Sue Scheff founded Parent’s Universal Resource Experts, Inc (P.U.R.E.) in 2001 and is a nationally recognized author, Parent Advocate and Family Internet Safety Advocate. She is a contributor for Psychology Today, Today Show Parents, Education Nation, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post and more. She’s been featured on Today Show, CBS This Morning, ABC 20/20, GMA, Mel Robbins, Dr. Phil, Racheal Ray and more.
Scheff has helped educate thousands of parents, schools, educators, guidance counselors, police departments, and communities about online safety and teen help resources. As a parent of a once troubled teen, she was a victim of the daunting Internet and the less than ethical marketing arms as well a target of online defamation and shaming.
Her journey has brought her to writing three bestselling books with her latest book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate and an organization that continues to assist parents find safe and quality options for their struggling teenagers.
Where did the idea for P.U.R.E. come from?
My daughter was harmed in a teen help boarding school, it was one of the most horrendous times of our lives. I not only felt guilty for placing her there, I felt terrible for being duped by this group of so-called schools.
I had removed my daughter in 2000 and shared our story online of our appalling experiences. The program threatened to sue us if we didn’t remove the story immediately. I fought back and won in a jury trial. It was a huge victory, many called it the David vs Goliath trial.
During this time, I founded P.U.R.E. because I felt there was nothing online for parents. The internet was full of fancy website (like the one I fell prey to), toll-free numbers that went to people that were only paid to place your child and really didn’t care about the family – so I wanted to create some accountability in this industry. I wanted to learn as much as I could and pass it on to others.
My child needed help. So do many others out there, we can’t ignore this. We need to know how to decipher the good from not so good – P.U.R.E. educates parents. As I share frequently, learn from my mistakes, gain from my knowledge.
In 2004 I won the lawsuit against this major corporation of programs that eventually lead to their demise.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
The best way to stay productive is to prioritize and stay as close to organized as I can.
This can be difficult when consulting with parents that are making challenging decisions about their teens. I evaluate the submissions of people that are requesting help, determine those I can help via email and call those that may need more assistance. Overall, this process is part of my day in between my writing and interviews.
Much of it is about time management, and experience has given me the gift of being able to know when to stop for the day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Talking to parents weekly gives me inspiration and ideas to help and encourage other families. Although most are all struggling with the same issues, from depression to anxiety, school refusal, defiance, family discord, entitlement and sadly a very common trend today – self-harming – knowing you’re not alone can be comforting.
The most dominator common is definitely the cell-phone addiction. I will publish new content regularly to my blog or other publications to help parents navigate this issue or other concerns that I think families would be interested in.
What’s one trend that excites you?
A healthy digital diet! I think more and more people are realizing we need to detox from our screens and especially social media. I think this is very beneficial (not only for young people) but for adults and especially business owners, to help us refresh ourselves.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Networking. I am someone that is always networking and sharing information. I learned a long time ago you don’t have to have it all or do it all, it’s okay to share and network your resources and work.
I’m interviewed frequently, if I feel one of my colleagues is a better fit for the topic, or may have more insights, I always share their name and contact information. I feel I’m a better leader if I am staying strong in myself and letting go when I can.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It’s all temporary. It sounds strange right? The way I started my organization was from a dark place, but obviously has a very bright ending. Helping families has been so fulfilling and continues to be, however the sometimes the bumps along the road to get to success may seem like forever.
During the litigation, this corporation played dirty when they hired someone to take to their keyboard and defame my organization, P.U.R.E and myself. It was definitely one of the hardest times of my life (behind my daughter being abused), emotionally handling two lawsuits simultaneously, since I had to file the defamation case against their (my) predator.
As an early victim of cyberbullying and cyber-harassment, I felt like this was going to be the end of my life. In 2003 didn’t have the tools or knowledge to understand shaming, online bullying or even the cost of online reputation at that time.
In 2006 I won the landmark case for internet defamation, just over $11M jury verdict for what these people did to me. It was literally one of the first cases for online defamation. Although I won the trial, Google never forgets. I have to constantly remind myself – it’s all temporary.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
You don’t have to be on social media all the time — you can take a break and it will still be there when you get back.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As someone that is in-tune with online reputation, I’m always taking time to be sure people are satisfied with their services. It’s true, with over two decades, you’re not going to please everyone, but I constantly check my reviews and online reputation. Good or bad, I will be sure to recognize them. If I do see a good one, I will take the time to not only recognize it, but ask permission to post it to my own website.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Testimonials! Years ago my website developer told me my testimonials page was the most visited page on my site. I was actually stunned. From that day forward, whenever a parent/client shared kind thoughts or emailed a nice comment, I asked permission to post it. Now I have over 20 years of great testimonials.
Tip: I also find that simply asking for a kind comment (testimonial) always worked too! Old business grows new business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I was defamed online, I literally become a recluse. Depression hit hard, online slander was dictating my future and it was dim. It was extremely hard to pick myself back up again, I felt completely hopeless. This was before there was online reputation management (ORM) and before the word “cyberbully” was even coined. I was attacked by online mobs – it literally destroyed my organization and myself. There were pages of the ugliest content that went on and on and I felt completely defeated.
After I won my internet defamation case in 2006, the first ORM opened up, ReputationDefender. I was literally one of their first clients. It took them about 6-9 months before I saw life again. It also took a lot of work. I have always said, my lawyer vindicated me, but ReputationDefender (ORM) gave me my life and career back.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
People today appreciate those that are passionate about what they represent. Especially if you have a story about why you created your business or organization, never shy away from sharing it.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It wasn’t quite $100 – but I bought a new Otterbox for my new phone, since I know it will be 100% worth it, as the price of phones are climbing.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Yes, it’s a bit old-fashioned, but I find all the folders are very beneficial and work well for organization.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
THRIVERS: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine by Michele Borba, PhD.
Youth are our future – we are facing a mental health crisis especially with teenagers. This book is an eye-opening for parents, educators and communities to not only better understand their challenges, but also how to address them. I highly recommend.
What is your favorite quote?
“Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.”
- Adversity is a gift that can bring your passion to life.
- When you start a business or an organization from a passion, no one can stop you.
- Slow down. Take time to enjoy yourself and your family, and limit your screen time.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.