Ahhhhhhâ€¦.. I feel so much better!? Last time I wrote, I felt a little nuts (as usual) because I realized just how behind I was with my marketing and PR.? Now we all know that a marketing plan is something you should have.? Usually it goes hand in hand with your business plan, but how often do we really look at that?? (Not often enough)? I did do a marketing plan that went along with my business plan that outlined my basic sales and marketing strategies for 5 years.? It was VERY broad, spoke in very general terms and it was written when I didnâ€™t have a business to run in earnest, my product wasnâ€™t even on the shelves and I knew 100% less then I do now.? I still donâ€™t know all that much, but it is most certainly a great deal more then back then.?? I really didnâ€™t like that feeling last week of being behind and I had so many ideas in my head and so much going on with the launch in October, Holiday gift guides, pitching the womanâ€™s and business publications with the â€œstoryâ€ behind the launch etcâ€¦ that I needed to purge all that stuff in my head.?? For the millionth time, Iâ€™m about to just tell you what I have done.? This is not a how-to manual for running a business by any means ?(Iâ€™m just winging here) BUT maybe you can get an idea or two from how I have done things or read what I did, and come up with something better.?? ?
So realizing that I was not organized with my â€œtimelineâ€ on how things need to flow through-out the year, I went back to some of those â€œoutliningâ€ skills I learned in high school and came up with something I am proud of.? I actually feel very at peace with things right now, because from all that mess in my head, came out a wonderful marketing plan that I can follow.? I printed out the months January â€“ December and left lots of space underneath each month.? I took my 3 sheets of paper to the gym and set them on the treadmill.? (Thatâ€™s where I do A LOT of my best thinking)? I know, itâ€™s Saturday, but the kids really like the gals at the gym daycare, and mommy needed to get a run in to clear her head!? I did a 10 minute warm up and just walked at a slow pace.? During that time, with pen in hand, I scribbled a few things that came to me.? I wrote the no brainers like November- pitch the food publications for spring/summer, December-Pitch shopping/womenâ€™s publications for Fatherâ€™s Day gift guides etcâ€¦)? Then I put the pen down and did a 2 mile run.? During that time I just let my mind wander all over the place.? I thought about? when to make sales calls on certain stores depending on the time of year and their latitudeâ€¦ yep, based on latitude!)? I mentally categorized where I could start making calls and how early in the â€œseasonâ€.?? For example, in Florida, I can pretty much call on stores year round, in the northeast; the stores donâ€™t even get grilling until June and July, when most of the other stores are done with buying any new grilling items,? when to call on the catalogs (LONG lead time) and a million other ideas.? Then when my quick 2 miles was up, I walked again for another 20 minutes and my fingers were flying!!? NOBODY else could EVER possibly read my scribble if their life depended on it, but they donâ€™t have to.? I could see that my sales and marketing plan was taking shape right before my sweaty, nasty, stinky face and it was beautiful.? All those ideas and deadlines and â€œanglesâ€ and tradeshow dates and preparations finally had a home!? I began to see a few months however that were looking a little skimpy and thatâ€™s where the REAL creativity has to come into play. Iâ€™m sure you can relate. Some months are just slow in your business right?? Well for me, August and September were looking a little pathetic.? That time of the year itâ€™s hard to call on new stores with a grilling accessory because the grilling season is just about over. ?The holidays are coming, but itâ€™s too late for the larger stores and catalogs as they did their holiday buying over the summer.? Itâ€™s too early for the small independent stores because they do a lot of their buying at the shows or in October/November.? I wasnâ€™t satisfied with my two wimpy little months as I still needed something to generate some income!? Just because business is slow and itâ€™s not the right â€œseasonâ€ doesnâ€™t mean I can sit around twiddling my thumbs and not make my monthly bill payments!? So outside the box I wentâ€¦ and then it came to meâ€¦ TAILGATING SEASON!!!!? Thatâ€™s a whole angle all unto itself!!? And with that came a whole new flood of ideas to fill up my pathetic little months!? So now, I feel like I have a plan, a direction, a timeline, a clueâ€¦ and it feels GREAT!
?Leslie Haywood, Founder and President of Charmed Life Products, Inventor of Grill Charmsâ„¢? www.grillcharms.com
After a long and sometimes painful wait, I can finally shout it from the rooftops…Storybook Studio will be in FAO, baby!!
Seven weeks to the day that I attended the Toy Audition, I finally received a letter in the mail yesterday. It was a congradulatory letter – only there it was made out to someone else and it referred to a board game! I called and emailed everyone I could, but received no reponse yesterday afternoon. Finally, last night I got a call from the concierge. He apologized but said he didn’t have access to the records and would have to call me today. He told me not to get excited (was this a cruel joke???!). I tossed and turned all night and was soo bummed out that the letter was so screwed up, and that I still had no clue if I had been ‘accepted’ or not.
