SFN150: Owning Your Entrepreneur Status - with Danielle Tate

SFN150: Owning Your Entrepreneur Status - with Danielle Tate

Danielle Tate is the founder and CEO of MissNowMrs, a multi-million dollar online name change company. As a female founder in her 20s, she noticed that few businesses offered step-by-step advice to smart, but inexperienced entrepreneurial women. This void inspired Danielle to author Elegant Entrepreneur, the female’s founder’s guide to starting and growing your first company.


In This Interview You’ll Learn:

  • 1:35 - How Danielle went from aspiring cardiologist to launching her first company
  • 4:09 - Factors that played a role in Danielle’s leap into entrepreneurship
  • 7:54 - How Danielle found and hired her CTO
  • 10:45 - How Danielle acquired her first customer
  • 14:16 - One way Danielle felt she limited the company’s growth in its first few months of business
  • 15:37 - Danielle’s giveaway with David’s Bridal
  • 17:35 - What Danielle would go back and do differently
  • 18:48 - The importance of finding a mentor
  • 19:29 - About the Elegant Entrepreneur and the first few steps of what people should be thinking about when they’re starting a business
  • 21:29 - Questions to ask yourself when going through the innovation gauntlet
  • 32:30 - About owning your entrepreneur status




Show Notes:

Podcast transcript:

Introduction: Welcome to Starting from Nothing – The Foundation Podcast, the place where
incredible entrepreneur show you how they built their business entirely from
scratch, before they knew what the heck they were doing.
Frank: Welcome to another edition of the Starting from Nothing podcast. I’m your host
today, Frank Mocerino.
Today we’ve brought on a special guest and actually I was surveying the
Foundation team before our call today and it turns out that a few of them have
actually used the service that our guest has invented or that our guest created.
Our guest is Danielle Tate and she is the founder and CEO of MissNowMrs, a
multimillion dollar online name change company.
So, as a female founder in her 20s, she noticed that a few businesses offered a
step-by-step advice to smart but inexperienced entrepreneurial women. So this
void inspired Danielle to author Elegant Entrepreneur: The Female Founder’s
Guide to Starting and Growing Your First Company. So we’re going to talk about
that a little bit at the end but first, Danielle, welcome.
Danielle: Thank you for having me, Frank.
Frank: So, it is a true story. I was talking with the Foundation team this morning and I
told them who I was interviewing and I told them what you’d created and one of
our developers actually said, “Hey, my wife use that when she got married and
had to change her name.” So I thought that that was really cool.
Danielle: That’s fantastic.
Frank: Let’s just dive in right here. When we spoke initially, you mentioned you were
not meant to be an entrepreneur but potentially meant to be a doctor. So, tell us
about what happened.
Danielle: Sure. No, I’m a planner of a person and so I spent the first 20 years or so of my
life doing all the things necessary to become a cardiologist. Through strokes of
faith, I ended up missing med school by three seats and refused to move home
to my small town in Pennsylvania as a failure. And so I took that failure and
graduating into a recession also took the first job available which was selling
Canon copiers with a biology degree. (Laughs)
Frank: Wow!
Danielle: Yeah.
So, I grew up a lot, I learned a lot, and I found this wealth of inner tenacity. I
parlayed that tenacity and sales experience into a cancer diagnostic career and
thoroughly enjoy calling on hospitals, improving patient care, being the number
one sales rep for a Fortune 500 company.
In the midst of all of these changes and happenings, I ended up getting married.
Took a day off work to change my name and it took me three trips to get my new
name on my driver’s license and I was just unbelievably frustrated. And that
frustration turned me into an accidental entrepreneur and that is how
MissNowMrs came to be.
Frank: Oh my God! Okay. Let’s jump back here. It took you three trips just to get your
name changed?
Danielle: Yes, just on my driver’s license. Not on social security, not on my passport, not
any of the other offices that I had the list I was going to that day.
Here in the D.C. area, our DMV wait lines are hours and so I had completed a
name change form but an outdated form. So, it was back of the line and then I
had brought a marriage license but not the certified marriage license so it was
three trips to get Danielle Tate put on a piece of plastic.
Frank: Whew! Doesn’t sound fun. I can see why the Foundation team is using it.
