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Michelle Madhok

What inspired you to create SheFinds?

I spent 5 years overseeing the women's audience for AOL which at the time had 35 million subscribers 50% of which were women. I sat through numerous focus groups where women told us they want to look nice, know about the hottest trends and where to find a great bargain. Unfortunately most of these women are "time-starved" due to family, work and personal obligations. What emerged was that a woman sees herself as two people-The Woman as the CEO of the home (work, bills, errands, carpool) and The Woman as Me (fashion, style, entertainment). As life gets busier there's less time for Me. I frequently watched girlfriends lose their sense of self and I noticed the huge success of beauty and fashion features on AOL. What was missing was the link between an expert suggestion and fulfillment.

You left a secure and prestigious position at a large company to start your own - were you intimidated at all? What were some of the greatest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Letting go of the corporate safety net was terrifying. I've been a 'good girl' all my life, a good student, worked for good companies. Making the jump into business for yourself, sometimes people look at you cross-eyed and say, 'You're going to do what!?'

What helped me was talking to other entrepreneurs. I realized that I'd been able to support myself for the last ten years and that there was no reason I wouldn't be able to support myself now. You're not going to starve. You can always get another job. But it's a challenge for most of us to get over that initial fear. I financed SheFinds myself and have spent about $5,000 of my own money to get the business off the ground. Initially it made me nervous - I didn't want to blow through my savings, but we started realizing revenue within 4 months. This year we're on track to triple last year's earnings.

What is most satisfying to you about running your own company? What is most difficult?

I love setting my own hours - I always had a difficult time understanding the structure of corporate life. So much time was wasted with bureaucracy. I knew I could get everything done in 1/2 the time if I didn't have to deal with the corporate process. I also love that only I am responsible for my own fate. At AOL I had 12 bosses in 5 years. Each time I got a new boss I had to worry about politics and whether, despite my success, I would be replaced. Lucky for me each one of those bosses were fired before they could get rid of me!

Many Daring Females out there are aspiring entrepreneurs - what advice do you have for them?

I have a very successful aunt who started her own clothing manufacturing company 20 years ago. She always said "make your mistakes on someone else’s dime." Learn everything you can from the corporate world before you jump into your own business. Every day I call upon my knowledge from running businesses within CBS and AOL. Having "graduated" from big name corporations also helps me gain respect from clients and colleagues. I know the lingo and I know how to be diplomatic. Two things I couldn't do without my corporate experience.

To learn more about Michele and SheFinds, please visit www.shefinds.com.

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