When Maria Sokurashvili’s son was born about a decade ago, she organized meet-ups with other new moms near her Washington, D.C.-area home. Those casual get-togethers soon led to regular e-mail exchanges and a mailing list, where the moms shared advice and asked each other questions. Membership grew quickly, first into the hundreds and then thousands. That’s when she and her husband, Jeff Steele, decided to launch a website.
[In Pictures: 10 Ways to Start Earning Extra Money Now]
“We got a lot of traffic on the list, and most topics were about nannies, but people complained that they weren’t interested in nanny ads, so we thought it would be good to have a website where we could have different forums for different topics,” says Sokurashvili. She and Steele registered the domain name www.dcurbanmom.com, which has since become a nationally recognized source for parents, and especially popular in the Washington area. In August, Sokurashvili left her IT job to work full-time on the site, which now generates enough income through ad revenue to replace her old salary.
Because Alpha Consumer focuses on how people are getting ahead in the new economy (one reason we’ve been so focused on entrepreneurs who turn their side-gigs into successful full-time pursuits lately), we spoke with Sokurashvili, 40 and now mother of two, about how she made her own hobby-to-job transition work. Excerpts:
Do you always plan to turn DC Urban Moms and Dads into a job?
It wasn’t our goal to make money on it, and for a long time, it didn’t, but at some point we started to use Google Ads. It started to bring in some money. At first, we just wanted to cover the expenses of hosting and the Internet connection, but it grew beyond that point. It brings in enough revenue that I can give up my salary, benefits, and job security, and all the benefits of 9 to 5. The Google AdSense brings in revenue that makes us feel comfortable giving that up so I can devote all my time to developing the site. If we don’t, we might lose the opportunity.
What will you do differently now that you can focus on the site full-time?
We want to explore more ways to earn money, such as sponsorships. We’ll try to take it one step at a time. The Google AdSense is great, but we also have had direct contact from people wanting to advertise, and we don’t have a way to do that now. All we can do is refer them to Google. So my first task is to develop a system that will allow us to work with advertisers directly.
How does this shift to a entrepreneurial lifestyle affect your lifestyle?
It’s really great to have flexibility, and to be around when my kids need me. But it’s also a double-edged sword. If I do all the other [family] stuff, there’s less time for actual work. The biggest challenge is finding to the balance, to be able to control your time and be able to switch tasks, and everything else has to be moved to the background. I was thinking of setting up a work space on the second level [of our home] so I don’t get interrupted constantly if someone wants a drink. Usually it’s just me and my husband sitting with our laptops.
Was it difficult to decide to leave your IT job?
I had mixed emotions. It’s like having kids, there’s never a perfect time, and if you wait too long, it will be too late. And we do consider this our third child.
What about financially—did you do anything to prepare?
We did save up, but not that much. We have some cushion and hopefully it won’t be very difficult, and my husband has a job [that provides health insurance]. Both our kids are in public school, so it’s not that expensive.