STORY BY JULIA COLLADO LAINEZ & PHOTO BY JENN LEWIS
No one ever said it was easy being an entrepreneur. The critical ingredient of entrepreneurship is not just about the ideas, but making ideas happen. In order to accomplish this, risks are crucial. As McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc once said: “If you’re not a risk taker, you should get the hell out of business.”
Taking risks is part of the equation, but that’s not the extent of it. When it comes to building a startup, the business model plays an important role and Laura Lorek knows it.
The 50-year-old entrepreneur started thinking of starting her own business when she realized how regular people were becoming successful within the technology industry: “Dell’s founder started by selling cheap computers and it became one of today’s biggest computer companies. If he could, why couldn’t I?” She then knew she needed to give it a try.
However, it wasn’t until 2011 when Laura Lorek decided to launch her online technology news site called Silicon Hills News, which covered entrepreneurs and companies in the Austin and San Antonio region. The news site was feasible thanks to a New Media Women Entrepreneur grant, which provided the seed stage funding to launch the startup.
Even though she had previous experience in entrepreneurship through covering the topic as a news reporter, the founder of the tech site made one of the most common mistakes of the startup world. She assumed that monetizing her investment in the website would be easy. “You are never guaranteed that you are going to make money, so you need to diversify your sources of revenue in order to sustain your business,” said Lorek.
She learned from it and realized that startups could no longer be dependent on advertisement and sponsorship. The company is now trying new forms of revenue such as branded content, which consists of generating content to promote a particular brand. Furthermore, they are also experimenting with microsites by creating a brand’s own site inside the news site.
Making money had always been important for Lorek, but the journalist also credited her company’s success to listening to the audience, knowing how to control finances, and bringing original content. Lorek found a sweet spot in the technology community that was not being covered by newspapers.
“I found myself at the right place, with the perfect product and the right niche.”
In addition, she pointed out that costumers eventually lead your business; so listening to their needs was a key factor. The Silicon Hills News’ founder emphasized the importance of being in touch with the audience: “Your product has to be affordable and meet people’s needs, otherwise they are not going to buy it.”
Since its launch, Laura’s startup hasn’t stopped growing in terms of customers. And now, lofty competitors are on the trail. For instance, My Statesman newspaper has just launched its own startup for tech news, 512 Tech. Despite this, she looked at competition as a positive sign and wasn’t frightened: “Competition makes you better and also defines the market; it means that you are in something that is desirable.”
The tech entrepreneur is ambitious and has some projects for the site’s future. She and her team are planning to launch a podcast version as well as a Snapchat channel by the end of spring. Even though Lorek would expand her business much faster, she pointed out the importance of being realistic with your own abilities and possibilities.
“Never limit yourself, but you also have to take into account what you are capable to do or learn.”