Danielle: It’s a 13-hour process. I came home and was just so frustrated. I was like, “Why
isn’t there something like TurboTax for name change that simplifies it?” My
husband looked at me and said, “Well, you should do that.”
Frank: Whoa! Okay, so let’s back up to that, right? So, you’ve turned the job selling
copiers into a very lucrative medical device sales rep job where you were making
a good amount of money and then all of a sudden this thing happens to you. So
what I feel curious about is why not just do what most people do which is say,
“That was a really frustrating experience,” then complain about it to your friends
and then move on and go back to the lucrative career that you had. Why was this
something that you decided I’m going to become an entrepreneur instead of just
doing what other people do?
Danielle: So it helped that my husband is a serial entrepreneur.
Frank: Okay.
Danielle: I’m competitive and so I was always looking for my multimillion dollar idea. This
idea happened from the pain point. It just rattled around in the back of my brain
and germinated. So I did a little research into the market and there are 2.3
million marriages in the US every year and 88.6% of those women ought to
change their name.
And so there’s this great idea and this very large market. I just decided like this is
it. If I’m going to start a startup, it needs to be an idea from something that I’m
passionate about, something that bothered me, something I want to fix, and
something that has a big enough market to make it possible. And so those
factored into my taking the leap.
Frank: Okay, alright. Cool. So let me ask you this. Was there anything like MissNowMrs
that existed when you started searching around about this idea?
Danielle: No. There was a 280-page book on how to change your name.
Frank: So time savings.
Danielle: Yes. Just reading it alone would take like 3 hours. There was also a paper kit that
sent you every single form possible in all 50 states from all government offices
and you had to sift through and then manually complete it. The market offerings
were very poor.
Frank: Okay. So you’ve experienced the pain point yourself then you’ve gone out there
and done a little bit of research and seen that basically the options that were out
there to save you time were actually creating more time that you’d have to
invest in this or they just weren’t good solutions.
Danielle: That’s exactly right.
Frank: Yikes. Okay.
How did you go from I’ve got this idea, I’ve got this pain, nothing out there exists
that’s helping people solve this problem to starting and building a business?
Danielle: So, the fun things that people hate to do: market research, understanding the
size of the market, and market validation. I ended up calling all 50 State DMV’s
to understand their process and to see if they were as complicated as name
change in my home state of Maryland. What I found is some of them are even
more complicated. In New Mexico, it’s $6.13 in cash only to file for your new
driver’s license. No one [unclear 00:06:54] to get that right.
I think my whole time totaled eight days when it all was tabulated but I did the
research to make sure that, yeah, it’s a pain point everywhere. And then I
collected all of the forms from all of the various states occasionally posing as a
researcher. I needed to see what the forms were like and if there was a lot of
overlap in the information and there was. Every single form wants to know
what’s your current name, what’s your new name, what’s your address, did your
address change.
And so understanding those things about the market allowed me to take my idea
to who is now my CTO and say, “Is this possible? Can you create a database from
a questionnaire, autofills, forms, and pulls the appropriate forms?” So that was
very much the beginning workings of MissNowMrs.
Frank: I’m curious about the CTO. Is this somebody that you brought on in exchange for
equity earlier on? How did you end up with the CTO so early on?
Danielle: Yes. He is a third partner. So he is a co-founder for a third of the company.
Frank: Okay. Very cool.
Danielle: I’m a big fan of bootstrapping and so with zero technical background, aside from
HTML for Dummies which I have read cover to cover, he built a beautiful,
beautiful backend database and I did the grand coding of all of the forms and
Frank: Wow! Okay. Was this somebody that you knew going in to this that you just
reached out to or how did you find that person?
Danielle: Coincidently, he happens to be the most brilliant database developer I have ever
met in over 10 years in tech now. He’s also a fraternity brother of a friend so
there was the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon in me finding him.
Frank: Awesome.
I often find that our audience is curious about the little details like how did you
find the CTO and what did you do; did you pay them or give them equity. So
that’s why I wanted to ask you about that.
Danielle: That’s actually in my book. I have a whole section on how to find a technical cofounder
because I think a lot of people with ideas struggle with that.
Frank: Yes.
