From Wall Street to Social Media Marketing Consultant

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Kathryn ROSE,

Kathryn RoseFounder, KatRoseConsulting

Describe your business in 3 sentences. What is it?

I’m a collaborative marketing specialist. That is, I help businesses increase their search engine rankings; gain fans, followers, and connections; find leads; and even close deals – all through collaborative means.

Why collaboration? Because if you get the right people and networks involved, the results you’re looking for happen faster, and everyone gets to use their strengths to generate those results.

How does your organization give back? Describe your inspiration behind your “give back” story.

I’m helping to raise a million dollars for “Voices of Sept 11”, which is a non-profit organization that provides support services for the families of the victims of 9/11. The campaign is called “Give $11 for September 11”. Here is what’s involved:

To honor the tenth anniversary of the attacks, Voices is creating a “healing community” social network, which will connect everyone directly impacted by that day: survivors, rescue workers, first responders, and family members.

They also have an ongoing online initiative, “The 9/11 Living Memorial.” As part of that project, Voices employs social workers and archivists who sit with family members to offer support through the process of cataloging each artifact that the families provide, including wallets, purses and I.D. cards recovered from the site, articles of clothing, baby pictures, and family videos.

It costs approximately $5,000 per person to photograph and catalog all of this information. Considering over 2,900 people perished, you can imagine the money they have to raise to support this effort.

I’ve assembled a team (celebrities, social media connections, a publicist and an advertising agency) to support “Give $11 for Sept 11.” The campaign will run until May 4th, and the funds will go to the living memorial, the social network, and to other Voices’ initiatives.

How do you stand out from the crowd? What distinguishes your organization from the competition?

The main thing that makes me stand out is my heavy use of collaboration. Using collaboration means I’ve never had to make a cold call. I get my business through partnerships, referral networks, and affiliate revenue streams.

The same business-building strategies I use, I also teach to my clients so they can get word out about their offerings in a way that’s fast, effective, and friendly.

What does it mean to you to be “the entrepreneur of your life”? How do you integrate your life and your organization, your personal brand and your organization brand?

I’m an accidental entrepreneur. In late 2006, I was eight months pregnant and got laid off from my job as an executive on Wall Street. While I was waiting for another Wall Street job to open up, my husband said, “You like to learn new things. Go learn something new.”

I got my real estate license, and went to work for a developer as a marketing consultant. We had to sell million-dollar condos in a down market, and our normal methods weren’t working. When I “googled” the name of the complex that we were trying to sell, it didn’t come up anywhere. I decided to find out why that was and what to do about it. So I started learning all I could about online marketing, mobile marketing, and social media. We applied what I’d learned . . . and sold all the condos in five months.

Since then, I have created the world’s first mobile marketing autorepsponder (MobiReply), have developed and executed social media strategies for brands large and small, and have written six books on social media marketing and online privacy (including “The Parent’s Guide to Facebook” and “The Grandparents Guide to Facebook”). I’ve also taught lots of people how to take back control of their careers and begin anew like I did.

How long did it take to get started and what business tools have helped you the most?

Through using collaboration skills I was able to turn a profit pretty quickly, I always had a steady stream of leads and clients. For instance, it is kind of ironic that I was the only SEO person hired consistently to help people rank their websites, but I didn’t have one of my own (I just launched mine in March 2011). All of my leads were word of mouth. Using tools like social networking and the ability to work remotely were very helpful in getting started. Some of my collaborators today are my first “twitter” friends and I haven’t even met them in person.

Also, the ability to self publish is a great asset to anyone starting a business today. You can establish yourself quickly as an expert by writing a book.

What is the single biggest thing you would say an entrepreneur has to be armed with in order to succeed?

I think the ability to plan and be patient. When I first started success came, but not quickly enough. I pushed myself and those around me to go faster. That was not the best strategy. Most people hate to plan but it is so important. Get the right people in place, attorney, accountant, etc. Planning your business is the single most important thing you can do.

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

You need at least enough money in the bank to pay your lawyers, accountants and perhaps a support person. It is not wise to try and do everything yourself, this leads to burnout and significant funds lost. So many people starting out skip these important steps and try to do everything on a shoe string.

Also, don’t be afraid to fail, people never talk about their failures. I’m proud of mine. They have all taught me the lessons I know now that make me more successful. All successful people you see around you have failed one time or another, they just don’t wear it on the front of a t-shirt.

Are there any words of advice, books, role models, or mentors that really inspired and changed you?

So many people have helped and inspired me in this journey. Ladies who launch was a great help. I participated in an incubator with a wonderful leader and the group really helped me focus my efforts. Also, at the LWL global conference I met a wonderful friend and coach, Mark Levy, who has been instrumental in helping me with my positioning and message.
A great book that I just read is Marshall Goldsmiths Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back if You Lose It.

What is your ultimate future dream for yourself and / or your business?

The future dream is to teach as many business owners as I can how to develop the collaboration mindset, using as many tools as possible and grow their businesses. I would also like to do more work with non-profits to help them raise more funds and gain more visibility for their efforts. My goal for Voices of Sept 11th is to raise $1 million through our online campaign over the next two weeks. With over 160m people on twitter and 600m on Facebook, I only need 90,000 to donate $11 to make a difference. With everyone’s help, we will reach it I am sure.

