On Creating Local Digital Media Business

Published: September 6th, 2019
Wendi McGowan-Ellis
Lifestyle Frisco
from Frisco, Texas, USA
started June 2013
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Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?

With over 20 years intra- and entrepreneurial experience, Wendi McGowan-Ellis is the Co-Founder and CEO of LifestyleFrisco.com, where she leads a team of digital, mobile, social, and content strategists and creators.

Lifestyle Frisco is a local, digital-only, multi-media company that focuses on storytelling about

WHAT TO DO, WHERE TO GO, and WHO TO KNOW in Frisco, Texas.

We use content creation to build creative campaigns that drive business results for our clients AND engaging and informative media for our audiences by connecting the “facts of” Frisco to the “feelings for” Frisco.

What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

My entrepreneurial journey began when I was 14 years old. As an only child of a life-long Texas Instruments engineer and an elementary school teacher, entrepreneurship and business ownership weren’t discussed around the dinner table when I grew up. Getting a great education (Bachelors of Arts, Economics from UT Austin) and landing solid job upon which I could support myself was.

Communication isn’t just about speaking. It’s also about listening.

But, at 14, I was a brand new freshman cheerleader at my high school. I looked around there were TONS of 9, 10, and 11 year-olds dying to land a coveted spot on the cheer squads at their elementary and junior high schools. So, in January 1983, I hung out my “shingle” with the single proposition of ensuring all the cheer moms and daughters in Garland, Texas, that I could coach their girls to land a spot on the squad. I charged $50 an hour for private lessons and had a 100% success rate. I had never seen so much money.

Fast forward to 1991 and college graduation… At that time, the U.S. economy was deep into Desert Storm and everyone had to have a 3.95 GPA to find a decent job. Without that high of a GPA, I started my own marketing consulting agency with my then fiancee. After running that business for almost 10 years, one day I woke up and decided I needed to “grow up” and get a real job in Corporate America.

Why I thought I needed to make this move I’ll never know, but it began an almost 10 year journey of self-discovery. I had always thought of myself as the perfect No. 2 in any situation… non-profit board leadership, my career, my social life. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-40’s that I realized that I’m truly meant to run and lead whatever I’m involved with.

It’s the way I think. I’ve always looked at situations through the “eyes of an owner.” Whether I’m dining in a restaurant, shopping in a boutique, or on a vacation… My perspective always comes from a place where I have high sympathy and empathy towards the owner. Put me in any situation and I’m looking for all the angles to improve a business and make the customer experience more seamless and memorable.

This perspective, and inability to turn it off, has led me to embrace my entrepreneur status.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

Lifestyle Frisco is actually the fourth iteration of a local media business with 3 failures preceding it (lesson there!). It started in 2004 when I became a part of a gang of single thirty-somethings who decided to start a local magazine called “re:d - Regarding Dallas.” Our target audience was someone we lovingly called the “30,000 Dollar Millionaire.” That single young professional living in Uptown, Downtown, Deep Ellum, or Oak Lawn areas in Dallas, Texas who drove a Lexus/ Mercedes/ BMW and ordered bottle service in the clubs on the weekends, but were packed 6 deep in a two-bedroom apartment and sky-high in debt.

I was the head of Marketing for the magazine and through it I met my now-husband and Co-Founder of Lifestyle Frisco, Scott Ellis, a photographer for the magazine.

After printing and publishing re:d for a year, we folded the project but only after beginning to transition our readership to a weekly email “re:d Roundup” of all the weekend activities a single 30-something would want to take advantage of to get out and about in Dallas. This was re:d 2.0. Eventually, we all went back to our day jobs and the project ceased.

However, Scott and I learned many lessons from re:d and re:d 2.0. As digital consultants in our careers, Scott from a coding and technical perspective / me from a digital strategy and marketing perspective, we decided to skip paper/print media and start something that was purely digital from the beginning. CityCrush.com, a weekly blog with an email list that curated “deals & discounts” like Groupon, was born in 2009.

