361 Cameron Cegala: De-clutter Your Inbox
What if you could manage your inbox so you only got advertising and promotions you actually want to see? What if you could avoid that infobesity?
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who is changing the game of advertising.
Cameron Cegala is the Co-founder of AdKAddy. It’s a mobile app that gives you a new consumer email address and platform so you can keep up with the brands you love- without all that clutter in your inbox. The app sorts incoming emails first by marketing, receipts, and shipping for each individual brand.
And if this is something you think you don’t have time for …you probably are exactly the person who needs to make time. Because you’ll get further in those 4 days than you will in 4 months plus we’ll show you how to turn time from a scarce resource into a limitless one – we call it “return on time” … so you to have all the time you need for business, love, parenting, friends and fun. Wingsexperiences.com/apply
Cameron Cegala made the leap from corporate to startup as the co-founder of AdKAddy, a mobile app created to help consumers keep their personal inboxes simple and free of brand clutter.
Prior to developing AdKaddy, Cameron spent several years in the CPG industry, working in sales and marketing at Proctor and Gamble and elsewhere to develop brand distribution strategies that provided the greatest value for both customers and brands. Her unique talent for understanding the needs of both sides in the customer-brand relationship was what fueled Cameron’s passion to develop a better way for brands to interact with their customers… without resorting to interruptive advertising.
The “aha” revelation came to her in 2018: When it comes to reaching customers, the problem isn’t advertising itself; the problem is with the interruption of advertising. So Cameron set out to dispel the myth of “bad advertising.” If there were a way for consumers to back their personal inboxes and keep their personal emails personal, those people might be more willing to actively engage with communications from the brands they love.
AdKaddy is free to download and simple to set up. We’re going to learn how Cameron thinks it will improve our lives and where she see’s her startup being in the next 5-10 years – plus how women can intentionally build businesses around the lives they want to lead, so their businesses work for them … rather than working only for your business.
Are you ready to fly with Cameron Cegala?
Melinda Wittstock: Cameron, welcome to Wings.
Cameron Cegala: Thanks, Melinda. Good to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I love to talk to women who have tech startups and this one is really intriguing to me, AdKaddy. I want you to tell everybody how it works and what your vision is behind it.
Cameron Cegala: Sure. Yeah, I would love to. So I think it's important to understand how we came about. How we came to this idea. So AdKaddy was really born simply out of frustration with overabundance of marketing emails. Pretty simple. We can all, as consumers, relate to that, I believe. Last year alone, nearly 50 trillion consumer emails were sent out.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh. I think I got a lot of them.
Cameron Cegala: Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: It felt like it.
Cameron Cegala: Yeah. My question would be how many of them are still unread in your inbox?
Melinda Wittstock: A lot, yeah.
Cameron Cegala: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Although I've gotten pretty good at de-cluttering my email now. It took me awhile to do that. But yeah, there's so much infobesity out there.
Cameron Cegala: Yes. You're in a special camp, if you've figured out how to de-clutter.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, it's a work in progress.
Cameron Cegala: Yeah, for sure.
Melinda Wittstock: So you're solving this how? I want to understand kind of … Like technically how it works. How you combat that for people.
Cameron Cegala: Yeah, absolutely. So we have this contrarian view to advertising. So we're really, ultimately, wanting to change the consumer perspective on advertising, because we ultimately believe that people really want to receive these advertisements. They just want to receive them in a way that they're in control of the process and that they can receive them on their own terms. So instead of receiving 150 new emails from brands per day into your personal inbox where it's de-clutter … Excuse me, where it's cluttering all of your personal emails, being able to receive it to a separate platform where you have a separate consumer email address and it's hyper-organized by brand in a way that makes sense for consumer emails.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. That's really cool. So this is really about targeting people. So presumably, do you have a lot of data behind the scenes that allows you to be able to target? I mean, I just notice that people complain about privacy issues, for instance, when the ad was not well targeted. But if it's targeted, it's helpful. It's kind of like, “Oh, yeah, hey thanks for knowing that I just really wanted to buy those Jimmy Choo shoes,” you know?
