Biz: How did you go from having an idea for CenturyLink to developing your own business?
B.S.: I have a partner, Bob Stolzberg, who is a technologist and has an engineering background. I told him what my idea was and he said “Bonnie, that’s brilliant.” He came back a while later and said, “We can do this.” He quit CenturyLink first and opened the doors and I called him and said “this was my idea, I want in.” That typically doesn’t happen in most businesses. They usually have a business plan and think about opening their doors but when you’re in the technology world, it’s really important to recognize that opportunity, seize that moment and get on board early, because if you don’t get on board early you’ll get left out.
Biz: Since then, how have you and Stolzberg developed the skills needed to sustain your business?
B.S.: Bob became an Alexa champion, and he is one of 36 in the world. He’s the best of the best. Amazon deems you worthy of being an Alexa champion because you have made significant impact in the product. You have designed something of significant impact, and they recognize that and make that person an Alexa champion. It’s not a certification and it’s not a test. It’s truly an honor to have that title.
Biz: What did Stolzberg do to earn the title of Alexa champion?
B.S.: He created a very unique skill on the Alexa platform for JME, a St. Louis rapper. [JME was] the first rap artist to ever release an album on the Alexa platform. Not only did [Stolzberg] receive the Alexa champion title, but we were also awarded the 2019 Skill of the Year for Consumer Brand and Marketing at the Alexa World Fair. The runners up we competed against were tied, and they were Fitbit and Good Housekeeping. Those are pretty big brands, but we won the award.
Biz: You are an Amazon-recommended agency. What does this mean?
B.S.: Amazon hands off inquiries to us, which means we have access to skills that Amazon uses. They don’t write skills. I know that sounds strange. They sell units but they don’t sell skills. We are also on the advisory council. My business partner Bob Stolzberg [went to Seattle] to work with Amazon on the roadmap for the [Amazon Echo] and decide what is working well, what needs to be refined, what seems to be working well out in the field that could be incorporated into the platform.