Okay. So, at this point you’ve done the market research, you’ve got your CTO but
you’re still driving like 1300 miles per week doing your job as a medical device
rep. What kind of pushed you over the edge to get out of that in full-time into
Danielle: Two fold. I feel like the last 15% of any major project, especially a startup, is the
hardest. It’s the biggest lift. I just felt like the company was never going to get off
the ground if I didn’t give it 100% of my focus and push it through to launching.
And so that need and that urgency coupled with a new boss who is just such a
jerk helped make the very hard decision to leave and go from seeing many
people in many states multiple times a week to working by myself in a tiny
condo. But I do feel like it was absolutely necessary for MissNowMrs to happen.
Frank: Man, okay, that’s cool.
So you make the leap and then I want to talk about the story of Wendy which is -
- Wendy is Danielle’s first customer. Let’s talk about -- how did you go from pain
point, doing your market research, partnering with the most brilliant CTO which,
oh my gosh, I want to go hire this guy. Partnering with a brilliant CTO, taking the
leap, and all of a sudden Wendy comes along.
Walk us through a little bit about what it looked like to actually get your first
customer. What did you have in place at that point?
Danielle: So we had a minimum viable product. We had a beautiful website. I like details.
In bridal industry, things need to be visually pleasing. Unlike the current product
that we offer which is every single notification letter for banks, credit cards,
insurances, we started with just the state and federal forms.
So we offered passport, social security, the IRS 8822, state driver’s license, and
we didn’t even have voter registration at the time. But there was enough to have
all of the forms, they were all in place, it was coded up for all 50 states, and we
created our first series of Google ads and sort of sat in front of my computer and
pushed the go button. Within 30 minutes of turning on Google ads, we had our
first customer, Wendy.
It was amazing. It was just like somebody -- This proves the concept that, yes, it
is a pain point. People are looking online for a tool to help them and they will pay
$29.95 to have a service take care of their name change for them. From there
we’ve grown 30% annually.
Frank: Wow! Okay, so talk to me about that first month. You started driving business
through Google ads. What were you paying roughly to acquire a new customer
for a $30 product?
Danielle: It was like 18 cents. It was crazy. Since change, Google forever changes and
forever keeps me on my toes with advertising but it was pennies on the dollar. It
was great.
Frank: Wow! Okay. I’m feeling a little flabbergasted and blown away. That is awesome.
Danielle: Well, we created an entirely new niche in the market. I had no competitors.
When you search online married name change, I was the only game in town.
Frank: Ah, okay. I like that, creating a new market.
What I’m actually curious about in that regard is were you nervous about
creating your own market, right? Because when I speak with a lot of
entrepreneurs, sometimes they tell me that ultimate market validation, aside
from getting your first customers, but ultimate validation is that a competitor
actually exists because you know people are out there and already paying for
something like this. Were you at all concerned about the fact that even though
you experience this pain that people would actually show up and use it?
Danielle: I wasn’t and maybe that’s just young and dumb coming into play but I like
opening a market and being, you know, first mover advantage and having a
monopoly. Just having the time to build a brand and build customer trust was
very valuable to us as a company.
Frank: Cool. Alright.
Let’s talk about those first few months. So you’ve got Wendy now based off of
acquiring new clients at roughly 18 cents a client for a $30 product. What else
did you start doing to grow in those first half year?
Danielle: First half year, we started the newlywed blog which is now one of the top
newlywed blogs for SEO purposes to get more people to the site to help add a
little bit more legitimacy. Oh, this is a tech product. This was really very new.
Bridal tech had really not happened. [unclear 00:14:03] was out there but there
wasn’t a lot of other digital items for brides. And so having a place for them to
read and connect and get some soft fuzzies was very helpful.
Strategic partnerships came a little bit later. I think that’s something where I
limited the company myself. I came from medical sales and had all of these great
numbers and statistics and I felt like MissNowMrs needed to have X number of
clients and X number of daily users before I felt comfortable approaching large
Frank: So you mentioned you waited a little bit too long. How many months into it did
you actually start focusing on creating strategic partnerships?
Danielle: It took me about a year.
Frank: Okay.
Danielle: So 11, 12 months before I did our first major brand partnership.
Frank: Okay. Where was the business at in that point in terms of number of sales that
you were doing per month roughly?
