Meet Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae"
Web entrepreneur, SEO Expert, CEO, blogger... and single mom of three kids (Phew!)
A few years ago, a friend gave me a shirt that said "Women who behave never make history". I love that quote. I try to remember it when anyone tells me how I'm "supposed" to act.
Unless you are into web marketing you might not have heard about Rae Hoffman aka Sugarrae. But if you ever plan to launch you own website, make sure to remember her name. She is THE affiliate marketing guru.
And even if you don't have any such plans, Rae is a true inspiration for any mom who wants to do something start creating a professional carrier while at the same time staying at home to care for her kids.
Being a single WAHM of three and at the same time the CEO and co-founder of two companies, a web marketing expert and successful blogger, she certainly impresses me. (AND she is younger than I am. Darn...;-D )
Well, I'm a single mom to three awesome kids and am probably known best online by my handle, Sugarrae and my slightly controversial affiliate marketing blog. I am also the co-founder and CEO of both MFE Interactive (a website publishing company) and Outspoken Media (an Internet marketing firm that specializes in SEO consulting and online reputation management)
I speak at various online marketing conferences and am a regular columnist for Search Engine Land as well. I'm also a bit mouthy, am full of strong opinions and regularly offend people with my Twitter rants by the dozens on a daily basis.
On a personal level, I love to travel, shop, gamble and watch sports - mainly football and UFC.
By coincidence and a need to meet parents in a similar situation, you started an online support group for parents to children with a similar health condition as your oldest son. How did that website help you get through the shock and pain?
I wish I had been as organized as that made me sound, LOL. I actually put up a page on Homestead (and old free hosting company) because the doctors had told me my son's stroke type (bilateral ischemic) was so rare, I'd likely never meet another child who'd had one. It was called "CJ's Story".
After a few months, I started getting emails from parents in similar situations (childhood stroke wasn't as well researched then as it is now). I had no idea how they were finding me - but the answer was that I was ranking very well for childhood stroke and infant stroke in the search engines of the day. So, I started morphing that page into a support group.
It felt good to have something to channel all of my aggravation into. It felt good talking with other parents and having people to discuss medical tests and procedures with. It helped me to know I was helping others.
My son, unfortunately, didn't "bounce back" from his stroke as well as most kids do. His was very severe. I had no control over his stroke, but I could use our experience to help other parents, and that made me feel like I had some control back in my life. I've never really analyzed it too much though. I wasn't trying to deal with anything at the time... I was just trying to make sure other people didn't feel as clueless and "where the hell do I start?" as I did.
I think it was a combination of things. There was very little information on pediatric stroke at that time. I started compiling a list of links of every article I found. Pretty soon, I had compiled a list large enough that doctors were checking out the site to find publications of papers they may have missed and major organizations were linking to it. At the same time, I was hanging out at all of the medical message boards and whenever a parent asked about pediatric stroke, I directed them to the site. We had a "loop" which was essentially a mailing list and I kept the sign up forms of everyone who joined.
Pretty soon, research hospitals and groups were contacting us to find parents with children that fit the criteria they were looking to research (for example, boys between 10 and 14 who had an ischemic stroke after the age of two).
A reporter from USA Today somehow decided to do a story on pediatric stroke and had found the support group and asked to interview me for the article. Once it was published, we go contacted by tons of media outlets. I acted as a match-maker by hooking reporters up with parents that fit the story criteria they were looking for and appeared on a few shows and in a few articles myself. The next few months, a lot of attention was dropped on a topic that until then, had existed pretty quietly. It felt good to be a part of that.
I think the success of the group changed me by allowing me to connect a positive with a very negative experience. And of course, it was via running this site that I found and fell into affiliate marketing, which later became my career.
It definitely is. Actually, I think today, for a support site like that - meaning a non commercial site - it is even easier. By grabbing a cheap, reliable webhost, a free copy of WordPress and a theme like Thesis, you can have a site up and running a lot easier than I did with the old Homestead WYSIWYG editor or later, the Netscape editor. Take some time to promote the blog and connect with other parents by networking with other support groups in the space and you'll be able to do a lot of good.
The same goes for the commercial space, but it is a bit more of an uphill climb. Non-profits get a bit more sympathy in the form of free promotion.
LOL. I get this question a lot. The truth is, I personally have never had an issue with being a woman in this space. But I'm a bit of a dominant person. I've actually ranted about women needing recognition for being the "best" in any space. I think you can let anything be a disadvantage if you wanted to. I've just chosen to obtain success and not worry about the rest.
A few years ago, a girlfriend of mine gave me a shirt that said "Women who behave never make history" (which is a form of a quote by Laura Thatcher Ulrich). I love that quote. I try to remember it when anyone tells me how I'm "supposed" to act.
It takes a lot of patience, LOL. My oldest son (the one with severe special needs - now 11) got too heavy for me to lift about a year ago. My ex-husband and I get along fine and he can still lift my son easily, so he has lived with his dad for the last year or so, though I am still his sole financial caregiver.
My two youngest (8 and 5) live with me and as far back as they can remember, mom has always been working on the computer and had a BlackBerry attached to her hip. That said, you learn to pick your battles. My house probably is a bit messy sometimes and I am SO the parent that forgets about the school recital until three hours before it starts and runs around in a panic trying to get there on time. I'm definitely not a magician - just a good at multitasking.
The first is that you have to do with every spare second you can find. The first few years when I was getting my Internet business off the ground, I very often stayed up until three or four in the morning and was up again at seven or eight with the kids. I still work mostly from home (though I have a physical office where several of my employees work) but even now it can still be a struggle. I had a full time sitter for three years (I hired her when my youngest turned two) until my son was in school full time this past year.
Being a WAHM doesn't necessarily mean you don't need childcare. But, if you do need childcare, you're right there to kiss scraped knees and give out hugs - you just can also shut your door, do a conference call and know someone is feeding them and pushing them on the swings in the backyard.
The other thing I would stress is that starting a home business isn't free. You are going to have to shell out some cash, but nowhere near as much as you would to start a brick and mortar business. Way back in the beginning, I sold things on eBay to raise cash when I needed it and ate hot dogs and macaroni for way too many meals in a row, LOL.
I think you follow the same advice as in question number four, but you spend some time learning as much as you can about affiliate marketing, SEO and social media.
Find a topic you're willing to learn everything about (you don't need to be an expert in it already - only willing to learn). And lastly, put what you plan into action. The hardest part of making money online is following through after it loses its "new car smell". Making money online is a lot of hard work no matter what the online e-book gurus might try and tell you.
LOL. I always have projects going on, especially when it comes to MFE Interactive. We have two sites we're revamping at the moment - Going Cellular and Style Cynics. Both are going onto the Thesis theme, have custom skins being done and look HOT. We expect the new designs and content to launch before the end of May. If folks are interested, they can keep up with them on Twitter by following @goingcellular and @stylecynics to hear when their new designs launch. Both are "baby" sites, so by watching them now, you can kind of see how we work at them to get them to grow.
As far as future dreams - I just want to grow my companies and give my kids a good life. As simple as that may sound.
Thanks so much to Rae for taking the time to interview with us.
Now, anyone got inspired to start a website and become an online WAHM? Bookmark this page so you don't miss out on Sugarrae's excellent advice!
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