Women In Business Q&A: Vanessa Quigley, Co-Founder, Chatbooks

10/14/2016 04:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Vanessa Quigley

Vanessa Quigley is a mom, wife, trained opera singer and most recently Chatbooker-in-Chief. Chatbooks gives Vanessa the ideal place to combine her big picture vision, desire to hold onto what matters, and get-it-done attitude that raising seven children has instilled in her. Chatbooks' affordable, automatic and simple photo books were Vanessa's brain-child after realizing her youngest son didn't have his own childhood scrapbook. Vanessa drives Chatbooks' creative engine and product design to make sure the functionality is simple and easy to use. Prior to Chatbooks, Vanessa relished her role as Mom-in-Chief, managing the wonderful chaos of her growing family.

Vanessa has a degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Brigham Young University, sings opera whenever she can, enjoys the theater, being in the mountains with her family, and finding the humor in life - especially important while raising a growing family!

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up as the oldest of 12 children and am now raising 7 children of my own. Being part of a big family taught me patience, flexibility, and teamwork. As the mother of my own big family now I continue to learn the importance of organization, delegation, and doing hard stuff! My roles as daughter, sister, wife, and mother have shaped me and the way I lead my new family here at Chatbooks.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Chatbooks?
Before co-founding Chatbooks, I worked as a singer and actress. My first real job was as a dancer and actor at Walt Disney World, where I performed in parades and shows. Everything I learned about branding came from my experiences there. Disney is meticulous in curating their brand and communicating their brand message. As Chatbooks has grown, we have been very careful and deliberate in building a strong brand that will grow with us. And like Disney, we always offer service with a smile!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Chatbooks?
As a new startup we faced many challenges in the beginning--and the biggest challenge was a lack of capital. We were a ragtag bunch with very little money in the bank but we were scrappy. Thankfully we started selling books like crazy as soon as we officially launched, and soon we were able to hire some seriously amazing people for our team. One of the greatest highlights for me has been working with so many crazily talented people. In the first two years we've sold over a million books and I attribute that success to our incredible team.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
My first bit of advice is find the perfect partner! I've been so lucky to have my husband as my business partner. We've been partners in life since we met as college freshman. I'm convinced that anything is possible with him at my side. Every entrepreneur needs a partner that believes in, trusts, and is willing to support them, especially when times are tough.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Ha! I've given up trying to find work/life balance. "Balance" is a tricky word that suggests there is a point at which everything will work in perfect equilibrium. Instead of chasing that imaginary point I embrace the idea of my "life's work". I'm always working--whether it's at Chatbooks, at home, at the kids' schools, at church, at the gym, or in my community. My life's work is to be my best so that I can help people around me and make the world a better place. If I stay focused on that goal then I'm happiest, even when my to do list is never complete!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I would love for more women to not be afraid to dream big! Yes, there is more progress that can be made in the world for working women. And I believe that will come, especially as women stop selling ourselves short and just "go for it", whatever "it" is. We need to stop letting our fears or other's fears hold us back from doing big things.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I am very aspirational and motivated by a desire for self improvement. I have never had a formal "mentor/mentee" relationship but I do have a handful of women and men that I look up to and try to pattern my life after. Throughout my life, as my circumstances have changed and my career has developed, those "mentors" have changed. But it helps me so much to have my eye on a target or a goal and to see it emulated in someone in real life.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Becky Higgins is an entrepreneur who is also building a business to help people hold on to their memories. When I was a devoted scrapbooker back in my younger days, she was one of my scrapbooking idols as I was obsessed with her creative lettering books. But now I look up to her as she tackles her "life's work" with a vision very similar to mine. I'm inspired by the community she's built around her brand through social media. She's shown me how you can grow as a business while still staying very real and accessible.

What do you want Chatbooks to accomplish in the next year?
Chatbooks changed my life, so I want everyone to be able to experience how easy it can be to get your everyday photos off your phone and into organized photo books. So we raised venture capital earlier this year, and our biggest goal in the next year is to make Chatbooks a household name.