We’re honored and amazed when we find out the infinitely diverse ways our customers use Gliffy. It’s easily what gets us most pumped about our jobs. Recently, Gliffy got to play a small walk-on role in Elegant Entrepreneur, a book about her experience of starting a company, written by Danielle Tate. I had a chance to catch up with Danielle to get the backstory of her adventures and learn more about her book.
Danielle, who has a BA in Biology, never thought of starting her own business until she got married and embarked on the “blissful” journey of changing her name. Three separate trips and the need to finally take a full day off to get it done, temporarily put a dent in that married bliss and she thought, “what a waste of time! Why isn’t there a Turbo Tax for name-changing?” Thus, the seed for her business was planted.
Before diving in, Danielle did some research, even calling the DMVs of all 50 states. She got confirmation that indeed, this had the potential to be a high-demand business. Rather than playing it safe, she did the ballsy thing, quit her job and committed 100%. There was no turning back. In retrospect, she says that her commitment was crucial. It made her push past the challenges and keep going because she had no other choice.
After several months of grunt coding and more unglamorous research, Danielle and her small team turned on Google ads and MissNowMrs.com had their first customer within 30 minutes. After one month the company was profitable. Today it has 300,000 customers in 2 countries.
— “What was the biggest mistake you made?” I ask Danielle.
— “I did a bad job of owning my role”, she candidly admits. “I came from a large company and though you had to build up a lot of impressive stats before you could call yourself an entrepreneur. I missed an opportunity to connect with people I wanted to connect with and build a support network. It took a copycat company and a lawsuit for me to really understand that.”
— “What was the number one thing you wish you had done differently?”
— “I wish I had known that entrepreneurship was in my future.” She laughs. “I would have taken business classes and coding and graphic design instead of o-chem!”
— “What do you think has enabled your business to grow?”
— “Each of us tries to come up with at least one good idea a day, big or small, that would improve the business in some way. This forces us to constantly iterate and change and stay ahead of the competition.”
— “What has been the biggest surprise along the way?”
— Danielle laughs. “Millenials don’t have printers!”
— “Yes. I had no idea. We did a trial where we offered to print everything for our customers and send them a package of physical documents. It has become 30% of our business.”
— “Wow. I would have never thought of that! How did you hear about Gliffy?”
— “I heard about it through my CTO, Mike, who knows all things Internet. It helps our communication dramatically. I draw poorly. For someone artistically challenged, Gliffy is a great solution for visual communication.”
— “How do you normally use it?”
— “I use Gliffy to communicate with my graphic designers and CTO. It’s a really concrete way to make sure that what I want to happen happens. It’s much more concrete than writing a vague email.”
Danielle’s read “pretty much every business book known to man”, but could not find exactly what she was looking for, namely a book that spoke to her as an intelligent woman, but with no MBA. Being who she is, she decided to simply write that book herself. The more she looked, the more she noticed that not enough women were starting up and those who were, weren’t scaling up. The goal of Elegant Entrepreneur is to help women determine whether their business idea is viable in 12 steps. And while the book is geared towards women, it has lots of valuable information that is not gender-specific.
The core of Danielle’s philosophy is simple: “Don’t do it if it won’t make you happy”. Elegant Entrepreneur is meant to give an eyes wide open view of every aspect of starting your own company. “If just one woman starts a business from this book it will have been worth it.” And while she doesn’t claim that entrepreneurship is for everyone, Danielle does believe that it can be a “vehicle for true happiness”. Having a business can give women power; power over their work hours, power over their family hours, power over their lives.
In closing, I ask Danielle to tell me her favorite thing about having her own business: “I love that I get to decide my definition of success. For a long time it was becoming a cardiologist. Then I had to scramble. Now it means being a good CEO, a good wife, a good mom, friend and daughter. Achieving it all can be a bit daunting at times, but it never stops feeling great that I get to achieve my own version of success.”
Interesting female founder facts:
• Women entrepreneurs own 36% of all businesses in the US (reported by US SBA) 10% of those women owned business have 1 or more employees
• According to the Babson College Diana Project, women-led venture-backed companies earned 12% more revenue that male-led companies
• Only 2.7% of venture-backed companies from 2011-2013 had female CEOs