Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Investing in Me

Dear Readers,

A couple of days ago, a Follower of mine on Twitter asked me if I qualified to be nominated for the Tech Crunch Crunchies for Best-Bootstrapped Startup: For a company that has raised less than $100,000 cumulatively from individuals, angels or others. Well I certainly qualify.

Last week, someone approached me at a networking event and said that he knew about SavvyAuntie.com - and that he had heard that the founder (me) had used some inheritance money to fund SavvyAuntie.com. I had never heard my business narrative put quite that way, but yes. That qualifies.

I'm a bootstrapper - an entrepreneur who believes in her idea so much that she's willing to invest her time and her life savings to make it happen. And I have.

But now it's time to expand. I need people. People means space. Space means hardware and software. Etc etc...

And yes, there's revenue, but it's far from what I've invested in the company, and far from enough to hire anyone to help me.

So I'm in the process of finding investors.

Fund-raising and writing plans is not my specialty nor within my comfort zone. I didn't start a business because I have a passion for spreadsheets and plans. I started it because I saw a huge opportunity to fill a market gap. Sure - I have a plan. And a clear vision for how to get there. But every day - no joke - every day I learn something new that can really change the paradigm. Plans work really well to sell widgets. But online media is such a moving target, it's hard to keep up - let alone plan around it. For example, I had no idea even 6 months ago what an effect Twitter would have on the success of my company.

Thankfully, I have a number of friends and angel investors who are interested in investing in SavvyAuntie.com Inc. They understand that the potential for this company is huge - and is much larger than the website alone. Plus - the fact that within the first couple of months after launch I was already getting revenue is really impressive - even to me.

But in order to get the funding - you have to give something back in return - a piece of the company I built with some funds my late mother left me 20 years ago when she passed away, and the sweat equity of 1 1/2 years of working every possible minute of every possible day on this site.

And in order to know what is fair to offer in return for an investment, you need to know how much the company is worth today - and how much it might be worth in a few years. That's called a 'valuation.'

And today - the market is rough. Heck, Citi Bank is selling for about $4 a share. And at the same time, Arianna Huffington raised another $15-$20 million for Huffingtonpost.com. So where does my optimistic little company play in all that?

Some say that investor money will be around in February. Others say it will be a much longer wait. Some are ready to invest today.

I have to admit that this part of the process has been the most challenging to-date. There are models and financial plans and a number of things that help an investor decide on his investment. (I say 'his' because so far only men have been interested in investing.)

And there's heart and soul and talent and passion that has to be offered in return.

And no one can really give me a sense of what is really fair to everyone.

And I'm speaking with people who really know about these things - and they say it's really hard to know. Based on his generous valuation, one says not to give much away at all. Another says that one day it will be worth a heck of a lot, but today it's worth much less and to give away a huge chunk in return for cash. Some say the only way to do it is to be one of twenty to present in front of a panel of angel investors, with only two being chosen. Nothing like feeling like a circus monkey. Sorry - too busy running a company to prepare for that kind of humiliation, in my honest opinion. But for some- that's the way it works.

The good news is that I am learning a lot. And I haven't yet made any mistakes.

But I'm skating on thin ice. Good thing it's getting colder out there. Hopefully when I finally do make the decisions they will be solid - for now and for the longer term.

There's a lot I'm planning for this company of mine. And every day that passes is one day closer to fulfilling those dreams.

All this time, I've been investing in me. Now, it's someone else's turn.

Have ideas and thoughts on what I should do? Have you been in this same spot yourself? Please comment here. Or email me at melanie@savvyauntie.com.

Auntie Melanie

PS - I am looking for un-paid interns. Best if in NYC, but there are remote opportunities as well. You'll learn a lot. It's really unavoidable.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This Show is A 10!

Dear Readers,

Earlier this week, I appeared on The 10! Show - the morning show at 11AM in Philadelphia and Delaware on NBC. It was my second time on the show and knowing what to expect really helped! What I didn't expect was for my segment to get cut from 4.5 minutes to 3 minutes as I was told just as the cameras were set to go.... and other than flubbing the Alex Jr. Round About Farm product name, I held it together.

Thanks to all the manufacturers for their efforts - as well as their internal and external PR teams.

Oh - and get ready because I'm going back on The 10! Show on December 8th with my top picks for gifts for nieces and nephews under $20!

Here's the TV spot! Enjoy!

Auntie Melanie

PS - PLEASE nominate SavvyAuntie.com in the Mashable.com Open Web Awards by November 16th! We're hoping to get nominated in the "Niche and Misc Social Networks" category (the last one on the list). Here's the link! Thanks! http://mashable.com/2008/11/05/open-web-awards-2/

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Dear Readers,

Last night I attended a wonderful entrepreneur panel hosted by Collective-E. I've blogged a little bit about how Ladies Who Launch was one of the ways that I connected with other women entrepreneurs when I first thought of the idea for SavvyAuntie.com. Well Beth Schoenfeldt, co-founder of that company (and frankly my most favorite half), recently launched Collective-E - a collective of women entrepreneurs, along with my other friends, Katie Helmuth and Sabina Ptacin. And last night was one of their first events - and boy did it draw a crowd! I am so proud of these amazing women. SO proud!!

Now to be honest, I wasn't planning on attending. The panel of successful women entrepreneurs were moms - and the businesses they were discussing: Kidville, Skip*Hop, Patem Pads and Big City Moms, were all very mom-focused. Not being a mom, it wasn't as interesting to me as I would have preferred, but Beth is a good friend and told me I would meet great people if I attended - and I did. Beth is always right about these things and I thank her for persuading me.

