As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, we had a chance to chat with BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone in advance of BlogHer Entrepreneurs, a terrific event designed to give would-be business owners the push (and guidance) they need to get off the ground. Skype has the honor of hosting the event this Thursday and Friday, March 21-22, at the Microsoft Conference Center, 1065 La Avenida in Mountain View, CA.
To kick off two days of mentoring, networking and big ideas, Lisa shared her experiences with starting and growing a business, and answered some of our biggest questions, including what she sees as the top challenges and opportunities for women entrepreneurs today.
Building the No. 1 cross-platform community and publishing company for, by and with women didn’t happen overnight. Lisa and two other co-founders launched BlogHer in 2005, and have since grown the company into the third largest food network and the third largest media company reaching women between the ages of 18 and 35. Their annual event, BlogHer, attracts more than 5,000 people, making it the world’s largest event for women in social media.
It may be hard to believe that Lisa, along with partners Elisa Camahort Page and Jory Des Jardins, bootstrapped the fledgling business, working from home for two years. The three co-founders used Skype to communicate with each other and talk to developers and specialists on the other side of the world as they got their business off the ground.
Before long, the trio saw pent up demand from bloggers and advertisers and knew they needed to scale, so they decided to seek funding. Which leads us to the biggest challenge Lisa sees for women entrepreneurs today.
“You want to walk in the door with a functioning business, not just an idea — It’s really the biggest challenge for any entrepreneur,” she says. “To find personal and financial resources to get to a point where you have an operating business with a revenue stream and proof points. Every business is different. You don’t necessarily have to get funding, but it made a huge difference for us.”
The best advice Lisa received at the time came from Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and Hunch: when it comes to funding, keep the priority of three key factors in mind and in this order: people, terms, and valuation.
“First, you want to find great people who agree with your vision. If you do this, logical terms and a business valuation that makes sense will follow,” Lisa says. “If you put the value first, you may be willing to agree with unreasonable terms and wind up doing a deal with the devil.”
We asked Lisa to name a few people she views as inspirational to women entrepreneurs.
“There are too many to name, but top of mind at the moment are Caterina Fake and Heidi Roizen (who’s speaking at BlogHer), among so many others,” she says. “And, of course, the women in our community who are developing their own businesses teach us more every day than I ever thought possible.”
Not only does Lisa run a thriving business today, she is also a mother of three who believes in offering flexibility to BlogHer’s dispersed staff of more than 60 people, located mostly in the U.S. They stay connected with the help of technology and tools like video chat.
“We wouldn’t have the business we have today without the ability for people to live and work remotely,” she says. “The Internet and tools like Skype have helped break down barriers and create exciting new opportunities – not just for women, but for all entrepreneurs.”
We agree – it’s an exciting time to be in business. Are you heading to BlogHer Entrepreneurs? Tell us in the comments, and we’ll keep an eye out for you.