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Online Marketing and Social Media Consultant Will Answer Your Questions. Read This Member’s Story.

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Amy PORTERFIELD,

Social Media Consultant and Trainer

Amy Porterfield

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Describe your business in 3 sentences. What is it?
I’m an online marketing and social media consultant. I create online programs that teach entrepreneurs how to use online marketing strategies and social media marketing to grow their business and increase their online exposure. My goal is to keep it simple while teaching the strategies that get real results.

What inspired you to start your business?
I worked closely with Tony Robbins for over six years, managing his content development and marketing divisions. I had an amazing opportunity to learn business and communication strategies from the best of the best. Tony always talked about the rewards of creating your own business and I knew in my heart I wanted to create something on my own. After six years, I finally got the courage to take everything I had learned to step out on my own . . . and I’ve never looked back!

How do you stand out from the crowd? What distinguishes your business from the competition?
My style of consulting and teaching is unique because my goal is to keep things simple, yet help my clients be extremely strategic and smart in their overall online marketing plans. I know that social media can be extremely overwhelming, confusing at times and very time consuming. I teach my clients how to sift through all the online noise, focus only on what will get them results, and ultimately help them create a plan that works for their unique style and business goals.

What did it cost to start your business? How did you find the funds? Is your business profitable?
Because I started out consulting, it only cost me a few thousand dollars to set up my website, get incorporated and set up an online shopping cart to process my consulting fees. I also spent some money on training programs to make sure I stayed on top of the trends and was skilled in the best strategies possible in my field. Starting an online business does not need to be expensive, especially if you start out teaching and consulting and do not produce anything physical. I’ve run a very lean business from the beginning and it has been profitable from day one. I think I’ve been able to be successful because I only do what I know I do best (consulting, overall strategy, teaching). If I need something done that is not in my skill set, I outsource it. I make more money by focusing on what I do best and outsourcing what will take me two to three times longer if I try to do it myself. Time is precious and I am happier (and more profitable!) doing what I love.

How long did it take to get started and what business tools have helped you the most?
I was fortunate to make money from the first day I went out on my own, however getting things to go smoothly did not happen overnight! It took about a year for things to really start to click and start moving along smoothy. The saying “What you don’t know, you don’t know” is so true! As for tools to help me out, I invested right away in online training programs. I sought out the best of the best in my industry (and even some programs outside of my industry), and enrolled in whatever programs they had to offer. This massively propelled my business forward quickly. I firmly believe in learning from the best of the best… it’s the only way to go!

What is the single biggest thing you would say an entrepreneur has to be armed with in order to succeed?
Every entrepreneur needs the 3 Ps when first starting out: Patience, Passion and a Peer Group that is more successful than she is currently.

Patience because starting your own business is HARD WORK and there is no way around it. You have to pay your dues, work at it with all heart and you must know that the success, if it is to last, will not happen overnight. Every successful entrepreneur I respect has a story of working toward his or her success for many years. You have to be patient or you’ll miss out on the big rewards.

Passion because if you don’t truly believe in what you are creating, you’re wasting your time, resources and money. Passion makes the difficult days worth it. Passion to succeed and see all my hard work pay off gets me out of bed every morning.

And lastly, having a peer group that is more successful than you is the best thing you can do for your overall success. I learned this one from my years working with Tony Robbins. Surround yourself with successful, passionate entrepreneurs you respect and admire. Put yourself in situations where the playing field is high. Consider spending the money to join a mastermind with people that are a bit “out of your league”–not only will you learn priceless lessons and strategies from them, but you will be pushed to step out of your comfort zone and do things you’ve never thought of doing before. My peer groups have truly been the secret to my success!

What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Stay with it! If you’re creating something you truly believe in, and you’re willing to do the hard work to get things moving, you will never look back. The first few years are tough and therefore perseverance (and a little faith!) are a necessity!

Are there any words of advice, books, role models, or mentors that really inspired and changed you?
It may seem too simple, but my words of advice are this: Be good to people. I think we’re all in the business of taking care of others, no matter what we do in our business. Come from the place that people are good. Try to seek out opportunities to make someone’s day, support others’ needs and help them out. When you do this, your success is inevitable.

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Meet the Lady Who Can Get You Cash Over Gifts

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Dana OSTOMEL

Founder, Deposit a Gift

LWL member, NYC

Dana Ostomel Describe your business in 3 sentences. What is it?

Deposit a Gift is a cash gift registry website that allows people to give and receive monetary gifts in a memorable way. Our service is for any occasion when gifts are involved and cash is preferred: weddings, babies, birthdays, graduation, fundraising and more. People even use it to fundraise money to grow their businesses, perfect for the Ladies Who Launch community. We give people what they truly want: flexibility.

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Create structure for your day and stick to it. One of the hardest parts about being an entrepreneur is finding meaning in your day and not feeling all over the place. So the first goal, especially when you work alone from home as I do, is to find a way to create structure in your day. For me, I build everything around a mid-afternoon workout routine. It provides a ‘before’ and ‘after’ to my day, and also makes sure that I actually leave the house, see other people and get some exercise.

How long did it take to get started?

Every entrepreneur has a more aggressive timeline that is realistic. It really is the only way to rev up your engine and go as full force as you can. As is pretty typical, development took almost twice as long as planned, but in talking to other entrepreneurs since launch, it seems that we were right on target and that the time it took to develop was absolutely normal for a site of our size. Not knowing this was definitely challenging because it was disappointing to not be live when we had hoped, but I just kept my head down and focused on our vision to bring this thing to life. From start to finish, launching the site took me 18 months.

