BlogHer Entrepreneur Success Stories: Turning Inspiration Into Action


Deldelp Medina MyPio App
Elke Govertsen, Mamalode
Esther Crawford, Blankket
Michelle Magoffin, Sprawl3
Molly Bradford, GatherBoard & Missoula Events

Elisa Camahort Page introduces former attendees sharing how they put what they learned at previous conferences into action.

Deldelp: Asked why am I freaking out about email from Elisa about the panel. Since last year doing and failing and doing. Last year laid off right before BlogHer Entrepreneurs. Came with an idea and a concept with no idea how to execute. MyPio helps parents have a better relationship with childcare providers. App also serves as an affordable SAAS for childcare workers.

Lesson 1: - go deeper not wider. Was thinking about going to a different conference but realized relationships and relationship building are key.

BlogHer Entrepreneurs creates a peer group. Other conferences few women attendees.

Lesson 2: ideas are worthless - what matters is you. You always have your education, abilities and you. You can create relationships.

Lesson 3: Failure is necessary. Failure makes you stronger. Lots of panelists said this last year. Ability to keep going after failure is important to your success.

We are at critical juncture in this country with issues politically, socially, culturally, etc... and we can meet those needs with what we are creating.

Elke: Stumbled onto BlogHer Entrepreneurs in 2011 from Montana. (Note: 58 million people live in rural America; don't miss out on this market by focusing only on cities.) Work on handling good news not just bad news. The size of BlogHer Entrepreneurs is phenomenal to developing real relationships. I have stayed in touch with Lisa Stone and Pattie Sellers (mentors from last year). Go beyond just getting a business card and sending a thank you note. In 2012 I approached Brad Feld even though we weren't looking for VC. Saw he has a spoof video on his site so thought if I ever did approach him I would make a response spoof video. I had the idea so had to do it. Have stayed in touch and now he follows my schedule and introduces me to people. BlogHer Entrepreneurs is now my go-to event. Each year my business evolves into a different space and I have a whole new set of questions. Came here initially with a local business model, now evolving into a national business model.

Esther: Blankket is a safe place to organize and connect your family. In alpha so come sign up to try out. Last two years have been a winding road. Two years ago came with a prototype of a different product (mobile app) and different partners. Showed prototype to several people in Silicon Valley. Didn't think of myself as an entrepreneur. No idea that 7 months later I'd be negotiating a $1.5 million term sheet because I didn't know what that was. Set a goal to launch at the BlogHer annual conference. I was nervous to ask to partner but if you never ask you'll never do this. PR firm said it was best launch he'd ever seen. Had hockey stick growth. Got to 200K users. Met with dream investors. Got an offer but it required moving and partners couldn't do it. So despite all the hard work it wasn't meant to be and it didn't work. Then remembered Entrepreneurs conference and stories of failures from panelists. Another thing that came out of the conference was the passion to move to Silicon Valley. The passion, drive and examples of other women in an entrepreneurial community to be a part of. 10 months ago moved here with another idea and have built a new team. Hired two developers and are a month from launching. Biggest lesson is don't be afraid to be fearless. You will fall on your face but other women there to help pick you up.

Michelle: Sprawl3 develops White label mobile apps. Before BlogHer Entrepreneurs, I wanted to be an intrapreneur not an entrepreneur. Got a boost of confidence when my very accomplished mentor was impressed by me. I went back to my job with a specific plan of action. I still didn't plan to be an entrepreneur but very inspired by everyone with big ideas at the conference. Came back the next year with a different plan to move from in-house Social Media Director to working for a big agency. At the 2012 conference watched Lisa Stone and Brad Feld discuss his book. The plain discussion made something click - saying I'm not an entrepreneur was a big lie born out of fear. Moved from no I do not want to be an entrepreneur to maybe. Two months later met a friend with an idea and I said yes and we built a business. A week later we were executing on the idea. A month after that I quit my day job. I realized I am an entrepreneur. Once I realized that about myself I couldn't not be one. I gained confidence in my ability to execute on my ideas.

Molly: GatherBoard creates customizable and monetizable events software service for communities of like-interest. Learned about BlogHer Entrepreneurs from Elke Govertsen. Lessons learned crystalized when in preparing for this panel and I had to review the past year. Worth doing even if this is your first conference - pretend you are on this panel. Currently GatherBoard doesn't exist other than a splash page with the idea. I was asked if I sold a type of software and I said yes (even though I didn't yet know what software was). Then I came to this conference. I developed and deepened existing relationships. A side note of inspiration - don't stop your personal goals - seeing Jory on stage last year growing her family inspired this insight.

Realized we needed a sales rep so I could focus on business development. Team decided to hire me full-time to do sales. And have grown sales 110% over last year. We've bootstrapped - my house just came off the loan as collateral. My mentors the past two years have changed things for me. We realized that I was the greatest company asset to making money. Selling off things that are of less value. Through connections made at BH Ent and nurtured I was able to connect with CEO of Yelp.

Even panels talking about funding talk about broader issues of taking your business forward. So even though I continue to want to bootstrap those panels are highly relevant.

Questions from the audience:

Can you share what keeps you inspired?

Elke: Important to know when you are not feeling inspired and remove yourself from a situation. Obstacles often lead you to better solutions. Bootstrapping leads me to be more creative.

Molly: I made a commitment to have a date with my dogs at 9am. Others are invited. I have calls with people around the country and local friends come walk with me and closed deals. To be outside in fresh air is inspiring.

Michelle: Inspiration for me comes when I'm alone and silent. I need 24 hours of quiet time across a week at least. Innovation happens during in-person collaboration.

Deldelp: Inspiration is not a problem but execution is. I have to take a step back and create something. Even if it's curtains or a card that is important to ground me.

Esther: When I get stuck I read tech blogs for inspiration to see people executing and creating. Thoughts on strategic thinking? How do you develop short and long term plans?

Deldelp: Constantly evaluating because technology is constantly evolving. Others aren't stopping their process so you can't. Need to be flexible. I go on 30 day cycles. Even though I wanted to have a product launched by a certain date, I realized that I needed to step back and work on customer development first.

Elke: It's like an accordion and have to go back and forth between short and long term views. For strategic planning we do a lot of talking to our advisers because relationships are my strength. We ask a lot of questions and then narrow down. Don't work your ass of to create a life you don't want - that's an important part of strategic planning.

Molly: A small fund approached us and said we heard you might need some money. We met and were challenged to think about where we want to be in five years, what you'll need to pay employees, what gross profits will need to be and work backwards from there to develop plan.

What are your personal strategies to create a balanced life without burning out as an entrepreneur?

Michelle: I am effectively running two businesses and have two kids. My last company was a ROWE company so was used to working from home and working throughout the day and focused on what I am working on in the moment. Have a to-do list of 5 key things to accomplish but day is fluid. I work out of my purse and have technology with me so I can get work things. But also I don't sleep enough.

Elisa - sharing wisdom from top Coca-Cola executive. 1. Focus on what you are working on in that moment. 2. Don't frame it as unfortunate that you have to make choices (e.g. work vs. kids event) - have many things you love and are doing one today and will do the other another time.

Elke: I take time to go to Alaska every year. But day-to-day don't focus on taking time off.

Deldelp: One of my greatest fears was when am I going to take time off to do things. But now my days just flow. I find it easy to go between multiple projects now in a way it wasn't before.

Esther: I make my business a family business. Incorporate the kids so they feel a part of it. As a family it feels like we are all working towards something.