This Is How You Change Careers and Launch A Successful Syndicated Website
Robin Shobin is the founder of the Charlotte’s Book website. It’s a modern beauty and wellness site that connects readers to the very best practitioners in the country through their "book" of experts. She and I first met while I was working at Dermstore.com. In the short time Charlotte’s Book has been around, Robin has managed to get noticed by Bobbi Brown and get Charlotte’s Book’s content syndicated on sites like Yahoo! Beauty and Allure.com -- not a small feat. She’s very much a frank lady: no pretenses, with a lot of guts and determination. Did I mention she launched an entire site without having worked in digital before? Here’s how she did it.
What was life like before you founded Charlotte’s Book and how has it changed?
Before Charlotte’s Book I spent about 14 years working in finance. I went to school for business and economics and started at J.P. Morgan (JPM) right out of school. I was at my desk in a suit by 6:30 am most mornings and spent most of time working with alpha male-type personalities on a trading desk. While I was always obsessed with beauty and skin care, it’s not something totally acceptable in that type of environment. Now I spend all my days around women and beauty and I love it. That said, it was an extremely hard transition moving from such a strict and rigid work framework to completely being your own boss. Having a schedule keeps you on track in so many ways, personally and professionally and when you don’t have that, you have to work hard setting a routine for yourself. It’s not something I anticipated and still struggle with. Making your own schedule sounds a lot easier than it is.
What motivated you to start your own business?
When I was approaching my mid-30s, I knew if I wanted to do something else with my life and I needed to make a decision. It was a hard one. I had worked there [at JPM] for so long and obviously change is always scary. As was giving up my paycheck! But I wanted to pursue something else and learn something else.
There are so many women searching for quality information in the skin care and anti-aging space. I feel really passionate about allowing women to talk openly about it and not feeling guilty about wanting to get some “work done.” So I wanted to create a premium digital environment where women could feel really good about it, trust the info, and also have a little fun. I truly felt that creating something with not only a strong voice in this space, but one that was educational, relatable and trustworthy made a lot sense. I don’t think a lot of content platforms speak well to this niche market. And the exercise of finding cosmetic health and wellness professionals is still predominantly word of mouth – people are searching online now – and there is a lot of value in having a trusted go-to directory.
Although some people might have not heard about Charlotte’s Book (yet), the site has a strong niche following and it’s growing FAST. How long had you been contemplating the idea of launching it and how did you do it?
I seriously thought about it for a year or so before I left JPM. It was a giant learning curve for me. I am still learning every day since digital is not my background. I started out by mapping out the site and by getting a core group of doctors on board. Dr. Doris Day was one of the first doctors I ever met with. I had never heard of her before until her name came up in an anonymous survey I had sent out to a few hundred women asking which doctors they liked best. I cold-called my way into a meeting with her before we even started building the site. I explained that most working professional women don’t have the time to flip through the pages of various magazines, and we don’t watch a lot of daytime TV. We needed an easy online resource where we could trust the recommendations. Doctors immediately got it and helped along the way.
What was the hardest part of starting your own business and what do you wish you’d known?
So many things! Firstly, I would probably never start another business alone. Having a partner is invaluable. Not only for the workload, but having someone else to bounce ideas off of and share decisions. I also wish I had went to school for coding! Or at least gotten some background. Knowing what I know back then would have been invaluable. The technology and the development has been the hardest part. I wish I had known more about this process, all the pitfalls and difficulties. I just brought on a technology partner. The value of having someone in-house who takes ownership of your product like you do is invaluable – it’s completely different than working with technology freelancers. I wish I had that from day one.
Do you have a group of advisors/sponsors/mentors, and how did you go about building that “pod?” And how have they impacted your professional life?
This is hard to find. I have a great friend Lizzy Klein whom I met through my acupuncturist when she learned I was starting the site. We met for coffee and immediately clicked. She has a background in digital and it’s been great to have her.
I hate to say it, but a lot of people say they want to help and advise, but at the end of the day, everyone is time-strapped. All I can say is put yourself out there and try to meet as many people as you can. Sometimes networking events can be a waste of time, and other times you can meet a great contact whose advice becomes invaluable.
On a personal level, what I do love is how many amazing women I meet now; it’s something I never had before. I have made so many new friends, I love hearing women’s stories and connecting with people doing cool things – like Luz Plaza!
Who Is Your Charlotte?
People always ask me that. I'd probably say Robin Wright Penn. She ages just the way you should -- like the best version of yourself. Not trying to be younger, just trying to be better. And I love her because she actually admits to getting Botox! Come on, Hollywood!