Interview with Melissa Williams, co-founder of WNY Holdings LLC. WNY Holdings offers various digital marketing services to small businesses and focus on creating an excellent user experience.
Tell us about yourself?
From a very early age, I knew I wanted to start my own business. When I was 10 years old, I started a business where I made homemade dog treats and sold them in my neighborhood. As I got older, I got more interested in web design, social media, and the behind-the-scenes aspects of building a business, and when I met Ben, I knew we would make the perfect business team.
When I’m not working, I enjoy skiing, hiking, and spending time with my husband, Ben, and our two dogs, Teddy and Whiskey.
What makes you different than other professionals in your field?
I think that I am different from other professionals in my field because of my ability to empathize and relate with other people. I believe that a lot of our clients find it beneficial since they often come to us when they are feeling troubled or stuck. We work specifically with small businesses; therefore, we are able to form closer relationships with the clients. I feel that my skills help me connect with the clients on a personal level and help me better understand their challenges and needs.
How much potential market share can you achieve in the next 3 years?
I don’t think I can give an exact number or amount since our company is so new. We started the company in 2018, and since then, we have gathered a few more employees and have taken on more clients each month. Since we are growing so fast, I think that we have the potential to achieve a lot more market share in the next three years, but I don’t have an exact estimate. We hope to at least double the size of our company within the next five years and want to take on as many clients as we can. We are committed to helping small businesses achieve everything they can.
What was the most important part of your professional journey?
I think that the most important part of my professional journey was realizing my passion. When I was in college, I originally started out as an accounting major. My father is an accountant, and I thought it would be a good choice for me as well. However, after completing a year of core accounting courses, I discovered that I didn’t enjoy the math aspects as much as I thought I would and that I had a passion for helping clients and building interpersonal relationships. I began taking courses in management, marketing, and communications, and I found that I was much more suited for success in these fields.
What are the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?
That’s a difficult one. I think the best purchase I have made recently was a combination espresso, coffee, and latte maker. Even though it was a splurge, I really enjoy having it and I think it will save me money in the long run. I admit that I often stop at Starbucks instead of making coffee at home, but now, I can make delicious specialty drinks right in my kitchen.
The worst purchase I recently made was a cat Halloween costume. I don’t even have a cat, I just thought it was so cute and funny in the store that I thought I absolutely had to buy it. I ended up giving it away to one of my friends who had a cat, though, and she enjoyed it.
What takes up too much of your time?
I think I definitely spend too much time watching TV. I love to binge-watch shows; sometimes I’ll spend an entire weekend afternoon watching episode after episode of a new show. I recently watched a whole season of Orange is the New Black in one weekend. When Grey’s Anatomy was put on Netflix, I watched all of that super quickly as well.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students/new startup business owners who want to become entrepreneurs or leaders in their field?
First, I would advise them not to settle. Don’t stick with a degree plan, a job, or a business venture because you feel like it is secure and that you can’t do better. I assure you that you can, and you’ll find a better opportunity in time.
Second, I would advise them to network with everyone they possibly can. Often, in business, who you know can be critical. If you are ever in need of help, chances are that someone in your network will be able to help you. You can reach out to business contacts when you are looking for a job, when you’re recruiting employees, or if you need help with a task or project. Build a large circle of competent and reliable colleagues.
Third, I would remind them to make sure they have some semblance of work-life balance. If all you do is work, you will burn out quickly and eventually grow to resent the work you do. Make time to do the things you love and spend time with people who are important to you.
Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
I would have to say my husband, Ben. When we first got the idea to start this business, we had no idea what we were doing or where to start. We both had college degrees in business and had some experience, but we had never worked in executive positions or run a successful and long-term startup. Additionally, I didn’t know how a business partnership would affect our marriage, and I was worried that issues in the workplace would cause conflict at home. Long story short, it did not; if anything, it made our marriage stronger. Even though the business has only been around for a year, it has grown quickly and Ben has grown and matured with it. He’s done a great job with the company, and it’s been amazing to watch him take on leadership and mentorship roles and build a network of colleagues and clients.
What drives you to keep going when it’s really tough?
My family and friends keep me going. I have a very close relationship with both of my parents, and I feel like I can talk to them whenever I am feeling upset or need help. It’s also nice to have my husband as my business partner; he not only lives with me and understands me in general, but when I’m having a business-related issue, he is likely experiencing the same thing. I’m lucky to have such a great support system, and my family and close friends keep me sane.
How should people connect with you?