Q&A with Samantha Ettus, Founder and CEO of Park Place Payments

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” is a series of stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds, raised funding, and are now leading successful companies.

Sam Ettus is active in causes relating to women and girls and is co-founder of the Los Angeles Women’s Collective, aimed at supporting women to run for office nationally and win. She also serves on the advisory board of the Forbes School of Business and Technology. 

As a dedicated champion of women, Ettus has devoted her career to advocating and supporting women in the pursuit of their dreams. Thousands of women–from C-level leaders to administrative assistants to moms returning to the workforce–have benefitted from her unique guidance. She finds that spark within each of them and turns it into a fire. In her quest to help women achieve financial independence, she launched Park Place Payments.

A sales-force-as-a-service company that is changing the way financial services are sold to independently owned businesses, Park Place trains women, and others who have been sidelined in their careers, from around the country to sell payment processing solutions to local businesses. 

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

No! Prior to getting my MBA, I had many jobs in corporate America and did well there. But when I saw a need that wasn’t being filled, I felt the drive to fix it. Growing up in a family in which my mom and dad owned a company together probably made it a lot easier for me to envision myself as a business owner. 

Q: Why did you choose to enter the payments industry?

I saw a group of highly competent and formerly professional women who were stuck selling multi-level marketing products like skincare and makeup and not even making martini money. I also saw how many people were capped in earning potential in their current careers. 

I wanted to create financial independence for all of them. There were only so many motivational speeches I could give before asking myself how I could not just motivate this group of people, but offer them a tangible money-making opportunity.

Q: What issues did you see in the payments industry before you started your company? 

There was, and still is, so much poor behavior from shady sales tactics; hidden fees and terrible customer service, not to mention almost no women or people of color. I wanted to change all of that and we have and will continue to in an even bigger way.

Q: In 2019, only 3 percent of venture capital was invested in female-only founded companies. Did/do you feel welcome and accepted as an underrepresented group in the VC space?

No! I was shepherded mostly to the handful of woman-focused VCs and the male-dominated VCs have largely wanted nothing to do with us. It motivates me to grow so fast and so far that they regret not taking us seriously or considering us at all. I want Park Place Payments to be the one that got away.

Q: How did you network, find communities and make the connections you needed to succeed?

It is more like: How do I stop? If I am on a call or in a conversation where the name of someone I do not know comes up, I write the name down, research them and if I find them intriguing, I reach out to them cold. I never stop meeting new people. I love people who are engaged in the world and I want to meet them all.

Q: What is your advice for other female founders at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journeys?

No is a slower path to yes. Lean on other women on your way up and support other women on your way up. 

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as the founder of your own company?

A positive attitude and a great work ethic supersede experience every time. 

Q: What is your advice for other entrepreneurs trying to scale their own company?

Don’t spend too fast but don’t save too much. Nobody is giving you accolades for keeping your costs down if you aren’t growing.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or “personal mantra” you use to keep yourself motivated? 

Don’t live life in the past lane. 

Q: What challenge are you most proud of overcoming in your career?

Making sure that our cap table at Park Place is always filled with at least half women and people of color.

Q: Any thoughts/advice for entrepreneurs in the current economic climate? 

When some doors close, unexpected ones open. Keep your eyes on the opportunities rather than the obstacles.

Q: How have you integrated your values and mission into your own company structure?

My passion is financial independence for women and any sidelined population, whether they be people who have been looked over for age or race or any other -ism. My company has created an opportunity for these people.

Q: How did you connect with VCs? Can you describe your process of raising your Seed round?

LinkedIn is my best friend and I network like crazy. I am not afraid to ask people for an intro to someone I want to meet or to cold contact. Anyone can find money if you don’t care where it comes from. I am selective and I look for investors I can brag about. 

Q: What are the biggest lessons you learned from raising your latest round of funding?

Always be raising. Never stop. When you think you are done with a round, you are not done. Something unexpected always happens at the last minute.

Q: How did you know you were choosing the right investors? What have they brought to the company?

I was a college athlete so I love having a team behind me. The right investors have skills that round out mine and are wonderful evangelists for spreading the word about our company.

Q: What qualities do you possess that you think have contributed most to your success?

Curiosity, passion and a deeply competitive nature. Also, a deep self-awareness of what I am great at and what I suck at. 

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your experience as a founder so far? 

Watching people achieve their financial dreams is a professional fantasy. Every time an account executive closes a deal, whether it is her first or her 50th, I get excited for her. That never goes away.

Q: How has your experience as a founder impacted those around you?

I simply don’t have time for many people outside of my family anymore. I am momming or working most of the time and gratefully, these are two roles that I absolutely love.

  • Originally published December 17, 2020