Family-First Entrepreneurship: An Interview with Adii Pienaar
This interview is part of our Entrepreneur Interview series.
Adii Pienaar is the founder of Conversio, an all-in-one ecommerce marketing dashboard. Initially launched as Receiptful in 2014, a SaaS company offering ecommerce tools, they evolved from providing email receipt functionality to an all-in-one dashboard that runs your marketing so you have more time to run your business — essentially, sell more, do less! They rebranded and relaunched as Conversio earlier this month. For more on the relaunch, check out this blog post.
We recently had the pleasure to sit down with Adii to discuss how Conversio came to fruition, how his personal beliefs in work/life balance helped to shape their business model and company culture and why they decided to rebrand.
From Developer to “AHA!” moment.
1. You founded Conversio in 2014, how did you get your start as an entrepreneur? Why did you choose the ecommerce space?
I actually had various business projects starting in my early teens while I was still a student. And later when I was in university, I worked on three big projects: an alternative music record label, a modelling agency and a wine community website.
It was through those experiences that I started dabbling more with HTML and CSS, which ultimately led me to WordPress. I initially started doing WordPress consulting, building custom websites for customers — to pay for my studies — before I started building WordPress themes.
That’s when I had the “AHA!” moment that led to building my first paid WordPress site, which I released in November 2007. Through that experience, I met my eventual WooThemes co-founders, Magnus and Mark. WooThemes was a great experience, and for the first couple of years, we focused exclusively on WordPress themes.
In 2011, we started moving away from themes and we actually built WooCommerce, which is today the most widely used ecommerce platform in the world. This is where I learned a lot about ecommerce and when I exited WooThemes in 2013, I felt I had learned enough to build software for ecommerce stores again.
Prior to Conversio, I’ve always worked on my own businesses. Initially, I wanted to be an entrepreneur, because I wanted financial freedom. Today, it’s more about building a life where I can put my family first and make an impact in the lives of the people with whom I work (my team and our customers).
Sell More, Do Less.
2. You recently rebranded to Conversio. Tell us a little bit about why you decided to rebrand and what the process has been like?
We really loved our previous name and brand (Receiptful), but it became quite limiting and confusing to our customers. So we wanted a name that would better represent who we are and how we could be valuable to our customers.
The process was honestly pretty smooth and took us about 3 months. I think what really helped is that we were clear about why we were doing the rebrand and what the values were that we wanted to communicate. So it wasn’t as much a case of nitpicking about a design or trying to seek something perfect. Our new brand and website are most definitely gorgeous (if I may say so myself), but what is more important is that it’s a much better representation of who we are and what we do.
Family First, Business Second.
3. What were some of the biggest lessons that have impacted the way you work?
Working more or harder all the time doesn’t make anyone happier.
A year ago, we probably looked like your average startup. We were rushing to do things quickly, build and release the next thing, and chasing month-on-month growth. This was ultimately very draining to everyone on the team.
Today we’ve chilled out a bit. We actively try to be more purposeful in what we build and we try to slow down too. We also care less about things like month-on-month growth and more about being valuable to our customers.
Small Business Advocates.
4. What is unique about your business?
I would hope that these things don’t make us so unique that we’re the only one’s thinking about work/life this way. Two things, however, that stand out is our focus on being family-first and our passion for small business.
We have tried to build our team and company in such a way to allow all of us to live the lives that we want to have. We want our work to empower the rest of our lives and not become this one thing that we spend so much time on just so we can get paid. We find purpose and meaning in our work, but we find more purpose and meaning outside of work.
We are also hugely passionate about small business. This means that we’ve decided not to pursue bigger, more enterprisey customers (even though many would regard that route as a SaaS best practice). Instead, we’re trying to build a better product every day and keep our prices low to make the product more accessible to a wider audience of small businesses.
Starting Your Own Business Isn't Just a Job — It's a Way of Life.
5. Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?
As a kid, I was truly fascinated with Richard Branson and read every single book I could find about him. I loved the way that he was rebellious and even mischievous sometimes, along with just having this absolute passion for building his brand. To this day, large parts of the way I think about business is influenced by those things I learned about his journey.
Embrace Your “Awkward Teenage Phase”.
6. What’s the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur and what’s the biggest mistake that many make when starting up?
The constant tension of pursuing more versus just being content in the moment. These things are part of the same continuum and will always co-exist. It is, however, sometimes hard to know whether to react to this tension and if you do react, which action to take.
I think many entrepreneurs want to build cool and sexy businesses from day one. But that’s very hard to do. Most successful businesses are butt-ugly in the beginning and it’s only over time that they grow out of that “awkward teenager phase” to become an attractive, well-rounded young adult.
Be Kind to Yourself.
7. How do you define success — both personally and for your company?
Success is having the space to be kind to myself.
Bring Meaning To Your Life.
8. Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 (or more) years?
I can imagine myself still building tools that are valuable for small businesses. I just have such a huge passion for small business and believe that they’re such an integral part of our economies.
I also imagine my team and I working less than we work today and spending more time on the life things that are more important, meaningful and purposeful than our work.
Adii Pienaar is the founder of Conversio, where he is known as “High King of Ecommerce.” Prior to Conversio, Adii was co-founder of WooThemes / WooCommerce, where he made his early entrepreneurial mistakes while learning about building software for ecommerce stores. He also enjoys good wine and writing. He recently started a podcast and is training to become a triathlete.