Patti Barrett, Beth Kneebone and Heather McBride knew they were onto something when they came up with the same idea while waiting on the pickup line at their kids’ schools. The Chatham moms have 10 kids between them and not a whole lot of time to stay up on the news, trends and all things pop culture. Enter the Pickup Line, a daily newsletter that curates the latest news, parenting and mom hacks, how-tos and advice. The trio put their experience in TV news and magazine publishing to work when creating the newsletter a little more than two years ago. We asked them what inspired the idea and how it comes together every day.
New Jersey Family: You worked in the corporate/media world before launching the Pickup Line? What did each of you do?
Patti Barrett: I initially worked behind-the-scenes in television news before jumping on camera in my late 20s. I was an on-air reporter, investigative reporter and fill-in anchor for three stations including WPIX in New York.
Beth Kneebone: I worked in the magazine publishing business for 15+ years, heading up marketing and promotion departments at numerous magazines including Glamour, Mademoiselle, Ladies’ Home Journal, Fitness and More.
Heather McBride: I, like Patti, worked on a few prime time national news programs before becoming a local TV news reporter, a career that took me from upstate NY to Washington, DC to New York City, where I worked as a reporter and anchor in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
NJF: When did you launch the Pickup Line?
Patti: We officially launched in September 2017. We spent approximately six months testing the newsletter by sending it out each day to friends and family. We wanted feedback on the product and also to make sure that our news cycle, schedule and timing was spot-on.
NJF: How did you come up with the idea for the Pickup Line?
Beth: After watching parents on school and sports pickup lines every day scrolling on their phones, we realized there was a need for a one-stop daily news source for busy moms—and what better time to deliver it to them than while they’re sitting and waiting on line?
NJF: What are you hoping to achieve with each newsletter?
Heather: Each issue is a cheat sheet for busy moms. We run every item—news, entertainment, parenting, life hacks, tech tips or our daily recipe—through the filter of how it benefits our subscribers, who want to be caught up, but don’t have the time to go through blogs and news sites every day.
NJF: The newsletter comes out five days a week. Talk us through a typical day and how you get it into inboxes by 2 pm.
Beth: I split writing the Lowdown—lighter news—with Heather, and Patti and Heather take turns with the Rundown—the harder news—so, I usually start searching online for news the night before. I continue my search in the morning while getting the kids off to school and continue to look throughout the morning. Usually, we’ll have a group conference call at some point after the kids have been dropped off to go over stories and social media for the day, and then we each start writing our sections and putting the text in the newsletter template. Crunch time starts at 1 pm, when we start proofing and checking links, so we can schedule the issue to be delivered at 2:10 pm in each market. It’s a lot of work, but we have a system and work really well together, so that makes it flow smoothly. Sure, we have our blips—burst water pipes, sick kids, etc.—but we make it work.
NJF: What has your growth been like since launch and how does your newsletter make money?
Heather: Our subscriber base is growing daily, so we don’t disclose the number of subscribers. We grow primarily through word of mouth. Our subscribers have been fantastic about forwarding the newsletter to friends, who then sign up. Plugs from other awesome entrepreneurs in the mom media space have also gotten the word out.
NJF: Which topics are most successful? Is there a particular newsletter that really resonated because of the subject matter?
Patti: That’s a tough one. We’ve found that our readers are very smart and curious with an appetite for both hard news and lighter lifestyle features. I’d say Sweet Melissa is one of the most popular, clicked-on links. Melissa is a great friend who also happens to be a genius in the kitchen! Every issue includes a dinner recipe she’s found for our subscribers. It’s always delicious and easy to make. We think our readers adore her because she really does help make their lives easier and more enjoyable.
NJF: Who’s inspired you most along the way to building the Pickup Line? What was the biggest challenge?
Beth: I think our readers are what and who inspires us the most. They’re extremely dedicated and loyal, and give us great feedback about what they love about the newsletter and how much they rely on it. That kind of love is what keeps us going.
Any time you start a business, there are obviously many challenges. I think for us, it was a point of difference. There are many newsletters out there delivering news daily, but it’s important that we always make sure everything we create and publish passes the “busy mom filter” to ensure our point of difference. We always ask ourselves, “would a busy mom in our age/life stage group and demographic be interested in this story?” before we include anything in the issue.
NJF: You also do podcasts, videos and have a website. Tell us what we can expect to see/hear/read on all these fronts.
Patti: Yes, we’re a multimedia company and rapidly expanding. We’ve recently launched The Pickup Line TV. You can find it every Friday in the newsletter, on our website and Instagram or on YouTube. It’s a great spot for us to connect with subscribers and for them to get to know us!
Heather anchors our daily podcast, which is a run-though (with big personality!) of each newsletter. I also do a longer format podcast of interviews with intriguing moms. Our website is like our holy grail because it has everything we do right there in one spot.
NJF: How do you juggle building this business with your kids’ schedules?
Heather: Most of our work is done while our kids are at school, but with 10 kids among the three of us, minor hiccups come up all the time! We wouldn’t still be here if we didn’t step up and support each other, and we’ve found that’s the best way to find balance.
NJF: Tell us what you each love most about your hometown and what you love to do in NJ with your families.
Beth: Chatham is an incredibly warm, small town. We’ve made some of our closest friends here. We love the small town feel, the families that share the same values, the great school system and the close proximity to New York City. It’s a very special place. Favorite things to do in NJ would be go to the shore, obviously—Bay Head is our favorite NJ shore spot. Also love Black Horse Tavern in Mendham and hitting the Short Hills Mall.
Heather: Is it too corny to say that I love the friends I’ve made in Chatham? I love a good fall activity with the kids. Pumpkin farms and apple picking create the best memories!
Patti: Ditto to all of the above! I also adore spending time at the shore in and around the area of Asbury Park. My Dad was raised in Asbury and his family had businesses that were a big part of the famous old boardwalk there. We still bring our kids to the same beach club that I grew up going to, so it’s all about family history and vintage Jersey.
NJF: What’s your best piece of advice for women who want to leave a full-time job to start their own business?
Beth: I didn’t leave a full-time job to start this business. I started it after having been home with my kids for a number of years. But, I will say, if you can do it, go for it. It’s very rewarding to have an additional outlet and interest after many years of Mommyland. Having my own business allows me to rediscover my creative and business sides while also allowing me the flexibility to still do what I do with my kids.
Heather: No one has it all figured out from day one. Just keep taking steps forward. Some ideas will fall flat, but that’s all part of the process. People are willing to bet on you when you believe in yourself and put yourself out there.
Patti: Take what you love and try to make it your job…it doesn’t feel like work when it’s something that comes naturally!
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