The Story Exchange, Lisa Abeyta, APPCityLifeYour Name: Lisa Abeyta

Business Name: APPCityLife, Inc., a mobile platform for local communities

Type of Business: High Tech

Business Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States

Twitter   @appcitylife

Reason for starting
As I watched the initial growth of mobile applications following the release of the first iPhone, I saw a real need to bring an affordable platform to local communities – something that would allow small businesses and people within a community to use this new platform to communicate, conduct business and interact in ways that weren’t possible before the launch of mobile.

How do you define success?
After giving a talk about my business one day to a group of young MBA students, I received an email from one of the young ladies in the class. She told me that she’d been doubting herself and had been afraid to do what she really wanted with her life, because she was afraid of failing. She said that after listening to my story, she was changing her major to pursue her passion – that if I could face my fears, inner doubts and outward obstacles to build something from nothing, then she could have the courage to do the same. That is my definition of success – having my own journey inspire someone else to take the scarier road, because fear always comes right before success.

Biggest Success
My biggest success has been having the courage to pivot the focus of my company and have that pivot change the direction and growth. Starting a business was hard, and after defining my focus as being a specific direction and not seeing the growth I thought would happen, it was difficult to make the decision to abandon that path and address a need I saw in the market. Pivoting can make the difference, but it can also mean failure if you’re wrong. But making the change to focus on the civic space and beginning to build tools specifically to meet that audience has made all the difference in our company and our growth.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My top challenge has been dealing with the pervasive sexism that exists in the high tech world. While some of the attitudes and barriers I’ve dealt with have been blatant, much of it isn’t on purpose, but just so ingrained that it changes the conversation from the product or company to whether a woman is capable or the right choice to lead it. I’ve chosen to ignore it in the moment – not making that moment about the comment or resistance, but refocusing on the company or product at hand. But I’ve also chosen to speak publicly about the challenge, both as a guest speaker and through social media, because it is in that forum that the most good can come about by talking about the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field. But I feel very fortunate to work with a talented team who support me completely.

Who is your most important role model?
The women in my family, but my mom, especially. She has supported me, told me how much she believes in me, and invested her own money into my company early on. She comes from a long line of strong women who ignored barriers and boundaries in order to take care of their families and pursue the things they loved. My great-grandmother homesteaded in the windswept plains of northwestern New Mexico, often living alone while her husband trained race horses in another state. When the Dust Bowl came, she was willing to work alongside her family picking cotton in order to make money to save their home. My grandmother started her marriage in a railroad box car, and it was there that my mother was born. When her husband became ill, she went to work in the dry cleaning industry, working long, hard hours to support her family. She buried two husbands and was still doing the hard work of irrigating her land when she was in her seventies. My own mother sacrificed a career to raise her children, cleaning houses to bring in extra money. She taught me what it meant to do a good job, to work hard, and to care about the effect of what we do and how it affects others.