Happy 1st Birthday to Outspoken Media


I’m pretty stoked to write this post. If you follow myself, Lisa or Rhea on Twitter (or the official Outspoken account) then you probably know that Outspoken Media turned one a few weeks back (I’d totally link to one of the tweets where we discussed it if the Twitter search function didn’t suck). But that was the “internal” birthday of when we formed the company. Our “external” birthday, which we all consider to be the day we launched the blog, is today. And it’s been one hell of a year for us that included a lot of good times.

Starting a company is never an “easy” task, but starting a company during a recession, with three very different personalities at the helm – two of which have zero experience with entrepreneurship – was dubbed a bit insane by quite a few people [waves to Lisa’s parents]. But we’ve learned a lot in the last year, we’re even stronger now than we were a year ago – as individuals, as partners and as a company – and we’ve been successful to the delight and dismay (depending on who you ask) of many people.

Over the last year, we’ve had a lot of questions about the inner workings of the company and I decided to take our one year mark as an opportunity to let you in on a bit of what we’ve done, how we work, how we’ve grown (as individuals and as a company) and where we’re going.

Start-up mode

We get asked about our start up quite a bit, so I figured I’d let you guys in on the fact that Outspoken was never “funded” in the beginning. I put up the cash (which amounted to a few thousand dollars) to get the initial design, logo, business formation and the required “necessary launch tasks” done and was immediately paid back when our first client checks came in. Rhea and Lisa jumped from their jobs, with nothing acting as a safety net other than their personal savings on faith that they’d earn an income they could survive on with Outspoken.

The inner workings

Our initial positions and responsibilities within the company were based on a group consensus. Contrary to popular belief, Lisa and Rhea do not “work for me”. We are a team. We have been from day one and always will be. But someone has to “drive the bus” and based on my prior successful experience with being both an entrepreneur and a CEO, it was decided that the “driver” would be me.

As the CEO of Outspoken Media, I have a responsibility to develop company strategy, company goals, develop business and oversee that we’re headed in the right direction. Yes, I may make some of the tough (and sometimes some of the “final”) decisions, but that is based on the faith my partners have put in my abilities in the area of “running a company”. I also have the most experience in Internet marketing and have a strong background in “technical SEO” and advanced link development techniques, so I also ensure that all client strategies are as strong as they can possibly be, both before and during execution.

As the COO of Outspoken Media, Rhea is responsible for making sure the day to day workings of the company on a granular level are organized, executed properly and actually “getting done”. Rhea is responsible for business development, develops all the proposals for potential clients, is heavily involved in developing all client strategies (especially those involving ORM) and is responsible for the management of our various contractors/employees. Rhea is who our clients deal with on a day-to-day basis most.

As the CBO of Outspoken Media, Lisa acts as our own in-house PR firm, our internal expert on content development and branding strategies for both clients and ourselves, and is responsible for business development. Oh, and make no mistake about it… Lisa rules the Outspoken blog with an absolute and iron fist. When it comes to the blog – which amounts to our company brand – both Rhea and I answer to Lisa.

The “Sugarrae” factor

When we started the company, Rhea and Lisa were both “warned” by folks that my “mouth” would “cost them business”. And I can’t and won’t deny that it likely has. My reputation for being blunt, honest and no-holds barred has long been apparent through my personal brand and was something we all knew I wouldn’t (and couldn’t even if I wanted to – which I don’t) change.

But, while I know I have cost us business because I’ve refused to “go corporate”, I also know that I have earned us business for the very same reason. People know what they see is what they get. People know that I am where I am in this industry because I know what I’m doing and not because I am good at being who people want me to be. The people we want to work with are looking for a company with the skills to “get er done” and not the skills to kiss their ass.

The Estrogen factor

We’re a bit unique in the fact that all three founders of Outspoken Media are female. And when we hired Dawn the questions, “warnings” and wisecracks about us being an “all female company” got even louder. We’re not looking to be an all female company. Dawn was hired (in actuality, recruited) because she has a technical background, a firm understanding of technical SEO and fit in with our company culture (a.k.a. she can put up with us).

“Be careful. You don’t want to be the ‘all women’ company.”

We have no fears of being seen as “weaker” because we’re currently “only women”, we have no purposeful intent to keep the company “only women” and we make no apologies for the fact that the company is currently female dominated. We’re not going to hire a male simply to “balance out the scales” or outside perceptions. It would be insulting to all parties involved. We hire based on talent, not gender.

