Daryn Kagan

Apply to be a Featured Lady

Founder, darynkagan.com

Listen to Daryn Kagan’s podcast update here.

Good news! Soon there will be more good news on the ‘net, thanks to Daryn Kagan, the longtime CNN reporter and anchor who is starting her own media business with the theme, “One Woman. One Radical Idea: the World is a Good Place.” At darynkagan.com you’ll discover people who are overcoming challenges to accomplish amazing things and get news about celebrities, entrepreneurs, kids, seniors, artists, athletes and many others who inspire. Meet Daryn in person at NYC Speaker Series on January 27, 2009 and find out below how Daryn responds to hecklers who… gotta love the irony here… are negative about the notion of positive news.

Leaving CNN

“After 12 years at CNN, it became clear that I wasn’t going to have the kind of opportunities there that I wanted. I see that as the nudge I needed to move on. I had been thinking of some version of this (business) for a long time. These are the kind of stories I have been drawn to – the kind of stories that make your heart go zing. It was one of those moments in your life where you have a chance to sit back and think, ‘If I could do anything in my life, what would it be?'”

From Information to Inspiration

“The two themes of my Web site are: the world is a good place and show the world what is possible. I’m not turning my back on the news business. I think it’s really important to be informed. But it’s also important to be inspired. It’s just the next step in my journey going from information to inspiration.”

Room for Everyone on the Internet

“Beginning Nov 13th, when you come to darynkagan.com, you’ll see my daily Web cast. The other important aspect of darynkagan.com is that it’s a community. The Web cast box will be in the middle of screen, then surrounding me will be six or seven buckets. There will be stories that other people have contributed.

“I think there’s a belief that fear sells and good news doesn’t. I don’t necessarily agree with that. I tend to be a positive person rather than critique what’s out there. With the Internet, there’s room for everyone.”

Betting the Good Stuff Sells

“One thing people want to know… this is all nice and good, but how are you going to make money? This will be an ad-supported Web site. Even before I sold a single ad, I have had amazing offers for speaking engagements and book offers. My original intention was build it and they will come… they’re coming.”

Owning Her Idea Instead of Giving It Away

‘I’m going out and doing it on my own because my sister (Kallan Kagan) told me to. When I came up with the idea, I tried to get a couple of big companies to buy into it and for whatever reason, it wasn’t the time or they didn’t get it. My little sister looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you just do it yourself and own it?’ I realized this was the best model because I didn’t have to please anyone but myself.”

Encouragement Makes a Difference

“I drew a sketch of what the Web site would look like and showed it to a technology reporter at CNN. I thought he might say, ‘There are already 50 of those on the Internet.’
But his eyes bugged out and he said, ‘There’s nothing like that on the Internet. Take this sketch down to the Apple store and show them what you want to do. You could totally do this on your own.”

So Much for the Solo Mission

“The learning curve has been realizing I can’t do it completely myself. That was another speech from my sister, who said, ‘This whole thing about doing it by yourself… that’s cute, but really not that smart.’ I’m now using three freelance producers and two photographer/editors. Also, I’m about to hire a part-time production assistant.”

Greatest Challenge

“Figuring out how it’s going to work. Realizing there’s a process. Even though I have skills to put together a story, figuring out the functionality of the business and using new technology is a challenge. One of things that is so cool is this time in
media history. Two years ago, the technology didn’t exist for me to do this. Two years from now, the space will be taken on the Internet.”

Mysterious Momentum

“Certainly I have had my challenges in TV news and getting to this place, but this project has some angel sitting on it. It’s spooky because everything I need keeps showing up.
A good example… the day after my sister gave me that speech about how I needed some help, there was an e-mail from a guy who said, ‘Daryn, I don’t know if you remember me but I used to be photographer for CNN, and I left to start my own inspirational film company.’

Getting Her Name Back from the Guy Who Registered It

“When I went to register darynkagan.com, someone had cyber-squatted it, I found this guy’s e-mail address, sat down and wrote him an e-mail saying, ‘Thank you for thinking of me when you went and registered my name. The time has come for the name to come back to its rightful owner, which of course, would be me.’ The next day I get an e-mail saying, ‘Please call me.’ I did. He was an artist down in Florida. He wanted to tell me about his art.

“We talked for about 15 minutes and then he pauses and he says, ‘So why do I have your name?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, why do you have my name?’ He said, ‘I think I was meant to hold onto it so no one else takes advantage of you. You can have it back.'”

Dealing with Negative Feedback about Positive News

“When I first announced (the idea for www.darynkagan.com), some guy on NPR did a whole satire and parody. So many people heard his broadcast that it drove people to my site. (Some) emailed me saying, ‘There’s some guy on NPR making fun of your idea, but I think it’s great.’

“I believe I have two budgets in building this business – a financial budget and an energy budget. There are limited resources in both accounts. And frankly, I just haven’t budgeted the naysayers into my energy budget. I need to spend those resources on many other things that are more important.”

Words of Advice

“I’ll read you this quote sitting on my desk. I wrote it off a gift card that someone gave me. ‘When you come to the edge of all that you know, you must believe in one of two things – there will be earth upon which to stand, or you will be given wings.'”

Recommended Reading

“I like a lot of what I call ‘woo-woo’ books.‘Inspiration’ by Wayne Dyer. That book talks about leading an inspired life and it redefines what that is and how you look at it.

“One other book… ‘The Unmistakable Touch of Grace’ by Cheryl Richardson. It’s a very readable book that basically talks about… everything that happens to you is good, even if you don’t realize it at the time. It shows you that grace touches your life every day. You just have to be open and looking for it.”

Apply to be a Featured Lady

Kathleen Matthews


Executive Vice President, Global Communications & Public Affairs

Kathleen Matthews has been there and done that. Been there as an eyewitness to history. Done that as a savvy yet sensitive storyteller.

Kathleen spent the first 30 years of her career as an award-winning broadcast journalist in Washington, DC. She served as anchor, reporter, producer and host of WJLA TV’s daily newscasts and special programs Capital Sunday and Working Woman, a nationally syndicated news magazine.

She interviewed every First Lady since Rosalyn Carter and covered more political conventions than she can count. She has been on the front lines of breaking news, such as the Washington-area sniper case in 2002. She lived and worked through the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Washington and traveled the globe to report the events that have literally changed the world.

A San Francisco Bay Area native, she was inspired to move East at the height of the Watergate scandal because she saw that investigative journalism could be a form of public service. Last December, she left the newsdesk to become executive vice president, global communications and public affairs for Marriott.

She is married to Chris Matthews. Yes, he of “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC. Their dinner table must hear a lot of animated political conversation! The Matthews have three grown children.

What I learned from Kathleen: It’s OK – even advantageous – not to be Superwoman. You don’t have to know it all and you shouldn’t try to do it all. Showing vulnerabilities can even be a good way to get things done because it makes people want to help you, partner with you and give you opportunities.

Be the Change You Want to See

“As a journalist, I was a storyteller. It was both rewarding and challenging to empathize with the audience. The most satisfying moments were the times I could do a story and have a positive impact on the subject in some way.

“For instance, I was on the board of an organization called Suited for Change which provided work clothes for women coming off welfare. I was forthcoming about my involvement up front and did a story about the 10,000th woman to come through the door for assistance. The next day, she went on an interview and got the job. They recognized her from my story.”

