Welcome to Powerful Leaders, No Apologies.
Beth and Debbie talk with technologist, Natalie Waggett, a recovering banker turned technologist who is passionate about leading with Love. She’s currently the CEO and Chief Inspiration Officer of Ohanafy in Wilmington NC where she combined good friends, love for an industry, and love for Salesforce into a thriving tech startup that is taking the craft beverage industry by storm….solving problems in rapid time at scale!
Links from the episode:
[08:31] I can do anything mantra
[14:29] The secret sauce
[19:28] Responding to industry challenges as a woman
Debbie Foster (00:03):
Welcome to the Powerful Leaders, no apologies podcast, the show about women who are ready to own their power and change the world. My name is Debbie Foster.
Beth Thompson (00:12):
And I’m Beth Thompson. Our guests are fierce and fabulous women who are making a difference in their personal and professional communities. Are you ready to be inspired? If so, stay tuned and also check out our website affinityconsulting.com slash powerful leaders. Here’s the show, Debbie, episode three. We made any, you believe it. We’re already at episode three. I’m, I’m still amazed and it’s so much fun. It’s so much fun. At least I’m having fun.
Debbie Foster (00:45):
I am too. And I don’t know how we have 50 people that we want to have on this podcast. It’s going to be like 20, 24. Before we get through our, just the people we thought of off the top of our heads.
Beth Thompson (00:57):
Well, I know, and I’ve had to slow my role just a bit because I got so excited. I kept emailing you more and we’re both, and we’re like, well, maybe we need to slow it down just a little bit. But I’m super excited, Natalie, to have you on the show today in particular because of your very interesting background and your current role, which I can’t wait for you to share with our listeners. But we met, oh probably a little over a year ago when you were in the legalist industry, CRO for a software company and we just clicked right away. And I think that it’s been fun watching you transition into, and I think I even mentioned, I messaged you well, this is got to be way more exciting than the legal industry. No offense to the legal industry. That’s been great to Debbie and I, but welcome to the show. We would love to start out with you just telling us a bit about your background and obviously tell us about what you’re doing now because I think it’s so cool.
Natalie Waggett (01:53):
Amazing. Thank you guys so much for having me. I feel honored with that long list of potential candidates to get to be episode number three. So thank you for that. I’m so honored. My name is Natalie Waggett. I’m the chief executive officer and chief inspiration officer of a technology startup here in Wilmington, North Carolina called Ohanafy. And Ohanafy was born out of passion just under nine months ago, and it happened totally by accident, which tells us all that we know exactly that we’re meant to be doing, what we’re meant to be doing. And my history started in banking. Everyone else went to Cancun after high school and I went to teller school and that was a joke for a long time in some of my previous roles because that’s literally how long I’d been a banker. I couldn’t legally touch money when I started in banking and my obsession probably started at nine years old and I frankly thought I would die a banker because that’s just how ingrained entrenched it was in who I was.
And I worked for the company longer than more than half my life. 18 years. I was about 34 when this happened. And I had been there for 18 years and I got laid off as part of the 2008 financial crisis. And y’all, it rocked me. I mean, it just shook me to my core because who am I if I’m not a banker? And it took me a long time to figure out who I wanted to be. I mean, we’re all an evolution. We always get better as we get some more perspective and kind of watch stuff play out. So I can say a lot of this now with confidence. While at the time it was a bit nail biting and quite suspenseful, I worked with my husband for a couple of years in a lot of self-employment roles. We owned crazy stuff like a retail casket store and a water pressure washing company with mobile detailing attached.
And we owned a retail and sorry, a residential construction company and then did dabbled a bit in commercial construction, which is never something to dabble in because those rules are so different. Anyway, I mean, we did a lot of stuff and my husband being the serial entrepreneur that he was just inspired me to dream through him. And I always had that banker brain that just made it operationally work. We never lost a penny. We had all these different adventures. No matter how much we invested, we never lost a cent because that was my job, was to always focus on operational efficiency and how to get better. After a couple of years of working with him though, I got a little burnout that was pretty tough. So one of my former customers from the bank called me and said, Hey, we got to get you back in the game.
