An entrepreneur with a passion for philanthropy, Sheri focuses on work that empowers others and strengthens the Oregon economy. She has started a handful of businesses and worked for various organizations over the years that support startups. This is Sheri’s third year as an organizer for Portland Startup Weekend.
What is your company?
PDX Code Guild, a code school specializing in effective hands-on developer training bootcamps.
How did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been involved in the tech startup scene and economic development for several years and saw that there was an immediate need to provide efficient effective training to quickly create a talent pool large enough for the skyrocketing need for a talent pool of developers. I also am passionate about getting locals the skills they need to score these great jobs.
Where did you find your first customer?
We found our first customer at a hacker event for people who are learning code.
How did you determine your target market?
We determined our target market by creating a first product (individualized instruction) that was immediately available without a lot of planning or overhead. By doing this we were profitable on our first day and had access to a ton of people to ask questions to so we could figure out who our target markets really are and what kind of products they are interested in.
What are you currently doing to reach them?
We’re reaching our target markets mainly by holding events and utilizing our network for word of mouth. We also have sponsored Portland Startup Weekend and place postcards where our target market is likely to find them.
How much did you start up with?
We started up with less than $1000.
Did you bring on investors, get loans, or grow naturally?
We bootstrapped. We put a little money in up front, kept our overhead down, found the one thing we could sell with the least investment and used the money from that to grow.
What’s the best advice someone has given you?
I’ve gotten so much good advice over the years, but something that has been helpful recently is the idea that “push back”, the feelings of being overwhelmed or daunted, is a good sign that you’re where you should be, outside of your comfort zone. Knowing that has helped me push forward faster.
What are your keys to staying productive?
1. Passion for the startup. I believe that if you’re founding a company you have to be so into it that it’s the first thing you think of when you wake up and the last thing you think about when you fall asleep.
2. Use apps to limit online distractions like social media by blocking them except for short periods of time.
3. Schedule meetings first thing in the morning. It really breaks up your day if you have them mid-day and you tend to be unproductive for at least a half hour before and after a meeting. If you have multiple meetings, schedule them back to back.
When you started, what was one thing you wish you knew?
I wish I knew to trust my judgement & experience more and to not be afraid to ask for help.
What resources or books do you refer to regularly?
I’m going to confess that I’m not much of a reader. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned by immersing myself in startup culture, by listening to my friends who run startups and by experience.
That being said, I would highly recommend The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish.
The Lean Startup is an absolute must for anyone who wants to found a startup. How to Talk is written for people who work with children, but it also basic people skills that everyone should know and use, and founders need great people skills.
Has your company experienced any close calls or lucky moments?
We have experienced lucky moments, mostly around having the right people come to us to join the team when we needed them.
What does success mean to you?
Success to me is to be able to spend my energy doing something that makes a positive difference to as many people in as large of a region as possible, in an entrepreneurial role that gives me the freedom to make choices about my schedule. Sure, I work 18 hour days, but I get to choose which 18 hours, where I work from and also get to decide whether it’s a good day to bring my children to work. Those are all very important quality of life issues for me.
Where would you like to see your business 5 years from now?
In five years I would like to look at the greater Portland area and see that we were able make an impact on the region by connecting thousands of great people with excellent jobs and that we helped solidify Portland’s rankings as a top city for the tech industry by providing the tech talent needed.
What do you need help with?
I need help getting the word out to potential students that we have a 12 week Python-based Junior Developer Bootcamp starting on January 28th. We also have individualized instruction and an upcoming bootcamp for non-tech founders of tech startups, but the immediate need is to get the word out about the 12 week Python-based Junior Developer Bootcamp.
Who is your 12 week Python-based Junior developer Bootcamp designed for?
The 12 week Python based Junior developer bootcamp designed for students with some rudimentary coding skills such as beginning HTML and CSS or a bit of coding gleaned from trying to learn programming on their own. That being said, it’s possible for some fast-learning beginners to catch on quickly and keep up.
You would want to join our bootcamp for a few reasons:
Successful graduates will be qualified to apply for junior developer positions that are currently starting out at around $50K. Most graduates that choose the jr developer career path will make more in their first month of employment than they spent to take the class. For those not inclined to pursue employment, the skills could be used for freelancing, or you could simply be able to make cool stuff.
How can people get in contact with you?
Special CAKEpdx.com Offer
Save $200 OFF Tuition for a 12 Week Python-based Junior Developer Bootcamp on January 28th
Contact Sheri Dover and mention “CAKEpdx”