Deposit a Gift_How It WorksAre there any words of advice, books or role models that really inspired and changed you?

I found Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Outliers to be a great source of inspiration. I love the analysis of all the factors that lead to success and find it motivating to apply his thought process to my own life.

My “virtual role model” is Zappos. Customer service is a key component to our business and no one does it better than them, so I use my experience with their service as my model. I want our users to know that with Deposit a Gift they get online flexibility with real world support, and I make myself as available to our users as they’ll allow. This personal relationship with our users has helped us garner rave reviews in a short amount of time and has also helped me learn how we can improve our business because we constantly welcome their feedback.

What is the single biggest thing you would say an entrepreneur has to be armed with in order to succeed?

A gut you can believe in: Throughout this process, the biggest mistake I made was that I went against my gut in making a resource decision. I let myself be taken over by my fear of missing a self-imposed deadline and made a bad choice that was both emotionally draining and costly. I have learned to be better at listening to myself and having the judgment, even in a stressful situation, to properly evaluate the situation and make a good decision.

What business tools have helped you the most?

One of my favorite business tools is Dropbox. I use it as a centralized filing system to work with freelancers, but also as a one-stop-shop for PR contacts. Inside I house a variety of images that pubs and blogs can use freely for any stories they are writing about us. Since PR is a big component of our Marketing Plan, it has been instrumental to our success; contacts love it because it makes things easy for them, offers flexibility in image selection and avoids jpg-heavy emails that clog in-boxes.

Do you work from home? What is a “day in the life” like for you?

Once I got the hang of it, I LOVED working from home. My day revolves around my workout, so I do some things in reverse of other people. I wake up as early as possible and put on my gym clothes for the 1st half of the day to I ensure I make it to my class. I make some coffee and start going through my emails as my brain defrosts. Then it’s really just a matter of what’s on my to-do list. In the beginning it was much harder because I had to create all of my own to-dos and really motivate myself, but then once you start the development process or when you are live and you have clients, you have people to respond to which makes things feel more purposeful and orderly. After my workout, there is some sort of combination of checking emails, eating and showering (I like to do a lot of things at once!). Then I settle back in at my desk and often work into the evening. My day consists of everything from customer service for our users and managing our developers, to PR outreach and blogging. It’s really just a matter of trying to maintain realistic expectations about what I can feasibly get done in a day – I’m never bored, that’s for sure!

Who has supported your most in your journey?

I’m really lucky to have a great support system at home. My husband is 100% behind me, both emotionally (since we all know that living with an entrepreneur can be a bit crazy) and tangibly. He’s willing to listen to what’s gone on in my day, is wonderful at helping me think through strategic ideas and he’s a wiz with numbers. I really couldn’t be doing this without him.

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Meet the Ladies Who Make Part-Time Work Cool

Cari SOMMER and Lauren PORAT

Co-Founder, Urban Interns

Cari Sommer and Lauren Porat, Urban InternsWhen Featured Ladies Cari Sommer and Lauren Porat imagined the future of hiring, they considered the economy, the stunted job market and needs of small businesses. Their brainchild is Urban Interns, a national online marketplace that connects growing companies with virtual and part-time candidates. Once relegated to college students, displaced professionals are now finding opportunities to boost their resumes through part-time work and internships – and Urban Interns is simplifying the process. Since its debut in early 2009, Urban Interns been featured by Crain’s, Inc., MyFoxNY.com, New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, BostonHerald.com and TechCrunch. Last year, BusinessWeek named the angel investor-funded, New York based company one of America’s Most Promising Startups.

Cari, an attorney, and Lauren, a veteran of Internet conglomerate IAC, met while serving on the board of Step Up Women’s Network. As busy professionals, Cari and Lauren thought of an idea for a personal assistant network. But when they started digging into the concept, the women realized that growing companies were really the ones looking for these extra hands – in the form of part-time help, interns and freelance workers to perform tasks ranging from social media and technology assistance to research and basic administration. Likewise, job seekers were increasingly turning to part-time jobs to gain experience and get a foot in the door. To Lauren and Cari, bringing these two groups together in a marketplace made complete sense.

Against other job boards like Monster and HotJobs, or even Craig’s List, Urban Interns is more focused on meeting the needs of growing companies and people seeking part-time work or internships. “The focus is a major differentiator but the main one is that as an employer on Urban Interns, you can post a job as well as browse through our database of candidates,” Lauren says. “This is a really important value added feature of our product, as most employers want the empowerment to do both.” The Urban Interns website also provides the option to drill down on the times of day, times of week, tasks and experience level the employer is looking to hire, or job the person is seeking.

Lauren and Cari bootstrapped the business to get it off the ground. With virtually no marketing budget, they had to rely on their own ability to make things happen and generate buzz about Urban Interns.

Part of making things happen was the realization that social media would be a big component of their marketing. However, they discovered when running a business, it’s very easy to slack. “Why write a blog post when you can service a new customer or work on your product?” Lauren says. “It doesn’t always come naturally in the day’s events.” Fortunately, Cari and Lauren’s social media guru advised them to create an annual editorial calendar consisting of six posts per week for the year. “Somehow putting it on paper made it a reality,” Cari says. “Sure, we veer from it, but there’s no question we’ve gotten way further on our social media strategy than we would have without that Excel file.”

