“Effective Executive” Series with Shelli Trung, Founder of 3Six5Dates.com

This week’s “Effective Executive” interview is with Shelli Trung, Founder of reality date-a-thon website, 3six5dates.com. The social experiment follows the adventures of four women in four international cities, all going on about 100 dates each, within one year. Shelli was recently listed as one of Australia’s Top 10 female startup entrepreneurs, and is frequently quoted in the media on Marketing and Branding for startups. She is currently located in New York, discussing partnership opportunities to grow 3six5dates – including turning the dating stories into comics and animations.


How did you come up with the concept of 3six5dates?

I had set myself a goal at the age of 25 to have started my own business by the age of 30. With this in mind, I started researching the range of businesses that would suit the lifestyle I wanted. I knew I wanted to create something fun that would not tie me to a specific location. I love storytelling and was specifically inspired when watching Nora Ephron’s “Julie and Julia,” which is about a woman who cooks through all of Julia Child’s recipes in one year while simultaneously blogging about it. I combined this curiosity with the gap that I felt the TV series “Sex and the City” left behind when it finished up. I didn’t want the voice of the mature, professional, single woman to fade into the background. 3six5dates is an attempt to fill that gap in some way.

As someone who is passionate about female entrepreneurship, can you provide some ways that women can empower themselves and embrace entrepreneurship?

Regardless of whether you are male or female, going out on your own is exciting but can also be scary. Historically, women have let men lead the charge. However, I am seeing more and more women stepping up to the challenge, which is uplifting.

Women need to recognise that their unique talents – such as being excellent relationship builders, natural multi-taskers and the simple fact that women make more purchasing decisions than men – to be great assets to starting a business. The key thing that has really made the difference for me, is to go out and get your support system if you are not surrounded by other entrepreneurs. I certainly wasn’t when I started! But it is this single reason alone that has sustained me through the tougher moments – and there will be plenty of those. Learning to ask for help is another key factor. Women tend to think they can do it all – but they should realise that they don’t have to! Burning out is the fast track to wanting to give up!

Can you tell our audience about any obstacles you faced when creating your Company and how you overcame those obstacles?

At one stage, we were trying to work on 10 projects at the one time and not completing any of them. It was definitely a lack of focus – trying to do too much and accomplishing nothing. We instead now concentrate on – and are committed to delivering – three larger project outcomes every quarter.

How do you manage your busy team of volunteers and what tools have you found to be effective on a day-to-day basis?

I can work pretty much anywhere there is an internet connection. Being a virtual team does come with its unique challenges. We make use of a lot of online tools – many of them free.

We run all our meetings and training through Skype, which allows us to share one another’s computer screens – extremely useful for design work.

All our files are shared on Dropbox and we are also heavy users of Evernote to keep track of tasks. To minimize the number of emails we send one another, we have a 3six5dates private group to relay any team announcements.

Most of my team, including myself, have their emails feed into their phones which has been a great time saver.

As the sole founder of your Company, how do you keep up with the everyday demands?

I have a wonderful team who are very supportive and make me feel like a superstar so I don’t feel like a solo founder!

I think running any business effectively and ensuring you are leading and driving the vision – as opposed to working ‘in’ it – requires that you automate and delegate as much as possible.  This means equipping, empowering and trusting your team once they are trained.

What is next  for you for the remainder of 2012?

3six5dates has spent the last six months developing strategic partnerships with dating organizations in the US. We have and will continue to roll out cross-promotional activities with them, including comics and animations.

In addition, I am working on launching another startup in Australia called MenuHub with a good friend and co-founder. As the name suggests, it is food-related and early testing has shown extremely positive results so far. I am excited about this new challenge!

The rest of the year looks to be full of possibilities!


Effective Executive: Akemi Williams, TeetheMe.com

This week’s Effective Executive interview is with Akemi Williams, a busy mother who has founded an exciting new baby products business called TeetheMe.com. TeetheMe is a monthly subscription service that delivers functional and fun baby products to parents on a monthly basis. Subscribers receive mini care packages that arrive just at the right moment and are for children ages newborn to 3-years-old.

