It’s been nearly four years since we started KidzVuz. There were times I thought we weren’t going to make it, and times I was sure we had the BEST. IDEA. EVER. But three years since the launch of the site, things are pretty good. Our clients are brands like Microsoft, and Samsung, Hasbro and the WWE. Lands End is a client, as is HP. We pay people. We have repeat clients.In other words: we have an actual business. Having a small business isn’t easy. Being a woman in business doesn’t help — especially a woman with a business for kids. So many people think it’s “cute” and not serious. Oh really? Is Disney cute? Is Nickelodeon? Mattel? I’ve learned a lot these few years. So I thought it was time to re-visit this post about being a Webpreneur – or really any small business owner – and helping you be one too. Here it is: updated with new stuff I’ve learned since we launched: Every day in this process of creating/running a start up, I learn something new. And in this post, I’m going to share some of the basics with you. This is stuff I think will help you whether you’re thinking of starting a business, or just trying to make your own brand, your own blog – into a business. Let me know if it helps.
1. Don’t be such a girl. This may sound ridiculous, but it’s true. There have been many, many times when I have a conversation or email exchange with someone that either starts or ends with an apology: “I’m sorry to mention this, but…” “I hope this doesn’t come across as harsh but…” The thing is, most (not all) of the conversations happen when someone hasn’t delivered what they promised. Or they’re late. Or they’re just plain wrong. Yet somehow, I think it seems impolite of me to mention it. Please. I am SUCH a girl. There is no man who apologizes every time someone doesn’t deliver. I’m all for civilized discourse. I’m all for starting off all criticism with a positive. But it’s business, not parenting. Time to toughen up.
2. Tell Everyone How Fabulous You Are In business, no one is going to find it charming if you’re self deprecating or play down just how incredibly fabulous you and your business ideas are. Just recently Rebecca and I were asked to put a valuation on our company. We didn’t want to seem too cocky. We low balled it. Wrong!! Cocky is where it’s at, people. Do you have any idea how many 20-something men have nothing but an idea, and value it at $20 million? We have a live site. We have users. We have partnerships. KidzVuz is more than an idea: it exists. And we KNOW it’s gonna be huge. Believe in your blog or business. Talk it up using phrases like “it will be” not “it could be.” If you don’t believe in it, no one else will either.
3. Know Your Stuff – Every day in my new life as an entrepreneur, I learn a little bit more about what I don’t know I don’t know. And that’s not a typo. (And that’s still true – three years in!) There is A LOT to learn. And if you want to be able to carry off #2 (being unabashedly fabulous), you’d better have the goods. What’s your business model. (in other words – how will be make money?) Who’s the competition? Are you offering something people really need or want? How big is the market? What will your portion be? Ask, and then find answers. I had never in my life made a spreadsheet, or done market analysis.
But I have now.
I believe in our idea. But if I want other people to believe in it, too, I need to have the data and research to prove it’s a great as I say. Yes, it’s the unglamorous part of it all – but it’s the nitty gritty real life business stuff that is the difference between an idea and a successful business.
4. Know your Worth -My friend Joel once told me: ask for as much money as you possibly can without choking. Words to live by. That t doesn’t mean to be ridiculous or unreasonable – it means: know what your work it worth and ask for it. If your have a physical product, figure out your costs, multiply by three, and start there. If you’re a blogger, look at your reach. Does it merit big numbers? Then ask for them. Are you not yet there, but working for less might get you there? Ask for less. Or barter. We barter all the time. Knowing your worth doesn’t mean asking for more than you deserve, it just means not short changing yourself.
5. Karma Counts When you are starting a business, people will help you, they will offer advice. Take the help, weight the advice. And then do the same for others – and this is important: even if there’s nothing in it for you. Karma counts. What goes around comes around. Whatever cliche works for you. Introduce people to each other. Share information. There’s a reason they call it the “Small Business COMMUNITY.” Be part of the community – -it will only help you in the end.
