Jen Boulden is on a quest to bring green to the mainstream.
In 2005, Boulden launched her first company, Ideal Bite, serving up daily email doses of eco-friendly advice to half a million subscribers. Her concept? Consumers want “light green” advice on easy stuff, like eating organic, but don’t need the lowdown on hard-core activities like living off-grid. The idea took off — so much so that she and a co-founder quickly found investors and sold Ideal Bite to Disney in 2008 for $20 million.
Things didn’t work out exactly as planned, however. Investors made the majority of money from the sale. And within a few years, as the economy floundered, Disney shuttered Ideal Bite — a crushing blow for Boulden, who had poured so much of her passion into the company.
She’s now starting over with JenB TV, using online videos (instead of passé email) to dole out more in-depth information on all-things-green. Based in Los Olivos, Calif., she plans to make money by selling sponsorships of videos, the site and special promotions. I spoke with her recently about her new venture, lessons learned and easy tips for going green (spoiler alert: it includes backyard chickens).
Edited interview excerpts follow.
The Story Exchange: What’s the idea behind your latest company?
JenB TV is weekly 5-minute videos on “light green living” topics. The idea is that the 500,000 subscribers from Ideal Bite need a “part 2.” JenB TV provides that with meaningful conversation around key topics, instead of us doing a lot of one-off emails. Also, I believe people like to see into another person’s life, and that’s what we are doing here… literally inviting our subscribers into my home so we can become friends and share ideas, and hopefully some laughs.
The Story Exchange: What lessons did you learn from running Ideal Bite that you’ll apply to JenB TV?
I learned so many lessons “the hard way” with Ideal Bite that it’s really hard to pick just a few. But here are my top lessons learned:
- Ask you audience what they like — and don’t assume you know.
- Allow for more time to hit “critical mass” and have more money than you think you’ll need.
- Establish powerful partnerships as early as possible to help set your business in a different stratosphere.
- Constantly measure and optimize. Iteration is key for continual improvement.
- Hire slow and fire fast.
The Story Exchange: You told Daily Worth that you’re not planning to sell your company this time…why not, and what’s your long-term plan for JenB TV?
I named the company JenB TV because it’s essentially my life’s work that is embodied in it, and I want to keep it! Less abstract of an answer, though, is that I want a lifestyle business — meaning, I want a business that makes me happy and makes a good living, that I don’t need to grow crazy fast to satisfy investors, and that I can keep around for as long as I want. My long-term plan for the business is to grow it as big as possible, in a sustainable way, in order to affect the most amount of positive change.
The Story Exchange: Who do you consider your role model?
Ironically, the older I get, the more people I look up to because I can better appreciate their unique skills, accomplishments and cool approaches. If I had to pick one person though — and I am sorry for being cliche — it would have to be Oprah because she’s got hutzpah and heart.
The Story Exchange: What’s you best piece of advice for women entrepreneurs?
Start with a burning passion for something, and then back it up with a solid business plan. You need both to succeed.
The Story Exchange: Any easy green advice you’d care to share?
So glad you asked! I have brought just the best of the best easy ideas from my own life into JenBTV.com. Everything from backyard chicken raising to seasonal dish making to “eco-stylin’.”
We even have pop-up text with a lot of easy tips, so there’s literally something for everyone — well, unless you are in the .001% of the population and want to be unhealthy and make the world a dirtier place to live.
Want more inspiration? Take a look at TSE’s other interviews with enterprising women.
Growing Carol’s Daughter in a Brooklyn Kitchen
Jenny Fulton: Starting a Pickle Company From Scratch
Sheela Murthy: ‘Just Believe in Yourself. Magic Happens.’
Jeanette Prenger: A Tech Entrepreneur’s No. 1 Tip For Success: Deliver
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