Miss A Columnist

Lesley Haenny is the Seattle Editor for Miss A. She is an Air Force wife now living in the Seattle area. Prior to living in Seattle, Lesley spent 7 years in Washington, DC, working as a Congressional liaison. She grew up in a small, mountain town in Southern California, sandwiched between an older sister and a younger brother. Her two hard working parents taught her to always go for the clearance rack, bring your lunch everyday, work hard for what you have, and always take the opportunity to travel and play outside. Lesley has been actively involved in various charities such as the Animal Resource Foundation, Komen For the Cure, Prevent Cancer Foundation, American Diabetes Association and the Race for Hope (benefitting the National Brain Tumor Society and Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure).

Interview With Andy Karuza, CEO Of Brandbuddee

I first moved to the Seattle area in June of 2012 when my husband was transferred to McChord AFB. Having never stepped foot in the State of Washington prior to crossing the border in the moving truck near Spokane, I had no idea what this next chapter of my life held for me.  Becoming the Seattle city editor for Miss A (after having been the Annapolis city editor) has opened my eyes to how absolutely amazing the people of Washington are.

One of these fascinating figures found me on Twitter earlier this year at @AskMissASeattle, and not knowing who he was, did my research.  Andy Karuza, the CEO of brandbuddee, is a young professional and entrepreneur, under the age of 30, who has already accomplished more than so many his age.  He has made quite the name for himself, having been featured in Moda and Estillo, Forbes and so much more.   Andy embodies the Miss A motto – charity meets style, and he exemplifies what I have come to know from the people of this great state: passionate, hardworking and ready to take on any challenge set before him.  He took the time to answer some questions for Miss A Seattle to talk about brandbuddee, his charity work and his philosophy on life!

Andy Karuza (Photo Credit: Clane Gessel)

Andy Karuza (Photo Credit: Clane Gessel)

Q: Tell our readers a little bit about your own history and how you came to be where you are today.

A: I like things to be different, a good challenge, knowing that things that don’t work out usually lead to better possibilities, and that life is a good as you want to make it. I believe I’ve gotten here because I’m not afraid to take on a new challenge, I never quit, and approach everything I do with an undefeated passion. At 27 I’m a 6x wrestling champion, 4x most eligible bachelor, founding member of WWU’s AKpsi, have been in Forbes and many other major publications, founder of three companies, young entrepreneur award winner, and work with many of the world’s fortune 500 companies to design and implement social media strategy. I’m a community man, a believer in entrepreneurship, and always willing to help promote a good cause.

Q: Tell me about brandbuddee. What gave you the inspiration to start it?

A: brandbuddee is a website where brands tell their story through their fans, because it means more. As a business or brand you can set up and run simple, scalable online brand advocacy programs to help get the word out about your business through the most trusted source, your customers and fans. As a brand advocate or “super fan”, you can earn exclusive experiences and prizes from the brands you love and discover tons of amazing other brands and stories just the same. Why not get reward for something you’re already doing on social media every day? My inspiration for this business came from my passion for people and marketing as a way to communicate between people like you and I and the organizations we’re a part of. I found that there was a better way to get the word out about a business through the trusted power of word-of-mouth and it’s something that fans were willing and able to do. The difference was that it had to be done the right way, with a new level of genuineness not found in other brand advocacy programs. Unlike many other people that go into business, just for the money, this particular start-up is really focused around my passions.

Q: Who has been one of the biggest influences in your life? What lessons did he or she teach you?

A: I’ve found two big influences in life, my parents and my own stubbornness. My parents always taught me the right values and understandings in work ethic, logic, and morality. I must say that to really get ahead in life, you need to think about other people first, and this mentality has been much to the mutual advantage of myself and other people in my life. If we can all help pick other people up and make them successful, we’ll take off along with them and Karma always comes around.

On the other hand, my stubbornness has been equally important to my success. It’s important to believe in yourself, because you’re the one that really knows you and the situation the best, so are naturally in the best position to make the best decision. You have to be careful balancing what you don’t know, which is why more experienced mentors are a must, but to succeed, there are going to be a lot of times in your life where you have to be stubborn and go with your gut instincts.

(Photo Credit: Jami Davis Photography)

(Photo Credit: Moda and Estilo)

Q: What are some important lessons you have learned since starting brandbuddee, both good and bad? What advice would you give to others who want to start their own business?

A: I portrayed a couple of these points in a recent article I did with Forbes where all of the points were based off my own personal experience. One thing we’re always working on is communication, whether it’s properly understanding the needs of our team members or better positioning our product in the marketplace. The good is that we learned that we’re never finished and that we can solve any problem by being persistent and constantly in “problem-solver” mode. When you’re launching a business, it’s good to go into it with an idea of what will work, but don’t be afraid to change by listening to the market’s needs or thinking of ways to improve upon what you’re currently doing. Most of the great businesses you see today weren’t overnight successes, it took time and many reiterations to get in the right groove.

Q: Where do you see brandbuddee in the future? Where do you see Andy Karuza in the future?

A: I see brandbuddee being an integral part of a brand’s online marketing strategy through the organization and management of online brand advocacy campaigns. By working with your fans, they can drive so much more value and reach out of social media channels while building better brand loyalty. We may be a bit ahead of our time, but it’ll catch up to what we’re doing, this is definitely not doing social media on a tweet-by-tweet basis.

I see myself still very much involved with brandbuddee, but starting another venture or getting involved as an investor to help other entrepreneur’s dreams take off. If there is one thing I know about myself, it’s that I love creating things, so I’ll almost surely never be satisfied and will move on to find joy in starting even more projects.

Q: Are there any charities that you work with that you’d like to give a shout out to?

A: I’ve worked with many charities in the past, mostly by sponsoring the marketing for their fundraising events and helping them get the word out online. I found this as an effective way to give back by doing what I’m good at and offering a unique value proposition to the charity. Personally, I’d like to acknowledge my friends at Dollars Per Month and The Michael-Ryan Patterson Foundation. However, I believe it’s important to help as many charities as you can, even those that don’t directly affect you in anyway. If there is a cause that matters to somebody else, then that’s important and worth considering. I don’t think I’ve turned down any charity for help.

(Photo Credit: Jami Davis Photography)

(Photo Credit: Moda and Estilo )

Q: What do you love about Seattle and the Pacific Northwest? What is it about the PNW that is so unique for entrepreneurs?

A: As much as I or anybody else may be inspired by the cities we visit, you can’t forget that the best place is and always will be home. To me, the Pacific Northwest is and always will be home. Why? Because the people here are great–it’s not cut-throat and they’re very supportive once you get to know them. The northwest is unique for entrepreneurs, because you’ve got a great community that is willing to help you. I think the northwest is very underrated in popular culture, but it’s definitely coming up in many more areas than just business.

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