With the economic downturn, consumers tightening their budgets have turned to the Internet to get coupons to save money. That’s good news for entrepreneurs like Laurie Meyers, with her CouponSense.com http://www.couponsense.com, a website that takes the hard work out of coupon clipping.
Meyers’ CouponSense.com is a paid subscription website that provides comprehensive and up-to-date coupon information, including groceries such as Safeway and retail stores such as Target. Upon signing up, members can also use tools to comparison shop, help find the very best deals, and even organize their coupons.
We talked with Meyers on how she started CouponSense.com and how she has overcome the challenges of starting a business.
Can you tell us a bit about your company? What inspired you to start CouponSense.com?
CouponSense.com started in February of 1998. I had a couponing hobby and was sharing the great deals with my friends. One week I called 12 people and told them how they could get batteries for $0.50 a pack and they were so excited. The light bulb went on. I wondered if people would pay for this kind of information. Home computers and the ensuing technology finally caught up with my hobby and I was able to create CouponSense.com with the help of two other moms and a great computer programmer. After 6 weeks, the other moms couldn’t manage their families and a startup, so I took on the business by myself. In many ways, working as an individual instead of a team was easier as we weren’t worried about schedules and decisions.
What did you do prior to starting CouponSense?
Before I started CouponSense.com I worked for a local newspaper as a manager in circulation. This is where I really got exposed to couponing. A lady I worked with was really into coupons. She shared the deals she got with me and I was hooked. One of the perks of working for the paper was access to the extra newspapers loaded with Sunday coupons.
What has been the most challenging part about starting your own business?
The most challenging part about starting my own business has been technology. When we stared CouponSense.com few people had a home computer, much less access to the internet. When we decided to change from mailing the newsletter to emailing an attachment, I hoped that this decision would not be the kiss of death. It was an adjustment for our members, most were stay at home moms with little understanding of technology. We had lots of phone calls to walk people through the web. How to open an email, download an attachment and then find it. We never have those conversations anymore. Yet, technology is an ongoing challenge. We are completely web based and everything is done online. You have to find great programmers who are willing to learn the site so they understand the dynamics we are dealing with.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in starting and running a business?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in starting and running a business is how capable I am and to trust my instincts. You can accomplish much more when you have talented people around you whom you trust and respect. I’ve been blessed with a great team, they make CouponSense.com shine.
What do you find most exciting about being an entrepreneur?
I guess the most exciting thing about being an entrepreneur is helping people and having flexibility with my schedule. I love reading how CouponSense.com makes a difference in people’s lives, it’s great to know that so many families have been able to get through some challenging times because of our service. I also enjoy the flexibility of starting my day at 5:30AM in my robe, exercising in the middle of the day and finishing work after dinner.
Do you think being an entrepreneur makes it easier or harder to balance your work and family responsibilities? Why?
Balance as an entrepreneur has been a challenge for me. When my kids were younger and in school, I could get my work done before their school day ended. Then I was available to focus on the needs of my family. For me, I’m more productive working from home as I don’t have the distractions of co-workers and the ensuing friendly chit chat. As the business has grown, so has my workload which has changed as I am now the chief decision maker. In many ways, I find the process of decision making emotionally exhausting so by the end of the day, I don’t want to make any more decisions including what to fix for dinner. I’m trying to work on balance in my life. I’ve scheduled in time for daily exercise with friends. I also have a goal to read books for pleasure and to watch more movies.
Do you work at an office or from home? What are the positives and negatives of this arrangement?
Working from home has definite pluses like rolling out of bed and going straight to work, I’m an early riser and I would rather put in time at my desk than in traffic. Domestic responsibilities can be done throughout the day – laundry, dishes, starting dinner, etc. I like that walking out of the office for a break I can get things done before my family comes home so we aren’t racing around at the end of the day, home is a fairly relaxed environment at the end of the day. I need that as much as my family members do.
There are challenges when the office is a room away. It makes turning off business mode difficult, especially in the evenings and weekends. Also, it’s a distraction to have employees in and out of my home throughout the day. Sometimes, I miss the quietness of having home be home, but, the perks of being close to the office outweigh any of the challenges.
What other lessons can you share to other women entrepreneurs?
Women entrepreneurs are amazing! One of the best lessons I learned was that I can hire and surround myself with people that are smarter than me. There are lots of smart people who are not risk oriented. They aren’t willing to start the business and take on the risk that an entrepreneur is willing to take – hire those people and know that it is ok that you don’t have to have all of the answers. When people know you trust them, few will disappoint and their performance will continue to rise because they know you believe in them.
How do you see your business 5 years from now?
In five years I hope that CouponSense.com will have a strong national presence. We are working on expansion and hope to continue to see growth throughout the USA.