Performing arts, especially one as taxing as ballet, often has a limited span in which one can make a living professionally. Former ballet dancer Cheryl Black, founder and CEO of YOU Technology, came to this realization not through injury, but through economic realities. Rather than staying close to the arts, she decided to branch out into the tech world and created a company that helps shoppers and small retail businesses connect through digital coupons and custom content. Black describes the process of transitioning from performing to founding a company, as well as the benefits of YOU Technology to its customers.
While some dancers are forced to retire due to injury or the excessive strain on their bodies, Black was driven into the tech field through economics. She states, “I had the chance to follow my heart and switch to study dance under some very talented ballerinas, which led to my first career dancing in a ballet company. The funding situation for the arts was in rapid decline, and I quickly determined that if I wanted to support myself, I’d eventually have to change careers. And, I still had a passion for programming at the time. So after a few years of living with roommates and struggling to make ends meet, our ballet company lost the last of its funding, and I decided to go back into tech.” She was introduced to the tech field while working at a summer job in high school at which she worked with software engineers to automate a filing system. Having a background in computer science aided in Black’s new business.
Adding efficiency to promotions
YOU Technology was developed to aid the company’s clients in more effectively using promotions to engage clients and create customers. When she founded the company in the mid 2000s, digital coupons were in their infancy, but Black and her team thought the market was ready. “We had a Software as a Service [SaaS] platform that allowed us to quickly build and deploy promotions of any type, but we were selling promotions one at a time. I wanted to create a business where the revenue was toll-based rather than project-based to allow for more focus on product development and to reduce the sales effort. The notion of digital coupons had been tried before, but it wasn’t executed well, and the scale wasn’t there. But, we thought the timing was right for us to try.”
YOU Technology allows clients to connect with customers not only through digital coupons and promotions, but also through custom content. The company allows retailers to execute promotional offers that are best for their customers while giving customers the peace of mind to know that they are receiving legitimate offers. “We have many retailers that have only one or two stores. They get a lot of the same content as the large retailers, and it can be presented in relevancy order for each person that sees the offers. The coupons provide the reason that someone would log into their website or download their app, so it becomes the catalyst to start a digital relationship with their shoppers. All of a sudden, they can send emails, provide special one-to-one incentives and really engage directly on an individual basis.”
Black was lucky enough to have identified two areas that fit her personality, and she found ways to work in both of these fields. She credits her ability to be willing to fail as being crucial to her success. It is also due to her willingness to learn about different aspects of the field, and to come up with solutions that make her company better.
This article was written by Alaina Brandenburger of Examiner.com for CBS Small Business Pulse.