Cari knew it was time to expand when she saw that paying usage on the site had expanded in a significant way, reaching beyond the partners’ personal networks. “It was exciting to see that and we knew that the word was getting out about Urban Interns,” she says. “We really saw the potential and decided that was the time to start thinking about expansions.”

Lauren and Cari agree that when they closed on their funding, it was time to celebrate. The duo realized they were one step closer to executing on their vision and expansion plans for the business. “TechCrunch wrote a great blog post about us when we announced our funding which was also pretty exciting,” says Cari.

Lauren and Cari have big plans for Urban Interns. “We want to do for part-time help, internships and freelance gigs what SitterCity has done for babysitting,” says Lauren. “We want to make this type of talent, and these types of jobs, available and easily accessible in every zip code in the US.”

What we learned from Cari and Lauren: “Surround yourself by helpful and encouraging people, both women and men!”

Pay it Forward
“We learned a lot about the importance of asking people for help and returning the favor whenever possible. We think it’s absolutely essential to do both of these things when you’re getting something off the ground.”

Get Ready
“We’re about to relaunch our site with an awesome new look and feel, improved user experience and a host of new features and functionality. Since we know what’s coming, staying patient in the interim is definitely a challenge.”

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This Featured Lady was profiled by Megan L. Reese, WORDrobe® Stylist for Her Write Image in West Grove, PA.

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Susan Gregg Koger

Meet the Lady Who’s a Pioneer in the Blogosphere

Elisa Camahort PAGE

Co-Founder, COO, BlogHer

Elisa Camahort PageFeatured Lady Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer for BlogHer, left a lucrative Silicon Valley career in technology product management and became a blogosphere pioneer. One of the first professional and business bloggers on the web, Elisa and her two co-founders grew BlogHer to 48 full-time employees, 2,500 bloggers in the publishing company and tens of thousands of website members. Prior to launching BlogHer, Elisa owned a consulting business that was among the first to integrate corporate marketing strategies into the social media environment. As COO, she leads events, marketing, public relations and research for BlogHer, while working to ensure that all company operations deliver to plan.

During the dot-com bust, Elisa quit her high-level, high paying marketing job and began blogging as “a personal thing.” Elisa admits not having entrepreneurial aspirations because she thought she’d follow her mom’s career path climbing the corporate ladder. However, Elisa had two realizations during her time away from the traditional nine to five churn, one being that she wasn’t looking for another job in her former industry. “I just couldn’t do it,” she says. Elisa also recognized that the blogging activities she was playing with were actually a form of marketing. “It was my peanut butter and chocolate moment,” she says.

Prior to launching BlogHer with Jory Des Jardins and Lisa Stone in 2005, pundits were posing the question, “Where are the women?” Elisa says, “Specifically, people were asking where are all the women were in Fortune 500 companies, on the Op/Ed pages, on Sunday morning talk shows, in Congress and speaking at conferences.” So, Elisa, Jory and Lisa, who were all blogging in different spaces and had serendipitously met, wondered if there’d be any interest if they hosted a conference by and about women bloggers. Since the era was pre-Twitter and before Facebook was open to non-college students, they blogged about the idea and gained support. In 120 days all 300 tickets to the event sold out. “We received an immediate, positive and passionate response,” Elisa says.

Following the first BlogHer Conference, the trio reviewed the feedback and decided the attendees wanted three things. The first was another conference. Second, although it was nice to meet people, they sought a central place to revisit everyone everyday, so BlogHer.com was launched. The third request was a way to make money blogging, which in 2006 became the BlogHer Publishing Network. Initially using personal finances to get the company off the ground, Elisa says, “We were just three chicks with credit cards when we launched BlogHer.”

Elisa says that in early 2006, she, Lisa and Jory experienced a rough transition period when they agreed to phase out their own consulting clients and focus full-time on BlogHer. “We were paying people and growing organically, but had no steady income,” she explains. “I was fortunate to have saved two years of my full-time salary, but still accrued $25,000 on my credit cards and used a $25,000 home equity line of credit. I spent my life savings and racked up debt.”

Later that year, the co-founders realized the potential in ad revenue and knew they needed to go big in order to get the larger advertisers. “We recognized that someone in traditional, established media could leapfrog over us and do this,” Elisa says. “It would have been really frustrating if another entity did it instead of us.”

Although Elisa, Jory and Lisa weren’t planning on taking outside investors, after two years of bootstrapping the Redwood City, California based company got its first round of venture capital funding – right before the economy bottomed out. “We were fortunate to already be VC backed,” Elisa says. “We had been around for three years and were an established site.”

Today, BlogHer.com is the quintessential guide to and source for blogs by women. With 23 million unique visitors each month, its mission is to create opportunities for blogging women to pursue exposure, education, community and economic empowerment. The company provides the number one community for and guide to blogs by women via annual conferences, a web community and blogging news hub, as well as a publishing syndicate of more than 2,500 qualified, contextually targeted blog affiliates.

What we learned from Elisa: “Ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst thing that could happen if I tried something and it failed?’ Paint the picture.”

Yes, They Did

“One of our best moments was landing an exclusive interview with then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama.”

