Have you ever changed your name or heard the frustrations of someone who chose to do it? As someone who has been through it, I promise it's not an easy process – and it takes so much time.
When I read about the success of fellow McDaniel College alumna Danielle Tate, I could see why her idea was so popular. Her website, MissNowMrs, allows women to change their names quickly, legally and officially through a secure online portal. Tate's site is a great example of an e-commerce idea that continues to do well because it solves a problem for customers.
This isn't Tate's sole success, either. She's gone on to found several other websites in the name change space and has also authored Elegant Entrepreneur: The Female Founders Guide to Starting & Growing Your First Company. Tate's an example of how #WomenInTech thrive by supporting each other: her book is full of advice from famous female entrepreneurs, many of whom operate in the tech space.
I asked Tate about her secrets to success and how she uses SEMrush to help her business succeed.
Tara M. Clapper: Tell me about how you got the idea for MissNowMrs.
Danielle Tate: After I got married I decided to change my name and started the process at the DC DMV. The frustration of three trips to get a new driver’s license in my new married name sparked the idea for an online name-change service and launched my entrepreneurial journey. Hours of research and coding led to the creation of MissNowMrs.com, an online service that condenses the 13 hour name change hassle into 30 minutes. 300,000 customers later, I can officially say that I change names for a living!
TMC: Did you have experience in e-commerce before you founded this business? How did you tackle the process of learning how to start it?
DT: I had a career in medical sales, but zero e-commerce experience. Throughout my life if I don’t know how to do something, my solution has always been to read up on the topic. E-commerce was no different. Many books, articles and podcasts contributed to me mastering e-commerce.
TMC: How large is your staff at MissNowMrs? Did you encounter any scaling issues as your business took off and as you founded other websites?
DT: We are purposefully still a very nimble company. There are three full-time cofounders, a full-time developer, a graphic designer and seven customer support staff. The beauty of an automated system is that the database can handle scaling without issue (we just had to add support staff to handle calls and emails). Most of my companies have an automated component, so scaling has not been so “scary.”
TMC: We all know what it's like to wear multiple hats. When do you know it's time to create a new role at your business?
DT: The right time to create a new role is when you have identified a need within your company and have come across the right person to meet that need. Consider how quickly a new hire will pay for themselves on a six-month timeline. That person may not cover their salary costs the first month, but if they will make it up in the long run it is time to bring them on board. Hiring for a new role will free your time (as a founder) to focus on the high-level project that will help your company generate revenue and grow.
TMC: How did your prior experience or career options and education help you when you decided to take the entrepreneurial path?
DT: I am a big believer in taking opportunities like vitamins! This philosophy has influenced my decisions to live in Budapest, sell copiers instead of moving home after graduating into a recession, and of course the decision to leave a six-figure sales job to launch a startup. Taking opportunities instead of being crippled by them is essential to being a successful entrepreneur. Earning a bachelor’s degree in Biology taught me that I can learn anything from reading a book and asking questions. Which is exactly what I did when I launched MissNowMrs.com (HTML for Dummies and Guerilla Marketing are still on my bookshelf). The tenacity I learned in sales as well as understanding the value of relationship building have also served me well as an entrepreneur.
TMC: How do you advise new entrepreneurs when it comes to raising capital? We hear a lot of success stories about good ideas getting well-funded – but also projects that are overfunded and burst.
DT: I always advise new entrepreneurs that the funding your company takes is the most expensive money you will ever borrow. Your focus will shift to keeping investors happy instead of what you can do to build your business successfully. Bootstrapping a company is not glamorous, but you do keep complete control of business decisions and the motivation to make your rent or mortgage will fuel creative thinking an innovative ideas to make your company succeed. Bottom line: unless your idea needs immediate scale to be successful, do your utmost to self-fund.
TMC: How do you leverage SEMrush and other core digital marketing practices to help your online ventures? What features do you find most useful?
DT: I like to watch and record over time the number of top (20 or 100) organic placements MissNowMrs has and use them as a benchmark against existing and new competitive entrants.
I also like to watch sites similar to mine for top keyword placements and to make sure we are not missing any new search trends within our industry.
TMC: Congratulations on the publication of Elegant Entrepreneur: The Female Founders Guide to Starting & Growing Your Business. What lessons can digital entrepreneurs take from your book?
I think entrepreneurs from any field, in any stage of their business, can gain knowledge from my book. I’ve outlined the 12 steps of building a business through exit and shared how each step feels. It may sound silly, but knowing what you are feeling is “normal” can be very comforting and give you the motivation to keep moving forward.
Everyone has ideas, but it is very difficult to find a way to determine if you have an idea worthy of building a business around. I created the Innovation Guantlet to simplify that process and included it in Chapter 1 of my book to save other entrepreneurs the frustration of trying to decide if their idea is “big enough” to launch a startup.
The advice and experiences from over 25 prominent female founders, entrepreneurs, and top executives compiled within my book is invaluable. Moguls such as Barbara Corcoran of SharkTank, Jenny Fleiss of Rent the Runway, and Tim Chi of WeddingWire took the time to share their wisdom to make the journey smoother for new entrepreneurs. My goal for this book is to lower the barrier to entry and success for women entrepreneurs.
Tara M. Clapper is Blog Editor at SEMrush and Senior Editor at The Geek Initiative, a website celebrating women in geek culture. Tara is a prolific content creator, having written thousands of blog posts, small business websites and other inbound marketing content through the course of her career. Tara enjoys blogging about SEO copywriting, content management, corporate culture, personal branding, networking and LinkedIn. She has over a decade of experience in digital publishing. Connect with her on Twitter @TaraMClapper.