“Growing up, I was fascinated with the local entrepreneurs in the Merrimack community. There were a lot of local restaurants run by people that I knew and I was very interested in how they ran their businesses,” Sonciary Honnoll the VP of Brands and Co-Founder at Promoboxx explained.
On top of her interest in entrepreneurship, Sonciary was also passionate about music. When it was time for college, she left southern New Hampshire to pursue her dreams down in Nashville at Belmont University. While there, she was involved in the local music scene, met her husband and gained experience in business administration and audio engineering.
“I actually started out as a vocal performance major and I ended up switching to audio engineering and business. Once I did a little time in the vocal program, I realized if I wanted to sing, then I could just go sing.”
After Sonciary graduated, she came to the conclusion that she didn’t want to stay in music.
“I’m glad I ended up switching majors because I didn’t end up pursuing a career in music,” Sonciary laughed.
“I think sometimes you find that when you go after what you love, you find it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. After I got a taste of what I thought was my dream, I decided that I ultimately wanted to go ahead with something else.”
After her decision to leave her music career behind, Sonciary and her husband moved back up to New Hampshire to start a new chapter. She started working at the CCA Global Partners, where she had the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs.
“I headed the marketing efforts for the high-end interior design division. It was there that I actually got to work directly, day to day with about 100-125 entrepreneurs all around North America that had started design businesses and were working with local consumers. I helped them market their businesses and I absolutely loved it. I enjoyed hearing their stories, learning why they did what they did, meeting their families, learning their struggles and helping them run their companies.”
It was there that Sonciary met Ben Carcio and Dan Koziak, her two co-founders. They worked together at CCA for a few years and then eventually left to start Promoboxx, a marketing platform company that drives sales by connecting and aligning national brands and local retailers.
“Promoboxx was really based on our collective experiences at CCA. We realized we’re all marketers at heart and we loved working with independent entrepreneurs to help market their businesses. However, we realized there wasn’t a tool that allowed brands to give us the content that we needed to grow their businesses. So we decided to build it.”
Once they got the startup up and running, they applied to Techstars but were disappointed to hear they were cut in the final round.
“It was devastating because we didn’t know where we were going to go from there. At that point, we had been bootstrapping for a little while but we ultimately decided to keep going.”
In the meantime, the team was invited to present at the Open Angel Forum by Katie Rae, who was the managing director of Techstars’ Boston program. Katie is now the CEO and managing partner of The Engine, MIT’s venture fund and accelerator.
A few days later, the day of the Techstars kickoff, Katie called the team to give them the good news. They changed their minds and wanted Promoboxx to join the 2011 spring class.
“Katie must have seen something. I don’t think she was so sure on the concept but she saw something in our team. It was the first time they accepted an additional company, it was Katie’s first time managing Techstars and she was the first female to do so. She had a lot on the line. I have so much love and appreciation for her because that takes a lot of guts. We owe her so much.”
Sonciary compared her experience at Techstars to going through a bootcamp. She described the mentors who advised them on every part of their business, the process of listening to her own instincts and the amazing people she met along the way.
“Going through that program, it’s hard to find words to say how absolutely valuable it is because we learned through all of the talent we got to meet with, the mentors, and the community. It was just crazy.”
After Techstars ended, Ben, Dan, and Sonciary decided to move Promoboxx to Boston to be closer to the action. She now lives in the South End with her husband Kevin and her two King Charles Cavaliers.
Rapid Fire Questions
Brianne Shelley: How do you manage stress?
Sonciary Honnoll: I love to run. I ran the Boston Marathon this year with TUGG, that was an amazing experience. I found that in order to zone out and process anything that I’m stressed or frustrated with, I have to run at least 10 miles or more.
I literally just had a really bad day at work three years ago and didn’t know how to handle it. I just looked at my shoes in my closet, I laced up and I ran 13 miles out of nowhere. It felt fantastic and I went out the next day and did it again.
When I got started doing long distances, I got so much benefit from it because I had never really worked out before. I was so much into the arts, music and Promoboxx, I didn’t really have a history of taking care of myself physically.
I started getting up at 4:30am to get 10 miles in before heading to the office and I do that six or seven days a week. I do a lot of cross training too, bootcamp, boxing, spin, yoga but mostly focus on being strong so I can run.
BS: How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?
SH: I actually don’t drink coffee. When I used to drink coffee, I would probably say I used to have between two and three cups a day. I’d drink it black and I absolutely loved it. At some point, I started to replace it with water to benefit my running.
BS: What do you like you do in your free time?
SH: In addition to all my training, my two baby pups are turning one tomorrow! We have a brother and a sister. They’re King Charles Cavaliers and they’re about 13 or 14 lbs each. They’re just the love of my life. So if I’m not hugging them or staring deeply into their eyes or taking them for a walk with my husband, then I’m probably out training or spending time with family.
BS: Where is your favorite spot in Boston?
SH: I would say that the Esplanade is my favorite place. I love to people watch. You have the water and the beautiful scenery and people enjoying life with their family and their dogs. It’s so close to where I live in the South End so I can easily get there.
BS: If you had to choose one thing, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
SH: Honestly, being married for 14 years, especially because my husband and I got married pretty young. You go through so many evolutions in life regardless of when you get married but for us being together since 18, getting married at 22, being together through our 20s and figuring out our 30s, there’s a lot involved. To do life with someone else so closely, you need to compromise, learn, try to keep things exciting, go through the suffering, power on and hopefully make things beautiful again. For me, relationships are so important. To be able to have someone that I love so dearly and who loves and supports me is my greatest accomplishment. If I only ever had Kevin, that would be enough for me.
BS: Ten years ago, is this where you would have seen yourself?
SH: Maybe this is so counter intuitive but I typically don't make a ton of plans. Even now, I’m not necessarily thinking about where I want to be in 10 years. I like to let things evolve. I’m pretty controlling when it comes to day to day but when it comes to long term plans, I might have a few things in mind but I try not to plan too far because some things in life just happen. The Sonciary I saw when I was 26 (I’m now 36) no, not at all. But at the same time, I don’t really know what I expected.
BS: What one piece of advice would you give to a recent college graduate?
SH: Be grateful. There is so much opportunity to be lost in what doesn’t go our way. There will be a lot of things that won't go your way and it can be really debilitating. For some people, that powers them to make a change but sometimes you can get caught up on everything that’s not going well.
For me, that’s a motto that I try to live my life by. As you’re going through and trying to navigate your next steps, there are so many options. Just try to step back and realize there are so many amazing things that will come your way. You won't see them coming and you can't plan for them. Just be grateful in the moment for what you have.
Images courtesy of Sonciary Honnoll.