And he hooked me up with some fellas here in town that started a software company called Encino. And so I went to work as a banker one day and I left that day as a technologist and really valuing and appreciating technology for what it could do for people like me who knew that businesses need to be operationally sound right? I’m a banker, I don’t believe in a lack of profitability. Let’s figure out how to make money doing this otherwise why do it? Anyway, I was there for about seven and a half years and it was an amazing opportunity because I got to combine this incredible knowledge of banking almost 20 years, more than half my life. And that was across commercial and small business and wealth advisory and retail branch and all kinds of things in between. I had done collections and just all kinds of crazy stuff.
So it was a phenomenal opportunity though to take all that knowledge and transfer it to another industry completely. And that being technology because what Encino actually made was technology for bankers. So when we said it was built by bankers for bankers, we meant it because that was what we were most of us, and it was an amazing experience. And then y’all tragedy hit because I lost my husband. He passed away suddenly he had a brain aneurysm and even after the first bleed lived for 10 perfect months. And I’m so grateful that we had that time because it taught both of us what’s really important in life and that’s love and joy and happiness. And so to have that kind of loss, I needed to shift entire reality. My son and I moved out of state and we literally just packed our luggage, we left the house furnished.
I knew I’d be back, but we needed to just check out. And as part of that, I left Encino to go and pursue an opportunity to hide in a corporate environment. And what I mean by hide is when you’re working at a fast paced startup in high growth mode with huge goals and expectations, you have to give it everything you’ve got. And that can be really exhausting. I needed a place where I could work 40 to 50 hours a week and still be successful. And to me, that’s corporate America because they put structure and process in place to ensure that you always have a way to manage and measure how much value you’re adding. So I worked at a top five consultancy and I had a great job. I was able to really influence some major projects at some major organizations in the world.
I got to meet a lot of friends. I got all kinds of respect for folks in different parts of the world because it was such a global organization that my teammates were in Paris and London and India, lots of different places and it gave me an appreciation. But I got the itch for a product company again, because there’s something magical about being able to solve problems. So I had the opportunity to move, and Beth, this is where you and I met to a product company that was solving a lot of problems for attorneys on Salesforce because I love the model. I’ve already seen the model work with bankers solving banker problems. So it made sense and they had a great run at it, but my heart just wasn’t in that field. I had to do a little bit of soul searching to figure out who I wanted to impact.
And it really came down to my joy of entrepreneurship and my love of small business because I’ve owned so many of them just by nature of being married to my husband Dane. And I needed to do a little soul searching and figure out what that was. And it took me about five months to get the inspiration for Ohanafy, which is what I’m doing today. And it started with me dropping my son, my only child’s son off at the Atlanta airport, knowing the next time I saw him, he was going to be coming back from Syria, the only combat zone in the entire world. And that’s where my baby boy got his first deployment. And it was tough. Y’all like balls of tears, tough until I realized, hey, you can do this, you can do anything. And it’s just that that internal communication that we have to have with ourselves, and I got my mantra.
I can do anything from my father who told me that my whole life, which is so magical. Anyway, as I’m dropping my son off, I’m listening to a book on the way home. My mom was with me. It was incredibly emotional. It wasn’t a time for a lot more conversation. I just needed to process what I had just done. I’d heard that a good friend of mine from middle and high school who I had not spoken with in a very long time, almost 30 years, she’d written a book and it was about her journey after Windows of the World. She was the beverage manager there, and that was at the top of the World Trade Center. And we all know what happened on September 11th and it was hard. And she felt like her world collapsed when those buildings collapsed. And we listened to this book because I just needed to be inspired to remember that I can do anything.
And I thought, what a great way to do that. So we listened all the way home and laughed and cried and just heard the story. It’s called Life After Windows by Nez Rubello. She just has a magical way with words to help you feel what she was feeling. And I was really inspired because there’s probably a book in me at some point. I mean, I’ve done some crazy stuff in my life and overcome some stuff. So one day we’ll hopefully be talking about a book. I was inspired by her though, and I reached out and we met for dinner here in Wilmington to talk about the book and her life. And I was mean, she’s just inspiring. I wanted to be her friend again. I wanted to reconnect. And I learned really quickly in our relationship our first night at dinner as we started to talk about the brewery, which she had started in my hometown, which has created commerce and industry and the town isn’t boarded up anymore and it makes it so much more joyful for me to get to go home to this place that was so instrumental in my childhood and forming who I am.