Danielle: Roughly? I’m awful at that. It’s been too long. I’m sorry. I’m trying to scale here.
Frank: I really put you on the spot with that one, I realized.
Danielle: I’m sorry. No, it’s just -- I used to do our PNL daily and -- yeah. It was too long
ago. It was 9 years ago.
Frank: No, no problem.
Danielle: I was in a great -- It felt like a great spot for me and that was what was important
was that I felt like we had a thriving new business and could go speak confidently
with industry leaders.
Frank: Cool. So I love the idea of strategic partnership to really start to scale this thing.
How did you start down that path? How did you actually start to make offers to
people or to reach out to people?
Danielle: Two fold. One, we are very non-competitive in the wedding space. We were
doing something that no one else was so we were a great bolt on for any
planning, service, or any type of wedding business. So approaching with a
revenue share, that was very attractive. Especially large companies, at that time
we offered a 50/50 split because I needed the brand exposure and trust from
these large companies to help elevate the status and trust of MissNowMrs.
Frank: Okay. Okay.
Danielle: And then another thing we did was we did a gift card giveaway with David’s
Bridal. And so for one month, if you purchased your gown at David’s Bridal, they
also gave you a MissNowMrs name change gift card.
Frank: Whoa! So how many of those did you do for David’s Bridal?
Danielle: 50,000 gift cards.
Frank: 50,000 gift cards. So what was that cost you to actually getting that particular
deal set up?
Danielle: So print cost alone were $13,000.
Frank: Okay.
Danielle: You can factor in customer support, etc, but for just the pieces of plastic, to get
into the stores, by store, it was a $13,000 gamble.
Frank: Wow! How did that pan out for you?
Danielle: It panned out incredibly well. They have great reach, they have physical stores,
they had online presence, and people had the physical card in their hand. Great
word of mouth, great buzz, great pass around, and women actually using the
service and then telling friends and purchasing gift cards for their friends.
Frank: Okay. Alright. That’s cool. That’s really amazing.
Let’s look at kind of the first year overall, right? A lot of the listeners are might
be in their first or second year of running or building their business. I’m curious,
based on the lessons that you’ve learned, what would you go back and do
Danielle: I would have approached strategic partners much sooner that we would have
scaled that much faster. Yeah, I’m trying to think of all -- there’s so many things I
would have done slightly differently. I would have hired employees a little bit
sooner instead of trying to do everything myself. I would have delegated which is
hard to do but very necessary to grow a business.
Frank: Yeah. When did you actually start hiring employees? How deep in?
Danielle: Year two.
Frank: Okay. So first year you entirely did this by yourself.
Danielle: I had co-founders but I was the one answering the phone, taking care of
customer support, email, talking to partners. And we hit a point where I’m, like, I
just can’t do the things necessary to move the needle and keep up the level of
service necessary for our clients. And so that was the, okay, we need to hire.
Frank: Wow! I’m curious. One of the things that I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs about is
they shortcut it their way to success by having certain types of people around
them or people that they could go to for advice. I know you mention that your
husband is a serial entrepreneur. Were there any key relationships in the first
year in the way of a mentor or somebody that you were getting advice from that
you kind of count as being important to you at that time?
Danielle: Aside from my husband? No. And that’s something that I would encourage new
entrepreneurs to find a mentor and it’s hard to find just the right person but look
in the industry you’re entering and ask your ultimate question of the ultimate
person and see what pans out. Hopefully they will get back to you if they don’t
have two or three backups but having somebody, especially within your industry,
is incredibly helpful.
Frank: Cool. What I want to move into now is actually speaking about your book, The
Elegant Entrepreneur: The Female Founders Guide to Starting in Growing Your
First Company. Because within that, you’ve kind of laid out a process that you
use to go from nothing to a company, is that right?
Danielle: That’s very true. It’s the book that I wish was available when I started
MissNowMrs with zero business background.
Frank: Awesome. Let’s dive in to this overall process because I want people to get kind
of a sense of what you’re talking them through to go from nothing to
successfully launching a company. So, could you walk us through maybe the first
few steps of what people should be thinking about when they’re starting a
Danielle: Sure. To help them understand the structure of the book, it’s the 12 steps from
idea to exit. And then in between each step is an elegant insight. Elegant not as
in pretty and fancy but as in simple and an ingenious solution. And the insights
help you span those steps more elegantly than I did because I always felt like I
was scrambling along.
