Last month I was interviewed by lovely Laura, Founder & Editor of The Workher. She asked me lots of questions about how I started and how I run Leaders in Heels. The copy of the interview is below.
What inspired you to start Leaders in Heels?
I never thought of starting a business until I moved from Poland to Australia five years ago.
At the time I was working in the mining industry. A female colleague told me how disappointed she was that she’d been passed over for the vacant roles in our department. We talked more, and I discovered that she’d never told our boss she was interested in those roles—she’d hoped that her hard work and talent would be recognised.
This was a bit of a culture shock for me as in Poland, women are pretty liberated and aren’t afraid to ask for what they want. As I continued to work in Australia, I began to see the unconscious bias and stereotypes that existed in the workplace. I decided that I wanted to do something about it to empower these women who may not even realise why they are being overlooked in favour of their male colleagues, as well as empower women who want to strike out on their own and make a difference.
In October 2011, I founded Leaders in Heels which started off as a blog dedicated to empowering and educating women to take responsibility for their careers and lives.
Did it launch as a site with a full-time team or did you gradually grow it into this?
Leaders in Heels began as a humble blog back in 2011. I was Chief-of-Everything responsible for developing the website, creating graphic design, promoting it, maintaining social media, editing articles and interviewing women.
The blog quickly acquired a large readership and more experts began contributing on a regular basis. As I was getting more and more busy, I started looking for people who had similar passions and wanted to join me on my journey. That’s how I met some really amazing women who are on my team up to this day.
Leaders in Heels is an online business so we don’t have an office or full time employees and we are not limited to one location. I work on the go, from home, cafes and while travelling and I work with freelancers based mostly in Australia but I also have marketing support in the USA. We meet once a year for a strategy day. This is how it looks like in practice:
From very humble beginnings as a one woman show, Leaders in Heels has now grown to a site supported by a team of ten amazing people and a group of over 30 regular contributors. Leaders in Heels has published over 500 articles, has about 60,000 page views each month and over 25,000 followers on social media – a far cry from the days when it was just me and some basic blogging software!
How long did it take to build up such a big and engaged following?
Leaders in Heels is three years old and the growth was very slow in the first year, despite the fact I was working around the clock. At some point, my fiancé initiated a serious discussion with me and asked me to slow down. I was constantly busy. This is when I realized that I had no choice but to either give up or bring other people on board to help me or I was seriously putting at risk my relationship. This was probably the first and biggest milestone at Leaders in Heels.
Do you think bloggers need a budget in order to reach new users / build up a following?
With 4 million blogs around the world I encourage everyone to have a good business plan before throwing money into advertising – the competition is huge. If a blogger is willing to pay for traffic to grow a following, I would really invest a lot of time beforehand into having a great offer on the site to keep that traffic for as long as possible and to keep it growing.
In terms of building the following, what always worked for me were partnerships, publishing engaging content and social media. I encourage every blogger to get savvy with SEO, network, collaborate with other bloggers and organize events.
I am also a self-learner and I love technology so I learned web-development by simply reading online forums and I used Leaders in Heels as a playground to try new things. If you are really committed, you can launch a professional online blog for less than $100.
What made you branch out into stationery as well? Can you tell me a bit about Make Your Mark?
Yay. This is my favourite topic. I seriously feel I found my calling in life because I get really excited when it comes to talking about my notebooks. While I have been passionately observing women who make their mark in both corporate and the entrepreneurial sphere, I realised that there were common traits they all used and shared in their careers. They were passionate, creative, innovative, confident, determined and kind! These traits became part of the Leaders in Heels Manifesto.
The Make Your Mark notebook has been consequently designed to bring to life the leadership traits of those successful women. Every page of the notebook has been infused with quotes, thoughts and assignments to stimulate a new way of thinking. As women use the notebook daily and focus on each quality chapter by chapter, the traits become habits.
How did you find the crowd-funding process?
Make Your Mark notebook was launched through crowd-funding campaign on StartSomeGood. Within 12 days we raised nearly $10,000 providing over 300 notebooks to inspire women. In the new age when crowd-funding is easily available to anyone there is no excuse for not trying to create a business of their dreams. I strongly recommend crowdfunding to any start-up. Crowdfunding provided me not only with an opportunity to minimize the risk that is inherited with publishing or any capital-consuming business but also created lots of media opportunities to talk about the product.
What’s your top advice for other aspiring female blog-preneurs?
Never be afraid to ask for help. Leaders in Heels has grown very fast when I started actively engaging volunteers, contributors and partners. At the very beginning I used to do everything on my own: building the website, creating graphic design, promoting it, maintaining social media, editing articles and interviewing women. I didn’t think that there were people who would love to be involved and help. I was wrong. Ask for help.
Network. Most of the successful bloggers became successful because of the support they have got from people they knew and collaborations they made with other bloggers.
Automate. If you don’t want to kill yourself and want to enjoy your life and blogging, automate everything that is possible, delegate things that you don’t love and can’t be automated and then focus on what you really really love!!!