And so I was complimenting her and just so grateful for what she’s done for that community. And because I’m a banker, money always seems to come up, but she’s telling me things very personal things like, I’m afraid we need to grow, we need to drive this, we need to drive that. And I thought, dang, those are real problems. I’ve been sitting in this ivory tower of consulting in a top five consultancy working with big companies, solving their problems, and I just, it’s meaningful, but not at the scale that being able to impact the brewery that drives the town, that drives the love in a community that loved on you. And I knew that night that that’s what I wanted to do. And I’d been introduced to people like Ian Patrick, one of our co-founders, Chris Allen, Davis, Bryson and Matt Keter. I’d been introduced to them in different places here all throughout Wilmington.
And I had dinner on a Tuesday night. I couldn’t sleep all night because when you get that moment, you just know I researched and I Googled and I looked at stuff and I thought, man, that’s weird. And the following morning I called Ian, I said, what are you doing? He said, I’m moving into my new office. Well, I’ve just launched a Salesforce consultancy, you need to come see us next week. And I said, I’ll be there in 30 minutes. And we chuckle about that now because that’s literally how long it took me to get to his office from when I made the phone call. I just needed to know where he was in town. I was going to find him. And I talked to him about it for a couple of hours. And Ian and I have this amazing yin and yang relationship where he’s like, yeah, but what if?
And I’m like, oh, I already got that one. And we challenge each other and it’s such a great relationship to have with people that you work closely with is to have the ability to, we call it big brother, little sister, big sister, little brother. But we’re willing to have hard conversations with each other because we both know in the end, we’re always better for it. Both of us are always exponentially better. So that’s the business partner that I immediately picked up the phone because I knew if anybody could help make my dreams come true, it would be Ian Patrick and Oh was born. What do we do? Well, we looked at the operations of breweries specifically folks that produce and have to sell in tap rooms and they have to sell in a wholesale market because they have to diversify their revenue because gosh, they just came out of Covid and it almost killed all of them because some of them didn’t sell food, so they had to pivot and go get a restaurant license and invest more money even though that wasn’t originally maybe their intention.
They just wanted to brew beer. I mean, it has been a really hard three years. But in light of all that, I go into these communities and I see the amazing that these breweries have brought, and what do I mean, creativity and coffee shops and all kinds of different tourist type events that come into this community that drive it from an economic perspective. They bring in additional real estate values. I mean, there’s all kinds of data and there’s actually some studies out on it or coming out about that because there’s so much economic development that a small town or even a big town can receive from these types of enterprises. And then we fell in love first with brewery because I have a friend and I saw the problems in real time and I knew I could fix ’em. And then we quickly made another friend who’s equally as important to us, and that’s Shane here with end of Day’s Distillery and what they’ve done in that community with that group of people and the employees and how all of the different facets of craft beverage come together into the opportunity for all of them to be better.
And that’s what I love about it. We learn stuff in distillery that we pass on to brewery around sales process and their trials because they have the ultimate three-tier system here. So Ohanafy is, it’s all of brewery operations. You got to produce it, you got to have inventory in order to be able to do that. And once you produce it, you got to put it back in inventory and then you got to be able to sell it. And our magic sauce, our real secret sauce is we put supply what they make and demand what they sell in the same system. And it has never been done. And that has been really magical to see the beauty of having supply and demand in the same system, a hint, it should happen in every industry. I can only take on so many at a time, <laugh> like it should happen in every industry.
