Courtney Rosen would have to research how to boil an egg. But if you ask her how to start a company--well, she can sum it up in about nine steps. Explaining thousands of useful (and random) tasks in the most basic of terms is the specialty of eHow.com, her 1-year-old San Francisco start-up that was born out of Rosen's attempts to fix her own inline skates. Don't let the Reader's Digest version of her success fool you, though. She calculated every step forward. With eHow.com's sales projected to reach the "double-digit millions" this year, it's safe to say Rosen did her math.
"I knew I wanted this," Rosen says, "so I put together building blocks in terms of education and getting solid experience that would set me up for it." First an MBA education from UCLA, then a managerial position in Internet strategy consulting with Andersen Consulting. "It was a grind," she says. "I traveled practically every week for two-and-a-half years. But without that experience, I couldn't have done what I'm doing."
Actually taking the leap from Andersen to eHow.com was the hard part. She and Jeff Tinker, 31, a former Andersen colleague--now husband and vice president of operations--had devised business plans before, but this one was unique. "I turned to Jeff one day, and for about the 150th time, I said, `Do you really think this is a good idea?' " recalls Rosen. Her 150th boost of confidence set in after he told her she'd be stupid if she didn't try it.
The "financially, really conservative" 32-year-old had been saving money to bootstrap a company. But a $50,000 private investment and financial assistance offered by friends and family supplied much-needed affirmation. After Rosen raised $3.5 million in venture capital funding last June, Rosen offered her loved ones their money back. "Everybody was like `As long as you're fine. Just remember us when you do your IPO,' " she says.
Now with its "robust" revenue model (consisting of ad
and sponsorship sales, commerce partners and
licensing), grassroots marketing techniques (like live how-to demos in San Francisco storefronts and tell-a-friend postcards given to each employee), and 200-member work force, eHow.com's future success is assured. In December 1999, eHow.com announced it had $20 million in funding, a further testament to its glowing prosperity.
In fact, the future's so bright, the newlywed partners sometimes have a hard time not discussing it. Says Rosen, "We have a three-strikes rule. If you bring it up three times, you're out."