Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Interview with Paula Fellingham, The Women's Information Network
Today's interview is with Paula Fellingham, founder of the Women's Information Network (www.thewinonline.com), which launched recently as an online and offline site for women. We spoke with Paula about the site and what the firm is hoping to do for women.
What's the Women's Information Network, and how did it start?
Paula Fellingham: I have been a professional speaker for a little over 30 years. I've got a doctorate, and written five books. Around 2007, I was in thirty-two states with my seminar company--Ignite Your Life Seminars. I wanted to really help women across America create positive change, how to create their own joy, and confidence. I also had wonderful products to sell, including year long courses, including four products, with one about how to start an online business, how to write a book in 90 days, how to become a professional speaker, and how to eliminate debt. But, I had been out for about nine months, and it was exhausting. It absolutely wore me out, on every level--emotionally, mentally, socially. In June of that year, I decided there had to got to be a better way, and it must be easier than this. I figured out that we could instead get hundreds of experts, experts in business, health, finance, careers, parenting, and travel--and get them to share their expertise in small bites from home, which was very appealing to me at that point. Instead of just filling a ballroom full of women, we could share this with millions of women, a much larger audience. I thought--how can we get these experts to share their messages from home, worldwide, and do it for free? That's how the Women's Information Network was conceived.
How long ago was that?
Paula Fellingham: That was just about exactly two years ago. We spent almost a year in R&D, and going through who is out there, what should the model look like, and bringing members onto our team. We started out small on the web, and going through that process which all entrepreneurs do, figuring out what works, what doesn't, and doing lots of testing and research--and figuring out what women want. They want three things. One are solutions for their lives, which we offer through audio and video shows, and thousands of articles. We have 232 show hosts, women and men, who share their expertise through brief audio and video shows, as well as thousands of self-written articles. The second thing is to share those ideas. Women want to share ideas, create their relationships, and comment and blog on things. Creating relationships is part of our DNA. That sharing happens through conversation boards and webinars. Women have a place on the WIN, and can create a group or host a group, and then also blog and interact by commenting on all of the articles, and comment about shows. The third thing, is really connecting--in italics. As wonderful as the online experience is, it cannot equal, and is not as magical as what women experience at a live conference. So we'll have offline events. We will have conferences, and we'll be having one at the Los Angeles Convention Center, which will be our first international conference with women all over the world. We'll be filling cruise ships with women. We'll really be connecting, heart-to-heart, which is part of what the WIN is. It's much more than an online entity, it's so much not about the website, it's about the community--a worldwide community helping women.
Do women have to pay for the web site, or how does that work?
Paula Fellingham: It's free. When we bring millions of women anywhere, the advertisers and sponsors will want to be there. The beauty for sponsors, is we're so targeted. We have ten show hosts on how to start a business, which is perfect for advertisers focused on women starting their business. They can have a presence on those shows, and on those articles. If someone with Huggies were to look at WIN, they might look at our parenting channel, which is also very targeted.
Are those experts paid by you, or are they independent?
Paula Fellingham: They're independent. It's another platform for them, and it's a win-win--pun intended. They give us content, and we give them a platform to reach women. They don't pay us, and we don't pay them. We also have the WIN store, which is a wonderful place for any entrepreneurial woman in the world, where they can sell their products--whether that's books, or women from Africa selling jewelry, women from South America selling pottery--it's a place where all those entrepreneurs can have their products sold to the millions of women we'll be bringing to the WIN. Plus, we've just finished an online television show--the WIN Show, with 54 episodes, which we've just completed filming a few days ago--and we also want experts who are willing to come to our headquarters and be filmed in our studio, where they can share their bite-sized pieces of content.
There seem to be many big companies creating women focused websites, how do you fit into that world?
Paula Fellingham: We're unique, in that we offer our three elements--getting solutions, ideas, and really connecting. We will have thousands of shows, which are high quality, and not mediocre. We've got a unique selling proposition, which is high quality solutions from experts, and a place for them to share ideas, with social networking components. Plus, we have the offline components, which no one else is doing. We have a place where women can shop, learn, where they can laugh, get news, and no one else is offering what we are offering. We are creating relationships there that will motive them to return time and time again.
How difficult was it to put together this technology--is this something you've developed yourself, or were you able to find technology already available?
Paula Fellingham: It's some of each. There are some unique things we're doing, and others we've developed specifically for the WIN. But, we are of course standing on the shoulders of the people who have created the technology to make this possible for us. What we've created now couldn't have been done on the scale we're doing it in a few years ago--we're taking advantage of so much functionality that didn't even exist then.