DirectHERy shines spotlight on women-owned businesses
Consumers in Madison and nationwide will soon have access to a free online directory, making it easy to help women-owned businesses prosper.
Kate Fletcher Heaney was traveling in Nashville with her husband when she stumbled on a problem that would lead her to her current endeavor with business partner Melanie Bean Galle.
“I remember at the time I really wanted to find a restaurant owned by a woman, to use my dollars to support another woman directly,” explains Heaney. “But the moment when I needed it, there was no easy-to-use resource to guide me. When we sat down in a restaurant, it occurred to me that an online directory of woman-owned and woman-run businesses didn’t readily exist.”
After months of research, she found many different varieties of lists, but couldn’t find a comprehensive, one-stop-shop nationwide directory of woman-owned businesses. “I think this is a perfect example of how all of the apps and accessibility to information can be overwhelming if it’s not streamlined to a specific need — in my case woman-owned businesses,” Heaney notes.
And with that, DirectHERy was born.
“Now that we are close to finishing the site, in the thick of getting businesses listed and proving the value of this concept to the owners, I can see why people may have been hesitant to tackle a project like this in the past,” laughs Heaney. “It’s a lot of work! However we know there is a demand for this information to be delivered in way that hasn’t been done before, and we are excited by that.”
DirectHERy is an ambitious project for the two Madison-based entrepreneurs. Instead of starting small as a directory of Madison-area women-owned businesses, Heaney and Galle are opting to take DirectHERy national right out of the gate.
“There are more than 12 million woman-owned businesses in the United States and countless consumers including myself who want to support them,” Heaney notes. “Melanie and I have both lived in different cities in different states, know awesome women entrepreneurs all over the country, and both travel a ton. We agreed that with the reach of our combined networks, we could start accumulating decent sized directories in communities outside of Madison and Wisconsin and didn’t want to miss that opportunity.”
For her part, Heaney grew up in Girdwood, Alaska, surrounded by strong women who supported her on her journey to becoming a professional snowboarder, a mother, and a successful entrepreneur.
Galle, who serves as COO of DirectHERy, is a Seattle native who has lived in Madison for seven years. Her career spans two decades in media and marketing, including time at Expedia, Microsoft, and nearly 10 years at MSNBC and NBC’s Today show.
Blending form and function
DirectHERy’s searchable consumer-facing site, DirectHERy.com, will officially launch later this fall, though it’s already live and pulling in curious consumers and MembHERs alike. And about that branding — it’s pervasive (pHERvasive?) on the site, adding a touch of whimsy while acting as a constant reminder that DirectHERy is by women, but for everyone.
Women business owners, both local and nationwide, can create a directory listing at no charge by visiting DirectHERy.com. Consumers interested in finding and supporting woman-owned businesses can visit the site and subscribe to the free NewslettHER.
In addition to free listings, business owners can sign up to become a MembHER. Paid MembHERship includes premier placement on DirectHERy.com, a stand-alone MembHER page, and other benefits.
According to Heaney, one of the struggles she and Galle immediately identified was how to keep the DirectHERy lists up to date, especially in the entrepreneurial landscape.
“We recognized early on that we had to get the business owners excited and involved with DirectHERy in order for this to work,” Heaney states. “We wanted life behind the list. Scraping the web, inputting the businesses and somehow trying to keep it all updated ourselves didn’t seem realistic to us. So we started talking to our listed businesses and potential MembHERs to see how else we can be of use to them. Through partnerships, we are planning small gatherings for the listed owners to take part in, and we will have a newsletter dedicated to the owners with information specific to woman-owned businesses.”
It’s also important for DirectHERy to show business owners the numbers: there are already twice as many consumer subscribers to the site as there are businesses listed. The site is drawing steady traffic already and DirectHERy hasn’t even launched its search functionality, the CalendHER, or a blog, which will come with original and curated content.
“The consumers are out there and they want to find and support these businesses,” says Heaney. “Now more than ever people are realizing how powerful their dollar is.”
Galle notes the website is being built mobile-first, as the majority of traffic will come from smartphones, but an actual mobile app is in DirectHERy’s long-term plan. “We want to secure enough data and user feedback before we build a mobile app to ensure it can deliver exactly what consumers want and need, including integration with partner services,” explains Galle.
According to Galle, there will be two ways to search for businesses on the site. The first is an easy drop-down category selection and location. For example, a user can search “Florist” and “Madison, WI.”
“Graphically, this will be two horizontal search fields above the fold, front and center on our new homepage,” says Galle. “We already have over 200 categories in the database.”
Realizing many users may want to just browse among the women-owned businesses, the second functionality is a more graphical, exploratory option for users in discovery mode. “We will break out top-level categories (Food & Drink, Children & Family, Health & Wellness, etc.) so users can select a category and explore the listings in this manner,” explains Galle.
Galle and Heaney are already considering the addition of minority-owned and veteran-owned segments, which would have a specific marking or badge in the search results to highlight this status. Data from the American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report found women are starting an average of 1,821 net new U.S. businesses per day, and the number of businesses owned by minority women has grown by nearly three times that of all women-owned businesses in the past 11 years, notes Galle. “This is a number to highlight and celebrate!”
Making the list
DirectHERy’s basic, free directory listing includes the business logo, name, location, website and social media information, if applicable. Examples include:
Users will not be able to leave reviews, but Heaney and Galle are considering an interactive element in which users and businesses would receive points or perks for finding and supporting businesses in DirectHERy. This could happen later in 2019.
“The free listing is intentionally quick and easy,” says Galle. “Business owners supply a logo and basic business information as you see above. They will be able to preview and modify their listing via a unique URL at any time.
“After a business is listed, they have the option to become a MembHER, which is an easy five-step process in which they must provide more information about their business — we want personal stories and interesting facts — and a few more graphics,” Galle continues. “We make it easy by providing examples and best practices for a great MembHER page, and the ability to save and preview their page as they go through the process. This is the business owner’s time to shine and really tell their story in their voice and with their photos.”
In addition to their standalone glossy page, MembHERs receive prominent placement on DirectHERy. MembHER listings, like those of Madison businesses daffodil*parker and Table Wine, are larger in size and placed at the top of the search results, followed by the free listings. MembHERs may also be in rotation on the homepage and/or featured in the blog and NewslettHER based on editorial merit and relevance. MembHERship is $25 per month and there will be a discount if paid in six- or 12-month packages. As an added incentive, any business listed by Dec. 31 will receive a free MembHERship for six months.
In spring or summer 2019, DirectHERy will begin offering a Preferred MembHER option, which Galle describes as a highly vetted process in which businesses will need to provide referrals or letters of recommendation and meet other criteria to earn this status. Pricing and details are yet to be determined.
In the meantime, Heaney and Galle will have a DirectHERy booth at the Madison Women’s Expo at the Alliant Energy Center Nov. 17–18, and a launch party for DirectHERy is being planned for later this year.
“The launch party will feature food, drink, and entertainment from woman-owned businesses in the Madison area,” notes Galle. “This will be an opportunity for woman-owned businesses to sign up if they aren’t already listed, and for consumers to hear more about how they can easily find and support women-owned businesses. This event, just like our site, is by women, for everyone. There are so many supportive men who have been our allies and are excited for this directory. While our primary target consumers are female, we are for everyone.”
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