Starting a Business and Filling a Need – Danielle Tate

Starting a Business and Filling a Need – Danielle Tate

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Danielle Tate is the CEO of MissNowMrs.com, which is an incredible site that you're all going to want to go and take a look at. What's neat about this site is it is now a multi-million dollar, online name change start up. Now, think about that when you guys think about what you're doing and getting into whatever niche, or whatever your idea might be. The cool thing is she's a wife, a mother, an author, plus an online entrepreneur. Danielle, thanks for being here today. I'm really excited to talk to you about all of this.

Danielle Tate:
Thanks for having me, Lance. I'm excited too.

Lance Tamashiro:
The first thing, right up front, and then we're going talk about your business and how you got into it and all of this, is when did you actually start building this website? Was this your first business and your first go-around with this type of stuff?

Danielle Tate:
Yes. MissNowMrs was my first business. I'm an accidental entrepreneur. Having trouble changing my name is the problem that sparked the solution for an online name change service. I self-educated and learned a lot of things the hard way along the way.

Lance Tamashiro:
Okay, so name change business. Just to be clear, what is it that the website does? Or, your online business does?

Danielle Tate:
We're very similar to an online tax preparation service. Much like everyone in the United States has the option to do their taxes themselves, no one wants to deal with the headache, and everyone's afraid of making mistakes. MissNowMrs is an online name change service. Most women can change their names after marriage, and eighty-eight percent of American brides do, but they don't want to spend the thirteen hours going to Social Security, and figuring out which passport form they need. MissNowMrs streamlines that thirteen hour form completion and filing process into thirty minutes for thirty dollars.

Lance Tamashiro:
Awesome. You're kind of like Legal Zoom for women that get married and are changing their names?

Danielle Tate:
Exactly. Turbo Tax for name change is sometimes what we will liken ourselves to.

Lance Tamashiro:
All right, so what I love about how you described this was you had gone through this, and so that's sort of what spurred this idea for you, right? I mean, it was something that you had gone through, you learned the process, and you thought, "I could make this a whole lot easier?"

Danielle Tate:
Yes. The story goes that it took me three trips to get my new driver's license with my new name. I was so frustrated by the bureaucracy, and red tape, and just the waste of time, and the abrupt end to newlywed bliss while standing at the DMV, that I came home and complained to my husband and said, "There should be some kind of service, an online service, that handles this." He's a serial entrepreneur, so he smiled, and looked at me, and said, "Well, you should do that."

Lance Tamashiro:
Awesome. Before this then, you've never been an entrepreneur type person? You'd never owned a business?

Danielle Tate:
No. I have a bachelors in biology, so very much an accidental entrepreneur.

Lance Tamashiro:
Okay, so can you kind of talk then about how? Because I think a lot of people that are listening are kind of going through that, you know? They have some idea or they have some passion, and they're like, "I want to turn this into an online revenue stream." What was it like for you to go from your husband saying, "You know what? You're right. Somebody should do something about this. Somebody should have a service" to actually implementing it? Because there's a big gap and a lot of knowledge between those things.

Danielle Tate:
There is a big gap. It's usually a very un-glamorous gap. Unlike in the movies, or on popular television shows, I didn't immediately quit my job, and get venture capital, and open a huge office. Instead, I though about the idea, and it germinated. I did some market validation. I looked around and figured out what is the market? There are two-point-three-million marriages a year in the US. Then, I tried to figure out, "Well, how many of those women change their name?" I came across scientific journal that said there were eighty-eight percent of them. That was a big market. Then, I had to figure out, "Well, maybe it's just me? Maybe I was just awful at changing my name and it's really just my own small problem?" In talking to potential customers, other brides and newlyweds, it really is a problem. To further that research, I called every state DMV in all fifty states and asked them about their name change process, which was excruciating research.

Lance Tamashiro:
Well, yeah. I can imagine just even talking to state employees like that, just even getting a definitive answer was probably tough. Documenting with that [crosstalk 00:04:40]

Danielle Tate:
The whole time. The whole time for each answer was a rather large amount of time, and a big time investment, but very worthwhile.

