Be coachable and be able to pivot. When you start a business with no background in the industry, you never say, “But we’ve always done it that way.” That lack of industry loyalty allows us to try anything. And it makes us open to the ideas of wiser people.
Susan Borison went to Case Western Reserve School of Law where she learned essential negotiation skills that trained her to raise five teenagers. After many years of volunteering for many non-profits, Susan felt the time was right to reinvent herself. She’d always wanted Parents Magazine to continue through adolescence but it didn’t and no other magazine did, so she founded Your Teen Magazine.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I wanted a magazine for to help me as a parent in the same way that Parents Magazine helped me through those early years. I wasn’t feeling as confident about my parenting once my older kids hit early adolescence and I couldn’t figure out where to find support. My playgroup had long since disbanded and my friends weren’t sharing their struggles with their kids. I couldn’t figure out where to turn—not out of desperation, but just to find out what was normal adolescent behavior and what wasn’t.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day involves splitting time between fundraising toward our $1MM goal, working on the business—big projects and strategizing that that impact the whole of the company and the long-term well-being, and working in the business—getting projects completed and overseeing my team.
How do you bring ideas to life?
After 13 years, we still retain our start-up mentality. We continue to be scrappy, meaning that when something needs to get done, we brainstorm as a team and come up with a game plan. Then we either identify someone on the team who can “bring the idea to life” or we start looking outside our existing team. For example, I’m working on creating free e-books for Amazon and other platforms with the goal of growing our email list. I found someone in California who is managing that project.
What’s one trend that excites you?
We are creating online courses. Another vehicle we can use to deliver life-changing advice to parents who are searching for support and tools to navigate this turbulent stage called adolescence.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I can see when I’m not the best person to pursue a goal and then I get very motivated and excited to find the right person and hand it off. Nothing makes me happier.
What advice would you give your younger self?
As a parent, I’d say that being honest to myself and to others is the biggest gift that I’ve been given through my Your Teen journey. Holding ourselves out to the public as perfect parents with perfect kids is so boring and exhausting. Revealing the good, the bad, and the ugly can be so liberating.
As a business owner, I’d say that I now understand that there are many metrics of success. Creating something from nothing—a major success. Having a wonderful relationship with Stephanie Silverman, my business partner of 13 years—a major success. Loving what I do most of the time—a major success. 5,000 people watching me and my business partner on FB Live—a major success. Raising $862K in investor money—a major success. And so on…
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Content is king. But marketing is Kinger.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Meet with mentors. We have monthly meetings with our mentor team at Jumpstart. In between, we check in with several other people who hold us to task. The hardest part of a startup is moving away from the day-to-day and working on those long-term projects. Being accountable to mentors is paramount, even if we accomplish those articulated goals the morning of the meeting.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Being coachable and being able to pivot. When you start a business with no background in the industry, you never say, “But we’ve always done it that way.” That lack of industry loyalty allows us to try anything. And it makes us open to the ideas of wiser people.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We have failures every day and never. It’s all about how we respond to the challenges. Our biggest failure was living with a bad website that had some inherent flaws and waiting too long to spend the money on a redesign. Our prolonged attempt to correct the problems on our old site caused stunted business growth.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I wish I had another business idea. Every time I think about what I’ll do after this, I think about starting a magazine for parents of teenagers.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Paid the gate fee at Chautauqua Institution to stay at a friend’s house. The entrance fee is expensive but then I got to see violinist Joshua Bell and the Chautauqua Orchestra play against the backdrop of the movie The Red Violin. Transcendent and transformative experience.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Dropbox, Basecamp, and Trello. These platforms help me create systems that keep everyone in the know and deadlines being met.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
How to be a Happier Parent by KJ Dell’Antonia. If you are a parent, when your kids are unhappy it affects every aspect of your day, including productivity at work. A fighting send off to school, bitterness around the socks and shoes, resentment over being in charge of dinner every night. There are ways toward a happier experience. Who doesn’t want that?
What is your favorite quote?
You are not obligated to finish the work; neither are you free to desist from it. ~Ethics of the Fathers
- Take every opportunity to talk about your business. Each time you articulate what you know to be true, your vision and goals will become clearer.
- Find mentors (formal and informal) and treat them well. Their advice can open bigger thinking and grander opportunities. Or just help you through some challenges. The value—priceless.
- Listen to everyone’s advice, especially the ideas that make you bristle. When someone suggests something and your visceral reaction is NO (yes you want to scream it), pay extra attention to why you had that reaction. And then move forward with what you want, not what someone else wants, while integrating some of those “great” ideas into your plan.
- Everyone wants to hear about your failures. Have some examples of when things went wrong, but don’t get caught up in defining them as failures. Everyone has stumbling blocks—EVERYONE—but it’s what you learn and do with the challenges that will define how you move forward.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.