Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Helping Sporty Women Live a Sporty Life

My husband and I have always had the entrepreneur bug, we just never had an idea that really “clicked” on all cylinders. We’ve had great ideas that we weren’t all that passionate about, terrible ideas that we were passionate about, ideas that we loved but had no idea how to pursue and ideas we loved and could pursue, but had no way to finance.

It wasn’t until we came up with the idea for GirlsGoneSporty that we said, “Aha! Finally, an idea we love, that other people will love and that we feel confident we can pursue, all on a shoestring budget.” So, eight years after our wedding and five years after our first foray into entrepreneurship, our business was born.

Helping Sporty Women Live a Sporty LifeWhat is GirlsGoneSporty and when did it start?

GirlsGoneSporty (http://www.girlsgonesporty.com) is a website designed to help the sporty woman live the sporty life. It’s a magazine-like website that provides information on fitness, fashion, nutrition, beauty and lifestyle from the perspective of the sporty woman.

What we realized is that there are lots of websites and magazines geared to sports and fitness. The most popular, like Shape, Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine focus on total health, fitness and wellness. The other style of popular website and magazine tends to focus on a particular sport or activity. You’ve seen the titles: Running, Bodybuilding, Cycling, Outdoor, Yoga, etc. Very few magazines focus on a particular type of woman, so that’s where we decided to focus our attention.

I’ve always been a sporty woman – I like staying active, fit and healthy, I like trying new things, I like being competitive. But, I’m not likely to focus all my efforts into a specific sport or activity. For this reason, I felt like there was a gap in women’s health and wellness websites. I’ve always felt that most of the information offered in mainstream women’s magazines is too general. On the other hand, most of the information in sport- or activity-specific magazines is too specific.

GirlsGoneSporty aims to provide information that’s a “step up” from mainstream women’s health magazines. It’s a little more specific, a little more in depth and provides more in the way of gear reviews, expert interviews and tips for enhancing the sporty life. But, it doesn’t limit itself to a specific sport or activity.

Because I have a master’s degree in exercise and sport science, readers can also feel good about the focus on science-based information. I personally read and review everything that goes on the site, and I won’t publish something that I can’t scientifically stand behind.

We’re really pleased with where it’s going and the reception it’s already received. Technically we “launched” on November 30, 2011, so we’ve only been live roughly six weeks, but we’re feeling good about its growth and potential.

What experience led you to start your website?

Both my husband and I have a passion for health and fitness. My husband is a former All-American college baseball player and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science. I have a master’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science with a number of certifications in the field and eight years of fitness management experience. The “sporty life” is in our blood.

My husband has been designing websites for a number of years and I left fitness management two years ago to pursue freelance writing. We both looked at each other one day and said, “We want to do this our way.” We wanted more control over the information we were putting out in the world and the voice/style we were providing to the audience. So, the concept of GirlsGoneSporty was born. The website essentially takes everything we believe in and packages it up in a way that we hope will speak to sporty women!

How was it financed?

It’s completely self-financed on a very shoestring budget! My husband has done all the web design/development and I’ve done a majority of the writing. We’ve also been networking like crazy and have been blessed to find a number of contributors who have been willing to provide columns or the occasional guest post for free. We strive to be the kind of people that are easy to work with, and we hope someday to be able to financially thank those who have been so wonderful to us.

Until just a few days ago, my husband was working full-time outside of the home to help support our venture, but he was laid off this week as a part of a company-wide budget cut.

I continue to freelance write for a number of other websites to help financially support our site. It’s definitely tight, but because almost all of the work can be done by us and doesn’t require inventory or many major expenses, we’re doing alright. But, that said, now that Lance has been laid off, we’re really motivated to hit it hard and make GirlsGoneSporty financially fit.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

  • Our website is built in Drupal, which is an open source CMS system. My husband is a self-taught web developer, but he had never used Drupal before he started developing this site. It took a lot of time and effort, but it’s been worth it! The site looks amazing and I’m so proud of him for working so hard to learn Drupal. Ultimately, it’s going to make our product and service better.
  • I love using HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to get quotes from experts. This helps immensely when writing articles. It’s free and amazing, but because we’re a brand new site, it’s a little hit-or-miss whether HARO will approve my queries. They have rules regarding a site’s Alexa ranking, but we’re moving up on Alexa quickly, so I hope that soon all of our queries will be approved.
  • Most of our marketing has been free: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so forth.
  • We also take advantage of Google’s free tools: email, analytics and Google Docs all come in handy.
  • Just recently I was invited to take part in a two-week intensive “launch your business” course through Urbane Academics. While our business was already launched when I started the course, the information provided by the program has helped fill in some gaps in my knowledge, preparing us to better market our website. The program has been free to participate in, but I’m unsure of whether there will be a cost in the future.
  • Finally, we just entered our URL into www.submitexpress.com to help get it crawled by search engines more quickly. Our site has been up long enough to start getting listed in Google and Bing, but it’ll be interesting to see how this affects our website’s listing on other search engines.

Do you use Social Media tools like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn?

