Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Maryns.
Hi Michelle, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I started We Sparkle Co. to help small businesses save time + increase sales. The reason why I’m so passionate about helping small businesses, especially those owned by underestimated entrepreneurs, is because they make up over 99% of all businesses in the U.S. and they generate 2/3 of net new jobs in our economy. Plus, my own mom owned a small business. She had a successful fabric business back in Vietnam, but when my parents immigrated to Kansas as part of the first wave of refugees who came over in 1975, she didn’t feel confident in continuing her business due to the language, cultural, and systemic barriers she faced. I always wondered what she could have accomplished if she had. That’s why I dedicated my own career to issues of economic empowerment. I started out working on economic development as a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State (DoS), where I led five development teams to update and maintain Travel.State.Gov, create the first DoS mobile app (SmartTraveler), and partner with the American Red Cross on the first large mobile giving campaign (we raised $43 million toward earthquake relief efforts by having people just text the word “Haiti” to donate $10). I then went on to serve as a consultant advising large corporations like Target on their digital strategy before ending up helping thousands of entrepreneurs as the Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Meda, a community development financial institution (CDFI) named by the U.S. Department of Commerce as the top minority business development agency in the county for four years in a row. The entrepreneurs we served inspired me to start my own Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) social enterprise to help more small business owners save time and increase their sales via our suite of AI-powered software tools: Sparkle Site, Scheduler, and Assistant.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
The road definitely has not been smooth! One struggle I faced along the way was raising our first round of capital as a female founder of color. In 2021, female founders secured only 2% of venture capital in the U.S. (the smallest share since 2016). This is despite the fact that companies with female leaders often perform better on the stock market than those led by men and they deliver higher revenues, equating to more than twice as much per dollar invested (according to BCG).
Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about We Sparkle Co.?
We Sparkle Co. is building a stronger and more inclusive economy by equipping underestimated entrepreneurs with the AI-powered tools they need to succeed. We help small businesses save time and increase revenues via our software suite: Sparkle Site, Scheduler, and Assistant. Sparkle Site is a bio link tool where businesses can display their products/services for sale. Sparkle Scheduler makes it easy for clients to book and pay for appointments, consultations, classes, webinars, or events. Sparkle Assistant is a conversational AI assistant or a digital executive assistant that leverages natural language processing, machine learning, and AI to text message with a business’ clients to answer frequently asked questions, schedule/reschedule appointments, upsell the business’ products/services, and encourage customer reviews. Our tools are super easy to use and accessible for even the least tech-savvy solopreneur. Our subscribers report saving between 1-5 hours/week in time and have been able to use our tools to book new customers and increase revenues. In a controlled experiment in early 2020, our Sparkle Assistant helped three hair salons in Minneapolis connect with 140 new customers and book an extra $1,000 worth of services over the course of two weeks in January, which is typically a slow time of the year for salons due to the post-holiday lull and the cold weather in Minnesota.
Risk taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
As the daughter of refugees from Vietnam, I have always been taught from a young age to secure a stable job and to stay in that company/organization for my entire career, so even starting a business felt like taking a major risk to me. However, when my husband and I decided to do in-home hospice care for his mother, I started to realize that life is too short to have regrets. His mom always believed in me and encouraged me to take risks. Her confidence in me gave me the courage to take a risk and start We Sparkle Co.
- $0 for Sparkle Site
- $29/month or $300/year for Sparkle Scheduler
- $49/month or $540/year for Sparkle Assistant
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://www.wesparkle.co
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wesparkleco
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wesparkleco
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/wesparkleco
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFXtjIagJiqxaBkIB75gPOw
- SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/we-sparkle
Headshot taken by Uzoma Obasi