Starting a Business (part 1) with Stephanie Booth

This Entrepreneur Starts Her Business…With an Event About Starting a Business…

Stephanie Booth is a blogger, freelance Internet consultant and a new entrepreneur who is starting a conference business. Her first conference is for other freelance workers in the web and technology space and it focuses on the essentials of running a business. And Stephanie herself is learning these essentials in real-time as she prepares for the event.

(We also recorded this discussion. It will be published shortly at A Chat and A Song (Episode 18). I’ll change the link when it’s ready UPDATED: Direct link to episode 18 as an mp3  or click on that icon and listen to it in this page).

Howard: I know you have quite an interesting and varied background. Tell me more about how you got here.

Stephanie: I’ve been online for quite sometime, and blogging since 2000, and I primarily describe myself as a blogger and someone who understands the Internet. I studied Chemistry, Philosophy, French, Indian Religions, then worked as a project manager, a schoolteacher, and then up until recently I was a freelance consultant. My new business is called “Going Far” and it’s a media company. I organize events. I’ve been to many conferences, and I complain too often – the WiFi is bad, there’s no bottled water, the sessions aren’t interesting. A friend suggested that I could put on better events.

Howard: You complain at events. What will you do when people complain at yours?

Stephanie: I will probably crawl under the table embarrassed. I’ve realized it is a lot of work, and things are more complicated than they seem.

Howard: What things are more complex than expected?

Stephanie: Two things — First, it was tough actually getting design and graphics created for the events. I spoke to a designer, then got recommendations for others, and suddenly didn’t know which of the three designers was the ‘right’ choice, and didn’t know how to negotiate it. Also, as a non-graphics person I didn’t really know what I was asking for.

The second thing was finding a system for registration. I thought it would be straight forward but suddenly realized it was going to cost a lot of money (via processing fees). I started comparing options, but they don’t charge the same way, so doing the comparison ended up being complicated, until one of my advisors said “don’t spend so much time on that,– just choose one and be done with it.”

Howard: Do you ask your advisors a lot when you need to solve challenges?

Stephanie: All of them, all the time. I’d never be able to do what I’m doing on my own. I’m someone who in general asks for advice easily, and I tend to ‘crowdsource’ my decision-making – the Internet is really useful for that, and it helps me connect to people to make the decisions. I make the final choices, but having people that I trust makes it easier.

Howard: There are lots of events and event planning firms – -what distinguishes your firm? How are you going to, as you put it, “make a sustainable living”?  And, by creating this business what are you hoping to accomplish?

Stephanie: First, I’m interested in events that are European-centric, without excluding the rest of the world. Events like the “Web 2.0 Expo,” even when held in Germany, are based on American events.

Second, I want to hold events that are more focused on niche topics. I want to take a topic and dive deeper into it. So this first event is going to be “Freelancing,” the next will be “Blogging and Social Media in the Business Setting” which is a more specific topic. At a web expo you may get one session on blogging in business, I want to spend a whole day on it.

Third, my ambition is to organize events of the quality level I’d like to attend. Stuff like having a venue that’s welcoming, food that’s nice, WiFi that always works, a good experience from start to finish.

My initial driver is to start something that I can live off. I’m not money hungry in that I’ll sacrifice the experience or the program or people coming for financial considerations, but this is something that I’m doing now with the hope of a) putting on great events and b) making a living.
In part 2, we discuss the financial aspects of starting her firm and Stephanie is quite candid about what it took to figure out how to make a go of it.