Developing the site was easy, but getting users, not so much. By Raychel Espiritu (Founder, Realdancers)
"My name is Raychel Espiritu and I am the founder of Realdancers." And let me be honest – that sentence frightens and excites me all at once. It’s frightening because now that it’s out in the universe, I am accountable for it. But it’s exciting because it holds a world of possibilities. My journey in becoming an entrepreneur hasn’t been an easy one. It’s been filled with lots of disappointments, setbacks, and reality checks.
I used to be a professional dancer. I went on tour with an up and coming hip hop artist, did live performances, few music videos, and other gigs that were starting to propel my career forward.
However I was injured and forced to re-evaluate my profession. I loved dance, but I knew it wasn’t sustainable or something I could do forever. Acting was something I also was pursuing, but not seriously.
I buckled down, changed my major in college to theater and started auditioning. And auditioning. Time was passing and I wasn’t achieving the success I envisioned myself having at the age I was. Something had to give, so I got a full-time job at an Internet marketing company. This was difficult for me because I used to being on my feet, moving around, working on creative projects and suddenly I was at a desk, 8 hours a day, analyzing data and sending out emails. But I believe that the detours that happen in life are meant for a reason.
During my 3 years at this Internet marketing job, I learned a lot, most importantly, I learned to value my ideas. My main role at this job was to help publishers and ad networks monetize traffic. I was helping websites with horrible design, no functionality and no creativity make tons of money every day. I also was reading about the entertainment industry evolving and going digital.
Suddenly it clicked – a video site for dancers. YouTube has a plethora of videos and to find a specific dance style done well, or professional dance videos takes time and sifting – kind of like going to Ross and looking for the nice blouses. Sometimes you just want to walk into Nordstrom and be surrounded my good choices.
I went to work on my idea – buying the domain name, researching what language I needed to develop the site in and all that comes along with it. Luckily I found my developer via Twitter for only $500 to build out my entire site in PHP using a template from PHP Melody I bought for $60.
After 6 months, my site was live! So... now what? I know how to monetize traffic, but how to get it? I didn’t want to buy it or do arbitrage, I wanted people to really want to use it. My AdWords campaign brought me some new users, great. I asked my friends to join, a few did. Some dancer friends joined, but never used the site. So here I am, all dressed up with no where to go so to speak.
Developing the site was easy, but getting users, not so much. There are features I want to improve upon, which also makes me hesitant to heavily promote the site, as I don’t want people signing up and then not coming back because the experience wasn’t great. I believe in myself, so I know I can make Realdancers successful. When people ask about the site, I tell them “What Vevo is for music videos, Realdancers is for dance videos.” I am acquiring new users through Twitter, using my Flip cam to record videos and post on my site and taking it slowly but surely into the spotlight.
The one thing I am working on is being pushy. As women we don’t like to been seen as pushy because then we’re seen as a “bitch”, but at this point in my life I am starting not to care.
I took a short break from working on the site to pursue another passion of mine – music. I started writing for a music blog, DANCEiSM, which actually lead to my current job as social media coordinator for the Los Angeles Film School, something I am much happier doing. This new position also allows me to see how to leverage social media for marketing, and I learn something new everyday. Although I am not at the level of success I would like to be, I am thankful for the journey that has lead me here.
Instead of beating myself up, I am congratulating myself for pursuing something that not a lot of women are pursuing – entrepreneurship. Seeing other women in technology and entrepreneurship is inspiring and I hope to be the same for other women and girls. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to enjoy the detours that life brings you, because it often brings gifts as well. When you embrace life, it embraces you back!
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. Photo credit: Audrey Roy.
About the guest blogger: Raychel Espiritu is the Founder of Realdancers. She is a Los Angeles native with a bachelor’s degree in theater from Cal State University Northridge. She has experience as a dancer, choreographer, actor, creative entrepreneur and most recently tech entrepreneur. The future of technology and entertainment will be digital, and she hopes to be a thought leader and innovator for both. Follow her on Twitter at @RaychelEspiritu.