Name: Juliette Brindak, 21
Founded: Miss O and Friends LLC, 2005
Business: Website for girls ages 8 to 14, promoting self-esteem
Location: Old Greenwich, Conn.
Growing physically and emotionally. Coping with the social stresses of friendship. Juliette Brindak lived it as a middle-school student growing up in Connecticut. By age 16, during her sophomore year in high school, Brindak decided to provide support and guidance for middle school-age girls, advising them to "grow up but not too fast." She launched MissOandFriends.com (named in honor of her younger sister, Olivia), a lifestyle website offering advice to help "tween" girls ages 8 to 14 improve their self-esteem "in a hip, but wholesome way."
"When the company launched, Olivia was going to be entering middle school in a few years, and I wanted to create something for her and her friends where they could go to just be girls," explains Brindak, who is now 21. "The goal was to create a safe community where they could be themselves and not feel pressured to grow up too fast."
Fast-forward to 2011, and the site continues to grow its audience (currently at about 300,000 monthly unique visitors) and draw revenue from advertising and sponsorship sales. But launching a business at a young age doesn’t come without obstacles. Here, Brindak identifies her biggest startup challenge and how she overcame it.
Startup Challenge: Hiring Help
Shortly after launching in 2005, Brindak began hiring contract workers to help manage Miss O and Friends. A number of those early hires, who Brindak thought had impressive resumes, didn't fulfill their promise.
One was charged with attracting outside funding. "He talked about all the people that he knew, all the connections that he had, and how he already had potential investors lined up," Brindak recalls. "He was someone we were connected with through a friend and he seemed very legitimate and trustworthy." It was a let-down when the investors he promised never materialized.
Another disappointing hire was a brand licensing manager. He had been the head of licensing for a major company, and he seemed like a perfect fit. "He actually did have all the connections that he promised, but the problem was that in his previous job, he was more of a delegator as opposed to a go-getter," she says. "I think this position was something he was just not used to doing. It didn’t work out."
Brindak let both contractors go and then had with two big holes to fill.
Solution: Look Beyond the Resume
If Miss O and Friends was going to succeed, Brindak needed to find people who not only are skilled but who can get results. Frustrated by her initial hires, Brindak sought advice from her father, a former marketing and business-development executive. The trick, he told her, was to hire people who you already know can deliver.
"He has a lot of connections and has hired a bunch of people [to work on Miss O and Friends] who he has worked with in the past," Brindak says of her father, who serves as the site’s managing partner. "If you have worked with someone in the past, know their skills, their ethics and how they operate, then it makes their transition into a new position within your company that much easier."
More important, Brindak says, is to hire people who are passionate about your business. Providing new hires with equity incentives can help foster motivation to deliver results.
Miss O and Friends employs up to 20 contractors at any given time, depending on workload. "Bringing on passionate people makes the company more efficient and creates a more positive environment for everyone," Brindak says.
The Young Entrepreneur Council is an advocacy group dedicated to fighting youth unemployment and underemployment by helping young people build successful businesses and offering alternatives to traditional career paths . Its members include successful young entrepreneurs, business owners and thought leaders. It was founded in New York in 2010 by serial entrepreneur Scott Gerber, author of the forthcoming book, Never Get a 'Real' Job.