And we’ve been able to do it and we’ve been hugely successful. We have 14 customers, more importantly, eight of those already live guys. We’ve been around nine months. That’s crazy. Wow. How hard a Salesforce implementation can be, Beth, let’s be honest. So to know that unequivocally we can do it in six weeks and most of that time is helping them assimilate their data because data can be tough for these folks. They’ve never thought about it as what it really is, which is the biggest asset they have in their business. One of our interns told me that one night we were out at a brewery just getting to feel the feel and experience the experience. And he said, I think he called me Miss Natalie, because sometimes they do that. But he said, Natalie, did you know that data is the biggest asset that most companies overlook? And I was like, I believe that because I know how crazy I was with my spreadsheets when we were running millions of dollars of construction projects. I had to be every penny mattered. And to know that we now have a way to give them all of that in the same system with a point of view on dashboards and KPIs and metrics and what should they be measuring and why should they be measuring it that way? It has been magical. And that was so long. So sorry.
Beth Thompson (16:09):
No, it’s great. There’s so many nuggets here. I don’t even know where to start. But first of all, we will definitely link to your friend’s book in the show notes because it sounds fascinating and I definitely want to read or listen to that, you know are a really great example of overcoming adversities personally and professionally. And I think that is a really an encouragement to anyone listening because as we know, a lot of folks are going through layoffs now. And so that particular obstacle that you overcame and then of course the personal tragedy and then your son leaving, I can’t even imagine, didn’t even know all of those things about you. But I think you know, what I’ve heard out of this is really the key is to make sure that you combine passion with knowledge and community and doing that with people you trust. And we can say listen, I think the world of Ian and Davis and enjoyed working with them alongside you. So I don’t think you could have picked better partners. I know you’ve got a few other partners there as well. But yeah, amazing story.
Natalie Waggett (17:10):
Yeah, we’re really blessed.
Debbie Foster (17:13):
I have 50 things going through my head first of all, to every craft brewing person that might ever listen to this because you’re a fan of Natalie, and I’m guessing you have a lot of those fans. I only drink Corona, and that’s just the saddest thing ever. I’ve tried, but I have been to so many events at craft brewing companies like birthday parties and reunions and the food trucks are coming and sampling, try this new thing and a little popup for small businesses. The community part of that is so evident that it makes me really, really want to craft beer. I’m still struggling with that, but I haven’t given up yet. Something else that you said that I think is so important, and Beth and I spend all of our time with law firms. Law firms are technology businesses and they’re data businesses. And if a brewery can leverage data to run a better business, what would happen if the law firm leveraged data to run a better business?
There’s such a great message. And the one other thing I jotted down is you said a couple of times you can do anything, and that’s such a powerful message. You can do anything. What do you want to do? How do you figure out how to not give up on your dreams, whether it’s a side hustle or whatever it takes to learn more about what you’re really passionate about? And I don’t remember exactly what you said, Beth, but you said passion, knowledge, and community, like what a magical combination all of that is. So I mean, that was really inspiring. Your story was really inspiring.
Natalie Waggett (18:53):
Thank you so much. I’m honored to get to tell it and I’m joyful that I’ve survived it. And <laugh> all of the great things
Debbie Foster (19:02):
For sure. You talked about a lot of obstacles and challenges, and I’m wondering, the one thing that we didn’t really talk about that I’d love for you to give us some thoughts on is did you face any of those obstacles and challenges because you’re a woman? I would imagine that the craft brewing business has more men than women. I don’t know, maybe not, but did you face any obstacles in this latest adventure of yours because you’re a woman?
Natalie Waggett (19:28):
That’s such a good question, and I knew that this was going to come up today because I love to talk about this. I don’t think I’ve faced any of the obstacles or challenge that I’ve faced because I’m a woman. I think I’ve handled them differently than I might have with a different perspective of a man, for example. So because I reacted in the way that felt most natural to me, a lot of times I have led my life with fear because I’m a woman. So confusing to say, but I wonder if my insecurity about being a woman in business and look, I have chosen all male dominated industries. It has clearly been my path of choice banking in the early nineties. I mean, yes, I was part of our diversity and inclusion champion program for Bank of America. I led a region around that because there was not a lot of people that looked like me there.
