Develop Your Concept
We had been working in the mobile space and realized the intersection of mobile, social and real-time was where things were converging. That combination brings users tremendous value so we focused exclusively on giving users easier ways to do the things they were already doing, and provide them with new functionality in apps that they will have with them at all times on their phones.
I launched my own public relations business, Magnolia PR, in late 2006, after a few years of learning the ins and outs of the industry at a boutique firm. I knew I wanted to create a business focusing on fashion, baby, and lifestyle products where I could offer personal attention and custom packages geared to what clients truly needed. I encountered a lot of up-and-coming designers who desperately needed PR but weren't able to afford high retainer rates. I developed smaller packages that worked with their budgets and allowed them to take their business to the next level with coverage in magazines like In Style and Lucky.
As they say, "Necessity is the mother of invention." This was true for me when my littlest spilled on her car seat and I struggled for too long to get the cover off, only to read the care instructions, which said, "Do not machine wash." I couldn't believe that something that children are in everyday couldn't be thrown in the washing machine. I looked for a better way, and my search came up empty, so I knew that an idea was born for an easily removable, washable, and waterproof cover for car seats. I figured if I had this problem, it was likely that most other moms and dads were having it as well, so I knew that I had something. Now the trick was to get it from an idea onto the shelves. The first step was to design something that was easy to use, comfy to sit in, and didn't leak, and to contact an attorney to get a patent filed! I was careful not to talk about my idea with too many people, but I did need to find the right material, which was the hardest part, since it didn't exist. I knew exactly what I wanted, so I made my own prototype with a fitted sheet, glue, and Velcro, and brought it to a pattern maker to create a real working pattern. Then I had to find the right fabric, which was much more difficult than I thought. I finally found a fabric sourcing company, and together we were able to develop exactly the fabrics I needed, a soft outer layer, an absorbent inner layer, and a wicking fabric that keeps the water away and is treated to prevent leaking.
In 2003 I (Risa) had a baby and my sister Leslie and I were talking about ways to meet other working moms. We decided to do a mom's night out with fun speakers and topics, where we would do crafts and get to know each other. This took off (and became Big City Moms) and from there we added on holiday parties and educational seminars and have grown by word of mouth to over 10,000 moms in New York City. We started this for fun and never expected it to grow into a business, but because we are both business minded we were able to pick up on the potential and build it into what it is today. We now have events almost every day of the week with from 20-300 people per event.
My mother and I have been making chocolate-covered pretzels since I was a little girl. While working at Grey Advertising after graduating from college, I made pretzels for a holiday party and everyone, including my bosses, told me that I would be crazy not to make it into a business. I started the business as a hobby on the side in 2003 while still working at Grey. It kept growing virally through friends, and then in 2005 my parents sat me down and said I should go for it and they would give me their support. That year I finally put up a website and right after that I got a piece in DailyCandy. I went from having 5 orders total on my website to having 100 orders on the day that the DailyCandy piece came out. You should have seen us scrambling to put those orders together, but we were able to do it. My biggest day has been when I was on the Today Show as a Father's Day pick. I had over 600 orders that day alone!
I left my position in the AOL newsroom and wanted to start my own agency. It was back in 1998 and the movie Titanic had just come out, so I took my rent money and created 500 T-shirts that said, "It Sank. Get Over It." I went to Times Square and thought if I sell 150 T-shirts, I at least cover the costs. I sold all 500 in 6 hours. I called a friend at USA Today who asked me if I had a website, I said "yes" and then created it that night. He wrote a story, which led to many more pieces, including Howard Stern, who hated the movie. I ended up selling 10,000 T-Shirts at $15 each for a $100,000 profit and used that to finance my first agency.