When it comes to digital marketing, Four Seasons is leading the pack in the hotel industry...but it wasn't always that way.
We spoke with Jessica Chalk, Founder and CEO of TrafficSoda, a tool to help online marketers drive traffic to their website. She gave us a bit about her background and a few of her productivity secrets. Check it out!
How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?
I’m the CEO/Co-Founder of TrafficSoda, we’ve built organic web traffic technology that establishes a strong foundation for any online business by connecting and increasing their targeted traffic.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I get asked quite a bit whether I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur. There’s certain decisions I made in my life and certain people I surrounded myself with that woke me up to entrepreneurship. However, other than an ’I Want to Be a _____ When I’m Older’ poster from elementary school where I had filled out ‘entrepreneur’… I truly had no idea I’d be running a technology business at 25.
I think I wanted to be something different every day when I was really young. When I got into middle school, I had my heart set on being a lawyer. As I got older I started specifically focusing on Human Rights law. I read a lot of books on the subject and loved having discussions or debates with anyone that would.
Somewhere between university and today, I found a passion for entrepreneurship and realized a talent for internet marketing.
What did you learn from your biggest failure?
Great question. Quite honestly, my biggest failure so far was simply a lack of confidence in myself/self-doubt in the beginning stages of TrafficSoda.
Why do I consider this a failure? I think there is a positive correlation between confidence and execution. My lack of confidence lead to slower decision making and execution.
As an entrepreneur, you learn a lot about yourself. You’re constantly put in situations that are completely out of your comfort zone which inevitably creates fear and uncertainty. I used to let that fear get the best of me. Through knowing myself better, going out of my comfort zone, surrounding myself with the right people and learning from my failures, I now have resilient self-belief and confidence.
What did I learn from this? You can never expect others to believe in you and respect you, if you don’t believe in and respect yourself. Confidence and self-awareness makes you a better, more effective entrepreneur.
Do you have any formal education? What was your favourite class?
I do. I went to Laurier’s School of Business and Economics. I got my BBA degree specializing in International Business. My favourite class was probably fourth year Business Policy, we wrote a proposal and implementation plan for a major company who was struggling to survive in their current market.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur? What practices, rituals or habits contribute to your creative work?
I’m incredibly thankful and lucky to be a part of a few tech incubators in the Waterloo Region that have had such a huge influence on my growth as an entrepreneur. Laurier LaunchPad, Accelerator Centre and Communitech – they are nothing short of world class.
As a result of these programs and places, I get to surround myself with other entrepreneurs. It’s really nice to be able to talk with like-minded people that are going through (or have been through) similar struggles as you. I’ve found some incredible mentors in this community that I couldn’t be more appreciative of and I lean on them for a number of different things.
I have one constant ritual… I’ve come to really appreciate ’me-time’ over the last few years. To get this time alone, I go for a run first in the morning. When I’m running, I let my mind prepare for the day ahead of me, think about how I can be better and centre myself.
What are you reading right now?
I seem to always have a few books on the go at the same time. I’m currently diving into ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz and ‘#GirlBoss’ by Sophia Amoruso.
What technology, apps, websites do you use on a day to day basis?
Teamwork Projects – that’s how the TrafficSoda team manages projects and customers
Teamwork Chat – for communicating with the people on our team who aren’t in the office everyday
WordPress – the CMS that many of our customers use
QuickBooks- cash flow is everything!
Who would you most like to have dinner with?
J Kirk Boyd – specifically about his book 2048: An International Movement for Human Rights. Seriously, this book has helped shape my passion for human rights.
If I could go back in time.. Anita Roddick, Founder of the Body Shop would be another person. Not only was she an incredible entrepreneur, she was also a philanthropist and social activist.
What are you proudest of in your life?
I’m proudest my team for our perseverance and commitment to a vision. We’ve had our falls, absolute lows and moments of pure exhaustion, but the determination to get it right and figure out the model that works has never ceased to exist. In fact, we’ve done it with smiles, humour and laughter. I think that anybody in this world that’s truly accomplished anything great has persevered through failures, conflict and challenges before they’ve hit their success.
From a more personal level, last year I trained and ran a marathon in 4 months. They always say ‘running a business is like running a marathon’, and after doing both at the same time I can say that is pretty accurate! The mental strength, perfectly executed training plan, commitment to my body and ability to balance my business taught me so much about myself. Crossing that finish line and hitting my goal gave me an internal unbreakable strength and self-confidence. It also taught me how to be a better leader.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
My childhood was spent on the soccer field playing competitively with the most incredible team. The camaraderie and commitment to each other taught me so much about life at such a young age.
My mum and dad have had a huge impact on my life. My mum is one of the strongest women I know and she’s given that gift to me. My dad is an incredible leader. He encourages me to challenge myself. He taught me to never accept mediocracy. He instilled in me the belief that character always comes through when you see how a person treats others who can do nothing for them.
Last (but not least) my Co-Founder, Rob, has had a huge influence on my life. He’s given me an opportunity to take an idea and strategy he’s developed in over a decade of work and build it into an industry-changing business. The trust he’s put in me and responsibility placed on me has forever shaped who I am. He pushes me to be the best version of myself and is a great friend.
What’s your favorite quote?
“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.”
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
What’s your productivity secret?
My to-do list is the key to my efficiency. I plan and prioritize my days the night before. I try and have ‘meeting days’ and days where I’m only in the office with nothing scheduled.
When I have some deep thinking or writing to do, I shut off my phone and email, put on some classical music and focus solely on the task in front of me.
If you had fifteen extra minutes each day, what would you do with them?
I’d take time to just enjoy that very moment. Get outside, help someone who could use it, tell someone I appreciate them or love them. Sometimes I find that I’m so caught up in my life and goals that I forget to just enjoy the moment, make someone happy or connect with people who are important to me.
What advice would you give to the new entrepreneurs and future students?
I have a few key pieces of advice:
– Believe in yourself
– Dream big and think bigger!
– Just get started
– Execution and Cash Flow are everything
– Allow yourself to be vulnerable
– Always remember that it’s OK to make a mistake. Just make sure you take the time to learn from them
– Be awake enough to see opportunities as they come and go
Lastly, enjoy the journey and every part of it!