Business Name: Miss O & Friends, an online network for teenage girls
Business Location: Greenwich, Connecticut, United States
Reason for starting
Miss O & Friends was inspired by drawings that I did when I was 10. I was with my family coming back from vacation when I started drawing these girls that I called ‘Cool Girls.’ My mom, Hermine, is a graphic designer so she took my drawings and transferred them onto the computer. My younger sister, Olivia (who is the real ‘Miss O’) also got involved and for a while it was pretty much just a hobby for my mom, sister and I. When Olivia turned 8, my parents had a birthday party for her where my mom made ‘Miss O-like’ characters for my sisters’ friends. She blew them up really big and mounted them so when the girls walked into our house, they saw characters that looked like them. They went crazy for them and kept talking about how much they loved them. I was 13 at the time and still in middle school, while Olivia was 8 and was going to be entering middle school in a few years. Middle school is a really difficult time for young girls with so many new things going on; their bodies changing, cliques, boys, bullying, school work, parents, etc., and I wanted to create something for my sister and her friends to help them through these difficult years since there wasn’t anything like Miss O that existed. With the help of my parents, my mom being a graphic designer and my dad, Paul, having a background in business, I was able to officially launch the company in April 2005.
How do you define success?
For us, there are different ways to define success. Of course there is the traditional “cash flow positive, making money and not losing it” response, which yes, was a definite indicator that we were doing well. But I think what was even more important for us (and happened way before we were making money) was seeing the positive effects we were having on girls. Knowing that we helped start someone’s writing career, or gave advice that solved a girls problem, celebrated a girl for helping out in her community or gave out prizes that made a girls year… those were the things that made me know we were successful. Getting the feedback from the Miss O community that they loved the site and loved everything we had to offer is the true indicator because everything we do is “by girls, for girls” and when girls see that and thank us, I know we’re successful.
I have two. The first is the Proctor & Gamble Company investing in 2008 and to-date is our largest single investor. The second is reaching over 1 million unique visitors a month. Every company I ever talked to always told me it was the “magic number” you needed to reach. Currently the site has over 3 million monthly unique visitors.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
One of our challenges now is promoting the Miss O & Friends website using traditional social media platforms. Since we are 100% COPPA compliant, we can’t use a lot of the social media because of the age restrictions. We need to make sure that our users (who are all under 18 and a lot under 13) are safe on the site. This means we can’t link to any social media that doesn’t require an age to sign up…. meaning Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, Tumblr can’t be promoted on the Miss O site. This has forced us to think about it in a different way. Instead of promoting to our users, we have redirected it to promote the site to Mom’s and parents. Since we are 100% and there is no bullying on our site, parents have a particular interest in the site. We are in the process of focusing our efforts them because ultimately, they are the decision makers and we don’t have any legal restrictions there.
Who is your most important role model?
My parents and sister.