Before Lisa Stone ’88 co-founded BlogHer, the worldwide community of women bloggers, before she had garnered numerous accolades—before all of that—she was a single mom, trying to raise a young son.
“I knew I wanted to be the kind of mother I had—which was all in—and to not get on airplanes, so I decided, ‘I’m going to go and take a desk job on this thing called the internet,’” Lisa says.
Her background fit the bill. She had worked in traditional media for years as a reporter for newspapers in the Bay Area, including the Oakland Tribune, and as a producer and media strategist for CNN before being lured to WebTV. She even taught herself html, which led to her being recruited to be vice president of programming and editor-in-chief for Women.com, a women-only social network where women have conversations online.
It was there she observed an important phenomenon: the rise of message boards. Users loved them, even if they weren’t beautiful or graphic rich. And it was around Sept. 11, 2001, that Lisa noticed blogs really taking off.
“The single most addictive thing women were doing on the internet was talking to each other,” Lisa says. “Women were the stars of their own lives.”
Lisa came up with the idea for a conference as a way to help women on the internet connect in person. With the help of two other bloggers, Elisa Camahort Page and Jory Des Jardins, the first BlogHer conference was organized in 2005 with all three women simply splitting the conference costs on their credit cards. More than 300 women from four continents showed up in Santa Clara, Calif., as well as camera crews from CNN and sponsorships from the likes of Yahoo and Google.
“We were shocked,” Lisa says. “It was amazing.”
The three knew they were on to something, and what started out as a women’s conference soon developed into a company centered around an online entity, showcasing the work of female bloggers.
“We started as a little labor of love,” Lisa says. “It became a very exciting project.”
Using a business model Lisa developed in part while a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, BlogHer took off. Bloggers are paid via advertising revenue shares and fees for sponsored content on their blogs.
“We wanted to create a new kind of media company created by, for, and with women instead of making money off of them,” Lisa says.
She says she and her cofounders built BlogHer “from an idea to a $30 million company.”
The three-day conferences, designed for women in social media, consist of speakers from a variety of backgrounds, as well as workshops on topics including writing, social media, and personal branding. President Obama spoke at BlogHer’s 2012 conference in New York City, a milestone moment for the company.
BlogHer made news late last year when it was sold to SheKnows Media. Lisa and her cofounders have joined the leadership team at SKM and help run the combined company.
When dispensing advice to budding entrepreneurs seeking to raise venture capital from outside sources, Lisa says the key lies in building your business first and asking for money second. “Then, the conversation is about the business as opposed to about you personally.”
Lisa has also found success in relying on her own instincts regarding the rise of the internet.
“This is a perfect tool for women, so I’m really glad I was right about that,” Lisa says.