Ann-Marie Bland, ThinkGood
Social network that connects members with like-minded people to help other
You never know when the social responsibility bug is going to hit you. For Ann-Marie Bland, it was her time as a staff member at Connected Living, an award-winning, social mission-based technology solution for the senior living industry. For cofounder Jeff Ernst, it was when he coordinated volunteers for Hurricane Katrina recovery work. Together, Bland and Ernst created ThinkGood, which connects people looking for help with those wanting to help. The website is organized by community, and no task is too small to post. ThinkGood's mission is to increase the number of people helping one another. As it continues to grow, ThinkGood is replacing current antiquated processes with technology that makes helping each other easy, tailored and rewarding.
Smart Hustle: What challenges did you face starting ThinkGood and how did you overcome them?
Ann-Marie Bland: Challenges? What are those? All kidding aside, starting a company has challenges all along the way. I went into it with so much enthusiasm and excitement, and hit roadblocks probably within one month. But entrepreneurs are resilient. You have to be.
In the beginning, I think the toughest obstacle was navigating opinions. I received many: "You have to do this. Business plan first. Don't worry about money. Worry about money. Find a team. Don't find a team." No consistency coming from very successful entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, I realized there is not a formula for starting a company. You just have to keep pushing forward. Know mistakes will be made, learn from them and keep charging [ahead].[I’ve learned] the best way to overcome challenges is to walk away and go to sleep [knowing] things will look different in the morning. They always do, and the challenge always seems less challenging.
Smart Hustle: What’s your craziest start-up story?
Bland: I honestly, feel like everything is crazy in that I cannot believe it is happening. One day we received a call from the United Nations. They want to bring ThinkGood worldwide! Now, that is crazy. How did that happen? We have had things line up for us in many aspects. It has taken awhile, don't get me wrong, but when it does happen, I shake my head and say, "This is nuts!" It’s not that I didn't think it could happen. But I was humble going into this, knowing that I was "thinking tall, but acting small," as a wise person once shared with me.
Smart Hustle: What advice do you have for new small business owners?
Bland: Starting a business is a journey. We hit bumps, successes, confusion, people to help, and people who are trying to take advantage of us. You have to keep an attitude of moving forward. I am a GSD. That stands for Get Stuff Done. You have to make each day and minute productive, but also take downtime to do other things that make you happy.
Also, we are a hugging company. Going into business meetings, when a hand goes out for a handshake and I say, “May I hug you instead? I am a hugger,” it breaks the ice.