I love speaking to Black female entrepreneurs who are also women of faith. I am so inspired by these women who consider God one of the partners in their business, who live in a spirit of gratitude for being able to own and operate their own businesses, and who attribute their business’ success to their faith in and relationship with God. It’s always an amazing testimony when women say that God has blessed them with their business, and that’s just how Maci Peterson feels about launching the On Second Thought app, which allows users to recall text messages they never meant to send. I had a great time chatting with Maci about faith and business, being a Black women in tech, and how she manages to stay so creative! Plus she has some great advice on how to enter the tech space. Keep reading to hear from Maci herself!
Dream Job Interview //
Maci Peterson’s On Second Thought App
Maci Peterson // Founder and Creator // Year Launched: 2014
Can you tell us a little bit about your company?
On Second Thought is a messaging app that allows you to take back text messages BEFORE they get to the other person’s phone.
How did you start in mobile technology? How did you know this is what you wanted to do?
You know, it was one of those things that found me. I didn’t set out to create an app or say to myself, “I want to get started in mobile technology.” I’ve happened to send text messages that I’ve wanted to take back, and the solution to [the problem] happened to be mobile technology. I wasn’t necessarily seeking it…it found me.
What were you doing before you started developing the On Second Thought app?
I ran the marketing department at The Root, which at that time was a subsidiary of The Washington Post. I managed everything from strategic partnerships to planning their events, which included panel discussions, an inaugural ball for President Obama’s last inauguration, and doing digital marketing campaigns via social media. While developing On Second Thought I transitioned to the headquarters of Marriott International where I was a brand manager and worked on a number of innovation projects, including the re-launch and development of the company’s first iPhone game.
How did you make the transition to entrepreneur?
For a while I had two full-time jobs. From 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM I was at Marriott, and all the other hours of the day were spent working on On Second Thought. It quickly got to the point where the demands of On Second Thought became too great and took on a life of their own. It was a natural transition; I had lots of interviews with news outlets and meetings with investors and other business partners, and I couldn’t balance the two. On Second Thought was creeping into the time I needed to spend at Marriott, so I thought it would be best for both teams for me to leave Marriott and focus on On Second Thought full-time.
How did you fund your business in the beginning? Many entrepreneurs we’ve featured have sold products and reinvested those funds into their businesses, but it doesn’t work quite the same way with an app, so how did you gather the funding necessary to be able to leave your full-time job at Marriott?
About four months prior to leaving Marriott, I realized fundraising is a full-time job. For many companies, you’re raising hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. I calculated how much we needed to raise in order for me to go full-time and focus full-time on fundraising. By the grace of God, we were able to raise that amount of funding and more through a friends-and-family round.
You were doing some mobile technology at Marriott, before you left to focus on On Second Thought full-time, but how else have you developed your expertise in the mobile technology space?
I’ve made a lot of mistakes! Thankfully, Marriott is a company that allows you to make mistakes, they encourage their associates to try and test things so that if you learn from failure and leverage that knowledge during the next project. I was given the room to learn from a ton of mistakes—before working on Marriott’s app, I did not have experience in mobile technology, applications, or really anything technological other than playing on my iPhone or laptop. I learned a lot of great lessons, and my boss acted as an advisor. I learned that the Apple iTunes store needs more than five days to approve an app [laughs] you know, little things like that. The first release of the mobile app for Marriott was one of the most difficult and stressful experiences because I didn’t know what I was doing and I learned a lot of lessons. Then I leveraged my previous experience and lessons into the second release and it was smooth sailing. More important, I have phenomenal business partners who are experienced in project management in the mobile space.
What do you enjoy the most about owning your own business?
There are so many things! I am blessed to have the privilege of owning my own business and running it full-time. It’s something so many people want to do, but they may not have the resources to do so. God has blessed me with the resources to run my business full-time. I hope other people see what I’m doing and say, “If Maci can do it, then I can do it too.” That is most important.
What do you enjoy the least about owning your own business?
Honestly, even the bad things aren’t so bad because at the end of the day, I’m still running my own business. I really can’t complain about it! My team and I went to Dublin last year for Europe’s version of SXSW. We were a featured startup and exhibitor there, and the first three days were hell. I missed flights due to delayed flights, and then all of my luggage was lost somewhere in the world for three days, including 90% of our marketing materials. Everything that could have gone wrong just about went wrong for the first three days. So I just kept praying, “Lord, if this is for me, then I need You to turn this around, because right now, it’s really looking like it’s not” [laughs]. In the end, the airlines found my luggage, we were recognized as one of the best startups there and we were featured by the Independent of Ireland and The Irish Times.
When I got back to the U.S. and to work (I was still working at Marriott) and was a bit down about going back to reality [after the Dublin trip] and back to work. My mom were talking during my morning commute and she said, “Well, at least things are better than they were this time last week, when you were stranded in Dublin.” And I said to her, “Honestly mom, even with all of that, I’d take that fiasco over working my full-time job any day.” That’s the truth. I would take the hardest days as an entrepreneur over my best days working the corporate 9-5. It’s like having a kid: you’re going to have rough days with your kid, but because it’s your kid, this little person you’ve created, it’s still a great day.
Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
I’ve honestly never wanted to give up, but I have been to the point where I’ve asked “Okay Lord, is this what You really want for me?” Every milestone for this business has come with some egregiously rough patches. Even getting to SXSW was this crazy adventure, but the business started with a lot of difficulty that [then] produced a lot of miracles. I’ve learned that rough times just mean that God is getting ready to do something amazing, so I don’t lose hope and I don’t give up. I think God wants me to know that He’s in constant control of this, not me. Being an entrepreneur is one of the most humbling experiences ever.
How have you gotten the word out about the On Second Thought app? And how are you establishing your social media presence?
Our growth to date has been 100% organic (vs. paid marketing/advertising). We’ve had lots of press: somewhere between 250 and 300 press hits from everything from Black Enterprise and Essence, to USA Today and The Washington Post. D. L. Hugely has spoken about us too; we’ve gotten a lot of attention.
We’ve started to be more intentional about creating a social media community and building our brand voice as well as just creating our “personality” as a brand. We have a team behind that, and the biggest thing is that we had to figure out how to join conversations on social media (we’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr) vs. starting them. People don’t want us to talk at them; our relevance comes from being part of the competition. Right now our team is hyper focused on joining conversations, and adding value to them.
What’s a typical day like for you?
No two days are alike. Things are constantly changing, and I just have to keep myself flexible—there really isn’t a pattern. The only things that are really [consistent] between my days are I wake up and do my devotional first (I have a rule that I don’t talk to anyone before I talk to Jesus), then I look at my phone and that’s how I realize what’s going on for the day. From there, anything can happen. I could find out that I need to prepare to be out of town, or I have to meet with investors, or that I have interviews…there are many times when I think my day is going to go one way and it’s completely different.
How do you use creativity in your business? When are you most creative?
I’m naturally a creative person, so I use creativity and don’t even know that I’m “being creative.” Actually, my last few bosses have all told me that I’m one of the most creative thinkers they’ve ever met. It’s just how I naturally think. I would say the idea of On Second Thought in general was a pretty creative thing that many people wanted but that no one actually created. I think the fact that I’m actually doing it is creative in and of itself. And then having to build out the app and its features and the platform we’re creating, I think it takes a creative level of thinking to figure out how systems can connect and how this one thing can become so much more.
What’s been the most amazing moment for On Second Thought so far?
We’ve had some fantastic moments. I think one of the coolest ones, which was awesome because it wasn’t something we had planned and we didn’t see coming, was when we started to get features in African-American media and went from 5,000 users to 25,000 users in about two days. That was the tipping point for me and my career. Reporters were calling the Marriott operator looking for me, and it was just insane. I was taking radio interviews from my cubicle! It’s really when I realized, “Oh my goodness, I can’t do both of these [jobs] anymore.”
What was so awesome about that experience was [realizing] other people enjoyed our [brand] story, and people found use for our app. It was just validation for us that we’d created something people like and use. We’ve heard awesome stories about how people use our app and how it has actually saved them in pretty serious situations. So that [surge] was probably one of the most fun and unusual moments.
What’s on the horizon On Second Thought? Where do you see On Second Thought heading in the next 3-5 years?
Well, 3-5 years is actually a really long time to forecast for a tech company, but if we continue growing as we have been and getting the attention that we’ve been getting, then in 3-5 years we’re likely to be acquired by another company. In terms of target number of users: we want all 2 billion of them [laughs]. We want all the smartphone users out there to use our app. We will continue to develop our user base—we’re only on Android right now and we’re developing our version for the iPhone.
What advice do you have for who aspire to make a living creating apps or being involved in the digital space?
My advice would be to understand that what is for you is for you. Only you can allow yourself to feel unwelcome in a certain space. If you feel like you’re supposed to be there, then be there and make an impact.
Another piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to talk to other people about your idea. I always say people are so in their heads that they won’t have time to steal your idea and act on it! Even I come up with ideas and just give them to other people because I don’t have time to do them! People will tell me they have an idea, but when I ask them to tell me about it, they’re like “oh, I don’t want to share it yet.” The only way to really refine your idea is to share it. Be willing to talk about what you plan to do. Because I spoke openly about On Second Thought, one of my friends gave me the idea for one of our features. People have always given us ideas for features, and they’re not looking for any equity in return, so you lose nothing by sharing ideas. On the converse, it’s also important to make sure you have protected whatever your idea is. We filed our provisional patents before I pitched On Second Thought at SXSW to make sure we were protected.
I’d say the last bit of advice is to make sure your faith is at the center of whatever you do. When you’re taking on things that are bigger than yourself, which On Second Thought is for me, and something that my partners and I can’t do on our own strength, we rely on God’s strength to bring our success. On Second Thought is something that’s been really blessed and we believe it’s been blessed because my partners and I keep God at the center of it. My partners and I pray together…it’s phenomenal, and such a privilege.
It was such a pleasure to speak to Maci and learn more about her faith and her business. And all that killer advice? People pay for motivation like that! Many thanks to Maci Peterson for stopping by The Feisty House, and be sure to download the On Second Thought app!