Unfortunately, at this time, both of us had full-time careers that required professional consultants hours and travel requirements, so CityCrush eventually became too much for us to manage since neither of us had time for business development and sales activities.

Fast forward to spring 2013 and Scott talks me into trying this “local media thing” one more time. We started working on LifestyleFrisco.com in early March and officially launched the site on June 6, 2013, with over 100 pieces content about life in Frisco. “What to DO, Where to GO, and Who to KNOW” has always been our mission and our tagline.

We spent the first 4 years building the site, adding content, adding paid writers, and building an audience who knows, likes, and trusts us. We didn’t start a sales strategy until spring 2017 because we wanted our business clients to know they were getting their brands in front of a significant digital audience on our site, from our social media platforms, and through our email campaigns, audio podcasts, and videos.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today, our 6 year-old web platform has:

  • over 2000 articles, podcasts, and videos, and
  • between 75,000 and 85,000 unique visitors a month
  • with over 120,000 page views a month.

Our audience is:

  • GENDER: 58% female and 42% male
  • LOCATION: 31% live in Frisco; 55% in a city that borders Frisco; 14% from the rest of the world.
  • AGE: 23% 25 -34; 31% 35 - 44; 23% 45 - 54
  • DEVICES: 58% of our audience visits us on a mobile device

Finally, it's important to us that all our team members, clients, and partners understand us and our mission, so know that…

Here’s who we are…

We believe in serving our community by telling stories that connect the “facts of” Frisco to the “feelings for” Frisco. We believe in the power of digital. We know that digital is the great equalizer where everyone can have a voice and the answers you seek are always at your fingertips. We love the infinite time and space that digital allows for information, inspiration, and interaction. But, most of all, we love Frisco, Texas.

… and who we are not.

  • We are not a “MAGAZINE.” We don’t contribute to your Recycle Bin. We are a digital-only, multi-media, technology platform sharing stories through writing, audio, and video.
  • We are not slow. Being digital-only means that we can respond quickly to information and events in the community and from our clients.
  • We are not defined by TIME. Once it’s online, it’s online forever.
  • Nor SPACE. We have no restrictions on the length or size of the content we produce.
  • We are not false. Our integrity, ingenuity, and trust that we’ve built since launching in 2013 protects our people and our clients.
  • We are not news. Lifestyle Frisco is lifestyle content. We bring you the information that tells the story of life in Frisco, but our business is not about chasing breaking news, hard journalism, or critiques.
  • We do not bash. We’re not afraid to speak up, but if we don’t have something nice to say, we won’t say anything at all.
  • We are not quitters. We promise to be here. Discovering and disclosing the growth, prosperity, humanity, joys, and sorrows of everyday life in Frisco for years to come.

And, we’re not interested in hiring or doing business with just anyone. We’re looking for those who believe that telling the story of Frisco through its people, places, and events is serving our community AND is good for business when we tell those stories with Love, Passion, Pride, Humility.

If these ideas resonate with you, we want you to join us on our journey as an employee, contributor, client, or fan.

We’re on a mission to become the brand that defines life in Frisco, not as we see it but as YOU do.

Short-Term Goals: Meet/beat $500,000 ARR goal and finish hiring required staff.

Long-Term Goals: Take this concept to other cities.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Platforms and tools we use are:

  • Wordpress and appropriate plugins for the site
  • Slack for internal communications
  • Trello for Editorial Process and Calendaring
  • Google Suite for docs, spreadsheets, etc.
  • ConvertKit for email campaigns
  • CoSchedule for publishing and re-sharing already live content
  • ZOHO One for all CRM, Signature, Invoicing - Business Client needs
  • Coggle for mind-mapping
  • UberConference for conference calls and screen-shares

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Books that inspire me:

  • “Finding the Exit” - Lea A. Ellermeier - What’s it really like for the average woman to start and sell a technology company? Standing splendidly in the intersection of two genres – a business memoir and gritty personal tell-all – Finding the Exit is a courageous tale of a woman who, against harrowing odds that began in childhood, successfully started and sold a medtech company to a Fortune 100 in less than five years.
  • “Good Authority: Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For” - Jonathan Raymond - Imagine a world where personal and professional growth is one thing, where improving your relationships and owning your strengths at work translate directly into the rest of your life. Creating a company culture like that is not a dream. Through personal stories and real-life conversations, Jonathan takes you into the room with managers and employees where real culture change happens.
  • “High Performance Habits” - Brendon Burchard - After extensive original research and a decade as the world’s highest-paid performance coach, Brendon Burchard finally reveals the most effective habits for reaching long-term success. Based on one of the largest surveys ever conducted on high performers, it turns out that just six habits move the needle the most in helping you succeed. Adopt these six habits, and you win.
  • “Start With Why” - Simon Sinek - Sinek starts with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over?
  • “The Widow Clicquot” - Tilar J. Mazzeo – A business biography of the visionary young widow who built a champagne empire, became a legend in her tumultuous times and showed the world how to live with style. Mazzeo brings to life the woman behind the label, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, in this utterly intoxicating book
  • “Zero to One” - Peter Thiel - *Progress comes from monopoly, not competition. If you do what has never been done and you can do it better than anybody else, you have a monopoly - and every business is successful exactly insofar as it is a monopoly. But the more you compete, the more you become similar to everyone else. From the tournament of formal schooling to the corporate obsession with outdoing rivals, competition destroys profits for individuals, companies, and society as a whole.
  • “Killing Giants” - Stephen Denny - Marketing expert Stephen Denny argues that any brand can directly challenge the giant of its category and not only survive, but thrive. While it's inconvenient to be the little guy, it can also be a blessing in disguise. Giant-killers can afford to shake things up and take bold steps. They can be faster and nimbler than giants who are too slow and hidebound to make the painful but necessary changes to stay competitive. By the time they notice that slingshot, they're already keeling over.
  • “The E-Myth Revisited” - Michael Gerber - Small business consultant and author Michael E. Gerber, with sharp insight gained from years of experience, points out how common assumptions, expectations, and even technical expertise can get in the way of running a successful business. Gerber walks you through the steps in the life of a business—from entrepreneurial infancy through adolescent growing pains to the mature entrepreneurial perspective: the guiding light of all businesses that succeed—and shows how to apply the lessons of franchising to any business, whether or not it is a franchise. Most importantly, Gerber draws the vital, often overlooked distinction between working on your business and working in your business.
  • “Traction” - Gino Wickman - All entrepreneurs and business leaders face similar frustrations—personnel conflict, profit woes, and inadequate growth. Decisions never seem to get made, or, once made, fail to be properly implemented. But there is a solution. It’s not complicated or theoretical.The Entrepreneurial Operating System® is a practical method for achieving the business success you have always envisioned. More than 2,000 companies have discovered what EOS can do. In Traction, you’ll learn the secrets of strengthening the six key components of your business. You’ll discover simple yet powerful ways to run your company that will give you and your leadership team more focus, more growth, and more enjoyment.

Podcasts I listen to:

  • “The Frisco Podcast” - Lifestyle Frisco
  • “Hustle & Pro” - Lifestyle Frisco
  • “The Gary Vee Show” - Gary Vaynerchuk
  • “Copyblogger FM” - Copyblogger team
  • “Beyond Influential” - Brittany Krystle
  • “Unemployable” - Brian Clark

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

This one will be brief - Fail Fast. Fail Often. Fail Forward. You’ll never be successful on the first try. You have to be willing to get dirty, fall down, and get back up no matter what happens. You must know, in your gut, that your venture is your calling, your purpose, your reason. But first, you must start with your WHY. Start by reading Simon Sinek’s book, and if you’re inspired by the message, get started. I’ll see you out there.

Where can we go to learn more?

  • LifestyleFrisco.com
  • Facebook.com/LifestyleFrisco
  • Twitter.com/LsFrisco
  • Instagram.com/LifestyleFrisco
  • LinkedIn.com/in/wendirwmcgowan/
  • LifestyleFrisco.com/Subscribe - to get a twice weekly email with EVERYTHING going on each week in Frisco, Texas!
  • [email protected]