Those who don’t jump will never fly

3-minute read

“Beaze: Meet the Team” is a series on the team building out Beaze, a platform that provides continuous lead generation for service providers. Today, we’re chatting with Peter Alexandre, our Director of Business Development, on how to succeed while busting bias.

Peter Alexandre, Director of Business Development. Photo Credit: Beaze
Peter Alexandre, dual Gold Medalist for Long Jump and High Jump in the 1996 Canadian Championship. Photo Credit: Beaze

So, Why Beaze?

As a Haïtian, I, like many others, face a world full of inequality and prejudice. When people think of my country, they think of it as a dangerous, impoverished nation. They don’t see a country that once produced 80% of France’s external income, nor do they see a society that raised the first successful slave rebellion against Napoléon, leading to its independence. They don’t see people ready and willing to do what’s necessary to succeed.

I believe in a world where more people excel based on their potential and capabilities and have equal access to opportunity. I want to be part of a company that democratizes wealth generation.

The average annual household income in Haïti is roughly $450 USD PER YEAR (or $1.23 per day) or the cost of an iPad. A Haïti-based web developer could easily earn that in a week creating an online storefront for a mom and pop chocolate boutique in Belgium; that shop would be simultaneously getting an incredible discount compared to the average market price for web development based Europe, usually around $5-10K USD. The positive impact of this change could be life-changing for all.

Peter Alexandre, Director of Business Development at Beaze. Photo Credit: Beaze

What’s your philosophy when it comes to tech?

We need to focus on helping each other. Technology is simply a tool to leverage the amount of partnership you can maintain while still being helpful to one another; it helps us automate away the repetitive tasks that drain our motivation and resources. Technology doesn’t replace our inherent human impulse to want to connect. We get so much more done when we collaborate, and vendors can be an essential part of a business’s success.

How should businesses go about choosing vendors?

Find an ethical vendor who asks and answers the right questions. As best said by Albert Einstein, “If I only had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Solutions can be amazingly inexpensive and straightforward when you’ve got the right measures of success and an open mind on how to get there.

Back when virtual machines (VMs) like Docker weren’t yet the norm, I remember saving a client ~$1M. A government agency considered buying a new license to replace their current server as its hardware was aging out and took over a week to recover when it failed. I realized VMware could virtualize away this old mainframe and proceeded to exceed all expectations. It was faster than the old system, no longer dependent on obsolete hardware and even recovered in a manner of minutes. 

If this client had engaged a less honorable vendor, they might have just given the client what they wanted at face value resulting in a $1M+ billable. Instead, I gave them a long-term solution that shockingly cost them only $10K total (1% of the original cost) and that had future scalability in mind. It’s better to play the long game and earn customer trust.

Beaze intrinsically enables customers to ask the right questions from an almost endless supply of subject-matter experts. Customers can then receive more relevant and competitively valued bids in record time. 

What’s your secret to closing deals and partnerships?

Remember that customers are human, regardless of the way you interact with them. You must fulfill their emotional needs more than anything else; this means eliminating stressors (like those caused by bias, selection and repetition), then focusing on a solution in terms that they appreciate and understand. 

Beaze does this by driving the entire negotiation towards achieving a specific end goal quickly and efficiently based on merit, not aesthetics. 

How can someone deliver if they’re dealing with bias as a visible minority? 

Perform extraordinarily well. That way, people will forget about any preconceived stereotype and instead associate you with overshadowing success. While it doesn’t feel fair to be constantly held to such a high standard, it’s the situation we’ve inherited. 

Once, I had a particular sales goal at Cisco to achieve. While most of my non-minority peers would have been happy with attaining $250K in sales within a year (well within their target quota), I went the extra mile to reach $2.5M single-handedly. The entire business group was stunned because they never expected me to succeed because of my appearance. I never want my kids to think that mediocrity is ok.

In sports, success is driven by beating the records of our predecessors. Winning the Canadian Championship in track and field gave me a great sense of accomplishment and appreciation for world-class talent; it established the foundation of character necessary for me to push myself when competing alongside international business leaders. 

Customers expect a lot from their partners, and they should. You need the best talent to get ahead. Beaze allows everyone to succeed based on what vendors can do for you right now, and it evens out the playing field, so everyone gets a fair chance.

How does being a parent affect your work? 

Kids get straight to the point; they don’t carry the same baggage as adults and don’t have a filter. It’s a constant reminder to eliminate the noise and to focus on what’s important right now. 

Kids also very adaptable. My daughters’ ability and willingness to learn makes me realize that I can always go further and do more for my community.

Tell us about how you give back and why that’s so important?

I mentor several kids from different countries including Brazil and Haïti. I give them guidance on technology career paths so they can fast track their careers. It’s so rewarding to help propel them forward; I wish I had options like this when I was just getting started.

