Founder and CEO, LiveHealthier.com
Want to eat more healthfully and work out more often in the New Year? According to Mary Moslander, founder of www.livehealthier.com, socializing could be the secret to your success.
Moslander, a former executive with The Washington Post, launched LiveHealthier.com after a family crisis motivated her to get healthy, and a good friend became the breakthrough who helped her to drop 30 pounds.
Launched in December, www.livehealthier.com is a subscription-based service that connects friends to help each other reach fitness goals, offers advice from dietitians and personal trainers, and provides nutrition and exercise programs.
Launching The Washington Post Online
“Prior to founding LiveHealthier, I spent 10 years helping direct new media efforts for The Washington Post Company. I was part of the original executive team that launched washingtonpost.com in 1996. That’s why my husband and I moved to D.C. from Silicon Valley – I came out to be VP of marketing. Ultimately, I launched a number of award-winning websites and was GM for several multi-million dollar businesses. Before I came to The Post, I was a public relations consultant in Silicon Valley. The last client I won was Newsweek, which is owned by The Washington Post. That’s how I got to know the company.”
Leaving to Take Care of a Family Crisis
“I left in March of 2004 on maternity leave to have my third daughter. Unfortunately, she was born with a number of cardiac and respiratory issues. There’s something about sitting beside an infant, just a few hours old, who has had a spinal tap and surgery… you see this little six-pound baby struggling to survive, and you have a moment when you wonder, ‘What am I doing? Why am I here?’ I thought about the impact I was having on the world, and I wanted to make sure I would have all the energy I would need to take care of this baby.”
Forgetting to Care for Herself
“I didn’t know if I was going to be caring for a sick child indefinitely or if she would grow out of the problems, which she did eventually do. But after we brought her home, she was attached to a heart monitor for five months.”
“I really threw myself into learning everything I could about pediatric cardiology. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I ate poorly, I gave up exercising, and I didn’t sleep enough – I got weaker and weaker. Six weeks after my baby came home from the hospital, I was readmitted – I had gotten an infection. I spent three nights in the hospital. I thought, ‘I have run myself into the ground, and now I’m not even home to take care of her.’”
Friendship = Fitness Breakthrough
“So I went on a commercial diet, got myself a personal trainer, and focused on getting healthy enough to take care of my three daughters. I finally decided I was going to leave The Post and do something different; I wasn’t sure what. I just knew that I needed to be in control of my lifestyle and I wanted to feel that I was making a difference for people. In September of 2004, I was at a back-to-school function and talking with one of my friends, bemoaning my failure to take off weight. She said, ‘Why don’t we talk every morning?’ I was still working out and having personal training, but being accountable to my girlfriend was key to me.”
“I knew if I ate the kids’ cookies or their mac and cheese, at 9 a.m. the next morning I was going to have to tell Janice. She and I would talk everyday about our schedules for that day, or the upcoming dinner party that weekend. We would encourage each other to stick to our plans, just for today. By January, within four months, I lost 30 pounds and I was stronger and more fit than I had ever been.”
The Big A-Ha!
“Meanwhile, I was investigating five different business ideas I wanted to start, all related to helping women. By November or December, I’m losing weight, having fun with Janice, thinking about my background, and in December (of 2004) I had a really big a-ha. I started developing a business plan. On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I went out to dinner and decided we were going to start the company and fund it ourselves.”
Getting Things Off the Ground
“I must have brought my business plan to 50 different people… people from The Post days, from the financial sector, the Web world, and then I really refined it. I founded the company in March 2005 and in July we started software development and launched in December. We outsourced software development to a local firm here in Rockville (Maryland). A majority of their developers are in India, which is fantastic for a budget-conscious start-up because this project costs about a 10th of what building those systems cost five years ago.”
Help from the Maryland Technology Development Center
“I attended a conference for women in business, which was sponsored by the local chamber of commerce, where I learned about the Maryland Technology Development Center which is a physical “incubator” for bio-tech and IT startups.”
“I had to write a business plan with financial projections and present it to a 15-person committee. They were looking for startup companies that show promise that will eventually be able to hire people in Montgomery County and become taxpaying corporate citizens. I was accepted and moved into the Maryland Technology Development Center Incubator on May 9th.”
“For a 200-square-foot office, I pay $495 a month, which is unheard of in this market. I have essential resources at my disposal such as a centralized receptionist, conference rooms, a production and mail room and through the Maryland Intellectual Property Legal Resource Center, I have access to free legal assistance on intellectual property matters.”
