Sheri Atwood: An Optimistic, Persistent and Compassionate Business Leader
Rising from the ashes of the past hardships and transforming them into a remarkable success is a true sign of a great leader. It has been admirably portrayed by a passionate and decisive leader Sheri Atwood, the Founder of SupportPay. Her result-oriented approach and field-knowledge brings revenue stability for her organization enables her to stay ahead of the competition. She shares a compassion towards her clients which helps her with implementing customer-centric strategies for the flourishing market. Her capability of analyzing the market has helped her in understanding the requirement of the market and achieving many milestones.
CIO Look brings a special edition which specifically features such women leaders and entrepreneurs whose contribution in the evolving child support industry is worth exploring.
Below is Sheri’s story:
For 12 years in high tech, Sheri risked everything and started her own company. She taught herself how to code and never looking back she soon became an expert in front end development. Her first company, Ittavi, Inc. built SupportPay and successfully rose over $7M in venture funding by top Venture Capitalists including Tim Draper, salesforce.com & Aspect Ventures. She and her company were blooming coherently. Sheri built SupportPay because of her need for a solution to help her track and manage child support and shared expenses for her daughter. So thus, the idea behind SupportPay was born—an application which makes it easier for the separated and divorced families to manage child share, share expenses and exchange money, dramatically reducing the -conflict-ridden process of child support. Facing many grievances in the corporate world, she decided to start a venture of her own. With a firm determination and strong desire, she marched forward in establishing SupportPay by risking all of her assets. But the blooms couldn’t sustain its place in her favor. She was fired from her own company 7 months after raising a Series A for the company. Just 3 months later, the board announced they were liquidating the company due to employee and customer loss. Sheri asked to return to the company, to turn it around, yet her requests went unanswered.
Sheri knew how devastating it would be for the families, depending on SupportPay to manage their child support, if they no longer had a solution. She understood the gravity of the situation that turning the company around and making it a success would be very difficult but she felt her mission was not complete. In early 2018, she took out a personal loan and used all of her remaining savings to purchase the SupportPay assets, via a proxy, and formed a new company: Smart Family Tech, Inc. For nearly 11 months, she have been working to rebuild SupportPay—fixing the product and winning back her customers. Today, she can proudly say that her company is doing better than ever, profitable, with 4 times more paid customers and 5 times more active users than ever before.
SupportPay is laser focused parents who live apart and need a solution to manage their finances, especially related to their children. She has a firm belief that the technology tends to focus solely on the millennial but there are unique requirements that divorced and separated parents have. Besides, her method of tackling the competition is mostly adapting with the market requirements and having a deep knowledge and experience in the incredibly complex child support market. Solely focusing on the target market, Sheri has observed a significant opportunity in child support and converted it into a business model. However, without a deep understanding of the customer, the sheer complexity of the child support process and to be motivated by the positive impact, rather than the money, is what has kept her motivated to solve this complex problem. Moreover, she looks forward to being able to mentor more women and minority entrepreneurs, in order to help them achieve success in the maledominated startup environment. She learned many valuable lessons throughout the years and hopes to share that wisdom with others so they don’t repeat the same mistakes she made.
Being a mom to a 15 year old daughter, she understands the significance to mentoring the next generation of women entrepreneur/business personnel. She believes through persistence, determination and grit any individual can achieve their desired goal. She believes that women bring different insights to the table. If they are not at the table than those insights can never be explored and a solution may never be offered. With consent, she addresses a question why women led businesses and female founders/ CEOs deliver a higher return than their male counterparts yet receive less venture capital than the male. Below Sheri offers some of her insights, especially her lessons that she learned which could be helpful to the upcoming budding entrepreneurs:
Choose the Investors Carefully: She believes that it is critical to choose investors that share the same morals and vision. And if one doesn’t, then things can go very wrong. These investors can make or break ones company. Sheri would rather shut down the company and regroup than take money or a deal from someone who is not in agreement with her mission and goals for the company, who didn’t align with her morals and who she doesn’t trust 100% to support not only in good times but also when there are bumps in the road. At the same time, I am incredibly grateful to anyone that invests their money in me and my mission. She also believes in recognizing investors for the company support. In fact, after creating her new company, she gave previous investors equity in her new venture, based on their previous level of contribution and support.
Will customers pay: If someone is not willing to pay for your service then it isn’t worth your time, energy and effort, says Sheri. In a world where many things are free and there are stories of these companies with massive users whose only business model is advertising, realize your chance of reaching that scale is slim, very slim. She suggests that if one can’t build something that someone else is willing to pay for then it simply isn’t worth wasting any more time on it.
Focus on Revenue: Sheri believes one should always be financially independent. The moment a business is financially dependent on outside capital, the higher the chance the company won’t survive. She certainly followed this rule in her personal life but she failed to follow this rule in business. Because she spent the first few years focused on users and growth, knowing there were a million ways she could make money with SupportPay, she quickly became completely financially dependent on investors to keep the company going. Revenue gives an individual independence. Revenue gives one choice. With revenue, one can have the luxury of accepting the money because one wants to, not because one has to.
Reward for results, not for promises: Finally, when it comes to success or failure, in the end, all that really matters is results. While most people have good intentions, overwhelmingly people make huge promises yet fail to deliver results on those promises. A motto she lives by is “Don’t talk about it, be about it” and in business, this is that more important than ever. Instead of rewarding people for what they say they are going to do, reward them with the results they deliver to her bottom line.
Support Pay® is the first-ever automated child support payment platform, poised to transform the complex, time-consuming & stressful process that impacts nearly 300 million parents exchanging more than $900 billion in child support & child expenses worldwide. With SupportPay, today’s modern families can spend less time managing and arguing about child support, expenses and alimony and more time focused on raising happy, healthy children.