Amber Anderson is a busy woman. She currently runs two businesses: Kayson, a business strategy agency, and MORE, an organization for parent entrepreneurs. Kayson allows Amber to help business owners identify, launch, and manage the products and services they sell. Through MORE, Amber and her husband redefine balance by creating environments where work and life seamlessly co-exist. Amber is also the mother of an active and silly little boy—and to her, it’s the most rewarding thing she does.
What part of Arizona do you call home?
I live in the east Valley.
How did you get started in the tech industry?
I got my start in tech when I was working at Apollo Group. At the time, I was doing administrative stuff while I studied for the LSAT—my plan out of college was to become a lawyer. A manager from one of the software development teams approached me. He needed someone with strong analytical skills to manage the relations between their group and the various departments within the org (AKA the business). They loved the way I handled myself and asked me to come onboard as a business analyst. I worked as a business analyst for five years. Then I transitioned into a product manager and then eventually to a global engagement manager. As the global engagement manager, I managed all of the software and IT products/services Apollo provided its global schools.
I learned a ton while I was at Apollo, but my biggest takeaway was the role technology plays in a business. A lot of people think tech should be the driver, but I believe technology is really just a tool. You can have the best technology in the world and it will fail if the business’s strategy is inadequate.
I have a bachelor’s degree in justice studies and two minors: one in African American studies and the other in communications. I love solving complex problems, so tech was a dream for me. Every problem/project that was presented I viewed as a new opportunity to learn, grow and get creative.
What was your very first entrepreneurial venture?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I am a natural leader, but I didn’t go out on my own until 2012. That is when I started my business analysis and product management agency, Nous Associates, which has since evolved to be Kayson. At Kayson we help business owners identify, launch and manage the things that they sell.
Before going out on my own, I worked in several positions that offered a lot of freedom. So I’d say I was an “intrapreneur” first.
How did you come up with the idea for your current businesses?
I started Kayson because I was frustrated with the dialogue that was happening in the business community. There was (and still is) a lot of rhetoric floating around about how to “grow” your business that I felt was misguiding people, and I wanted to bring more attention to the role products and services play in a company’s success.
The idea for MORE came about after our son, Kayson, was born 9 weeks premature. I was at work when my water broke, and we spent 3 weeks in the hospital. When it was time for me to go back to work I wasn’t ready, so I started Kayson, hoping I would have the flexibility I needed to stay home. But I quickly noticed that, as a breastfeeding momma, participating in the events around town was hard. And networking was really important to my business. I spoke with Kai about it, and he suggested that we create our own events. So, we did.
What is your favorite part about running a business?
Creative freedom. I love the fact that I can be super creative about the way we handle problems and address new market demands.
What was the biggest challenge in executing this idea?
Having the financials to go out on my own was a big challenge. My husband and I hustled for three years to save up enough for me to quit my job. We both came from single-parent homes and had to start covering our expenses at an early age. We had to get settled before I could begin my entrepreneurship journey.
Also, my business ideas usually go against the grain, and they aren’t always easy for people to understand right away. I spent a lot of time at the beginning of my entrepreneurial career trying to find my network and took a few wrong turns along the way, but they were great learning experiences and gave me the confidence that I needed to trust my crazy ideas.
How long have you lived or worked in Arizona?
I’ve been in AZ since 2002, so for 14 years. I’ve been working in tech since 2006/2007. I think there’s a misconception that the tech industry is just now thriving. The truth is, we’ve always had great tech talent here. It’s just that the majority of us were working in corporations. For example, the entire online platform that made University of Phoenix into a giant was built here in Arizona by Phoenix developers. And this story is true across the state.
If you could only describe your city with one word, which word would it be?
Promising. There is so much going on in the state right now.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Arizona?
Having family nearby. My family and my husband’s family live within 20 minutes of us, so we have support, which is super important when you bring children into the mix.
What’s your least favorite thing about living in Arizona?
We’re segmented. Living in the east Valley sometimes feels isolating. I’d like to see more programs, events and dialogue spread across the state and brought into the suburbs.
In what area do you think Arizona still has a long way to go?
We need more human-centric programming. There are a lot of groups doing things independently (i.e. women’s groups, cultural groups, entrepreneur groups, tech groups) but they are all one track-minded. For example, if you’re an entrepreneur, you go to an entrepreneur program/event. If you’re a parent, you go to a parent event. If you’re a woman, you go to a women-focused event. Hackathons and startup weekends are awesome, but super hard for people, especially mothers, with children. I’d like to see us do more to bridge these gaps.
People are multi-dimensional. We need more programs and services that take into account all of their different roles and needs. We’ve tried to do this with MORE. I’d like to see other groups make similar changes as well.
The foodie scene is growing bigger and bigger by the day here in Arizona. What is your favorite place to get breakfast in your city?
It’s a tie. Pomegranate Cafe in Ahwatukee and the Crepe Bar in Tempe.
Image by Phoenix New Times.
What’s your favorite place to grab lunch?
Green Vegetarian in Tempe.
What’s your favorite dinner spot?
Right now it is India Oven in Gilbert.
What’s your favorite place to work in your city aside from your office?
Snooze in Gilbert.
Best place for a meeting over drinks?
I’d say Postino in Gilbert.
What is your favorite memory from Arizona?
Meeting my husband. We met at the language and literature building at Arizona State Univ.
What is something about living in Arizona that only a local would know of?
Arizona has its own time zone! It took me forever to get used to not participating in daylight savings time.
Any tips for new Arizona residents?
Get out there and find your tribe. There are a lot of different groups here doing amazing things. Make time right away to find the groups that align with your goals and values. Your network will be key to finding success, learning the scene and having fun. And don’t worry—the heat will eventually subside and you’ll remember why you moved to Arizona.