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BlogHer Co-founder, COO Elisa Camahort Page Talks $25M Payout, Startup Frugality and Defining Fear

Learn how BlogHer co-founders, Elisa Camahort Page, Lisa Stone, and Jory Des Jardins launched their vision and why Camahort Page believes frugality and the ability to define your...

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Best Success Story

[pullquote]”Women are the power consumers in this country and around this world, and the women in our community are influencing millions of them every single month.” – Elisa Camahort Page[/pullquote]I think it was when we sat down to do the math and interviewed our community to realize that we had fulfilled our mission of creating economic empowerment for women by paying $25 million out [to our community].

Editors Note: BlogHer reports that the company has paid out more than $25 million to 5,000 bloggers and social media influencers from 2009 to 2012 for editorial, advertorial work for hire and advertising revenue.

A lot of people are making money off of women and we like to say we make money with women. A lot of other people talk about their reach and what it is doing for their company to have that reach, but we’re talking about what it’s doing for the women in our community to be a part of the network that we’ve created.

When we ask [our community] to tell us stories about how they’re using that money, [they tell us that] they’re using that money to put their kids through college without student loans; they’re using that money to pay their rent or mortgage or for groceries. Sometimes they’re just using that money to grow their business and reinvest; [or] sometimes they’re just using it to help the local economy by buying things or going out to eat or support other businesses.

But it’s truly making a difference in the lives of the women and men in our community to have this source of income. That’s what we’re all about.

Biggest Startup Challenge

The biggest challenge was funding, and ultimately funding decisions. We bootstrapped for two years, so we did not take a salary for two years. Over that time we started bringing in revenue and we started paying other people and paying for infrastructure and development. That was challenging, but we each worked it out in different ways.

Then we came to a point where we were growing nicely and organically; we had reached a certain scale and had a million unique visitors. Then we asked, “How do we keep going in order to scale more rapidly and take advantage of more opportunities?” That became a second (really big) challenge; figuring out when, if ever, to take outside funding.

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Editors Note: In 2007, BlogHer raised its first round of capital from Silicon Valley firm, Venrock. The company later struck a deal with NBC Universal in 2008 which included a $5 million series B investment, financed by Peacock Equity and returning investor Venrock. A year later, BlogHer raised $7 Million in a third round, bringing total funds raised to date o $15.5 million, according to AllThingsD. (Source: Crunchbase)

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#1 Tip for Entrepreneurs

[pullquote align=”right”]One of my biggest pieces of advice is that money doesn’t buy happiness, but money does buy freedom.[/pullquote]One of the biggest pieces of advice I give anyone that is [starting a business is] to start saving now (like you’re not going to make a salary). I had two years worth of take-home pay in the bank when I left my corporate job. That gave me freedom; freedom to walk away from my corporate job to begin with, but it gave me freedom when I wanted to work on my own thing.

I conserved that money; I went through it all, but it lasted me a pretty long time. So be frugal, thrifty, save your money now so that you can have freedom to push through what you want to push through.

Each of us had different worries getting through that two-year period, and I understand it’s a lot harder for people that end up married to a job or married to a mortgage and they don’t have any other way to get through. So really one of my biggest pieces of advice is that money doesn’t buy happiness, but money does buy freedom.

[pullquote align=”left”]I withdrew my life savings and took out $50,000 in debt that I didn’t have before in those years that we were building BlogHer. I asked myself what’s the worst that can happen if it failed? [/pullquote]Also, define your fear. Most people don’t pursue their idea because they are afraid of failure, but they haven’t defined what failure would look like. So ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen?

I withdrew my life savings and took out $50,000 in debt that I didn’t have before in those years that we were building BlogHer. I asked myself what’s the worst that can happen if it failed? The answer was: I would have to move back to my bedroom at my mom’s house and would have to go looking for a job at the age of 43.

That’s not attractive (or what I wanted), but it’s not the end of the world. It’s not a tragedy or ruining my life to have sleep in my old twin bed. That’s a privilege to say that if you failed you would still have support and a safety net; and you would be able to start over and basically be okay. It’s a privilege, and you should grab hold of that privilege and run with it and pursue your idea.

Make your fear concrete and not abstract. Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen and if it’s not tragic, you probably ought to be going for it.

Stay connected with Elisa on Twitter.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Photo Credit: Elisa Camahort Page

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