These days, there are more and more "mom.com" businesses popping up. An exceptional one is MitzvahMarket.com. Co-founder Sheri Lapidus is former a public relations executive who has worked at NBC-TV, CBS-TV, In Style and ELLE magazine. Erica Salmon is a successful working mom who created the Internet start-up FantasyFashionLeague.com, the fashionista's answer to fantasy football. Sheri Lapidus answered our questions about their new enterprise.
What is MitzvahMarket.com all about and why did you start it?
MitzvahMarket.com is a free resource for bar and bat mitzvah planning families. We deliver clever, useful and entertaining ideas in a mom-to-mom tone via a twice weekly e-newsletter to hopefully make mitzvah planning more fun and less stressful. Our website houses all our unique mitzvah ideas and mitzvah project profiles, bringing inspiration to other families and awareness to the organizations that benefit. We have a vendor directory for one-stop shopping and fun mitzvah videos. My idea for MitzvahMarket.com began when I started planning for my daughter's 2010 bat mitzvah. It seemed my friends, who had been through the process already, were a great source of knowledge. I thought there should be a website that was organized, accessible and could feature their unique and insightful mom-to-mom advice about bar and bat mitzvah planning. We launched the website in November 2008.
With your background, why did you decide to go into business rather than get a job in your field?
I've been very fortunate to have had an exciting public relations career working companies like NBC-TV, CBS-TV, Time Inc.'s In Style) and Elle at Hachette Filipacchi But after spending over 20 years in corporate America, I felt the time was right to take all the skills and experience I had gained over the years and start something new and different. After a lot of research and sleepless nights, I realized we had found something missing in a thriving industry -- an industry that I was immersed in at the present time due to the ages of my children. One will be having her bat mitzvah in 2010, and the other a bar mitzvah in 2012.
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
I love my commute to my kitchen as opposed to Penn Station and New York City. I'm working much longer hours than before, but I love what I'm doing and it's exciting to see the growth and live through our ups and downs.
What's a typical day like in the world of the mitzvah CEO?
Each day is completely different from the one before. We recently added a employee to our team, another real-life mitzvah-planning mom who I spend lots of time with on the phone and at meetings. On Mondays and Thursdays we are getting our weekly email newsletters out, so the mornings are spent editing and putting on the final touches. Each day I also try to spend some time on our social networks -- Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. I also answer all emails and return calls on the day they come in. Most days I have appointments with various vendors to brainstorm on ways to work together.
Do you have any entrepreneurial role models?
Martha Nelson was the managing editor of In Style for most of my 11 years. She always taught us to think about the reader first. I think about this with every editorial story we decide to run on MitzvahMarket.com. It's very helpful that I'm the perfect audience since I'm in planning mode myself. I also admire Dani Levy and all she's done with DailyCandy.com. She launched her e-mail based business in 2000 with 700 names in her database. I believe she now has over 2.5 milliion. We should have a fraction of their success.
What have you learned in the past year since launch? Your disappointments, successes?
It has been an amazing year for Mitzvah Market and one of great growth, something I try to remind myself about daily. Although we have built a business from scratch, coming from Time Inc. and In Style, it's sometimes hard to keep our growth in perspective. I know there are hundreds of thousands of bar and bat mitzvahs each year across the country and it's disappointing that we can not reach each and every family to let them know about our website. We do know that our current readers truly appreciate what we are doing and let us know through emails and in person at the bar/bat mitzvah showcases we attend. They are shopping our vendor directory and our advertisers are renewing their packages. We might not yet have the quantity of readers, but we know we have quality readers.
On the success side, this past November, one year since launch two exciting things happened. First we re-designed and re-launched our website giving our readers more functionality and the ability to search for specific things they might be looking for. We also attracted the attention of a national magazine called Bar/Bat Mitzvah Guide and signed an agreement to become their official website. We now have the ability to reach their quarter million readers across the country. We also will be providing some editorial content to the eight editions of their magazine and we are selling joint advertising packages.
How big is your audience?
We launched in November 2008 with approximately 500 registered readers in our database. We have more than tripled that number and are now reaching just over 2,000. Bar/Bat Mitzvah Guide magazine recently redirected their URL to ours, it's too soon to tell, but we are hoping this will increase our website visitors enabling us to go from a tri-state area resource to a national one. We have incorporated Bar/Bat Mitzvah Guide's vendor listings into ours and now feature approximately 400 mitzvah vendors giving our readers a chance to shop in one location for all their mitzvah needs.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
We hope MitzvahMarket.com becomes the leading resource for all mitzvah planning. Aligning with an established national magazine will help us take our brand from the tri-state area across the country.