We caught up with Akemi and asked her some questions about what inspired her to start her own business and the challenges she has faced in doing so.

What inspired you to create Teetheme?

As a busy, working mother of a 3-year-old little girl, I found myself completely overwhelmed by all of the baby products on the market today. I knew there had to be a simpler and more efficient way to find quality baby products that would grow with my child. I founded TeetheMe.com to do just that!

How long did it take to get your Company up and running after creating the concept? Did you encounter any obstacles along the way?

It took me about 6 months and I was still working my corporate publishing job while launching TeetheMe. I think everyone who starts any company encounters obstacles! But as I have learned, it really is all about the journey and I am having so much fun and absolutely love going to work every day.

How do you explain your career and your Company to your daughter?

She thinks mommy works with babies all day long! She loves learning about all of the products that mommy brings home and pretends to use some of them on her babies! It’s too cute!

What excites you most about your job?

I am so fortunate to wake up every day and do something that I am truly passionate about. I love working with other mompreneurs as well as meeting real moms and being able to relate to what they are going through as parents. TeetheMe is not just a service; it’s a community of real moms going through real life experiences. We are all, every day still trying to figure it all out and to be the best parents we can be. I am so honored to be a part of this process with thousands of moms!

You have a social community for moms launching soon. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Baby bragging without boundaries or worries! Subscribers are granted access to our exclusive user-controlled Teether Social Network where the parent-to-parent connections are priceless and no milestone is too little to share! We have created a place where parents can share every last detail about their child. Post photo albums, organize play dates or just update fellow Teethers on their little one’s sleep schedule in our safe and secure network.

The review section of our community is a place where like-minded parents rate, review and share their experiences on the latest products, giving you an invaluable buyers’ edge in today’s overstuffed market. The information provided through our community will help you make smarter, more informed and most importantly, time saving buying decisions for your little Teether.

Do you have any hobbies or passions outside of work?

I love to read (what mom isn’t reading 50 Shades of Grey right now?), a good spin class and spending time on the beach! I’m also very involved with my church and can’t live without my weekly bible study with some amazing ladies!

What is next for you in 2012?

Focusing on the growth and expansion of TeetheMe! And, continuing to have fun while I do it! Spending as much time as I can with my daughter, family and friends. Life is all about balance!

“Influencers Who Inspire” with Laura Fitton (@Pistachio)

Our influencer Q&A today is with well-known inbound marketing evangelist, Laura Fitton. Laura “@Pistachio” Fitton is the founder of www.oneforty.com, founder and principal of Pistachio Consulting, co-author of “Twitter for Dummies” and the inbound marketing evangelist at HubSpot. We had the chance to ask her some questions about her career, her passions and what 2012 has in store for her.

Who has been the most fascinating person you have ever met?

My daughter, S. How cliched is that? She is so unlike me. She is so preternaturally gentle and wise. I watch how she is with her little sister and how she “manages” me. I learn so very much from her. Fascination is actually the perfect word to describe it. Gobloads of overwhelming maternal love, but also a great deal of fascination and respect for what is amazing and special about her.


What do you love most about social media? What bugs you about social media?

The humans. I love the humans, deeply, even if I don’t always express it well or understand how best to make them feel good about themselves. I love trying to help people feel more excited, become more connected and try things that they might not otherwise give themselves the chance to try.


As a busy mom of two, how do you prioritize?

Pretty poorly, sometimes.  One thing I do well is rotate priorities over time. For example, my kids missed out on a lot of time and attention during the crunch years of oneforty.com, and they’re getting a lot more of my time and attention now that my life is in better balance. When my childcare situation blew up at the end of February, I took it as a hint from the universe to do something I’d long dreamed of. I took a temporary 20% paycut to spend Tuesdays at home with my daughters. It’s an amazing privilege to be able to do that and I’m incredibly grateful to HubSpot for the flexibility (this alone should tell you what an amazing employer they are!). My youngest starts school full time in September, so I’m squeezing every drop out of the last few “home all day” months.

