Side Hustle: Friendly Reminders
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3% spoke with Melanie Lajeunesse, co-founder & CEO of Friendly Reminders
Melanie, please introduce yourself.
Sure, my name is Melanie Lajeunesse. You might have guessed it from my last name; I’m from Quebec, Canada, but I grew up in sunny South Florida. (Thank you, parents!)
What are you working on?
I created a website called Friendly Reminders. The site allows friends to share their culinary profiles.
What’s a culinary profile? It’s a place to list which foods and drinks you love and which you want to keep very far from your plate. It’s also a place to share your allergies, intolerances, and the diets you’re following.
If you’re a little confused as to why anyone would need this, tell me if this sounds familiar: you’ve invited some friends over for dinner and now you have to decide what to make. You want to make your famous mushroom ravioli but you’re not sure if everyone likes mushrooms. You cross your fingers and go for it anyway.
When your friends arrive, one approaches you and reminds you she can’t eat gluten. You have to scurry around the kitchen trying to find something that she can eat. You feel awful that you didn’t remember, she’s uncomfortable that she’s making you do extra work. You finally sit down and you notice another one of your friends, picking at his food a bit. Turns out he doesn’t like mushrooms but didn’t want to say anything. Ugh, what a disaster!
With Friendly Reminders you no longer have to worry about these awkward moments. It’s easy to find out exactly what your guests do or don’t like.
So is the site purely B2C?
It’s not. Meeting and wedding planners use it to collect dietary restrictions for larger events. During the holidays we see a lot of office managers use it to plan their office parties. We’ve received several emails from happy planners thanking us for replacing their pesky spreadsheets.
Every entrepreneur always has several ideas in their head, why did you decide to work on this one?
It’s true, I’ve had a lot of ideas over the years but they would come and go quickly. When I was still thinking about this idea a few weeks after I had it, I decided I had to do something about it.
There are two pieces of advice I heard over and over again before starting a company:
- Work on something you’re passionate about.
- Create something that solves a problem you have.
Those two go hand in hand; when you want to use your own product, you tend to have more passion for it. There are so many days you’re going to wonder if you’re crazy for believing in your idea, you need to have passion to carry you through.
What were you doing when you first started working on this?
My background is in advertising. Ever since I was in elementary school I would tell people I wanted to work in advertising. As a kid I was fascinated by commercials. I studied marketing and advertising in school, after an internship at Push, I started working at an agency called Levatas in Florida. I worked in social media and I loved it!
I eventually became an account manager, which was an amazing experience because I got to see the workings of all our departments. After a few years I moved on to twtw, a market research company and got to see yet a different side of the industry. I was working at twtw when I had the idea for Friendly Reminders. For a long time I worked on Friendly Reminders after work or on weekends.
How did your background in advertising help you start your own company?
I think those of us in advertising are exceptionally suited to start companies. The success of an idea often comes down to how well you can promote it and who better to do that, than someone in the industry?
During my career in advertising, I saw first hand what worked for our clients, and what didn’t. What social campaigns worked best, which pitches drew the most attention, and why UI/UX were so important. I use all that knowledge today to grow Friendly Reminders.
What advice would you have for budding entrepreneurs?
Patience! When you’re working on something, especially when it’s a side hustle, it’s never going to go as quickly as you hoped. My co-founder and I thought we could have the site up in four months, and we were both working full time! We look back and laugh now because it took us a year to get the site up.
Accept that it’s going to take some time and be patient with yourself. Starting a company is hard, so remember to give yourself time to figure it out and don’t be hard on yourself when something doesn’t go as you planned.
Do you have any asks of the 3% community?
Yes! Please check out the site and let us know what you think. I know there are a lot of great designers out there who probably have suggestions for us, we’re all ears! You can email me at Melanie@MyFriendlyReminders.com.
Melanie's coding knowledge is limited to a high school HTML class but that doesn’t stop her from dreaming up new features for the site. As the heart of the marketing operation, she’s always coming up with new ways to spread the word about Friendly Reminders. After work you can find Melanie near a body of water or wishing that she could be. Connect with Melanie on LinkedIn and Twitter.