Our Spotlight today is focused on Linday Saewitz, founder of Chicago-based CitySwarm, a company that provides discounts for group social events. Read on for Lindsay’s story on how she turned her online sales and marketing experience into selling and marketing her own business.
What does your company do/ produce?
CitySwarm provides no-hassle group social experiences for young Chicagoans. By leveraging the power of the group, we provide great discounts and exclusive events to our members
Describe your background/ experience before starting your company.
My professional background is in online sales and marketing for websites. I spent three years selling and training other sales people to sell recruitment advertising solutions at CareerBuilder.com, and then I managed a sales team selling small business online advertising at a local startup. In my spare time, I did marketing and event programming for the University of Michigan Club of Greater Chicago, as well as food and nightlife blogging.
After successfully launching the Young Alumni group of the UM Club of Chicago, I realized how much there was a need for organized, no-hassle events that were purely focused on socializing, as opposed to formal networking. I thought it would be cool if there was an “alumni club” for everyone- where an organization would provide similar activities no matter the school you went to. Then, group-buying deal sites became extremely popular. Like others, I took advantage of many social offerings but noticed a lack of socializing among groups at the actual event. I thought there should be a way to take advantage of group buying but also know that you are going to meet interesting people socialize once you get there.
What were some of the steps you took to turn your idea into reality?
I first started by calling some key event providers in the area to see if they would be willing to work with my one pricing model, provided that a large group would attend. Once I got some [event providers] on board, I built my website and started aggressively marketing and raising awareness using Facebook, Twitter, and simply reaching out to my list of contacts.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered along the way?
Initially, the process of “starting a business” seemed overwhelming, from a technical standpoint. I wasn’t sure what papers I needed to file or what licenses I needed to get. I reached out to the law department of a local university and it turns out they had a small business clinic to help with these sort of things. I still don’t totally understand everything but I know I can find people who do and learn as I go. The biggest challenge right now is getting the word out, and I plan on hiring some summer interns who can really help with marketing.
What is the best thing about owning your own business?
I think the best thing about owning your own business is being able to make the decisions that work best for you. Whether it be creating your own schedule or deciding which direction to take the company in, it’s all up to me and I’m responsible for myself.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle for women to overcome in starting their own businesses?/ What advice would you give to another woman starting her own venture?
I think the biggest obstacle is the initial starting-up process. My skills are more in the marketing and communication arena, so when it comes to legalities, taxes, finance, etc. I can get overwhelmed. I think many women feel the same way. My advice would be to start researching potential resources way before you decide to start, so you become more educated and know you have people around you to rely on. I would also recommend talking to as many different entrepreneurs as possible to see what they did. Most are eager to help and pay it forward.