“You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.” — Will Smith
January 1, 2017 will mark the two-year anniversary of Wish Dish. It is hard to imagine waking up the last 730 days in a row constantly discovering, learning, hitting roadblocks, and doing it the next day with the same vigor and passion. Great visions and companies take many years to create and I have been truly eased by the notion of not trying to have a “quick win.” As I have started to think about the impact we can have on the world, I see this vision taking at least ten years to come close to what we have in mind. And I know if we truly keep pushing the envelope, we will continue to find the right crevices to walk through and the necessary doors will continue to open.
In mid-August, I published a piece titled “If I Were Going to Walk Away from Wish Dish ”, after I found myself focusing on the wrong things in order to move the platform forward. In all honesty, the more I thought about letting go, the more I was pulled back into the fire. The pull led me to take a visit to New York City where I met with one of the early founders of Elite Day, a publishing platform with the same heart in their mission and content that Wish Dish shares. And thanks to Serge Efap, one of their early founders, we have truly worked hard to establish a plan for the future, to put a vision to paper, and work steadily on the execution in 3 month chunks. While July and August truly left me in doubt, September was inspiring and extremely promising. The fire came back, and we started digging further.
I am proud to say the past six weeks working on Wish Dish we have had our best six weeks since we first started. As Serge once told me, “you know you are on the right track, once you know what it feels like to be on the wrong track.”
“It’s what you do in the dark that brings you into the light” – Michael Phelps
@Forbes30under30 conference in Boston
In April and May of 2016, we conducted over 25 hour long interviews with our incredible community. Imagine taking your baby to twenty counselors and asking how to do a better job parenting. We did the same with our product and heard critical advice. These interviews were also mind opening, leading to 75 pages of handwritten notes, and a 10 page product plan for further improvements. As an entrepreneur, sometimes you think you know everything, but the truth is, the people you serve have a much better idea of what they want than you do. These interviews taught us a lot, and we had a lot of realizations such as:
A. My life is more than just one big story, I don’t see myself sharing on WD again
B. I have no way of connecting to the authors on Wish Dish
C. Once I get to the platform, I have nothing to do after I read the article I planned on reading
D. The site is poorly categorized, and it’s hard for me to find what I want
E. I only visit and interact with Wish Dish a few times per month
These were just five big points out of 15-20 other consistent remarks. But as you can see, we had some problems to tackle.
We did not just interview our own community either. We spoke to writers on Medium, multiple people who run the Odyssey chapters on a few different campuses, the founder of The Mighty & PostSecret, Co-Founder of Blavity, founding members at Elite Daily, the founder of PRSuit, among many other publications and platforms in a similar space. We truly had to do our homework, understand the ins and outs of our industry and the users on each platform. We also had to understand how to run our operation internally, so we could make larger steps forward and build a platform that was differentiated.
Lastly, our vision from the beginning was never to be solely a media / storytelling / publishing platform. We wanted to create a community, a real community that cared where people could feel acceptance and belonging. A community where people engaged with each other on a daily or weekly basis.
So after five months of research, planning, and assembling the pieces we have begun to take strides to work the plan we created. A plan that has enormous potential to create global change, amazing personal relationships, and grow to a level where our tribe can make a tremendous difference in conversations that matter.
First and foremost, after the research interviews, I was able to look at our platform from a different lens and realized we were not setup for long term success. And this is where it became difficult, because we had already put so much time building it the way we had. I looked further and further at what we needed to do to make the necessary changes and knew it was not going to be easy, but also knew we could make the necessary changes as we had the tribe who believed in us enough to see it through.
Because of this, we are midway through a full rebrand (except the name). The logo, color scheme, and site functionality. Simply, we want to make the best product possible for our users and if we want to retain our users long term, we need to keep evolving and improving.
In our last blog update, we gave you an idea of some of some of the pieces we were putting in place. Since then, we have worked relentlessly to see it to fruition. We asked 100 of our contributors who we truly felt represented Wish Dish core values to take a greater role in our platform. 65/100 immediately said yes. While they have committed to monthly or bimonthly contributions, they have also committed to helping be part of a community that is going to serve them. Great perks such as having questionnaire forms setup so we can connect them in a meaningful way to our users, a podcast to further dive into their stories, partnerships with various organizations and brands that will directly benefit them, an internal newsletter to keep abreast on what people are doing within the community, and personal + professional opportunities we will bring their way. Additionally, something special and unique about what we are doing is letting the community grow itself. Every two months, we will double the community where each member nominates one person they know who fits the Wish Dish mold, to join us and contribute. It is not our aim to create exclusiveness, but to build this platform around the right people and give our members ownership in our vision to build it how they would like to see it built.
Simply, Simon Sinek once said:
Since September, we have taken enormous steps to put the right pieces in place to support all the changes on the outside. The hardest part about working behind the scenes though is not seeing the immediate success on the surface. Instead of racing to put the pieces we wanted on the chessboard and figure out how to navigate it, we had to first clear the board and truly look at what was going to make us win as a community.
Here is the infrastructure we have put in place to successfully see our vision through:
Head of Operations: Lexi Nickens
First, and most importantly, we hired our Head of Operations, Lexi Nickens. Lexi is a UGA student who has previously worked for multiple publications and media companies. She has been a shining light on our vision building out an operations manual for our editing team, which she has also recruited. She has also worked with me to build our Community Builder Handbook, which over 60 people have committed to serving. Additionally, she has streamlined team communications. Simply, some of our changes would not be possible without her.
Managing Editor: Rishi Banerjee
Rishi has been promoted internally as our Managing Editor. Rishi was first a contributor who speak about his mental health state, and then later started working as an editor. Now, five months later, he leads a team of four editors in which he directs the output of quality work. This editing team will be able to handle an abundance of content from our contributors who will be posting monthly or bimonthly. This team will allow for us to put this content out in a quality fashion.
Editor at Large / Chief of Content: Matt Gillick
Matt Gillick has been with us from Day 1, coming all the way from the New York to our event in Athens, GA where he thanked the entire Wish Dish community for the valuable opportunity of serving them. Now, Matt has been been given his biggest role yet as the Editor at Large. Matt is responsible for shaping the voice of our platform and coming up with prompts and topics of conversation that truly drive engagement where our community can talk amongst each other and glean value and meaningful insights. Additionally, Matt will be sending out newsletters with stories to our subscriber base, and internal newsletters to our community builders.
Head of Marketing: Dan Mule
All marketing responsibilities are in the hands of Dan Mule, whom we feel very lucky to have on our team. He has been handling story titles, social media posts, and has begun the process of putting together growth strategies. These strategies include repurposing content onto new platforms or creating micro videos that will have an emotional pull on our audience. Simply, Dan has dove in order to begin to appeal to the Wish Dish community.
Head of Branding & Design: Christopher Travers
We have tasked Christopher Travers, UGA Student, with our full-rebrand. This ranges from logo, colors, to site feel and functionality, and page/design mockups. Christopher built our current site, and went through a full rebrand for his startup two years ago. He has a belief in our vision and is off to a great start.
Last but not least, we would like to give a special thank you to two individuals who have played a tremendous part in helping us grow our community around the right people. Those people are Dana Sauro and Mia King. These are two people who truly believe in our mission and have worked tirelessly with us so we can succeed.
We are excited to share further updates into the New Year. Onward we go!