We asked some of New Zealand's leading business people about their bravest moment in business. In the first story of our series for Spark, Carmen Vicelich, founder of Data Insight and Valocity.
"How could I forget?" says Carmen Vicelich when asked about her bravest moment in business.
"In May 2012 I was the main income earner with a family of four children, all aged under nine. But after ten years in a highly paid corporate role, it was time for a change."
"I wanted to build a business of my own."
Fresh from an early morning TV interview, the founder of Data Insight darts between rooms in her Auckland offices with unbridled energy. Such energy has proven to be a winning card in her adopted world of data, where the business she started in 2013 now employs over sixty people.
"I have no doubt my friends thought I was a bit mad. Mother of four leaves behind very well-paid job. Perhaps I was naive, but I just had a sense that everything was going to be okay. If it was going to be, it was up to me."
"I didn't want to be a 'could have' or a 'should have.' I'd climbed the corporate ladder as high as I could go. My husband told me, 'Go for it. It's your time to do something...'"
She'd found her calling, but with no technology or team of her own, her ambitious dream was a very a tough road. She also had the challenge of getting access to quality data and building confidence to work with larger companies as an unproven start-up.
"I think one of the lessons in being brave is to have vision and passion in equal parts. You have to make it happen. You can't rely on others to do it or assume there won't be obstacles along the way," she says.
Ten months later Data Insight was born.
In a business sense, data can help companies of any size understand every little thing about their customers. In today's world, those customers are online and mobile and have high expectations. For any business to meet those needs, first they need to understand their customer.
In the early days of running her own business, Vicelich learned it was easier to develop the technology in-house rather than partner with others. An attempt to find a partner with an overseas software provider failed when she realised their innovative approach was anything but.
Meantime, demand for innovative technology was building - so Carmen just got stuck in and developed Valocity, New Zealand's first ever mortgage valuation platform.
"I figured I didn't need these guys at all. We could build it ourselves. That way we had complete control of our development. The customisation and configuration of our platform ended up being our unique selling proposition."
"Since then we have enjoyed great success with many Kiwi companies and have a great relationship with Spark, who share our business philosophy of always putting the customer at the heart of everything we do."
As with any new venture, the biggest worry is the unknown. Vicelich is not a natural risk-taker. She likes to be in control. Roller coasters scare her for this reason. She also needs to have Plan A, B, C and D in place. Her self-belief, however, is infectious.
"Now as I look around our dream team it's all a bit surreal. These people rely on me to pay their mortgages. Thankfully I no longer have to shoulder-tap people in large corporates. I no longer have to say, 'Come along with me. I've got no customers, no data and no technology, but it will be a hell of a ride!'"
What then, is Carmen's next brave move?
"The future is ours to create. We're in the business of technology and data where anything is possible. It really is a matter of 'How fast can we go?'"
"Come the weekend though, I'm a mother of four," she smiles. "That's my role."
Every business owner has a defining moment, a point where they have a make or break decision. Us kiwis love a good success story, and we want to hear all about yours. Share your brave business journey with us and you could land yourself an exclusive Spark Lab VIP experience.
Spark will look after flights to Auckland, accommodation, dinner at Seafarers and tickets for a premium Spark Lab business event with the opportunity to network with the speaker. They will also include a one-on-one business mentoring session with an Icehouse coach worth $380.
To enter, simply tell us about your brave business story and what helped you along the way. Share your story here.