Our growth as a company

The company experienced a lot of growth over the year in both branding and revenue. In less than one year in business, we’ve managed to get mentions in some of the world’s largest news outlets including CNN, the Wall Street Journal, USAToday and more. We’ve managed to develop over twenty thousand links (many of which are deemed to be pretty damn authoritative) to a blog that didn’t exist until a year ago today. And we’ve just gotten started.

More important than the success we’ve had developing a strong company brand, we’ve also had success in developing happy clients. I’m not going to get into specifics of who our clients are or what our company revenue was. Partially because we respect the privacy of our clients and partially because it’s none of your damn business.

But what I can tell you is that Outspoken Media doesn’t require contracts. We’ve always operated on the belief that if a client isn’t happy, we want them to be able to go where they will be happy at any time. We don’t want to work with clients who don’t want to work with us. That said, we have yet to lose a client because they weren’t happy with our work. For us, that speaks volumes louder than any client brag list or revenue chart ever could.

Our growth as individuals

I won’t lie to you. There have been some rocky moments in our growth as individuals and as partners. Lisa and I have been good friends for a long time and it was tricky developing the line between speaking as friends and speaking as partners. Rhea tends to be, as she puts it, the “soft spoken member of Outspoken” and at times that could lead to her being overrun by personalities as strong as mine and Lisa’s. Lisa and Rhea are neighbors in addition to being business partners and needed to learn that sometimes, too much together time is a bad thing.

But, what we all learned early on is that being partners in a company is much like being in a marriage. And in this marriage, divorce was never an option. We all learned to speak our minds openly and honestly with each other, compromise and put in the effort it required to make it work. We learned to work together as a group, while maintaining our individuality.

In the last year, I’ve watched both Lisa and Rhea grow as entrepreneurs.

If you had told me a year ago that Lisa would be doing radio interviews I would have likely laughed at you. She is used to wielding her keyboard and it’s been exciting to see her start to wield her voice. She’s realized she needed to start taking every opportunity she could to promote her company, even if it puts her outside of her comfort zone. I’ve watched Lisa put in long hours, late nights and many weekends that I’m sure she used to spend in much more exciting ways. Lisa has never uttered the phrase “that’s not my job.” When there is a hole, she fills it if there is any possible way for her to do so. She uses phrases like “company growth plan” now. Awesome.

It’s also been exciting to see Rhea grow in her confidence and start to stand her ground when tough situations arise. She has always questioned why we’ve made every decision we have as a company – not because she doubts it – but because she has been eager to learn the reasoning behind why we made it so she can get better at making those decisions herself. I’ve watched her grow as a manager of both employees and clients. She’s learned why not every client is a “good client” for us and for the last several months has been “bang on” in weeding those out herself before we ever sit down to discuss what new client proposals need to be done and if they are a fit for us.

As for myself, I’ve learned to work in a group setting over the last year when I’m used to being the only voice in charge. I’ve also learned that it’s hard as hell to run two companies (my other primary company is MFE Interactive) and have been learning to work through the chaos my life can sometimes become as a result. [Lisa says to note that I’ve “also learned to play better with others and not always be a bitch, which is very new to [me].” Bite me Barone.]

Where we’re going

I’m actually pretty damn excited about the second year with Outspoken. You can expect more press mentions, more controversy and more killer content from us in the coming year. We have revenue goals and company growth goals you can expect to see us working our assess off to achieve. And we’ll be working harder to spread our wings and extend our reach further and further outside the typical core “SEO realm.”

Your Comments

  • Streko

    happy birthday to “Streko’s Angels” :-p

    I look forward to “Strekoing” you many more times in the coming years.

  • Sarah

    Happy Birthday!

    I’ve been in awe of Outspoken for 11 months (damn I missed 1?). Thanks for the insight and humour you brought to my work world.

  • Michelle Lowery

    Happy birthday, congratulations, and wishing you much more success! :-)

  • Joe Hall

    Congratulations on all your success!

  • Kristin

    Happy First Birthday! I love your mentality as a company! Wonderful Post and congrats on your first year. Can’t wait for more blogs in the next year!

  • Matt Soreco

    Happy birthday and congratulations. I’m a big fan of your blog.

  • David Zemens

    May there be many, many more Happy Birthdays in your future. You have put together one helluva business plan and a great company. Best wishes moving forward into year #2.

  • Patrick Sexton

    Well done, I never once doubted that you all would rock, and you certainly have.
    It has been one of my warm delights to see signs of your success and growth throughout the year. I have clapped and smiled many times from it.

