Female Founders: Leslie Means of ‘Her View From Home’ On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Money isn’t everything — I’ve built a successful business without loans or investments. Would money be easier? Probably. But I also think the lack of money kept me going when I wanted to quit. I had to make an income to pay writers and to pay myself. It made me dig deeper and work harder to find a solution.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie Means.
Storyteller, children’s book author, columnist, former TV anchor/host, wife and mother Leslie Means is the founder of the popular online community and motherhood website, Her View From Home (2.5 million monthly readers), which encourages women to share their heartfelt stories of faith and family and to connect with one another. Her View From Home is a thriving submissions-based publisher millions turn to for positive inspiration and advice on motherhood, marriage, kids, grief, friendship, life, gift guides and faith. Her upcoming book titled So God Made a Mother will be available for pre-order fall 2022.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I grew up on a farm in the middle of Nebraska. We didn’t have a lot of money or many neighbors, but we did have wide open spaces and room for imagination. Tom Brokaw filled our living room each night and on Fridays, I watched Barbara Walters interview celebrities, dignitaries, and notable people. Even at a young age, I was fascinated with the lives of strangers. I wanted to know their stories. As a young girl, I spent hours in my room, immersed in books that took me to worlds so unknown to me. But I never felt small. The internet wasn’t accessible yet, no social media existed — but I knew the world had something special to offer me and everyone in it.
I earned my broadcast journalism degree from the University of Nebraska — Lincoln and spent seven years in the TV business, as a reporter, anchor, and talk-show host. But I left TV when my girls were little. On paper, that was a foolish move. My job was wonderful, the people were kind and yet, I knew something was missing. I knew there was more to my journey.
I left TV to work at our local chamber of commerce.
I bawled the first day, thinking maybe I made a mistake. But I quickly learned the ropes from my first female boss. She encouraged me to chase after my dreams, and when I found myself missing the TV world, I combined the skills I learned from the chamber and TV to create Her View From Home.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I didn’t have money to start this business. No rich uncles, no nest egg to dig into — just a lot of grit, faith, and naïve confidence, I suppose.
By June of 2016, the business was nearly broke. Then, my husband and I found out we were expecting our third baby.
Any normal person with a broke business and a small human on the way would call it quits and get a steady, reliable job. But God didn’t make me a normal person, I suppose. I knew it would be OK. I had so much unexplainable peace.
We refinanced our house in July and scrounged together funds to make the mortgage payment.
A new email came in August.
“Leslie, I’ve prayed about it, and I really want to share my friend’s story on your website,” the stranger wrote.
Let’s put this into perspective: At this point, Her View From Home had about 18,000 Facebook followers. We were small, but she found us.
The story she wanted us to share was a powerful piece about her friend who, at four-months postpartum, died by suicide. It was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching and raw. But this woman knew her friend’s story would save lives.
And it did.
Her story went viral. The email came a few days later.
“Thank you for sharing this story,” the stranger said. “It saved my life.”
“OK, God — I hear you,” I told Him. Her View From Home had a greater purpose. One much bigger than me. I had to find a way to keep it going.
Her View From Home was never the same after that day.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I make mistakes all the time! It’s a humbling business. The online world is constantly changing, and I find myself often using the mistakes as teaching lessons. What can I do better here? How can I improve on this? What should I change?
I’ve never been too proud to admit those mistakes. I think that’s a big reason why Her View is so successful. I ask for help. Our team and community of writers are incredibly talented, and I know I couldn’t do it without them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s an honor to lead this community of women — and although I’m the founder, it’s truly been a community effort to get here. We have a team of women who believe in the mission and purpose of Her View From Home. Their drive, honesty, and dedication to the brand (and to me) is admirable — especially in the early days when I had very little money to give them for their work. They believed in me and the project — not very many people are that lucky.
I also know the support I have at home made all the difference.
A marriage is supposed to be 50/50, right? But my husband takes on most of the load. In the early days, his steady job with good benefits supported all of us. I worked fulltime at my day job and came home at night to work on the website, and he stepped in to pick up what I couldn’t. Laundry, meals, paying bills, you name it — he was there.
Most importantly, he believed in me. He encouraged me to go after this dream to create a space for women to share their stories. Her View From Home would not be successful today without him.
And lastly, our community where I live.
As I mentioned previously, we started this business with no money. But what I did have, was a media background and a few connections from my TV days. Before we launched the site, I walked into local businesses in our town, told them about my idea and asked if they wanted to advertise on Her View From Home. To my shock, they did! It wasn’t much, but it was enough. I’m not sure they will ever know how much their support meant to me.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
I get asked this question often — how did you do it? How did you have the confidence to start this business? It’s easy to look back on my life and realize how I’ve been successful.
