It’s the one thing we all can never seem to get enough of—time. But the biggest obstacle? Figuring out how to maximize it.
30Seconds.com founder Elisa All Schmitz has found a way to do just that.
“Pregnancy is what spurred my entrepreneurship, if you can believe it,” says All Schmitz. “And I thought, ‘That’s kind of crazy,’ because this is a new life stage, and women need information about their bodies, and about their babies.”
All Schmitz began her journey into entrepreneurship after becoming pregnant with her first child and recognizing a gaping need in the motherhood market. While there were a few classic go-to books for expectant mothers, she says there was no publications, whether it be print or online, for modern moms to connect.
“I did a survey of 100 pregnant women and said, ‘What do you guys think?’ and of course 99 out of 100 women said ‘Yes, I would subscribe,’” says All Schmitz.
All Schmitz says she took it upon herself to create that place, and with that her path to entrepreneurship began.
“Suddenly, women around the world literally had a place to go to read great information and meet other women.”
All Schmitz founded iParenting Media, which quickly became regarded as one of the “Best of the Web” sites for parents by publications such as Newsweek and US News & World Report. The Walt Disney Company then bought the site in 2007, while All Schmitz stayed on to help integrate the company into the Disney Parenting Network.
But as a mom of three, she quickly recognized there was another emerging need in the market as mobile tech and social media started quickly coming to the forefront. From there, 30Seconds.com was born.
The digital tip line was founded in 2012 and began as a site where moms could go to learn quick tips in 30 seconds or less.
As an experienced entrepreneur, All Schmitz was familiar with the process, and turned to several accelerator programs and Chicago’s 1871 for further resources.
“[They] recommended me for a program in Silicon Valley called Blackbox, which is in connection with Google for Entrepreneurs,” she states. “I will tell you that was probably the most transformative experience that happened to me for the business. We completely rebuilt the site from the ground up, […] and we have only just begun to show what it can do.”
30Seconds.com continues to prove itself, as it has expanded into five verticals within the past year. Now users can learn something new in 30 seconds or less, including tips on food, health, travel, beauty and family.
While any user can submit a tip via text or video to be potentially posted on the site, All Schmitz says the process is a little more nuanced than that:
“These are all [people] who have a domain expertise in the subject matter they are writing about. It’s about removing ‘the journalist’ if you will, and going directly to the source, and we are shining a light on these people.”
Although the launch of the five verticals has been immensely successful, All Schmitz says the road to entrepreneurship is not always easy, especially when the tech aspect comes into play.
“Finding amazing tech talent is a challenge. I’m someone who came from the media world and had these visions for what’s next in media,” says All Schmitz. “But if you’re not a technologist and more of a visionary, and you can find that complimentary tech talent and get a technical co-founder, that might be the way to go.”
Furthermore, while technology is a huge part of any start-up, All Schmitz says it’s important not to forget to lay the groundwork before you jump in without a plan.
“You have to have a great idea, but you can’t just be the only one that believes in it. Go market test as soon as possible. Get feedback from other people, especially the ones you’re trying to target,” All Schmitz added. “Build something that might not necessarily be the end-all-be-all, but it allows you to see, ‘Is this something that’s going to resonate with people?’ and ‘Do they even want this?’”
And of course, you can’t forget about the money—but it’s not just about raising funds or finding investors.
“So many entrepreneurs feel so much pressure to raise money right away or to get revenue [and] contributors cranking all at once, but you have to be patient,” All Schmitz advises.
“Don’t be overly guarded or protective of your equity in that way, especially when you’re first starting out. You’ve got the equity—use it,” she says.
“I think a lot of founders trip themselves up by trying to say I don’t want to give too much away, but you also have to realize in order to grow, you’re going to have to […] especially with key people to make a cohesive team.”
After you’ve done your due diligence, there’s just a few more things you’re going to need, All Schmitz says.
“You have to be scrappy, you have to have fearlessness. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know [who] will say ‘yes.’ What do you have to lose?”
Finally, Elisa All Schmitz says it’s also key for female entrepreneurs not to be defined by gender norms in order to be on an equal playing field in the tech world, particularly in Chicago.
“I love the fact that we are known as a wonderful city for supporting female entrepreneurs. I also sort of hate the fact that we have to do that because I hate being thought of as a female founder, instead of just a founder,” she states.
But, Chicago is heading in the right direction.
“I think the steps we are taking are really important in making women feel like they can do this.”
Ultimately, she says, being an entrepreneur is not an easy task, but if you’ve got the motivation, you’ve already made one major step in the right direction.
“It is not for the faint of heart, and it is going to be the most amazing roller coaster of your life, so be prepared for the ups and the downs—and there will be both—but, it’s worth it,” says All Schmitz.
“Just realize the joy of that statement: it’s all on me. Like that’s a joyful thing to say and it’s a scary thing to say, but at the end of the day that’s what it takes to be an entrepreneur.”
Photo Credit (Elisa All): 30Seconds.com Founder Elisa All (Center) with members of the “30Seconds Tribe.”