September 19, 2017
The term ‘Top Dog’ is an idiom used to describe a boss or a leader. TDT is a weekly blog that features local entrepreneurs, business owners, & startup founders from all over the country.
Happy Tuesday! And welcome to this week’s edition of Top Dog Tuesday!
Meet Katie Stoltz: Katie isn’t your average entrepreneur. (But, really, is there even such a thing?!) She is the Founder of Venues & Vows, the ‘Airbnb’ of wedding venues and events.
Prior to V&V, she spent 10 years in D.C., the Middle East, and Africa while consulting Fortune500 companies and international governments. She now lives in Austin, TX, still consults on the side for awesome women-owned companies, loves guacamole, macaroni-and-cheese, Led Zeppelin and Beyonce, and her guilty pleasure is none other than Judge Judy.
Read on to learn more about Katie!
Let’s start with the basics! Where did you grow up and where are you located now? I grew up in State College, PA and I now live in Austin, TX.
Tell us about where you were in life before you took the leap to launch Venues & Vows. I spent 10 years in management consulting, had lived abroad for 5 years and knew I wanted to start my own business. I’ve always had the entrepreneurial “itch”. When I moved back from Dubai, it wasn’t long before I took the leap…and for good reason: I had five friends get engaged around the same time and each one of them had trouble finding a wedding venue. As someone who hadn’t been engaged, I found it shocking that they couldn’t find a venue they loved. I did my own research, quickly found out why, and decided to pursue this business.
Let’s hear your pitch! Venues & Vows is the Airbnb of wedding venues and events. We provide estates, mansions, farms, ranches, beach houses, condos and glamping sites for weddings, bachelor/ette parties, vow renewals, elopements, and honeymoons. Aside from having really awesome properties and scenery, you get to choose your caterer, florist, cake-baker, bartenders/alcohol and DJ. IT’S YOUR WEDDING!
We are just about to expand into Venues & Ventures, which is for corporate retreats and workshops, as well as Venues & Vinyasa which is for yoga and wellness retreats.
How long have you been in business? We launched our beta in January and the full version in June.
What were you most surprised to learn through your entrepreneurial journey? I think there’s a misconception that you’ll have this wonderful, free-flowing schedule. That’s b.s.! I struggle to keep a schedule that is conducive to maintaining a personal life, staying healthy, and not stressing out about the to-do list I need to complete.
What got you through hard times where capital was low, which is a common struggle for many young entrepreneurs? One of my favorite things to do is try to find the “real story” behind a startup/company. We all hear these tales about how a company was an “overnight success”. They weren’t. They were working on it for 3+ years, they got super lucky because someone at BuzzFeed published a cool story and “Voila!”, they have VCs knocking down their door. Once you realize no one makes it overnight, you feel a lot better. It’s hard. freaking. work.
How do you check in with your customers? We have two sets of customers: the property owners and the guests. I talk to the guests (mostly brides) every day and help them in the decision making process. I talk to the property owners pretty frequently, making sure I am aware of any new amenities they are adding or how I can be more helpful in booking their property.
Embarrassing mistake you made as a rookie? (Hey, we’ve all been there!) I hired my brother. I love him dearly but we just weren’t meant to work together.
If you could give a piece of advice to entrepreneurs going through a struggle, what would that be? Try to find one “win” each day and give yourself credit. Even if it’s small. Even if it’s that you got one email out that you’ve been delaying. You freakin’ won – pat yourself on the back.
How have you dealt with external doubts? In other words, when others doubted your abilities, what did you do? This is a two-step process for me. I text my fiancee or good friends and re-hash every single word until I have gotten out all of my frustration. Then I draft an email to address the issue, wait 24 hours, read it again and decide whether or not I should re-draft it or hit “send.”
Where do you draw inspiration from? Honest people. I can’t stand a fake smile and I absolutely treasure when I can have an honest, blunt, fun conversation. Think of the last honest conversation you had where everyone was themselves…I bet it was rad!
What’s your favorite way to manage stress? Well…depends which day it is. I tend to work out during the week but I do not shy away from a glass of Sancerre on the weekends.
What were you like in high school? I’d say I was an interesting mix of a jock and preppy. I played a lot of sports but I specifically recall wearing a gray skirt suit to my first day of 9th grade. I do still love a good power suit. Blame it on my consulting days.
Cake or pie? Coconut cream pie!
Go-to reading material? Fast Company and Entrepreneur magazines. Non-fiction history books.
What satisfies your sweet tooth? Everything?…except chocolate cake. I KNOW!…but I do not like chocolate cake. Or chocolate ice cream.
What would readers be surprised to learn about you? I worked in Africa for two years and went to *super* glamorous places like Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Follow Katie’s entrepreneurial journey online & on social media!
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Know a Top Dog we should interview? Nominate them for #TDT! Send them our way by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. –YSH Team