There are many ways to tell a story. You can write a book, do a speech, create a video, write a song, take photos, draw a picture, and so much more.
With the rise of digital media and the shortening of attention spans, visual storytelling has risen in popularity and platforms focusing on photos, videos, GIFs, and other visual methods are rising above the rest.
That’s where PhotoPad for Business, a local tech startup founded by entrepreneur Diane Najm, comes into play. The platform allows small-medium businesses to easily and inexpensively tell their stories visually - no designer necessary.
Yet, the journey - like many others - hasn’t been easy. While bootstrapping her way through the first version of her product, Najm is doing everything she can to get the word out. There are plenty of ups and downs, but her way of embracing insecurity and fear and rising above it all is inspirational for any entrepreneur.
So, without further ado...
Read her inspiring journey in the full interview below:
Ashley Hoffman (AH): So, tell me what got you into starting a tech startup in the photo story space? Where did the idea come from?
Diane Najm (DN): 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 what I learned from my own successes and failures in my professional and personal life 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 the 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, naturally I wanted to provide resources to businesses who wanted to engage their customers on an emotional and personal level
AH: How important do you think storytelling is? Do you have a story as an example?
DN: I have always been a storyteller!
I grew up in a Greek family, photos and storytelling was a big part of our gatherings. In today’s world, photos are a big part of today existence. What started in the home with photo sharing has moved to social media and with 2.8 billion photos uploaded daily to Facebook alone. Static posts and text is getting lost in the clutter.
The PhotoPad launch started with business owners contacting me to use my first product, ‘PhotoPad’, which was a storytelling Facebook app for friends and family. Businesses wanted a way to share with their customers what they do daily, their events and activities. Additionally, share a story about their product. Furthermore, Forester Research indicates the importance of brand photo stories getting 85% increase engagement.
Business owners today know they need to do more and the trend is two things: telling your story with photos and having a hub to host your stories. With all the streaming, limitations of characters and algorithms it is difficult for business owners to be seen and engage with their customers and potential customers.
AH: What has been your biggest motivation as you've been growing your business?
DN: The biggest motivation in growing our business is for the small–medium businesses who can’t afford a design team and expensive tools. We give businesses an affordable solution to create beautiful social media graphics, photo stories and more with our easy to use design tool giving them the opportunity amplify presence on social media and engage prospective customers.
In addition, we continue to evolve with our all-inclusive platform where businesses create, collaborate and publish with a click all in one place. No messy email exchanges, no designer skills or design team needed!
AH: What has been one of your biggest struggles so far?
DN: There are a couple of challenges; I launched a tech platform coming from a non-tech background in a male-dominated space. It’s important I continue to show up, be present, and continue to encourage and inspire women to be leaders and empower other women.
Additionally, it has been difficult to operate on a small budget and small team with moving forward quicker. Nevertheless, the struggles are motivating personal growth for me from the constant challenges of having to learn every aspect of a company and having a direct impact on the outcome of the company.
AH: Have you always seen yourself as an entrepreneur? If you were to go back 10 years from now, what would "past you" think of "future you"?
DN: I am always on a path of personal growth whether as a social worker or an entrepreneur. I developed programs, mentored and provided resources in both arenas. That said, I would not have predicted being an entrepreneur in the tech arena 10 years ago!
Looking back, I can see how far I have come and I feel very proud of all I have accomplished so far. I am in my mid-50’s and I’m anticipating more to come!
AH: What's your favorite part about what you do?
DN: My favorite part of what I do is everything. I love to innovate and be creative! I wake up and look forward to what the day holds for me!
AH: What is your biggest learning point so far?
DN: The CEO role is in constant motion of growth. Believe me, you have a lot of fear as a CEO. One of my biggest mistakes came from a fear which caused me to delay important decisions.
Lessons are learned and you start pushing past this and finding the inner confidence to lead and make decisions. Just make decisions, learn and move on. Embracing fear and uncertainty is a must in order to navigate the roller coaster ride. Keeping this as part of your mindset helps with clarity and focus.