AMEX Small Business Profile: Stacy Debroff, MomCentral.com
Marketing to Moms isn't just a hot topic, it's also a BIG business. For the past 10 years, mom of 2, and former attorney, Stacy Debroff, has learned the demographic well, forming the hugely successful Mom Central Consulting, which, in the past year alone, has partnered with over 80 national brands, Fortune 500 companies, PR firms, and venture-backed start-ups to build brand awareness and activate Moms to significant retail purchases or online participation. Stacy has also been the "go-to Mom" for major media outlets nationwide, including The Today Show, The CBS Early Show, CNN's American Morning, Headline News, and many, many more.
We caught up with Stacy recently to get the inside scoop on her unique success story.
What is your secret to success?
For me, the formula has come down to passion, vision, and standing tall within oneself! Every day, I cannot wait for the adventures and accompanying challenges that await at work. I created Mom Central and its expansion into a thriving social media agency reaching Moms with one vision in mind from which I have never veered: to make the world a better place for busy Moms and their families.
With a generation caught between the June Cleaver homemaker image and being educated with an ambition to be all that we can be, us Moms often find out it's the sticky floor, not the glass ceiling that compromises our vision. As I observed the way that brands and companies seek to interact with us, I came away struck with how many misses took place.
Twenty team members later, a Canadian office launch and summoning inner self-confidence has led to a thriving small business with anticipated revenues this year of $3 million, even in a down economy. And I feel like we've just gotten started! One last secret: passion is contagious, and when you bring excitement and intelligence to what you do, people find the combination exactly what they're looking for in a business partner.
What special challenges exist especially for women business owners, and how have you overcome them?
This has been quite the buzz of conversation among my fellow women business owners. Many of my peers have expressed ongoing feelings of frustration and isolation as they fight uphill battles in sectors of the economy they perceive as still predominately male, such as manufacturing, construction, or financial services. This comes up from finding peers to confide in, negotiating business financing, finding mentors to feeling frustrated by not being understood by Mom peers who have opted to stay at home to raise their kids or work part-time. And no doubt about it, running your own business proves a consuming responsibility.
For me, it's thinking about the large payroll I carry, and how many families and individuals depend on my company to make a living. Yet in my case, I barely think about being a woman CEO as a hindrance. Perhaps it's that I have a close circle of accomplished friends cheering each other on with standing ovations and hugs as alternatively needed, my training as an attorney that equips me to smartly negotiate contracts and deals, and that I work on issues impacting Moms -- so how could the guys know more than us?
One huge issue that I have found though is that I have no older generation women business mentors, and often feel the absence of experienced women to advise me. Instead I have formed an informal advisory council of fellow Mom CEO's whose insights and diverse experience can help lend some seasoned perspective on the new issues that present themselves in any given month.
What is the most exciting things about your industry?
Within the realm of social media and viral word of mouth, every day brings both exhilarating and daunting challenges. Technology platforms morph overnight, such as the sudden rush of Moms onto Twitter and Facebook, and new unexpected ways to reach Moms such as the rise of bloggers present themselves.
For me, I love working with brands to figure out how their marketing can enhance the lives of Moms and how their messaging can be elevated from the mundane to issues of key import facing us. Every aspect of our work morphs and refines as technology reach becomes more widespread, inexpensive and easy to use --- and you just never know what challenge tomorrow will bring and what creative brainstorming will lead you to try.
What is the value of networking? Do you have any networking tips? What kind of networking tools do you use?
Two words: "beyond invaluable." I have found that business revolves around personal relationships, and you have to create these. Forget your personality; networking is a learned art that, done well, can leapfrog your small business to the next level.
So much of our business comes from folks we have met at conferences, at networking events, at speaking gigs, or via friends. Social media networks such as LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed have also fueled business networking. If you find yourself struggling on this front, find yourself a networking mentor!
What kind of cash flow problems have you experienced?
If only someone had told me a bit earlier how CASH IS KING in a small business. You can have great, large receivables owed you to, but in a slow economy, it's not unusual to find that clients get incredibly slow to pay or sometimes cannot pay at all.
I run two different kinds of tracking: cash in, and business closed/money expected. Keeping an eye on the cash at all times and having strong accounting back-up has proven invaluable.
Do you have any unique tips on how you manage your business's finances?
Each month, we track all proposals that go out the door:
- The amount of money tied to each
- The date the proposal went out the door
- The date an agreement was signed or the work was turned down.
We found that we averaged a 40% close rate within a month, so this enables us to track our anticipated cash stream fairly accurately and is priceless for business forecasting!
Share your history and experience as an AMEX user:
I've been with AMEX for decades, personally, and I have used AMEX as my main card professionally since I started my business 10 years ago. I use the Platinum AMEX for myself, and the AMEX Open Gold for our team staff. I travel extensively for work (from dashing off to the Today Show for a segment, to flying off to Chicago to meet with a brand team), and the travel features of the AMEX card have saved me on many occasions.
I chose the Platinum in order to use the exclusive clubs of airlines such as Delta. (Nothing can be more of a lifesaver than when you have an unexpected six-hour delay or need personalized help.) I also appreciate the significant savings discounts I get -- such as the percentage off for business use of Fed Ex and Jet Blue tickets and the concierge service. When we have had questionable charges, the customer service team leaps into action, and you actually get to talk to a PERSON without having to push 17 buttons and hoping you won't be disconnected.
The AMEX itemization helps us sort through everyone's expense reports, and the category spends enable us to financially project and plan monthly spends by category. This is a huge advantage when you average about $16,000 a month on collective AMEX business cards. We choose to always pay on time, and we use the rewards to enable us to travel as a team to conferences.
As a CEO, I consider AMEX an invaluable business partner.