6. Don’t Take Any Crap When we first started KidzVuz, we contacted a developer about building our (award winning!) iOS app. On our phone call – a call in which they were trying to get our business – the man doing the bidding was as condescending as they come. “Well, you ladies probably don’t want to get too technical.” he said. Oh really? You mean – because we started a tech company????? When we didn’t award him the job, he wanted to know why. “Because you were kind of an a–hole.’ I told him. Really. I did that. We had a man tell us he was surprised at how good we were at negotiating a contract — since we were moms. He meant it as a complimentI! Don’t let men talk down to you. And don’t let them demean other women in your presence.
I am writing this next bit in all caps because it is the most important thing in this whole post:
STANDING UP FOR YOURSELF AND VOICING YOUR OPINIONS DOESN’T MEAN YOU’RE A BITCH, IT MEANS YOU’RE A CEO.
7. Act Professional – Let’s say you have a personal blog – you write about your family, your ups and downs…your life. You’re still a professional. You still have to believe that your blog is your business (unless it’s really a personal blog, and you don’t want to make a business out of it. that’s fine too!) If you tell a potential sponsor that you can’t make a certain event because you have to pick up your kids, that’s not professional. Tell them you have an appointment. Trust me, they won’t ask you what it’s for.
Want to work with a brand or sponsor? Just telling them what a big fan you are isn’t enough. Figure out what your blog or business can offer them. They don’t want to work with you because you’re nice or funny (or at least not JUST because of that). They are in business to make money. Show them how your business will help them do that. Invited to an event? Don’t be sloppy. Show up, introduce yourself, have business cards. And PLEASE – think before you drink.
8. Get Ready to Work – Here’s the thing: nothing comes easy. If you want your business or blog to grow, you have to make it happen. You have to be on top of it, keep up on what’s happening in your field or in the blogosphere. Make connections, help others. Any time you find yourself thinking, why did so and so get that opportunity and I didn’t, chances are, the answer is, “because they worked harder than you did.” Harsh, maybe, but true. I’m loving growing KidzVuz, but it’s work.
On this blog, I’ve chosen to keep business out of it. I use this space to write about whatever I want…and I no longer worry about my stats or what brands want to work with me. I realized, I didn’t want to do the work that was necessary to have a hugely successful blog. I wanted to expend that energy elsewhere. Decide: what would constitute success for your blog or business? Making money? Being nationally recognized? You’ll have to work for that. Hard. And it still might not happen. That’s just life. But if success means having an outlet for your writing, joining a community of like-minded women, having fun, then the pressure is off. Both definitions of success are valid. But if you choose the second one, and work accordingly, don’t expect to end up on the cover of Vanity Fair. Ain’t gonna happen.
The point of this all is to do what makes sense to you – what you think will make you happy. Don’t let anyone make you feel like your blog has to be “monetized” (I hate that “word.”) Don’t let anyone tell you your small business needs to be big. It only needs to be what you want it to be.
9. Look The Part If you’re a style blogger, you need to be – well, stylish. But if you’re a mom blogger, that doesn’t mean you can show up at a meeting in spit-up-stained sweat pants. But neither should you be in a corporate suit. Look professional – not like you’re in a costume. For me, as the owner of a tech start up, that means I need – not to wear a hoodie, straight-leg jeans, and converse – because for me, that would be a costume. But that I should wear clothing that you wouldn’t find on a full-time-stay-at-home-mom in a suburban shopping mall. Does Mark Zuckerberg get to wear a bathrobe to a meeting where he’s asking for money? Sure. But he’s Mark Zuckerberg, and you’re not. (And I’m not, either!)
10. Believe in Yourself When I wrote above about not being afraid to present yourself as fabulous, I hope you also got that I want you to THINK you’re great. That doesn’t mean you belittle others. It just means that you should genuinely believe you can do it – whatever it is. Will doubt set in? Of course it will. That’s human nature. But don’t think that “because you’re a mom” or “because you’re a blogger” or “because you’ve been out of the work force for a while” you and your idea aren’t valid and viable.
You can do it.