Meet the Lady Who Can Get You Cash Over Gifts

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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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