Lance Tamashiro:
You know? What I think is interesting is that you actually did some of this research. You found out how many people got married every year, or how many marriages there were, what percentage actually changed their names. I think for a lot of people that I see jump into stuff, they're like, "You know, this would be a great idea." A lot of times it is, but they don't know that number. When you're talking about two-million marriages with people that are getting their names changed every single year, you're right. You're talking not only about a giant marketplace, but a giant new marketplace every single year.

Danielle Tate:
Exactly. Reoccurring market, but it's also I'm one touch. I have problems on the back end of that.

Lance Tamashiro:
Once you do all this research, I mean, then what? Because I know for me, a lot of times, and I know, same kind of thing, you know I should go and do something. I should go and do this. I should start a business doing this. What happens for me a lot of times is I get stuck in research mode. I know all the facts. I know all the stuff. I think there's even a giant leap from, "I've got all this research and facts," to implementing something.

Danielle Tate:
Right. I agree. I think my suggestion would be once you've established that there is a large enough market to be worthy of a little more time and research and effort on your part, to figure out exactly what your solution is. Again, talk to potential customers, because they may want a radically different solution. You don't want to waste time making what you want. You want to make sure that you're making what your market wants. Once you've established that, so for MissNowMrs, we wanted something Turbo Tax like. In talking to brides, they wanted an online solution as well. I am very un-technical, but boiled down, "Okay, I need to talk to someone technical and ask them if they can create a database that can have a series of forms within it. Look at a user's state, and a couple other key factors, and pull the correct forms, and then auto-complete with information through all of those forms. Is that possible?" Finding that out, and finding the right person to ask that, was my next step.

Lance Tamashiro:
It's awesome. I'm looking at your website now. It's beautiful. It's well put together. I think that what's amazing about this is how you went from idea, to having this system built out, and then turning it into the business that you have. What happened for you after you put the website online? How do you go from, "Now I've got this service online," to actually getting customers.

Danielle Tate:
It's one of my best entrepreneur stories. Within thirty minutes of launching the site, and turning on Google Ads, we had our first customer. Her name was Wendy. That big happy bride on the website, we named her Wendy in honor of our first customer. Because of the power of Google Ads, especially at that time, we just had an influx of customers, and were profitable for month one.

Lance Tamashiro:
Thirty minutes. You're really, you're that person, because I remember when I put my first stuff online, it was like I sat there and hit, "Refresh," on my Paypal account, and nothing happened. You're that person where you actually hit, "Refresh," and there was money there.

Danielle Tate:
Yes, and it was amazing. I didn't just build it. Immediately we put ads out. If you just build it, they will not come. You have to have ads, and SEO, and all of those different components. Yes, I am a little bit of the Cinderella story. It did immediately generate income.

Lance Tamashiro:
I love that. One of the things that I want to talk to you about is I know that you have a book that is specifically target towards women, and having women start and grow their own businesses from home. Can you kind of talk about that book, and more specifically, who it targets?

Danielle Tate:
Sure. My book is called Elegant Entrepreneur: The Female Founder's Guide to Starting and Growing Your First Company. It's Elegant Entrepreneur not because I'm overly elegant, although I try. It's elegant in the definition as a simple and ingenious solution to the problem. The problem today is that women aren't starting up, and those who are creating companies, aren't scaling up. The United States Chamber of Commerce released some statistics, and one of them was that seventy-percent of women-owned companies bring in less than twenty-five thousand dollars in annual revenue. That just staggered me. That's not success. I don't care where you live. That's barely eating Ramen alive.

Lance Tamashiro:
Especially when you're talking about your own business. Making twenty-five, thirty-thousand a year working for someone else, where you don't have to do all the business stuff, that's okay. If you're running the business and only making that, you're not making that.

Danielle Tate:
No. It's akin to you've created an endless job for yourself that doesn't pay well. I very much self-educated. I do not have an MBA, or a business background. I read lots of business books. I never found one that spoke to me as an intelligent woman, and didn't assume that I had an MBA. When you have to click into Google on page five, you don't feel smart. You feel intimidated. I wrote this book with the mission of lowering the barriers to entry and success for women entrepreneurs. It's a third business book that will take you from idea to exit. It's a third stories and examples from my journey with MissNowMrs. It's also a third interviews with prominent female founders like Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank, and Jenny Fleiss from Rent the Runway. I really want to inspire women and show them that anyone can do this. Let's demystify the process and what it feels like to be in these steps, building a company as a woman.

