BEHIND THE BIZ // CORI SUE OF BITCHES WHO BRUNCH

behind the biz interview - bitches who brunch

 

CORI SUE MORRIS // CO-FOUNDER, BITCHES WHO BRUNCH

 

Bitches Who Brunch is a lifestyle website founded in 2010 by Cori Sue Morris and Becca Clara Love. With a focus on brunch and food in Washingtonian, D.C., New York City, and soon Chicago, they’ve made a name for themselves as the “seal of approval” for brunch spots. Their site has brunch search feature that works on your computer, tablet, or mobile, so you can find the best brunch for where you are, what you’re craving, and what’s in your wallet. They also cover fashion, culture, and travel.

How did you and your business partner come up with the concept behind Bitches Who Brunch?

Becca, my partner and best friend, both studied journalism in college—University of Missouri for her and UNC Chapel Hill for me—and then went into magazines. We met working at a luxury lifestyle magazine in Southwest Florida, then both later moved to Washington to pursue careers outside of the editorial space.

We were young twenty-somethings in Washington, enjoying everything that the city has to offer: shopping, attending events, trying new restaurants, checking out art exhibits, and then recapping our busy, fun lives over brunch on the weekends.

One day, Becca said to me “We should really start a blog to chronicle all this, and provide food, fashion, events advice. What would we call it?”

“We’d be the Bitches Who Brunch, of course,” I replied, without thinking too much about it. She bought the dot com, asked our hipster friend set up WordPress on the website, and sent a photo of us to her mother, who is an artist and designed the logo we still have today.

Today, we are a luxury lifestyle website in two cities—Washington and New York—and launching in a third, Chicago, next month. We employ 3-5 part-time, paid women in each city. We like to say Bitches Who Brunch is the website Washingtonians and New Yorkers turn to when they want to know where to brunch, what to wear, and where to party.

We’ve reviewed more than 300 brunches since the site’s inception in March 2010, and also our readers with fashion, culture, kitchen, and travel content.

Our content is both local and global. We provide local brunch reviews—with a mobile-optimized brunch search finder—and local culture content: a weekly events calendar, party recaps, theatre reviews, and news on the local food and style scene.

Our global content is the same in all cities—three types of fashion content highlighting trends, must-haves, and what to wear to brunch pieces. We also provide kitchen content that aligns with our brand: brunch recipes, easy weekday dinners, and entertaining content for hosting cocktail parties, book clubs, and fun fetes for your girlfriends.

 

Of course, I want to know how you landed on the name — Bitches Who Brunch?

As the story goes, we came up with the name in a very casual, off-the-cuff way. But, we never really thought of “Bitch” as a bad thing—it’s a term I’ve used playfully “Oh, you lucky Bitch.”

Our brand is very much the girl-about-town who does it all: works hard, plays hard, exercises, travels, and recaps it all over brunch. The content is germane—not at all uncouth—and the voice is educated, sassy, fun, and relatable. Anyone who is put off by the name is typically unfamiliar with the brand or site.

It’s interesting, though, with all the attention being given to women in the workplace, female entrepreneurs and the power of women— and Bitches Who Brunch has joined the conversation solely by the fact we are hard-working women with successful careers who also run a business.

I’m personally involved in a lot of girl power organizations: Women Rule, Levo League, and follow the activities that focus on the power of women and girls from the State Department, the United Nations, the UN Foundation, and others. It’s an amazing time to be a woman—we all need to support one another. And, these are conversations that need to be had: how we can empower women and girls around the world with access to healthcare and education, because that makes the world a better place for everyone.

I’ve been fortunate to speak on panels on entrepreneurship and women in leadership at a young age—my favorite was a power panel in which I loved using the hashtag #PowerBitch.

The term Bitch is not unlike the term bossy, and the conversation about why these terms are applied to successful, go-getter women and girls who know what they want and aren’t afraid to work for it, ask for it, or go out and get it is an important one.

(My boyfriend, who is an entrepreneur, calls me “Boss.” And I love it.)

And, of course, I loved Emma Watson’s UN speech.

 

Once you knew you wanted to launch Bitches Who Brunch what steps did you take to make that a reality?

