Many of us have had friends, family members, or coworkers who have experienced problems and we have thought to ourselves “I want to help, but I don’t know how.” When this happened to Aimee Kandrac she was spurned into action, co-founding What Friends Do.
Over a decade ago, a close family friend of Aimee’s was diagnosed with cancer. As she and her family rallied around their friend, other people were asking them how they could help. They realized during this process that though everyone has good intentions, people often don’t know where to start in providing help, or what people going through something like a major illness diagnosis might need actually need. Aimee and her mom were doing everything from helping keep their friend’s house clean while they were in the hospital to organizing other groups of friends to take care of every day tasks. As Aimee and her family became more involved in helping, they realized it was better for those aiding if they had a specific task to work on. She began brainstorming, and the idea for What Friends For was born.
The first step for Aimee was to ensure she built a service that could be easily accessible online – even in a time before smartphones and social media. After brainstorming all the tasks that people who need help might need from friends, she created a central hub for helpers. The website began as a free resource for people to create teams – they could consist of family, friends, church members, neighbors and/or school mates. She also incorporated a blog, photo and calendar features, so everyone on the team could stay up-to-date on tasks and progress of those they were helping. “I wanted to make it as easy as an evite system,” Aimee says. The service gave people specific tasks to work on – providing those that helped piece of mind that they were making a difference and making those receiving the help feel supported and loved during their healing process.
As she looked to grow the business, Aimee began researching how to get advertising on her website and incorporating affiliate partnerships. Success combined with an advertising revenue stream enabled Aimee to take What Friends Do to the next level. She began thinking about how to reach patients that may have just received a major illness diagnosis when they needed help the most – so she began to contact and form partnerships with hospitals. This allowed What Friends Do to began providing aid to people at a critical time in their health journey – physically and emotionally. “People don’t want to be pushy but we have to have that,” says Aimee. “Women especially need to open ourselves up and acknowledge that it is okay to ask for help.”
To continue the company’s growth, Aimee realized that she herself might need help, and began her journey looking for outside investors for the company. As a technology-based business, she figured she would have no problems finding interested parties. Yet much to her shock, there were never women in her early investment pitch meetings; in fact, some of those she met with had never had a woman pitch to them before Aimee. These situations often caused a disconnect between potential investors understanding her business and to investors being shocked that woman would want to run a business, especially if she had a family. Aimee met with 35 different investors, but was was able to find people that believed in her vision and her product. “Monetization is constantly changing,” says Aimee. “My monetization plan isn’t what made them back me – they had to believe in me and where they thought I could take the company.”
Aimee is now working on making What Friends Do a national brand and expanding the types of help the company offers.
Her advice to other female entrepreneurs? “Don’t keep your idea a secret, talk to people about it. Share widely and don’t be afraid – everyone you talk to will have something to contribute and it will help you solidify your idea. Also, make yourself vulnerable and always make sure to ask for help when you need it.”
Want to connect with Aimee? Check her out on Twitter at @aimeekandrac!
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