When all is said and done, what do you hope for Beaze to achieve?

I want people to be valued for their skills rather than their origin or appearance.

Too Lejit to Quit (Designing with Passion, that is)

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Joshua Thomas, CEO of Lejit Designs, a graphic design and illustration company in Liberty Lake, WA. He shares his secrets on growing his business and the art community at large.

Joshua Thomas, CEO of Lejit Designs (Graphic Design) | Beaze, a vendor procurement marketplace.
Joshua Thomas, CEO of Lejit Designs | Photo Credit: Mercedes Kissinger Smith

So, why Lejit Designs?

Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved fantasy and comic books, which always had me sketching in a notebook. In college, I studied design and began using programs on my computer and laptop to create animations and graphics. I originally started Lejit Designs as my creative outlet, and fortunately, it has become a great business. I pride myself on reliable communication and passionate design. I think a few things that separate me from other companies are my passion for my craft, my willingness to have honest communication, and my drive to improve my craft consistently.

What’s your design style?

All of my work is full of color. I love their vibrancy in making ideas truly come to life. In Spokane, there is not a lot of vitality. I am the leader of the Spokane Design Meetup Group, and it’s my goal to foster an art community in Spokane, similar to that in Portland. I want to bring the Spokane creatives together to do one community collaboration project together per month to get everyone involved and working together.

Another element I try to include in my work is whimsicality. In my comics, I like to portray serious adult moments with a whimsical element involved, to appeal to the inner child in all of us. There’s no fun in being too serious. Sometimes everyone is so caught up in what they are doing, and I want to bring the human element back to design and the work that I do.

Doggo Branding by Lejit | Photo Credit: Lejit

How do you stay on top of your work?

The key to managing this company is balancing my creative side with my analytical side. Being able to draw on both helps me stay organized and remember to do the little things like register my trade name and do my taxes, the ‘boring stuff’. I am also big on consistency and maximizing my time. Even when I’m battling a creative block, I go exercise.

What’s fuels your design?

The sheer number of amazing artists and creators around me. I learn so much from all of the different projects that I see others working on, and I consistently attempt to take what I learn from others into my own work. The artists/creators that inspire me the most are probably Cory Schmitz, Freddy Carrasco, Bryce Kho, and Anastasiia Vinchencko. Regardless of which muse, at the end of the day, whenever I see their work, it makes me want to create. Each of them is a master of their craft and understanding them helps instill this drive to one day excel in my art as much as they do in theirs. I want to be the best at what I do, and to me, seeing artists like them pushes me to want to improve with every new project.

What is your mantra?

“Design, made human.” I got into graphic design because I enjoy making things with people and helping them achieve their visions through design. The human aspect of every interaction I have is what gets me up every morning. I don’t want my work to be a transaction; I want it to be a collaborative relationship that works well beyond when the project ends.

Who have been your biggest advocates/partners in business?

The biggest influences and advocates were the owners of Maker & Made, Brittany Stodgell and Millicent Schnebly. They pushed me a lot to start my own graphic design business and were a massive influence on me early on. They sat down with me on multiple occasions and gave me wisdom and advice that I still use today. I’ve always been very thankful for their guidance.

What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

Wow, that’s the big one *haha*. There are so many things that I would tell the younger me designer if I could. 

1. Always work with a contract. This one will keep you sane and exponentially increase the number of successful transactions you have. In a perfect world, we’d never have to use contracts, and every client would pay. However, every designer has a couple of stories about the times they got stiffed by a client. Contracts mitigate a lot of financial worries because most clients are less likely to jump ship without paying you if they feel contractually obligated to the project. They keep things professional in an industry where a lot of clients have difficulties seeing design as anything more than a hobby. There are a ton of online sources and other physical books on the subject. One of my personal favorites is Business and Legal Forms for Graphic Designers

2. Don’t be afraid to fail. Design in and of itself is a consistent process of failing and course correcting. The road to being a successful designer is not a road paved by genius; it’s a gory one filled with the dead bodies of all your past failures. There isn’t a single designer that looks at their work from a year ago and says that it’s “perfect”. Failing and trying again is the name of the game.

3. Share EVERYTHING. It’s challenging for people to appreciate your designs if you don’t ever show them your work. Don’t be afraid of not having name recognition or not living up to some of your design heroes. Keep designing with passion and showing others; you’ll eventually find your place. 

4. Never be afraid to price yourself what you’re worth. Saying “no” is a pseudo taboo for young designers looking to get their name out in the world, but in my experience, knowing when to say no might allow you to take on that dream client you’ve always wanted. Plus, it saves you from over-stretching yourself.

How do you give back to the community?