On Hillary

“Hillary is one of most impressive people I’ve interviewed. In some ways, people see her as too confident, too in control. People have the sense she thinks she’s smarter than the rest of us. If that were a man, people wouldn’t have the same reaction.

“She goes on listening tours to show she’s not a know-it-all. A man wouldn’t have to go on a listening tour. Men, who don’t admit their vulnerabilities, are uncomfortable with women who don’t seem vulnerable.”

A Lady in the Newsroom

“When I walked through the door in 1975, news directors were eager to hire women. They had so few women in TV news then. To be a woman then was an advantage. My career progressed through the changes in gender balance and now there are more women than men in a lot of newsrooms.”

… And the Boardroom

“In business, women generally hold at least half of mid-level positions but there aren’t a lot of them at the top. Business is slightly lagging behind journalism, which was under a lot of pressure. I think we’ll see parity at the top very soon. There are clusters of women ready to move up.”

Career Plateaus

“Women’s talents are recognized. They mostly need to catch up with experience and that’s just time on the job. A woman’s career trajectory isn’t necessarily consistent. She may put her career on a plateau to care for children or sick parents. There are times when women don’t want to put their careers first. I never took years off when my kids were growing up, but I did turn down assignments. I asked to be taken off the 11 o’clock news so I could be home with my family.”

Teaching the Boys About Networking

“Women make connections on personal level and business may come later. Women are wired towards relationships. We’re very social. We’re communicators. We’ve now figured out that our sociability can work for us in business. Trust is an important factor for women, too. We’re driven more by compassion than ambition but we’ve found that our ambition is served through our relationships.

“To mention a stereotype, we could say that men network on the golf course. But now they’re learning a lot of networking techniques from seeing how women network at work.”

Woman in Progress

“Women are always trying to lead integrated lives. They’re trying to move their careers along and remain integrated and happy. It’s about finding balance. Oprah, for one, calls herself a woman in progress. Women will generally say that integration makes them happier in their career and all other aspects of life. Men often just say their careers make them happy.”

Put Your Corporate Skills to Work for You

“A lot of women take their experience from a big organization and feel their resume is portable. They take their talent and do it on their own, forming their own business. It’s a big thing to realize your talents aren’t linked to the cog you are in an organization’s wheel but can work for you personally.”

Take the Risk

“Entrepreneurs are risk takers and women are getting more comfortable with risk and trying various routes. As an entrepreneur, you may find the flexibility to lead an integrated life. But, you may also be busier than ever.”

Grow Big!

“My friend Ginger Pape has co-authored a book called Repotting: 10 Steps for Redesigning Your Life. It’s about not staying in a pot that’s too small. It encourages women to find a bigger pot where their roots can grow deeper and the plant can grow bigger. There are lots of opportunities in women’s lives to repot.”

Repotting in Practice

“I don’t miss TV news. I was looking for a chance to ‘repot’ and try something new. At Marriott, I use my journalistic filter and skills to understand the good stories that can generate coverage. As a storyteller, I can tell Marriott’s story through the traditional and new media. I can communicate directly with customers through blogs and YouTube videos without having to interest a traditional reporter in a story.”

A Good Read

“I recommend Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success by Chris Matthews”.

Advice to Launchers

“Think big. Think short-term milestones and also big ones. Imagine a point well beyond your wildest dreams and create benchmarks to get there one day at a time.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Andrea Adleman, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.

Geraldine Laybourne

Founder and CEO, Oxygen Media

Geraldine Laybourne was into girl power way before it was cool. Born in 1947, a time when a woman’s place was in the home (not the headlines). Laybourne defied convention to become one of the most groundbreaking media moguls to ever wear lipstick.

Today she is the chairman and CEO of Oxygen Media, a women-focused cable TV and media conglomerate that she launched in 2000 alongside partners Oprah Winfrey, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach. Appealing to the new generation of women without ever taking itself too seriously, the Oxygen channel is now in over 70 million homes and growing steadily.

Before Oxygen, Laybourne served two years as president of Disney/ABC Cable Networks, a position she took on after 16 hugely successful years literally transforming children’s television at Nickelodeon. Laybourne used her background in teaching, her whip smart business savvy and her unconventional management skills (she’d hand out green slime for the staff to play with during meetings) to re-brand Nickelodeon and make it the top-rated 24-hour cable network and the most profitable channel owned by Viacom.

Time magazine voted her one of the twenty-five most influential people in America and the Hollywood Reporter put her first on their list of the fifty most influential women in the entertainment industry. Here’s what this grandmother, tireless optimist and funniest-boss-ever has to say about her steady rise to the mother of all media.

What I learned from Gerry Laybourne: You can be the Big Boss and still be hilarious. Recess is still important, after all these years. Learn from your mistakes because they’re sure to happen.

Being Yourself Is Your Best Strategy

“When I was getting started, dress codes were big and we were all supposed to wear things like suits and navy blue. I never bought into that. I felt very comfortable in my own skin. Luckily my boss at the time, Bob Pitman, gave me license to be myself because he was just excited to have me along. I knew that if I tried to act like a man, I wouldn’t do a very good job because I wasn’t a man. It doesn’t mean I used flirting to get ahead: I’m deadly serious about business. But I find that people do a much better job when they’re being who they are.”

Rules Are Indeed For Breaking

“At one point, everyone at Nickelodeon was spending way too much time in meetings so I instigated recess – everyone had to stop what they were doing and meet in the hall at 3:00. Ironically, more great business decisions happened hanging around in the hallway than they ever did in any meeting. I also want to point out that I’ve always worked with lots of mothers with small children and think they make great employees. They’re focused and very pragmatic and want to get the job done. They don’t want to hang around the office and waste time.”

Women Have The Brains For Business

“The first time I ever got asked to make a speech about my success was in the 80s when it wasn’t fashionable to talk about the differences between men and women. When I said the reason for my success was that I was a woman, you could hear a pin drop. But I really believe that. Men have bigger brains than women do, but women have a 12 percent bigger prefrontal cortex. Which means we’re wired for multi processing and strategic planning, for melding the needs of the consumer with the needs of the brand with the needs of the employees. We understand how to nurture relationships and work in teams. We’re naturals at it.”

The Inspiration Behind Oxygen

“I got in on the early days of cable while I was working on the creation of Nickelodeon, and I saw how the industry was built. It was all very exciting at first, but then everything changed in the mid 90s. Cable operators pay channels for their service, anywhere from 3 cents to 3 dollars per subscriber per month, but in 1996 Fox News began giving extraordinary launch incentives – 11 to 14 dollars per subscriber to cable operators (a one time fee), and it stopped the media companies from being so creative. I wanted to start a private company so I’d have more freedom. I also felt like young women were very underserved on cable TV. There were sports and news for men and plenty out there for kids, but nothing for the new generation of women. Women had changed and weren’t the ‘woe is me’ women of my generation – they were more optimistic and going places and I wanted to represent them.”

Launching Oxygen

“The biggest challenge was that everyone had such high expectations for us. We contributed to that by doing more press than we should have. We were trying to raise money and start a brand at the same time with very famous investment partners, and the expectations were that we’d walk on water. We messed up. We tried radically new things that were radically bad. So we cut our losses and started over. Now we’re the only company in the last 10 years that has launched a network and gotten into more than 70 million homes.”

