Widewail Turns One
By Matt Murray - Founder/CEO
There are so many cliches in the startup world. Couch surfing, 18+ hour days, empty pizza boxes and coffee. Lots of coffee. And don’t forget the raging parties. That’s the picture most people have after The Social Network came out in 2010. And sure, for some this is a reality. Not for Widewail.
My wife Angi and I started this business. We have three kids and live a pretty normal, suburban-type life. Angi grows her amazing garden every year, I live in the hockey rink with our middle kiddo all winter (year). We love family boat time and hanging with friends any chance we get. Our dogs, Denver and Gretzky, are a combined 270 pounds of slobbery fun. Not your typical picture of “entrepreneurs”, but here we are.
The birth of Widewail was fairly anticlimactic. We signed our articles of incorporation, high-fived each other, and toasted with a glass of Burlington Beer Company’s Elaborate Metaphor (Plug: if you’re crafty, you have to try it). We were alone. At the island in our kitchen. Then we went on about our day, like any other. But in that moment, we had determined the path of the next year, whether we were ready for it or not.
With the help of so many great friends, we’ve navigated many of the major decisions that aren’t easily visible to those who’ve never started a business:
Are we a C-Corp, S-Corp, or LLC and what are the implications of each?
What about this business insurance thing?
Who’s got a good lawyer for us?
Do we need a board? Who’s on the board? What will the board do?
How do we signup and bill our customers?
Accounting? We have to do this, TOO?!
Crap, we hired an employee but don’t have an HR dept. Aren’t they supposed to sign stuff?
Taxes?! We need an accountant!
This list could be so much longer, but at some point it stops being funny and feels more like running through the gauntlet of anxiety that we’ve already survived, so I’ll stop there.
You need a bench as a business owner. That bench needs to be filled with a wide range of talent - from the back-office specialist to the business law aficionado, the former founder, the money-savvy folks, the killer designers and maybe most importantly - you need GREAT cheerleaders.
At a year in, I’m most thankful for what I’ve learned about interpersonal relationships. As much as life can feel like a rat-race from time to time, we’re all in it together. If you’ve surrounded yourself with the right team, everyone wants you to succeed and will help you in any way they can. You have to have that kind of support on the days when you feel like throwing in the towel. And there will be those days.
The following is a short list of the people who have supported us either emotionally or with their expertise (or both, in some cases):
Jean and Lynn Weisz
Rebecca and JC Ruid
Alison and Trygve Cossette
Our amazing families both near and far
So. We’ve built a team of 7, we’re serving roughly 200 clients, we’ve been endorsed by BMW and MINI and have created some amazing partnerships with giants in our space like Podium. Are we “there” yet? No. Can we see the light at the end of the tunnel? No question.
Most importantly, do we still believe in our core mission and are we excited to get out of bed and build something special every single day? Absolutely. Widewail has taught us more about what makes customers of local businesses happy than we could have ever imagined. This spring, we conducted our own research on customer satisfaction using the very reviews we respond to. I’m now convinced that regardless of what happens during an in-store visit, as long as the staff demonstrate true empathy and are supportive at every step, the customer will leave happy. People care about how other people treat them above all else. Period.
Building a business with your life partner isn’t for everyone. For me, it’s the greatest gift I could ask for and that’s motivation enough. Suffice it to say that Widewail has already given back in so many ways. From reenergizing my professional life to cementing personal relationships, this journey has most certainly been worth the investment.
Keep an eye on this scrappy team. We’ve found ways to vastly improve the use of the local business’s voice in support of their customers. And we can currently see a path to helping local businesses create additional interactions, growing and engaging their audience. More to come there.