Cameron Cegala: Sure, exactly. No, it's true. I mean, at the end of the day, consumers are using all sorts of tactics now to really prevent the brand from communicating with them. So whether it be ad blockers or, to your point, new privacy concerns, et cetera, but the reality is, again, we actually want to receive these emails, because think about the big sale at Bloomingdale's or the new iPhone with Apple. You want to know about these things or the things that are important to you. You just want to know about them in a way that doesn't feel like it's bombarding your personal life. We've created this standalone platform that again, you get your own personal consumer email address where you can use that in your whole consumer experience. So whether you're checking out online or in store or if you're just wanting that 20% off at West Elm or whatever it might be, you can use your AdKaddy email address and all of those emails with subsequently flow straight into the app and will be hyper-organized with all sorts of features that make sense specifically for consumer emails.
Melinda Wittstock: That's fantastic. So you basically, you get this app and you set it. Am I understanding this right? You set your preferences of, yeah, okay, like I do want to hear from Apple, but only about this, and I want to hear from Bloomingdale's, say, but only about that.
Cameron Cegala: Yes. So first and foremost, you would be firstname.lastname@example.org. You would go out and use that email address just the same as you would use a Gmail address or a Yahoo or whatever you-
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, I see.
Cameron Cegala: Yeah. So instead of those emails being sent to your personal inbox, you know, it's really interesting. We all tend to separate our personal emails and our work emails, right? But we don't separate out of our consumer emails. So our thought is now you need to separate out that consumer piece as well.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cameron Cegala: So this allows you to do it, so all those emails are going to flow into the app and then each brand has one dedicated title. So we don't do a list view where you're just seeing, you know, promotion after promotion from Bed, Bath and Beyond in your inbox. You would have one tile dedicated to Bed, Bath and Beyond. You would click on it and then within that brand landing page, there would be separate tabs for marketing emails, promotional emails, transactions. So shipping and receipts are parsed out automatically and then of course you can bookmark and do all those sorts of things as well.
Melinda Wittstock: That's really interesting. So I'm curious about your business model. How do you make money?
Cameron Cegala: Great question. So there's three ways we make money or will be making money. The first is through affiliate marketing. So integrating that into a promos tab within each brand. So let's say you're going into Michaels. You would be able to click on the Michaels brand tile, go into the marketing tab and they would be able to actually feed you promotions that are going on, so it would all be in one place. The second, of course, is targeted ads. So we believe that people will actually come to the app with the intention of looking at ads, at the end of the day. So you would go to the app and say, “Hey, it's [spp-timestamp time="8:00"] at night. I'm having a glass of wine or a cup of tea,” or whatever you might do on the couch, and, “I want to go into this and check out what's going on at my favorite stores, my favorite brands,” and it's a perfect opportunity for other brands who believe you'd be a great target consumer for them to feed you ads as well, because you're in the right state of mind for that discovery.
Then the third is of course engagement analytics. So beyond the traditional open and click rates that ESP's provide, we would be able to provide things like whether or not you like a communication or how long you've spent on the app or spent with this specific brand or on that email. So a much, you know, more detailed analytical report for the brands and ESPs.
Melinda Wittstock: So how did you get going? It's really difficult for a lot of female founders, especially in tech, to get off the startup sticky floor and raise the investment capital they need to really grow and scale their businesses. Whereabouts are you in that context, Cameron? In terms of like raising the money you need or the capital you need? How did you get going?
