Women in Business – Surviving the First Two Years: “Who is your audience?” Interview with Margit Detweiler

Interview with Margit Detweiler, founder of Gyrate Media and TueNight, on her experiences being a woman entrepreneur.

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Please tell us a bit about yourself, and describe your company.

Hi! I’m Margit Detweiler,  the founder of TueNight.com — we are a Webby-honored platform to connect and share the stories of our lives. As we like to say, “we’re just getting started.” Over the last five years we’ve been sharing these stories via live and virtual storytelling events (think “the Moth for midlife”) our website and our weekly newsletter named one of the top women-led newsletters by Forbes! Our storytelling lineup is consistently great and has included luminaries such as What Not To Wear’s Stacy London, NY Attorney General Tish James, novelist Amy Sohn, musician Jill Sobule, New York Times editor Dodai Stewart  and many others.  We’ll be launching TueNighters a private, subscription-based community in April with events, courses, masterclasses and more.

I also run Gyrate Media, a boutique content strategy firm that works with brands like Verizon, AARP, P&G, Brandless,  J&J, Citi and many others. In my previous life I was the editorial director for RealSimple.com and Aol Health, executive editor at EverydayHealth.com and managing editor and music editor of the Philadelphia City Paper.  I’m an award-winning reporter and editor and have contributed to Rolling Stone, Redbook, Refinery29, The Associated Press, Village Voice, Bust, and many others.  A born and bred Philadelphian, I now live in Brooklyn with my architect husband and beagle.

What has been the most challenging thing you have faced in the first two years of operating your business? How did you overcome it?

My biggest worry: That no one would show up or listen! The whole purpose of starting TueNight was to speak midlife outloud and share the stories that weren’t being told, from our personal, lived experiences. My motto has been patience and persistence, something I learned early on in my career from working at a newspaper: The more I spoke up, did work, interjected myself and asked for what I wanted — the more I chipped away at my ultimate goal, which was to lead the newspaper. I started out as an administrative assistant and 5 years later was the music editor, eight years later was the managing editor. I never reached editor-in-chief, but that’s a glass ceiling story we’ve all heard before.

I keep that in my mind when I want to grow my community, or bring our stories to a larger crowd.  Just keep chipping away. 

What are some of the biggest digital marketing challenges you have faced to date? How have you overcome them?

I think the biggest challenge has been transitioning from a platform and community built as a passion project by myself with the help of a few friends to something with a real business and marketing plan. I’ve taken it step by step — starting with ticketed live events; adding in some affiliate marketing; and now moving our TueNighter community to a subscription model in a few weeks!

Please tell us what led you to the path of entrepreneurship. 

It was somewhat circumstantial, but I realized quickly that all of my skill sets had primed me for it. I’d been laid off from my final full-time job during the recession, had never been fired before and was demoralized. But a colleague from a former job offered me a consulting gig with a large brand to run a new publication they were building from scratch. I learned pretty quickly that I enjoyed the freedom and respect that comes from being an expert for hire. Since I was a little kid, putting on plays on the fireplace with my sister and brother, I’ve always loved pulling people together for a “show.” So in 2013 I decided to build my own show/ platform where I could really express my creative vision and bring other storytellers along for the ride. 

What are the most important things every woman entrepreneur should do, when first thinking about starting a business?

Who is your audience? This is true in every single thing I do — whether it’s writing a story, building a new product/ website, or assembling my Gen-Xers for an evening of storytelling. You want to know who you’re targeting so they actually show up and stick around. It sounds really obvious but you’d be amazed how many brands disregard this and say “we’re for everyone!” –  Nope, then you’re for no one.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. As women, so many of us are perfectionists which holds us back from starting something in the first place. If you have a great idea (and that audience) get it out there and shape and iterate as you go. Yes you will have little failures, but as we all know by now, failure is key to success — you’ll learn immeasurable lessons along the way

Envision it. This one sounds a little woo-woo maybe, but it works. Truly envision what you want for your business. Who you see participating/ buying it, how it will look, think about the colors and format, see yourself succeeding with it. I’m a big believer in the power of our mind fulfilling what we want. (And avoid that negative self-talk as much as you can!)

Align your allies. This is the moment to leverage your mentors, sign up friends, tap into your most loyal fans and customers. People want to help! Let them help you grow.

Are there actionable steps a woman in business should take to ensure that her company is successful in two years?

Absolutely!

Get a great, trustworthy bookkeeper, admin, and accountant. You keep your business focused on the bottom line while freeing you up to be the visionary. My financial folks have been part and parcel of my success, partly because I manage so many writers, videographers, and photographers. Having someone handle the money, contracts and admin keeps me on track has truly helped me grow and focus on the creative aspects.

Never stop connecting. While networking sometimes feels “extra” it’s vital to finding new fans, spreading the word about what you’re doing, and keeping fresh with new ideas from new people. You’ll more quickly elevate your business if there are others to support you.

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