Just about 10 minutes ago, he called me back congradulating me and apologizing again. He said that corporate was mailing me a new letter (so glad – I can frame it!). I am just so thrilled. After 2 years and 3 months, and all the ups and downs that goes with bringing a new product to market – it will be in the world-famous FAO. I’m still in shock!
I’ve been so lucky to have the support of the Mompreneur community. Thanks everyone! You know first hand what a rollercoaster ride it can be. I hope that this will be inpsiring to others…really. I’m just at a loss for words really. FAO is my dream retailer – I have envisioned my product on their store shelves for so long, and now it will come true. What???! I have to go slap myself a little bit – I just hope I don’t wake up from this dream!
Trying to keep the positive energy going. Here are some pics from the May 8th Toy Audition at FAO:
So today is only the second or third day (I canâ€™t remember) of summer and already Iâ€™m behind!? One would think that my â€œseasonâ€ has just started since my product is a summer item, but in actuality, my summer season is long over with regards to the publications, Iâ€™m already behind on my October launch and I really need to get out my pitches for the Holidays!? Promoting your company is a full time job, leaving little time for actually running the company.? (Maybe thatâ€™s way Iâ€™m so nuts these days).? I just did a photo shoot of the new collection for October (thanks to my sister Brandy, they look AWESOME!!) and so Iâ€™m frantically pitching magazines (and having my PR team pitch for me) for October, but really that should have been done months ago.? Iâ€™m trying to get that completed as quickly as possible so I can move on to doing the Holiday Gift Guide angle.? Magazines work 6-9 months out so you really have to always be one or two steps ahead of the game which Iâ€™m finding is really hard when youâ€™re trying to take care of daily operations as well.? I just put in my
PO for The Pink Collection so Iâ€™ll have it in plenty of time for the launch.? (Where does all the money go???
Taiwan apparently!)? With the old saying â€œyou have to spend money to make moneyâ€â€¦ I had no idea how right that person was!? In case you are keeping track of the buzz, here are a few of the latest links:?
I am also working with a marketing company that specializes in getting products on QVC.? In case you wanted to know how people get on QVC, there are a few ways.? You can submit online, you can go to one of their open calls where you and about 1500 of your fellow inventor/product people have about 10 minutes to give your schpeel to a buyer http://www.qvcproductsearch.com/, you can wait around for them to find you or you can go through a marketing company in PA (most of them are up there near QVC headquarters in PA) and have them work with/for you.? They have connections with buyers and specialize in getting people on QVC.?? Most of them get a commission based on the PO that QVC gives you, and some donâ€™t get paid period, unless and until you get a PO from QVC.? Iâ€™m working with just such a company and as with most big retail operations, at QVC there is a different buyer for just about everything.? Our first pitch was going to be for the Holiday Gift buyer but they passed.? (See what I meanâ€¦ if youâ€™re not thinking about Christmas right now, you are behind already!) Crazy huh?? So it is very unlikely that you will see Grill Charmsâ„¢ on QVC this holiday season, but now we are pitching to the Kitchen Gadget person.? Iâ€™ll keep you posted as usual.? Okay, thatâ€™s all for today, I have to get to work to try to be a little less behind tomorrow.
Leslie Haywood, Founder and President of Charmed Life Products, Inventor of Grill Charmsâ„¢? www.grillcharms.com
I was posting on another thread about my day yesterday – it was pretty exciting. But I realized that 3/4 of the things that happened yesterday were a direct result of being on the Mompreneurs Online board – had I not I joined Mompreneurs, these events in my day yesterday probably would not have happened.
1) We had 5 web sales – all from different places. Due to all the PR we are doing. Before Mompreneurs, my PR was limited to local papers, and places where we were performing.
2) We were contacted by a wholesaler in Canada. Before Mompreneurs, I didn’t know what a wholesler was, and never dreamed we would be getting requests for orders in Canada!
3) We got a dropshipper acct set up in California. Before Mompreneurs, never heard of Drop Shipping. Still figuring it all out too, with everyone’s help here. Thanks!!!
4) We got a great review from another product review blogger site. (Parents With Style http://parentswithstyle.blogspot.com/search/label/Stardust ) Before Mompreneurs, I had never heard of a Product Review blog.
5) We were contacted by a national magazine!! (More on that later,when it happens, but WOWEEE!!!!) Before Mompreneurs, I didn’t have the slightest idea how to approach a national magazine, and I always thought it had to be a BIG company to get national press. I’ve learned so much and gotten the information necessary to feel very comfortable approaching any magazine. Extra big thanks to El and Pat for giving me so much guidance!
6) I was able to hold an intelligent conversation about SEO, page rankings, and metatags. That sentence would not have been spoken from my lips 6 months ago. I owe all that to fellow Mompreneurs, Holly, Jill, Amber, Amy and Lisa (and anyone else I am forgetting…) Thanks Gals!! You would have been proud of your humble student And, I have found an amazing community of great women here that I consider my teachers and my friends. Thanks, El and Pat for providing the Mompreneurs board, and thanks fellow mompreneurs for making this journey a great one!!
