Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
I created a publishing company called Safety Star Media that seeks to provide materials that empower the safety star in all children. Through this publishing company, I wrote and released My Body Belongs to Me, a children's book intended to prevent child sexual abuse by teaching children their bodies are private.
When did you start the business?
I started the business in early 2009 and the first book My Body Belongs to Me was released for national distribution in September 2009.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I am a full time prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City. Prior to Safety Star Media, I launched HowsMyNanny.com which emanated from the desire to keep children safe when in the care of others. HowsMyNanny.com is a service run by a New York City prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes who is also a mother of two -- me. Through this site, parents can now purchase a license plate for their stroller that enables the public to report good or bad nanny observations. Registered parents instantaneously receive an email alerting them to the confidential report.
Featured on Good Morning America, Fox News National and endorsed in New York's Daily News, HowsMyNanny.com has been hailed as "an honest solution to a tough problem."
How did you come up with your business idea?
As a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City for more than a decade, I often encountered children who were sexually abused for lengthy periods of time and suffered in silence. One case in particular had a profound impact on me and compelled me to start a publishing company and write a book.
I prosecuted the case of a 9-year-old girl who had been raped by her stepfather since she was 6. She told no one. One day, the girl saw an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" about children who were physically abused. The episode, "Tortured Children," empowered the girl with this simple message: If you are being abused, tell your parents. If you can't tell your parents, go to school and tell your teacher. The girl got the message and the very next day went to school and told her teacher. I prosecuted the case for the District Attorney's office. The defendant was convicted and is now serving a lengthy prison sentence.
I thought often of that very sweet, very brave 9-year-old girl. It occurred to me that after three painful years, all it took to end her nightmare was a TV program encouraging her to "tell a teacher."
I wrote My Body Belongs to Me to continue that message. It endeavors to teach children that they don't have to endure abuse in silence. Parents and educators should use it as a tool to facilitate an open dialogue with youngsters. It is my hope that by educating girls and boys about this taboo subject, My Body Belongs to Me will prevent them from becoming victims in the first place.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
Initially, I planned to have the book published through a large publisher. I created a book proposal to submit to publishers for their consideration. The proposal format contained detailed plans for marketing and promotion. When I ultimately decided to publish the book myself, the book proposal I created provided a clear roadmap for me. I was able to follow the outline I created and it ultimately proved to be quite an effective tool.
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? My advice for young women is to utilize the women around you. In the past year, I have learned the value of networking and how it is a tremendous asset. If you are a little shy about it, start within your circle of women in your own community. I find that women who have travelled down a certain road are even more willing to aid others following the same path.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Utilize all the free marketing the internet has to offer. You do not need a budget to market your product or service if you research the free tools that are available for you.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I was able to find a distributor for My Body Belongs to Me. IPG (Independent Publisher's Group) distributes the book to bookstores and libraries nationwide. Not only do they help on the marketing side as their sales people pitch the book, they handle a mountain of paperwork and invoices that I haven't the patience for.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Make certain you have a passion for what you are doing. If you do, the sky is the limit.
Jill, your passion is obvious. Thank you so much for speaking with me today.