FOFO, Yeah, fear of failing out, I guess. Yeah, yeah. That is really what it is to me. I have two parents who are entrepreneurs. And I feel like I don’t want to not be in that category of people.
I love that. You started three quite different businesses as well through all of this. Tell us about those three, they’re so different.
When I graduated from university, I really wanted to be an events coordinator in the charity sector. I wanted not for profit. It was something I’d spent a lot of time in as a teenager and young adult. I found I was employable. My dad had brought back this technology from Israel and myself and an engineer just found a really innovative way to use this equipment. We were able to build it into something pretty amazing – the first wireless internet service. Tech was always in my blood. It was in my background. I’m a techie, loved it. By the time I was ready to get out of it, luckily, we were the leader in the marketplace. We were acquired in a really great deal by Primus Telecommunications, which was something [big] at the time, and now people hear about them a lot less. Then I have my first child and didn’t want to continue working for them and decided to launch my next business, which was a line of baby products, which eventually helped me decide that I really wanted to launch Parent Tested Parent Approved.
So it’s sort of been an evolution, but always at the time. I feel like you’re answering a need that was around you.
Yes, that’s exactly what I felt when I did the internet. I was located in an area where the internet was still not available and I wanted to try and find a way to satisfy that. Then with the baby products, it was I was a new mom, I was struggling, I needed some options. So I invented a baby product. Then with Parent Tested, Parent Approved, I was a new mom going out there shopping for new products, had no guidance as to what things were great. I was calling tons of friends on a regular basis going “Hey, did you love this swing? Hey, did you love these diapers?” And I was taking parent recommendations and I thought, Hmm, this could be a serious business idea.
Fantastic. What were some of those strategic moves that you took to get the ball rolling and to get some momentum with those very first clients? Let’s talk about PTPA since that’s what’s around today
I would say the biggest thing that helped me gain traction is I somehow got it into my head that I needed to get on television. If I could get on television and talk about my brand and talk about some of the great brands I had discovered, then more clients would come on board, more parents would come on board, and it would kind of roll out from there. So I spent about six months religiously pursuing producers. I would have to say it was probably the most depressing six months of my life because I’ve never heard the word no, so many times in a row from so many. Until a producer on a Canadian morning show decided to say “fine, I will let you come on air. If you promise that after this one segment, you will never bother me again.”
Luckily even though I was horrendous when I look back now, and she invited me to be a regular guest and things kind of rolled out from there and being on TV gave me the opportunity to present myself as credible. At that point in time TV was really hard to get on. It wasn’t, you know, you could pay to be on it unless you were a huge consumer brand. It made brands trust me more.
Yeah, absolutely and I still think TV and media is a beautiful way to gain credibility. What I’m really intrigued about is the resilience that you said has been a key to your success. How did you deal with all those no’s? How did you just keep going?
I have to give kudos to my husband. He is probably my biggest supporter. He is that guy that reminds me that he has not known me to fail at anything. He has not known me to quit anything pretty much whether I’m nagging or I’m pursuing a dream. Whenever I feel like giving up he just reminds me of that and helps remind me of the confidence that I need to have to get through every day. As an entrepreneur, that’s the rollercoaster of being an entrepreneur, you get told no, so many times a day from so many people from so many different companies, and it is learning to accept that, okay? There’s going to be somebody who’s going to say yes. Just like there always is.
There always is. And did you shift your pitch every time? Or did you keep going with the same pitch?
So I’m going to say that I did a lot of shifting. I’m one of those people. So your listeners should know that I have severe ADHD. My biggest inability is to focus on anything and to be consistent with anything. Unfortunately, that is my if I could change anything, that would be it. So I’m constantly changing my pitch whether even 12 years later, I’m constantly changing my presentation, the way I speak, the pitch, everything. I am constantly doing that which is not great. It’s not something I recommend. But when you have ADHD you kind of learn to work within the boundaries of what works best for you.
Well, I feel like it’s actually been a gift for you.
I kind of joke that I feel like ADHD was almost my superpower. I feel like it has allowed me to not to give in and give up. It has allowed me to kind of shift, because I don’t focus on the same thing for very long it doesn’t allow me to necessarily get too involved in the same task, too bored of the same task. This is kind of what my brain looks it’s like an insect scrambling
Like egg beaters going! So Sharon if the follow-through, which is what I think you’re talking about is not your strength. You must have made some key hires through your three companies.
