When my wife changed her name after our wedding 40 years ago, it wasn’t, as I recall, all that much of a hassle. Of course, the world has gotten a lot more complicated since then, and so, it seems, has the process of changing one’s name when one gets married. Not surprisingly, it took a woman to tap the technology to uncomplicate the process.
That woman is Danielle Tate, founder and CEO of MissNowMrs.com, an online service designed to dramatically reduce the time sink and the headache associated with name changing. Earlier this week, I spoke with Tate via email, and I asked her what the biggest technology-related challenge was that she faced when she created the online service in 2006. She said it was dealing with the constant change inherent in the process:
As I did our research, it became apparent that the government forms and processes change frequently. The backend system of MissNowMrs had to be architected in a way to allow for this continual change, without requiring technical staff to reprogram constantly. The final solution allows our researchers to make changes to the forms, questions, and even the process, without the expense of IT staff involvement. This allows us to maintain the system, and gives us a significant advantage over our competition.
Tate said she definitely learned some tech-related lessons along the way:
One of my biggest and hardest technology-related lessons was to protect your idea and intellectual property from inception. We had a number of copycat sites mine MissNowMrs.com for all of our processes and research. This resulted in lengthy and costly litigation, which pulled my focus from growing the business. I encourage all entrepreneurs to think of ways to use technology to protect their businesses. This can range from simple services like Copyscape, to designing your own security-locking mechanisms.
She said another lesson she learned was to keep processes simple:
When you’re bootstrapping a company, you may be the only person doing research or coding. Document your process, and take the time then to make it easy for another person to take over as the company grows. Retroactively trying to simplify a process you created years ago is incredibly tedious and time-consuming, to the point that it can inhibit growth.
I mentioned to Tate that Frances Kweller, another female entrepreneur I’ve spoken with, advises women to avoid having a partner and to go it alone. I noted that Kweller had this to say:
Having a business partner when you have a deficiency sounds like a good idea, but it is far from it. The worst thing that can happen, especially for a woman, is to have a partner who is tech-savvy, and she is in la-la land.
I asked Tate for her thoughts on that, and she said that while Kweller’s opinion is valid, she has a different view:
It is important for both business partners to have a shared vision and understanding of how to make their startup a success, or there will be discontent and failure in their future. However, I view partnerships where each person covers the other’s weaknesses as incredibly valuable. The key is that both partners have equally valuable skill sets, and that they understand that the business will not prosper without both of them contributing.
In fact, Tate did opt to partner with a co-founder who had the technical expertise to build the back end of the site:
I had the great fortune of being friends with one of the most brilliant database developers in the [Washington,] D.C. area [where MissNowMrs was founded], Mike Bradicich. His amazing technical skills/savvy were paramount in the success of MissNowMrs.com. I actually approached him with the idea to make sure it was viable technically, before beginning my research for the company. My advice to anyone trying to find a partner would be to attend entrepreneurial community meet-ups, and to create a profile on CoFoundersLab.com.
Bradicich, CEO of Logic Method IT, an IT services company in Reston, Va., chimed in with this:
Danielle called me on the same evening that she originally thought up the idea for MissNowMrs. From our initial conversation, it was not long before we started development. As the technical co-founder, I oversee all the technical aspects of the site, and relay important information to Danielle in business terms, not technical terms. In fact, I am a pretty poor developer, but relied on my network of technicians to build the system that Danielle requested, and which I architected. I think it is our ability to communicate in business terms that has allowed us to succeed together. Danielle can focus on the business and the customers without worrying about the minutia of technology platforms, database nuance, or cloud implementations.
Finally, I asked Tate what hurdles she had to overcome in starting the business, simply by virtue of being a woman. Her response:
I feel that I am blessed to live in a very equal-opportunity world, so I don’t know that I experienced any disadvantages in being a woman with a startup. I will say that in 2006, the entrepreneurial community was not as large, and there were few opportunities to connect with other startups, much less female entrepreneurs. It would have been an easier business journey if I could have shared my experiences with a few women in the same situation.