Photo: Stacy Kravitz
Sometimes what you need to get going is a little kick in the pants. Here's one—in the form of a story about one entrepreneur who made it big.
Shortly after I landed my first job, as an editorial assistant at the now (and sadly) defunct Working Woman magazine, a new assistant landed at the next desk. Her name was Laurel Touby (pictured above) and she was a little different than the rest of us. A little more out-there. A little more aggressive. What she loved to do in her spare time was throw parties, inviting her journalist friends to buy their own drinks, network and help each other get jobs. That little enterprise turned into the website mediabistro.com, which just sold to Jupiter Media for 23 million. Here's Laurel Touby's story in her own words.
It started when I hosted a cocktail party with a friend to meet other people in the media industry. Over the course of several years of hosting these cocktail parties, they gradually evolved into a company online and today, the multimillion dollar sale of a business. It was very gradual, and in the beginning I couldn't even conceive of it becoming a company. As I said, it happened over time. The most important thing was that I listened to people. Many came to me with suggestions. They would say things like, "You should be a recruiter or party promoter." I couldn't think of a clean, nice way to make money by connecting people at parties, so when the Internet came along, I put up a website where people could reach each other and post job listings. It was one of the first job sites for media professionals.
In the beginning, the business ran out of my bedroom. I had no money, so I would beg people to help me out—everyone from lawyers to business advisers to programmers who helped create the original website, and I'd pay them what I could along the way. As it got bigger and job listings became more popular, I asked customers to start paying me voluntarily. I said, "If you're happy, and only if you're happy with the service, send a check for $100 to this P.O. Box." When I went to check the P.O. Box for the first time, out poured eight checks. I thought, "$800 for doing what?" That's when I realized that I was onto something, and the next month there were 16 checks and it grew from here.