Frank: Okay.
Danielle: Initially, you have your idea and it’s sometimes very difficult to get candied
feedback on whether your idea is a good one or not. So, there’s the idea and this
innovation gauntlet to ask these series of questions to find out whether or not
you have a good idea and whether it’s worthwhile for you to invest more of your
time and your effort and money into researching it.
And then that goes into the elegant insight, ask the right questions at the right
people, followed by everyone’s favorite validation and market research. But I
offer some really good tools that are free that help you do that market research
and just break it into small pieces that you can move through quickly.
I offer the advice “Don’t fall in love with your idea before holding it
accountable.” We move in to business planning, building your team, timing your
leap, owning your status as an entrepreneur, funding, and it just keeps going.
Frank: Man! Alright.
Let’s dive deep into a few of those. So, you mention there are some questions
that you ask yourself when you’re going through the innovation gauntlet. What
are some examples of those types of questions that you’re asking yourself?
Danielle: So, first question is is the idea easily copied by an existing company or added to
an existing product? These have to be answered very honestly even if you don’t
want to answer honestly. If the answer is yes then you need to ask yourself is
your idea or the execution of your idea so unconventional that it’s unlikely to be
adapted by existing companies. That sounds a little bit strange until you think
about Tesla.
Frank: Hmm.
Danielle: How many car companies could have put in an electric engine but just didn’t
because it was so out there.
Frank: Yup.
Danielle: So if you answered no, that it’s not easily copied by an existing company or
added to an existing product, then you need to ask yourself, is your solution so
compelling that consumers will switch to your solution. It goes on from there.
But they are very basic questions and if you answer them truthfully, it will really
help you sift out whether you have a good idea, products, or product extension,
something you may want to market to a company without building your own
company around it. Or if you truly have an innovative, amazing concept that you
should build a company around.
Frank: Hmm. Okay, cool. So after I’ve asked myself these questions, that way I’m kind of
seeing if it passes the sniff test, then what do I do.
Danielle: So then you think about asking the right questions with the right people. So
you’ve got this great idea, what is the one question you need answered before
you would feel comfortable moving forward. It’s different based on your
product, your market, yourself, but fine-tune that question and fine-tune who
the ultimate person or persons are to answer that question and go get your
Frank: Okay. Do you remember what your question was?
Danielle: For MissNowMrs?
Frank: Yeah.
Danielle: It was market size. Is there a big enough market of people experiencing this pain
point? Because I changed my name but I didn’t know. Do only 3% of the
population change their name? Is it a dying trend? And so for me to dig through
all of those different journal articles and find that particular statistic that from
the journal of marriage and the family, that was the answer to my question.
Frank: Okay. Okay. So now I validated that it passes a sniff test, I’ve asked my one
question, then where do I go?
Danielle: So then you go into business planning. We all know there are a lot of different
things out there to help you plan your business whether it’s a pitch deck,
whether it’s business canvass, or whether it’s a full tilt business plan. I think
understanding the pros and cons of all three and picking the one or two, or even
the three that are best for you, with an intelligent thought process is essential.
The market changes, life changes, your idea will change but the planning of how
you’re going to be successful, how much money you’re going to need, how
you’re going to make money, what you foresee the problems being, that exercise
of planning will help you be successful and build a successful company.
Frank: Okay. Which one of those three did you pick?
Danielle: We did more -- somewhere between pitch deck and business plan.
Frank: Okay. How much time did you spend on that? I’m curious in terms of
implementation versus getting that plan set up. What kind of investment of your
own time and resources did you put in to making that?
Danielle: There are three of us and we’re very different personalities and very different
backgrounds. So for all of us to come together, work through the various pieces
and components agree on them in such a way that we could write them down,
we spend a considerable amount of time. But not too much time which is that
difficult answer. Do we spend three months? No. But we definitely spent a
couple weeks back and forth before we fine-tune and felt comfortable.
Frank: Cool. Alright. If you could, let’s keep walking down this line. I want to give people
a snapshot of these steps that they’re going to get before they actually go out
and grab your books. Now we’ve got that done where we’ve got potentially a
business plan or a pitch deck, where we headed now?
