CEO & Co-Founder at The Postage, Emily Cisek, on Changing the Narrative Around Life and Legacy Planning
Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:
Hi! I’m Emily Cisek, and I am the CEO & Co-Founder at The Postage! The Postage is an intergenerational private family network, that helps you and your family protect your wealth and wisdom now and for generations to come. The Postage allows members to securely organize their information, create their estate plans, and privately share family memories & messages, so they can be passed on for generations to come. Really what sets us apart is that we’re a digital platform where families can securely share information and memories throughout every life stage. We guide them through an experience that is customized for them. Rather than having documents and passwords scattered, and memories across social media, they can build a private family network, and decide what’s shared with who and when. I’m most proud of the families we’ve helped and the way we are changing the narrative around life and legacy planning.
What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?
I am very excited about being an Entreprenista League member because I am looking forward to building deeper connections with fellow entrepreneurs while helping each other grow our businesses through partnerships, collaborations, and more.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
When I was 22, I moved to Texas from New York; I had no job and no plan but was ready for a fresh start and to get out of my comfort zone. I got my first go into the world of start-ups when I began working for an energy company known for its digital marketing and e-commerce capabilities. Six months later, they were acquired in a multi-million-dollar deal by one of the largest energy companies in North America. It was here, that I had the opportunity to manage email communications for 11 brands including energy and home services entities. Although it was a great experience, I missed the personal touches and grit that a smaller business offers. I knew it was time for a change, so I followed my mentor to help him lead his operations and sales in his newest venture within the marketing space in Austin, TX. Throughout my career, I’ve watched those founders who took a chance on me in my first job build, sell and start companies and ended up catching the “entrepreneurial bug” myself. It was always a dream of mine to lead a company that aimed to better the world and had a real impact on the human experience. I just didn’t know what that was until I experienced three losses in just six weeks. That was when I witnessed how arduous the process of wrapping up after-life affairs was, and that time should be spent celebrating, grieving, and processing the loss, not buried under the weight of managing affairs. From this realization, The Postage was born and my role as a CEO and Founder in this space began.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Prior to founding The Postage, Emily was the Director of Sales at Integrate Agency, a full-service digital and traditional marketing agency, specializing in technology, energy, and real estate throughout Texas. With her extensive experience in leading, developing, and launching robust marketing and communication programs, she led efforts for a number of clients across various industries to build out their digital initiatives. Emily received her BS degree in Business Administration from Bryant University and then grew her professional career in Houston at Bounce Energy and Direct Energy as a Digital Marketing Manager, before spending several years in Austin leading a branch of Integrate Agency.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I always wanted to lead. I was just born that way. I have always seen things a bit differently than others and am a very big dreamer. I never thought about “how we’re supposed to do things” and always did things my own way. My parents often reference my kindergarten school psychologist who said to them… “She’s going to be very successful one day, but you are going to have to live with her till then” Boy… was that true ; )
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
I had a robust b2c marketing strategy and worked with an agency to implement it, so I could scale quickly. What we found is that while it was growing, to carve out a space for a new industry, and run ads successfully it would take MILLIONS to do so and establish our brand that way. Our cost to acquire was much too high and while it was improving and our retention is at 97% it wasn’t growing quickly enough. We made the decision to update our GTM strategy after those learnings and have been able to grow our business through a b2b2c model by partnering with HR benefits, Insurance, Community Banks, and other Wealth/Financial related companies. We discovered that what makes The Postage platform unique is that it connects with entire families beyond the typical banking/insurance/benefits-related transactions through the storage of digital memories and assets, all while coaching users through estate and life planning logistics depending on their life phase. In doing so we help our partners and customers to protect their financial security, all while driving increased opportunities for upselling existing products, acquiring new customers, and creating a marketplace in our partner’s communities.
What is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way and what did you learn from it?
