Hi! I'm Dane Carlson, and welcome to the Business Opportunities Weblog. I've been publishing this website, by myself, and sometimes with the help of others for over twelve years now. You'll notice two things about this site right away:
Only just over a month old, having launched on July 9, 2008, Savvy Auntie has definitely made a splash. With all the community options there were for parents, Melanie Notkin noticed quickly that there were no options for the non parents who had nieces and nephews that they loved very much.
Over at the Savvy Auntie website, loving Aunties can get all the information they could ask for when it comes to their young nieces and nephews. For those Uncles, Melanie was kind enough to dish some information about any plans for expansion in an interview with us.
What inspired SavvyAuntie.com?
There were a number of factors that inspired SavvyAuntie.com, not the least of which were my nephew and nieces. They are the loves of my life, just as they are for every Auntie, whether she’s an Auntie by Relation (ABR) or Auntie by Choice (ABC).
When my nephew was born, I realized that there were no modern resources for the cosmopolitan Aunt. And yet there are a plethora of parent resources. Parents have so many tools to develop their loving relationship with their kids, but Aunties were at a loss. So when I quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only one to fall in love with a niece or nephew with life changing enormity, I realized that there was a need for a community and resource for women like me – a parenting site for non-parents.
Cosmopolitan non-moms (or not-yet-moms) are savvy in lot of areas, but when it comes to kids, are not so savvy. We have very little information on how to handle newborns, on activities and toys this new generation of kids like, and modern pop-icons like Dora the Explorer and Jonas Brothers often elude us.
And then there are more important issues like the role Aunties play when they have nieces and nephews with special needs. Aunties often have to navigate through other family members (and in-laws) and these relationships can be unsteady at times. Perhaps Auntie’s single and struggling against the clock as her sister gets pregnant with her third. Perhaps she’s watching her brother going through a divorce and she’s already losing time with her beloved nieces and nephews. For many Aunties, life isn’t always “Hokey Pokey.” When it is, she needs a community that will celebrate along with her. When it’s not, she needs a community that will understand.
My nephew and nieces were my inspiration at first, but now so are the tens of millions of women, just like me, with ups and downs just like mine. They are the ones that drop everything they are doing to babysit in a crunch. They are the ones that stand in line for hours to have Hannah Montana autograph a CD for a niece. They are the ones who the kids confide in when they can’t talk to Mom or Dad. Aunties are the unsung family heroes. And they are my inspiration.
What is some of the information that is offered on website?
SavvyAuntie.com is divided into four main sections. Expertise enables Aunts to learn from content written by experts on issues like kids health, special needs, cultural trends, even the music and lyrics to classic kids songs. Plus, there’s a Dear Savvy Auntie column and Auntiepedia – a place for Aunts to share their own savvy on topics of their choice.
Activities are divided into subject areas like Staying in and Going Out, Good Deeds and Long Distance. Aunts can also find local activities powered by Nickelodeon’s GoCityKids.
The Gifts section offers hundreds of gifts ideas for nieces and nephews, all of which can be filtered multiple ways, including by Auntie’s personality. Each gift includes a reason why it’s a great gift from a Savvy Auntie, so you know that the gifts were selected with Aunties in mind.
Finally, Community is where Savvy Aunties can Find Friends like them, start or respond to Forums, Join Groups, Create their own Blog, and contribute to the Aunthology – a collection of stories on Aunt-hood. Community is probably one of the most important areas of the site as there has never before been a Community of Aunts able to exchange ideas. It’s historic, in its own way.
Do you have any features that you hope to launch in the near future?
SavvyAuntie.com is still in Beta and there are a lot of great applications that we are gearing up to launch soon. These include a Gift List, Gift Reminder, a Media Box for the Savvy Aunties’ photos and videos, as well as a digital scrapbook they can send along to friends and a digital fridge door where their little ones can post a drawing they made on SavvyAuntie.com!
Where do you see Savvy Auntie in the next 5 years?