Danielle: So building your team. I think that’s incredibly important. I don’t think it’s great
to be a solopreneur. It’s possible but, I think, very few humans have all of the
traits necessary to build and scale a successful company. So the key people that
you bring in as a co-founder or co-founders and what their beliefs are, what their
work ethics are, what they consider to be success are very important especially
at the early stages of your business.
Frank: That’s cool.
Danielle: So I dive in to that a little bit. I make some suggestions on the hard things to talk
about and putting in place an operating agreement. It’s almost as uncomfortable
as a prenup but it’s in place for a purpose. And if you can’t talk about the really
messy, scary what ifs then you probably shouldn’t be in business together.
Frank: I’ve heard general entrepreneurs broken down into one of three categories.
There’s the artists who are skilled producer which is someone who is just
outstanding at a particular skill set and they love and are so good at that skill set
that often they would do it for low or no cost. So there’s the artist, then there’s
the manager leader which is maybe an example of that would be somebody like
Jack Welch who is just skilled at management and leading and processes on a
day-to-day basis, and then there’s the entrepreneur.
The entrepreneur is somebody is willing to take significant risk on and then the
entrepreneur is also somebody who focus on the vision and the culture, right? So
there’s the artist, the manager, leader, and then there’s the entrepreneur. I’m
curious, again, putting you on the spot here because that’s what I do. Could you
place yourself into one of those categories?
Danielle: Oh, I see all three. I’m trying to -- I was the end user. I do UI, UX, I’m passionate
about how the product work so I see the artist component.
Frank: Okay.
Danielle: I know what needs to happen and I make people do what needs to be done so
there’s the manager. And then there’s the whole entrepreneur part. Of the
three, I guess, I would put myself in the entrepreneur bucket most.
Frank: Okay. And then I’m curious, throughout the first year or so of your journey and
then ultimate after that first year when you started hiring people, looking back
now in those three buckets, do you see that you brought on people who might
be manager, leaders, or might be artists themselves to kind of round that out for
Danielle: Yes. And I rounded with my co-founders as well.
Frank: Okay.
Danielle: The three of us together absolutely make that core team. We looked at it a little
bit different, more like hacker hustler designer but any way you make those
buckets that they are very essential and we did sort of round out as we grow.
Frank: Cool. How did you evaluate those partnerships? One of the partners is the CTO,
Danielle: Correct.
Frank: How did you know that those relationships that you were going to be entering in
were a good one? What kind of conversations did you have? How did you make
sure that those people were going to be great people to be partners with?
Danielle: Well, full disclosure, my third partner is my husband. So I had already made that
Frank: Alright. So you’re just doubling down on the bet that you’ve already made.
Danielle: Felt pretty good about that relationship and work ethic and backgrounds
matching and visions of success.
My CTO and I are very different people. He’s the glass is empty, I’m “Oh, let’s fill
it up with champagne” sort of problem solver. In having to build a product
together and go from the hypothetical. Here are the tangible forms, here’s what
I need you to do, how do we do this? So in early collaboration before the
partnership was set up and cemented, we understood each other and how we
worked and how we communicated. In doing so, I felt very comfortable. It was
one of those “I did my work. I need you to do your work. You turned it in on
time. We discussed it and in discussing it, made it better together.” I think that’s
a signal that you’re working with the right people.
Frank: Awesome.
Alright. So what are the next few steps? Now we’ve started to get our team in
place and maybe a good exercise for the listeners is kind of evaluate who are
you, right? The artist, the manager, leader, the entrepreneur. As starting
companies overall, you’re going to have to play a little bit of each of the roles.
But as you’re starting to form that team and those partners, consider where
you’re missing something, right?
Danielle: Right.
Frank: Okay, so now we built our team, where we headed?
Danielle: So, now I talk about timing your leap. So everyone wants to know when do I start
up? When do I go full time? It’s very exciting and everyone wants to quit their
jobs immediately. I would like to be the voice of reason and say, “Hang on a
second.” While it’s very romantic and exciting to just quit your job for your
startup, if your startup isn’t ready to support you, you’ve jeopardized your idea
and your lifestyle. So just put a little pause there.
