Just a few years after building out her tool to help underestimated entrepreneurs succeed, Michelle Maryns is growing the team, finishing up a seed round, and preparing for the next exciting stage for WeSparkle.
How does it work?
WeSparkle is a tool that allows entrepreneurs to create a custom site with links and downloads, a scheduler platform that allows for collecting payments, and an AI assistant via text messaging and Facebook Messenger — making everything from scheduling meetings to marketing their product easier and faster.
With the help of a new head of community, the WeSparkle team is growing their customer base and making sure that their customers are set up for success. “[We’re] making sure they understand the tools and customizing them to help increase revenue,” Maryns said.
The WeSparkle team also brought on a new chief people officer and chief technology officer, both of whom Maryns has known for years and has worked with previously. “I’m really excited to have them on the team and to have the team back together,” she said.
Currently at approximately 200 subscribers, or “Sparklers,” on the platform, Maryns said that the pandemic has played an interesting role for her startup.
“We’re mostly focused on solopreneurs and sidepreneurs, but what’s been interesting during the pandemic is that we’ve started having some enterprise level clients,” she said, mentioning entrepreneurial support organizations and chambers of commerce as examples.
At first, since many of the businesses WeSparkle supports were hit hard — like hair salons — it was pretty devastating, Maryns said, but there was a positive side.
“I think one silver lining is that a lot of businesses knew that they needed to get online but it was at the bottom of their list,” she said. “The pandemic kind of forced them to bring their business online to survive.”
This has opened up opportunities that their customers hadn’t even thought up before, she added — such as bringing yoga classes online for people to tune into from Germany to Nepal.
The exciting updates continue — WeSparkle just closed on an investment from local venture capital firm Groove Capital, and finished up a Techstars accelerator program in Chicago.
“I’m so excited to have Groove as one of our investors,” Maryns said. “[Techstars] was a really great learning experience connecting with different mentors, investors, learning a lot about how to accelerate the growth of our company.”
An eventful Showcase
A member of the Fall 2019 BETA Cohort, Maryns said Showcase that year was a really fun experience — but a bit of a whirlwind, as her team was juggling both the MNCup and Showcase that evening.
With a customer who did chair massages at Showcase and a photo booth at the MNCup — at which WeSparkle was the Impact Division winner — both demos showed how the tool can be used: attendees at both events used the WeSparkle assistant to book appointments, got text message updates, and could even use the tool to customize their appointment, like adding a song to play during the massage.
“It’s best to show people how it works,” Maryns said of these creative, real-life demonstrations. “We’re building something new that people haven't seen before,” she said.
The Fall 2019 BETA Showcase also proved beneficial for WeSparkle in more tangible ways. “We met some investors through Showcase, that word of mouth really spread,” Maryns said. “People used the tool and told others about it, that’s super helpful for us to spread awareness about it.”
In addition to polishing up the product and growing the customer base with her new CTO, CPO, and head of community, Maryns is also finishing up a seed round of financing for WeSparkle.
Then, it’s heads down for the next few years — improving the platform and making it more useful for business owners.
“That’s our game plan, to improve and help spread the word,” Maryns said.
BETA is a 501(c)(3) organization that develops Minnesota’s next generation of business leaders by inspiring and educating first-time founders. The BETA Group nurtures startups and small businesses with great scalability potential, so that they can grow to become our next Fortune 100s. Learn more.