For more than 14 years journalist Laurel Touby has been building a homegrown, Internet-based company called Mediabistro.com. The website started as a pet project to help fellow journalists find jobs, but it soon turned into a highly sought-after business that recently sold for $23 million. Jean talks with Laurel, who was a former co-worker at Working Woman magazine, about turning a dream into a successful business.
While working as a business writer for several magazines in the 1990s, Laurel says she often hosted cocktail parties to help people in the media industry network. Soon, Laurel says she acquired a huge database of people in the industry and casually helped fellow journalist find jobs. Around that same time, the Internet came along and Laurel says she started the website so that people could connect, as well as view and post job listings.
Laurel says she eventually asked people to pay for the job listing service, and once she started receiving payments from users, she drew up a business plan, which included convincing investors to front $1 million. "You can't start business without funding," she says. "That is a mistake many women make—they start out undercapitalized and use their credit cards."
After convincing investors to get behind her business, Laurel says Mediabistro.com grew from offering job postings to hosting media training classes and articles about the industry. While the success was sweet, Laurel says the Internet boom came to a screeching halt in the late 90s and later after the September 11 terrorist attacks took a toll on the company's profits. Instead of firing workers, Laurel says she asked her staff to take short-term pay cuts so that she could save the company. The strategy was successful, and the company bounced back and was recently sold in the multimillion-dollar deal.
As for other women looking to start their own business, Laurel says the best advice she can give is to trust your instinct and don't be afraid to take risks. "Don't think that other people know more than you do," she says. "Just fake it until you make it. I have seen so many successful entrepreneurs who winged it and did a really great job."
Published on August 14, 2007