Intro to Success Story Interview: I conducted this interview with Marnie Pehrson, (positions too numerous to sum up in one title) perhaps, CEO of the Internet, but honestly that would not even begin to calculate all that Marnie does. I was really looking forward to this interview, because I have for months admired Marnie’s work. Not only do I read her novels and e-books voraciously, but admire her business savvy and experience. Marnie has over 10 websites (at her best guess), she is an active member of her community and church, she is the CEO and developer of such great websites as IdeaMarketers.com, Locate-A-Coach.com, 1ChapterFree.com, and SheLovesGod.com, just to name a few. She is a published author of over 10 romance novels, she writes regularly on business related topics, conducts teleclasses, writes e-courses, holds a virtual women’s conference every year, meets with her fans at “Meet, Greet and Eats” and shall we mention it – has six children! You can see why I was anxious to interview her, begging the answer to “How do you do it all?”
Marnie has been a Solo-Entrepreneur for over 15 years. She is self-taught, she is raising six wonderful children, and she takes time to enjoy life (either reading, writing, or walking in her fields). She takes time for family regularly through up-building spiritual study, and movie nights, her numerous websites which she designed and updates herself – require weekly if not daily updating, writing and coordination’s (they are mainly all “virtual community” websites). She is a novelist having written and published nearly 10 books and collections of business and inspirational articles, and get this – manages to have “date night” with her husband every Friday night!
During this interview, I was frequently amazed at her down to earth, graceful and easy approach. She spoke as if nothing was a chore, and everything has come together as it should have. And I guess that really is the truth. Marnie really loves what she does, a self professed workaholic who has learned to purposely take a break and walk the fields of her farm with her kids. If she can’t find the solution right away, patience gently guides her to the answer sooner or later. I guess I pictured her with a houseful of busy children, papers scattered everywhere from her numerous projects and perhaps a fast tongued business executive who knew how to delegate and bark orders. I figured that was the only way to accomplish it all. Nothing could be further from the truth – this interview was a pleasure to conduct. Marnie’s relaxed, organized, peaceful demeanor and her family and faith focused environment obviously works well and she is living proof of women having it all with grace and confidence. So, if you are like me and beg the question – how does she do that? Read on!
Amy: How long have you been a solo-entrepreneur?
Marnie: Since May 1990
Amy: Why did you start your own business?
Marnie: My husband lost his job. I started looking in the paper and in the back of my mind I had the idea percolating that I wanted to teach programs such as Lotus and Pagemaker from home. But I decided to go in for an interview for a job listed in the paper – and after the interview I was really depressed because I knew that I wanted to be with my kids.
Amy: How many children did you have at that time?
Marnie: I had two kids in 1990. I set my mind to the idea I had of teaching computer programs from my home and by November I had a full business. I often trained executives who in turn referred me to their employers. I was brought on as a consultant in many companies that way. I helped Coca-Cola with their database design and helped them create a system that tracked their sales. They later told me how much it had improved their efficiency in dollar figures which I can’t remember at this time. I also did some training at the Brock Candy Company.
Amy: There were not a lot of computer courses in the early 90’s, did you teach yourself?
Marnie: I majored in Information Management in School so I had many of the computer basics but I taught myself a lot too. If one of my students had a question that I did not know the answer to, I would tell them we would discuss it next time, and I would figure it out by the next lesson.
I then wrote a book on how to run a computer training business from your home in 1994 and through that, remotely; I became good friends with Alanna Webb. She was looking into Web Design and I didn’t really know what that was, but we collaborated on some things where I did the Marketing and she did the Designs. Eventually this got attention from a New Jersey company and they hired Alanna. Our venture didn’t continue, because she started working full time – but we are still best friends. She taught me Cold Fusion. Have you heard of that?
Amy: I only started taking computer courses in high school at that time.
Marnie: I thought you were younger than me. [Laughs]. Well cold fusion is a language like HTML that communicates with a back end database, and I used Notepad to program it. They didn’t have any fancy programs back then. [Laughs again]. Alanna and I still work together on things and it is funny because I can hear her in my head sometimes saying “this would look good here.” She has a great sense for layout and design. We eventually met in person. (They had developed their friendship virtually through the computer).
Amy: How did you realize your niche for creating “virtual communities”
Marnie: Well this goes back to a website I started after Alanna and I went our separate ways business-wise, which I have since sold – ComputerExperts.com. At the time, I developed the idea to write computer-related newsletters and send them out as a “fax newsletter”. I would write tips on how to do certain things in WordPerfect or other software programs, and eventually I came to have a collection of articles from those newsletters. By 1998, the virtual community IdeaMarketers.com stemmed from that idea. (IdeaMarketers is a media-matching service created in December of 1998, which unites writers and publishers. Writers can post their articles for free to be featured on the site. They’re stored in a searchable database. It currently has over 27,000 articles in the database.)
In the meantime I had been working with a coach who had a website called Focused Lives. She became pregnant and stopped coaching and asked me to take over her site. From there, that website gradually morphed into LocateaCoach.com.
I wrote a lot of religious articles generally based around women and families and in 2000 and my coach recommended that I establish a network around that – Alanna helped me come up with the name and SheLovesGod.com was born. I don’t use that website as an income source – that site is dear to me and allows women to find a place of connection and spiritual growth regardless of there religious beliefs. Also back in November 2002, BelieversAtWork.com was inspired from a friend of mine – and well the rest is history. All of my websites come about from me meeting someone, them teaching me something new, and it just kind of falls in place.
Amy: Did writing romance novels start as a hobby?
Marnie: Well a lot of my writing had mainly been related to business. I branched out into self-help and religious and inspirational. Around the same time I had been reading a lot of Marcia Lynn McClure novels. In June of 2003 I was meeting a distributor for some of my other writings, and they asked me several times that day, if I would be interested in writing fiction. It hadn’t occurred to me at first, but later I thought, “I think I could do that.” I also had a nagging feeling that I should write about my 4th great grandmother who was a Revolutionary War heroine. So, I listened to these things and completed my first book by the end of September that year.
The distributor does the covers, and I have my own publishing company. I get the books ready for the printer and have friends help edit them.
Amy: How many books or e-books do you have?
Marnie: I have 5 novels in print, 9 fiction e-books. They can be seen at http://www.cleanromanceclub.com or http://www.MarniePehrson.com
Amy: What advice do you have for those who have a hobby and how they can make a business out of it?
Marnie: Just do it! Put it out there! My Dad likes to tell the story of when I was 5 or 6 and after coloring or drawing pictures; I would tape them across the walls like an art gallery, and charge people $0.25 to buy them. He says I still do the same thing. [Okay, we are both laughing at that one].
Just putting your work out there and sharing it with people. That is what IdeaMarketers is about too. People want their articles, their advice, and knowledge to be shared and expressed to others.
Amy: How many writers or contributors are there at IdeaMarketers?
Marnie: Right now we have over 8000 on the writer list.
Amy: I notice that you have some on the home page with their pictures, how does that work?
Marnie: There is a bidding system. The bidders’ articles are sorted and presented by what they pay. These articles will remain on the home page and/or channel pages for 7 days and then you have the option of re-bidding or dropping the bid. Or, you can pay $35 a month to consistently stay up front.
Amy: Wow – that is a neat way of handling it, where did you get that type of program?
Marnie: Oh – I programmed it. I was thinking one night about how I could help people benefit from the traffic on the homepage and I came up with that. (She says nonchalantly).
Amy: Now you have at least <8-10> or more websites – obviously each one comes from a passion of yours – writing, marketing, and your faith – would you say that this is passion meets multiple income streams?
Marnie: Well with SheLovesGod.com, I wanted that to be inspirational, I don’t want to make money off of that, but with IdeaMarketers, we have over 1 million page views per month. It is my bread and butter and where I spend a lot of my time, we have a good profit “>Amy: Do you have a regular following?
Marnie: We have 150 people that regularly buy, and Marcia and I hold a “Meet, Greet and Eat” conference each year where we get to meet all of our readers and connect with other authors. (Here is a link to Marnie with pictures of the latest event, August 2005 http://www.pwgroup.com/marniepehrson/about.htm ).
Amy: Speaking of time, when do you have the time to do so? What are the ages of your children?
Marnie: Their ages are 17, 15, 13, 8, 6, 4. I have 4 boys 2 girls. Well one of my good friends once told me, “you don’t hire baby-sitters, you raise them.” [Hearty laugh]. The older kids really do help out. They help with housework and looking after one another. My husband is a personal chef, so whenever he is cooking in the kitchen, he cleans up and for lunch he brings me new creations to try. He is great about having dinner on the table at 6 every night.
Amy: My god Marnie – you have got it made or you have them trained very well.
Marnie: I always say I am really lucky! We have tried to teach our kids to have a sense of right and wrong. My eldest, my daughter really has that. Our faith has taught her too – she is well behaved. She is the strongest person I know. She knows what she wants and works hard to get it. She wants to teach linguistics. She is really interested in anything about Japan. I always tell her that she was mistakenly born in the South when she should have been born in Japan. We have a really good sense of humor about things.
Amy: Marnie, you have multiple businesses, a farm (with chores), church and volunteer activities, household responsibilities, a husband and also – 6 children. One would think that you have mastered the art of work/life balance. How do you do it?
Marnie: Well we don’t have that many animals we only have goats, dogs, cats, and plan to add a hen house soon. My boys help with the goats – the goats are our lawnmowers. When we mow the lawn we do it with a tractor and a bush hog attached.
I don’t have much stress, other than when the kids are arguing. Since my husband has been home, my stress has really reduced. He helped us to create consistency by having dinner ready each night at the same time. I used to be an extreme workaholic and my coach taught me to relax. If I took a break, I would pat myself on the back. I would take a walk with kids and I became more inspired because of that. When I came to a roadblock, I would take a break and come back with much more clarity.
Amy: What essential tips would you offer for those working at home with kids?
Marnie: I delegate as much as possible – even three year olds can help out. The boys know how to do laundry. Some people think that you have to do everything for your kids but kids need to learn responsibility. When you teach them things, or work alongside them to do it together, they learn how. You can imagine all the laundry with 6 kids, we all go in and sort and get that done in 15 minutes. We work together to get it all done.
Amy: Describe a typical day in the life of Marnie
Marnie: [laughing she says] Well I generally wake up with a 4 year old on top of me wanting cereal. So, we get up anywhere from 7-8:30 am. I make the kids breakfast, either cereal or sometimes we make heart shaped cinnamon biscuits. My husband will go shopping. I check my e-mail. Work on IdeaMarketers projects. Then we go take care of the goats, do yard duties. I come back later to work on my sites, write. It all depends on my moods, some days I read.
In the morning, my daughter will do housework, and my husband generally has a new creation for lunch. After lunch, I will do my programming or writing until 4 pm. Then I will go for a walk, or vacuum as a break, or run an errand.
Then by 5:30 – 6:00 pm Greg has dinner ready. Monday nights are family night; we will play a game or read scriptures. Wednesday’s, we go to Church Meetings, and if Greg is delivering food (he is a personal chef), my son and I will watch a movie together, we have the same taste in movies. Then Friday night is date night for my husband and me.
And by 9:00, I bring the goats in and either sneak back in to do work, and then have my shower.
Amy: Do you enjoy about being a solo-entrepreneur?
Amy: You have been working as a solo-entrepreneur for nearly 15 years, what have you learned about perseverance?
Marnie: 99% of success is perseverance. It is about not being afraid of committing to risk – and just waiting for the answer. It always comes in time. You have to be willing to adapt. If I stumble on something, I don’t quit. There is always an answer. I would just say, I am going to tweak this and I will get there eventually – when it is supposed to.
Amy: What tips do you have about marketing?
Marnie: It is good to write and circulate your articles. Get your name out there with a link back to your site. Also, networking. I have always met the right people at the right time. You have to be willing to do something for somebody without expecting to get something back.
Amy: What keeps you inspired?
Marnie: My faith in God. My friends and family who believe in me. Music. My mother always had music in our home – it can change my whole mood. ( http://www.amusiclibrary.com )
I also like sharing what I have learned and teaching other people what I have learned – it makes it more exciting when you share with people.
Amy: Thank you Marnie! It has been great connecting with you!
Marnie: No problem! Thank you!© Copyright 2005 Marnie L Pehrson