Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Sinead and I launched Richmond VA Moms in October 2018 to help busy moms save time by providing a centralized source of information in the Richmond area. It’s more than just a mom blog because I carefully curate and choose the businesses, events, and partnerships that are included. The website is constantly growing and adding new pages, information, discounts, and events.
When I started, I was totally new to Richmond and didn’t know anyone, so initially included the few local businesses or activities that I know have worked well for myself or other moms in the Richmond area. As moms, we rely so much on sharing experiences and recommendations with other moms, so being a new mom and new to Richmond, I wanted to help build that opportunity and community here. So the more people and businesses I’ve connected with, the more the website, community, and network have grown!
I don’t specifically sell any product, but instead, focus on local partnerships in the community. I work full time at another job, so my focus hasn’t been to replace that job, but rather to build partnerships organically. I have done some paid partnerships, but have been selective about the businesses that I partner with because I want it to resonate with my audience.
Since COVID hit Richmond, I started offering all local businesses a free social post or story, as I know so many were hit so hard by the changes that have happened as a result of the pandemic. Quite a few have resonated well with my audience and have developed into a paid partnership, but I have kept my pricing low to help these businesses so last year made less than $2,000. This year may change, especially as some degree of normal life may return, but will take it a day at a time!
If you have a business local to Richmond and think your product or business would resonate well with local moms, please reach out!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I moved to Richmond about 3 weeks before my daughter was born, and as a new mom in a new city, I often found myself wading through different websites and resources, blogs, and mom forums, trying to find reliable information. Sometimes I just wanted to know where I could go to get advice on nursing a newborn close to me, and other times I wanted to know what parks were good to walk around with a tiny baby so I could stretch my legs and enjoy some scenery. Even as a savvy internet user, I struggled to find answers to my questions and never in one place or website. So when my friend reached out about her newest adventure - a website focused on aggregating local content and information to save time for busy moms, it sounded like exactly what I had been trying to find!
My friend referred me to the parent company - The Local Moms Network - to learn more and see if I’d be interested in creating such a website for Richmond. She had so much fun building her website and social media presence, diving into the local mom community, building so many friendships and partnerships, that she thought it might be the perfect opportunity to help me get to know my new city and help other moms. I met her for wine to learn more and was really excited by the opportunity and decided to go for it!
I have worked in digital marketing for over 15 years so already had a lot of knowledge around growing an online business. However, I hadn’t worked much in growing a social audience, so that was a new challenge for me. I primarily focus on Instagram, and share to a Facebookpage, but haven’t focused on Facebook specifically since they changed their algorithm a few years ago which greatly reduced how much organic content was shared with users. I have over 4,000 followers on Instagram, which I have grown organically and have focused entirely on parents in the Richmond area. The audience is small but very specific and our engagement is higher than the industry average, so it does offer great advertising opportunities for local businesses that want to reach parents and families in RVA. As I mentioned above, so far our paid advertising has been small and selective, as our main goal is to have quality content that resonates with the audience.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Because I was part of a parent company, I was lucky to have their support in setting up my website and getting started. They also provided guidance and recommendations for getting my social channels set up and growing my audience there. I have learned a lot since then and have gradually grown my Instagram audience and website traffic.
If you know you want to do something, take some time to set some clear goals and what steps you need to get there and start working towards that every day.
There were very minimal costs in getting set up, just the website fees, BUT it took SO MUCH TIME. Some of it was a learning curve on my part - getting used to how to manage my social calendar and schedule posts - and other was just trial and error. I was grateful to the community of other mom networks for asking questions too. There was almost always someone that encountered a similar scenario or problem and was able to provide an answer or at least some recommendations.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The purpose of the website was to provide a central location of information, so before the website could go live, I had to find as much of that information as I could. The website will always be growing and expanding, but to start, I needed to have at least a base of good content and information. It took me almost 6 months to get that far though! There’s so much information out there, but at least I knew there was still very much a need for a central source, so I was happy my website would achieve that.
So finally the website launched! I announced it on my social media channels and shared it with all my local mom friends and family. At that point, my audience was probably ~500 followers, but even from the beginning the engagement with my content was getting better and better, so the launch was really well received!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I didn’t have a budget for paid advertising, so I focused on SEO and organic social media posts. My goals were to get more users to the website through SEO and for users to engage with my social content on Instagram.
