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“Your team is everything” With Evan Leaphart

Your team is everything — Your first hires will make or break your companyActually make a business plan — This will help you narrate your business strategy with clarityFind advisors/mentors — People that have been in your shoes before are invaluable when it comes to the growth of your company As a part of my […]

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Your team is everything — Your first hires will make or break your company

Actually make a business plan — This will help you narrate your business strategy with clarity

Find advisors/mentors — People that have been in your shoes before are invaluable when it comes to the growth of your company

As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Black Men In Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Evan Leaphart, Co-Founder of Black Men Talk Tech and the Founder of Kiddie Kredit, a mobile chore tracking app that teaches kids about credit. He combines a passion for financial literacy and innovation with a commitment to solving real problems that help the community around him.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had always wanted to develop an app that educated about credit but had no idea where to start. It wasn’t until I started building out wireframes with my original co-founder for Kiddie Kredit, Matt Cohen, that I began the journey into tech 3 years ago and I haven’t stopped since. It was going through that journey I realized how difficult the journey can be for black founders which was what interested me in co-founding Black Men Talk Tech.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

At first, I didn’t feel like I was the person for the job. I didn’t know if, as a startup founder, I could handle running a tech conference as well, but after joining co-founders doing the same, I realized it was possible.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I used to tell everyone “Hey I have this app idea” and then people would ask, ok where’s the prototype, etc… It’s funny hearing those same questions now and realizing how naive and young my idea was. The conference is really for founders like that, who either have a product in the market, or just an idea and need resources on how to build, grow and scale.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

All of my current projects were started with zero handouts. I haven’t had any startup funding to build, same with the conference — as a team, we grinded to receive support from our initial sponsors.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I always give props to my guy Matt Cohen. He really was the one who introduced me to the world of tech.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Entrepreneurs spend some of their lives doing what most people won’t, so they can live most of their lives doing what most people can’t… Self explanatory.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

Our nation is very divided right now. As a Black male, I just want to live in a country that shows representation and inclusion for those who look like me and share my struggle.

This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

Perspective. Looking at things from one vantage point doesn’t allow for innovation. Diversity allows you to view how your product or service can be a value add to different ethnic or gender groups without alienation.

Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. It’s hard to be satisfied with the status quo regarding Black Men In Tech in Tech leadership. What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

It’s simple… Have more Black Men in Tech Leadership roles… Period.

We’d now love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

We like to shift that lens from pointing out the pain points and instead celebrating and highlighting the wealth of knowledge and expertise that exists within our community. Come see for yourself.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our focus on the black male tech ecosystem is what makes us standout. At last years conference there were many founders that were able to network with like minded founders and some even found their next investors.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Outside of the conference, I founded Kiddie Kredit, a mobile chore tracking app that teaches kids about credit. The goal here is to achieve economic equality.

What would you advise to another tech leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?

Don’t give up. Seek advice from those who have been in your shoes… Also, very undervalued advice is to take a break, recharge, relax and restrategize

Do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?

Incentivize and empower.

In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

Cold calling led to my biggest client. Smile and dial!

Based on your experience, can you share 3 or 4 strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?

  • Acknowledge the customer with a personal gesture
  • Ask for feedback
  • Offer future solutions or suggestions
  • Offer a parting gift/discount

As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?

Develop a solid customer support strategy. Make the customer feel appreciated even when they don’t appreciate you at the current moment

Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful tech company? Please share a story or an example for each.

Your team is everything — Your first hires will make or break your company

Actually make a business plan — This will help you narrate your business strategy with clarity

Build your financial model — As you look to raise it will be important to know how much you actually need to raise

Find advisors/mentors — People that have been in your shoes before are invaluable when it comes to the growth of your company

Avoid burnout — Take time for yourself so the work you do feels enjoyable

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Group economics. When people realize the power of the dollar and grow together, they can become a stronger voice. I do feel this is a key step towards economic equality.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Barack Obama… Would love to hear his thoughts on how he maintained his sanity leading our country for 8 years.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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