Yes. So I’ll just focus on PTPA. Over 12 years, you hire and fire, a lot of people and people quit along the way. I’ve had a lot of terrible experiences with people that you trust implicitly, and then they pick up and start a competing company, or you’ve done a ton of training and then they just leave with no notice. But I’m lucky in that I feel like I’ve finally figured it out somewhat. I know that at the end of the day, everybody has to make the best choice for them. So the expectations I put on people are, you know what I expect from them between 8:30 and 5. And if they have to make another life choice, because that’s what makes sense for them. Then more power to you. I wish you all the best. Right now I have some great people who’ve been with me for a while. One person has been with me for over eight years. I don’t know how to open the door without her Because she is my, I call her our real official boss. We all take orders from her but she’s the best and reliable and trustworthy. People like that are really what make your business what make your company and what make you be able to get out of bed every day to do this every single day and hear all the no’s.
And hear all the no’s. And so she was one of your first hires?
Nope, nope. She was brought on by one of my first hires actually. And she outlasted that person. Yeah, I have a fantastic marketing director who has been with me for a while, a great sales person. People will evolve over time in terms of the people you have on your team, but it’s hoping that you get the best out of them while they’re with you and really making them feel valued that I think makes the biggest difference.
Isn’t that awesome? At what point did you think or know that PTPA would be a seven-figure business or multi seven-figure or did you?
Year two. By end of year one we had lost a ton of money, but I saw the potential. I was so excited about the potential and the television and the interest and the consumers that were signing up to be part of this community and the passion behind it. I just thought to myself, this is something that I need to keep going with, that I need to pursue. No matter how much I lost that first year. I really believed in it and felt passionate about it.
You see, that is such an important key that I think some entrepreneurs don’t have is that deep passion and belief in what they’re building. They think it’s a good idea or they kind of know it is but it’s that that passion that I’m sure was fuel to your resiliency and your ability to just keep going when no was the word that you heard most often.
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That is one of the big pieces. I mentor a lot of people that are starting new businesses or thinking of starting a new business, or even people who are a year or two into their business. And I always say the same thing. I believe that we’re living in a society where everybody wants to be that elusive unicorn, they want to be that billion-dollar company and they’re coming up with an idea and they’re hoping to even sell the company before that idea has even come to fruition. My belief is a unicorn is a unicorn for a reason they are. Well, I mean, they’re really fictional.
Elusive! But the ability to create that kind of business is one in a million, but my belief is that if you get into a business, be so passionate about whatever that business is. Don’t get into it because you want to make a quick dollar because you will not be able to ride the roller coaster ride that is the life of an entrepreneur. You will not be able to get through all of the humps. A lot of charts are showing this as the entrepreneur rollercoaster roller coaster, I really see it as less of a roller coaster and more of a ski hill.
So way, way, way down. Yeah. And then right up and then way, way, way down.
Yeah. And if you’re not able, if you don’t love what you do, and you’re not passionate about your business, then how do you come out of that quick downhill that you are hitting on a constant basis? I think that’s probably one of the biggest reasons that a lot of companies don’t make it. It’s how do you keep going when you’re feeling that overwhelmed?
Well, I’m going to shift that question back to you. I mean, you would have had moments where you are at the bottom of the roller coaster as well. How did you pull, I know your husband was a big champion. What are some other things you did to pull yourself out of that hole?
I’m gonna say it’s a combination of things. So, yes, my spouse, I would also say that I was taught very early on by my dad actually cashflow, how incredibly important it is to be very, very fiscally responsible. So I never went out for outside financing, never took loans. Everything was self-funded. Because of that, I’ve always been very, very conservative. That could be seen as good or bad, because it might be bad because it’s caused us to slowly grow, whereas somebody else who goes out to get financing can blow up their company within a year or two. But it’s also allowed me to make sure that, as my dad taught me, you should always put aside enough to run for six months as if you could not generate $1 of business. That’s kind of the way I’ve always spent. So cash flow is really, really important. To me, another thing is, I think a lot of entrepreneurs get very caught up. And I’ve been to blame for this also at fault for this. We get caught up in what the competition is doing. And that’s a big thing that I learned long ago, I found I was overwhelmed with anxiety, when I tried to track what my closest competitors were doing, or if an employee left and start a competing business. I don’t want to know, because if I spend my time trying to keep up with them, by the time I’ve caught up with them, they’re already on to the next best thing. So I would rather be the innovator than the imitator. I think that’s something that has allowed me to deal with anxiety, limit it a little bit. And then quite honestly, I did a year of meditation, which I found really helpful. And I am a morning person so I am at the gym every morning between 5:30 and 6. Not because I’ve lost a single pound from it, but because of mental health reasons I find it just, it motivates me for the day. And it allows that stress to come out in the form of sweat.
