Janis Kupferer is the Founder of SocialJane.com, a women's only friendship website. SocialJane.com enables its 30,000+ users the chance to find compatible friends and activity partners. The subscription-only service allows members to build and scan high quality, fun and informative member profiles to seek out likeminded, geographically-targeted women.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I come from a long line of entrepreneurs on both sides of the family. My own father launched his firm when I was a young teenager, and thus I spent a good amount of my early years watching how a successful firm develops and grows.
Three things really struck me as significant to running a successful business:
1. Only do things that provide profit. Sure, having a beautiful 4-color, full-page advertisement is nice, as is a company blog or huge Facebook following, but if a simple black and white ad delivers the same result, and conversions don't come via your blog or Facebook, then you've wasted time and money. Sometimes we get so caught up in following trends that we lose sight of doing the most profitable job.
2. Every single task, job and role in a company is just as important as all the others. Success in one area absolutely flows into other areas. Understanding the internal processes of your company, and their interactions, can significantly increase performance.
3. So much of the success of a company is due to the ambition and resourcefulness of its employees. So, if you interview someone who is bright and industrious, find a job for them--even if they aren't right for the job advertised. Ultimately, their industriousness and ambition will prove to be an incredible asset for your company.
How has your previous employment experience aided SocialJane?
I've worked for small companies with small budgets and for large, multi-national organizations with million dollar budgets, and the truth is I prefer the small budget projects.
When dollars are limited, you've got to get very clear about what your goals are, and very creative about how you are going to reach them. If you try something and it doesn't produce results right away, then pivot quickly to the next plan. The beauty is that you haven't locked into a whole campaign, dependent on hundreds of people and millions of dollars. And often, even without all those resources--with only the smaller budget and team, you achieve equal or better results.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is less of an issue for me because I am single and don't have children. So, if I stay up past my bedtime working, it doesn't really impinge on anyone other than myself.
Of course, it is important to turn work off completely at times, not only as a stress reliever, but also because it allows you to come back with a fresh perspective and new insights. For me this break happens when I'm active--running, playing tennis, or simply spending time with friends.
The truth is however, I'm not the best at this, and have to conscientiously work to turn off the internal chatter and constant focus on work.
What have the highlights and challenges been founding SocialJane?
The highlights are easy. When I hear from someone that they've successfully connected and found a new friendship via SocialJane.com, well that makes my day and ultimately is the reason that I run the company.
The challenges come from attempting to build a new service category--namely "friendship networking"--and introduce it to the marketplace as a viable solution to a prevalent problem. To do so even with an ample staff and budget is challenging.
Of course the challenge is absolutely magnified when you try to introduce a new concept working as a solopreneur--and more so with a limited budget.
The good news is that when women learn of SocialJane.com, they are excited, join us and are successful. Given the proper awareness and exposure, the concept of making friends online will become commonplace, and SocialJane.com will become the go-to solution for finding new female friends.
What advice can you offer individuals who are seeking to establish their own business?
Lots of people have good ideas. In fact, some have really great ideas. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to translate those ideas into a successful (profitable) business entity. It takes an enormous amount of time, energy, confidence, money and commitment to start and run a business.
My advice for any would-be entrepreneurs is to talk to as many business owners as possible before embarking on a new venture. With a realistic view of the process, one can then decide if this level of commitment matches their own work/life goals.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Focusing on what is really important.
Work and the workplace can be overwhelming. You not only need to master your chosen industry, but also the business relationships that allow you to be effective within it. Sometimes I think women focus a bit too much on worrying about things outside of their control, instead of the results they are producing. I know that I've been guilty of this myself.
Yes, you'll encounter competitiveness from co-workers. Yes, you'll experience other unpleasantness from clients or customers. Perhaps, you'll face prejudices surrounding your abilities as compared to your male counterparts.
Ignore these events. Focus on doing the job that you were assigned, focus on improving profits and efficiency, focus on developing your skills and expertise, and eventually you'll be in a place that is above this chatter.
Give your energy to things that promote you and your work, as this has the best payoff in the long run.
What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
Any movement that helps women to feel more confident, that provides inspiration, and that honestly addresses real issues faced by women everyday is fantastic.
Change starts with conversation, and Sandberg brings the conversation regarding work/life balance and how it relates to our own ambitions to the forefront. But more so than simply starting the conversation, Sandberg helps to verbalize the issues, issues that I know I face, but often did so rather unconscientiously.
Lean In gets you thinking, then talking and doing.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I am extremely fortunate that I have several people who are helping me build SocialJane.com by providing advice and support. One mentor in particular is a constant sounding board both professionally and personally. I go to her when I need strategic advice, and I turn to her when I need a personal boost as well. Both issues can be equally important to the ultimate success of a company.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your company is to find a good mentor, and you can do this by simply asking for help. Although many have a hard time actually doing the asking, I've found that people are wonderfully generous with their time and wisdom, and all you have to do is ask.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire any business owner who has managed to create and run a successful company because I now understand just how difficult this is to accomplish. But a women who has created a business that addresses a real need, who solves a problem that plagues many, who is truly innovative and who's idea honestly improves the quality of another's life, well those are the women who really inspire me.
Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood; Gloria Steinem, co-founder of Ms. Magazine; and Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure--these women all created products, services and ideologies that have had significant positive change in women's lives.
What are your hopes for the future of SocialJane?
My hope for SocialJane.com is that it continues to be the go-to place for women seeking new friendships, and that more and more new friendships are made via the site everyday!
The fact is that we Americans, with our fast-paced and transient lifestyles, are actually a bit lonely. We've lost our connection to communities, and it is from our communities where we find our friendships and other significant relationships.
An online community is still a community, and ones like SocialJane.com can help us find and build real-life connections, and frankly, to do so more quickly and conveniently than via traditional methods.
Again, people routinely find spouses and houses and new jobs online, and with a bit of awareness, making new friendships online will be just as commonplace and successful.