Savvy Auntie is a lifestyle brand and we plan to evolve the brand over a cross section of media, including books and video. There are a number of fun projects we’re already talking about, so there is great promise for the brand. Of course, we have a wonderful testing ground with our members and by virtue of what they talk about on the site and through their own User Generated Content, we’ll be able to gauge the best and most useful tools to develop offline.
What were some of the steps that went into building your website? How much time and planning went into it?
Your readers can follow my process which I documented in my Business Blog at Blog.SavvyAuntie.com. I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to share how they executed on their idea because let’s face it, the hardest part about starting a business is starting a business!
The idea to develop the site came to me on June 12, 2007. It took a year from idea to launch, and along the way there were a number of steps, some of which were familiar to me as a former internet and marketing communications executive, but some were completely unfamiliar. Needless to say, I asked for a lot of help along the way.
Are there any resources that have helped you through the building and starting process? What are some of your favorites?
When I decided to launch SavvyAuntie.com, I invested in various classes and tools that kept me focused and frankly, committed. I posted a blog about 20 Tips for the New Entrepreneur. I still follow my own advice today.
What previous experience were you able to bring with you into growing your website?
I started my career in non-profit marketing. Needless to say, non-profits are very entrepreneurial; if you don’t create it and make it happen, it won’t. I transitioned to the Internet industry in 1999 as a director of marketing at New York Times Digital. While there, during the Web1.0 peak, I learned so much about how to drive and engage traffic. My stint at American Express Membership Rewards online taught me the power of membership, and my over four years as head of Internal & Interactive Communications at L’Oréal USA taught me about online and offline publishing and understanding what women want. Without realizing it, I designed a career perfectly suited to launch SavvyAuntie.com.
What are some of the options you offer to potential advertisers?
The day SavvyAuntie.com launched, we had a number of advertisers reach out to us. Hasbro and Sephora are just two brands that understood immediately how Savvy Aunties indulge themselves and the children in their lives. We are also talking with a number of other major toy retailers, general retailers, and beauty brands. And just last week, I was courted by Ford to test drive their model 2009s. Ford understands that 65% of women make the car purchases for their household, and women without children are more likely to purchase luxury vehicles like the Lincoln MKX I test drove and fell in love with while I was there.
We offer our advertisers traditional display ads and targeted ads. We also offer a number of very targeted sponsorship opportunities within the site. Finally, I use my influence through my blog and on other social media platforms like Twitter, to extend offers. Advertisers seeking to reach the non-mom market, or PANKs as we have defined them, can turn to SavvyAuntie.com and get a 360 degree solution; they getting added value through social media and other PR opportunities.
I know your website is for Aunties, but do you think there may be room for an Uncles section in the future?
We do own the SavvyUncle.com domain and have been asked by a number of other Uncles to develop a community just for them. We know Savvy Uncles love their nieces and nephews as much as our Savvy Aunties and so you never know… in the meantime, they can access the Expertise, Activities and Gifts sections without become a Savvy Auntie member. Plus, we do have a column entitled: Notes from an Uncle by Jeff Cutler, which takes the Uncles perspective in a pretty hilarious way.
Was there any advice you may have received that was especially helpful to you? What advice do you have for others looking to build a community website of their own?
My site was built a great advice. There is no way I could have launched a site like SavvyAuntie.com without seeking the advice of those in the know. I can’t begin to tell you how many people have offered information, advice, contacts, etc that have helped propel my success. However, and this is important for entrepreneurs to know, most of it was solicited. Ask for help. If you are confident and excited about your business, 95% of those you seek out will enjoy the energy around you and want to offer up all the advice they can. The 5% who are unresponsive? Well, that where karma steps in.
Niche communities are the future of online communities. It happens that the Aunt niche is about half the US population of women, but a niche nonetheless. Find a demographic that people care about and care to be a part of. Everyone wants to feel special and included. Which reminds me – thanks for including me in your community. I hope this interview was helpful. Your readers are welcome to follow me on Twitter.com/SavvyAuntie and I invite them to read my Blog. It’s a behind the scenes look at how I started and run this company.