Money Market

“The economy is an ongoing challenge. We’ve hit our targets and fought for every dollar because you can’t know when it will ease up.”

Content Rich

“Our vision is that BlogHer is the future of media for women. BlogHer is a women’s media company, but it’s not a pink and purple silo. It’s all the lifestyle programming you’re used to seeing, plus politics and tech and hard news and finance and so on. We serve the whole woman, while women create the content and get paid for their words and work.”

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This Featured Lady was profiled by Megan L. Reese, WORDrobe® Stylist for Her Write Image in West Grove, PA.

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Susan Gregg Koger

Preeti Vasudevan, Artistic Director, Thresh

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www.threshdance.org and www.dancingforthegods.org

Choreographer and artistic ambassador Preeti Vasudevan bridges cultures, continents and centuries as easily as other dancers might execute a plie. The original works performed by her New York City-based dance troupe, Thresh, have earned international acclaim for their fresh juxtaposition of traditional dance forms from her native India with modern theories of movement and expression. And now, she’s connecting Eastern and Western perspectives through an interactive educational initiative that includes a research and development center in Chennai, India and the Web site, www.dancingforthegods.org, which is a comprehensive online resource for the traditional Indian technique of Bharatanatyam.

Having begun training in Bharatanatyam at the age of four-and-a-half and studied modern dance in New York City, Japan and London, Preeti exemplifies a new kind of artist and entrepreneur who mixes and matches a plethora of international ideas and experiences in all new ways. Since forming Thresh in 2004, Preeti has channeled her struggle to define her artistic and cultural identity into work that has garnered acclaim in the international dance community. In March 2009, her stage production, “The Absent Lover,” which she adapted from a fifth-century Indian play, “Vikramorvashiyam,” was one of 10 finalists chosen from 209 productions to be performed at the prestigious META Awards in New Delhi. The production won three awards, including best choreography.

As passionate about teaching as she is about performing, Preeti found herself longing to reach more dance students and educators than she was able to with her individual workshops. She and her husband spent two years in India gathering resources related to Bharatanatyam. The resulting Web site and DVD-Rom is the first step in what Preeti envisions as an ongoing dialogue between India and the U.S. and includes a curriculum for teaching Indian dance in American schools, which she developed in conjunction with the New York City Department of Education. Preeti will spread her message even further when she presents a workshop at the National Dance Education Organization’s annual meeting this June.

Having already distinguished herself as a visionary artist, educator and entrepreneur, Preeti clearly has a few lessons to teach others about the importance of balance, and not only when it comes to the art of dance.

What we learned from Preeti: “Routine is very important. So you think, ‘So many hours a day, I dedicate to this, and no more.’ You have to learn to say, ‘No,’ more. And you have to learn how to say, ‘Stop,’ and, ‘I’m sorry, I couldn’t do it today. That’s it.’”

Deciding Where to Hang Out Your Shingle

“I’ve always felt that…when you are embarking on your business, and for me, it’s the art business, you need to be right in the thick of it all, because you’re constantly bombarded by great creativity. There are few cities like that in the world, and for dance, basically, it’s New York City.”

Not Indian Enough

“I went to a very established dance management company in New York. They looked at my work and said, ‘It’s really good.’ I thought, ‘Oh great, I’ve got myself an agent.’ But they said, ‘We can’t take you on.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ And they said, ‘Well, you’re not Indian enough, and we already have an Indian company.’ And I said, ‘Do you say that to American companies? I’ve already got an American company.’”

Don’t Box Me In

“Presenters and organizers need to find that box they can define you by, so that they can market you. I said, ‘I’m not part of the Diaspora. I’m not doing fusion. I’m not prettily playing with Indian movement. I’m actually doing new work.” That wasn’t enough. That was really one of my major struggles.”

Learning to Think Like a Company

“Once you decide to form a company, the level of engagement is completely different…You’re not just looking to see if you want to make a new dance. That should have been taken care of awhile ago…You have a very kind of focused vision as to what your company is going to achieve, and how you differentiate between you, your work, and others, which is an ongoing process.”

Serve the Work, Not the Company

“We’re a very low-key, hire-oneself, fire-oneself kind of company, where we’re keeping the logistics and expenditures to a basic minimum, so that the work can get moving. So, when we bring people in, artistically or otherwise, they come in more on a project basis. It’s a very project-based company so far. Eventually, I’d like to set up a core team of permanent members, but right now, they come according to projects.”

Creating Time

“I think the key words are time management. If you can train yourself to be disciplined on the non-artistic, non-creative side, then you can get a lot of work done. But if you don’t, then it can affect your creativity, because your time is haphazard.”

Know When to Hold ‘Em

“I could have done this grant, but it would have been a very bad grant, so instead, I said, ‘I didn’t prepare enough, so I can’t do it this year.’ And I just let it go. It’s been very good….It helps you focus on the projects that you want to do. When you talk to people, you’re a lot more focused and a lot more passionate, and you’re not all over the shop.”

An Artist in Training

“Training never stops. I still continue to train in different ways — I feel, at this stage in my life, I need a particular kind of training. Five years ago, I was looking for something else — just so you don’t become stagnant. And you must also be very open to what’s happening. You continue evolving with the society. You don’t just get locked in a particular kind of time bubble.”

Bridging the Gap

“The ultimate goal, which we are slowly developing right now, is to build a bridge between India and the U.S. to do with technology and movement education. So, we’re building that large bridge now.”