Cameron Cegala: Yeah, so my business partners and I started this about a year and a half ago with a simple idea that we … Many of us came from the brand side of things. Working with brands, realizing that it was very difficult for brands to appropriately communicate with consumers and vice versa. It was difficult for consumers and vice versa. It was difficult for consumers to sift through all the information. So we had this idea that there had to be a better way, right? There had to be a better way for people to communicate, for brands to communicate with people who wanted to hear from them. And so we'd been working on it, like I said, for about 18 months and we are still in very early stages of funding. So we have, of course, gone through friends and family and still continue to do so, but we're actually in very preliminary … The preliminary stages for funding as far as seed investment goes.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, yeah. Tell me about that? What's been your experience so far? Because women in this country only get 2% of the available venture capital. It's a crazy statistic and these are companies that actually qualify for venture capital. In other words, they could be highly scalable businesses. They have a potential of being unicorns. You know, whatever, but we only get 2%. So what's been your experience going out to raise money?
Cameron Cegala: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So truth is, I work on a team with three men, so to your point, sometimes that helps in the sense of the room and the dynamics of conversation, but I am very proud to be the female representative on the team and I really like to have a seat at the table and to really show my worth and value to that. I know I bring a lot to the table. But I'll tell you, we have been extremely capital efficient, to this point, and really have only raised to need and we've had a pretty slow burn because of that. So as we've been starting to go through this seed round, we've actually seen really a ton of excitement around the idea. It's a huge issue, so people definitely recognize the fact that something is needed. But it's also something that some people tend to be a little bit scared to come head to head with, because obviously the ad business has been around forever, it seems like, and it's certainly not going anywhere, but it's broken and it seems to be an overwhelming problem for people to solve.
So from the funding side, it's been mostly positive. Like I said, it's earlier stages, so I might potentially have more to offer to that question later on.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, yeah, yeah, no it's always a work in progress. It's true, you know? So where do you see AdKaddy being, like say five years from now, 10 years from now?
Cameron Cegala: We hope to be ultimately the rails between consumers and brands. We would like to be the platform of choice, the means of communication of choice for both sides and we want to prove the fact that brands can speak and communicate appropriately and effectively with consumers and consumers can receive that information and want to receive that information.
Melinda Wittstock: That's fantastic. So do you have like a number? Do you have kind of a thing like I'm going to be a billion dollar business or a hundred million dollar? I always like to ask women this question, because often women do struggle with really getting down and dirty in the numbers, right?
Cameron Cegala: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: So let's talk numbers. I mean, I want to be an example to everybody. So what is your goal?
Cameron Cegala: So true. It's true and I would say we have goals as far as whether … You know, I should say thresholds maybe of where we would sell. So there's two routes, obviously. One is you can sell the company in five to seven years for a particular number. That would probably be in the 10s of millions of dollars for us and the other option is to stay with it and build a team and continue to grow. Both are still open options for our team, because we do see that selling it could open the opportunity for us to all work on other projects together.
Melinda Wittstock: It's interesting what you say about the timing to sell and exit and it's so important for founders to have the exit in mind, because you're going to exit, like whatever, but I think what's really interesting to understand is that, say for instance you take in a lot of funding and you own less and less and less of your company and you get out there like five, seven years with a much smaller stake and meanwhile you've introduced all this kind of risk, all kinds of things could happen and you exit, say, with a $10 million check. Or you own, you know, and say you're selling your business for hundreds of millions of dollars and you get $10 million after all that work and all that effort or you sell a little bit earlier, say like two years in, and you still get a $10 million check, because you own a much higher proportion of the company and the acquirer is buying your potential rather than your history, which makes it more attractive.
This is kind of an interesting dynamic that a lot of founders, I find, are not really aware of and then you have the money. You have a stake in the new company. You can ride that up and then you have money to invest in your next.
Cameron Cegala: Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: I guess it just depends on whether you're kind of a serial entrepreneur, right?
Cameron Cegala: Absolutely. Yeah, and I would say our team is pretty young. We're also family. Not literally family, but we feel like family, and we definitely see a future working together on many, many projects. We're not certain which direction we'll go in, but we absolutely are open to both.
Melinda Wittstock: What made you make the leap into entrepreneurship? Because there you were at Proctor & Gamble, you know, a really great, nice, stable career, you know, good money, presumably. Like what made you take that leap?