Laugh Your Way to the Top

“I laugh all the time. Even in the most dire of situations I can find something funny. And I’m not above playing pranks on people.”

The Power Of Yes

“I wake up in the morning and think everything is possible. I have a tendency to try and see something good in every idea. There are lots of people who immediately think of why something won’t work, but I’m not one of them.”

More Obstacles, Please

“I love obstacles, and as soon as I get something running smoothly I create new ones. Who in their right mind would have left Nickelodeon when it was soaring to success the way I did?”

Did She Ever Want to Give Up?

“No. I’m Norwegian.”

Make Money Your Friend

“Sign up for a real business course and understand the basics of financing. A lot of women feel like they can’t raise money, that it’s a daunting task, when it’s honestly just like any other thing they have to do. They need to learn about it, learn about the process of managing it and making it, and be around other women who understand how it works. Many women launch their businesses on their credit cards which is so bad. It’s much better to face your money issues and learn how to make it work for you.”

Stick By Your Sisters

“Bella Abzug had a great saying: ‘There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help each other.’ That’s what Oxygen is all about. That’s what we want to represent.”

What’s next?

“I don’t know. I’m fully engaged on a day-to-day basis with what I do. At some point I’ll want to return to doing something in education. And maybe write a book.”

This featured lady was profiled by Jen Sincero an author, columnist and Ladies Who Launch leader based in Venice, CA. www.jensincero.com

Apply to be a Featured Lady

Lisa Sugar


Co-founder and Editor in Chief, Sugar Publishing

Want customers to become addicted to your Web site?

For ideas and inspiration, visit the fast-growing network of blogs from Sugar Publishing(www.sugarpublishing.com),including celebrity gossip and news site PopSugar(www.popsugar.com), to see why readers are getting hooked on frequent Sugar fixes.

It almost doesn’t matter whether you care about Paris Hilton, Brad Pitt or the latest movie premiere. What Sugar Publishing’s founders, Lisa Sugar and husband Brian, are doing with their Web sites is fascinating… everywhere you look, there’s something else you want to click out of curiosity.

Lisa and Brian started PopSugar in 2005 and launched Sugar Publishing in 2006. They’re now racking up about 40 million page views per month to the company’s network of 10 Web sites, which cover categories like fashion (www.fabsugar.com), beauty (www.bellasugar.com) and food (www.yumsugar.com).

Here Lisa talks about turning one blog into something much bigger…

Starting by Writing

Lisa: “I started (blogging about celebrities) as a hobby and I had a background in entertainment and advertising. My husband and friends were pushing me to write PopSugar. My husband has a background in technology and knows about Web design. He helped me to create something different than what was already out there.

“For me, it was a matter of keeping going on my own, writing every day, getting feedback from people reading (PopSugar). The growth was incredible – it just reinforced writing (PopSugar) more and more”.

Saying ‘No’ to the Ad Networks

“Six months after starting Pop… we didn’t have ads in the beginning, we wanted to keep (the site) really clean, but then we realized with the amount of people coming to read the site, that there was a lot of money to be made based on advertising dollars.

“At this time all the blogs were starting, so there were advertising networks to be a part of, which was our initial phase of seeing what kind of money we could make, but those ads are not pretty.”

Going Beyond One Blog

“We tested the waters with what most people would do with the writing and blogging world online, and then realized we could take things further in every direction.

“We had all these readers coming to Pop… we did a survey to ask what they would want us to write about – fashion, beauty, parenting – the audience just wanted more and more and more.”

Staffing and Synergy

“It probably took another six months after that… we really launched the company (in April 2006). It went from me doing Pop all by myself until my husband started the company, to a core group of six of us, and within a year we’re at 40 people. We have 10 sites and each site has about two to three writers and editors right now. We have about three or four more (sites) we’re going to launch by the end of the year.

“One thing that’s fabulous is that we have synergy among sites. We’ve been doing a wedding theme. Each site writes about it. When FabSugar is telling you what outfit to wear or gift to buy, DearSugar is telling you wedding etiquette and YumSugar would do the menus.”

Coming Soon from Sugar

“We have a handful of sites we still want to launch. We’re planning to launch a parenting site. We’re going to do a home site called CasaSugar. We just launched the BellaSugar beauty site. We have ideas to do PetSugar and KarmaSugar, which will be all about charities and doing good, and SavvySugar, which will be for the businesswoman, the working woman, with financial advice and business tips.”

Secret to Success

“Being able to find fabulous editors to write is an important part of the process. We built a really extensive hiring process. We require a great writing sample from people who apply for the jobs. The training for the jobs includes both technology training and teaching people to write in the voice that we have that carries through on all the sites.

“People are passionate about what they’re writing about. It’s expert advice, but it comes through as your girlfriend talking.”

Challenge #1: Pleasing New Readers and Existing Ones, Too

“I would say the challenge is keeping the community happy. Active users who are part of the community made this a home for themselves. As we’ve been growing, we want to take care of everyone and still make it a place where people feel welcome and safe, a happy place.

“I have readers from back in 2005. They’ve been along for the entire ride. It’s great to get feedback from them. At the same time, the site has to be scaleable because we plan to be big.”

Challenge #2: Posting Up-to-the-Moment Content

“In this wonderful ADD world we live in, we realize people want to come (to our Web sites) and constantly consume. One of our challenges is having 15-25 new stories per site per day, and every time you come back, there’s something new.

“That’s the point – if you’re taking a break to have your coffee in the morning and then you come back for lunch… every time they go to one of the different sites, there should be something new for them to see.”

Lesson Learned

“Because we have 10 different sites, (the lesson is) not to expect that they’re all going to grow rapidly. Some are growing rapidly and some are taking time. Those that are taking time to build are getting a unique audience that might not necessarily go to the other sites.”

Creating Addictive Web Sites

“It takes a certain personality, because a lot of the technology stuff is self-taught. We have a great team – along with my husband, we have a great (chief technology officer). With all the girls in the company, we’ll sit there and think of things we want to see on the Web sites. We want quizzes like you would see in Cosmo. We have the people who can help to create that for us.

“The technology is out there to learn in a self-taught way. All the women in our company are writing code. The editors we hire are more than writers. They’re doing Photoshop, they’re writing code. They’re doing everything, which is pretty cool for them to learn new skills.”

Securing VC Funding

“My husband and I put in some of our own money ($250,000 according to Forbes and Business 2.0) to get things rolling. Once we figured out we were in a place where we wanted to grow this thing quickly, we did go and get an investor, which was great for us.

“We did the little road show and showed people what we were envisioning for our sites. At that time, we only had three sites up, and as soon as we got funding, we launched the next five within the next three months.”

Choosing the Right VC

“We were down to three VCs and (we selected the right VC for us based on) the way they would look at our company. Some of them, by the suggestions they made, you could see the kind of scale of what they were thinking. Some would recommend something obvious that we could have come up with ourselves.

“Another would say, ‘We should have a whole television network dedicated to all things Sugar… and you could see this person was thinking on such a larger scale that it made us think we really can take this to the moon. (Those are) the kind of people we want to be with because they’re such great visionaries.”

Entrepreneurial Influence

“It’s definitely my husband – he’s done this before and he just has an amazing energy that luckily rubs off on me. He’s so great about helping people to find what they’re good at and making them excel. In my case, I found what I was passionate about – I wanted to write about entertainment and celebrity, and it took off and created so much more of that.”