I was raising money, and while we were seeing promising growth it was still not enough to get consumer VC’s buy-in (even after 7 meetings with some), maintain my b2c marketing budget, and keep all of my talented team. At the time it felt as if the world was ending, I didn’t know if I could survive it, let alone the company, but then something remarkable happened, and I embraced the liminal space. As I shared at a conference at Bryant University in March, “liminality” is used to describe those times in your life when you can’t go back to who you were/where you were, but you aren’t really sure where you are going yet or who you are becoming. Sometimes as people and as companies, we are forced into liminal spaces, and other times we have to make decisions in our lives and careers where we put ourselves right in the center of that space whether we want to be there or not. BUT liminal spaces are magical (and uncomfortable) places where new discoveries are made. For me, embracing this liminal space has allowed me to make new discoveries and become the person/startup founder/leader I am meant to be today. It has freed me to find the next right move (over and over again) and even opened my eyes to the right GTM strategy (🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼) plus, I am able to work with that talented team and get to witness them become who they are meant to be at The Postage and beyond.
What is the accomplishment you are the proudest of to date?
Besides being able to help families protect their wealth and wisdom, I don’t think there is one thing I could pick that I am “most” proud of. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint, and being able to continue to find the right next move, embrace the struggle, celebrate the victories, and continue to push forward is a big accomplishment in itself. Ben Horowitz referenced talking to CEOs in his book and how the resounding answer from the great CEOs on their success was that “They didn’t quit.” Not to say I’m there yet as I know I still have a hike of Everest proportions ahead of me, but I have to recognize the fact that I’ve been able to find the next move over and over again.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Work-life balance typically depicts working a lot as a negative thing, but for me, working makes me happy. However, I know there are a few things that help me be my best. 1) Morning Routine/Start Your Day on Positive Note – I typically start my day by taking my dog for a walk and listening to my “CEO” playlist. It helps me get motivated and excited to take on the challenges the day will bring. With any start-up, every day can feel like climbing Mount Everest. No week or day is the same and each time you think you’ve reached the peak a new challenge arises and it’s never the one you expected. That’s why my morning walks are so important as they set the tone for the day. 2) Practice Gratitude – Most people don’t know that the weekly thankful lists that I’ve done for the past 7-8 years were originally inspired by my Little in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Mreedu, who now is a student at Baylor University, taught me so much about life and the importance of gratitude. She taught me that seeing the joy in life’s regular moments and sharing my appreciation and thankfulness for those around me could truly shift my mindset. Since then, I have made it a priority to make a list of 50 items per week that I am thankful for, and it has changed my life and my leadership style. This gratitude mindset allows me to make better decisions and I believe fosters teamwork and cooperation and promotes empathy and compassion in my business and my personal life. 3) Set Boundaries – There have been times when things have gotten really hectic at work and I skip the gym, I skip my morning walk with my dog, and I start skipping out on things that truly make me happy. While at times I feel “mom guilt” about setting boundaries with my business, it is ultimately the healthiest thing I can do for me personally, and the company’s success.
What’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?
As women, we’re calibrated to try to do it all but when you are a leader, especially in a startup, you have to have to solely concentrate on your vision. In every situation, you have to focus on finding the answer that supports that vision. You can’t pay attention to the noise that’s pulling you in other directions or to be someone you aren’t. You can’t let the no’s or doubters impact you or the direction of your company. If you focus on making it work regardless of outside factors you will find the answer. Just do it and don’t quit. Know your purpose and vision inside and out and let them drive all of your decisions. The purpose will keep you focused when you are building your team, coaching your team, and creating your culture.
What have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?
We’ve been able to bring on multiple great partners in the Community Bank, Wealth, HR, and Insurance space over the past few months and grow our impact exponentially. Not only are we helping their customers and families plan more effectively for the future, but we are also helping our partners grow their businesses, and create authentic relationships with their communities through our private family network.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
As I always say, BIG THINGS ARE COMING! In addition to our robust roadmap, which is centered around the family network, we are also continually working in a “test and learn lab environment” with our partners to drive continuous learning and product enhancements that fit the needs of our customers. You can expect, all the stuff that matters to you and your family to be protected in a single place. From the messages and memories that you want to share privately with your family network, to the adulting pieces that you “just don’t know where to start” on, our goal is to make protecting your wealth and wisdom, simple.