This Mother-Daughter Team is Changing How You Live in "The Cloud"
When most people think about a "cloud," they think of fluffy, white cotton balls floating in the sky. When Jenn Donogh and Kathy Nelson think about a "cloud," they’re thinking about how to manage the large amount of data that powers our businesses (and lives).
This mother-daughter duo are the founders of Ovaleye, a cloud service company serving small office, home office businesses across the United States. Cloud services takes data, software, applications, and the like from everything from computers to iPads to smart phones to your websites, managing this information on servers located outside your computer and shared with others. This lowers the barrier to entry in adopting technologies (because you're not running your own super fast server), so you can now adopt the same communications systems, collaboration tools, and management applications as big companies and alter them to fit your business or personal needs.
Everyone from Apple to Microsoft has jumped into the cloud service game, but Ovaleye is perhaps the first (may be even the only) women-led cloud service business. These pioneers are truly changing the game, in a game-changing industry.
I chatted with Jenn and Kathy (great name) about family-owned businesses, forging new ground, and living "in the cloud."
What’s the story behind Ovaleye?
Kathy: From small town music store to online music store to managing a hard rock band to building and hosting websites to cloud services.
Just a natural progression, right? That’s what happened, though.
As my children started to get older, I wanted to create something for myself, but sometimes creation can get a bit messy (which makes it fun and exciting). I think we all need to go through that sort of progression to really find our way. It gives perspective. It gives meaning. For me, Ovaleye is the result. With each of my businesses, I wanted to create something for me, but with Ovaleye, I am able to help you create something for you.
At Ovaleye, we provide you with the technology tools that I used to create my "something for me." These tools gave me the freedom to design my lifestyle the way I wanted it. We help you "create something for you" by empowering, educating, and building community, offering web hosting, cloud services, and support videos that do more than just teach how to use the web, but how to use technology to fulfill your mission and create that "something for yourself."
One of the biggest hurdles for start-ups is scaling their businesses. What tricks/tips did you use to scale Ovaleye?
Jenn: Hosting is a service-based business. Initially, we enjoyed having one-to-one relationships with our hosting members, but clearly that was not scalable. We turned to video as a scalable solution. We have made recording video tutorials a priority, along with our weekly live streaming shows on Ovaleye.tv. Our number-one tip in ensuring that a service-based business is able to scale is to use the power of video. Utilizing video in your support and in daily communications lets your customers get to know you, and is a convenient way for them to receive friendly, on demand support.
Jennifer, you often talk about the benefits of being in business with your family. What are some tips for managing a successful business AND familial relationship?
Jenn: Here are my three tips for managing relationships within a family business:
- Defined Roles. Have clear roles and responsibilities within your organization to prevent any misunderstandings that could lead to a larger issue down the road.
- Listen to Your Parents. Carefully consider what your partners have to say, even if they are your parents. They may be right... sometimes.
- Speak Your Mind. You may be the child in the family, but in business you are an equal partner.
What was a game-changing moment in your life?
Kathy: When I started my first business, Main Street Music, in 1999, I was so happy. I had always been a mom and wife, and then suddenly I became an entrepreneur. Then soon after that, a customer came into the store to show me all the CDs he had just downloaded for free. That was Napster, and suddenly the music industry changed. I had to change my business model and be very creative, thinking outside the box.
What's next in cloud services? Where are the growth opportunities in this field?
There is no doubt that more and more of what is seen today as traditional technology services will move into “the cloud.” This transition is dependent only on the imaginations of technology leaders, but in the end the real winners are the small businesses and solopreneurs. The continued shrinking gap between large and small businesses will lead to significant growth in the economy as individuals realize the benefits. The cloud as we see it today is still relatively small.
That being said, Ovaleye wants to bring cloud services to the small business owner and solopreneur. For Ovaleye, the growth opportunity is in these large groups that have not yet adopted the cloud services model.
For more thoughts on women, technology and business, please follow Kathryn on Twitter at @KathrynFinney