Scared to Jump Ship? Test the Water First

“When I started the site, I was still working in advertising, doing both – and just the reinforcement of people coming to the site and becoming engaged in the comments was reinforcement for me that if I spent all day on this, it could become even larger.”

Words of Advice: Pursue Your Passion on the Side

“If you have something that you’re really passionate about, but you have to have the other job going to pay the bills… it’s finding the time to do (what you love) on the side so that you know if it really does take off, then you can put your all behind it.”

How She Defuses Stress in the Office

“We take ‘Katie breaks.’ My daughter turns one tomorrow. She comes to the office every day and has the only office that’s in the office – otherwise it’s just a big open space. Taking a five-minute break to go play with Katie – that’s the best part of the job for me, being able to have her there.”

Patti Reilly


QVC Host

The next time you’re wondering whether it’s possible to do what you truly want in life – consider Patty Reilly’s story.

Here’s a woman who had little experience relevant to her dream job – showcasing products as a celebrity TV host on QVC, but she didn’t let that stop her from landing the coveted role.

Selected as a QVC host from among hundreds of people who auditioned alongside her, Patti was recently awarded her own Saturday Night Beauty show (weekly from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time) and you can also frequently catch her at other times throughout the week.

First Job After College: Working Retail at a Casino

“I did not come from a TV background, though I do have a degree in speech communication from the University of Rhode Island. In ’92 when I graduated, there (weren’t) a lot of jobs out there at the time. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my degree.

“A big casino (Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, CT) opened and hosted one of biggest job fairs in our area. Everyone was talking about the benefits and how great they were… I thought, ‘I have to do something,’ so I applied and was hired in one of the casino’s retail stores.”

Promoted in Two Weeks

“Two weeks later, I was promoted to retail shift manager, but I knew that this definitely wasn’t what I wanted to do. The casino had a place called Pequot Academy run by the Native American tribe that opened the casino… it wasn’t training for the dealers… it was more of a leadership school of training. I became really excited about the academy.”

Not Taking ‘No’ for an Answer

“I basically just went to the director at the academy, showed up with a resume and an eager smile saying, ‘This (leadership training) is something I want to do.’ She had me audition, but she still thought, ‘No, you’re not ready for this.’ So I started going to (leadership training) classes on my own time. I would sit in on various trainers’ classes and watch how they held the attention of the class.

“Word got back to her and she called me in to another interview. At the time I was 25 or 26, and she was concerned because some of the classes were in front of executive management, but I finally won her over and became a training specialist.”

Catching QVC at 4 AM

“As training specialist, you might have to be in the casino at midnight and run a class until six a.m. in front of a group of anywhere from 15 to 150. When you… (get) home at two, three or four in the morning… I was watching television and there was nothing fascinating except QVC.

“I was watching Lisa Robertson doing a Smashbox show and I just couldn’t leave it… I’m watching this attractive, funny young woman talking about makeup and I’m thinking, ‘Are you kidding me? There’s a job out there that pays you to do this?!'”

Setting Her Sights on QVC

“I started getting myself really excited about it, and I thought, ‘This is ultimately what I’m going to do.’ I had my sister-in-law do a video of me selling an alarm clock radio that I had purchased on QVC and sent it to QVC. I didn’t hear anything, but once again, I didn’t let that deter me from anything.

“I’m just somebody who just doesn’t give up, especially when I know it’s the right thing – that I would be good for them and they would be good for me.”

The Audition

“I kept (QVC job audition hotline) number in my day-planner and every once in a while I would call. They had an announcement that they were holding open-call auditions. I had my aunt take my headshot….. she’s a good photographer, but certainly not a professional photographer. I booked a hotel and drove to Pennsylvania the night before the audition so I could get a good night’s sleep before the audition, but of course I didn’t sleep.
I got there at 7:45 in the morning for an 8:00 audition and there were already throngs of people.”

More than Two Minutes

“I was watching people go in (to the audition rooms)… they kept going in and coming out two minutes later. I knew if I didn’t last more than two minutes, I’m done. I wouldn’t be coming back. I knew… I’ve got to last more than two minutes.

“When it was finally my turn. I went into the small room with just two people, a camera and a tripod. They asked me to sell my product. which I did with everything I’d got. The guy in the room jumped up and said, ‘You’re the best person we’ve seen today!'”

Getting the Big News

“A week later, they asked me back for a second round of auditions.
Over 500 people had gone through the process and they had narrowed it down to 16. I went back to the second round – it was basically selling random things they would toss your way with limited time to prep.

“Then the VP of TV Sales, Jack Comstock, called me… he kept me in suspense. He started off calmly and slowly and said, ‘As you know, we had hundreds of talented people audition, and unfortunately we can only pick three. You’re one of the three.’ Even now, I get choked up because that was one of the biggest moments of my life. The two other women… one had come from a TV news anchor background and one was an actor. I felt really lucky and blessed and proud.”

Lesson Learned

“When I came out (to QVC)… it was a lot of work… not knowing cameras and having one of those earpieces. Yeah, I can talk, but while someone else is talking to me in my ear?! There were things I had to learn.

“I embraced the criticism. That was one of the biggest lessons for me. I told myself, ‘They hired me because they liked me, now they’re just trying to build a better me for this venue.’ That was an asset going in… they said, ‘Gosh, we’re so glad you’re taking this well.'”

Greatest Challenge – You Can’t Always Please Everyone

“My biggest challenge has been criticism from people I don’t even know. I’m not the skinniest, not the prettiest, not the smartest… and for a while I felt like I had to figure it all out. My mother would say, ‘You can never please everyone all of the time,’ but I felt like I had to. I was always entertaining the smaller masses, but suddenly when you’re in (90) million homes across America, there’s a really good chance not everyone is going to love you.

“Getting the emails that are criticizing me about my job… you want to crawl up in a hole. They can break you down to make you feel like you are worthless and you never want to show your face in public again. You’ve got to remember it’s only a job. I’m going to be who I am and I can’t obsess about (criticism) anymore.”

Words of Advice on Selling

“I think women need to think about things when it comes to selling as sales without judgment. We might not always be selling something we love or would personally use ourselves.

“There are many times on QVC where I might be selling something I wouldn’t personally wear. The challenge might be looking at something through somebody else’s eyes. It might be something that Samantha in Arkansas would love. I would be doing her a disservice if I didn’t describe it in complete detail and with enthusiasm.”

Keep Knocking on Doors

“Not everyone is going to love your product, but if it’s something you’re passionate about, just keep on knocking on doors until one opens. Streamline your products – make them easy to understand. Also have your ears open for constructive criticism. There needs to be that willingness to listen and learn.”

How to Submit Your Product to QVC for Consideration

“We’re always on the search for new products. We even have a link on our Web page (http://www.qvcproductsearch.com/?rewrite=no)
where you can fill out certain forms to try to get a product on air.
Products that you can demonstrate, that solve a problem or make life easier, are often sought out by our buying team.”

You’re On: How to Shine in the Spotlight

“There are so many entrepreneurs that we meet at QVC – QVC is perfect for them. So many new guests are so hung up on how they’re going to do the sell, and what questions am I going to ask. But it’s all about features and benefits – people buy things off of features and benefits. Don’t make things too tricky or too complicated. The more complicated and tricky something is, the more you start to lose people. Tell me what the top three things are that make this the product we cannot live without. Never try to script it.”

