Danielle Tate is the founder and CEO of MissNowMrs.com, a multimillion dollar online name-change company. She is the best-selling author of "Elegant Entrepreneur: The Female Founders Guide to Starting & Growing Your First Company," an entrepreneur, author, speaker, wife, mother, Pilates devotee, and the spokeswoman for Empowered Women International.
In this interview, Danielle shares the burdens of running a startup, what needs to be done to protect intellectual rights, how to evolve while staying up-to-date, and more!
Her advice to anyone starting a startup company in DC:
Plug into the entrepreneurial community, find a co-founder and understand how the government and grants can work in your favor.
Can you tell us a little about MissNowMrs.com and What else do you do as an entrepreneur?
MissNowMrs.com is an online name-change service for brides. Our system condenses the tedious 13 hour name-change process into 30 minutes for $30. The inspiration for my company was sparked by my own name-change misadventures, which included 3 trips to the DMV to file for my new driver’s license in my new married name. We have scaled to over 350,000 customers in 2 countries and have gift card placements in Target stores throughout the United States.
Aside from MissNowMrs and its sister sites I co-founded a Megaformer Pilates studio in Bethesda, Maryland and recently authored a top-rated book linked in the intro above which I wrote to get more women to start up and scale up companies.
What does MissNowMrs.com do that makes it better than the rest? how did you find your competitive edge?
We disrupted the name-change industry completely. When we launched there was a paper kit or a book about changing your name. Bringing a software solution to market that offered an instantaneous solution allowed us to grab market share and create a nationally recognized brand. We also secured strategic partnerships to increase our early reach and bolster our credibility as a new startup.
Did you have a hard time starting your business? How did you handle time and resource constraints?
I think any startup, especially your first one is difficult. Leaving a six figure salary to launch a wedding-tech startup wasn't something most people understood. I didn’t immediately quit my job. Instead, I used evenings, weekends, and holidays to do my market research, form research, and grunt coding.
Eventually, I realized that I had to go “all-in” if we were ever going to get MissNowMrs launched, so I quit my job and spent 2 months full time before we were ready to go to market. Within 30 minutes of turning on Google Ads, I had my first customer, Wendy! The company has been profitable from month one and continues to grow 30% annually.
My husband and I elected to stay in our tiny condo when most of our friends were buying town houses or larger homes. This “hedged our bets” and allowed me to live off my savings and pour company revenue into platform improvements and growth opportunities.
What does a typical day look like for you? Is there something you make a point to do each day?
I hit the gym at 5:00am, make breakfast for my family when I get home, and am in the office by 8:30. I work until 3:30 and then take a break to pick my son up from school. I’ll work remotely from 4:00 to 5:00 and then have dinner and hang out with my family until my son goes to bed at 7:30…then it’s back to work. ;)
I begin each day by determining the top priority for work and for my family. I then schedule my day in such a way that those two things happen (ideally first, before I work on any other projects). This disciplined approach allows me to get the biggest success out of each day possible on the work and social fronts.
What attitude/habits helped make you successful while starting MissNowMrs.com?
One of my favorite sayings is, “Never wish for it more than you work for it.” That attitude is why MissNowMrs is so successful. I worked hard. Endlessly looking for opportunities to improve, partnerships to make, blog posts to write, ways to engage with customers. I didn’t wish for success, I looked for and connected the dots to achieve it.
In your experience, what's the best way to find your ideal customer?
Market research and in-person surveys. Neither of those are fun, but if you invest the time in knowing exactly who your customer is, doing ethnographic research to understand what makes them tick, and then go interact with those customers and ask them if they will buy your product for X, why and why not, the insights you gain will help you hone your product into something that those customers will buy, and you will know everything about them so you can reach and market to them in the way they like to be communicated with.
Never build “it,” and assume they will come…and once you have built “it,” realize that it will need to change as your customers grow and change. A great example from MissNowMrs would be when we disrupted the market with a digital product and were very successful doing so. As the company has grown and aged, our customers (brides) stay the same age. Our refund rate recently spiked and when we dug into the reasons, it turns out that our customers don’t have printers anymore.
Our digital solution wasn’t as helpful so we created a premium package where client forms are printed and mailed to them along with pre-addressed envelopes. We learned from our mistake of a static product and the premium version is now 30% of revenue.
What is the biggest business mistake that taught you a powerful lesson?
Learn from my mistake and also think about what the most important part of your business is and how to protect it. We now have a locking mechanism that occurs with a user who switches multiple state forms. This prevents would-be competitors from mining data and processes from MissNowMrs.
When times get tough, what would you say motivates you to keep going?
The will to win and the realization that this company is how I feed my family and fund the lifestyle I enjoy. If I don’t make it work, no one else will. If I don’t push every day, perhaps a competitor will and gain a competitive edge.
Is there a book you highly recommended to Startup Savant readers?
Shamelessly, my book, Elegant Entrepreneur: The Female Founder’s Guide to Starting & Growing Your First Company. It's the book I always searched for when I started my company. A straight-forward 12 step guide from idea to exit, that includes resources to use, real-life examples, how it feels to be living each step, and advice from 28 amazing entrepreneurs like Barbara Corcoran of SharkTank.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would give someone starting a business in Washington DC?
- Plug into the entrepreneurial community. DC is a hotbed of founders who all help each other out, so connect with the ecosystem as soon as you possibly can.
- Find a co-founder. Solo-preneurship is incredibly difficult and lonely. Having a partner with skillsets you lack will increase your odds of being successful in your launch and long-term growth.
- Understand how the government and grants can work in your favor. DC is striving to become even more entrepreneur-friendly, so look into what perks may be available for you and your startup.