When Jana Francis walks in the door, heads turn. This 5’2” spunky dynamo is raising three kids, charming everyone she meets—from new mommies to the most brilliant engineers at Google—and running a Totally Awesome multi-million-dollar startup company. Along with business partner Rett Clevenger, Jana is the mastermind behind STEALS.com, an interactive marketing company that delivers top-quality brands and products to online communities of women. Among that network is the uber-helpful babySTEALS.com—your pick for this year’s Most Awesome Deal Site. Jana recently chatted with us about babySteals.com’s Totally Awesome status, the motivation behind her business, and more.
Red Tricycle: Your community recently voted you “Most Awesome.” What do your customers value most about your business?
Jana Francis: Any website can offer a deal—but it takes a lot more to truly offer a “steal.” For us at babySTEALS, that means delivering fanatical customer service, lightning-fast shipping, and the ability to deliver a high quality product at a steep discount. We also focus on one brand at a time. Rather than flooding our sites with hundreds of products, services, and coupons, we highlight one company and its product to introduce the customer to a new brand they might not otherwise be able to find or purchase. Customers know when they come to babySTEALS, that they will be inspired by something new, and that if they are compelled to purchase their order will ship fast and customer service will be great.
RT: What inspired you to start your business?
JF: When I pulled out of my driveway to go back to work after maternity leave with my third baby, I knew I needed to do something else—start my own business so I could be financially free, and achieve a better work-life balance. I loved online deal hunting and was always searching for the best prices on the latest, most sought-after baby products. This was before Groupon and other deal sites hit the scene. I wanted to create a place where women could have great brands handed right to them, at a price that wouldn’t break the bank. After 18 months of planning, I partnered with Rett Clevenger to launch babySTEALS.com, the first website in the Steals.com family, in April 2008. Four years later we now have kidSTEALS.com, scrapbookSTEALS.com and sheSTEALS.com under our STEALS.com umbrella!
RT: Any advice for new business owners just getting started?
JF: If you are going to partner with someone in your business, make absolutely sure that you enjoy and trust this person and that they mirror your values, ethics, and bring as much to the table and have as much passion for the business that you do. I have been so fortunate to have an amazing business partner and I can’t imagine running my company without him. Because of how great of a team we are, I can see how that relationship alone can make or break the success of a company, especially in the beginning stages.
RT: Can you give us one tip for balancing entrepreneurship with parenthood?
JF: Schedule your time wisely so you can have focused time for both work and kids.
RT: What is your proudest moment as a business owner or parent?
JF: Most recently, my proudest moment was probably this recent post on our website that features all the new moms on our staff. Knowing that our website is for moms, BY moms, it was very gratifying to see a picture representing the newest babies to the babySTEALS.com family, and realizing that our business can not only support so many moms (we have 63 employees) but that it can support them through such precious milestones in their lives. That they can have an amazing career and celebrate their motherhood at the same time.