Cara Bruce and Shawna Kenney are two friends building a dream business together. Both grew up in the D.C. area and moved west, both have recently moved back to the D.C. area of their roots, both like punk rock, and have dedicated their respective lives to writing. Together they created Roaming Writers, an online media space dedicated to their love of teaching and the written word. I got the chance to ask them about the ins and outs of starting an online business.
Q: Why an online writing workshop?
A: We both love to write and love to teach. We think that teaching online is the perfect way to signify the freedom writers have in the modern age. Today’s writer is no longer bound by region or genre. Technology has expanded our circle of friendships as well as our writing community. People move around more these days, too—why be limited to being an ‘LA writer’ or ‘romance writer’ or ‘nature writer’ when there are so many possibilities?
Q: How did you get funding for your business?
A: We were very lucky because our business doesn’t require much overhead. An online business doesn’t need a brick and mortar place to operate. We needed a web hosting company, of course but we work really hard to find alternate ways of doing things. We believe in DIY and guerilla marketing. For example, we found open source software that we can use to teach our classes. We simply spent the time learning how to install and use it. Most of our time is spent marketing. It takes longer and requires a lot more work to do it yourself but it does get results. We don’t have to spend money and we learn how to do things ourselves.
Q: Do you think starting a business is easier online?
A: I’m not sure about easier but there are advantages. The benefits to taking classes online are tremendous. Obviously, you can be anywhere in the world. It’s also much more flexible, you can do the work on your schedule. Online writing workshops are great for people who are feeling a bit shy about their work. Sometimes it’s easier to put yourself and your words out there when you can stay completely anonymous. That’s not to say that people in the workshop don’t become close—we do, in fact, many of us chat outside of class. Our goal is to create a lasting community for writers. Being online gives you many marketing opportunities, you can connect with other websites and bloggers and form a whole network of people that you would never have had the chance to meet otherwise. And, like we said, there are ways to save money with open source software. Plus, teaching online gives us flexible schedules, allowing us to write or travel whenever we want to.
Q: What is the most important thing when starting a new business?
A: Many people believe that to start a new business your whole idea has to be completely new. Obviously, there are a lot of writing classes out there already. We just added a twist to make our business unique and stand out. We offer writing workshops with the guarantee of publication at the end of the class. This is to give a complete hands-on experience. We not only want to help people learn how to write, we want to teach them everything about submitting stories, revising, working with editors and getting published. To us, writing is an act of faith, and publication is the proof of a writer’s hard work. We aim to give all writers a chance at fulfilling their dreams. We are the only writing workshops that produce anthologies and guarantee publication. That makes us stand out and is what is making us so successful.
Q: What was the biggest challenge that you’ve faced?
A: Getting our name out there. That’s what we work on everyday!
Q: How are you growing your business?
A: We are currently writing an instructional how-to-write book and we are also starting to speak about writing, DIY publishing and marketing.
Q: What is the best piece of advice that you have for other young people who are starting their own business?
A: Do something to grow your business every day, even if it’s just talking to one new person. If you do at least one thing a day you will keep growing.
To sign up for a Roaming Writers workshop visit: www.roamingwriters.com