Lance Tamashiro:
One of the reasons why I think that your book, and even your website and that empowerment for women is in my own family, my wife didn't work, doesn't ... Well, does sort of now, but doesn't work, hadn't finished her undergraduate degree, and at thirty-eight, decided to go back and finish her undergrad degree, and was afraid to do anything else. In my mind, I'm thinking she sort of had this mental barrier towards doing things, like towards doing these big things that she almost perceived as male-dominated types of things. As her husband, it really scared me, because if anything ever happened to me, I always wondered how she was going to take care of herself, how she was going to take care of the kids, the rest of the family and stuff.

For me, one of the biggest things that I saw her struggle with was that mindset that she can be a business person and she can do things. Later in life, she went back, finished her undergrad, is now in a masters program. It's been such an amazing thing to watch her go through this process and empower herself to be able to take care of the family if something happens to me, to provide for the family if something happens to me. What do you see with women entrepreneurs. Why is it that their average is twenty-five thousand dollars per year for their businesses?

Danielle Tate:
There's many theories, but I can tell you what I think. It's not research-based, it's just from being an entrepreneur and female founder for almost a decade, and-

Lance Tamashiro:
Probably better than research?

Danielle Tate:
Possibly, in my opinion. What I see is, in corporate America, everyone talks about the glass ceiling. I think in entrepreneurship, for women, there's a sticky floor. Women have this trait of being risk-averse, which serves us very well and makes us excellent entrepreneurs, because we don't just jump into things, and we don't launch half-baked products. It also can inhibit us from getting started because we can think of all the details that aren't done, and all the reasons why it might not be successful. By understanding, step-by-step, the first chapter of my book is the innovation gauntlet. It's a series of questions to ask yourself to see if your idea is worthy of anymore research, or if you need to re-tune it a little bit, or just start over. Getting women to understand the business steps and that they really can, and should, start businesses, and that they have the power to create a company, create their paycheck, and define what is successful for them, and their work hours. That's really the entrepreneur lifestyle, I think, is the ultimate lifestyle for any woman.

Lance Tamashiro:
I think a lot of those traits that you, the sticky floor traits that you're talking about, when I think about your journey with MissNowMrs, and my journey with the things that I've done, is it's almost as if those traits that you were just talking about, they're almost an advantage. Here's what I mean by that, is that when I started my stuff, because of the way that males think, that we're sort of brought up in society to do things, is I thought, "Well, I'm going to go learn how to make a website. I'm going to go learn how to do this. I'm going to go learn how to do that." I ended up spending all of this time getting bogged down and stuff. That wasn't necessarily what I needed to do.

When I listen to your story, you said, "I had this idea. I did my research. I knew what I needed done, and I went and found somebody that built it for me." There's a huge advantage in what you did versus what I've done to create my business. I think that that sticky floor, those traits that you talked about, if people start looking at them differently, especially women, there's a huge advantage to a lot of those traits that you were talking about.

Danielle Tate:
I absolutely agree. Yeah. Once you're actually ball rolling, starting a company, those things serve you so very well. It's just getting over that initial hurdle of them possibly causing this stickiness, or the hesitancy to take that jump. I say it's not a leap, it could just be a tip toe, but you just need to move forward with the idea daily, and give yourself a deadline to launch it.

Lance Tamashiro:
Can you talk about the innovation gauntlet a little bit? Let people know what those are and how people get through that? Because that that's huge to just even have to go, "Okay, maybe my idea is good enough, and now I know why it is."

