As an entrepreneur and executive, Janice Dru-Bennett was formerly Senior Marketing Director of a global network of innovation centers. A consultant, advisor, and ambassador, Janice develops partnerships across multiple global organizations as she focuses on establishing powerful brands and developing deep relationships. She has managed marketing programs for startups to Fortune 500 corporations spanning various industries, including financial services, e-commerce, information services, legal, B2B software, digital advertising, consulting, and higher education. Passionate about helping make the world a better place, Janice served as a nonprofit board director for multiple organizations and board chair for an organization to improve voting methods.
Q: What inspired you to found Inkwhy and what were the main challenges you faced?
INKWHY means "I need knowledge, what have you?" The original concept for the company was that we could share our knowledge and monetize it based on recommending products and services -- integrating a knowledge platform with advertising and e-commerce concepts. We wanted to help people be able to generate an income on the Inkwhy platform. The company evolved into recommending other products and service providers, including software, tools and technology solutions, as well as delivering consulting, sales, and marketing projects. As we have developed multiple partnerships and business relationships over the years, some of the hardest challenges include keeping track of all the connections and juggling the amount of work with a lean team and limited resources.
Q: Did you start the venture alone?
There were others involved early on in the venture, and the company continues to grow through partnerships with others. I don't think any venture can successfully be started alone -- you need to have people surrounding you who will offer support, as well a growing list of vendors (e.g., lawyers and accountants), clients, prospects, team members and partners. I also highly recommend building a board of advisors -- people who you can go to for advice throughout your process of growing a business, as well as local resources that help startups such as SCORE and SBDC.
Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
The business model is currently based on recommending or providing services, and getting paid on delivering those services myself or a commission paid by the service provider or solution that I recommend (also sometimes known as affiliate commissions). Revenues have grown when I've been able to put more time into building partnerships and/or delivering services, as well as building out sales pipelines, and delivering on services.
Q: Do you think luck played a role in the success of your company?
I think luck plays a role in everything, but it's more like a tree in the background than a leading actor or actress. With all the luck in the world, if you don't take action, then nothing will happen.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
I would like to see a better world for all of us now and for generations to come. I'm a supporter of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), in particular from the Partnerships perspective, and also devote my time to my personal passion of changing the world one person, one mission at a time. At times I've felt stretched too thin trying to do too much at the same time, so the "one person, one mission" goal is a reminder that it's important to focus on the person in front of me who I'm helping at any given time, and to drive forward with a single positive mission at a time, while understanding that many missions and many people come together to truly make the world a better place for us all.
Q: If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
I think I may have tried to build a team sooner in the process, to find more closely aligned partners who could complement my skills, to be able to bounce feedback off each other and provide accountability along the way. I think I would have looked to build more structure and operational processes earlier on, and those who could keep checks and balances, especially in putting together details like financial modeling, managing systems, and daily bookkeeping.
Q: Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
One of my mentors in Rhode Island, Kathleen Malin, was a wonderful listener and asked me great questions as I was pursuing my career path as well as entrepreneurial venture. Kathleen won a well-deserved "Mentor of the Year" award and I hope that we have the opportunity to work together in the future, as we continue to stay in touch. She also has inspired me to be a mentor to others who are earlier in their career or just starting out their ventures as well.
Q: What are your favorite books?
I like to read business and self-improvement books, and recently read Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu, Do Less by Kate Northrup, and Atomic Habits by James Clear. When I trained for marathons in 2017 and 2018, I also listened to hours of audio books on various topics. I've written a bit about books I've read on the Inkwhy Blog.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
Find a diverse group of people and ask them to help you draw a clear picture of where you want to go, as well as what a roadmap might look like to get you there. Don't be afraid to pivot or change directions along the way, and don't give up when it looks or gets tough. Surviving means not dying, and thriving means getting past surviving -- which can only happen when you build up your resilience and develop the skills and habits that can get you to where you want to be. Also, identify the areas of your weakness and find the people who have those areas as their strengths to build your dreams with you.