Who are you?

My name is Michelle. I’m 29 years old and I live in New Hampshire.

What do you do?

I own a virtual pet website called Cyska Siberians (www.cyskasiberians.com) with a partner. I do the artwork and he does most of the coding. We sell game currency and subscriptions.

How did you get started?

We started working on Cyska in 2011 after a popular virtual pet site changed their business model from free-to-play to pay-to-play and someone suggested I create my own site because she knew I was creative. I didn’t think I could do it without a team of people, but overcame that by doing it anyway with the help of somebody who would eventually become my business partner. We built the site from the ground up. When we first launched, we didn’t even have the game currency for sale, let alone subscriptions, but the users kept asking for a way to buy it, so we added PayPal buttons and started getting paid soon after.

Where are you now?

Today we have about 125 users logging in daily; over 20% of which are paying subscribers. Game currency sales can vary greatly from month to month. They usually peak in July and again around November. Our plans for the rest of the year include rolling out a major feature we promised our users back when we first launched and continuing to add to our existing features to improve the game. Developing our marketing strategy is another area we need to focus on, as well.

What challenges did you face?

We had never done anything like this before and we really didn’t think we were going to get this far in the beginning. Without any prior programming experience, my partner had to teach himself how to code for the site, and I had to learn a lot in that realm, too. There were some instances where things felt pretty grim, but we worked through the problems together and beat the odds.

What were some defining moments?

There were some times when we realized we had made a mistake and had to correct it without penalizing the users. Or we decided we could make a change that would improve the quality of our product even if it would set back our progress in building the site.

What advice do you have for people who want to get started?

Be passionate and don’t give up on your dream. If you already have a passion for something in your life, find a way to channel that same passion into your business. Build it with love; don’t make it about money. The money comes in after you’ve built something that your customers can fall in love with, and if you’re not in love with it, why would they be?

What helped you along your journey?

I’m a big fan of writing stuff down in spiral-bound notebooks. I have several of them filled with ideas, notes, layouts, plans, reflections, etc. It’s almost like having a rough journal where I can just record what I’m thinking or what I need to know related to the business. I think it helped me stay enthusiastic about development because I’d start by jotting down a fleeting idea and then get into an all-out creative flow that I could feel really excited about later.

Any last words of advice?

When you first come up with a big idea for a business, it seems daunting. It’s a lot of work. You can’t do it alone. You don’t have the resources or the know-how. Thinking things like that isn’t going to make it happen. You just have to start doing it. Start small with something you can do right now. Think about the end result. Think about how cool it’s going to be. Think about how it’s going to feel when you succeed. Think about how happy your customers are going to be using your product. Then just start the march. #twenty-mile-march