Kijiji makes it easy to buy and sell stuff.
Starting the company – that came with some challenges.
Kijiji.ca founder Janet Bannister talked about her entrepreneurial journey at a gathering of businesswomen in St. John’s on Thursday.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE) held its annual two-day conference on Wednesday and Thursday at the Conference Centre on Signal Hill.
Bannister was the keynote speaker.
“A lot of people look at that and say, ‘Wow, you just launched Kijiji and it just took off,’ whereas in fact, we tried so many things that didn’t work,” she told The Telegram just before her speech.
Bannister described the early days when the classifieds site first launched. She recalled attending a parenting trade show because they had decided to target new families.
“It was a total disaster,” she said.
“I can think at least half a dozen things that we tried at the beginning that were just total failures, and didn’t have the marketing impact that we thought they would have. But I think that what we did was we just kept going, and we just kept iterating and trying and learning until we found what worked.
“Then when we found out what worked for our product and from a marketing standpoint then we just doubled down and focused on that.”
From that, one of the key takeaways she hopes conference delegates learn is that entrepreneurs need to embrace continual growth and lifelong learning.
"... as women entrepreneurs, we have a great opportunity to work together, and by helping one another we lift each other all up." — Janet Bannister
She said she hopes people leave her keynote speech feeling motivated and having learned tangible things they can do.
If delegates learn from Bannister’s experience that might include one of her main tips – to support one another.
She said she’d never be the successful entrepreneur she is today if it weren’t for her supportive friends.
In fact, before arriving to St. John’s she spent the night in New York City where she attended a gathering of about 20 women from a variety of business backgrounds.
They are part of a network of about 200 women who try to get together once a month. She said they all went around the room and spoke about ways they could help one another.
“Particularly as women entrepreneurs, we have a great opportunity to work together, and by helping one another we lift each other all up,” she said.
NLOWE Acting CEO Suzanne Fogwill said conference delegates loved Bannister’s presentation because she also spoke about embracing technology and the importance of staying ahead of trends.
Fogwill said many NLOWE members are not involved in high-tech businesses, but having Bannister speak with them was helpful in understanding how to bring that same level of innovation to their own ventures.