Starting an online business is a great business opportunity for work-at-home moms.
Patricia Garza discusses how she started her online business, and she offers some great advice for new entrepreneurs who are considering venturing into the world of online publishing.
Patricia, let's start with the basics. Where is your business located and what are you doing?
My business is online and home based. I live in the Tucson, Arizona area.
There are many aspects to what I am doing now. I am an online entrepreneur, freelance editor/writer, talk show host, and founder of several sites for moms and parents, including a marketer for each of these sites.
I am responsible for all the content production, show production and scheduling of guests, site maintenance, newsletter/blog updates and advertising sales on each site.
My Littlebytesnews Network consists of a parenting resource site: http://littlebytesnews.com, a moms social network community and podcast at http://mamastimeout.com, a family friendly party supply and gift site at http://giftspartysuppliesandmore.com and an advertising directory at http://wahbusinessdirectory.com.
I also run my own blog at http://littlebytesnews.blogspot.com.
Wow. Sounds like you are very busy! When did you start the business?
In 2005, I founded and started my parenting resource site and blog. Then in 2006, I started offering party supplies and gifts via my party supply site and collaborating with several affiliates. Then in 2007 I purchased an advertising directory, which I am still working to market online. In late 2007, I started my podcast/talk show for moms and opened the related social network in early January 2008.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I started working online in the late 1990's as an independent web site maintenance and site designer for a couple small businesses.
I then worked as a certified elementary teacher, computer lab instructor and foster care licensing specialist and recruiter, then as a teacher again up until 2004. In 2004, I quit teaching to become a stay at home mom.
Where did you get the startup money?
I have been funding all my sites and marketing at this time, which has limited my growth and ability to expand and outsource some of the work involved.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
I have a large amount of competitors in the work at home mom industry as well as the corporate industry, from cafemom.com to a variety of other large parenting sites. They offer similar services, but they do not all offer the complete package of resources, including the talk show, social network, party supply and gift sites and an advertising directory.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
The experience isn't too much different then what I expected, but it has taken longer to develop an online presence then I expected.
Building the sites did not mean I would immediately get site visitors, who would turn into customers, members or advertisers. I have been learning as much as I can about online marketing, article marketing, social networking and social media over the past few years.
While this has helped me quite a bit in connecting with others online and learning from others who work online, I am still limited by the amount of time, money and resources I can use to promote my sites.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I had more money to invest in developing my sites, marketing my sites and outsourcing my workload, but other than that, I would not change anything I have done.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Newsletter/blog marketing and social media, podcasting, micro-blogging via Twitter.com have been helpful in connecting me with more potential members, customers and resources.
I have just begun doing these things the past few months, with the exception of my blog/newsletter. However, I did not maintain my newsletter/blog as effectively and regularly as I could have. I also took about a year off from keeping everything up to date and promoting, during the last year while I was pregnant and during my maternity leave.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
I would advise them to be patient and dedicated…to find something they are passionate about doing so that the slow times don't get them down.
Always be willing to learn new ways to market yourself and to do your best to connect with others who market online to learn what works for them. I would also recommend starting with a blog, developing a relationship with the readers and then work towards marketing and sales.
That's great advice for new entrepreneurs. Online publishing is a great business, but it takes time to get critical mass and get the revenue streams flowing. OK, Patricia, thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, and good luck in growing your business.