Danielle Tate:
Certainly. I always disliked when I was reading and they just assumed you already had your great idea and knew what you were doing. I think it can be a little bit scary to put yourself out there, especially with your first idea for a business. I decided, I'm like, "You know what? I'm just going to create this little flowchart gauntlet." There's a light bulb at the top of it for your idea to really help you just get through the initial validation of your idea. The first part is, is the idea easily copied by an existing company, or added to an existing product? You answer yes or no. If you answer, "No," is your idea compelling enough for consumers to switch to your solution? If that's a yes, then is your product or service innovative enough to provide increased satisfaction and increased market demand? If so, you should consider building a company. If not, you could possibly sell or license that idea to existing company, or do more research on the problem, and tweak your solution, or start over. It's so much better to start over in the idea phase than after you've launched an unsuccessful company.

Lance Tamashiro:
I love that because one of the things that I think that ... I talk to a lot of women entrepreneurs on this show, and what I always find fascinating is that, and especially the way that you sort of went through that, where it's real general, but still very specific, where it's just yes or no, it's not real complicated, is that women come up with the best businesses. The ideas for them, men come up with all kind of the same business ideas, and they're never really good. They're really not. I've talked to women, and know women. One women made a plus size doll, because same thing that you just said, she looked around and said, "I'm a bigger woman, and there's no dolls that look like me out there." Made a giant company out of it. I love yours, MissNowMrs.

I have a friend, a woman friend, who people said, "You're a great cook," so she made a whole food truck fleet in Las Vegas. It's so amazing when women just come up with way better ideas. They really are. I think that so many times that they're afraid to take that leap and move forward with their ideas. That's what I love about your innovation gauntlet, is it really validates, "Is my idea silly? Or is it something that could work?" It's really simple.

Danielle Tate:
It's on page six. It's like, let's get started. You don't need to be halfway through this book. Let's really get you started on the right foot.

Lance Tamashiro:
I just think that that's really cool that it is on page six and not on page last, as a lot of books are.

Danielle Tate:
Yeah. The book is, you had asked who the audience, there are eleven year old girls reading this book. I just received an Amazon review from a woman in her eighties. It's really for any woman with an idea, determining whether or not she should or would enjoy building a business. It's also for women who already have a business who are trying to scale it and overcome competition and stay relevant in an ever-changing market. It's not the book that gets you started and then just leaves you hanging. The second half, chapters six through twelve, are very much building, growing, sustaining, scaling, overcoming obstacles, because that's very much a part of being an entrepreneur as well.

Lance Tamashiro:
Let's say that there's a woman listening to this, and she's like, "Okay, I've got an idea for a business that I think will work. It passes through this gauntlet, and now there's the million dollar question, right? How do I fund this thing?" What should people, women especially, what should they do? Because I think a lot of times, I know for my wife, when she wanted just little things like going back to school, she almost didn't even want to ask. It was this weird dynamic that she had. I hope it wasn't from my side, but there was this weird dynamic from her side where she felt like because she had been a stay at home mother that she almost didn't want to even ask for the money from the household to go into funding this education. How should women go about this?

Danielle Tate:
Women and funding is a very interesting thing, especially women entrepreneurs. I think it's something like eighty-percent of female founders self-fund or family fund, do friends and family rounds. The statistic is two-percent of venture-backed companies are women-owned currently. I think we own that as women, as well as the fact that most venture capitalists are elderly, Caucasian gentleman. If you're pitching a service or a product that doesn't fall within what they perceive as a value, it can be a little bit tricky to get funding. That's very much changing. There are a lot of different funds and angels and women-centric funding things starting. The other thing that we own is, for some reason, I think it might be taught societally, but women tend to be very uncomfortable asking for money.

When I was doing interviews for the book, on female founder, Elise Whang of SnobSwap said she felt like she had her hands out like she was begging on the street when she was talking to investors. It took a mentor pulling her aside and saying, "You're not begging. You're giving them the opportunity to invest and make a huge return on your idea and your hard work." She said that mind shift really helped her in her pitching and in her understanding of funding. That's something. The funding chapter is a really interesting chapter within the book, because I talk about bootstrapping, friends and family, venture capital, angel investment, seed rounds, all of these things that sound kind of scary and very businessy, but if you break them into what they are, are very much achievable, and very related back to the size of your opportunity. If you want to be the next Google, you're going to need outside funding. If you have a niche product, you can probably self-fund, or dual track. Work your current job and do evenings and weekends until you get revenue growth in your company that can sustain you coming over.

