Name: Aileen Gemma Smith
Business: Vizalytics Technology Inc (Mind My Business), an app for small businesses
Location: New York, New York, U.S.
Reason for starting: When Hurricane Sandy hit my hometown of Staten Island, we had been working on maps and analysis, but the storm made some things clear. There is a stark digital divide between folks, and those on the outside have a very hard time competing because it requires time and money they don’t have to waste. I watched my friend as she rebuilt her bagel shop and I was taken aback at how she didn’t know about the kinds of resources that were there to help. She, and many others, rely on small networks with limited knowledge. I wanted to change that. And I thought it was wildly unfair that so many folks were using open data to help young affluent folks, and no one was focusing on the long time shop keepers. That ageism really bothered me, and that assumption that those folks didn’t matter as much did not seem right. So I wanted to change that. And that’s how Mind My Business got started.
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How do you define success? Helping others. Making a change that goes beyond yourself. Also being profitable and running a multimillion dollar company is a kind of success- but to me the truest form of success is making a difference in another person’s life.
Biggest success: I don’t like to quantify things that way. My success is that my children are healthy, and independent thinkers. My success is that I am able to build and run a company. My success is that I was the first person in Tokyo with an independent IBCLC practice. My success is that I did a four city tour in Taiwan- with no budget because a group of women that I believed in wanted help to educate mothers and health care professionals and we did it. And when we did it- I brought both my boys one of whom was nursing at the time.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Challenges are in flux. My biggest frustration is folks who pattern match without context and judge based on irrelevant factors. I am a proud CUNY grad, 42 years old, and a long time content person. Life grit does not seem to count. Relentless effort is quaint because my birth year is on the wrong side of 30. This is frustrating. But you find ways to go forward and deal with that. My motto is Onward. You keep going, period. And you create paths to success. Hence I have dealt with divorce, lay offs, significant illness in a child, home repairs (floods) and more and you keep going forward. Challenges will always be there and you have to learn a fluency to address them.
My vision was to help the main street local mom and pop shops have parity with all the knowledge that is out there for other audiences, but not easily accessible for them. We want to make open gov data- as ubiquitous and easy to understand as weather and travel apps on our phones. That has not changed. Things change like what is the order of cities we will launch in, and what we are doing with translations but the core vision is consistent. Make data useful for the people who are left behind. Put it together in a way that honors their context.
Who is your most important role model? Sister Raimonde. My high school debate/public speaking coach. She was tough on us because she wanted us to succeed and the lessons she taught me on how to stand up for yourself, to prepare and never to stand down to anyone have done me well through my entire life.
Edited by The Story Exchange