So, I think it’s a very important chapter. Talking about opportunity that you have
is a lot of what dictates the timing of your lead. Your idea is attached to an
exploding opportunity in market, you may need to quit your job and take outside
funding to scale quickly enough to grab your piece. But it’s more of a gap in the
market or a personal passion. It may be wiser to spend your evenings and
weekends building your product, doing your market research, figuring everything
out before you make the full-time leap into leading your startup.
Frank: Awesome. I like that. There’s a lot of talk in our community specifically around
just leaving your job, taking that leap before you’ve really got anything in place.
So I like to hear the voice of reason in coming in and telling us “Think about this.”
Danielle: Yeah. Think about what benefits your business. If you stay at your current job,
are you able to fund two more developers to get your product to market six
months faster? Is that more valuable than you coming on full-time? So weighing
the opportunity is [unclear 00:32:09].
Frank: Cool. Alright, I like that. So timing your leap.
Now let’s assume I’ve taken the leap, I’ve burned the bridge. Well, I haven’t sent
any FU emails or anything but I’ve left the leap. I am no longer a part of that
company. Now I’m focused full-time. How can I really start to add gasoline to this
Danielle: So I suggest owning your entrepreneur status which sounds a little bit silly but
it’s something I did very poorly at the beginning. As my book is written -- for
both men and women, it’s focused towards women and socially we are taught
not to brag about ourselves. We’re taught to be a little more demure. I always
said, “Oh, well, I have a small business, I run a website. I never just came out and
said, “I’m an entrepreneur.” As soon as I started doing that, the world changed.
People immediately ask you, “Oh, well, what do you do? Tell me about your
business. I know someone.” And so my insight into what happens after you take
the leap, own that you took the leap. Tell people about it and watch what
happens. Plugin.
Frank: Nice.
Did you get any key help once you started owning that? Did people say, “Oh my
gosh! I love your story. Where can I buy it? How can I help?”
Danielle: I said I didn’t do a very good job of the owning entrepreneurship for an extended
period of time. The book, actually writing this book, is what shoved me into the
spot light. As soon as I started talking about it, I met amazing people who
connected me to some of the people I interviewed within the book and who
helped share the voice to get more female founders to startup and scale up. So,
yes, as soon as I opened my mouth and owned it, lots of things change for the
positive and I truly wish I would have done that much sooner.
Frank: Alright. Little bit sooner is the lesson that we can learn.
Danielle: Absolutely.
Frank: Alright. Alright. Take us through the last few steps. Where are we at now? We
have just owned our status as entrepreneurs and we’re opening our mouth and
telling people about it.
Danielle: Right? And so that leads right into funding.
Frank: Okay.
Danielle: Funding was an interesting chapter for me because I bootstrapped my business
and so I had to do some research and a lot of interviews to truly understand the
funding world. I talk about the pros and cons of each of them and I really suggest
that people consider customer funding before they’re done.
It doesn’t sound possible but people will buy imperfect things like with the
example of MissNowMrs. We started with just the basic federal and one state
form. We used the funds that came in from customers purchasing to build out to
voter registration, vehicle title and registration, and then all of the notification
letters. Postage, we did all the postage and the pre-stamped, pre-signed, preaddressed
envelopes. We let the customers fund the building of our product and
in that way we did not have to take outside investment.
Frank: Beautiful. So never take an outside investment for MissNowMrs?
Danielle: None.
Frank: Wow! Wow! I want to give people context in general like how many name
changes are you doing on average. Let’s say in 2015, how many name changes
did you guys process?
Danielle: I don’t have that data at the top of my head. I can’t tell you we’re at over
300,000 clients to date and growing.
Frank: Okay. That is answer in itself.
Danielle: So, if you multiply that by $29.95 or $69.95, depending on what they purchased.
It’s a proper empire.
Frank: It is a proper empire. Well said.
Alright, what are the last few steps?
Danielle: There’s 321 launch; how do you get ready before your product is ready. So as
soon as it is ready, you can tell the world about it. There’s how to grow fast.
Overcoming setbacks and competition is one of my favorite chapters because no
one ever talks about that. Every time you read a magazine, you see someone on
the cover of Forbes, they’re smiling and perfectly dressed and sitting on the edge
of their desk. You’re not seeing that person crying on their bathroom floor
because they have a huge lawsuit and patent infringement and a court date the
next day. I really feel that if you look at setbacks as opportunities in disguise, it
changes the energy. It changes how you look at them and how you deal with
them. And in turn, helps you grow.
