• Deborah

Starting a Business: Take a Village


Or at least, a gaggle of understanding friends & a weird affinity for stress.

First off, thank you to everyone who submitted their astute (and candid) votes for the Totefish marketing line. For the curious, it was #1. Unanimously. Without (much) reservation. Simple and straightforward wins. Thank you!

Over the last few weeks, many have asked me how my start-up is doing. Being that I’m usually too busy to respond to anyone’s email (and don’t bother calling… you know I don’t answer the phone or check my messages. Who does that, anyway?) That’s the beauty of this blog. It’s like a large distribution email bridging the gaps between work, family & friends. Plus, I occasionally get to rant about things.

TOTEFISH: The Check-In

1.) WHAT’S A BETA: It’s the first test of my adult business life. Not only do I test the concept of Totefish (to see if people really find value in having their stores & coupons in one place), but I test my implementation of it. Do people like how the website is designed? Do they find it easy to use? Will they use it more than once? July 16th. And then, no more “I’m just working on a start-up from my house in the canyon.” It’ll be live. It will be real. And I won’t have any excuses other than failure.

2.) THE #1 STRUGGLE: Having to do everything yourself. As you can see from my marketing survey, not only is there no fat in a start-up, but there’s no real basic infrastructure either. No financial executives. No strategic planning analysts. No social media consultants. No marketing department. No secretary. No free intern. The Founder does it all. Setting up payroll. Mapping out a Social Media Strategy. Creating a Features List. Assigning store categories. Coping receipts for Taxes. Setting up an Excel Spreadsheet. Writing reviews on shoes. Booking a hotel for a Conference. Making a Powerpoint presentation. That’s CEO/Founder time.

My typical day starts at 7 am after the kids leave for school. I run a few blog post experiments on the Totefish Blog site (totefish.wordpress.com), try to decipher what people are looking for on the web, analyze the efficacy of different long-tail tag keywords, and track progress (or regression) of all our web movements. I then phone-meet with our web designer to give notes on yesterday’s “versions”, map out the day’s To Do list, generate whatever content she needs to design around and spend a little bit of time researching SEO and website optimization strategies while deconstructing the sites of both established & up-and-coming companies. Then, I turn my focus to our Affiliate relationships. I apply to new merchant programs, analyze our current merchant affiliate promotions, incorporate key merchants into blog feeds, review 4000+ store websites to verify if a store is really a store and map out our long-term retail strategy. Then, I break for my third cup of coffee, change out of my pjs and head back to the computer for the next round of duties.

3.) THE #2 STRUGGLE: Not enough time to get it all done. Actually, this is also my #1 struggle. There’s so much more I want (and need) to do for Totefish each day than I can fit in 12 hours (I could spend weeks just trying to become a digital media/marketing expert, let alone mastering SEO, website design, blogging, server setups, html, java…) With a start-up, the workload is infinite. I work 7 days a week, eat lunch at my desk (usually a cheese stick rolled up in a piece of white bread) and take a 3 hour “break” in the afternoon. As I tell everyone I work with, I am available (via email) from 4 – 7 pm but I’m not productive. It’s CEO/Mother time. Homework. Dinner. Orthodontist appointments. But just because I’m not in front of my computer doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about business. I return to my computer at 7:30 pm (after the kids go to sleep). My lights usually fade by 10:30 pm. If only I could figure out how to make the hours between 12 – 4 pm loop and repeat itself. Can you imagine how much I’d get done then??

Two of my top priorities

4.) BALANCE: I don’t struggle to balance work and family and life and things. Nope. No struggle here. ‘Cause there is no balance. I’m trying to launch a start-up. It’s grueling. It’s stressful. I work all the time. I also have two children under the age of nine. They’re curious. They’re loveable. And when I talk with them, I (try) to make sure my phone is in my pocket (& not in my hand). Sure, there’s never enough time for the company. And never enough time for my kids. As for my husband? Daily Exercise? A book club? Dinner with friends? Volunteering? PTA breakfasts? Brownies made from scratch? Are you kidding me?! You do the math.

I have only two priorities: My Kids & Totefish. Because without me, neither would rise to their fullest potential.

The rest, as harsh as it sounds, will carry-on fine without me.