The say businesses are either started by accident or with a serious business plan. Ours was certainly by accident—Becca set it up without telling me. It’s basically a successful hobby for us both.

The real changes came when we realized we could monetize and grow—and how we changed from a blog to a website and business. On the legal end, we had to establish an LLC and trademark the brand. Then later we expanded the trademark to cover additional categories as we are growing and expanding our business’ revenue streams.

It became clear we needed a more dynamic, mobile-optimized website beyond a WordPress platform. Our server kept crashing from the traffic. We needed to provide a way for our readers to search for brunches and to search on-the-go. So, in 2012, we put out an RFP and hired a web developer. Laura and Pete, of Laundromat Design were absolutely amazing.

When we realized we wanted to expand to additional cities and hire accordingly, there were even more things to consider, how we were going to formalize and institutionalize processes and manage a staff. We have a handbook, which includes a style guide and employee guidelines, and a project management system that we all use.

cori sue - get shit done

What lessons have you learned along the way?

Business is all about relationships—and you can never underestimate the value of a face-to-face meeting or phone call. It’s important to always remember there’s a person behind every email address. Treat every person with respect, kindness, and consideration for their time. This sounds obvious, but when you’re stressed and busy, it’s important to slow down and take time to meet with people face-to-face.

 

Do you have a daily routine or certain rituals you do?

Becca and I both have very demanding careers—and running Bitches Who Brunch is a full time job. I also run marathons and earned my master’s degree (full time) from 2010-2012. The first thing people say to me is “You must never sleep.” That’s absolutely not the case—I require eight hours of sleep.

In the morning, I check my things to do list, make my bed, go for a run, make coffee, get ready, and grab my lunch, and head out the door.

I use all the typical tricks to save time: I pack my lunches for the week on Sunday evenings and also plan out my outfits for work, Bitches Who Brunch and social functions. It’s a constant challenge to find stylish, functional ensembles that take you from the office to a cocktail party and home again—often on a bicycle. We girls have it rough—fashion has to be fun and functional.

My favorite word is efficiency—I’m constantly focused on how I can improve the speed of any task—from doing my hair to accomplishing an admin task for Bitches Who Brunch.

 

What hardships/obstacles have you had along the way?

The biggest challenge for any company, I find, is hiring. It’s by far the most important step for any business. Bitches Who Brunch grew from just Becca and I writing a blog to a brand with a brand statement, profile, handbook, and everything that comes with that in practice. It was incredibly important for us to formalize these things—a brand statement and handbook—for our new staff to utilize.

Our employees are part-time, and paid, and it’s a challenge to find amazing women who love to write, fit the brand, have the hustle, and can allocate the extra time. It takes a lot longer to find these women, but when we do, it works out for the better. The women we’ve hired—Ally, Emily, Amanda, Amanda Jean, and Charlotte—are absolutely wonderful: smart, savvy, sassy, genuine, and hardworking. We’re so lucky to have them on the team.

We both knew the media industry is both challenging and fickle—that’s why we both exited in the first place. We were fortunate that Bitches Who Brunch readership and following took off, and we were able to leverage that to monetize and grow.

The biggest challenge we have, as a media company, is the lack of understanding that we are, in fact, a business. Without a product to sell, companies in the media space are constantly defending the value of our audience and brand, which is so frustrating. The service we provide—our audience, our brand seal of approval—is just as valuable as another service or product when done right.

 

What do you wish you would have known going into this? 

There’s so much that goes into the day-to-day of running a business—with or without a brick and mortar—that needs to be managed. There are government fees, taxes, contracts, invoices, books, servers, and CRM systems—tons of admin. We learned all of that as we go. It was a challenge, but in the end it made us better people, workers, and business owners. You need to research the correct answers, find the right programs and systems, and stay organized in all aspects of your business.

Unfortunately, it’s not always just brunch, pictures, and writing—but the tough stuff makes all those parts all the more worthwhile.

From a legal perspective, it’s incredibly important to protect the brand and intellectual property you’ve worked to create: establish an LLC, trademark the brand, and protect your company accordingly. All businesses need three things: a good website, a good accountant and a good lawyer—you can’t skimp on that.