How to Live Healthier
“We help people to help each other create routines and behaviors for lifestyle changes to address health goals. We do that with Web-based tools of social networking, focused on three levels of social support. The first level is a personal network with individual friends. Each member has their own “My Page” and friends give each other access to their individual pages where they can motivate one another by setting up goals together, checking in with tools like instant messages and blogs. This is the way that members can cheer each other on, hold each other accountable and give each other hope when they falter.”
“The second level consists of community networks of like-minded groups. Anyone who belongs to the service can join an existing community or create a new one – communities can be formed around any topic, like moms, travelers, runners, people with gluten allergies, etc. In these communities, you can get to know people who have similar challenges as you do and share strategies for reaching your goals.”
“The third level of social networking is with experts – registered dietitians and professional trainers and other health professionals. You can have an e-mail dialogue with them about issues you might face. This is really important – a lot of people don’t have the luxury I had to pay a personal trainer or dietitian $80 an hour, but they still need to know how to increase fiber or decrease sugar or figure out how to squeeze in some lunges while they are at home doing the laundry.”
Diet is a Four-Letter Word
“You’ll never see the word ‘diet’ on our Web site. You can find ways to move more in everyday life that will increase the calories you’re expending. If we make better choices about what we eat, and move our bodies more often and stay connected to one another, that’s what leads us to make the kind of permanent changes we need to have the energy we want to lead a life that is healthier.”
Money: Getting Something for Nothing
“There is something about not having a lot of time or money that sharpens your ability to think about the most effective way to do things. I underestimated how powerful that would be and overestimated how stressful that would be. It has been a fun challenge to try to do something when I don’t have the time or financial or human resources. For example, now when I’m buying products or services, I always mention that I’m a small start-up and ask for discounts.
“Because I told all of my friends about what I was doing, I have a number of girlfriends who generously come in and help me for free. They enjoy coming into the office and helping publish content to the website and they have even come along to trade shows to help spread the word. It’s an amazing thing. I never would have guessed that would have happened.”
Will I Be a Good CEO?
“When I was an executive at The Post, sometimes I wondered if I would be a good CEO. I wasn’t sure I had the skills. When I would watch the CEO speak publicly with such passion and flair, I questioned whether I could do that. I probably couldn’t have. But what I have learned is that if you are truly passionate about what you are doing and are fundamentally dedicated to helping your customers be successful and creating a stimulating work environment for your employees, then there really isn’t anything you can’t do. I had never made the correlation between skills and passion before.”
Greatest Success – Pursuing Passions AND Being Home for Dinner
“Finding and recognizing my passion, and being willing to take my savings and invest it in this. We’re closing in on the one-year mark of having made this decision, and we have built the product on time and on budget. I have done all of that, and I am still at home to have dinner at night with my husband and three girls (now ages 8, 6 and 18 months). That is the definition of success for me and for my family.”
Greatest Challenge – Getting Your Product Out There
“It’s tempting to want to keep making the product bigger and better. I think the challenge is to make sure you get into the market and let consumers give you reactions to it. We didn’t have the money to have formal focus group sessions before we launched so I invited 15 of my girlfriends over, served wine and cheese, and asked them to take a look at the www.livehealthier.com service, and tell me what liked and didn’t like. They had fantastic insights and because we are a nimble startup and are able to make quick decisions, the ideas we received on Monday were incorporated on the site by the end of the week. You have to really listen to your customers.”
Recommended Biz Resources
“Check with your local department of economic development. They often have a lot of programs that can help you. Our local one in Rockville has a business plan competition and programs that teach you how to write a business plan. Most people don’t know (the departments) are out there.”
“My all time favorite Web resource is wikipedia (www.wikipedia.com). If there is something that you are unfamiliar with, you can look it up and quickly get up to speed.”
Words of Advice
“It’s all about prioritizing. For me, I use sticky notes. I have three stickies on my desk right in front of me. I know that for me to advance my business, I have to: one, develop a product that’s competitive; two, acquire customers; and three, manage my seed money effectively. Every day I look at these three stickie… if something doesn’t relate to one of these three stickies, I’m not going to do it.
“Entrepreneurs can often hide behind the admin. It’s easy to show up and do paperwork. The more you hide behind the admin, the more you’re not going after one of those three stickies.”