Melissa Johns and Stacy Jacobs founded Queerly Wed in 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Queerly Wed is an online resource directory of queer friendly businesses for couples planning their wedding.
How did you come up with your business idea?
Stacy and I are actually engaged and in the process of planning our own wedding. We, like most queer couples, benefit from knowing ahead of time which businesses will work with us and treat us with respect.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was working in social services and Stacy was in marketing. This is our first business.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
We did write a business plan and found it to be a very good idea. Above all, for our purposes, it outlined our individual job descriptions so that there was no gray area and assured that all our bases were covered.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
We consulted with two lawyers. Luckily, we have a friend who is a lawyer who volunteered to look over our forms and assist us with our legal questions. We will be employing an accountant. I would definitely suggest at least consulting with a lawyer and accountant. Owning a small business is a whole other ball game and it's good to have someone help you get through it.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Currently, we do operate from our home. The main challenges I face are the distractions (the cat needs attention, ohh – what's on tv?) The benefits are that the commute is great, there are no office politics and there are no loud co-workers to distract me.
Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?
I do have a partner. She is my business partner and "partner in life." Since we came up with this idea together, the selection process was done for me. We have complementing strengths. She has internet experience along with marketing skills. I have some sales experience and a mind for details (I keep the books!).
The benefit to working with my partner are that we are very compatible when it comes to running a business. The drawback is that it's hard to set a boundary for when we talk about the business and when we absolutely do not. It's good to set up times to talk about the business and when we won't so that we can just be a couple and have fun together.
Have you hired additional staff? What is your greatest human resources challenge?
We have hired salespeople. The biggest challenge we have faced in that regard is that we have no capital yet to set a base-pay. Very few people can work "commission only" jobs.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?I would say that there are a lot of free or low cost marketing opportunities out there. Do some research and don't discount the opportunity to just mention your name on forums. That can go a long way. Get involved with social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
We employed a web programmer through an online site. We got to "interview" her via Skype and she turned out to help us a great deal.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
We are very active on Facebook and Twitter. We have sponsored some events, sent out some mailings and mention our business everywhere we go. We are active on Meetup.com as well.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
Things are going slower than I thought. I think that's normal, but I was a bit idealistic thinking we'd get rich quick! It's a lot more work than I expected as well. However, I really enjoy it!
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I'm not sure we should have done anything differently. Owning a business is a learning experience, so mistakes along the way are necessary in order to learn and grow.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Be sure to do your research homework! Check out the competition to make your brand unique. Also, try to invest in a web designer.
Thank you, Melissa! I'm sure you and Stacy will make your business a success.