  • Michael D

    Happy Birthday and Congratulations! As a small business owner that oversees two companies myself, it’s been interesting to see how you would evolve and handle challenges. Great to see what you’ve all done in the first year, makes a terrific template for success.

  • Brian Littleton

    Happy First Birthday!! and Congratulations!

  • Tim Staines

    Congrats Ladies!

    It’s been fun watching your progress and learning from your experience.

  • Steve Tait

    congrats ladies – as a relative newby to the SEO world I look to you girls to learn from and surely have learned a tonne – but you’ve entertained me along the way too – bravo!

    One question though – are you a Canadian company? I read Rae is in Guelph sometimes but Lisa is in Troy? Where the home office?

    Anyway just curious you girls rock – keep up the good work.

    • Lisa Barone

      The company is American, but we’re scattered. Both Rhea and I live in Troy (we’re actually neighbors) and Rae lives in Canada, which is where Dawn, our employee, also resides and works out of. We’re 50/50 at this point. :)

  • Cooper

    Raises a pint for my favorite ladies on the internet!

    Congratulations on taking a leap of faith and having it pay off in spades. People everywhere (online or off) can learn a thing or two from the dedication and effort put forth by the Outspoken team.

    Happy Birthday – here is to many more years of success for all of you!

  • Kathryn Katz

    Happy Birthday!

    It’s been great to watch your success from the sidelines and I’m sure this year is just going to build on your existing success. All of you have a great spirit. I wish you the best!

  • Shawn Collins

    Congratulations to you guys – I was going to drive up with a nice cake I made for you, but I got snowed in.

  • Michael Martin

    Congrats to the Outspoken MediaHers – amazing its only been a year as the impact the company and your team has made well outweighs the “age”.

    I am sure by the 2nd year there will be some testosterone in the mix, although as Rae wrote its not necessarily needed, but an Adam’s apple on the site would be an interesting dynamic.

    I look forward to seeing you ladies at the upcoming conferences while my liver recovers from a night out with Rae in San Diego the other weekend :)

  • Michelle Robbins

    Happy Birthday and congratulations to you all. Fantastic work in your first year! So happy to see such talented women be so successful. Risk=reward and Outspoken demonstrates the very best of that! :-)

  • Tamar Weinberg

    Congratulations Outspoken!

    I appreciated reading this, and I’m glad I’m not the only one: “But what I can tell you is that Outspoken Media doesn’t require contracts.” It’s refreshing to see companies/individuals who are confident in their abilities to deliver that they don’t need to reinforce it by requiring that their customers stick with them for a predetermined period of time.

  • Stephen Q

    Happy birthday and congratulations ladies. I recently stumbled across Outspoken Media a short while ago, and I’m impressed with your work. Good luck in the next year; keep up the fantastic blog posts too.

  • Stephen Eugene Adams

    Happy Birthday. As a new reader of your posts, I had no idea you were only a year old. I appreciate the thought you give to your posts and I absolutely enjoy the lack of inhibition in your Twitter postings. Keep up the good work.

  • Alice Seba

    Congrats ladies and Happy Birthday! I think I’ve now known you, Rae, for about 8 years…and you always continue to impress and inspire me.

  • Mercy Livi

    Happy First Birthday To All of U Wonderful Angels! :-) I am your regular reader and ur blog posts continuously to impress and inspire me! Way to go :-)

  • Lyndon Reid

    Happy Birthday and congrats on all your accomplishments.

    Great post, everyone loves hearing “the” story. Looking forward to following your progress for many years.

    Can’t wait to see you guys again…. hopefully sooner than later.

  • Dr. Pete

    Congratulations! It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already.

    I think it’s great to see talented SEMs teaming up – it’s a sign that our industry is finally growing and maturing. It’s also great to see yet more evidence that, even in a recession, there’s always opportunity for people who are willing to work for it.

  • Sonny Gill

    Big congrats/happy birthday to you ladies! The candidness and raw form of smarts and attitude that I get here as a reader is something I definitely appreciate.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Data Entry Services

    Congratulations. You go girls!

  • Virginia

    It was an honor to interview Lisa for the podcast! I think I said this in the last happy 1st birthday post, but congrats Outspoken Media! How’s it feel to be so freakin’ awesome?

  • Heather

    Girls, happy birthday. I have read your post before particularly when I am seeking inspiration. Keep up the good work soooo worthwhile.