And then banking and technology, now technology also very male dominated. So I think I have reacted sometimes at the circumstances that life has thrown at me or the complications or the obstacles in jobs. I have reacted as a woman. And I think that there are ways for us as women to our masculine and feminine energy. For a long time I used a really masculine voice. And as I’ve pursued things like life coaching and ways to make me a better person, I want to be a better human being. That’s my goal at this point in my life. But I’ve learned to do things, talk about my fears openly. Here’s why I’m afraid if we do it that way. And then what inevitably happens is the entire team rallies because nobody wants Natalie afraid or we don’t want anybody afraid in any of our organizations. So we try really hard to encourage that type of conversation and that by articulating the fear, we call it getting it out of the corners of our minds and out into the open so we can just crush it so we can all just shine a big old bright light on it and make it go away.
And I think that that is a gift of me looking back on situations that happened or obstacles that might have felt like they were female or because I was a woman, but realizing that I could have reacted so differently and gotten more across. And I think to have that kind of hindsight is beautiful. I wish I had had that sight maybe 20 years ago in my career. I don’t know where I could be. There’s no talent, but we’ll get there. We all got to grow.
Beth Thompson (22:05):
That’s great. And before we segue into our apologies segment, is there any favorite podcast you’re listening to right now? You already mentioned a great book that we’re going to link, but what are you listening to right now?
Natalie Waggett (22:17):
Well, Ohanafy has just recorded our first podcast, so I was honored to be able to host that. We’re doing some of that because there’s things that some of them have already figured out that others need to hear, and that’s not a component of me delivering technology. That’s just me trying to create a community where they can kind of crowdsource knowledge. And right now they’re doing it in Reddit and those boards turn negative. And there’s fear in those boards where if we can get people with a positive outlook and a real growth mindset, I just read an article this morning, Karina Hagen Growth versus a Fixed Mindset is beautiful story because she just gets it all down into something that’s actionable that we can all kind of bring into it. So as we look to drive additional content and thought leadership, we’re also looking for podcast folks and we’re going to our customers now because it makes sense.
And we’re going to friends that we’ve met in the industry. Our first guest actually is not a customer because I wanted a perspective that was uniquely unaffiliated with my company. So we’re excited to release that one. I try to read, I’m reading a lot more than I have been just, it’s just a cool way for me to keep my phone away from me and I’m got a hold with two hands book and wear my glasses. And so I read a book recently, oh, thank Unreasonable Hospitality, and I don’t remember the article, but it was about a restaurateur in New York and how they just focus so heavily on hospitality and the kindness that people feel when they come to that. So that book inspires me because I’ve always felt that sense of just extreme ownership of customers and their problems and their circumstances. And we’re right now in an industry of really pretty traumatized folks from the sense of technology.
And that’s because I think that the right features weren’t delivered at the right times in order to really be able to help drive the operations of the brewery. I think that we have a huge opportunity to transform this industry, and we’re leaning heavily on it because we already see it happening. I mean, we have demonstrable empirical data that says doing stuff a little bit differently actually makes a significant impact. Anez doubled her wholesale revenue. Get chills about that y’all, because it’s a big deal. Wow. Doubled her wholesale revenue two months in a, it’s amazing. So we’re excited about being able to deliver that. And I know that just completely pivoted from your question, but I don’t have a favorite.
Beth Thompson (24:56):
Natalie Waggett (24:57):
Podcaster. I like topics.
Beth Thompson (24:59):
Hey, no worries. That was great. And we are at the segment of our show about women and apologies, and yes, we are still working on getting those hats. For anybody who is curious, that is probably the number one question we get right now is when are you going to have your hats? We’re working on it. But I read a quote very recently by a lady named Lois Wise, and she was a trailblazer in the advertising industry, and she also wrote about 60 books in her lifetime, mostly around women and communication and family and the power of love. And she said, men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, and women are taught to apologize for their strengths. And so would love to hear what you think about that. What are your thoughts on women and how much we apologize?
