Start-up Success Stories: Amanda Steinberg of DailyWorth
When Amanda Steinberg first pitched the idea of DailyWorth, an email newsletter subscription to help women manage their finances, some skeptical investors told her that “women don’t care about money.”
Well, gentlemen, you can go ahead and eat those words.
She launched the company (now known as the “DailyCandy of finance”), she got funding, and she proved that women are very, very interested in money. DailyWorth is now a 14-employee operation with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, and recently launched two new products—CreateWorth (for entrepreneurs) and MoreWorth (for affluent women).
Steinberg, too, has springboarded to success. Known nationwide as an expert in personal finance, she’s been seen everywhere from The New York Times to Cosmo to seated next to Susan Lyne, CEO of Gilt Groupe, at a panel on women and leadership at the Women in the World Conference.
But, she’s also quick to note that she’s been in the trenches, too. So she’s joining us for Start-up Week to spill the good, the bad, and the ugly of her success story, for everyone who’s ever thought about starting a company:
For starters, why did you start DailyWorth?
I launched the company because I’ve had a lifelong fascination with wealth building but I was really frustrated with how boring I found most finance media. I wanted to start the first finance publication that I actually wanted to read as a woman—that related to my realities in life.
Can you walk us through your early days?
After nine months of publishing, I had 4,000 subscribers, which is not nearly enough to generate advertising revenue. So I raised $250K of friends and family capital. I was really lucky in that I had family members who could afford to take a risk on me.
From that money, I was able to grow us to 50K subscribers, which meant we were able to secure real advertising contracts—like ING, H&R; Block, and LivingSocial. That really proved the viability of the idea—not just of the content we were delivering, but the revenue side of things.
So, it was at that point when I said, OK, I have a real business here, and I’m solving a real problem in the marketplace, and there’s a really enthusiastic response from advertisers who are renewing—it’s time to go raise real capital.
What was that experience like?
(Groan.) I decide to raise $1.5 million. That took me nine months, and I have never been so stressed out, or frustrated, or depressed in my life. Mostly because I had to fly around the country, explaining to my husband (now my ex-husband) why I have to present to yet another angel network, all the while trying to pay people, trying to keep my web company going so I could pay all my bills, and then having investor after investor say to me “great business, you’re doing awesome, but I’m not ready to invest right now. Come back and meet with me again in a month.”
So, I didn’t end up raising $1.5 million, I raised $850K and cut back my expense plan, which was fine. The day I closed, I got violently, physically ill when the money finally hit my bank account. It wasn’t like “Yay! I won,” I was beaten down—I think it was my body reacting to the intensity I had just been through.
Wow. But, obviously, it paid off!
Yes! And with that $850K, I put an unbelievable board together, including Joanne Wilson and Andy Russell, the original backer of Daily Candy, and we were able to triple our subscribers and our revenue within three months. So then, the board of directors said, OK, this is working, go raise another $2 million, and let’s do this for real.
Ha, bet that was fun. Was the second round easier?
That $2 million was so much easier—because I had big names of investors [from the first round] and I was hitting my numbers—we were actually doing what we said we were going to do. And we’re in a huge market: ambitious women who care about their money.
You’ve grown so quickly in the last couple of years—what’s been the most challenging part of growing the business?
Really being CEO and focusing on the business, as opposed to where I want to be, which is in the trenches doing the work with everyone. I love rolling up my sleeves and cold calling advertisers, writing editorial, tweaking subject lines.
But the reality is, I had a board meeting yesterday, and they all told me, “You need to spend many hours per week analyzing what’s going on, not just doing it.” So, I’m resisting that—I want to just build, but I can’t. I have to steer the business as a captain.
Which has got to be hard for start-up founders—who, in the early days, really do have to roll up their sleeves!
Absolutely—you have to evolve the leadership part of your brain and recognize the points at which you need to let go. For example, I really should let go of editorial—we have such a competent editorial team, and they do not need me. But I still say, “send me the text, I need to approve it!” And they have to tell me, “no you don’t!”
What’s been the most surprising thing throughout the journey?
I’ve always dreamed of being a leader. I’ve always seen myself as running companies, probably since I was 10 years old. I would watch the news and see the talking heads and think, I’m going to be there one day!
So, the most surprising thing is, I’ve actually gotten there! I’ve reached a level of success that I’ve always dreamed of. That doesn’t mean that things couldn’t blow up tomorrow—but I got to stand on the stage at the Women in the World conference recently, and I cried on the train going up. I couldn’t believe it. I thought—I’m on the other side of that intense scrappy struggle! There’s a level of euphoria that goes with the constant panic attacks.
What advice do you find yourself giving to early-stage entrepreneurs most often?
Figure out your revenue model! Revenue solves all problems, including fundraising. So figure it out and stay focused on that—don’t get distracted. I launched with the Daily Candy business model charted out in my Excel spreadsheet two months before I even started DailyWorth. I knew exactly what I was going to do to make money. It took me a year and a half to see that revenue, but I knew where I was going.
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Adrian Granzella Larssen is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Muse, the award-winning daily career advice publication that's helped millions of people find and succeed at their dream jobs. A nationally recognized career expert, she speaks regularly to corporations and women's groups and has been featured in Forbes, Mashable, Business Insider, Fusion TV, and Real Simple. She has 10+ years experience in strategic communications and publications, most recently serving as head of online communications for the George Washington University Medical Center. Say hi on Twitter and Instagram.More from this Author