Cameron Cegala: Yeah, great question. It's a pretty long, convoluted journey, but I … You know, I spent nearly six and a half years with P&G and ultimately my division was being sold off and I had the opportunity to stay with P&G and move, once again, to another city, because I had moved three, four times with P&G in a short period of time. Honestly, Melinda, it comes down to I just made a personal decision. I said, “Hey, I want to start putting some of my personal priorities at the top rather than just my professional,” and so that actually forced me to kind of step outside of my comfort zone and I took two … Well, I took a job with a smaller CPG company here in Atlanta and then I did one other short stint and those smaller companies, one of which was a startup, really opened my eyes to how much I loved startup.
I always knew I was an entrepreneur at heart. I always had these side hustles going on, whether it was my interior design business or when I was little, you know, babysitting and tutoring, whatever it might be. But I think I was scared to call myself an entrepreneur, because it seemed really risky. Those smaller companies really allowed me to see that I could do it too. It's not just my neighbor or my friend or whomever, but I actually can do this too and I can do it well. So really, it wasn't even out of my own decision at first to leave P&G, but it was the best thing that could happen to me. It really forced me to get uncomfortable and after I had those two shorter stints with those smaller companies, I was approached by one of my now business partners and good friend.
He had this idea, we had similar backgrounds, we both were very passionate about brands and consumers and the relationship of the two and we said, “Let's do it.”
Melinda Wittstock: That's wonderful. So the different … I mean, you have the ability to create your own culture.
Cameron Cegala: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Melinda Wittstock: So presumably Proctor & Gamble has its kind of corporate culture. What's different about your culture? How are you thinking about your company culture and the way people are treated in kind of like startuplandia versus corporate?
Cameron Cegala: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I would say two major aspects. One is we are all here in startup because we highly value independence. We highly value our time. We highly value this idea of controlling our own destiny, so we all mostly work from home or remote. We have some shared co-working spaces, but we meet at coffee shops and all that. We really believe that that's important. It's important that we prioritize our personal lives. Of course we all work very hard and hustle all the time. You never really turn it off, but you also can balance the two and have this blended life. I would say that's a really big part of our culture. Then the second piece is we really believe that each and every person on our team, though it be small, has a very specific and unique set of strengths and capabilities and we totally leverage those.
So regardless of age and background and what you've done in your career and all those things, we brought people into this because they had a very particular set of skills and we count on those people fully and let them own that piece of business.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, you know, culture is very important to how people succeed. I know that as a tech entrepreneur selling things into companies like Proctor and Gamble, the culture can be so different between like a nimble startup where any kind of problem like, “Yeah, we're going to roll up our sleeves and we're going to get it done. We're going to say yes.” All this kind of stuff compared to a corporation where no one ever got fired for saying no, but they can get fired for saying yes.
Cameron Cegala: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: So it's a very, very different sort of culture around that.
Cameron Cegala: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Melinda Wittstock: So Cameron, when you think of your business relative to your own life, like how much time you spend in business, how much time you have for yourself and your own self-care and your family and your friends and all these other things, how do you calibrate that in a startup? When a startup is so demanding of our time, how do you find that balance or perhaps it's integration?
Cameron Cegala: Yeah, absolutely. I think what really helps with startup, or at least in my case with startup, is that I really, really love what I do. I know that might sound cliché, because a lot of people talk about loving what they do, but I really, really do and I love the people I work with and so oftentimes, what we're doing doesn't feel so much like work in the sense of work. So you know, even talking to you about the business or going and meeting one of my business partners or colleagues at a coffee shop. I mean, yes, it's work, of course, and it does require a lot of work, but I really love it. We all really love it and we're all super passionate about what we're doing and believe in it. We really believe it's going to go somewhere.