Recommended Reading

“‘Dare to Win’ and ‘The Alladin Factor’ (by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen). I remember I read those books prior to getting the job at QVC. Those were the books that made me feel good as far as confidence, and really believing in myself and knowing I am fully 100 percent capable of doing a fabulous job, regardless of what’s in my background and on a sheet of paper.”

Margaret Maldonado


Founder, Margaret Maldonado Agency

Once known for her relationship with one of the most famous families in the music industry, Margaret Maldonado has now made a name for herself as founder of the Margaret Maldonado Agency, one of the top agencies in Hollywood representing celebrity stylists, make-up artists and hair care professionals.

After having two sons with Jermaine Jackson and separating from him in 1994, Margaret needed to figure out how to support her sons on her own. She began the work that would morph into the Margaret Maldonado Agency (www.margaretmaldonado.com), which now represents about 60 artists including stylists like Andrea Lieberman (with clients such as Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani), Maryam Malakpour (with clients such as the Rolling Stones, Courtney Cox, Heidi Klum and Seal), and hair care professionals including Kim Kimble (with clients such as Beyonce and Mary J. Blige) and Estee Stanley and Cristina Ehrlich (Penelope Cruz, Jessica Biel, Nicole Richie).

Here Margaret talks about her journey from aspiring to be a celebrity stylist to running her own business…

Difficult Childhood

Margaret: “I grew up in Laurel Canyon, which is an area in Los Angeles where there were a lot of different entertainment influences. My family was very liberal and from an early age I was getting into a lot of trouble including a visit to juvenile detention. I was a wild teenager, but something entrepreneurial inside of me even then was driving me to figure it out. By the time I was 17, I turned everything around.”

Why She Launched Her Agency

“I had just finished publishing my book about the Jacksons and took a job as a receptionist with the same publishing company to help pay the bills. I wanted to be a stylist as I had a passion for clothes. I had a girlfriend who was a stylist, and I started assisting her on the weekends. She helped point out that I might be better on the business side of styling than on the assistant side as I was always on my cell phone. She said, ‘Why don’t you try to book a job for me and I’ll show you how to do it, because my agent’s not doing such a good job for me right now.'”

Help from Her Friends

“The first job I booked for her was a Puffy (Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs) video when he was coming out with his first project. His manager was a good friend of mine. He said, ‘I’ll let your stylist, who you’re now repping, style him. I started booking jobs for her and one thing led to another and other stylists started coming to me… before you know it, I had a full roster of stylists.”

Help from Her Best Friend, now Husband

“At the time Mikko Koskinen was my best friend, he was an economics major who saw what I was doing and able to help me a lot in terms of the structural stuff, necessary to run a business. I’m good at making deals, but I don’t know how to turn on my computer. I work off my Blackberry. We went from best friends to husband and wife.”

Secret to Her Company’s Success

“It took a lot of hard work and good people around me… I was also very lucky. I am available 24 hours a day to accommodate every glam need that needs to be addressed. I have basically worked 24 hours round the clock for the past seven years. It was me and the person who’s now my husband starting out in a little apartment with my son’s laptop.”

Working the Celebrity Social Scene

“I went out a lot. I socialized a lot; I had a lot of friends. I paid my dues in that circuit and now I don’t have to. I’m the complete opposite now. Now all I want to do is stay home. I knew that I had to do that (socialize) to figure out how I was going to survive so I could support my kids. I have a good relationship with my sons.”

Being a Mom While Building a Business

“It was a hard time. I was having to spend a lot of time going out and working… going out was my work. They’re great kids – they see now and respect me for working so hard. They see that I really didn’t want to go out.

“Thank goodness my job is not a traveling job. I spent most of my time on my cell phone… putting people together, connecting the dots. I don’t have to get on planes; I’m putting people on planes. One luxury part of my job is that I can do my job from wherever there’s a phone, so I don’t miss that time with my kids. There’s a point where you can look back… at my son’s graduation and I’m in the photo and on the cell phone, those things are kind of sad.

“I got married in the Beverly Hills courthouse on my way to work and was on the cell phone up until the part where we went into the room. There have been definite sacrifices… hopefully by the time I am 43, I’ll be able to enjoy my life a little more.”

Beyond Booking Stylists

“The business has grown tremendously and it’s still growing. It’s expanding in ways other than just an agency that books hair, wardrobe and stylist people… it’s also branching out into product lines, branding opportunities and licensing deals and turning into a full image marketing company and there’s a lot more to come. It’s a big priority launching Kim Kimble’s product line, a show in development with Style Network and a board game in development.

“And there is Frederick’s of Hollywood Premiere Line that we’re involved with… we pitched a concept to Frederick’s of Hollywood – a kit of body shapers so that everyone can, women of all shapes and sizes, can get the celebrity tricks of the trade. It was developed with a styling team, Cristina Erlich and Estee Stanley. It’s just launched and doing really well. We’re really excited about it.”

Greatest Business Success

“Working with people who started like I started, which was with just an idea and trying to figure it out, and being behind them and helping them to achieve success. Kim Kimble was a hairstylist I had met and watching her grow and become so successful and get ready to launch her own product line, is huge.

“Watching someone like Andrea Lieberman who I met because she was Puffy’s stylist, and watching her grow to a place where there aren’t enough days in the week for her, she has her own product line and is doing consulting for numerous brands, that’s good.”

Greatest Business Challenges

“I think making sure that everyone who works here is happy. In growing a business there comes a point where you can’t do everything yourself and it takes a great team of people around you that share the same passion and work ethic. When you find these people they become part of our family and we all keep growing together. We also all work in one room… so we’re not broken up. We’re not a bunch of people with separate offices. It has to be the right people, people who really care about each other and respect one another for this to work five days a week.”

Words of Advice

“If you work at what it is you want to do every day, it just gets better and better.
Every day you get closer to where you want to be. When people talk about what they want to do but they don’t show up, they get stalled. Just do it – if you want to be a painter, make sure you paint every day.”

How to Style Yourself

“Less is more and black always works. Keep it simple. Don’t all run out and buy a yellow dress…just because you saw it in Vogue.”

How She Stays Motivated

“I plan trips. I go anywhere as long as my kids and my husband are with me. We take two trips a year, one at Christmastime and one in the summer. As long as I can get those trips on the calendar… I know I have that two-week period where I don’t have to do anything except hang out with my kids, it keeps me going. They’re now 18 and 20.”

Favorite Movie at the Moment

“‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ I watch it over and over I think it’s hysterical. It’s like my office. Some days I feel like the assistant, and some days I feel like Meryl Streep.”

What Makes Her Happiest

“What makes me the happiest is the fact that I have two sons and they got to see firsthand a woman work really hard and stand on her own and be responsible and take care of everything. I know they’re going to be great husbands one day and they’re going to have such respect for what women can do and are capable of doing.

“Having the business has been a great thing because I know that I can afford to give them the life that I want them to have. They’re normal kids – they go back and forth between wanting to do music and wanting to do fashion. Jeremy finished the Musicians Institute and Jourdyn just finished his last year in high school. They’re talking about going to one of the fashion institutes together. They’re best friends. They’re creative kids. I’m trying to get them in schools where they’ll be supported. That’s the other thing that having a business has helped me with.”

Arianna Huffington


Founder, The Huffington Post

Becoming fearless. Could there be a more perfect topic for women entrepreneurs?

