Home: Richmond, Va.
What I do: Run a business news Web site in Richmond
Previous life: Led backpacking trips after college, then started writing for weekly newspapers, then dailies.
My brand: www.richmondbizsense.com and Dyno Media (which helps some other small newspapers do the same thing)
Hours worked per week: 65ish
Annual sales: $160,000
What I wish I had known when I started: Journalism and sales are pretty much exactly opposite, and you have to hire a salesperson who is good at that craft as soon as you can afford it.
Best business advice ever received: To trust my instincts. I also don’t read any how-to business books because they cloud my thinking. That’s been good advice.
Best marketing tool: The stories market themselves. So, we try to break better and better scoops.
Biggest business mistake: Before we had a full-time sales person, I had to do some of the sales calls. I went to a banker who knew me as a reporter, and from then on, he thought I owed him puff pieces. It’s too confusing for sources/potential clients. They can only know you in one way — even if you own the company.
My happiness on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being supremely so: Eight. I love my job, and the people I work with. But sometimes I can’t take long weekends, and for a few years, my personal life disappeared.
Best part of being an entrepreneur: Seeing the business grow is tremendously rewarding. I also like that nobody can control my salary or my future.
Worst part: Handling angry advertisers and having to deal with marketers.
Biggest professional regret: Sometimes it feels like I’m stuck in Richmond, and I have no time to take other business assignments. Plus, I have to go on TV, which I hate, but it helps the biz.
Advice to would-be entrepreneurs:
1. Run your idea by some non-journalists whom you trust, and who are successful entrepreneurs. If they don’t see a need, think carefully about it. It’s OK if they are skeptical, but if too many say no, that could be a danger sign.
2. Have a plan for how to make money. You probably will not make much for the first year — so be prepared to run a site without income for at
least a year to build up a loyal readership. But down the road, there has to be a viable business. If you are a good enough reporter and can assemble a solid reporting team — people will want to read it. Then, you have to have some ideas on how to bring in revenue.
3. Keep expenses low at first. They will crush your dream faster than anything else. No fancy desks, computers, offices. None of that is important. Down the road you can invest in some nicer stuff, but be very conservative in your spending. In this way, the skepticism that comes with being a reporter is a tremendous asset.
4. Treat your reporters/employees like family and even if you can’t offer the best pay, make sure they feel appreciated (if they are good, of course). Coming out of moribund newsrooms, that will pay off big-time.