When I first met Jason Ledlow, Founder of Conexa I perceived him to be an astute and scrappy entrepreneur. We crossed paths about 18 months later when Made Possible was invited to present at Oklahoma's EO Chapter on the subject of Consumer Engagement. Afterwards, we visited and I was left with the impression that amidst the start-up grind, here was a Founder that wanted to build a viable business while impacting people in meaningful ways. Later, when asked about Jason's commitment to people and making a difference, I responded, "He's authentic. He really wants to help kids read and help people."
What's the story behind Conexa?
A few years ago, I had a really good team at a company called UTPhone. We were looking for open space in the changing technology market and even changing demographics in the U.S. We realized there was a huge gap in the home internet market. We discovered that 90% of the kids 6th grade and below in Oklahoma City's Public School system speak Spanish in the home.
We were like, "Wow." Those people aren't being served well. So, we decided to offer a quality home internet service to them with a simple price structure and easy-to-understand terms. That was it, the starting point.
So, what have you been able to accomplish with Conexa?
I showed up at the kitchen table in a tie 3 years ago. Today, we have thousands of customers in 21 states and we're growing. We've been able to hire 17 people and have employees in 2 states. I'm very proud of the what we've done and the team's commitment to the company and their communities.
That's quite an accomplishment in just 3 years. Do you consider Conexa successful?
(laughing) Well, success is a moment by moment thing. In this moment, yes. However, we don't take it for granted. We show up everyday to deliver value to our customers and the communities we serve.
Speaking of customers, I've heard you comment on Internet service as more than just a product. Would you explain your thoughts?
Sure. The internet is a gateway to opportunity that no one should be without. Price, access, bandwidth--all of it--shouldn't be cost prohibitive, or restricted. It's a service that provides access to opportunity, information and so much more. That's why we use phrases like, "For Your Home." I could go on and on. It's just a rewarding product to provide because it does so much for individuals and families.
You recently distributed custom crafted, summer reading material to 600 students in Oklahoma City. Why?
As an entrepreneur, I'm a proponent of opportunity. Literacy and language is a key to both. I read with my kids to help them grow and I want all families to grow to their potential. This is about people, families and a brighter future.
Any other reasons?
Yes. I love to read and read with my kids often. Even with my involvement, it's hard for them sometimes to learn and stay motivated. This made me wonder, "I read with my kids and it's not easy. How hard must it be for some of these families that don't have the time I do or don't even speak English?"
With that in mind, what did you do?
We have a cartoonist on staff and a number of our staff speak Spanish. I just asked him to draw and draft a dual language reading primer that we could hand out to kids for their summer reading. Our team did a great job. Fantastic really.
We went on to partner with Oklahoma City's Lee Elementary to host a party, celebrate the kids and then handed out the books.
I was there and the event and the kids' enthusiasm was inspiring. How did the administration receive your offer?
They were thrilled. The material came at a time amidst massive budget cuts and they were ecstatic to work with us to celebrate literacy. More importantly, they wanted the kids to have access to the material we provided. We hosted the event May 20th. Since then, additional cuts have been announced specifically, textbook cuts. We look forward to doing more. Anything we do is helpful. Now, more than ever, we look forward to doing more.
More? What's next?
We envision a whole series of reading primers, coloring books etc. that we can hand out. Not just in Oklahoma, but in all the communities we serve. Our partnership and contribution to Lee Elementary is just the beginning. It will take time, but we're committed.
Thanks Jason. Any other community projects you see the Conexa team getting involved with?
Yeah. Due to a lot of personal experience, we're working with a Suicide prevention organization to help them do more of the good work they're about. I'll fill you in later.
Wow. Sounds personal.
It is. I'll tell you more later.
O.K. Changing directions, we've spoke at length about building a company. Any wisdom might share with fellow business builders?
Wisdom?! (laughing) I don't know about wisdom. I can share a few thoughts around my experience. Here they are:
First, sell. Just start selling. By, "sell", I mean pitch or share, your idea, product, or solution as fast as possible. And listen. Listen closely. The faster you start selling your idea the quicker you can adjust the value proposition. If you're lucky, you can generate revenue and that's the lifeblood of any start up. Put on a tie, share your product with the world, listen to customer feedback and adjust what you must.
Second, success is a moment by moment thing. It's never permanent. You have to keep working to move forward because, if not, you will inevitably go backwards.
Third, work hard and focus. Twelve years ago, I was given the opportunity to represent a broadband service provider and took it. The day after closing the agreement with the provider, I woke up, put a tie on and sat down at the kitchen table with my laptop and a cup of coffee by 7:30a.m. My wife looked at me and said, "What are you doing?" I told her, "I am going to work. I have a company to build."
I work better that way. I know some entrepreneurs wear flip flops. That may be great for them. But, I have to get in the right frame of mind to build a business and flip flops don't work for me. A tie does.
Finally, make others a priority. Help as many people as you can as you build your company. I'm grateful we're at a spot where we can do this. It's really the goal right? To build a business that's viable and support as many people as possible in the process.
Sounds like wisdom to me Jason. Thanks for sharing your story. We'll be in touch.
I look forward to it.