The Role of the Artist

“What is the issue today that people have? It’s communication — global communication and cultural communication — and I feel that the performing arts plays a huge role in trying to bridge that.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Sarah Tomlinson, a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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Elisa Camahort Page

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Elisa Camahort Page,
Co-Founder, BlogHer

This story reads like your favorite pre-teen beach book, complete with plenty of drama and a merry band of best buddies akin to Nancy Drew and her crime-solving cohorts, or that singular Sisterhood and their travelling pants. Our particular saga stars Elisa Camahort Page, the IT it girl, Lisa Stone, the journalist extraordinaire, and Jory Des Jardins, the publishing pro. Before they met, each one was separately blogging, wondering, “Where are the women in Fortune 500 board rooms? On Op Ed pages? At tech conferences? In political and business forums? I can’t be the only one stewing; bring on the female bloggers!” It was these passionate emotions that inspired Elisa, Lisa, and Jory, almost immediately after meeting for the first time, to organize a conference to empower women bloggers. The fast friends drummed up sponsors, slapped costs on their credit cards, and power-blogged the event which sold out in 120 days.

A smashing success, the conference motivated its savvy organizers to form an LLC, pool their diverse backgrounds in media, marketing and business strategy, and launch a Web community covering all things female, from post-baby workouts to politics. They started BlogHer without any funding in January 2006, relying rather on strong volunteers, community efforts, networking, their own A-1blogging skills, a targeted approach, and again, their credit cards. A risk, yes, but Elisa, Lisa, and Jory never looked back. They bonded, brain-stormed, trusted each other, and listened to their users, offering up a platform for opinion and a place to connect. Exposure, education, community, and economic empowerment; that’s what BlogHer is all about.

BlogHer is now the number one spot for, and guide to, blogs by women, reaching more than ten million people each month through annual conferences, a Web hub, and a publishing network of over 2,700 blog affiliates.

We talked to Elisa, and what we learned from her is this: You have a kitchen cabinet of people in your life. If you want to start a business but don’t know how, start asking questions, and keep asking until you get the answer. It’s out there, and chances are someone close to you has it.

A is for Apple, B is for BlogHer

Part of our success as a team is that we didn’t know each other before diving into this adventure. Lisa and I decided at our very first meeting to organize a women blogger’s conference and I invited Jory to join us after having met her once. Our friendship was forged as we were building the business – no other baggage, no biases, no expectations. We have a shared commitment to our company. It’s much easier to get along when it’s not about us.

Assess, Discuss, Adjust

In the beginning we all worked on every part of the business and conferred on every single decision. But as we grew we had to carve up the pie and trust that after working as a unit, we had a good sense of what the team decisions should be on a day to day basis. And it actually helped that we came from diverse backgrounds but brought complementary skills to the table because our intense, shared commitment to do what it takes to succeed was all the more obvious. If one of us were less impassioned or less dedicated, this just wouldn’t work.

Differences, Yes; Disrespect, No

In a partnership, you don’t want your opinion taken for granted which is why you can’t take disagreements personally. If you’ve got an idea that the others don’t like, make a case for it! If I were afraid to let my partners critique my ideas, we’d all be in trouble. Don’t confuse disagreement with disrespect; it’s not the same thing.

Taking Risks

We definitely took a risk starting BlogHer. We were flying by the seat of our pants for eighteen months before we got funding. But that forced us to be creative. Sponsorships, ad networks, banner ads, social media, partnerships, we tried it all. So I can speak from experience when I say to other entrepreneurs – take a risk! Take a risk in whatever way you can live with. Ask yourself: What, truly, is the worst that can happen? Once you define what failure would look like, you’ll see it’s not so scary. Not trying is what’s scary!

Our Mission

We are a company that is fully dedicated to leading by listening. We turn to our community for feedback. But it’s a big community, and the challenge is not just coming to a consensus between the three of us, but to listen to thousands of women and do our best to provide what they want. There are so many paths we could take, so many projects we could tackle. It’s great to solicit suggestions and add new ideas to the mix, but we have to be disciplined enough to grow strategically. We don’t want to get too big too fast then have to subtract. We only want to add. Careful, conservative, creative is our motto.

A Matter of Trust

We trusted and relied on each other from the beginning because we all just wanted to see women’s opinions taken seriously. (We still bristle at the term “lady bloggers,” as if we’re gossiping.) But when you trust your partners, you’ll be able to share everything, even if it’s bad news. It’s easy to talk about what’s going well. If you can address unfulfilled expectations just as seamlessly, you’re going to be successful.

This Featured Lady was profiled by Susie Lacey, Associate Editor, Ladies Who Launch

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Julia Hartz

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Co-Founder & President
Eventbrite.com

As gigs go, Julia Hartz had a good one. While the rest of her twenty-something peers were merely watching MTV, Julia was working for the network in series development, producing wildly popular shows such as Jackass, Real World and Sorority Life. After two years there she took a job at FX. Nip Tuck, The Shield, Rescue Me-Julia was right in the thick of the hottest shows on TV.
But in a dramatic move that would make her fictional characters proud, Julia gave it all up for a man. At least it looked that way on the surface. Actually she always knew working in LA would be short-lived so when her long-distance boyfriend Kevin proposed, she headed to San Francisco. And the TV-like saga continued.
Not knowing whether they could live together, let alone work together, Julia and Kevin nonetheless launched Eventbrite, a do-it-yourself online event management and ticketing service, in 2005. Their relationship and their company thrived. Today Julia and Kevin are married, have a ten month old daughter, and can proudly say that though Eventbrite began as a small start-up, it has transacted millions of tickets to date. Talk about happily ever after.