Frank: I like that.
Essentially the role of an entrepreneur is to solve problems and to think that
you’ll ever be operating in an atmosphere of no problems is crazy. Essentially
what you’re going through is you’re just upgrading the problem set that you’re
solving, right? It goes from no customers, how do we solve that problem, to “Oh
my gosh! How do we fulfill this massive amount of customers?”
Danielle: Exactly. I feel like a way to help understand and get through setbacks is have a
good idea daily. Everyone gets hung up on the one big idea that started the
business and that’s very important but you literally need to have a good idea
about your business be it how to change how you talk to customers, looking for a
mirror population of customers in a different segment of the market. Changing
something tiny in your email messaging, whatever it may be, having a good idea,
and executing on it daily is what’s going to allow you to scale and to grow, to
stay ahead of your competition and to keep your customers happy.
Frank: Very cool. I wanted to ask you about the last step of this process because I find it
very interesting and I don’t often hear people talking about it.
So the last step that you talk about is actually exit, is that right?
Danielle: That is right.
Frank: When you got in to this initially, did you have some sort of an exit strategy in
that first business plan that you put together?
Danielle: Yes, and to be honest, I thought MissNowMrs would be a three or four-year flip.
Frank: Okay. How deep are we now?
Danielle: We’re nine years in.
Frank: Okay. So what changed?
Danielle: We’ve had a few almost moments that were never just quite right and definitely
went with my gut in those situations but we make sense. The only thing that we
spend a great deal of money on is finding new brides. And so a company that
already has brides, we make a tremendous moneymaking add on.
So, yeah, it’s been interesting. We grow each year, we change each year, we
expand our platform. We’ve added divorce name change, legal name change,
and online quiz to give you your best name change option. It’s been a really
interesting journey.
Frank: Man. So now I want to know, what do you focus your time on now? So you’ve
built the empire, the empire is growing, what is your function or your role now
that it’s kind of up and going? What do you spend your time doing?
Danielle: I still do the good idea daily and I focus mainly on the big ideas, the big
partnerships. They’re still always interesting. The more we grow and change, the
more opportunities open. So a good bit of my time goes into that.
Writing this book, helping the next round of female founders has become a
passion of mine and is something that does take a considerable portion of my
time but this is very well worth. I do a little bit of mentoring as well.
Frank: Cool. Where can female and male, where can any of the listeners go regardless
of their gender, go to check this book out?
Danielle: It’s on Amazon as a paperback or as a Kindle download. If you want deeper dive
into it, you can also check out the website. It’s elegantentrepreneur.co.
Frank: Cool. Cool.
Danielle, this has been awesome. I want to leave the audience with one
takeaway. So you mentioned you’ve got a kind of this process of one new idea a
day. I’m curious, is there any habits or rituals that you do similar to that on a
day-to-day basis that kind of sets you up for continued success?
Danielle: So in the vein of have a good idea daily, I have a small notebook on my desk, or
in my purse that travels with me always and that’s where I place the good idea
or hopefully ideas that pop up throughout the day. So I don’t lose them, I don’t
forget about them. I’m very cognizant to open that and look at that first thing in
the morning as I sit down before I deal with email or fight fires and be like,
“Okay, what are the good ideas from yesterday and what’s going to happen with
them today?”
Frank: Oh, awesome.
Alright, so you guys heard it here. You heard the story of MissNowMrs. How
Danielle became an accidental entrepreneur and has grown and scaled this thing
over the last nine years. And then, if you want to follow the 12 steps that we just
talked about at an overview, you can go grab her book, The Elegant
Entrepreneur, on Amazon.
Danielle, again, thank you so much for coming on. Thank you for sharing your
experience with us.
Danielle: It was an absolute pleasure. Thank you.
Frank: Alright. Take care.
Closing: Thank you for joining us. We’ve taken this interview and created a custom action
guide so you know exactly what action steps to take to grow your business. Just
head over to thefoundationpodcast.com to download it for free. Thanks for
listening and we’ll see you next week.