I would say that's first and foremost, but we just really support one another and I think that at the end of the day, we all work really smart.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cameron Cegala: So the working hard piece, you know, kind of just comes along with it. So as long as we're working smart and we're getting our work done when it needs to be done, for some of us that's at, quite frankly, [spp-timestamp time="5:00"] in the morning and for others of us, not myself, that's at midnight. I tend to be an early riser, go to sleep earlier kind of person, but we're all different and we just let people kind of work in their own means.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I get it. I mean, it's interesting for women, because I think we're so hard wired to believe that our work is never done and because we can do everything doesn't necessarily mean that we have to. So trying to figure out where those boundaries are and how, as a co-founder of a start up, you know, you have this ability. Right now, at the early stages of your startup's growth, to really create the ground rules so that you have a life and your business supports you. Like your business is working for you rather than you always working for your business.
Cameron Cegala: For sure, and I'll say I am the only female co-founder. We do have other people on our team who work on the business who are female, but I've been here from the beginning and to your point, as females, I think we tend to have these nurturing personalities. We feel like we need to do everything. And also, having been here from the beginning, I really want to know what's going on and I want to kind of be involved and help out and support in every aspect. Sometimes I do have to take a step back and say, “You know what?” To my point before, like that's that person's specialty. Their expertise. I'm just going to let them run with it.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cameron Cegala: That's time off of my plate that I don't have to … You know, something that I don't have to do.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly, yeah. That's so, so important. I want to ask you a little bit about mindset and what it takes to succeed at this. What are some of the tips that you can give women who are thinking of taking the plunge into this? Because you know, we have … Let's see, I'm just going to ask this question again. Hold on a minute. So Cameron, you know, we talk a lot about … Cameron, we talk a lot on this podcast about the mindset that you need for success. Everything from how to visualize your own success, how to get rid of all those kind of negative beliefs or drivers that sometimes show up in patterns in our lives that are self-defeating. What are some of your personal habits? Right? That help you or increase your chances of success in the startup world?
Cameron Cegala: That is a great question. First and foremost, I'm always learning. I read a lot. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I listen to a lot of books. I also am always picking the brains of the people that I'm around. So I have some super, super talented colleagues who have had incredible business experience and I'm constantly asking them questions and trying to kind of gain some of that knowledge that they have. I would say I also am not scared to ask for help.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, amen, sister. I mean, because we really do need to do that. I see too many women doing the equivalent of what my mom used to do. Like she would literally clean the house before the housekeepers came.
Cameron Cegala: Yes, oh my goodness, I still do that.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Well, women tend to. I mean, we tend to fall into perfectionism and men, you know, don't do that. So we perfect and perfect and perfect and my take on that is that we're trying to prove our value instead of just knowing our value.
Cameron Cegala: Yeah, that's great. That's great. Yeah, so I would say that, ask for help. There's a reason why you have a team. You know, those team members, to my point before, typically have their own expertise and don't be afraid to leverage it. Quite frankly, don't be afraid to Google something, you know? We don't all know everything. That's a big one. Then honestly, stop being so afraid to fail.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, gosh. Failing is feedback. Failing is everything. It's like being an entrepreneur is like being a scientist in a lab where you just keep trying things until it works, because you're inventing something. You're doing something different. You've got a marketplace to educate. You've got all these things and so there's probably more that you don't know than you do. Right? I mean, you personally, I mean, just generally, right? All of us. And so failure really comes with the territory. It's so important not to take it personally.
Cameron Cegala: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, honestly, we have the mindset that if we try 100 things and only one works, well, hey, at least that one worked.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. That's exactly right. So Cameron, how can people find you and work with you and get going with AdKaddy?
Cameron Cegala: AdKaddy is available today in the App Store and also in Google Play. So please go and download it. It's A-d-k-a-d-d-y. That tends to get people, the K. We also are … You can reach is at www.adkaddy.com and we're also on all the major social media platforms @adkaddy and please feel free to reach out to me directly via LinkedIn.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. Well, Cameron, thank you so much for putting on your wings.
Cameron Cegala: Thanks, Melinda. It's been great.