I had support.
No money, not a lot of business skill, but I had people who believed in me. Turns out, that might be the only thing a person needs.
I knew if the business failed, I could get another job in our community and sure, a few people might whisper or comment about my failures, but the people who truly love me — my husband, my kids, my parents, and sisters and friends — they don’t care what I do or who I become, you know? They love me for me. That’s a gift not everyone receives.
I think (I hope) we’re giving that support at Her View. We have a private writing community of about 1700 women who are constantly encouraging and supporting each other. We pay our writers what we can, and we are some of their biggest cheerleaders. I often tell our writers to find at least one person — just one — who believes in their ideas without judgment. It makes a huge difference.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
I think we’re heading in the right direction — but more can be done. Paid maternity and paternity leave and more flexibility in the workplace is a good start. In short, support.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Women juggle it all — kids, home, career, marriage. We know how to work on little sleep and tight deadlines because we’re constantly doing that for our families.
Sometimes, this can be too much — and if we’re not careful, the mental load of it all can crush us. But, if we find the right balance, if we have the support — we’re unstoppable.
Our team knows family always comes first. Period. We’re able to be more productive at work when we know our family is being cared for. Women just get it. We support each other and we use creative ways to accomplish our goals.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
The biggest myth I’ve had to overcome is my own self-doubt. As we grew, I found myself intimidated by other sites our size that had more clout and money. Many websites like us are founded in big cities on the coast — not in a kid’s bedroom in the middle of the country. I started to believe the lie that these sites were the only one’s worthy of success. Of course, that’s ridiculous — but I’ve had to go on my own personal journey to get over that fear.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
Ha! No. I think we’re all a little bit bizarre — in a good way. A founder must be able to take risks, make mistakes, fail (and fail again) and still, through it all, get up and try again. We adapt to the ever-changing atmosphere. We handle harsh criticism, lead with humility, admit when we’re wrong and keep going even when it seems impossible.
A founder is only as good as her team — without our team, we would not be a successful website. Period. If a person doesn’t get that, they shouldn’t be a founder.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
It’s going to be hard. I quit once. I told my husband it was just too hard. I went to bed that night, knowing I would start the process to shut it all down the next morning. Morning came, and I changed my mind. I just knew I had to keep going.
Looking back, I can’t imagine life without this site. What if I quit? What if I gave up? The very thought upsets me.
Anyone who says business is easy, is full of it. And just when you think you can breathe, just when you learn one skill, or master one goal, another hardship comes your way.
During my early TV days, a mentor said, “If you’re in this business just to get famous, you’re in the wrong business.”
It’s one of my favorite bits of advice. I say that now for anyone who wants to build a business. If you’re in it for fame or money, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
You must have support. I say this repeatedly, find one person who believes in your dream — even if it seems wild and unimaginable to them. Just one. They must be honest with you. You’ll need their support when times get tough — and times will get tough.
Money isn’t everything. I’ve built a successful business without loans or investments. Would money be easier? Probably. But I also think the lack of money kept me going when I wanted to quit. I had to make an income to pay writers and to pay myself. It made me dig deeper and work harder to find a solution.
Invest in your team. You are no one without the people around you. Sure, you thought of the idea — but your team members helped you build your brand. Invest in them and they will invest in you.
You’re the leader of this company, but as the saying goes — “you’re only as strong as your weakest link.” You need to build a trustworthy team to help build your brand.
It can be better than you ever imagined. The pressure is real. The stress can be overwhelming. The responsibility immense. But my gosh, it’s a dream to be your own boss — to use your imagination and creative ideas without restriction is worth it.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I think so. I hope so. We’ve given 1000s of women opportunities to share their stories on a large platform. We’ve also put a few bucks into their pockets — and we donate to many local organizations each year.
But perhaps the biggest achievement Her View has ever accomplished, will never be known. Millions of women read vulnerable, real, raw, beautiful stories about motherhood, marriage, faith, grief, and relationships on this site. We’ll never know the impact of those stories.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Humbly? I think we already have. Her View From Home is bigger than us — it always has been. I’m excited to see what happens in the years to come. We have big dreams, goals — but right now, I’m thankful we give women an opportunity to share their stories.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oh, gosh — this is a hard question. Jenna Bush Hager and Hoda Kotb, would be a blast. They are genuine and kind and I’m pretty sure we would be best buds in real life.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.