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10 Questions With Wonder Founder Paige Cattano

We all like giving and receiving gift cards, right? But how many of us completely forget we even have them to start off with? Thanks to Paige Cattano, mom of three and co-founder of Wonder, that all just got easier! The way Wonder works is pretty simple, but completely brilliant—anyone who has the app can gift or receive a gift card from a wide variety of stores and sites. Upon receiving a gift amount, link a credit card and voilà—your credit card is now also your new gift card! Basically this means no more never remembering to use that gift card from Christmas of last year. Totally genius, right?

Now with over 2 million participating merchants, Paige's past experience as a marketing consultant seems to really be paying off! So how does a full-time mom of three raise a family and create an app that makes it easier to give (and receive—ahem!) that Starbucks gift card? Read on!

How did you come up with the concept for your business and at what point did you decide to make it a reality?

Wonder was born out of our passion for helping merchants and consumers connect and transact more efficiently while having a positive social impact. As we dug into this problem and talked to consumers, we learned that there is a desire to purchase gifts from local businesses as well as big brands, but there was no easy way to discover and buy gift cards from any merchant, anywhere, anytime from the convenience of your mobile phone. This idea evolved into the Wonder Gift Card app, that I co-developed with Gerry Goldstein. After months of analysis including how do you take away the pain of the plastic gift card that notoriously gets lost or forgotten, we had an incredible “aha” moment. We had figured out an awesome solution that was so needed in a marketplace where mobile phones are used for everything from banking to posting status updates. We thought why not gifting? It was a no-brainer. We had to go for it.

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Kind of related, how do you make the leap from a secure paid job to starting your own business?

I am fortunate to have a husband who was on board with taking the risk and being the sole provider. It’s definitely a leap of faith to be working a ton of hours and being stressed out while working for “free” for an unspecified amount of time. At the end of the day, I firmly believe that you have to follow your gut, have no regrets and go for it when the opportunity is right. If you are passionate about what you are doing, there is always a way to make it work.

How much money should someone have saved before starting their own business?

It really depends on your business model and business plan, but it will probably take more money than you think and take longer than you think to start payroll. When starting a business, I recommend modeling out the best, the conservative and the worst case cash flow scenarios. Be sure you have enough saved to get you through the worst case scenario for your business.

Was there a moment when you wanted to give up but pushed on through anyway?

Startup life is hard and it’s typical to have many ups and downs. But I am truly passionate about Wonder and that keeps me going. Giving up is never on my radar. When we hit a bump in the road, I channel my energy into finding a solution. The positive thing about starting a company is that you can affect change immediately. It is stressful and nerve-wracking at times, but ultimately it is extremely exciting to be able to chart the course you believe has the best chance of success.

At what point did you consider yourself successful?

For me, success is measured in milestones more than at a point in time. Each milestone we hit is a success to me. I relish every accomplishment for the company, but it’s not long before I have my nose to the grindstone tackling our next goal.

How do you balance your work/home life, or is there even such a thing?

Work/life balance is the hardest thing to achieve. I try to focus on the most important things and make sure I am 100 percent present for those. It’s important to be realistic about what you can and can’t do, surround yourself with people that support your ambitions and don’t beat yourself up trying to do everything perfectly.

What was the best advice you ever received? Worst advice?

The best advice I got was from my father. He told me at a young age, “You can do anything you want as long as you are willing to work hard enough for it.” It taught me that it didn’t matter if you are a girl or boy or whether or not you are the smartest in the room. Success is directly correlated to determination.

The worst advice I ever got was to keep my idea a secret so that no one steals it. The truth is, you need to talk to everyone you know about your idea so you can flush it out and make helpful connections. The positive outcomes of this completely outweigh any negative ones.

Since you’ve been through it, what would you tell someone starting out?

Know that it is marathon—not a sprint. Be prepared to give it your all for the long haul. Also, it’s harder being the owner than being the employee. At the end of the day, you are the one everyone is counting on to deliver and that is a lot of pressure. That being said, it is such a rewarding and exhilarating experience. It’s quite a ride when you are in the driver’s seat.

It takes a village for any mom, but for a mom starting her own business, it must take a huge village. So who are your go-to people and services?

I want to spend my free time with my family, not running errands. Outsource everything you can to give you more quality time with those you love. You don’t get extra points for going to the dry cleaners or the grocery store.

My go-to sources are Amazon Prime (for everything), Instacart (groceries), Task Rabbit (handyman projects), Urban Sitter (last-minute babysitters), Munchery (meal delivery), BarkBox (for the dog), and of course Wonder (for all the gifts I buy).

What do you do to unwind and recharge?

I love playing tennis—it’s great for reducing stress and having some fun. I also do Pilates. It’s important for me to have set activities on the calendar to connect with my friends (book club, movie nights, walks) and my husband.

I have a fun book club that meets each month. Our Book Club is reading "The Orphan Master’s Son" by Adam Johnson. Also, I always have a work-related read on-hand. One of the best books I read relating to starting a tech company was "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz.

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Bonus Question: Finally, take me through a day in your life.

I wake up at 6:30 a.m., jump in the shower and get ready for the day. My three kids wake up at 7:00 a.m. My husband gets breakfast going while I pack lunches and get them out the door by 7:45 a.m. for school. After drop-off, I race back to the house, walk the dog and pack up for the office. I grab my Starbucks on the way and arrive at the office at 9. I immediately catch up on emails and respond to anything urgent. I also check Support to see if there are any outstanding tickets that need my attention. The day flies by with conference calls, meetings and deadlines. I leave the office at 3:30 to pick up the kids from school. From 3:30 to 8:00 p.m. it’s a mad dash of carpooling to activities, cooking dinner and helping with homework. Once the kids are settled either in bed or reading, my workday resumes. I usually work from 8:00-11:00 p.m. with a goal of completing my to-do list for the day. Before I sign off, I make a to-do list for the next day so I can wake up with an action plan.

Wonder has a flexible work environment. That means we work around our kids’ schedules and have the flexibility to create our own hours. It may seem crazy to work late into the night, but I truly love that I can be there for my kids during the important parts of the day without guilt. I also find that taking a break makes me much more productive. Happy employees are productive employees.

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