Heather Lopez founded HappyandHealthyMom.com from her home in Davie, Florida in 2009.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Happy and Healthy Mom.Com is an e-zine, social network, and pamper events, focused on the woman behind the baby.
How did you come up with your business idea?
Having just gone through two pregnancies, I realized that most magazines, websites, e-zines, newsletters, online communities, etc. directed at me had a primary focus on the baby. Articles for us were relegated to five pages in a magazine or one tab on a website, and I saw a great need to make something focused just on the woman. Women naturally neglect themselves to care for their children. I try to help empower them to focus on caring for themselves so that they can take better care of others. Plus, I help small businesses advertise their products for pregnant women and new moms without having to compete with big money baby and kid product companies.
When did you start the business?
I started it in August 2009 in my son's hospital room, as both of my children were hospitalized due to illness contracted in daycare. I knew I needed to work from home. My site launched on October 11, 2009.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was an Executive Director of a nonprofit and a Program Coordinator for afterschool and prevention programs.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Yes, I do have a home business.
The Challenges: You have to make sure it is legal. I have to balance having my kids around me while trying to work. My husband thinks that because I am home, I should be doing housework, taking care of the kids, and running my business simultaneously. Sometimes finding space for everything can be tough.
The Benefits: I don't need to commute or have daycare, so I save time and money. I can write-off a portion of my rent, internet, and cell phone used for business purposes. I get to be home with my kids. I can make my own schedule. I can work in my pajamas.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
I am a young woman entrepreneur, as well as a mompreneur. I actually do a mompreneur blog that offers tips on balancing business and babies. As part of this, I have been conducting interviews with experienced mompreneurs to gain insight into what works and doesn't work when starting your business.
What seems to be generally agreed upon is that you need to plan out your business before jumping into it. You need to decide on who your customer/ target audience is going to be. You need to research your competition. You need to have some kind of capital to start your business. It doesn't necessarily need to be all monetary; it can be social capital too!
Ultimately, I would say. "Go For It!" Women today are so empowered and are starting to push to become equal to their male counterparts in the business world, as well as even the political one too! Owning your own business empowers you to take your life into your own hands and make it what you can. Women used to be stereotyped as being too emotional to handle the pressures of running a business themselves, but we are starting to break through those barriers and prove that women are just as capable of running a business as a man. In fact, many women have been secretly responsible for making many man-owned companies successful.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Use every free and low cost resource possible to market your business. There are a ton of free directories and there are barter sites where you can barter one type of work for another.
Take free consultations that many people offer to promote their own businesses. You can end up getting a lot of free business advice.
Invest in doing SEO for your website, but really you should invest in learning how to do it yourself.
Get on MerchantCircle, as this is a whole community for small business owners. You can work out strategic alliances to share leads, post blogs, offer specials, and your profiles show up on search engine. They have a free membership option.
Go to Yahoo Answers. Spend time answering questions that fall within your realm of expertise. You can site your own website as a source and it will show up in search engines. Many times, if you answer clearly and concisely, with a well thought out answer, you will get chosen as a top answer. People can be very grateful and repay you by sending others your way. Plus, when you gain points, you can ask questions that you might otherwise have to pay someone to get those answers.
I use Vistaprint for my business printing. I have gained a ton of professional materials and they are always offering free or low cost items that I would otherwise have to pay a fortune to print elsewhere. They have a lot of options now too!
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
I have heard a lot about the 80/20 rule, where you spend 80% of your time socially networking on a personal level and 20% promoting your business. I have found that I was doing that anyway, even before I heard about this rule, and it works. I did not have a lot of monetary capital to start my business. In fact, I spent less than $500 to start it up. I was able to gain social capital, which is the value of the relationships that you build with others that will lead to generation of monetary capital.
I did this by joining over 30 social networks, especially with moms. Moms stick together, so if you are a mom business owner, you have a bit of an advantage because you have a ton of supportive women that can help you get off the ground. I also use Twitter and Facebook quite heavily, but again you can not be robotic and just promote your business. You have to spend time developing relationships, interactions, and conversations with people. It was because of this that I was just selected by The Work at Home Woman as one of the top 20 women to follow on Twitter.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Make sure you know your target audience and do a lot of research into what features you need to offer to gain attention. A good friend of mine told me to remember the 3 C rules of a successful website, which are: Content, Community, and Commerce. My E-zine is my Content. My social network is my Community. My Events and Marketplace are my Commerce.
Thank you Heather for your time and valuable advice!