Empowering Women: Alison Raskin
~ It is my honor and privilege to bring you…
It takes a lot of bravery and a fair amount of adventurousness to start your own company in your 20’s. Meet Josie and Lia, two women in their 20’s who recently started their own website that will most certainly make you say, “that’s GENUIS!” Ever had a great space but needed one more roommate to make it happen? Ever had to move to a new place and were nervous to turn to Craigslist? Josie and Lia, familiar with both situations, created The Room Ring to help you search for available rooms and/or roommates in different cities based off of your social circle. You can even filter by mutual friends, industry, university, AND incorporate your living habits! Not only are they two of the most fun, hilarious, and intelligent women that I know, but I’m still amazed at how Josie and Lia created a service that makes everyone’s lives and living situations easier and happier. Read on to see how these amazing girls are changing the roommate finding game as they learn that taking risks can sometimes pay off. Say “good-bye” to that roommate horror story and “hello!” to home sweet home.
So tell me a little bit about The Room Ring:
J: So it’s a roommate matching service and our end goal is just to make finding roommates easier and more accessible for people our age.
L: And so people would already have a way to vet their current roommates. Rather than doing Craigslist or Facebook posts or sending e-mails, finding someone already in your social network…someone you can ask about. Sitting in a Starbucks, meeting with a Craigslist person, you have zero clue what they’re like in real life. [The Room Ring] gives you access to people already in your circles.
So it’s based off of your social media?
J: Yes, right now you can sign up through Facebook. You’ll sign in and it will have access to your basic profile – your mutual friends, your picture… and then it will take you to the different options and filters which will match you with people who will be good roommates.
How did the concept for The Room Ring come about?
L: This summer I decided to move to Boston (where I’m from). When I first moved to NYC three years ago we had a really tough time finding a good apartment so we hired a broker and ended up lucking out with a great place. It had these two big terraces, three bedroom, three bathroom…it was just awesome. So whenever someone would move out, we obviously didn’t want to move and we would have someone else move in. My roommate Mary-Beth had moved out and we basically just e-mailed everyone we knew. I’ve seen friends go through the same process whether it be facebook, emailing or cragislist. Everyone’s seen it. Then when I left, my roommates had to scramble to find a replacement for me. It was just sort of in my face that this obvious service didn’t exist. So it was an idea that I thought was maybe something…and maybe something worth exploring.
J: I have always wanted to start my own company. I just have always envisioned working for myself and creating something. When Lia mentioned this idea, I thought “I want to do this.” We both would work on it after work and it got to the point where I wanted to take a risk and now I am working on it full-time.
What has been the biggest challenge that you guys faced in starting The Room Ring?
L: Our developer. I feel like there are a lot of tricky things that you don’t understand until you run straight into them. We found this developer and vetted him through all these people and it ended up just not working out. For me one of the biggest things is not really being proficient in code. So, if there’s a problem, I can’t fix it. I can’t get behind the computer and write the code and make this button go here or wherever. That makes me feel helpless at times.
J: You think of something new to do everyday. You hear of people starting their own companies and how much work it is and then you have this idea and you start it and you think “Oh this can’t be that hard,” and then you learn as you go. I feel like already we’ve learned so much. But, you do one thing, and there’s always something else that can be done. There has to be a certain schedule because you could be doing this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s always something to do.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give to other women who are starting their own business?
J: I would say take risks and not be scared to do that. It is scary, but the only way it’s going to work is if you take risks. If you don’t try, you’re never going to know. Don’t be scared of failure.
L: Mine would be to have a partner and to be really honest and forthcoming about everything. It’s not always easy or comfortable conversations that we’re having, but it’s a lot harder to do it alone. There have been times when I’m really busy and Josie takes over and vice versa, and just being held accountable by someone else and having to deliver for that person.
J: Communicate, being open.
L: Right, a checks and balances situation.
What’s been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned throughout the whole process?
J: How much I didn’t know. I obviously know that there’s always so much to learn, but the amount of information….I just didn’t know (legal, financially, websites). It’s crazy how much there is that you just don’t know and how much there is to learn.
L: And what’s the most important. So, for most people it’s really important to have an iron clad business plan and follow it and refer to it, for other people it’s a guideline. What’s the most important thing to get done today? My biggest learning situation was, ok, I still have my full-time job so there’s not nearly any way that I can do everything today that I would like to do, but what is going to be the best for this site and what can I do? Part of me was trying to learn how to code, and it’s just an inefficient use of my time. I’m not going to be proficient enough to really understand it, so instead of doing that, I can focus on X,Y,&Z and other things.
Tell me a little bit about what you are wearing today:
J: I’m wearing an Equipment top (signature blouse). I’m not sure where my big, chunky, necklace is from, but this necklace is a nameplate necklace, which has my dad’s initials on it, which are “HAH.”
L: My big necklace is from J.Crew, and this is a Nantucket pendant(taken off bracelet).
So are these your go-to outfits (if you were dressing up to go out to dinner)?
J: Yeah, I tend to wear jeans and a flowy blouse and heels or boots. I like to be comfortable and casual.
L: I’m more of a dress person.
If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
J: I’d love to just live in spandex! If that were appropriate, I’d wear that.
L: I would say if I were to wear one outfit for the rest of my life, it would be this black long-sleeved dress that I have from Theory. It’s not loose, not tight, it’s well-fitted and simple.
J: I’d also say anything from Joie – I just love flowy, comfortable things that could be casual or fancy.
L: If I had to pick one designer, I’d say DVF.
What women have inspired you?
J: My mom.
L: Also my mom.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
L: I grew up on a farm. It was not a full working farm but we had pigs, horses, chickens, turkeys, sheep, etc.
J: I love punk rock! My dream in life (besides starting my own company obviously) is to be the only girl in an all guy rock back. That may not be a secret to some… ?
What are the three things that you absolutely, positively, cannot live without?
J: 1) My Moishe, which is my pillow. It’s like a squishy pillow. It’s not a brand, I just named him Moishe. My mom bought us them when we were little. I’m one of four and I now have three of the four. Oopsie. 2) Aquaphor. 3) Seltzer.
L: 1) Seltzer 2)Sunglasses (all brands, I don’t discriminate). I love Sunglasses! 3) Excedrin
What’s your favorite indulgence?
[no hesitation for either]
L: Reality TV!
What makes you smile the most?
J: Just being around my family and friends. I feel like I’m a sponge – I’m very affected by the people I’m around. So, if people are really happy and being funny and fun, that’s how I feel.
L: America’s Funniest Home Videos. And also what she said.
J: When my brothers are together they’re pretty hilarious. Clowns!
What’s one piece of advice that you wish you knew five years ago?
J: Just to not worry so much about your future. I never thought I would be quitting my full time job to pursue this full time, but here I am. Try not to worry about what the next step is, and kind of just let it happen and not try to control it. I like to be in control of all aspects of my life, but I think letting go is really important and I wish I wasn’t worrying so much my senior year of college about what my job was going to be after I graduated.
L: To know that even the situations that aren’t great are going to teach you something. Whether it’s a job that you don’t like or a boss or a situation – I have taken some of my better lessons out of those tough situation.