I also regret to say that I threw my (romantic) personal life completely under the train during the oneforty.com years. It was what I felt I had to do at the time, but it was probably a mistake. No biggie, lesson learned. We always grow from stuff like this. I’m really enjoying the process of establishing a new social life – both new friends and potential dates – and the cool events and activities I’m going to regularly as a part of it.


How do you explain your career to your children?

Some stuff – mommy had a company, mommy is at HubSpot now, etc. they know in great detail. I brought them to HubSpot’s last company meeting because it fell on my “SAHM Tuesday.” Ditto for General Catalyst’s big annual networking event. They’ve been to a number of networking events because I want them to see themselves as part of the technology, business and cultural worlds from the get go. Gratitude to Halley Suitt for encouraging me to try this years ago.

Other stuff – mostly around my “visibility” (readership, press, awards, hype about me) – they have little to no idea about, and I try hard to keep it that way. One hugely proud moment was S____ blurting out “Mommy, what’s Twitter?” in a quiet moment at a MSNerd networking event, only a couple of years ago. She knew I had a book and a company, but I try to keep that weird side of my life away from my kids. She has a vague sense of it now, but she asks “Mommy, will you share this picture of me with your friends?” with no sense of what that really means.

In general we talk about it in terms they will understand and can relate to their own lives. For example, they know about YouTube because we have watched it together for years, and they have their own YouTube channel now. But, I don’t link to or promote that channel from my social media accounts partly for privacy and partly to keep it a small, quiet place for them to explore.


What has been your biggest accomplishment thus far?

Hands down it’s my daughters. Period. End of story.


You have always spoken about the business potential of Twitter. Do you still feel as passionate about this?

Yes. Very much so. I guess I’m a lot quieter about it lately. The passion didn’t go anywhere though. My Webvisions Portland keynote, planned for May 17th, should make that clear.


Do you have any hobbies or passions?

Too too many! Ice hockey, yoga, horseback riding, rock climbing, gardening, pets (we have a cat, two dogs and four chickens!), amazing food, adventure and travel. I’m lucky to have had the chance to reconnect with almost all of that since the acquisition of oneforty last August.

I’m training to do my first race – of any kind – this summer with the Tough Mudder at Mt. Snow in July. Ten to twelve miles of running up ski slopes, dozens of “bootcamp” style obstacles and electroshocks at the end. Somehow seemed a fitting way to mark turning 40.

My biggest passion remains trying to help people and make a difference. Coming to work every day to spread the story of how inbound marketing helps businesses grow – and therefore creates jobs – ignites that core passion very much.


What is next for you in 2012?

The rate of on-the-job learning for me at HubSpot is just awesome. I’m so excited to help get the incredible work HubSpot and its customers are doing more widely known out in the world, because I know that it can help others to a tremendous degree.

It’s amazing to be at a company with 6500 customers and a marketing community of MILLIONS of people. It’s even more exciting to realize only a tiny fraction of that community realizes that we’re a software company. We’ve been so selfless in our marketing efforts for years that some huge number of people think we’re an agency.

As that changes, and marketers realize we’ve got this really HELPFUL all-in-one software, we can help even more businesses grow while stamping out crappy marketing. We think marketing can be this really noble profession that provides incredible value to those who receive marketing messages. That’s the wave of the future – selfish marketing perishes and marketing that people love helps businesses thrive.



Persuasive Picks for week of 1/9/12

For many marketers, resolutions include a stronger social media presence. Cynthia Clark at 1to1Media reports Marketers Want to Strengthen Their Social Media Strategy in 2012.

Lisa Barone of Small Business Trends writes that not every company is suited to engage in social media and even those that are, may not necessarily be ready to do so. In her latest posts she provides readers 6 Ways To Tell If Your Social Media-Ready.

The telephone provoked many of the same worries that more recently have been expressed about online social media explains Perri Klass, M.D. in the New York Times article Seeing Social Media More as Portal Than as Pitfall.

