From a Longwood farm to the foothills of Utah, this Lake Mary High grad knows how to mix big business and big family.
Like many teenagers, Vanessa Munns Quigley would have loved to have slept until 11:00 a.m. each morning while attending Lake Mary High School.
Of course, that was not an option. But learning to wake up before dawn proved fruitful for this self-described night person. Today, as a hugely successful entrepreneur and mother of seven, Vanessa remains an early riser.
“I don’t love it,” she admits, “but I know it’s what I need to do.”
Vanessa, who now lives in Orem, Utah, is the founder of Chatbooks, a company that allows subscribers to create dynamic scrapbooks from scanned, digital, smartphone, and social-media photos. She and her husband and business partner, Nate, have sold some seven million books in five years.
Vanessa, who is 46, attributes much of her entrepreneurial spirit to her almost idyllic childhood living on five acres in Longwood, surrounded by orange groves. She was the oldest of 12 siblings who helped work the family’s pine-tree nursery and dog-breeding business.
“We really felt like we were in the boonies,” Vanessa says. “We had horses, pigs, cows, goats, chickens. It was like a gentleman’s farm/petting zoo.”
Once, Vanessa’s entire second-grade class took a field trip to her family’s compound – which included a guest cottage, pool, and horse stable.
“It was fun living in this other world that would end up being suburbia,” she says.
Vanessa’s father, Ranier, is a founder of the Bogin, Munns & Munns law firm, and her mother, April, is a gifted artist and seamstress.
The idea for Chatbooks began one night when Vanessa found her youngest son, Declan, ruefully clutching a small photo album his teacher made for him at school. It dawned on Vanessa that she had never made a single baby book or scrapbook for her own family.
“That night, I came to the painful realization that everything was in the cloud,” Vanessa recalls.
It is ironic, she says, that in this day of unlimited opportunities to take pictures, many families have few, if any, physical photographs to treasure. They could lose a lifetime of memories, she notes, were their phone to fall into a swimming pool.
Vanessa and her family were living in Satellite Beach when they made the decision to move to Utah in 2013. One reason was Vanessa’s Mormon roots. Another was Utah’s reputation as a haven for start-up companies.
Vanessa and Nate borrowed from family and friends to launch Chatbooks, and they originally rented two desks in a random office building to run the business. She took no salary in the beginning.
“We were feeling very humbled,” she remembers.
Today, Chatbooks employs more than 100 people and has raised over $20 million in venture capital
Though Vanessa has become a successful businesswoman, she’s still first and foremost a mom. She often skips lunch, getting by on almonds and protein smoothies, so that she can go home early enough to spend extended time with her family.
It is no accident that the majority of Vanessa’s employees, especially in customer service, are women.
“In customer service, it’s all about problem-solving and empathizing,” Vanessa says. “Women, generally, have a knack for that. It’s been a huge part of our success.”
Living in a landlocked environment has been an adjustment for Vanessa, who drove to New Smyrna Beach every weekend when she first learned to drive, and who lived just blocks from the ocean in Satellite Beach. But among Utah’s compensatory charms are its mountain views, affordable housing, and the Mormons’ huge emphasis on family history, which dovetails nicely with her business.
Finally, residents of Utah are famously industrious, something to which Vanessa can relate.
Her siblings are all thriving in enterprises of their own, including law, software, marketing, and cosmetics. Vanessa and her sisters even appeared on an episode of Shark Tank to promote Raising Wild, a swimwear company.
But perhaps the best example of the family’s get-it-done spirit can be found in Vanessa’s mom.
April’s greatest ambition was to have 12 kids, Vanessa says. She bore 10, then adopted two more to meet the goal.
Want More Information?