StyleDiary's Patricia Handschiegel just posted a picture that was taken of her the day she sold her online-fashion startup to StyleHive in November 2007. In it, she's at her least glamorous — and most gleeful. "I love that picture because I was so fucking happy," she tells us. We wanted to know how she got that way. At first, Handschiegel wouldn't talk. "I know some things," she said, "But if anything, this shit makes you humble. You see how small you are and how big business and everything is." Fortunately, persistence and well-placed guilt trips paid off. And so below, her bullet points for the wantrepreneurs out there — girls' girls or not — looking to actually accomplish something.
- Focus on numbers. StyleDiary "might have not had MySpace level traffic," Handschiegel says, but because StyleDiary kept focus on its topic, a "60 percent return rate and average session time of something like 30 minutes" was plenty attractive for potential buyers. As is talking stats, not style.
- Promote yourself and the company carefully. Potential buyers wouldn't know about StyleDiary if Handschiegel hadn't made them aware. But self-promotion is tricky, especially for women. "Whoring yourself out and bouncing around the parties" isn't the way to do it, Handschiegel says. Neither is "Twittering 100 times a day." Actually, this advice applies equally to men.
- Accumulate real advisors, not Facebook "friends." "I was sort of mentored by two really successful serial entrepreneurs. I spent six or seven years working with them, watching what they did, how they conducted themselves."
- In conversations, add information, not just your voice. The best way to counter people's assumptions about female entrepreneurs — namely, that since you're a girl, you won't know anything — is by contributing to discussions online and off with actual knowledge. For a specific example, Handschiegel started talking about IP packets. I didn't follow, but she sounded way smarter than most of the wantrepreneurs I hang out with in Manhattan.
- Don't spend. StyleDiary was easier to sell, Handschiegel says, because it was "self-funded, debt free and cash flow positive." Any tricks to keeping it so lean? Things to avoid spending on: "Office, office supplies: things that make you feel like you're doing something." Also: "A lot of girl entrepreneurs go bananas thinking they'll make money. I would never spend the $3k it'd take me to be at SXSW just to party there."
- Sometimes you have to let your girl's-girl image go. "Nothing takes precedence over the business. That's why you see me at events and I usually got ready in the car, if at all."