What we learned from Julia: In the start-up environment you’re wearing many hats. But if you want to grow, you’ve got to delegate. Hire good people and trust them to do their jobs. The most successful entrepreneurs are those who can relinquish well.

Learning the Ropes

Landing an internship at MTV was exciting. But being hired full time was even more so. There I was at 22 working on Jackass. It was amazing. When I moved to FX I was the youngest member and the only woman on a five-person executive team working on shows like Nip Tuck and The Shield. It was like a start-up; we all wore different hats. I learned to speak up and go with my gut. I built a foundation of knowledge and confidence that I still rely on today.

Heading Home

I left FX and headed to northern California to be with my fiancé Kevin. What a cliché. But I always knew FX would be short-lived. Yes I loved the creative process and meeting lots of new people but I never intended to stay in LA. I moved to San Francisco in the fall of 2005 to start Eventbrite with Kevin. We laugh about it now but at the time this was a big risk. We went from a long-distance relationship to living and working together. We had no idea how this dynamic would play out. Obviously it worked. We’re married and have a ten-month old.

Born to Bootstrap

I’m a planner. Plans make me happy. But when we started Eventbrite I had to give that up. I learned to take it one month at a time which was a huge growing experience for me. It was just the two of us in a conference room using saw horses and slabs of wood for desks. Boy were we bootstrapping it. All of our income went back into the business. We were our own bosses so we could do that.

Start-Up Central

We were occupying a small section of a much larger space that our land lord told us we could use. We filled it with other start-ups. At one point there were ten start-ups in there. The energy was amazing. This was where we built our company.

Starting Out Strong

We wanted to build a strong foundation from the very beginning so we focused on providing a great product. We figured either we would end up with the eBay of online ticketing or just a great small family business. Either way we weren’t going to skimp. We weren’t taking salaries and we didn’t use outside funding. We were incredibly capital-efficient. Our only hire was a CTO who lived in France. We focused on our product and growing the business during the day in the United States while he slept, and he built the technology while we slept. You can’t get more efficient than that.

The Customer Challenge

Our biggest challenge was customer acquisition because it wasn’t readily obvious how we would market our product. But because we provided world-class customer service, word of mouth was huge. We didn’t find search engine marketing to be very helpful in the beginning because we were too small for it to be effective. It’s kind of a catch-22. We had to grow first before we could use a tool that was supposed to help us grow.

Balancing Business and Baby

As a mother and a business owner I do get anxious now and then because I care so passionately about both roles. But I work from home sometimes so I can be with my daughter. I love to watch her climb out of her crib and make a break for it. We spend our down-time as a family. And Kevin and I have Wednesday date nights. Sometimes we’re practically sleeping in our salads but this time is sacred.

This Featured Lady was profiled by Ladies Who Launch Associate Editor Susie Lacey.

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Meredith Barnett and Cristina Miller

Co-Founders, StoreAdore
www.storeadore.com

It’s rare enough for childhood friends to stay in touch when they outgrow their Barbie dolls. It’s even more unusual for both to attend Harvard Business School and turn a mutual love for shopping into a successful entrepreneurial venture. But that’s exactly how Meredith Barnett and Cristina Miller came to launch StoreAdore, a Web site that dishes about the best boutique shopping, online and in a half dozen cities.

Barnett conceived of and wrote the business plan for StoreAdore during her second year of business school, while Miller was working in London. She revealed the concept to her friend during a New York City reunion devoted to engagement ring shopping. The two immediately decided to partner up. They not only trusted each other implicitly, but their skill sets were complementary, too. Miller had a management consulting background and Barnett had been an editor at Lucky magazine.

With their business plan in place and the necessary finances secured through angel investors, the two partners planned to launch their site in January 2008. But they happily jumped the gun when they were asked to appear on an “Oprah” segment about mentoring in conjunction with a book written by Barnett’s onetime mentor, Hearst Magazines President Cathie Black. Since launching in October 2007, they have revamped and expanded the site and are thrilled to find themselves becoming trendsetters in their two favorite areas—fashion and business—while still getting to be the BFFs they’ve always been.

What we learned from Meredith: “Write a business plan. Even if you’re self-funding, it helps to go through that process. It doesn’t have to be beautiful. It doesn’t have to be really long. But part of the process of writing the business plan is the process of proving to yourself that you have a viable idea before you have to prove it to everyone else.”

I Need, You Need

Meredith: “I would go to different neighborhoods in New York, or in new cities, and go, ‘I know there’s great shopping here. I know there’s a boutique shopping scene or neighborhood, but I just don’t know where to go. And if this information isn’t readily accessible to me, then other people must have that same problem.’ And that applied to online [shopping] too.”

Vision Quest

Meredith: “Very quickly [after the idea for StoreAdore came about] I started thinking: What were the operations? Who were going to be our tech people? How were we going to build it? How long was it going to take? I think, before you do that, you really have to take a step back and ask yourself: Just because this is my vision, is it the right vision for this business?”

