With a ton of moxy, a dose of humor and a lot of hard work, London lesbian partners in life and business Katy Baecke and Natalia West have built a unique lesbian dating experience with Chart a Chick.
Tell us a little bit about your business.
We have created a new and exciting online hub for the lesbian community to use that is principally an online dating site, but which weaves around that our own dating events (our Lez-U-Haul events), blogs and much more in the pipeline to come.
What was the inspiration for your business?
We’ve been on the lesbian scene for many years, both single and as a couple. We’ve seen and done much of what’s available to the lesbian community and found that, as wonderful as it is, many of the events were difficult to distinguish one from the other and the dating events were especially formulaic, offering little in the way of differentiation or interest.
So we set out to create something that was different, interesting, intoxicating and exciting. Something new that offers a more personal touch and a more holistic approach to online dating.
Did you have another career/other careers before you started your business? If so, please tell us about it/them.
Yes, we both still have full time jobs while running the business, which is quite a balancing act. I am a medical technician and my partner, Natalia, works in the city as a PA. The company Natalia works for is a small software company, which has given her access to various people who have provided technical advice and guidance in starting up an online business. At this early stage in the business’ development, we still need the security of our day jobs.
What obstacles did you face in establishing your company and how did you overcome them?
It’s easy to come up with an idea, but creating the reality is a huge challenge. Neither of us had run a business before nor were we particularly technically savvy. We’ve had to learn a great deal, using friends and colleagues for support and guidance. We have done countless hours of research, we’ve had to learn the technology and we’ve had to learn from our mistakes.
Building a business is not all glamor and glitz. Natalia’s even enrolled on a bookkeeping course! The main obstacles we’ve faced have been our own limitations and we’ve overcome them through hard work, research, learning the technology and our belief that what we’re doing will work.
What’s the single most important piece of advice you received when first starting your company?
The best advice we we’re given when we were building Chart a Chick and starting up the company was “don’t expect miracles, don’t give up and keep believing!” We don’t believe in miracles, we’re tenacious and we absolutely believe that there is a market for what we’re offering. It’s looking like good advice so far, but only time and a lot of hard work will tell.
What aspect of business ownership came as the biggest surprise to you?
People see and react to you differently. When we talk to people and explain what we’re doing they’re impressed and interested and want to talk about it that’s a good feeling. That and just how time consuming and hard work it is.
What do you find most rewarding about owning your own business?
For us, it’s not so much the fact that we own our own business, it’s more the business that we do that we genuinely find rewarding. When an event goes to plan, runs smoothly and everyone leaves us having had an amazing time that’s really rewarding.
Do you use social media to engage your customers? If so, does it play a key role in your marketing efforts?
As the face of our business we’re in is online, we use social media a lot and maintaining a presence on social media is vital. We use Facebook to let people know what Chart a Chick’s about, spread the word and share pictures from our events. We use Twitter to post fun stuff and keep up to date with what’s going on in the LBGT scene and we also have a YouTube account where we have videos uploaded from previous events.
In this day and age, especially in the sector we’re in, social media platforms are a key element in our business and in interacting with our user community and we do use it for soft marketing and spreading the word but we don’t rely on only it for our direct marketing efforts.
What would you say is the single most important key to sustaining a business long term?
We’ll tell you when we get there! So far it’s been about building a team and contacts we trust and maintaining our energy and belief.
Is there anything we didn’t ask you about that you’d like to share with our readers?
The journey so far has been really challenging and really hard work but so rewarding. It has opened a whole new and exciting world to us and to anyone who’s thinking about doing it, do it! Just go in with your eyes open and make sure you’ve got a lot of energy and that you build a good team around you.