Today we’d like to introduce you to Sheila Burkett.
Sheila, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I started my career at Edward Jones in the Information Systems area while I was going to college at the University of MO-St. Louis.. I worked my way through school — going to school full time and working part-time at Edward Jones. I spent 20 years at Edward Jones in the IS area and worked my way up to being a partner in 1999. In 2006, I decided to leave my career at Edward Jones to become an entrepreneur.
I started a business with my husband, building race cars and doing engine performance management of sports cars. I also began consulting work in digital marketing building and helping solopreneurs with their websites and enhancing their digital presence. During that same time, my husband and I bought the same building that Spry is currently at in 2008. In 2013, we completed a historic re-development of the building for office space and warehouse usage.
In 2010, I started Spry Digital with three other partners — two of which are still partners at Spry today. We had taken our clients that we were doing small projects for and small businesses that we were helping and came together to build a business in the digital space.
Over the past eleven years, we have grown the business from just being the four founders to a team of 31 creative and critical thinkers who value both pragmatism and results when it comes to the digital solutions we design and build for our clients.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has not been a smooth road – it has been a roller coaster. One of the biggest challenges since I became an entrepreneur is to get bank financing on projects and the business as a whole. Although I was lucky enough to have assets, I think the fact that entrepreneurs can’t get funding easily is still an issue today.
The second challenge is when some clients back out of contracts and/or leave. Having enough cash available to ride that storm out is never easy.
The third challenge is growing your team at a pace that isn’t the same as the rate your company is growing. What it takes to lead a company at half a million dollars is very different from leading a company of 31 people approaching $4 million in revenue.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Spry creates holistic digital strategies designed for the human experience. We have a curiosity – bordering on obsession – to get to the bottom of problems and develop solutions that move businesses and cultures forward.
Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
I think from a business leader perspective, what makes me the happiest is when I see individuals achieve success in areas that they have been challenged in and are working to grow in.
I get a lot of joy in watching team members grow and take on new challenges. I enjoy giving them the encouragement they need to do things they’ve never done before and seeing them blossom and grow through that. I’ve gotten to watch people I’ve mentored gain top leadership positions, go on to be successful in their own businesses – or at other companies – and achieve their dreams.
Other things that make me happy are getting involved in the community, elevating women in tech, and discussing social justice issues to take action both inside and outside of the workplace.
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