Natalie Waggett (25:51):
That is so interesting because I get told I apologize a lot. It’s tough for me because I came from such a strong line of women. I mean, my son was the first boy we had in my family for 55 years, and we have lots and lots and lots of girls. So I think the males in our lives have taught us a lot about how to be and how to behave. And I got a lot of my direction from my father, and I’ve often said I was my father’s son, so he very much treated me as not either a daughter or a son, but rather just Natalie. And I’m so grateful that I had that. I don’t know that I’ve been taught that per se, but ironically I do say I’m sorry a lot. So that’s something I need to work on. Thank you for <laugh>. Because I don’t know, sometimes when I say I’m sorry if I actually mean it because I say it way more than I think I intend. Maybe we just use that as filler words. Sometimes
Beth Thompson (26:52):
We do. I think we do. And it’s like it. Yeah. So we are, Debbie and I are for sure more aware of the times. In fact, I can tell you the amount of times that I say it now is drastically reduced since starting this podcast. So it’s definitely working on me.
Debbie Foster (27:07):
Well, it’s working on me too, and I find myself typing, I’m sorry. And then no backspace, backspace, backspace. I’m not actually, sorry, that’s not how to start the email. Right. So no, it’s been really interesting for us to hear some of the other guests on our podcast talking about their take on apologies, and it’s made us really stop and think. And when Beth shared that quote with me, I was like, Hmm, that is so true. So let me ask you our final question. We wrap up every episode of our podcast talking about leadership superpowers, and sometimes it’s hard for women to toot their own horns and talk about what they do really well. And this is an opportunity for you to share with us when it comes to leadership, what do you think you’re really good at?
Natalie Waggett (27:53):
My New Year’s resolution this year is that I want to reek of love, and I think I’m really good at blending love and leadership in a business environment. There’s always things that are going to need to be measured. We need empirical data that the value that an employee is bringing, that it matches what our expectations were. And so I believe that the way to love through those types of circumstances is to have candid conversations about what the expectations were, resetting expectations. I think there’s all kinds of ways that leaders can lead with love because again, I just said earlier the best thing Bank of America ever did for me was lay me off. I was stagnant, I was bored. I was not challenged nearly to the degree. So there is love in letting others go too. And I think that being a leader and being able to love even in the most tough of circumstances in those situations, but also having a love for our customers, we don’t want them to suffer.
And so building a business centered around love, it’s an anomaly and it’s something that I’m very proud of. And if it were built any other way, I might not be as excited or passionate as I am about what we’re doing. But I think a leadership superpower is being able to love your company and love your investors, and love your customers and love your employees and all in equal amounts. And I have one child and I’ve said to parents before, how can you love ’em all? And they tell me, it just works, right? You just do. You love all of them the same. And I think in business, we can love all of our stakeholders exactly the same. I mean, differently. Investors need different information than do employees sometimes. And employees need all the information because they’re charging forward. And I think it’s just loving everyone enough to give them what they need when they need it. And yeah, I just say love in business is magical, and I hope more people try it. There’s a lot of us out there doing it now, but it’s still incredibly different for my generation and up.
Debbie Foster (30:02):
We went to a conference several years ago and Alan Mulally, I think I’ll link to it in the show notes, but he was the c e O of Ford Motor and his little like catchy saying was Love him up. And anytime there was an issue or conflict, he’d say, love him up. And this is a guy who ran Ford Motor Company and he thought the same thing. Love in business should absolutely be connected. I love that. So Natalie, thank you. That
Natalie Waggett (30:32):
Link. That’s amazing. Sorry.
Debbie Foster (30:34):
Yes, no, no problem. Thank you for being our guest, Beth. And I also want to say a special thank you to Brittany Felix and Chelsea Schuster, who are really the magic behind producing this podcast for us. We do this part, but they do all of the hard part. And Paige Atkins also has really played an important role on getting this podcast off the ground. Every episode we end this and we think, how will the next one be better? And they just keep getting better and different and amazing. And we really appreciate you spending time with us today, Natalie.
Natalie Waggett (31:07):
Thank you for having me.
Beth Thompson (31:08):
Yes, it was great to get to know you even better. Yes. Yeah, we look forward to listening to your podcast. Yep. Yes.
Natalie Waggett (31:15):
Beth Thompson (31:19):
And that’s a wrap. Thanks for listening to Powerful Leaders. No apologies. Be sure and subscribe to our show and help us spread the word by sharing our show with your network,
Debbie Foster (31:29):
And check out our show notes affinityconsulting.com/powerfulleaders for resources and ways to connect with us. See you next time.