Start-up Interview: is Providing a Voice to Women in their Forties

US sites catering predominantly to women, and specifically to those in their prime have become prevalent over recent years, with the likes of Fabulously 40, wowOwow and Shine from Yahoo leading the revolution.  UK sites, however, seem to have lagged behind in providing such a portal - until now that is.

Pitch-preneurs at our recent Darwinian Business event, Karen Espley and Mel Scott-Taylor of talk to The NextWomen about the 'forgotten decade', their desire to work on their own terms and the hard task of monetising a content only site.

Karen Espley and Mel Scott-Taylor

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Karen I was previously a Marketing Director for a European IT consultancy where my skills ranged from developing marketing strategies and plans through to campaign delivery and event management and marketing.  For many years prior to this I worked in health insurance in a variety of roles and originally trained as a nurse back in the mists of time. With this mixed background and my MBA, I consider myself to be a Jack (Jill?) of all trades and master of some. I am driven by a passion for perfection, high quality delivery and excellent customer service.

Mel I have worked within the field of marketing for over 10 years.  Specifically working with numerous award winning agencies as well as successfully setting up my own agency in New Zealand. I have been key in developing partnerships for and am responsible for ensuring that becomes top of mind amongst women in their forties throughout the UK. I also have a background in fashion and styling, and edit the fashion and beauty sections of the site.

You both come from a marketing background, what has pushed you to make this change and start a business?

Karen I don’t want to sound like some bleeding heart feminist, but I have always worked in organisations that are very top heavy when it comes to men in senior positions. I don’t care what anyone says, when you get up to that level yourself, it is very difficult to compete and to be taken seriously however professional you are and I became tired of all the corporate politics that happen at that level. I really enjoyed working for the IT consultancy when it was small and we were busy growing – it had so much energy and we all worked really hard and played hard, and it was great even when it was challenging.

I wanted to create something similar, but to do it on my own terms.

Mel Starting a business isn’t new to me.  The concept of thirty10 coupled with the fact that it is an online business really sparked an interest for me.  And with such an agency background, investigating the market and the need were the first things I did.  The results were great.  This is an exciting new brand for an incredibly influential and growing online market.

What is Thirty10 and how did you come up with the idea? is an online magazine and community for women in their forties.  The site provides a voice for what could be described as a forgotten decade but one which is fast becoming the focus of many brands both online and offline.  A range of topics are covered on the site including Beauty, Fashion, Fitness, Health, Relationships, Careers and news, all specific and relevant to this demographic.
Professional experts and partners contribute and provide expert advice within their content or topic area.  These range from cosmetic product reviews, recommended health & beauty tips, careers and relationships.

Members of the site can take part in forums, ask questions of the experts and professionals as well as have the opportunity to take part in monthly surveys uncovering the truth behind the likes, dislikes, needs, wants and thoughts of women in their forties.

The idea arose out of a frustration of being in our forties and realising that it’s actually very difficult to find out stuff that’s relevant to being in your forties. We have become a grey area between the younger age group of 20-35 and the older age group of 55 plus. More often than not we get lumped in with the 55 plus and that’s way off beam.  Our specific issues and concerns are therefore not being addressed and also, very importantly for me, there is this misperception of what it is to be forty, and I want to re-educate the world that we are still here, we have plenty to offer, we look great and still kick arse!

There seemed to us to be a gap in the market and our research backed this up.

You have realised the massive increase in facebook users between the ages of 40 and 49, will you therefore harness the potential of social media?

Without a shadow of a doubt! Not only through facebook, but by identifying the influencers online, blogging, using Twitter, Youtube etc etc.  That being said we are well aware of the difficulties in migrating traffic from a comfortable social online environment like Facebook to something new such as but that’s part of the challenge.

What is your business model? How will the site make money?

We have a mixed revenue model.

It’s very difficult to monetise a content only site and it’s always been the main challenge for us.

If we can get people to the site in sufficient numbers, then the rest becomes relatively easy. So our main focus is getting people to the site and getting them to keep coming back, and a key focus here will be implementing sound SEO strategies that work.  We are already at the point where measurement, evaluation and change are priorities for us.

Revenue will be generated through a mixture of advertising, affiliate marketing, product and data sales, partners, and offline events
We are also in start up mode so concentrating on one revenue stream for a content site such as ours would be high risk.  Spreading this risk across a few key revenue streams will enable us to survive the beginning and grow with time.

Who is in the Thirty10 team?

Mel and Karen, plus Lee Grant who is our non exec chairman (who has expertise in technological and finance areas).  We use an external development team, but they have been with us from the start.  We also have support from other senior marketing experts.

Has entrepreneurial spirit always been in your blood?

Karen I’ve wanted to run my own business for many years, but could never work out what it was that I wanted to do. I knew it had to be something I was passionate about otherwise it was never going to work. I’ve always been a bit of an adventurer though, so I’ve been able to get some freedom through going to the Antarctic (and living on a Russian base for a few weeks) and working in Ghana with Raleigh International.

Mel Every day is another opportunity to come up with that Big Idea!  For me it’s about ideas but most importantly turning those ideas into reality.  I’ve worked with a few start ups including my own business and belief in what you are doing is vital.  I like to think that when the belief and passion are there you can make almost impossible things happen!

How much funding do you require and what steps have you taken to achieve this?

£270,000 to take us through the first year, to enable us to increase the functionality of the site, really beef up the marketing to drive members to the site and to look at developing the brand in different directions.

Has the recession had any impact on how you are approaching your start-up?

Karen Not really – we started in the recession. Money is always an issue and as self funders, we’ve been naturally very careful about how we spend our money.

Mel We are, as every consumer is, very aware of the impact the recession has had and we will continue to try to understand the needs of our members in order to help them as we get through the rest of the tough times.

What single piece of advice would you give to a woman thinking about starting an online business?

Karen It takes a lot longer than you think it’s going to and there’s a huge amount to learn.  Personally, I could never have done it on my own, so my advice would be that if you are going to do it on your own, get yourself a mentor or someone to whom you are ‘accountable’ to ensure you keep driving forward and to bounce your ideas off.

Mel yes Karen is right.  I would also say that taking a real look at yourself and knowing your strengths and weaknesses is probably one of the first things you should do.  Always, always know your weaknesses and surround yourself with people, advice or training to even the balance.  There is a wealth of support out there, a lot of it free, and when you are in start up mode you have to develop a nose for things that are free!

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