This Is The Place: Why We Chose to Build Chatbooks In Utah
By Vanessa Quigley, co-founder of Chatbooks.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2017 edition of Silicon Slopes Magazine.
A few years ago, when my husband Nate and I started dreaming up Chatbooks, we lived on the Florida coast. I would have gladly spent the rest of my life in the land of sand and sun, but as we started to build Chatbooks we found that we needed resources and community that just wasn’t available in our area. We spent months considering where to grow our business: we wanted a place that would enable us to have a high growth startup, and also be a good place for our seven kids. Ultimately, there were three reasons we decided to head west. And while I miss the ocean view from our original office, taking a leap of faith on a mountain vista was the best thing we could ever have done for our company. Here’s why we made the Utah move:
Talent Talent Talent
Nate and I had lived in Provo during college, so we knew that Utah isn’t called the “Beehive State” for nothing — people are industrious here! And the blossoming startup community here was proof that lots of the creative and technical talent that we needed for Chatbooks were right here. Plus having three world class universities within an hour of each other with a bounty of young and hungry talent was just what our young and hungry (and poor!) startup needed — a perfect match!
It’s no secret that family values are important in Utah. Chatbooks is a business that caters to families and we as a company are very family friendly. We’re not competing with rocketships in the Bay Area for talent with “perks” like dinner at the office, because we know our team wants to go have dinner with their families! Instead, we give people the flexibility and time they need to have a career and a personal life, and that’s resonated deeply here in Utah.
Several years ago, I noticed that my friends and I weren’t looking to traditional media outlets (magazines, TV, etc) to find out about the latest trends and products anymore — we were looking to social media influencers and bloggers. I knew this trend would be important for marketing Chatbooks, and saw that many of the people I followed were based in Utah. (Utah is even known as the place where mommy blogs started, and is the epicenter for many of the top Instagram and YouTube influencers today.) By living in Utah, not only are we able to connect face-to-face with these influencers, but we actually have become friends with many of them. And that’s been a great benefit to our business (and life!).
Quality of Life
When considering where to build Chatbooks, we talked a lot about San Francisco and the Northeast, both places where we had strong networks. But if you have more than one or two kids it’s almost impossible to afford a place in the city, so then we were looking at long commutes. (The cost-per-foot of housing in Utah is about 10% of what it is in the Bay Area — that makes a huge difference whether you have one kid or seven!) And don’t even get me started on New England winters — even though Nate grew up in Connecticut and we love it there, I still can’t really call that skiing! In Utah, we found affordable housing, easy commutes, and yes, world class skiing, hiking, and biking.
Bonus: The Community and Support
The biggest benefit of all in building our business in Utah is one we didn’t expect or plan on before moving here: the support and mentorship of Utah’s entrepreneurial community. Both our peers as well as entrepreneurs who are further down the road have rallied around us and encouraged us. The best part, for me, is that we truly consider these people not simply mentors or startup associates, but friends. I am so grateful for amazing friends who are building amazing things right alongside us here in this amazing state!