Yeah. Which is a great outlet. I really underestimate the impact of moving our body.
Yeah, yeah. And if that stress comes out in sweat, and I lose a pound by accident, hey that can’t hurt anyone!
I’d love to come back to this. The idea of cash flow because I am like you, have not had outside investment either. I bootstrapped everything that I’ve done or had to raise the money myself. I did it through crowdfunding in order to raise enough capital to print my planner and launch programs. I hosted a live event. I had to raise the money for that to save it up. But it has slowed me down at moments where I needed to make a key hire but I didn’t have the cash flow at that moment, how did you make that bridge between “I know I have to make this business move, but I don’t have the capital yet.”
So sometimes I put the cart before the horse. But I will say that there’s been a lot of times, and I think this is where the most anxiety came from, where I felt that I was severely understaffed, was taking on far too much, and really needed to do that hire for my mental health. So if it meant not taking a salary for a while, so that I could hire somebody, and that was something I was willing to do because, quite frankly, mental health, you know, I’ll repeat it over and over again. I think it is something that just about every entrepreneur struggles with and I think it is the most important thing to look out for. If I have to sacrifice something in order to maintain that mental health, that’s what I’m gonna do.
Yeah. I love that. Who’s mentored you along your journey.
So I can’t say that there’s one specific person. I think over the years, I’ve had a lot of friends. I’ve been blessed with a lot of friends who have been really successful in business. So I’ve turned to them. My husband as well. He is a great, great sounding board. I’ve had different organizations that I’ve been a part of, I would say right now, for the last two years, I’ve been a member of an organization called PEO Leadership. It’s kind of like having your own personal board of advisors and it’s amazing. You have a moderator who’s actually I think the most brilliant man I’ve ever met. My one-hour meetings with him are like 12 months of consulting with someone else. And it’s this group of people who are in the same situation, have the same size businesses that you could just bounce ideas, bounce problems I have off. I think that is truly the best way to learn because it doesn’t matter how big your company is, you could be Microsoft, you could be PTPA, but we’re all at the end of the day dealing with the exact same issues just on a different scale. Right?
Agreed. bigger business, bigger issues.
That’s exactly it.
I love it. Did you have to shift any beliefs as you were growing? Or did you always know that a seven-figure business was yours?
I would say the biggest belief I had to shift was very much related around my own view of myself. So while I have absolutely no problem, getting on television and talking to millions of people or standing up at a conference and speaking to 500 people and giving off ultimate confidence, I don’t have it when it comes to me. I don’t have that same confidence, I would say 25% of it is real confidence. 75% of it is me putting on a great show. Right? So I would say that’s a big thing. I have to shift it. I really had to learn to believe in me, to understand that if somebody quit, the business wasn’t going to fall apart, because quite frankly, they had a part of it. They had helped me reach a particular goal. My husband was great at reminding me of the fact that I’d come up with the idea, I developed it on my own, I had helped build it up and got on TV and all these things that I was able to accomplish, were done on my own. So really shifting that belief system that I need tons of people around me in order to be successful, I need everyone’s help and everyone’s opinion is better than my own. And realizing that, in fact, my opinions are not so bad from time to time. While working with people is highly valuable, I need to trust my gut sometimes and trust that my decisions are just as valuable as the next person.
Yeah, I agree. Well, it looks like you haven’t made many wrong decisions.
No, no. I’ve made a ton, we don’t have enough time to cover all those wrong decisions.
Well, let’s just take that for our final question, Sharon, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over your years in business?
I’m going to say that it is all about the people you surround yourself with. And, and I don’t mean that just in a business environment. I mean that in a friendship environment, in a family environment. If you surround yourself with people who inspire you, who believe in the same things you believe in or believe in you, you are propelled to succeed. If you surround yourself with people who are negative who want to complain all the time who want to blame everyone else for everything, then that becomes part of that negative energy that you carry around. So I would say the biggest lesson I learned is who I want to associate with. What I’m willing to stand for, ethics are probably one of the most important things, I think as part of someone’s value system. And if those values don’t align with my own, then we’re just not a fit, unfortunately.
I love that. Sharon, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your insights and just being so real about the journey. We really appreciate that.
My pleasure. And thank you so much for inviting me on the show today. I really appreciate it.
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