And who better to write the book on it than Arianna Huffington, who has launched and re-launched many times in her life, sometimes resulting in spectacular success, sometimes not.

Now Arianna, founder of the wildly popular political Web site The Huffington Post, is riding a wave of success and promoting her latest book, ‘On Becoming Fearless.’

Here she talks with Ladies Who Launch about the tug-of-war between desiring security and living your dreams, being rejected 36 times, the three best business lessons learned from mom, her favorite blogs, the new Dixie Chicks documentary, and more…

Why She Wrote ‘On Becoming Fearless’

Arianna: “I wrote the book for my teenage daughters. Looking at them, I was stunned to see all the same classic fears I was burdened with: How attractive am I? Do people like me? Should I speak up? I had thought that with all the gains feminism has brought, my daughters would not have to suffer through the fears I did. Yet here is our younger generation, as uncertain, doubting, and desperate as we were, trying to fulfill the expectations of others.”

How She Overcame Fear of Speaking Out

“One of the biggest fears I had to overcome was my fear of speaking out. In the book I write about how when I went to Cambridge, my thick Greek accent was a great source of fear — especially since I wanted to be part of the Cambridge Union, the school’s famed debating society. I conquered this fear only because my love of politics and debate was stronger than my fear of criticism and failure.”

How to Become Fearless about Money

“Even today, a surprising number of us still think that it’s the man’s job to make and understand money. Far too often, we delegate this responsibility and don’t learn enough about money, so of course we fear it. That’s where we have to start. We can never be fearless about money until we demystify it and take charge of it. We begin to become fearless about money when we start to value other parts of our lives more than we value our bank accounts.”

How to Become Fearless about Work

“Taking credit for our work and accomplishments, and fearlessly negotiating for compensation can be interpreted as ambitious and aggressive. But if you act timid and unimportant, that’s how you’ll be perceived. We have to let go of the idea that we must be sweet all the time if we’re going to be ‘real women.'”

How to Become Fearless about Leadership

“The most important thing is not to internalize the attacks on us, and to realize that any time we speak out against injustice or against the status quo, we are going to have attacks leveled at us. Our culture still isn’t comfortable with outspoken women. As Marlo Thomas famously put it, ‘A man has to be Joe McCarthy to be called ruthless. All a woman has to do is put you on hold.’ The best way to neutralize this kind of attitude is through laughing at it.”

Launching The Huffington Post

“Ever since college, I’ve enjoyed bringing together people from many different parts of my life and facilitating interesting conversations. These conversations have taken place around dinner tables, or at book parties, or on hikes with disparate groups of friends. With The Huffington Post, the idea was to take those conversations — about politics and books and art and music and food and sex — and bring them into cyberspace, creating a one-stop shopping site for news and opinion, with an attitude, in real time. So HuffPost was really an extension of what I’d already been doing.”

Secrets of Success

“I never discount the role that luck played in our success! Seriously, specific conditions led to the success of HuffPost. We arrived in the midst of a ‘perfect storm’ for a political news and blog platform. Both Internet news and ‘blogging’ have become wildly popular and the primary sources of information for millions of Americans. And our specific point of view allowed us to quickly create a HuffPost brand.”

How She Raised Funding?

“It was a combination of family and friends, then ads starting paying the rent. And we’ve just had an infusion of financing from a pair of venture capital groups.

Greatest Business Challenge – 36 Rejections

“It happened back in my mid-twenties when I was writing my second book. My first book, ‘The Female Woman’, had been a surprise success. Instead of accepting any one of the book contracts I had been offered to write on women again, I decided to tackle a subject I’d been preoccupied with through college (and indeed remain preoccupied with today): the role of leaders in shaping our world.

“I locked myself in my London flat and worked around the clock on this book. I would write until I couldn’t stay awake — sometimes into the early hours of the morning. The book was finally finished, and I don’t remember ever before or since having been as happy with the work I’d done. So imagine my surprise when publisher after publisher rejected it. Indeed, 36 publishers turned it down before it was finally published. It was the kind of rejection that brought up all kinds of self-doubt, including fears that I was not only on the wrong career path, but was going to go broke in the process.

“My desire to write turned out to be stronger than my fear of poverty. Had I been afraid, I might have tossed the manuscript in the wastebasket somewhere around rejection letter 15 and taken a job that had nothing to do with my passions. Instead, I walked into Barclay’s Bank in St. James Square in London and met with a banker named Ian Bell. With nothing more to offer than a lot of Greek chutzpah, I asked him for loan. And with a lot of unfounded trust, he gave it to me.”

Greatest Lesson Learned

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is also the central theme of (‘On Becoming Fearless’), which is that fearlessness is not the absence of fear — but the mastery of fear. It’s getting to the point where our fears do not stop us from daring to think new thoughts, try new things, take risks, fail, and start again.”

Three Best Business Lessons from Mom

“My mother… taught me three great lessons that I’ve been able to apply to every aspect of my life – particularly business. First, she showed me that there is always a way around a problem – you’ve just got to find it. She also taught me to accept failure as part and parcel of any entrepreneurial life. It’s not the opposite of success. It’s an integral part of success.

“Finally, she showed me the value of having a support group of family and friends – what I call your ‘fearlessness tribe’ – in place any time you launch anything. They are there to give you honest feedback, to support you when the going gets tough, to help salve your wounds and, just as importantly, to help you celebrate and appreciate the good times too.”

Words of Advice

“True fearlessness in business can only come when we are not driven by an insatiable desire for security, but have begun living a life driven by passion and purpose. It also helps to build a better mousetrap.”

Recommended Reading

“I think a great book for entrepreneurs to read is Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘The Tipping Point,’which is a brilliant analysis of how change comes about – and how it can be applied to business.”

Favorite Blogs

“I read many, many blogs, including (in alphabetical order so as not to play favorites among my favorites) Altercation, Americablog, Andrew Sullivan, Bloggingheads, BuzzMachine, Crooks and Liars, Eschaton, Firedoglake, Hullabaloo, Informed Comment, James Wolcott, Kausfiles, Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire, TalkLeft, and Talking Points Memo — to name but a few!”

Favorite Ways to De-Stress

“Yoga, hiking, and lots of sleep.”

Favorite Places to Shop

“With my daughters in little shops on Montana or at Brentwood Gardens in West L.A., and in SoHo where our HuffPost offices are.”

Favorite Getaway

“Staying home with the phones turned off! I’m a real homebody and I travel so much that staying in is my idea of pure heaven.”

Recent Discovery that Delighted Her

“I really enjoyed ‘Shut Up & Sing,’ the new documentary about the Dixie Chicks, and what they went through after criticizing George Bush on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. You want fearless? How about going on stage and performing in front of 20,000 people after being told that someone in the audience might want to shoot you.”

Connie Dieken


President and Founder, onPoint Communication

During 25 years as an Emmy-award-winning TV news anchor, reporter and talk show host, Connie Dieken had a front row seat to observe some of the best – and worst – public speakers in action.

Which are you? Are you as skilled as you could be at selling your ideas and products?

Dieken, one of the few women inducted into the Radio & Television Broadcasters Hall of Fame, discovered her passion for helping leaders become better communicators so she left broadcasting and launched onPoint Communication in 2000. Connie grew an impressive list of high-powered clients like Moen, KraftMaid, Sealy, and The Cleveland Clinic and was recently named one of the Top Ten Women Business Owners in Northeast Ohio.

