KEARNEY — It all began with a question in late 2011: “What do you think about creating a website for moms?”
That email from Heather Riggleman of Blue Hill to Leslie Means in Kearney ignited a business that is galloping so fast its founders are gasping for breath.
Her View From Home, the online lifestyle magazine targeted at women, is only a year old, but its founders hope it will be franchised nationwide within five years.
“People call us a breath of fresh air,” said Means, who launched the site April 12, 2012, with Riggleman and Jen Sill, a Hildreth native who now lives in Ankeny, Iowa.
Starting at 7 a.m. every weekday, HVFH posts seven daily articles on marriage, motherhood, careers, food, faith, fashion and more at www.HerViewFromHome.com.
The schedule includes Her Journal at 7 a.m., Her Self (beauty and fashion) at 9 a.m., Her Kitchen at 11 a.m., Her Kids at 2:30 p.m., Her Home at 4 p.m., Her Community at 6 p.m. and Her Sanity at 8:30 p.m., which includes wine, movies and “other fun things,” Means said.
Saturday’s content is more relaxed, with a single “honest account” of the week written by one of the HVFH founders.
Sunday’s content of three to five new faith-based articles is written and produced by Riggleman, 31, an author who has written for a faith-based website.
“We’ve all put so much passion and tears into this that we can’t let it fail. I think we are so unaware of what it can become,” Means said.
Means, 31, would not release HVFH’s first-year earnings but said every penny is plowed back into the business. Her husband, Kyle, vice president of marketing for the Tri-City Storm, does the site’s design and graphics and posts its ads.
Unofficially, Sill is the planner and HVFH brand disseminator. Means handles outside marketing, and Riggleman handles marketing online, but all three edit content, find new writers, work on franchise plans and sell ads.
Their staff of 52 writers — all unpaid — contributes articles on a schedule set by Sill. Writers include a few men like Mike Reynolds, who pens “His View” once a week.
“We started with 10 writers, all people we knew, but it’s not just Nebraska writers anymore. Other women found us.
We have women from New York, New Jersey, Arizona and Wyoming who write, too,” Means said.
“We all pretty much do everything, which is why the computers are attached to our bodies 24/7. We are still working together to see where each of our strengths lie,” she added. “I think I talk to Heather and Jen more than I talk to my kids.”
Since Sill, 35, lives in Iowa, the three HVFH owners communicate “almost around the clock” on a private Facebook site, they said.
They meet in person every two months. “Passion rubs off on each other when we’re together,” Riggleman said. “We are more productive when we’re together face to face.”
The trio doesn’t always agree on the site’s content — “we have our ‘sandpiper moments’ when we rub each other the wrong way,” Means said — but they’ve learned that can be beneficial.
HVFH began by accident as life pushed the women together, pulled them apart, then pushed them together again.
Means, a Lincoln native, earned a degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and got a TV job in Beaumont, Texas.
Sill earned a degree at UNK and took a job in TV news in Fort Myers and Miami, aiming for a career in cable TV, but she didn’t like the “it bleeds, it leads” news focus in major markets. She returned to Nebraska and became an assistant news director at NTV.
Searching for a weekend anchor, Sill spotted Means in Texas and convinced her to return to Kearney.
In 2007, Means got pregnant and hired Riggleman to provide day care, but when Riggleman got pregnant with her second child, Means found another sitter, and the two lost contact. By early 2011, both Means and Sill had left television.
Then, in late 2011, Riggleman sent a casual email to Means: “What do you think about creating a website for moms?”
Means had been thinking the same thing, so they met for coffee and sketched out plans. Knowing they needed a third person, Means called Sill, and HVFH was kindled.
The idea took off after they won the $10,000 grand prize in the 2011 Central Nebraska Business Plan Competition sponsored by UNK. “That was huge,” Means said. “To have three male judges who believed in this female idea was a kick in the pants.”
With that money, they hired an attorney. Means sought advertisers and signed up Coldwell Banker, Time for Baby, Just for Ladies and Outrageous Cakes.
“They took a risk without even seeing the product,” she said. HVFH has since added Kinnison Homes and Pixie Dots.
Both she and Riggleman have “learned the insides of the business world.” A few months after they launched the site, they hired David Lano of Kearney, owner of ControlYours, a website design and development company, to finesse it.
“We did a full redesign and made it more mobile-friendly,” Lano said. “They had built up a solid reader base and had a long wish list of items: a new calendar for events, updated ad manager for advertisers, mobile optimization, fresh design, and social media integration.
“We worked closely with them for several months making sure they fell in love with the new developments and understood how to manage the changes,” he said.
Still, Means said, they call Lano at least once a week. “He puts up with us,” she said.
Riggleman said the trio understood the site’s potential, but “not how much work it would be.” She knows a lot about working hard. She helped raise her five siblings in Newcastle, Wyo., while her divorced mother earned a business degree.
Married and a mother by age 18, she and her husband Chris moved to Kearney, where she studied criminal justice at UNK and envisioned a career as a state trooper until she got pregnant for the second time. Then her focus changed.
Now the mother of children ages 13, 6 and 4, she does extensive public speaking and recently published her first book, “Mama Needs a Time Out.” Chris designs grain bins for Chief Industries.
“I’d rather pour my attention into this,” she said. “I’d rather be home with the kids versus traveling.”
Sill is a former newscast producer who calls herself a “stay-at-home mom who runs her household much like the newsroom: with a tight schedule and lots of creativity.
“I love that, but I didn’t realize how much I missed planning and creating until after I became a part of this venture,” she said. “I’m learning a lot about the online world, and creating a useful format in which people can come together and share ideas and learn is exciting.”
She never expected to be writing for the site — she prefers to be behind the scenes — “but I love this site because I think it is bigger than a blog. It is more than one or a few people writing about themselves.”
Means, the mother of two who is the program director at the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce, expects the trio to do more conferences and retreats in the future.
In January, 170 women came to an evening event with food, massages and wine at the World Theater, and on April 27, HVFH will sponsor a day for women in Grand Island.
Within five years, they envision expanding HVFH across the country, with perhaps 50 franchises.
“Our vision largely depends on how things go in the coming year,” Sill said.
Sometimes, Means said, she asks herself, “What the heck am I doing?’ but “I know it takes time for any business to build up. We’re growing.”
Added Riggleman, “We knew the potential, but we didn’t realize how much work it would be. Our poor husbands. We work on this after the children go to sleep, or when we have lunch breaks.”
“My husband knows the house won’t be clean,” Means said, “and it’s okay.”