Rae Hoffman owns three companies that revolve around affiliate marketing and search engine optimization. Sugarrae is the oldest and primarily does smaller niche affiliate marketing websites.
MFE Interactive was founded about four years ago as a way to scale making large branded affiliate sites and has a very heavy presence in the mobile space with millions of page views per month via our BlackBerry, Android and prepaid cell phone themed websites.
In 2009, I co-founded Outspoken Media, which is an Internet Marketing Firm I run along with my partners Rhea Drysdale and Lisa Barone. We do everything from SEO consulting to online reputation management for a variety of companies ranging from Fortune 100 companies down to small businesses (as long as we feel they can get the ROI from our services).
What inspired you to start your business?
I fell into the industry by accident when my son had a massive bilateral stroke at two weeks of age. I started a website about his condition and spent several years marketing that website (which in my head was simply trying to make sure other parents could find it) before I decided that maybe, just maybe, there was an ability to make a little bit of cash with what I’d learned.
I stumbled upon affiliate marketing, realized I was good at it and decided I’d found my calling. It started with me simply building websites, but after a while I realized that while I was making very good money, I was also spending sixteen hours a day working. I needed employees to carry out the work as I detailed it if I ever wanted to be a bit more absent (I credit the E-Myth for teaching me this) and started MFE.
Outspoken sort of fell into my lap when Rhea and Lisa decided to open a consulting firm and approached me about coming in on it with them. I never saw myself owning a consulting company, prior to that, but it’s been a very good thing for me.
How long have you been in business?
I entered the realm of online marketing over 13 years ago. I originally was in the non profit sector. I moved to the commercial (i.e. making money from online marketing) side of the industry a little over ten years ago and have never looked back.
What did you do in your past work life?
I was actually a waitress before I fell into affiliate marketing and SEO.
Describe your ideal workday.
Sitting on a beach with a beer in one hand and my BlackBerry in easy reach of the other so I can deal with any issues that may arise with my employees in the office. I’m not kidding. But I also worked very hard to get to the point where that was not only an ideal, but also a realistic (at times), work day.
What have been some of your major successes?
I look at my kids, the kind of home they live in, the things that they have and realize that they, and the life I’ve been able to give them – as a single mom no less – are probably the biggest success I will ever achieve when it comes to things that truly matter.
Outside of that, I’d say knowing that I’ve been able to create a livelihood for all of the folks my various companies employ has been something I’m pretty proud of.
What have been some of your major challenges?
For a long time, learning where the work day ends and my family life began had always been a tough balance, though it became a bit easier for me in the last year or two.
In the last few years, my biggest challenge has been keeping myself motivated. Sometimes, the more success you reach, the harder it is to convince yourself that you need to keep reaching.
On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
Knowing how many people depend on me to do what I do is definitely something I keep in the forefront of my mind. My fiance, Sean, is also a big source of support and he always seems to know how to get my mind re-focused on what I need to get done.
Do you have a motivational quote?
My favorite quote is “Who do I trust? Me.” which is from the movie Scarface. It always reminds me that the only person I can count on the be responsible for my success (or failure) is me. Another favorite quote of mine I’ve had on my wall for years is “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
If there was one piece of advice you could give to your children about running a successful business, what would it be?
Never be satisfied.
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
I don’t know that this will ever be something that I master. However, having even a part time personal assistant has been a huge help in making sure “family time” doesn’t get bogged down with making appointments to have the furnace cleaned or taking my truck for an oil change. Having a supportive significant other helps as well… if I have a busy day, or a proverbial fire at work, Sean will pick up the slack on the family side and do the bedtime stories, etc. And I try to do the same for him on his busy days.
Do you have a favorite business tool and/or resource?
I am a big fan of both Raven Tools and the Thesis WordPress theme and have been very vocally an evangelist for both products since the day I started using them. I’m also a big fan of SEOBook and its paid membership as well.
What is next for your business?
I wish I knew! LOL!
Sugarrae and MFE are going to undergo some pretty big changes in the next six to twelve months. I wish I could let you in on the exacts, but for now, I can’t.
As far as Outspoken Media goes, all I see is growth. Our biggest issue at the moment is not being able to grow staff wise fast enough to keep up with the demand for our services (it takes time to train the new hires). Now, if you’re going to have an “issue” that certainly isn’t a bad one to have, but it can make things very chaotic. A lot of the next 12 months for me will be centered around growing Outspoken’s staff (via hiring and training) to allow us to turn that “issue” into a very good thing.
Your two cents sales pitch?
You know, I’ve never had one. I love what I do. And I’m damn good at it. People say it comes through in my writing, speaking and when you’re simply siting down having a beer with me. I’ll have to trust them on that.
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