Lance Tamashiro:
I think that it it really weird, like, just the, and I don't know if it's societal thing, like you talked about, just the difference between, and again, just the way my wife and I view stuff is what you just explained, where this woman felt like she was asking for a handout basically is how my wife felt when she came to me. My thought when she came to me was, "Heck yeah, let's do this. This is an investment in our future. This is growing all of our stuff. Lets do this." It was weird to watch that dynamic. Now, it's obviously shifted as we've gone through it, but I think you're absolutely right. If you can, whether you're a woman or a man, if you feel that way when you're asking for money, I think what you said is some of the most valuable information that anybody can take is you're giving somebody the opportunity to invest in something and potentially make a huge return on something. You're not asking for anything. You're giving somebody a great opportunity. I love that.

Danielle Tate:
Thank you. I know that venture capitalists and angels always say that they invest in the jockey, not the horse. If you aren't confident enough to say why you are the very best person to take your idea, and make it happen, and change the world in whatever way. If you don't have the confidence, and if you don't say that and present that, then it's going to be very difficult for you to get funding.

Lance Tamashiro:
Here's another thing, especially with women getting started. I know a lot of women entrepreneurs are mothers, wives, they have these dual roles that they're dealing with. I think a lot of times, as men, it's a lot easier for us, because we think, "We're going to be the breadwinners. We're going to go out and do this." A lot of us men sort of take the stance that, "Well, if I'm bringing in an income, then that's my job, and I don't have to worry about other things." I know that women sometimes feel like, "Yes, I want to own this business and do this, but I'm also a mother, I'm also a wife, I'm also tied to a lot of other things where men aren't so much." How, for women especially, what kind of advice do you give them when they're thinking about doing this, mentally being okay with doing all of these roles at once? Or, even managing all of these roles at once?

Danielle Tate:
My favorite chapter in Elegant Entrepreneur is lean in for your start up to stand upright for yourself. It's where I take Sheryl Sandberg's ideas, a lot of her tenets from Lean In, but instead of applying them to leaning in, and working more hours, and taking promotions to make more money and have more responsibility in corporate America, to lean in and work the long hours and do the hard things for your own company, because much like children, at the beginning, they take everything. They take all of your energy, all of your live, all of your support to just keep them alive, but also like children, as they begin to grow up, they are a little more independent.

They still need your direction, they need your love and your influence, but you have more things that you can delegate. As a woman, that gives you the opportunity to start another company, to travel, to take care of a sick family member, or to have another child in your family. If you look at your business as a child, most people do have multiple children, it's doable, and it's so much more worthwhile, in my opinion, than leaning in for a huge corporate career.

Lance Tamashiro:
I love that. I totally love that. Danielle, where can somebody go if they want to find out about the book, find out more about you? I know that we've talked about MissNowMrs.com, but is there another place where people can find out more about you specifically? Obviously, they should check out what you've built there, but about you specifically and the things that you're talking about?

Danielle Tate:
Sure. The website ElegantEntrepreneur.co talks about me. I have a blog talking about female founders and interesting things that are happening. If you are interested in the book as a paperback or Kindle download, it's available on Amazon. Again, it's Elegant Entrepreneur: The Female Founder's Guide to Starting and Growing Your First Company. You can also keep up with me on Twitter @Elegant_Entre, or on Instagram @ElegantEntrepreneur.

Lance Tamashiro:
Awesome. Well, Danielle, I super appreciate you taking time to do this. I love your business idea. I love your message. I'm going to go pick up this book for my wife to read. I think that this, the message that you're putting out there, the step-by-step plans that you've got for people are totally amazing. I really appreciate you doing this. I think you're doing a great service for entrepreneurs everywhere, and especially women.

Danielle Tate:
Thank you, Lance. That just made my day.

Lance Tamashiro:
Well, perfect. You know, I'm definitely, once we check all this out, I'd love to have you back to talk about this a little bit more in depth. I do, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. For everybody else, we'll talk to you next time on the next episode of the Lance Tamashiro Show. Thanks everybody. Bye now.

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