Meet Dieken live at the Ladies Who Launch event in Cleveland
on June 15th and read on for free advice and highlights from her story.

Stop Making Plans – Start Making Things Happen

“I made a life-altering decision at age 40 – I said, ‘It’s time to stop making plans and start making things happen.’ I was confident that I could help leaders develop and deliver stronger messages that would fuel their companies’ growth, so I left my broadcasting career behind and got in the executive coaching and consulting business.

“I had spent 25 years building a reputation in the broadcasting industry, so it was somewhat shocking to my target audience that I would risk it all. But I combined passion and purpose and that magical mixture fueled my company’s growth.”

Discovering Her True Calling, Thanks to Michael J. Fox and Dr. Ruth

“I hosted a live 2- hour daily TV talk show in Cleveland called The Morning Exchange. Every day, we had high profile guests like Michael J. Fox, Dr. Ruth and Richard Simmons. Before and after the show, I spent time with the guests, offering advice on how to deliver their messages to trigger the best audience responses. Frequently, their publicists would overhear my advice and tell me ‘That was amazing! You are spot-on! He (or she) really listened and implemented your ideas with great results.’ I realized that I was far more passionate about helping others develop and deliver their messages convincingly than I was about being on TV myself. I was born to do this.”

Speaking Well by Speaking with Passion

“When I was in high school, I was a national public speaking champion. It was the first speech topic I had ever delivered – I spoke on ‘Confidence is the Key.’ In college, I somehow overcame the odds again, being named one of American’s Top Ten broadcasting industry newcomers. What did I know about business? Absolutely nothing. Did I come from privilege? Absolutely not. I’m from very humble beginnings. My dad worked in a glass mold factory and my mom was a nurse. But I had passion. I took ownership of my ideas and dreams and made things happen by sheer willpower.”

Starting Out: Offering Service for a Free Test Drive

“To get the ball rolling in my new business, I approached my target audiences- large corporations- and offered them a free test drive. A large multinational company let me in the door because they knew me from TV. I did a free lunchtime seminar on communication skills… and that led to my first contract. Today, I develop and deliver 20 training workshops a year for this company and I have clients from coast- to- coast. With just one success under your belt, you’re ready to roll!”

Risk and Reward

“I started the business alone, on a shoestring budget. I had some really lean years. Especially after 9/11, there were months when I thought, ‘How am I going to support my children? I’m a single mother of two, and I’m doing this because…?’ Today things are very good. The business has doubled its revenues every year and fiscal ’06 is on track to be a banner year,too.”

Hitting Your Sweet Spot by Fixing Your Blind Spots

“One of my programs is called Make Things Happen, which is based on three principles that I developed in TV studios – Connect, Convey, Convince. Combine these three skills properly and you’ll hit your communication sweet spot and make your case optimally. Miss one of these skills, and your great ideas will go nowhere. People might have nice, warm thoughts about you and your ideas, but they won’t act unless you trigger results. My goal is to help people get positive outcomes, not just sound good.”

Greatest Challenge: Transforming from Broadcaster to Businesswoman

“I was in the television industry for many years, so I was publicly defined as a broadcaster. Don’t get me wrong- it was a real plus to have visibility, but I was typecast. And let’s face it, some people look at female broadcasters as hood ornaments. Overcoming that and redefining myself at age 40, was a challenge.

“A defining moment? I was recently named by the National Association of Women Business Owners as one of the Top 10 Women Business Owners in Northeast Ohio. I made the leap from being viewed as a hood ornament to becoming the engine that revs and runs the business. That felt great.”

Lesson Learned: Choose Action Over Perfection

“For many years, I wasn’t decisive enough. I had to stop being a perfectionist. I kept thinking, ‘Until I get it just right, I’m not going to do it.’ But the more business reading I did, the more I realized… when I’m 80 percent ready, I go. Later, I tweak things on an as- needed basis, but I’ve learned not to limit myself by perfection. I focus on the objective at hand, get moving and let that be my guide.”

Words of Advice

– “Lead as you are. Don’t mask your personality with the veneer of what you feel a leader should be. The more authentic you are, the more influential you’ll become.”

– “Merge purpose and passion. Oprah blends them. Condoleezza Rice combines them. Influential communicators define their purpose with absolute clarity and use their passion to light a fire under others.”

– “Focus on one communication at a time. Don’t answer every ping. Shining a spotlight on incoming e-mails can pull you away from important in-person conversations.”

– “In PowerPoint presentations, think of yourself as Diana Ross, and the slides as The Supremes. You’re the expert- the superstar. The slides are there to back you up.”

– “Seek commitment, not compliance. Compliance is an obligation to obey. Commitment wins people’s hearts and minds and assures future goodwill.”

– “Explain without excuses. Long strings of explanations undermine your authority and invite your critics to challenge you. Reveal your reasoning and move forward.”

– “Own your opinions. If your viewpoints are easily shaped and changed by others, you may be too malleable, Form your own opinions and express them decisively.

Tina Wells

Apply to be a Featured Lady

CEO, Buzz Marketing Group

Who Is She?

Tina Wells knows a thing or two about teenagers. At the age of 16, she started helping companies to market products and services to young people. As her consulting company grew up, it became the Buzz Marketing Group, which today counts among its clients music labels such as Sony, Jive and Midas; Candie’s shoes, ESSENCE Communications and Tony&Tina cosmetics.

To stay on top of the fast-changing interests of teens and tweens, Buzz has a network of more than 9,000 young people whom it has selected as “buzzSpotters,” a group of trendsetting “ambassadors of youth culture.” Tina says today’s must-haves for the young and young-at-heart include True Religion jeans, vitaminwater, British Glamour magazine, Kate Spade jeweled ballet-flats and an Ogo mobile-messaging device.

Fancy Digs, Pop Music and the Media – All in a Day’s Work

“Right now I’m at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. We’re throwing a media luncheon for one of our clients, Angel (a pop singer whose song “How Can I Lie” recently hit Number 2 on the Billboard dance chart), and we have a walk-through in about 30 minutes. I’ve been doing promotions geared toward teens and tweens for 10 years. I’ll be 25 this month.”

Big College-Bound Family

“I grew up in Southern New Jersey and had a childhood where my father emphasized education. Education was always a force in my household. I’m the oldest of six children, and five of us have either graduated from or are in college. My youngest brother is a sophomore in high school.”

Free Service = Foot in the Door with Clients

“Before I started Buzz, I was a writer for the New Girl Times and reviewed products targeted to the youth market. I realized there was a disconnect between what teens want and how companies approach them. So I started to submit my product reviews to companies and they responded enthusiastically. It was a no-cost service to them, and I got to work for some really big brands.”

Turning Buzz Into a Business

“Two years into it, I was still offering my insights for free, and a client said, ‘You just delivered a project to me that someone else would charge $25,000 for and yours was 10 times better.’ So I started to charge for my services. I also had some professors at Hood College who helped me take the company to the next level.”

Expanding Beyond Market Research

“I like to say we’re an integrated marketing solutions provider – we do research, events and promotions for teens, tweens and young adults. About 40 of our teen consultants work consistently and eight are on site in New Jersey as part of our office staff. We also hire independent contractors to work on specific accounts.”

