All it took was an offhand comment made by a dismissive university lecturer to inspire Abby Larson to launch Style Me Pretty, which began as a blog for style-obsessed brides back in February 2007.
Since then, Style Me Pretty has become a mainstay in the wedding industry, attracting 18 million monthly page views and approximately 1.5 million monthly visitors.
Style Me Pretty, which employs 12 full-time staff, is based in Boston in the US, but has an international focus, with distinct offerings for the Australian and Canadian markets.
In addition to earning a name for herself as a pioneer of the online bridal industry, as founder and editor of Style Me Pretty, Larson is also a full-time mum.
She spoke to StartupSmart about the lessons she’d pass on to Australian entrepreneurs:
Prove the naysayers wrong
After I began Style Me Pretty (SMP) back in 2007, as a way to stay connected and on pace with the wedding industry that I was a part of, I attended a blogging workshop at Stanford University.
My husband was getting his Masters in computer science there and I was able to take some of the continuing education courses as well.
The teacher of the course said something that would change the course of my life, and of my career. He said – and I paraphrase – that people don’t make money off blogging.
And in that statement, he challenged me to transform something that I considered fun into something that I did for business.
Start up on the cheap
SMP cost a whopping $9.99 to start. An account with Typepad was all it took to get SMP off the ground.
Having been an entrepreneur before, I knew just how valuable every last penny would be to my business so I didn’t spend. At all.
My first employee, who is still with me today and is considered SMP family, was hired on straight commission.
I worked out of my home on an old computer and I did all of the very scrappy coding by myself, self-taught.
Blog little and often
There weren’t any major wedding blogs in the space at the time so I was offering something unique. That made it much easier for me to get online coverage, links and press mentions.
I blogged continuously and consistently, every day, often up to 10 times per day. Readers knew that if they clicked on SMP, they would find something new and something beautiful to read.
That meant they not only came back for more, they told their friends, who told their friends.
Outsource from the beginning
I intentionally built a business that allows me to place extreme value on my time and my family. The most important part of this process is outsourcing.
I have a full-time nanny who helps me with either the kids or the house so that my focus can always be on work or on my two babies.
From a work perspective, we have an admin who preps every article that goes up on SMP and one who tags every image.
We automate whatever we possibly can, from our submissions process to our billing and record keeping, and we are always looking for ways to streamline and automate.