But the panel was still very mom focused. There was lots of talk about how the women on the panel were stay-at-home moms looking for something to do and ended up with a very (very!) successful business. Or they were working moms that found a mommy product/service need-gap and wanted to fill it - and have! Each panel member explained how she had to balance being a mom and an entrepreneur - which I am confident is no easy task.

The other thing that these moms had in common was that they are married. One told of how she went to her husband for funding to seed the project (he was still working while she was home with the kids). Another mentioned that her husband was between jobs and starting this company together was the perfect opportunity for him. I've actually met her husband - a couple of months before I launched SavvyAuntie.com I interviewed with him for a marketing job at Skip*Hop. He's an incredibly successful serial entrepreneur, so I am sure he was welcome support and is a valuable partner. In fact, had it not been for the fact that the company's main products are diaper bags, for which I have little passion, I would have loved to work with him.

So here we had five incredible women entrepreneurs (Big City Moms is a sister team) who started their own companies, with children. But they also have husbands that support and contribute to their success. And I wonder: How many of these mompreneurs would have started these businesses without the (emotional, financial and skill) support of being married to their husbands?

I have often said that mompreneurs start businesses because they have children and auntrepreneurs start businesses because we don't. Still, even I delayed becoming an entrepreneur for years because I was hoping to have the support of marriage - which I still do not have - before I did. But in my late 30's - I realized it was time to take control of my destiny and start a company of my dreams anyway.

The good news is that I've never dated more. I guess happy people are attractive. The bad news is that I don't have the support
(emotional, financial and skill) that comes with marriage. And boy could I use a hand (to hold).

So there's no one to hug when a great thing comes about. Or when I am stressed. There's no one to bounce ideas off of. Or learn from. Or get help from. Or share experiences with. Or to be proud of me.

The mom entrepreneurs at the Collective-E event last night joked that finding ways to work with one's husband is a panel discussion all in of itself. And I don't believe having a spouse as a partner is always easy. I am sure it comes with its own set of issues.

But having a partner
to share life with makes having success that much more fruitful. I heard repeated again and again last night: "My husband and I...." "So I said to my husband..." "Our biggest mistake was that my husband and I thought..." Just having the luxury of sharing the entrepreneurial experience with a partner is something I am envious of.

At first, I wondered if these women would have started their businesses if there were single?

And then I wondered... would I have ever started my company if I had actually been married? Would I have been satisfied in just finding my love? Would I have needed to manifest this destiny if I were a wife?

And I wondered if my company would be more successful if I did have the support of a husband. What would he contribute? How would he be my other half?

But then I realized that the truth was, I never needed a Collective-Me. I just needed Me. And while I am working my tail off and have risked my life's savings on starting a business on my own, I have all the support
(emotional, financial and skill) I need. I know that because I've done it. And am doing it. I seem to be all I *needed.

Which isn't everything I've always wanted.

But it's enough for now.

Auntie Melanie

PS - Please use the comments section to tell me if marriage or non-marriage is a help or hindrance to your entrepreneurial ventures and aspirations. Men - this is for you too!

Please vote for SavvyAuntie.com in the Niche and Misc. Social Media category in the Mashable Open Web Awards! http://mashable.com/2008/11/05/open-web-awards-2/ Thanks!

*Notwithstanding all the friends, acquaintances and business colleagues who have and continue to support me. Thank you!)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Giving Thanks.

Dear Readers,

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak to a wonderful group of women at the Jewish Professional Women Initiative (JPWI) of The Associated in Baltimore, MD.

First, let me say that it was truly an honor to help this group kick off this new semester of their program. They treated me so warmly and it was truly a memorable experience.

I was asked to tell the 65 women in the audience about how I started my business, and show them how they might be inspired to move forward with their careers and entrepreneurial ventures. In preparing for my talk, I looked to this blog and compiled a short list of ideas to motivate women - or frankly anyone - to get to the next level:

1. Keep a gratitude book. Remembering all the people who have helped us every day to move forward to our next day, makes us want to continue!

2. Have lunch with someone new, even if they're not a direct business contact. You never know what might come of out it.

3. Get business cards. If you don't know the name of your new business, at least include the type of company it is with your contact information. And if you're looking for a new job or career, design one that suits the job you want (not the job you have!)

4. Talk to people who inspire you – don’t talk to people who don’t. It's the simple truth. Sometimes the people who love us most don't want us to fail, so they don't want us to take risks. They'll mention every reason they think we'll fail so that we won't take a chance on our dreams. Even their silences can silence our inspiration.

5. Ask for help. Women often don't ask for help because they don't believe they are worthy of it. You are. If you speak to someone with confidence and excitement for your idea, the person offering to help will not only give you advice, but will probably thank YOU for the inspiration. You're infectious! Remember that!

I also told the group about how our dreams tend to whisper so that no one else can hear them but us.... so to listen carefully. And reminded them, as I have said many times before, if you don't know what your dream is yet, wait for it. It's coming.

Speaking at the JPWI was a small way for me to give back to all the people who have helped me along the way. I think Giving Back is important, in whatever way you can do it. Karma rules, in my book.

Here's a list of Children's Charities We Love as part of the Savvy Auntie: Give. Thanks. campaign I am launching on Monday. Many of the charities came from Savvy Aunties who contributed their favorites. Others came from my friends on Twitter. All came from the heart. I hope they inspire you to give back this season.

Auntie Melanie