 

What have you found works for you as far as organizing your business and time?

Time management is key—and we live and die by Google calendar. Every time I have a commitment, I enter the time, date, place, and appropriate alert time into Google calendar. Because it syncs with my phone, I know exactly where and when I’m supposed to be. Time is definitely the most valuable commodity. It’s crucial all our staff’s calendar are up to date—Doodle is helpful but I prefer to not even have to go there when scheduling meetings.

I’m also a sucker for productivity apps. For Bitches Who Brunch, we use a CRM/project management system that’s called InSightly, which I absolutely love. Personally, I use an app called Things, which syncs between my iPhone, iPad and Macbook, for my to do lists. It’s the only thing I’ve found that’s as satisfying as checking off a paper to-do-list, and I finally made the switch.

The other apps I can’t live without are Uber, which allows me to work on the go to-and-from meetings and events, Nike Plus, which tracks my runs, Evernote, for almost everything, Mint for finances, and Readability for saving links I want to read down the road.

I read a lot about entrepreneurship, creativity, and business—I’m particularly curious about management: the business, your employees, and—the most challenging—yourself. Some of the books I’ve found the most helpful and inspirational are:

The War of Art: Break Through the Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Mastery

Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us

Platform: How to get Noticed in a Noisy World

 

Highlight of your career so far?

Well, I’m pretty proud of monetizing and expanding Bitches Who Brunch—while keeping full ownership of the company with my partner, Becca. There’s a lot of money pouring into startups—particularly in the tech and web space—but we are funding our own growth and are in full control of our brand and company as a result.

 

Looking back, what would you do differently?

We were incredibly cautious with our brand and our growth, which I think is a good thing. But, we should have hired and expanded sooner. We waited about two years before hiring interns, and three before launching in New York. It would have been amazing to have had help sooner rather than later, allowing us to focus on bigger picture items—like growth of the company and expansion of the brand.

As an entrepreneur, you need to allocate time to the creative process and idea generation.

 

Best advice you’ve been given? Any advice that you’d give other entrepreneurs?

Cut out the non-essentials. Bad habits, hobbies, people—anything that does not make you a better business owner—remove it from your life. You need to focus on being your best self—happy, healthy, well-rested, and focused—to do your best work. It’s not just about being my best self for me anymore, it’s so I can be the best partner, manager and author for my business partner, our girls, and our readers.

I’m not saying stop seeing your friends, but as an entrepreneur you don’t have the luxury to have casual cocktails with everyone who asks for your time. By prioritizing my business, personal health, family and close friends—and nothing else—I have enough time to work in a challenging, meaningful job and also run a company on the nights and weekends.

Stay away from time sucks. Time is your most precious commodity. I never answer the phone when it’s an unknown number—I don’t want to get caught in a long conversation unexpectedly.

I assign time limits to tasks, meetings, and phone calls. If I’m stuck on something, I move on.

Do the most difficult task first. There are all sorts of studies as to why we do the most important task last—as procrastinators and creative—and it’s something I’m constantly working on.

Blend work and play. Find people who share your passion, and spend time with them. While it’s important to have a network, your success is more directly correlated to the five people around you. I’m constantly inspired by my close friends and the amazing things they’re doing.

Take time to play. I’m constantly improving my productivity and efficiency so that I have more time to work—but also to play. It’s important to take time to travel, spend time with friends and fellow creatives, read a book, and get up to speed on current events and the best practices in your industry. It makes you so much better at what you do.

Help others. From a purely philanthropic perspective, it’s important to take time to do good, donating your time or money to a cause you believe in. I believe whole-heartedly in giving back and also in practicing gratitude for what you have. Moreover, from a productivity standpoint, there are sorts of studies that show that taking time to help someone—whether it’s teaching students how to read or helping your friend learn Photoshop—make you feel more confident and better at what you do.

///

Top photo by Go Kate Shoot; Bottom photo by Robb Hohmann

Behind the Biz takes a deep dive behind the scenes with business owners and entrepreneurs.

Tweet along with me at #behindthebiz and @megbiram.