CHATTANOOGA, Tenn – As part of my series about “How Business Leaders Plan to Rebuild in The Post-COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Smithberger, co-founder and chief seeder at seedership, a software company driven to elevate the visibility of the good small businesses do in their communities to help them grow. Smithberger took the entrepreneur leap in June 2018 after two decades in communications for global enterprises, public relations agencies, and a Silicon-Valley start-up. A year sabbatical spent volunteering and joining a medical mission abroad inspired her to seek a way to help make the world a better place. With seedership, she’s made it simple for small businesses to create and share their community story to expand their online presence and build deeper, more meaningful customer connections. When small businesses grow, so does their giving — creating stronger, kinder communities.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My husband, Ray, and I grew tired of the negative news and wanted to do something to help bring balance with more positivity. We started doing kind deeds or capturing others in the act and sharing those experiences on social media. By shifting our focus to kindness, suddenly it was easier to spot it all around us, even in our own family, literally. Within our own families we have several small business owners, and we started noticing how deeply engaged they are in their communities. Their giving is not limited to finances, rather they give their time, energy, ideas and leadership. Yet, for the most part, these kind acts go unnoticed. This is when we realized how we could best give back and make a difference: Elevating the visibility of the multitude of good being done by the small business owners in our own communities. Ray’s experience was in growing businesses, developing leaders, and building large-scale operations; and mine was in storytelling and uniting individuals around a shared purpose.
The seedership platform brings together our skills as well as our values. Ray was raised on a farm, thus the concept of planting seeds, nurturing them over time and sharing the results with the community. I have spent nearly twenty years training in martial arts where the path to success is determined by one’s contribution to the advancement of others. Our mission is to help small businesses benefit and grow from the good they do. Because as they grow, so does their giving and leadership.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
My last day at my corporate job was June 18, 2018. My first official seedership meeting was the week of July 9, with our software development group. We were going to kick off the partnership with a product roadmap and strategy sessions. For some reason, I had it in my head that I had to know software development, the intricacies of agile methodology and Software as a Service (SaaS) principles so I could walk the talk. I skipped my husband’s biannual family reunion to stay home and prepare for the meeting. Rather than spend a week at the beach, I was behind a desk cramming information as if studying for bar examination. I learned two things: I’m not going to become proficient on anything in one week; and that I should trust in the expertise of our partners. I didn’t need to speak code or be technical. I just needed to be able to share my vision for seedership and the value proposition we wanted to create.