My way of giving back to the community is taking over Spokane Design and trying to create a broader design community in the area. We’re starting up a community outreach design project every month. Giving back to the community is critical. The reality is, few of us encounter the same opportunities. I’d love to give back more. I see Spokane Design as an outlet for other up-and-coming designers to grow, improve, and create because I know first hand what it means to have people in your corner rooting for you.

When all is said and done, what do you hope for Lejit Designs to achieve?

To become a premier design firm that helps other designers get their start. I can’t wait to start paying it forward.

Lejit Designs is a preferred partner on Beaze.

Startup Mode Requires Fists of Fury

2-minute read

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Raise Your Media, a digital marketing agency that focuses on brands. This diverse power couple, Dominika and Marcus Thompson, discuss survival tactics when pursuing your own startup.

Dominika and Marcus Thompson of Raise Your Media. Beaze, a B2B vendor procurement marketplace.

Left to Right: Dominika and Marcus Thompson of Raise Your Media. Photo Credit: Beaze

So, Why Raise your Media?  

Dominika: A while back, my sisters and I were already involved in the media production, sales and marketing of several theatre and dance projects in Poland, Israel and Japan. Earlier in my career, I was in marketing, sales, and management for consumer goods. I specialized in working with small businesses developing relationships and making sure that marketing solutions worked on the retail customer level. Starting a small business-oriented marketing agency was a natural progression for us. 

Marcus: I had many jobs in the customer service industry, from restaurants to retail to real estate. The one thing they had in common was the relationship with the customer. It’s so humbling and yet rewarding to have clients ask for me by name. It’s been an absolute joy connecting with people whether it was interviewing celebrity chefs or attending premier events with clients. I decided a long time ago that working my life away for someone else wasn’t going to cut it anymore. So far, I’ve met all kinds of entrepreneurs with dreams and ambitions beyond my wildest imagination and I find myself equally inspired to reach for the sky. I was already doing the leg work, why not me too?

Who inspires you?  

Dominika: My father is my inspiration. He was a business owner during my childhood and always involved my sister and I. Seeing how that business was a part of the community it spurred me to one day start a business of my own. He allowed me to sell cherries when I was 7 years old and that taught me how to earn money at a young age.

Marcus: Bruce Lee. His desire to leave a legacy and pursuit of perfection inspired him to overcome his limitations daily. He never compromised in the face of discrimination and achieved his dreams/goals one step at a time. Being a minority growing up in the South, I’ve faced my share of discrimination. Knowing what Bruce overcame inspires me to take on all kinds of challenges.

Fist of Fury. Beaze, a B2B vendor procurement marketplace.
Fist of Fury, featuring Bruce Lee. Photo Credit: Golden Harvest

How did you survive the startup phase?

Dominika: When we first started, we were the cliché struggling start-up. We had to get our foot in the door by doing free social media content and management of social media accounts. This stage of our business didn’t produce much revenue; to pay the team and bills, Marcus worked as a real estate agent and other jobs on the side. Now those clients that we did free work for have been our loyal customers with monthly retainers; they’ve also recommended new customers to us. It only took that initial investment on our part, but the payout was worth it.  

Marcus: While first impressions are essential, don’t judge a book by its cover. When people first met Dominika, they greatly underestimated her abilities. People said things like, “What would a person from Poland know about marketing in America.” She understood their apprehensiveness and proceeded to blow them away with her knowledge and experience. She had answers for questions they were going to ask and issues they didn’t know they would ask. She proves doubters wrong all the time. Being confident and doing the prep can go a long way.  

What is your secret to success? 

Marcus: Under-promise and over-deliver. Always put value first, even in small instances, like making your client laugh during a meeting when they’re not having the best day. It all counts and plays a tremendous role in creating a customer journey. 

Dominika: Be genuine about who you are and what your business has to offer because trust is the foundation of a great business relationship. The market grows fast and is extremely competitive. In order to stay successful, you have to constantly invest in your knowledge. 

Any tips for businesses that are looking to market themselves better? 

Dominika: Make your content count; get up-close and personal. For example, a bakery can share photos of their cakes, but after a while, the content gets stale. When you have the sous chef take video and pictures of what it’s like in the bakery and the process, it tells a story about the bakery that illustrates the team dynamics and who they are. This makes for a more organic story, and it’s what people like to hear and see. By creating content revealing who they are it creates a face of the business and can be relatable to everyone. Don’t get caught up in counting your likes on social media platform. You can get that by engaging your team and getting everyone involved. 

At the end of the day, what do you hope for Raise Your Media to achieve? 

Dominika:  I want to help other companies to elevate their brands in a disruptive way, no matter the clients’ budget. 

Marcus: I want us to be a media company for the people. We want to be world-renowned for still being down-to-earth and approachable to any business, big or small.

Raise Your Media is a preferred partner on Beaze Beta.