Yes, we use social media as much as possible! It takes time to build up a following, but we’ve started to get the hang of it and are seeing more results.

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/girlsgonesporty

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/girlsgonesporty

LinkedIn:

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/laura-farman-williams-m-s-ed/18/b23/603

While we have “grabbed” our YouTube url, we haven’t started publishing videos yet. We hope to make fitness and nutrition videos a part of a future rollout of services we’ll offer.

How many people are currently working, including employees?

If you’re looking at paid workers – no one! We’re investing lots of time in the venture, but we’ve yet to make any money.

If you’re looking at how many people are working and are contributing to the site in ways that will help make it successful, there are currently nine contributors working in various capacities, all generously donating their time.

What is the best advice you never got?

Helping Sporty Women Live a Sporty Life

Laura Williams

Don’t listen to the voice in your head that tells you it’s too hard or it will never work. Yes, there are days it feels that way (still!), but if you’re doing what you love, you truly believe in what you’re providing and you’re working hard to get your product or service out to the masses, it really can pay off. You have to believe in yourself first before asking others to believe in you. It takes courage and gumption!

Also, rejoice in the little victories. It takes a lot of little victories before you start seeing the big ones, so get pumped when you add Twitter followers or Facebook fans. Be excited when your Alexa ranking improves. Allowing yourself to rejoice in the little things will help boost your confidence and carry you through to the bigger successes.

Finally, listen to experts, but follow your intuition. There is no single right way to achieve success. True successes are those who are willing to try something new, something a little crazy and see how it turns out. You can’t be afraid to fail and you shouldn’t be too invested in a single line of thought. Try something out, give it enough time to succeed, but if it doesn’t, ditch it and try something new. You know the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

What is the one thing that you did right?

I asked people to give us a shot. We started out, literally, without a website at all. I just started emailing people saying, “Hey, I’m starting a website. This is what it is, this is who we’re targeting, it is going to be great! Do you want to help?” I thought for sure the responses would either be nonexistent or negative. I remember bracing myself to receive emails turning me down, but that didn’t happen. I got flooded with responses from people saying, “What a great idea! We’d love to help, how would you like to team up?”

That’s what I mean about needing to have gumption. No one likes hearing “no” or being told they aren’t a good fit for whatever reason, but you can’t let that fear derail you from pursuing what you want.

That said, you have to have some humility, too. I wasn’t about to approach Nike or Adidas with a request for paid advertising before I even had a site. There are some realities in online business that you can’t ignore, and if you run right through them, people will think you’re too arrogant or too naïve. Educate yourself on the “norms” of your business, then simply focus on building the right relationships. If you build relationships focused on both confidence and humility, people will enjoy working with you and will be more likely to “fudge” the rules to help you succeed when the time is right.

What was the biggest transition you had to make ?

Helping Sporty Women Live a Sporty LifeRight now the thing I’m still getting used to is juggling my paid freelance work with my unpaid work for GirlsGoneSporty. I would love to dedicate all of my time to GirlsGoneSporty, but that’s simply not possible at this point. It’s really easy for me to allow myself to get distracted and end up doing neither very well. Learning how to sit down and really focus on one particular task is one of the biggest transitions I’ve had.

Are you currently in the black or red?

We are currently in the red! I’d like to say we’re neither black nor red, because our expenses are so low, but even though all we’ve bought is our server, our domains and a replacement computer, we definitely haven’t made enough to pay for those things directly from our site’s earnings.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

Right now we stick primarily to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Because I have a master’s degree in exercise and sport science, I also subscribe to a number of HARO emails and respond to any query that I could be considered an expert for. When I provide expert quotes, I request that the writer provide a link back to our site. These types of links will be helpful in generating site visits while also increasing visibility. It’s a win-win!

What would make your business more “Successful”?

Right now we’re only about six weeks into our launch, so what we need is visitors! Without enough traffic to our site, we won’t be able to get paid advertising.

Ultimately, “success” would be making enough through advertising to financially support the two of us. Hopefully someday we’ll be able to support ourselves and a few additional freelancers. But, in order to do any of that, we have to have visitors to our site!

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

Right now we’re focused on right now. What we “see” is ourselves continuing to run the site, but we don’t want to get distracted from the task at hand by focusing too much on what we might do in the future. If we experience huge gains in website traffic and eventually someone wants to buy us out or acquire us, I think we’d consider it; but, we want our site to be trustworthy, and we’d definitely be hesitant to hand over our well-trusted name to a resource we’re unsure of.

What do you think your projected annual revenue will be?

Well, based on current trends…nothing. If we increased traffic and sold our ad space, we’d be making just under $400,000 per year. But, if we’re making that much we’d start paying freelancers for writing and copy editing as well as some design work, which would decrease net income. We also have plans for videos and additional content that would require more capital expenditures. Our current goal for personal income is six figures, but closer to the $200,000 mark.

How long do you think it will take you to get to your projected annual revenue?

That really depends. First things first, we have to get traffic to our site. If we do that, I think we could hit our projected annual revenue in a year.

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