Connecting With ‘With-It’ Teens

“How our buzzSpotters came about… I started with 10 friends on my e-mail list. It grew because everyone seemed to know someone else who thought what I did was pretty cool. In 2000, CosmoGIRL! found out about what we were doing and put a ‘Cool Job Alert’ on its entrepreneurial page. From two sentences, I got 15,000 applications, and from that I started the buzzSpotter network. We use the network to test what’s hot, get participants for focus groups, do customer surveys, that kind of thing.”

Parents Aren’t the Only Ones Who Need Help Understanding Teens

“Companies need help with this because they don’t have time to focus on it. There are only so many hours in the day. It’s our full-time job to figure out what the new trends are going to be among people aged 7 to 24. It’s our goal to be immersed in their culture.”

Growth Chart

“To go from being a solo operation to having 10 people report to you and lots of consultants is probably the best sign of Buzz’s business growth. Our network is huge in terms of getting things done. Our annual sales are in the seven figures.”

Greatest Success

“We have had a lot of successes. For our client Angel, we started her Web site from scratch and built up a street team of 33,000 people who want to promote her as an artist. Our job is being on top of the teen culture, and I think we’re doing it well. We predicted nine months ago that Emmy Rossum (who starred in Phantom of the Opera, the movie) was going to be a big star.”

Greatest Challenge

“Changing our business constantly to fit a culture that’s always changing. We just went through a six-month transition on our branding. That will probably stay live for 18 months and then morph to something else.”

Words of Advice: On Being the Best in Your Business

“Read anything and everything that you think could be helpful to your craft. Either you have to go into something 120 percent or not at all. I read a lot of everything. Recently my daily reading consisted of The Tipping Point and Bergdorf Blondes. I don’t think a lot of people consider Us Weekly required reading for marketing, but it is for me.”

Words of Advice: On Bonding with Teenagers

“The secret to understanding teens is to listen more and talk less. For me it’s observation… whenever I’m interacting with youth, I just keep an open mind and want to see what they teach me, not what I teach them.”

Apply to be a Featured Lady

Nancy Slotnick

Apply to be a Featured Lady

CEO, Cablight

Who Is She?

Nancy Slotnick founded a small coffee shop in New York City that generated a big media buzz – because the shop was brewing romance in addition to serving java and muffins. During eight years of business, Slotnick became known for helping to make more than 165 marriages happen at Drip, which offered a built-in dating service, and expanded the shop into an online service that sets up dates at affiliate cafes in New York, Boston and Chicago.

Now Slotnick has started a second company, Cablight, where she teams up with hubby Daniel Aferiat, a licensed psychotherapist, to coach singles on “how to find the One in six months or less.” Slotnick’s first book, to be published by Penguin, is due out in the fall.

Why Many Eligible Women Are Single

“I think a lot of women say being in a relationship is a top priority, but don’t prioritize it in terms of money, time or energy. When I lead women’s seminars, I ask how many women think that being in a good relationship is the most important thing in their lives. All of the women will raise their hands. Then I’ll ask how many are spending 15 hours a week on meeting someone. No one raises her hand.  They’re all afraid to treat dating like a business deal.”

Sending the Right Signals

“The Cablight concept is about putting your vibe out there… a taxicab has a light that goes on when it’s available. A lot of women who are single don’t send out the vibe because they don’t want to seem desperate, but they end up coming off as intimidating, aloof or sometimes too aggressive.”

Social Studies

“I grew up outside of Boston and went to Harvard undergrad, where I majored in psychological anthropology, which in a weird way did prepare me for what I ended up doing by helping me understand the ways people socialize. When I first moved to New York after college I was a corporate headhunter, but always more interested in people’s love lives than their resumes.”

Shyness Is Nice for Sales

“It was sort of like being an entrepreneur. Because I was paid on commission, it was do or die. I learned a lot from that experience. I was kind of shy when I was younger, so I thought that I wouldn’t be good at sales, but I sold knives one summer during college and discovered I was good at it. There have been studies that show introverts will actually outsell extroverts. Introverts tend to be better listeners.”

Choosing a Labor of Love

“When I left headhunting, I left because I wanted to start my own business. I had a feeling that I wanted to do something involving people’s love lives, the business of dating, but wasn’t sure what. So I just quit – it was like jumping off a cliff. At only 27 or 28, I was making good money, and enjoyed what I was doing, but it wasn’t fulfilling enough.”

Raising Money

“People were complaining that there were not enough good places to meet people, so I thought I might as well create one. I got an SBA loan and had saved some money, but also needed to raise money. I called college classmates and raised money from random people I didn’t know well.”

Questioning Herself

“At this point, I wondered, ‘Am I an entrepreneur about to do something big, or am I an unemployed headhunter who has gotten off her career track? If this doesn’t happen, what would I be kicking myself that I didn’t do?’ I went out and did all those things.”

Drip Makes a Splash

“We were a cafe with a dating service for customers. It became a real media magnet – a cool story to have all the dates happen at the cafe. On any given night there might be 25 dates going on. About 35,000 people signed up for dating at the cafe. I had an opportunity to watch the successes and failures. My experience at Drip helped me to develop my dating theories and advice for Cablight.”

End of an Era

“Although Drip.com is still in business, I closed the original cafe after eight years – it seemed like the right time to move on. Sex in the City ended, Friends ended, the neighborhood changed. I didn’t want to be running a coffee bar. It’s a tough business. So I began developing my coaching program, writing a book and started Cablight.”

Revving Up Cablight

“Through Cablight I offer the “Most Eligible Program,” a six-month program where I find the 20 most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, and try to help them find the One. People hire me like they might hire a personal trainer at the gym. I believe in an element of fate and romance, but if you want something in your life you have to put time in to make it happen. It’s not going to happen if you’re sitting at home in your pajamas commiserating with your girlfriends about how there are no great men out there.”

The Thrill of the Chase

“The people I coach are on a plan where you put in at least 15 hours a week into your search. Your goal is to have one date a week. Some dating rituals are fairly traditional – most women want to be pursued, most men want to be pursuers. But you have to let the guy know that you want to be chased.”

The Secret to Meeting Her Future Husband

“I left an event where I had seen him (Daniel), but we didn’t meet. While I was waiting for a friend on the street outside, he walked by. I thought, ‘I don’t want to miss my chance again,’ so I smiled. It’s a simple thing, but hard thing to do with a stranger. It worked. He kept walking, but did a double-take and turned around. I started following in the direction where he was walking and we started talking. It was almost like we knew each other, but we didn’t. We just kind of hit it off right away.”

Greatest Success

“Getting Drip off the ground with all of the publicity was a big deal. The Today Show, Oprah, Good Morning America and pretty much all the local New York stations covered us. But in the beginning, there were a lot of naysayers. When I wrote up papers for the bank loan, I had to take out references to the love element because bankers were so conservative they didn’t see the market. So the fact that it came out the way I imagined was a very cool feeling.”

Greatest Challenge

“The independent coffee bar business model – having it translate into making a lot of money when you’re selling three-dollar muffins.”

Words of Advice

“Weigh advice based on who’s giving it. If older relatives who worked for the same big company for 25 years in middle management are saying you can’t succeed in starting or running your own business, realize they’re coming from their own perspective and fears. But if you talk to an entrepreneur with business experience in your field, you should listen to that advice. Learn from other people’s mistakes, but don’t let them stop you.”

Apply to be a Featured Lady