Interview With Sharon Elizabeth Kocziany
Describe your product or service:
“SHARONEL is an online two-sided marketplace connecting event pros to their future clients. We have a personalized algorithm built in the mobile app, this way both sides get the perfectly matching list for their needs.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Our mission is to change the way the event industry works — from stressful to fun!”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“Hungarian VC called Hiventures, and now we are raising funds for our third round.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them!
“15 people. We have tech gurus, social media pros, creative team. They are all amazing, with the same mission!”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“In the last four years, I lived for my passion as an event photographer, and one day I got an idea to upload my service to a platform where I can browse through events and apply. I did not find any platforms like that. I did my research with Matt and Oliver (co-founders) and decided to build it ourselves.
We didn’t wait for long [and] started to search for an investor and work on the strategy. Hiventures liked our idea — they called us back right away. We are now extending the office to the USA. SHARONEL is available in the USA already!”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“This is actually quite simple. When I had my photography business, I combined my own name — ‘Sharon Elizabeth’ to ‘SHARONEL’ — so the business was called Sharonel Photography. As soon as we got to the time to choose a name, Matt and Oliver already decided we should go on with SHARONEL since it sounds elegant, unique, and it has my name in it.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“Yes! My father always told me to be a leader with my own company. The idea was already planted in my mind since I was a kid. I have always been way too ambitious, so it was no question!”
What was the biggest obstacle you encountered while launching your company? How did you overcome it?
“Launching a product in the USA from Budapest, Hungary, is a challenge, but we overcame the obstacles. The time difference is pretty tough, so we are relocating soon to the new Silicon Valley [and] Austin, Texas.”
Feeling inspired? Learn how to launch your company with our guide on how to start a startup.
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“Event market is our market, especially the industry pros like venues, photographers, decor designers, etc. (really all categories you might need at an event), and their clients like engaged couples, parents, young adults above 21.”
What's your primary marketing strategy?
“What works best is contacting event vendors by phone and email. Social media is also a great way to get in front of them. Social media marketing is very important nowadays; that’s why we are working on creating our TikTok account as well!”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Our first 100 customers came very early when we only had our MVP, which was very necessary because we wanted the first 50-100 users to help us improve.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“We focus on our customers 100%, feedbacks are always welcome, and we like to know what their additional needs are in our app. We pay attention to analytics — it’s the most important part of the business. We can see which screen the users spend the most time on, and we can also see how much time they spend using the app. Right now, it is one hour and 34 minutes on average.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“I always listen to the Y Combinator podcast.
Book: I think it’s a pretty well-known book called ‘Zero to One’ from Peter Thiel. I think it is also a bestseller.”
What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?
“I mostly listen to country music on Spotify during the day because it always gives me a lot of energy. During the evening and night, I listen to smooth jazz when I work. It gives me New York City vibes which I love so much!”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
Jira — to oversee the duties, issues, and tasks in every team.
Canva — I think I don’t even have to explain; it’s just simple and genius!
Miro Board — a very great brainstorming tool! I’ve just got introduced to the app by my pitch coach, Ben! It’s awesome!”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“How it can make me more open-minded and strategic.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“It’s a challenge since I am a mother. But I believe in balance. As a mother, founder, and CEO, time management is the key. It took some time to manage it, but family, mental health, and business can be managed if you find balance.”
When did you know it was time to quit your day job to focus on your startup?
“As soon as the idea/need came. I just knew that this was what I needed to focus on! Nothing else.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“I worked at a financial company called Bausparkasse Schwabisch Hall (it’s a German-Austrian company). I had to do sales, call people, set appointments to meet me, and open a savings account at the company. It taught me teamwork. It also taught me how to not hesitate before calling or talking to someone. Like the Nike slogan: JUST DO IT!
If I am hesitating, I will not be successful.”
More on SHARONEL
Sharon Elizabeth Kocziany, founder of app startup SHARONEL, shared valuable insights during our interview that will inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs.