20 Aug Stories of Starting Episode 5: Dahna Weber, Intrepid Business Catalyst
Today we speak with my friend and fellow Women’s Entrepreneurial Exchange (We2) member Dahna Weber. Dahna is a website development expert, branding strategist and travel junkie. Dahna created both of my websites. She is motivated by helping women entrepreneurs succeed and has been a wealth of inspiration for my business.
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Intro: Welcome to the stories of starting podcast. I’m Heather Boyd as a self-employed artist for the last thirty years I’m fascinated with people’s passions and creative projects. In this series we discover how people like you have started new projects by thinking outside the box going with the flow and tapping into their childhood imagination.
Heather: Welcome to Stories of Starting. Today we have a super special guest, my friend Dahna Weber. So Dahna to start I’ll have you introduce yourself and tell us what you do.
Dahna: Wow, it’s Dahna-banana for anybody who has trouble pronouncing it. I started my business over ten years ago. It’s called MINC Motherhood Incorporated. There’s a couple of programs that I run. Mostly I help startups. I help small businesses launch and relaunch their programs, their brands and their websites. Really anything digital. I say my name is Weber and there’s a web in my name. I am completely enthralled and passionate about all things online. I guess that’s pretty much what I do.
Heather: That’s awesome. Dahna, I’m not gonna lie I’m a little bit nervous. This is like interviewing your teacher because you’ve really got me started so much in a lot of what I do online. I’m just going to back peddle a little bit and tell people how we met. We met originally at We2 which is the Women’s Entrepreneurial Exchange. I remember one of the first times you approached me to talk to me I was really very impressed because you came up to me and you said “Heather you need a website”. I don’t know if you had been stalking me online or what, but I think you knew I had an Etsy shop. At the time for sure you were specializing in creating websites for people through MINC. I didn’t even know I needed a website! You came up to me and told me that and I really valued your opinion. It took me a little while to hop on board, financially and all that kind of thing. But then I just dove in and got you to do my first website which was Heather Boyd Wire website for my jewelry. Then about a year ago I was ready to bite the bullet and get you to help me with my blog website which was just a free WordPress site. So you got that one going which is funny because now I’m really more focused on that one. I’m still doing the wire of course but I’m really focused on that one which has now morphed into doing these Stories of Starting podcasts.
Heather: Every time I go to edit my my blog I always think about you because you actually offered an online program at one point to support people in editing their own WordPress blogs. I use a lot of the things that I learned in your course. Even little things like adding a hyperlink to the blog and things like that. A lot of that stuff I use today on a regular basis. I know you’re all about teaching and empowering people to do do things. To set them up but also to encourage them to do things on their own. Can you tell me a little bit about your business creating blogs.
Dahna: Sure, I still do that by the way. My passion is to work with with entrepreneurs and work with people that I can get them started with something and they can continue on their own. You’re right…empower them. For me if you say anything ‘legal’ my head goes “ahhhh” it’s Swahili, I don’t understand what you’re saying! I think a lot of people feel that way about tech and online. It’s really it’s really not that hard. Often clients will send things in or people will ask questions that it’s easier to do yourself than it is to explain it to someone else. I’m a firm believer in giving people the basic knowledge of working with their website. I still do that training at least four or five times a year. How to use your website, how to blog post on it whether it’s a full site or a blog based site or a mix of the two. Even people have WooCommerce or e-commerce websites. Doing that and using different tools to pull in e-commerce like an Etsy plugin. I always think with a frugal mindset. I believe strongly in build where you’re at and what you need for the next period and build up in phases. Not to throw a ton of money in at the beginning. I do do a lot of work with all sorts of people like that. I’ve changed things a little bit and I’m working more towards changing it in a way to help clients. There’s so many things. Originally I used to do that training one-on-one with clients. I was repeating the same things over and over again. Sort of like group therapy, it really worked when there were a couple of people on the call. Different people have different questions. Then people aren’t afraid to ask questions and learn things from different requirements from a site. For instance when we were doing your site we mentioned the Etsy plugin so it raises ideas for other people. The back-end of the site is mostly like a word document. It’s really simple. I am really excited when clients learn how to do things. I think it’s great. Then there are always clients who don’t want to do that. They’re just like here’s my list of things and we can obviously do that too. I’ve also I started to do website builds in a group. I take four clients at a time and we do it live. We do it once a week for four weeks. We go through a branding process and a website build. At the end of four weeks we have their full branding and we have the home page of their website done. We just started this last May. There’s another one in in September. It’s really so much fun and the synergy in the group. It almost acts like a mastermind at the same time.
Heather: That’s amazing and it reminds me of when we were in Serena Miller’s Focus 5 group. The groups weren’t specifically for websites but for building a business. It’s so true that you bounce ideas off each other and motivate each other. It’s a great idea. I didn’t actually realize you were doing it in that kind of format.
Dahna: Yes, it’s called MINC magic. It’s magical! I found for entrepreneurs and small business owners the most difficult thing is it always takes people too long. When you’re in charge of your business and you’re trying to do everything it’s really hard to carve out the time. Everybody would ask me how long to build the site? I would always answer I could get it done quicker than you can. I could do it in a week if you really wanted me to but for most people it drags. This way with the homework each week and just being together, the accountability and the motivation. It’s a little bit of time each week that you have to commit to but then you get on a roll and the treadmills going and it gets done. So it’s getting done in like six weeks instead of six months yeah.
Heather: That’s amazing. What a great idea. I’m going to link up all your information about the programs in the show notes. This is a little different than the other thing that you’ve started doing which is your Workation retreat. I really super wanted to talk about. That was one of the main things I wanted to talk on the podcast because I think it’s a fantastic idea and I definitely want to go one time. Tell us about Workation.
Dahna: Workation…it’s a perfect Start by Starting story. I started MINC almost 10 plus years ago. I always knew I don’t really enjoy the winter. I shouldn’t say that. I love winters, I just don’t love how long they last. A little bit too long for me.
Heather: We’re in Montreal for people that don’t know!
Dahna: They start in October/November and go to mid-April. I just think we need to cut a couple of months out! There’s something known as being a snowbird. Snowbirds typically would go south for part of the winter. I always knew I wanted to do this. My son turned 19 and went away to school so I thought okay it’s time to do this. What makes it different than being a typical Snowbird is typically people are retired and they go south for a month or two months or three months for the winter. I wanted to go south but I wanted to work. I didn’t really want to do it alone. I asked a girlfriend, a divorce coach friend of mine that I’ve known for a long time if she would be interested in coming down with me. She said yeah sure sure and she didn’t really take me seriously. Then in September last year, so September 2018, I said okay let’s do this. I want to go for a month. She said a month? And you’re serious? Yeah, I’m serious. I said to her: you have to understand I’m very serious about . These are my goals for while I’m there. I need your goals and we have to achieve them. If we don’t achieve our goals then I can’t go back in 2019 because I’m not at a point in my life where I’m ready to retire. I can’t take a month-long holiday in the middle of winter. She wanted to only go for two weeks so we decided to go for three weeks. We were talking about it with people and she coined the term Workation. We were talking about and people said you’re so lucky. I got on the plane and said to myself, wow, I’m so glad I’m doing this. And I thought what would I have done if she couldn’t come with me. I said, I wouldn’t have wanted to go alone. There are places I would go alone but we went to Mexico. I didn’t want to go to Mexico alone even though I’ve traveled all over the world and many times alone. But now that I’ve gotten older I guess I’m a little more careful. So many people were saying I wish I could come so I wrote a mini business plan on the plane. I thought why can’t other people come. Ten days later while we were there I had a conversation with a client of mine and she said oh I’d love to come. I was telling her about the idea. So we bought the domain Women’s Workation dot com. We were there for 21 days we came home for 30 days and went back and started it right away. We actually thought we would start it in 2020 but there was so much interest that we went back within a month. That’s like a perfect example of a) how I love to work because I really believe in just take the first step. Just jump…like you! I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to let go of perfection. Sometimes people spend so much time creating something and then it doesn’t even work or just it transforms into something else. It’s really good to just take baby steps. We had this amazing beta test. We had so much fun. There were two clients who were actually working on their website so we spent a lot of time. For me the commitment when I went the first time was to work a 40 hour work week. For me that’s a that’s a short work week. I would say when we went down with everybody we definitely worked I would say four or five hours a day. When we did it formally the first three week period we worked from 9:00 to 3:00 every day. Then we would explore or go see ruins, go swimming, boating, snorkelling. We went to Cenotes. We enjoyed the area. It wasn’t a five-star all-inclusive hotel by any means. We stayed in very authentic pensions, Airbnbs and accommodations like that. Where were not isolated with all of the tourists. So really engaged culturally. We went to an amazing market where all the indigenous people were coming and selling their wares. There was a non-profit there and a woman who was running it. So really a wonderful mix of female empowerment and business building. We did breakfast brainstorming sessions every morning. The exciting part is that we’re doing three in Mexico this year November, February and March. I don’t know if you know this but again on impulse we’re going to Peru on a women’s workation in May 2020.
Heather: Amazing. Are you already full?
Dahna: No, one is almost full. We’re just releasing the secondary dates. Peru is almost full a lot of interest except it’s a bigger commitment it’s a two-week trip. We’re going to have 30 hours to work in between. It’s all built in. It’s a little bit different in that we’re gonna have a full day of working. It’s up to people. You don’t actually have to, but you can be working on a serious project. One of the projects that one client had was they wrote all their blogs for the year and they scheduled them. So they don’t have to think about it for a year. They also use tools like HootSuite so you could schedule all of your campaigns for Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever you like.
Heather: Do you share your expertise for all the technical aspects?
Dahna: Absolutely and part of Women’s Workation is they have some private time with me while we’re there. Some of it is group and we’re all working together. But it’s really up to the individual how hard they want to work or how little they want to work. My partner on this, her name is Nancy Katsof, is a travel agent. There are tours that we do as a group and it’s open to everybody to go that are included as part of the trip.Then there’s all this extra stuff. If somebody wants to do a cooking class or wants to have a massage booked or wants to see an additional tour we book all that for them.
Heather: It’s really inspiring. I imagine there’s a real synergy between the work and the stimulation of all the things around you.
Dahna: There is because I think for entrepreneurs it’s funny. This is something that’s really difficult for my boyfriend. He’s not an entrepreneur. For entrepreneurs it’s hard to turn off a hundred percent. On the one hand you I don’t really want to. I love what I do. It’s healthy to do that once in a while. But it’s good to be able to check in and and keep your pulse on stuff. It allows me to work a few hours on my business and a few hours in my business while I’m away. It’s been so exciting.
Heather: It’s a wonderful compromise, this idea of the laptop lifestyle. We’re not at all at a place in our life that we can go full-on into that. Whether you have kids or a partner or what-have-you it’s not always possible. But it gives you a little bit of a taste of it. Sometimes I even do that in the city, just going to cafes and things. It gets you out of your comfort zone of working in the home and or working in your office. It’s a nice change.
Dahna: Yes, I love it. I just can’t imagine retiring. I love my work so much. I have to say too much of my time I’m super excited. It’s very easy for me to work there. Even the meals together. It was so much fun and so productive. One of the clients, we started to work on her website before we left and when we left she launched her site. She came home and was giving a talk and could announce her new site. The other one we were working on it while we were there. It was just it’s so helpful to be together.
Heather: Will you have certain ones that are just websites or is it all a mix?
Dahna: It will all be a mix because everybody has different projects. There was one person who who was just trying to brainstorm for her business. She’s a massage therapist and she gives lots of different workshops and she has circles. We were just brainstorming about her year what she wanted her year to be like. And the next couple of years how she wants to start giving courses. Just idea generation and see what comes up. It’s funny because for her what she really got out of it was that she needs to travel a little bit more. She realized she needed to start doing some type of shift in her business so she could do that. Whether it’s online courses so she could spend part of the winters away. It was something she really wanted to do this on a regular basis.
Heather: It really brings life into your business and into your life in general.
Dahna: I would love it if you came one time.
Heather: I probably will.
Dahna: I remember when you went to Delectable Destinations.
Heather: That was an amazing trip by another We2 member. I went to Italy on a culinary trip. It was incredible. Not only was it a culinary trip it was food photography. I actually learned a lot about photography. I bought a laptop. It all mixes in together. I use a lot of the skills I learned there in my business now. It’s all about not considering it to be just a trip or just a vacation. It’s really feeding your business as well, which is really interesting.
Dahna: I think it’s really important and people underestimate it. Like you said, even like taking your laptop and going to a cafe. What a new environment does. What a walk in the forest can do. Honestly we spent the most afternoons at a beach club. We had a table under umbrellas where we were literally working and our toes were in the sand. If you get hot you go for a swim. It’s five o’clock let’s do happy hour girls. So you love what you’re doing and you’re happy. It really rejuvenates you. I have to say everybody gets a lot more passionate. When you work all the time it’s hard to maintain that passion. Everybody came home like wow super rejuvenated and into it.
Heather: Dahna, can you just tell us a little bit about your background. It made so much sense that you were doing this because I know that you did a lot of traveling when you were younger. Briefly tell us a little bit about your experience traveling when you were younger.
Dahna: Wow so I basically took off the second I graduated from university. Every summer while I was in university I worked like a dog all through school because the only thing I wanted to do was travel. I don’t know I’m 52 now and I think I’ve probably been to 50 countries. That’s one of my goals in the end to see as many countries as my age. I love it I have. Of course I had the period of time when my son was young and it was harder to travel. Also financially starting a business and getting things going travel was more to visit family. I’ve started up again in the last few years and it’s really like all the pieces of the puzzle coming together. I ended up getting divorced so my financial situation changed again. I just thought wow okay so I’m not going to retire. Again I don’t think I’m the kind of person that would ever retire. I had foreseen myself to be working with nonprofits and helping. I actually had worked at a refugee camp on the Thai Burmese border. I was training women there and helpin. I did teacher training ESL because I had lived in Japan for six years teaching there. I lived in Taiwan. I lived in Australia. I spent 10 years abroad travelling after University. then I got pregnant in Japan intentionally. After Japan I came home and settled here. I never thought I would end up in Montreal for 20 years after that but I have and I love it. I love being here. The bug definitely didn’t disappear it just sort of went like the hibernation while my son went through the school process. Now it’s time to start again. I worked in industry when I came back from being abroad. I was in sales, business development and marketing in the chocolate industry. I loved that but what happened was the travel got to be a bit too much as my son got a little bit older. When he was probably 10 or 11 I gave that up. I ended up getting divorced. I thought I’ve always wanted to start a business why not now when I have no other income to rely on and I have a mortgage to take care of. So that’s typical and I think that that’s something I bring to my clients. I’m a very enthusiastic person and I think that when I travel I’m really I’m just so infused with excitement. I always have. I have a crazy joie de vivre but there’s something about traveling and just the spontaneity of everyday and the exploration part of it. I think it’s so important to me at my core and I can’t believe the way this has all merged together. So 10 years ago when I started MINC I was actually supposed to I have a business partner. I was supposed to be doing the business development and not the web development part of it. My business partner needed to leave town and didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. She realized it wasn’t for her to do online work. It was not what she wanted and she left. I was so scared I was like ‘how am I gonna do this’. Turns out I’m made for it. I grew up in family businesses.
Heather: I was going to touch on that because I know at one point you told me you were selling at the St. Eustache Market.
Dahna: Yes, when I was a girl my dad was in construction. He was a building contractor and he would buy land and build buildings. I can remember when I was six years old being on sites and homes being built. So I’ve always been part of some type of site build only now it’s an online site build. Then my father had a heart condition so he couldn’t do that type of work anymore. We started to work in the flea markets. From the age of eight until I don’t know 17, 18 we were in the flea markets. I used to travel and sell all the time. So it’s a lot of varied experience in different family business and sales. It just came naturally. I just I love startups. I love working with coaches. I also have another program. I don’t know if you know about Catapult Catalyst?
Heather: No, what is that?
Dahna: Laast year was a big year because I started Mind Magic, Catapult Catalyst and Women’s Workation. Because my son left so as a working mom it’s like okay let’s do this. I’ve been working hard but all this inspiration came. Catapult Catalyst is an intense website build where I take clients away on a retreat. I actually took a client to Mexico and we built their branding and their website in an intense three-day retreat. We’ve also been doing them in Vermont. I’ve done about eight of them. We’ve done about 20 clients.
Heather: Let’s touch on the empowerment piece of the puzzle. If people don’t already know MINC stands for Motherhood Incorporated. When I first got to know about your business you hired mostly women to do anything from copywriting to editing to translating to all kinds of things. Originally your business was all about finding the right people for the right job.
Dahna: Absolutely. It still is that. It’s definitely shifted. Motherhood Incorporated the name, a lot of people were like what is that? I had a partner in the United States. I opened up Canada. We had initially a database of over 250 suppliers, freelancers and virtual assistants who were working with us. We would and I still do pair up a budget, experience and personality type. But it got to be that Sandra, who ran MotherhoodIncorporated.com in the US, her mandate was to build a larger site and eventually take in advertising. For me it was about I was a mom who needed a flexible schedule because of my son. There are so many like super qualified women out there. The business world hasn’t reacted quickly enough. It is much better than it used to be. A lot of people work 4-day workweeks. A lot of people are telecommuting but it’s still not what it needs to be. Your average kid has 14 weeks of holiday a year or pedagogical days. I don’t know what women do. The cost of daycare is exorbitant. Once you have two kids it doesn’t pay for a woman to work at all. I really wanted to get behind it. That’s what I needed and that’s how we managed. It became my mandate to give people more income. I wanted to give more to women but it was difficult to manage all of the small cases. I decided to streamline and work with fewer suppliers. I started to work with a core of 40 people and now I say I work with a core team of about 15. Some of them I give the 10% of their work to and some of them I give 80% of their work.
Heather: I think it’s really important especially in this day and age of Fiverr. I remember when Fiverr first came out you could get any service for 5 bucks. But ultimately often when you go with services like that the quality is really crappy. I know some people have really good experience with it but anytime that I’ve gone on Fiverr and paid more than $5 for either a logo or whatever I’ve never been happy with it. To have someone that could actually recommend someone to do the job and to do it right rather than to waste your time.
Dahna: There’s a definite time and place for everything . Depending again it goes back to budget, I totally agree with you. It’s to vet all of the people on Fiverr, on Upwork, on all of these other platforms. There’s 99 designs, there’s all of these things. For me it’s a question of having something that’s unique when you’re building your brand. You really want to step up but I understand. I remember when I started my business and I had a candy bar phone. I didn’t have data so I used to run around for Wi-Fi in order to check. I understand but I also I have a lot of clients who come to me and have built their own site and spent hours and hours. I’m not I’m not exaggerating when I say over a hundred hours. They think that they’re saving themselves money but in fact had they spent that hundred hours doing business development and trying to get clients and they had a better site. With some things it’s okay to do that but with some things it’s not a good idea. You can watch television and see GoDaddy website builder. It’s all this bait-and-switch stuff where bananas are twenty nine cents this week a pound. So you go in it’s like okay the bananas are twenty nine cents a pound but milk this week is ten dollars. So what happens is it ends up being, that’s just for the installation. Then it’s this for this and it’s this for this. So many clients end up spending eight hundred to fifteen hundred dollars and they’re miserable with it. Then they start all over again. I always say if anybody wants to have a strategy call, I promise people will always get a couple of ideas out. To build things on their own or not, I just love business, particularly startups and particularly women. I definitely have a passion for helping female entrepreneurs.
Heather: I certainly remember a few very intense conversations at We2 lunches where you gave me a whole bunch of tips which is amazing. Dahna, why don’t we wrap up by you telling everybody where we can find you and what services you are offering at the moment.
Dahna: You can find me at now at MincMagic.com and there’s a Women’s Workation page on that site. I’m launching a Minc Magic, so it’s a website and branding built in September. There’s a couple of Women’s Workations, one happening in November to Mexico, one in February to Mexico, and one in March to Mexico so if you’re interested do not hesitate would love to share information there. Basically I love what I do. I love sharing my my passion for business with you. I think one of my greatest gifts if I’m gonna toot my horn is that I can easily make you excited about your business and give you tons of ideas. Heather it’s amazing to share all this with you. I thank you so much for the opportunity. I’m also taking my podcasting course now so I’m gonna have you on my site too.
Heather: It’s certainly much easier than I thought it was going to be to do.
Dahna: Exactly. You make everything look easy.
Heather: Do you have any last last words before we finish up. Any golden nuggets or tips?
Dahna: Golden nuggets or tips… it’s Nike. Just do it. Just do it. Make it happen and do it. Don’t be afraid and jump! Jump, jump, jump. There’s nothing to be afraid of because at the end of it if you didn’t try it you’re going to be really be miserable. Just throw it out there. Literally for the Peru trip I put a post on Facebook. Within 24 hours there were 15 people interested. Most people will just wait and say no it’s not perfect and I need the form and I need the logo and I need this. You don’t. Just try it and see what happens.
Heather: Just do it. It’s like this podcast tonight. You’re the first person that I’ve done this meeting on Zoom. I figured why not we’ll just try it. If I have to edit it a little bit it’s okay. I’m going to leave your kitty in though he’s cute.
Heather: So Dahna we’ll talk soon. Thanks so much.
Dahna: Thanks so much Heather.
Outro: Thanks so much for tuning in to Stories of Starting. Until next time always remember your story matters.