Fortune editor at large Patricia Sellers sits down with early achiever and one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs to discuss social business and lessons from her youth in Social media success Rx: “Be a little crazy” via CNN Money

PerkettPR’s “Persuasive Women” Series Continues with Aliza Sherman

Aliza Sherman is a Web pioneer and has worked as a digital strategist since 1992. She speaks around the world and writes about the Internet, social media, mobile marketing and new technologies, platforms, and apps. She is also known for her focus on women’s technology and business issues. Aliza specializes in making tech more accessible to humans.  And yes, she has been known to wear a pink tiara and boa at conferences! Aliza’s books include “The Everything Blogging Book,” “Streetwise Ecommerce,” and “PowerTools for Women in Business.” Her 8th book is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing” published in July 2011. Her 9th book is “Mom, Incorporated” and was co-written with Danielle Smith. She lives and works in Alaska.

You can read more about Aliza here or here.

You have done so much in your career. What role have you enjoyed the most?

I enjoy being an entrepreneur. I love the freedom, the creativity, and especially the variety. I also enjoy being a writer and public speaker because they provide opportunities to share knowledge, motivate, and inspire. For many years, my LinkedIn account has said “I am the wearer of many colorful hats.” This is my way of explaining that I can – and do – play multiple roles in business. I hate feeling trapped or limited. I fully subscribe to the idea that you’re “only limited by your imagination.” Too many of us try to crowbar ourselves into a single role or very distinct and immutable roles, and then wonder why we are frustrated or dissatisfied. I say break out of predefined roles. Create your own.

You have spoken before about empowering women to be public speakers. What words of wisdom can you share that can help a woman struggling with public speaking?

My efforts to support women as public speakers – and to be a resource to companies, organizations and conferences to help them find and book more female speakers – culminated into a group called Chain of Daisies. Every week, we share speaking opportunities, encourage each other to submit proposals to speak, and are sounding boards when we hit obstacles. From this group, I’ve learned that we all need mentors as we pursue new things – business mentors are common, but speaking mentors are valuable, too.

Find a mentor, someone whom you’ve seen speak and whose style you admire. You can also turn to a speaking coach to help you hone your presentation. If you are just starting out, speak often in front of audiences, and start charging right off the bat. Many women tend to speak for free, thinking that is the way to get their foot in the door. I’ve learned the hard way that each time I agreed to speak for free, the same event organizer was paying my male counterparts. Why? Because they asked to be paid.

And get video. I’ve been speaking professionally for over 16 years, however, there is very little video available of me speaking, and the footage that is available has poor lighting and sound. My goal for 2012 as a speaker is to make sure I get usable footage of several of my presentations so I can put it up on my website to better demonstrate what I can do. This might mean investing in a professional videographer, but that’s something that should pay off enormously.

As a mobile app pioneer, what do you envision for the mobile app market in 2012?

I’m not really a mobile apps pioneer, but I have been called a Web pioneer for my early work on the Web in the 90s. I tend to find myself at the forefront of where new media is going because I’m curious and totally enamored with technology. Maybe it’s my longtime love of science fiction, something that has driven my imagination since I was a little girl.

In 2006, I started providing social media marketing consulting. I began looking toward mobile a couple of years ago while everyone else was all aflutter about social media. I’m still interested in location-based social networks, QR codes and mobile apps for marketing, and am keeping an eye on the developments in augmented reality.

Folks in my industry tend to think something is “over” and the media will hype the “end of apps,” and yet the rest of the general public is just catching on. There is plenty of room for adoption growth, plenty of opportunity to participate – although if you’re an apps developer, you need to be thinking about an overall business model and not just “build a couple of cool apps.” As consumers, our expectation is high, but we also experience a lot of frustration because it is hard to find great apps that become ubiquitous for us.

I think mobile apps are still going to be huge in 2012, as well as hybrid blends of sites and apps, apps and the cloud. With the tremendous growth in the tablet computer market, the demand for great apps will increase as well.  Ultimately, techies and the marketers need to be careful about being too enamored with the next “big thing,” and understand the huge shift in the way all of us are consuming information, using products, and purchasing things.

We always have to make sure we take our blinders off and really look around. It is never really about the technology. It is about people.

