When Megan Allen and her fiancee received 15 identical cards at their engagement party, Allen realized that there was a huge void of basic products that reflect the LGBTQ lifestyle. That’s how she came up with the idea for her one-stop LGBTQ shop and launched ThatGaySite.com.
Allen shared the secrets of her success with Lesbian.com.
What do you do and why?
Our goal for ThatGaySite.com is to provide a destination for the LGBTQ community, as well as its friends and family members, to easily find products that symbolize their lifestyles. We strive to take the frustration and time required to find these personalized products, and bring everything into one easy to navigate location.
Our customers consistently tell us how thrilled they are to have a “one-stop shop” for everything, from greeting cards and wedding essentials, to home decor and clothing. We’ve partnered with notable vendors to provide an all-encompassing experience for our visitors. One of our customers who just had a baby with her wife wrote us saying, “We just had a baby girl and this onesie couldn’t be more fitting. Thank you!”
Simply put, at the end of the day, we want to provide products for LGBTQ families in an easy, seamless, and satisfying manner.
What did you do before you started your company?
Prior to launching ThatGaySite.com, I was the business development manager for one of the top 10 Honda dealerships in the country. It was a job I loved as I was able to use my advertising background while managing a fantastic group of business development representatives who were responsible for driving traffic to the dealership. The experience at the dealership creating marketing plans, interacting with customers and developing sales procedures has been instrumental in my ability to successfully create ThatGaySite.com.
How did you come up with the idea for your company?
The idea for ThatGaySite.com actually started about four years ago when my now fiancee, Kelsey, and I moved in together. Every year for Christmas, my family gives ornaments to each other that signify a major life event that occurred in the last year. To celebrate this tradition, I wanted to give Kelsey an ornament that symbolized the “next step” in our relationship. After searching the mall and numerous stores for the perfect ornament, I simply couldn’t find anything that didn’t blatantly display and man and woman. Completely frustrated, I settled for a door ornament and had our names printed across the front.
Christmas morning, Kelsey received two ornaments my mother also wanted to commemorate our new apartment (great minds think alike). However, Kelsey received two of the exact same ornaments! Similar to my experience, my mother couldn’t find an ornament that symbolized our relationship, so she used the door ornament as an alternative. At the time, I simply thought it was unfortunate that the LGBTQ community isn’t being represented among holiday ornaments.
Cut to five years later at our engagement party, when we received 15 of the same exact cards, because no one could find gender-neutral engagement cards. That’s when it all clicked it’s not just Christmas ornaments, it’s everything! That was the moment I vowed to be the change I wished to see, and ThatGaySite.com was born.
What’s the single most important piece of advice you received when first starting your company? What would you tell a young entrepreneur in turn?
The simple advice of “don’t get discouraged” helped me most. As you’re starting a business, it’s easy to focus on the hurdles you’ll have to jump, instead of focusing on the end product. Then, as you start the process, even more obstacles and barricades will appear that you didn’t anticipate. Not getting discouraged and staying focused on the ultimate goal is not always easy, but it’s definitely the best advice I received.
In turn, my advice to a new entrepreneur (who has already gone through those annoying hurdles) would be to focus on customer service and satisfaction. I was lucky enough to work in a car dealership that was the antithesis of what you would typically expect they focused on the customer and their needs, wants, and concerns. My manager always strived to create “raving fans” of each customer, and would encourage me to ask, “What can I do to not just make them happy, but go that extra step and create a lifelong customer?”
It’s that mentality that has helped me create a positive experience for ThatGaySite.com’s customers. We recently had a client email us to say that, “The staff is friendly, the items shipped fast, and [the] products are pretty awesome.” When running an online company, it can be easy to not be “seen” by the customers, and simply viewed as an interface to purchase products. To have someone mention that the staff at ThatGaySite.com is friendly indicates to me that we’re on the right track to creating raving fans.
What do you find most rewarding about owning your own business?
The most rewarding part of owning ThatGaySite.com is hearing the positive feedback and encouragement from our customers. We are more than products; ThatGaySite.com represents a dedication to helping everyone celebrate and enjoy life’s moments. To see that we are making a difference in the community means everything to me.
Customers are tweeting us pictures wearing our products, and they’re creating an online community around our site. It’s amazing to be able to interact with people from around the world that have the same interests as us. Just the other day, we shipped a T-shirt to Australia and the customer tweeted about it almost instantaneously. It’s that kind of excitement within the community that motivates me the most.
Also, creating my schedule isn’t too bad, either.
Where do you see yourself and your company in five years?
In five years, I hope ThatGaySite.com is known as the resource for the LGBTQ community as well as their friends and family. Currently, LGBTQ topics are mainstream, but the products are not. It’s a bit oxymoronic, if you think about it. You can get married, but you’ll have trouble finding products to celebrate that tremendous milestone. I hope that in five years, ThatGaySite.com will be known as the destination to go to celebrate all of life’s events.
What resources would you recommend to someone who is contemplating starting her own business?
The most valuable resource is research. Utilize the internet, the library, case studies, etc. The more you know about your sector, as well as your niche, the better equipped you will be to fulfill their needs and wants. Examining the market place, the data and doing competitive analyses helped me refine my approach, and understand that there was a large gap in the marketplace that ThatGaySite.com could fill.
The research will serve the foundation for the strategy and will provide insights that will inform you how to differentiate. For ThatGaySite, the research underscored the fact that no site existed that would provide a wide range of products that were family-friendly where parents and grandparents could also go to shop for their LGBTQ loved ones. This insight continues to guide our activities, as we have a sophisticated selection and work to maintain a high standard of products as well as service.