Pictured above: (from the left) Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Brittany Hoffman, Steve Case, and Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey.
CIT: Tell us about you.
Brittany: I'm a passionate person, a lifelong learner, and very committed to my family. Growing up in a vacation town in New Jersey, I spent most of my summers doing children's programs. I always thought I'd go into education, but I realized that I also loved business in college. After participating in a number of pitch and business plan competitions to help pay for school, I realized that I absolutely thrived on the brainstorming, planning, and pitching. I knew that I wanted to start my own business.
After finishing my undergraduate degree in education and entrepreneurship from Grove City College, I went on to receive my Master's in Education in Curriculum and Instruction (which is really a fancy way to say Program Development and Evaluation) from Regent University. Both programs equipped me to problem solve, communicate effectively, and innovate. I hope to go back for my Ph.D someday, hopefully in educational entrepreneurship.
I married my high school sweetheart, Kevin, in 2011 and we are now expecting an addition to our family - twin boys coming this summer. I am excited about this new chapter of my adventure and can't wait to bring them along into the life of owning a business.
CIT: Tell us about your current venture.
Brittany: In April 2012, I won StartNorfolk 2.0 for D8Night! - a suggestion engine for local and personalized date suggestions. You and your significant other tell the system your preferences, budget, and zip code, and D8Night! suggests great date locations in your neighborhood. We partner with local businesses to offer exclusive date opportunities to add spice and romance, while keeping you on budget!
Our team is incredible. We met at StartNorfolk, a weekend entrepreneurship competition and really hit it off. I have learned so much from them and have been incredibly blessed to be living the entrepreneurial adventure with them one day at a time!
CIT: What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Brittany: Listen to advice. Have coffee with anyone who wants to talk to you. Take a nugget away from every interaction. In the end, however, the path you choose to take is your own. Throw away the bad advice and make confident decisions knowing that you are going to mess up anyway. Everyone's entrepreneurial adventure is unique, and you can't be held to the expectations of others. Set high expectations for yourself and hold yourself accountable to those.
Also, don't be afraid to admit your failures. I think that the D8Night! story has been powerful because we have been very honest and transparent with our dashed hopes and our incredible successes. You learn the most by embracing both sides of the roller coaster!
CIT: What events/meetup groups are essential for startups?
Brittany: Go where there is momentum and camaraderie. I've been most affected by some of our morning coffee meet-ups (StartCoffee) and the weekend competitions (StartNorfolk and Start Peninsula). They have created deep friendships and true respect. Not only that, but where that camaraderie exists your business thrives! I've made some really great pivots in the business based on conversations and questions from other business owners. The groups are way less important than the relationships!
CIT: How important is collaboration and knowledge sharing to you?
Brittany: Collaboration is essential! Since D8Night! started at a competition, we've had very little to hide. Ideas don't matter, execution matters!
CIT: What makes your city’s tech scene unique?
Brittany: I didn't know about Norfolk's tech scene until I moved here. Norfolk is a really exciting place to start a business, particularly in the tech scene. There is a great community here trying to really encourage the growth of tech entrepreneurs. I think the effort and the energy surrounding this space is what makes Hampton Roads, VA a unique place to start a business.
Founder and CEO, D8Night!