Having worked in the digital space, I was very focused on the metrics as a measurement of success. For my website, I have Google Analytics implemented, so I can easily see how many visitors were coming to my website, and how they got there. Since I am focused on increasing traffic to my website through SEO and organic search, I focused on that channel and the content that got people there. Here’s a breakdown of current channels:
As you can see in this graph for Feb 2021 traffic, organic search is by far my biggest traffic source to the website and is still my primary focus for increasing traffic. There are some plugins I installed to help me adjust the wording in my articles to be a little more SEO friendly too, which helped some, but ultimately found that the content itself mattered way more than some of the details of the wording. I found that Richmond specific articles with specific recommendations were most effective in getting users to my website through organic search. One post I wrote about the most family-friendly breweries in Richmond is still getting a ton of organic traffic, even though I wrote it over 2 years ago. So I try to provide similar articles since they clearly resonate well.
On Instagram, while I wanted to expand my audience to reach more local parents, I ultimately focused on engagement as my measurement of success for the content I posted. If a user is engaging with the post in some way, then they stopped scrolling for at least a second, to like, share or save my post, so that was a baseline for success when I started.
My biggest mistake was thinking that growing my audience and website would happen easily. But it is WORK! And it takes time. I’d spend hours writing an article that literally got 10 visits a week.
As I’ve posted more content and learned more about how people engage, I value different engagements at different levels - a comment is more engaging than alike - so have developed a custom engagement metric to help me better compare my posts and understand which are more successful than others. I do have a link in my bio to send people to the website, but as you can see in the above graph, that’s definitely not the main purpose of our social channel.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The pandemic definitely changed so many things. While I do a lot of my work entirely online, there’s also a key in-person piece that in some ways is the most important. My original goal for 2020 was to host at least 3-4 parent-focused events at local venues. I was hoping to put together a big Halloween event since that fell on a Saturday last year. I had been focusing so much on growing my digital presence and this step felt like the next big step in truly building a community of moms.
Unfortunately, the pandemic changed everything and that part remains on hold for now. But like many communities, everyone came together in different ways. I had been doing quite a bit of paid partnerships at that point, and instead shifted to just helping local businesses in any way I could, which in most cases doing pro bono work or partnerships in trade. I didn’t mind since I honestly enjoyed that more and it has helped shape my future initiatives to grow the community in a different way: less focused on bringing in revenue and instead on building up the community in any way I can.
Interestingly enough, our traffic to our website is higher than ever and engagement on our Instagram content is over 20%. So I know I’m now sharing interesting and engaging content that resonates with my really satisfying audience. So our goal has come back to the whole reason I started the website with an addition: to help busy moms save time by selectively providing information they need and content that resonates with them.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
My biggest mistake was thinking that growing my audience and website would happen easily. But it is WORK! And it takes time. When I first started, I’d put so much thought into the perfect post and picture, and then I’d get almost no engagement. I felt so deflated. Or I’d spend hours writing an article that literally got 10 visits a week.
However, over time, I learned what content mattered most and when to post different things. So now I have a mental rotation of topics I like to include in my blog posts and my Instagram posts and it worked really well. I also check my metrics regularly too, so I am always learning as I go along too. Every so often I’ll post something and still be shocked by the reactions! I love it, it keeps it interesting for me.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I’ve kept it pretty simple so far and only use free tools. Since Instagram doesn’t support clickable links in descriptions, I use Linktreein my bio so I can send people to specific content instead of just one general link to my website.
I also use Later, which allows you to schedule Instagram content. There are some limitations in their free platform though, so I end up posting most of my content manually. I often write it ahead of time though, or on a computer, so I can just copy and paste it from my phone. It sounds tedious, and it is, but I have a rhythm now so it doesn’t take long.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Honestly, other people, I’ve met with similar goals. In my efforts to learn some of the basics of how to manage a business account on Instagram, I often reached out to people I saw doing it well.
Some so many wonderful people took time out of their day to answer my questions, and I am so grateful for not only their help but for their kindness. I was just some stranger trying to learn their skills and I was amazed at how many people were willing to help.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Don’t wait until the right time because it doesn’t exist. If you know you want to do something, take some time to set some clear goals and what steps you need to get there and start working towards that every day.
One silver lining of the pandemic is that so much has shifted to the digital world, which means you can start a business online with minimal investment. You can learn what your customers want before putting too much time or money into it and also see if it’s something you really love. Even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll regret it way more if you never try.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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