Retail Research

Meredith: “We contacted some retailers in different cities and said, ‘Can you get a group of 10 of your best customers together? Tell them it’s a focus group about shopping, hold it in your store, and we’ll give them each a $20 gift certificate to your store.’ We could just ask them a million questions, and we learned so much from them. We still reference that data, so that was really helpful.”

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Jody DeVere

FL - Jody DeVere

CEO and President, Ask Patty, Inc.
www.askpatty.com

Jody DeVere will be part of our L.A. LIVE “Queens of the Web” panel on Saturday, May 31. Click for more info.

Many women love cars, love the excitement of GETTING a new car, love the new car smell, love driving that car off the lot. But what many women HATE is everything that has to be done to get to that point, which is where Jody DeVere comes in. Jody is the CEO, president, and co-founder of AskPatty.com, a Web site geared toward helping women with everything automotive.

While Jody is very passionate about what she does, there was also another driving force behind her starting AskPatty.com: her oldest son, Joe DeVere. Joe was diagnosed with secondary progressive MS about five years ago. Two years into his diagnosis he could no longer work, and then he had a very tragic car accident, leaving him paraplegic. Jody had to figure out a way to create a lifetime of income for him. Although she had a very successful consulting business already, she decided to take advantage of an opportunity that came her way that would allow her to help Joe, and Ask Patty—’Patty’ being a figure representing all women consumers—was born.

What we learned from Jody: “Read your manual. When you’re standing out in the parking lot and your car is making beeping noises, check the manual, it’s in there. The ‘check engine’ light is the number one question, and it’s in the manual.”

Why Not “Ask Jody”?

“There are a number of reasons, but if it were Ask Jody, what happens if I sell the company or retire? That would be a problem. So the name ‘Ask Patty’ has really worked and been a great brand for us.”

From Idea to Reality

“I had my own successful consulting business, and I was and still am president of the Women’s Automobile Association International. My partners were talking to me about creating a women’s project to add to another company called Cars magazine. They called me because they thought I might know someone to head that up, and then they invited me to do it. We looked at the business model and said, ‘You know, we could actually turn this into a company.’

My idea was to create an environment that looked fun, because to a lot of people, talking about cars all the time might not be so fun. We have a whole panel of women who are automotive experts answering questions 24/7. The color scheme and the look and feel is catchy, and I wanted to create an icon of what women would like to feel like in their automotive experience, i.e.: Patty, an empowered woman.”

The Business Model

“The business model is that dealers subscribe to our service, we generate revenues by selling our training, and there are also fees for setting up Web integration.”

Why Women Need This

“There is an unequal balance in the automotive industry. If more women worked in the industry, imagine what car buying would be like, what marketing and advertising of vehicles would be like. Running pink ads is a guy’s version of being female-friendly. When presented with the idea of marketing to women, I felt that’s all fine and good, but we need to provide training to the people that are marketing—automotive retailers—to really make them effective and then certify them.

We launched first to see if women would respond to having an automotive place just for them. That went over really well. Then we launched our dealer network in September. Women were very excited to go someplace to buy a car where they could feel more comfortable.”

Training the Dealer

“We have a very thorough program that we teach them. We provide them with a Web presence that integrates into the dealer Web site, designed to solicit the input of women regarding the kind of environment they would like to enter. Many women do their research online before going to the dealership. We provide an online experience that is comfortable for them.”

Secrets of Selling to Women

“The biggest complaint women have is they’re not treated with respect. I think that the automotive retailers need to wise up, quit with the high-pressure sales, be sincere. But I also think that women need to become more empowered in understanding their vehicles, not only in the car-buying process, but with regard to repair.”

Driving Traffic

“Ask Patty started as a blog, not a Web site. The blog is the little engine that could—I get great organic search results due to the organic syndication of blog content and the fact that blog links never go away. I’m writing about a topic that is very narrow, so when you do a Google search, it brings a lot of organic hits to us.”

Road & Track? Try Parenting

“We consult dealerships on the type of advertising used. We encourage retailers to place in parenting magazines because that’s what a lot of women are reading. You have to go where the women are.”

Patty Never Sleeps

“I usually start my day between 5 and 6 a.m. I have East Coast customers, and I work with my staff that I have all over the country. I usually have meetings, answer IMs and e-mails. I’m really done with the busy part of my day at about 3 p.m., and then I focus on the blog and log into Second Life, where Ask Patty has a presence.”

Tips for Online Businesses

“Subscribe to all technology newsletters or blogs that provide info on what’s new and coming out. DO NOT BE AFRAID, this is not brain surgery, if I can learn it, anyone can. Instead of looking at it as technology, look at it as business solutions. Think of technology as something you can leverage to make your business better, rather than as a scary thing.”

Some of Jody’s recommended sites/blogs:

www.Mashable.com
www.imediaconnection.com
www.BlogHer.com

www.lipsticking.com/
bloombergmarketing.blogs.com/
www.blognetnews.com/autos/
blogs.edmunds.com/women/

Tech-Savvy Grandma (She Has Six Grandkids!)

“I love it, I am very passionate and enthusiastic. Technology is in my blood. I would scare you if you took a computer apart and took the motherboard out—I could tell you exactly what each one of those components do and who manufactured it.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Kristin Herold, a freelance writer and entertainment reporter in Los Angeles.