In your book, Mom Incorporated, you focus on giving advice to women on how to take charge of their work/life balance by starting their own businesses. What are some tips you offer women who are eager to start their own business but are hesitant to do so, due to the shaky economy?

The first tip is “Stop using the word ‘balance.'” My co-author Danielle Smith and I like to say that “balance is a mythical bar that we hold over our own heads, and just when we think we’re getting close, someone moves the bar.” There are people who make a living trying to “teach” you how to be balanced but the truth is that everything is in flux, and you will always be striving for it yet never obtaining it.

So we use “juggle.” As moms with businesses, we juggle. We can’t be at 100% as a mom or as a business owner at the same time. We have to give ourselves a break, forgive ourselves for not being “perfect.” It isn’t about balance, it isn’t about perfection, it is about doing our best and having the conversations at home to create the system that works for us. We shouldn’t judge others, and we shouldn’t let it bother us when other people judge us.

Regarding the economy, Danielle and I haven’t encountered many women who are hesitant to start businesses in this economy. In fact, more than ever women are starting businesses from home because of financial motivations. Maybe their husband’s job was down-sized, maybe they need the extra income. There is no guaranteed job out there, and childcare can be even more challenging when you have smaller children at home.

So I’d encourage women to reach for business opportunities where they have experience or established leads, to more readily generate revenues that can help support their household. That means if you’ve been a publicist before and have the skills, start there, then build out your skill set over time to incorporate other services such as copywriting or social media marketing.

What are your favorite apps?

I’m an apps fanatic. I’d divide my apps into utility – the ones that are useful; social – the ones that help me publish and share; and entertainment – the ones that are my little “escapes.”

For utility, I use Google Apps a lot, including the iPhone app to access my email, calendar and shared documents. I am using Evernote more and more for everything from taking photos of receipts or whiteboards to voice memos to web clippings. I am also using the Cohuman app to build task lists for each of my projects that I can assign to others and manage from my laptop, iPad or iPhone.

For social, I love Instagram, Twitter and Foursquare. I also like GLMPS, Pinterest, Foodspotting and Trover. And I access Facebook and Google+ through their respective iPhone apps.

For entertainment, I’m hooked on Words With Friends, and usually have 15 to 20 games going at once. I also enjoy Drop7, Muddled, Bookworm, and Bejeweled.

Who or what inspires you each day?

I’m inspired by so many things every day. Being pretty isolated where I live in rural Alaska, I rely heavily on the Internet and NPR for my connection to the world, to the voices of interesting people, to stories, and to ideas.

As a mom who struggled to have a baby, and then struggled after pregnancy for several years, I feel like I’m finally coming into that place of being inspired by my own child. My daughter is 5-years-old now, and the stuff that she thinks about and talks about astounds me. I love her perspective on life, and hope to encourage her creativity, individuality, curiosity. I don’t want her to ever feel there are limits.

Being able to create and share what I create and to be able to connect with other people is inspiring to me. The Internet opened my eyes in 1987, and literally changed my life in 1992. I am inspired by the world, really. By people all around the world.

What do you have planned next for 2012?

The next part of the line in my LinkedIn profile after “I am the wearer of many colorful hats” is: “I love reinvention.” Every end-of-year, I go through a personal inventory of what I’ve done, and what else I hope to do. Then I shift gears, move in new directions, choose different paths. I will still bring some of what I’ve been doing – writing, speaking, consulting – into the New Year, but I’m really interested in finding new ways to share my knowledge with others in ways that are useful and valuable to them.

As a Sagittarius, I see more travel in my future but will also be more mindful of not being apart from my family as much as I was in 2011. So I’ll have to be more selective about where I go and why. I’m definitely going to take more advantage of video conferencing and video in general.

And I’ve been getting hired more and more to create and lead educational webinars about new media, social media, online marketing, and technology – so that fits perfectly into my vision of sharing information in new ways. I used to say in the early days of the Web, “Have modem, will travel.” Of course, the 2012 version of that is probably “Have iPhone, iPad, and wifi….can travel or work anywhere.”