Position: CEO and president
Company: SellSwipe Inc.
Family: Father of two, Naomi, 9, and Ahren, 5
Education: Baton Rouge Magnet High School; B.S. in Finance from LSU (2013)
In the news:
After more than three years of development, the SellSwipe app—which allows consumers to find, follow and interact with locally owned retailers—launched in August 2018. The launch came less than a year after Facey’s pitch for the app won the PitchBR competition during the 2017 Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week.
What was your very first job, how old were you and what was the biggest takeaway from the experience?
I worked in the back office for a financial planner here in Baton Rouge. My biggest takeaway was that you should strive to be perfect in finance because auditors can be extremely scary.
What time do you typically get up on a workday, and what’s your ideal morning routine to get it off to a great start?
It’s the Wild Wild West for me right now. It’s not uncommon for me to work until 4 or 5 in the morning. I’ve realized how important sleep is as I’ve aged, so I try and let my body operate on its own schedule in terms of when it wants to get up. However, if we have meetings in the morning, I won’t sleep until after the meetings are over.
For those who are not familiar with SellSwipe, how does the app work and why should people be using it?
We have a social networking app on iOS based on product discovery and user recommendations, and an online marketplace dedicated to shopping from locally owned retailers in the community. On the app, you can follow businesses and friends, and discover products being sold by businesses around you. On the website, you can place online orders for in-store pickup from locally-owned retailers around you. If you want to support your community, buying local is one of the best ways to do that and SellSwipe strives to make that process easier so it becomes part of our everyday lives.
The app launched in August of last year, but you first began working on it in 2015. What was the greatest challenge in bringing your idea to fruition?
Fundraising. The odds are extremely stacked against you when it comes to raising money as a minority-owned tech startup. We’re also in a region of the country where investors are considerably more risk-averse towards tech investments because of the lack of success stories and tech startups.
Since launching the app, what has the growth been like and what’s your ultimate vision for SellSwipe?
Growth has been steady. We’re currently focused on refining the product so we can begin leveraging our partnerships across the country to scale quickly. Ultimately, we want SellSwipe to be the first place you go when looking for products and local retailers around you. It’s really that simple.
What’s something about your job that might surprise people?
I’m not sure if this is surprising, but I spend 18 hours a day in front of computer screens.
As someone who has won a local pitch event (the PitchBR competition during Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week in 2017), what advice would you give someone who is hoping to win one in the future?
Think big picture and work in reverse. When you’re pitching and the audience is a part of it, you have to appeal to their imagination. Have a vision that’s so big that it makes people question your sanity and pair it with a plan of execution that makes them question if you’re really as crazy as you sound. We place a big focus on design during our pitches because we understand the power of pictures and how they appeal to people’s imagination and feelings. It’s also extremely important that you control the narrative of your pitch and preemptively address any concerns or questions the audience or judges might have.
What are some of your hobbies or favorite things to do in your free time?
I don’t recommend this, but I’m a workaholic. All of my hobbies have died out over the life of SellSwipe. I just watch Netflix, anime and shows on HBO when I’m relaxing. “True Detective” and “Game of Thrones” binging has worked well for me lately.
You’re taking me out to a business lunch in Baton Rouge. Where are you most likely to take me and what do you recommend I order?
I live and love downtown, so it would most likely be somewhere in the area. Depending on how important the lunch is, it would either be Downtown Seafood or Stroube’s. With Downtown Seafood, you can’t miss with either the shrimp or oyster po-boy. With Stroube’s, it’s less about the food and more about the environment.
What’s one of the smartest purchases you’ve ever made? What’s one of the dumbest?
Ironically enough, the answer is the same for both questions. Three years ago, I was in Las Vegas with friends from college and we were at a nightclub. I’m a loner at heart, so I decided to buy my own bottle of liquor with a credit card I had got in college but never used. That one bottle maxed out that card, which just so happened to have the highest interest rate out of all the credit cards in my wallet. To this day, I’m still paying it off. It’s dumb simply because of the economics of it and the spontaneity of the purchase. However, I think it was the smartest purchase I made because it taught me the beauty of living in the moment and embracing it without fear of the future.
What’s one of the luckiest things that has ever happened to you?
Back in the summer of 2015, I was on assignment in Manhattan for PriceWaterhouseCoopers. I usually would leave and head back home to Chicago on Fridays. However, this fateful week, I flew back on Thursday—on a whim. That Friday, I visited the hedge fund I interned at—on a whim. While I was there, someone in their party cancelled for a fundraiser in East Hampton set to take place the next day. I was in the room at the time and was immediately asked to take their place at the event. It was all so random, but I ended up going and it changed my life. I met my mentor, Loida Lewis, widow of the Reginald F. Lewis, the first African-American to build a billion dollar company. She essentially told me my heart wasn’t behind my job and that advice would end up sparking the entrepreneurial fire that would lead to SellSwipe. I also met the investment banker that would help us raise our first money for SellSwipe.
Can you name someone who has had a great impact on you as a leader, or someone who has been a mentor to you in your life or career? How have they changed your outlook?
Loida for sure; she’s always so positive and helps keep my perspective broad. She loves to say, “Everything will be OK in the end and if things aren’t OK, it isn’t the end.” Being an entrepreneur is hard because everything falls on you. It’s easy to isolate yourself because you feel like many of the people around don’t understand the pressure you’re under or the situations you’re constantly navigating. Loida helps bring me up for air when I start to drown. It also helps that she has a million anecdotes from Reginald’s journey on how he persevered through his own struggles.
What is something you are absolutely determined to do in life?
Outside of the success of SellSwipe, I’m stuck in between showing out on the red carpet at the Met Gala or transforming how historically black colleges and universities approach development of student entrepreneurship.