Kendra Ward, 26
Title: Head of customer experience (chief operating officer) and co-founder
Company: UnboXt Inc. is a software data analytics platform company in University Park that predicts if, when and why an employee will leave their current team.
Financials: Self-funded. Estimated $40,000 monthly recurring revenue going forward.
What led you to start this business?
We had a conviction to the problem we were looking to solve. It’s estimated that seven out of every 10 employees feels disengaged within their current roles or teams. It’s baffling. I saw the problem with many of my peers leaving their Fortune 500 jobs after 12 months because of a disconnect with their team and manager.
How did you fund it, and how are you funding it going forward?
When we started last year, we funded it based on our own savings. Going forward, we’re funding it on our monthly revenues. Also my partner, Hakeem Isaac, started his career in banking but is an accountant by trade. He is very frugal. Once he approached me with the idea, we both had a nest egg to fund the startup.
Are there advantages/disadvantages to starting a business in your 20s, and if so, what are they?
The biggest advantage is the child-like euphoria. We truly believe we can fly and are scrappy and bold enough to try. We saw an opportunity, and we are now chasing it with conviction. The major disadvantage is lacking the network and credibility that can often come from the time spent in the corporate arena.
Do you have a mentor?
I do not have a formal mentor, but we do have advisers who are thought leaders in human resources and thought transformation. Some advisers include Patrick Henry, assistant professor with clinical entrepreneurship at the USC Marshall School of Business, and Erich Kreidler, an adjunct with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
Where do you go for advice regarding your business?
The first place we go for advice is our customers. We knew early on that we wanted to have a “board of advisers” who were customers, similar to most companies having a formal board of advisers.
How much time/money do you spend on social media for your business?
Very little. A lot of our customers are not within the social media realm.
Does social responsibility play a role in your business?
Yes, it is a core value of our organization. Although we are extremely busy trying to scale a company between our 10 employees, altogether we spend at least 40 hours during the work week volunteering. I work very closely with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) coders at the University of La Verne.
Do you feel that your business is particularly tailored to the Los Angeles market, or do you feel you could have launched it in another location?
Fortunately, there are businesses everywhere trying to improve a positive employee experience and prepare for the future of work. However, a major benefit about launching in L.A. is the unparalleled support and guidance we have received from USC.
Do you encounter skepticism from investors because of your age, and if so, how do you handle it?
I believe anyone who works in a team, direct or remotely, understands the challenges of engaging and creating a favorable work experience. The challenge we did experience was convincing investors that two, unseasoned “kids” could win in a perceived saturated market.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy teaching the basics of computer science and financial literacy, and binge-watching different Netflix series on my sofa. On Saturday mornings, I get up at 8 a.m. to teach kids computers. I also like to watch documentaries. It’s whatever floats my boat at time.
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