Diane Najm is a passionate leader who founded PhotoPad in 2015. She was new to the entrepreneur space, transitioning from a career in Social Work. However, she quickly found her footing and has not only built a successful startup, but has also become a thought leader and advocate for entrepreneurial women.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur and start PhotoPad for Business?
“As a Social Worker, my focus was to solve problems and improve communication among people. With family and friends spread across the world, I relied heavily on using digital communications like Facebook. I realized there was a gap in more personal communications through such digital channels. I took my learnings from my own successes and failures in my professional and personal lives and created a product to enhance the lives of others.
We launched PhotoPad Scrapbook app on Facebook to help family and friends create stories of celebrations, family events and more. While my focus was on PhotoPad App, it was businesses that became the inspiration to launch, therefore, I launched PhotoPad for Business on the web. A number of small businesses, who wanted presence on social media, to stand out above the noise and clutter, and to tell customers their brand story began using our scrapbook app to share stories of their company events and activities. In addition, given my background, I naturally wanted to provide resources to businesses who wanted to engage their customers on an emotional and personal level. Further motivation for me has been the personal growth from the constant challenges of having to learn every aspect of a company and having a direct impact on the outcome of the company.”
In the highly competitive entrepreneurship space, many startups don’t succeed. Why do you feel PhotoPad has had so much success?
“I think it is important to have a successful mindset. I am competitive in general and no matter what I am working on or with, I want to have success. As an entrepreneur, my drive, passion and perseverance keeps me focus on looking at each milestone as a success. In addition, I always say ‘I am not going to fail’. I know I am going to have failures along the way that are going to be learning lessons to move forward. Most importantly, it is about being surrounded by a good team of people that help you take an idea, create a vision, and execute on it.
Success comes from listening to the customers, getting customer validation, and having customers deriving value from interacting and using PhotoPad on a daily basis. We have moved steadily along from our pre-launch and beta to our public launch. We have businesses who are signing on, and all our growth has been through organic reach via social media channels, sponsoring and attending networking programs, and meeting with businesses to showcase our new innovative product at industry events. Furthermore, it’s about staying focused on the vision, goals, and value of your company and not getting sidetracked on the competition. Overall success could not have happened without stellar team work with everyone giving 200%, 24/7, hustling, and knowing that at the end of each day we have done everything we could to be successful.”
You have been very involved in women’s leadership initiatives and mentorship throughout your career. Why is this important to you?
“My drive and motivation comes from solving problems and opening doors for others. My core values have not changed since becoming a Founder/CEO of my startup; many of my values as a social worker elevating women continue to be consistent and flow with my startup. I consistently feature women business owners using PhotoPad and showcase that they are strong women leaders. I think it is important to continue to evolve and change, innovate, take your passion and ideas, without fear move forward and learn from the failures. I remember a mentor once said; ‘Don’t look back.. You have new tools in your toolbox’ use these to move forward and succeed.
I want to be a part of empowering and inspiring women to do the same as I did. It is never too late to start, as I am over 50 and leading a tech company coming from a non-tech background. It is so important for women to help women! For me, it is very rewarding to give back and help women stand in the spotlight and open doors through mentoring and speaking engagements; sharing my journey to take risks and not be fearful.”
What advice would you give to women who are just starting out on their entrepreneur journeys?
“Surround yourself with the smartest people who challenge you to think about things in new ways, and do something you are not ready to do so you can learn the most.
We must continue to seek mentors and surround ourselves with smarter people. Mentors have been there and know how build a company, as well as navigate the emotional roller coaster and celebrate the successes too! They want to meet with you and provide you with their experience and education. They initiate connections and introductions you need and will be present not only during tough times, but to celebrate with you during the smallest milestones. My favorite quote from a mentor, ‘A death of an entrepreneur is isolation. Therefore, it is important to surround yourself with groups of colleagues and friends who can be supportive.’
It is hard, very hard, to launch a startup! It takes a lot of perseverance, courage and grit to keep moving forward. There will be failures, and we must embrace the failures. We must learn from failure. It is never ending. The most important thing about failure is to look at it, assess it, and analyze it, so the patterns and the outcomes are not the same. I think one of my best attributes is that I am genuine about the difficulties and drama of a startup, and having mentors helps you move through this to success. I encourage women to be present and STEP BOLDLY into the role as the leader!”
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