In preparation for my radio interview with Ken Rutkowski on Business Rockstars, they sent me a list of questions that Ken Rutkowski might ask on the call. I did my homework and prepared and practiced.. but then we went totally off script! I don’t want them to go to waste so decided to post them here….
So here you go!
What motivated you to take the leap of faith and start your own business?
It was 2003 and my family and I were living in Mexico. My husband is a missionary so we were there starting a new church. As a new mom to a couple of small children I started to look for ways to help my family out. Since we were in Mexico I could not just go out and look for a traditional job so I began to look for ways to earn money virtually. I discovered a little ebook called “How to start a yahoo store”… and I thought.. I could do this!
What steps did you take to know whether or not your business idea was feasible?
Just like any business, it comes down to figuring out supply and demand. I took a look at the demand for the product.. in this case “camping gear”… and found that there was a huge demand. I then took a look at the supply. Now, on the internet, supply does not necessarily mean all of the other companies that are on the internet… but actually who is ranking on the first page of Google. At that time in 2003, all of the major camping suppliers like Coleman, REI, Cabelas were not doing any online marketing so I saw an opportunity there.
How did you finance your business?
Well there are two ways to finance your business. Money… or time. Since I did not have any money, I invested my time! I set up accounts with what are called “dropshippers’ so that I did not have to invest in inventory. The way dropshipping works is that the dropshipping company keeps inventory in their warehouse and after you get an order for one of their products, you tell them, and then they ship it to your customer directly. They put your company name and logo on it so that it appears that you shipped it directly to them. Now this worked out really well in the beginning until we started to get a lot of traffic to our site. When that happened I had to invest in inventory and I took out lines of credit for that.
Was there a time you almost threw in the towel?
There was a time when it felt like every Monday I was ready to quit! What I did instead was figure out what was causing the biggest challenge in my business and then eliminate those challenges one at a time. I am definitely a serial entrepreneur. After running the camping site for about 3 years I began to get a little bored with it. I mean the challenge was no longer there. I joined an online community of other entrepreneurs and began to help answer questions and teach others how they too could grow their business. Some of them began to contact me privately and ask if I could just hire me and my team to do the work for them… and I started my current company which is StartRankingNow.com.
What makes your company unique from competitors?
While most SEOs focus on just increasing traffic, we help improve businesses in 3 main areas:
First we evaluate the existing resources our clients have and figure out where the gaps are so we can step in and fill those gaps. We view ourselves as an extension of the marketing department of our clients.
Second, we also choose to function more as advisors or consultants to our clients. As part of our high-end packages we include monthly consulting calls from me. My clients love this as it gives them a chance to have me personally look at their marketing and give them ideas on how they can even grow their business further.
Third, we focus on optimizing each stage of the marketing strategy to make sure that not only are our clients getting traffic and leads, but also sales as a result of the work we are doing.
How did you stay innovative?
Online marketing is always changing so staying innovative is very challenging. One of the huge benefits of the online community that I was a member of was that they had 4 live conferences a year. They really focused on bringing in the best in the world on specific topics to teach us and help us to grow. Today I still go to a lot of events each year but most of what I learn today is from networking with others and creating strategic partnerships. With everything changing so fast, one person can’t possibly be on top of everything so it is very important to be dialed in to the community so you can really know what is going on.
Did you have a mentor and what did you learn from them?
I have had several people who I would consider to be mentors but two of the people that have helped me the most are my dad and my husband. They have been hugely supportive and have encouraged me to take risks and to trust my instincts.
What advice do you have for those that want to become entrepreneurs?
Just do something! If you have an idea, don’t think about all of the reasons why you can’t do it. Think of all of the ways that you can. If there is a wall, make a door. Surround yourself with an A team of advisors that will encourage you and support you. .