Your Name: Erica Wiley

Business Name: PROFITGEEKS, a web designer for upcoming businesses

Type of Business: Coaching & Consulting/Design/Marketing&PR/Web Development

Business Location: Pawling, New York, United States


Reason for starting
I dropped out of high school out of necessity, but I dropped out of college out of boredom and refusing to “fall in line.” You might say I was rebellious. I had a corporate job and made decent money for just a kid, but I didn’t see myself climbing the corporate ladder. Deciding to pursue something I was more passionate about, I became a personal trainer. It was right up my alley and I quickly rose to a management position with a staff of 6. It was in this position that I realized I actually LOVE business. Marketing campaigns, project management, operation systems; I was in business geek heaven. Divorce led me away from what I thought was my dream job and I decided never to be at the mercy of anyone else again. For me, it was “DUH!” moment. Here was the opportunity I was waiting for, to pursue what I enjoyed with the flexibility to be there for my young children at a time when they needed me most.

Biggest Success
For me, affirmation of having successfully launched a business came when I was interviewed for a regional paper. However, it was a combination of securing a micro-loan, rebranding and having 3 people officially on payroll that makes me comfortable saying “Yes, this company is a success.” Securing funding was a huge challenge on its own but with ACCION, through Kiva, we were able to make it happen and it was those funds that made the branding investment possible. Since the relaunch our conversion has doubled, our brand is more “sticky” and people are connecting with who we are as a company.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
The top challenge I face is expansion. Bootstrapping is great for the first 6-12 months, but we’re at a place where we need more team members, specifically 2 designers and an additional coder. Without more funding we aren’t financially stable enough to support the additional salaries, tax and insurance burdens. It will take approximately a year, if not more, to save those funds from retained earnings. Currently, we handle the situation by keeping our project queue booked up to 3 months in advance. This avoids staff burnout without halting cash flow. However, it is severely limiting our growth rate.

Who is your most important role model?
I draw inspiration from several women including Mary Kay Ash, Sandi Krakowski and Carrie Wilkerson. But I can tell you that since childhood, I have been drawn to Bette Davis; “This became a credo of mine: Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work”. Bette truly forged her own way and by her own words, “without the benefit of beauty.” She impressed on me that wit, persistence and quality effort are elemental to success.