The other cool things that happened yesterday, – un-Mompreneur related – we booked a House Concert, and we also took a part time job putting together a choir for a nearby church.
I needed to do something for my spirit – I visited my blind 91 year old friend, Reverend Wills, lovingly known around here as “the broom man,” at his new home – a nursing home. We were able to find a piano and sing some songs. Several residents wheeled themselves in to the little room and sang along or listened. I’m going to go again next week. THAT fills my soul. And at the end of the day those are the things that matter.
As usual, it’s been too long since I last updated my blog. I have been so verrrry busy working on graphics projects lately! But I absolutely love to work on new projects because:
a.) I have a vested interest in seeing other Mompreneurs succeed and love working with clients to translate their thoughts into something visual.
b.) It is actually nice to have a mental break from my own business and product launch.
It has also helped to keep my mind off of the fact that I have YET to hear back from FAO Schwarz about the Toy Audition I attended on 5/8. I’m really trying to be patient, but I have to be honest – it’s painful at this point. To make matters worse, I’ve received an email (and have checked with some other attendees who have received the same) that the responses were mailed last week. They’re in NY and I’m in NJ – talk about snail mail. So, I’m waiting, waiting, waiting.
I do have some good news to report though. Playthings did a write-up on their website about the kits ( http://www.playthings.com/article/CA6564369.html?q=storybook+studio scroll about 1/2 way down) and may do a feature (crossing fingers and toes here) in their August issue, which apparently has an expanded circulation including pediatricians’ offices and consumers.
Last week TDMonthly contacted me to let me know that my product has been nominated for their 2008 Specialty Toy Awards! That was very exciting, and I’m just thrilled to have been selected for a toy industry award.
On the homefront, the hours, minutes and seconds finally dwindled down and the countdown until the kids are home for summer break, is officially over. Today was their last day of school, and although I am kind of looking forward to the break in the routine, it will be a challenge this year with all of the work I have on my plate! I will just need to get into another routine, and possibly hire some help here and there to get through these hot summer days.
Today I also found that cold calls aren’t really that hard, and I don’t know why I have been dreading it for so long. I guess I thought that I would need to have every single detail about my product layed out in front of me, and that I’d need to be very salesy. I don’t know what got into me today (I think perhaps I was just stressing out about the kids being home and the impending doom was looming over me like a storm cloud) but I just decided to pick up the phone and call a few places. I called, told them who I was…asked to speak to the person responsible for purchasing new products for their store and they either handed me over to that person, or gave me an email address that I could send information to. It was that easy. So I guess that’s what ‘warming up the cold call’ is all about. It’s not that tough, folks. Just do it!! I honestly felt silly that I was even the least bit freaked out about it.
Well, I’m off to the movies with my daughter and her friend. It’s that Kung-Fu Panda movie, so I might be sleeping through it. It’s all good though…I need the mental break!!!
I’ll keep you all posted about FAO…it’s got to be soon!!!
Summer time is here and with it, lots of?challenges for us MOMS trying to run a successful home-based business.? Here?are some tips you might find helpful ….
We all know how much we love our businesses and what a joy it is to be able to finally say, I own my own business and then to actually start making money doing it.? Itâ€™s the best!? However, sometimes itâ€™s just hard to do.? Weâ€™ve all been there — The biggest project of your business finally comes your way, and thatâ€™s when the entire family comes down with the flu, including you.? You land your dream client, one that youâ€™ve been after for months, if not years, and then your inlaws call and say they are making a surprise visit, they will be there tomorrow.? Or how many times has this happened- you finish a project with the client eagerly waiting and in trying to send them the file, your internet decides to go down.
So whatâ€™s a successful entrepreneur to do?? I think one of the most important things to do is just realize, sometimes itâ€™s going to be hard.? And thatâ€™s okay.? Often I believe we feel that because we finally own our own business, and we work so hard for it, that we must be positive and happy ALL the time.?? We donâ€™t.? Hopefully the majority of the time you will be, however, when things come up, itâ€™s AOK to say, wow, this is tough and find support.? Have an online or offline buddy that you can go to and talk.? Someone who will say, hey itâ€™s going to be better; someone who knows you and knows just the right thing to say to make it better.
Itâ€™s also important to plan ahead.? No, you canâ€™t tell when the kids will get sick.? However, you can plan and have a back-up subcontractor so you can go straight to plan B.? The time to plan for this is before it happens, way before you need it.?
Here are a few tips I hope you find beneficial:
1)????? Find someone now who can help you with your business.? Send them work now so they become familiar with your needs.? Let them know that you will be using them on a sporadic basis.? Youâ€™ll probably find that once you see how much help they provide you use them a lot more than you thought, but at least you know you have the support you need.
2)????? Computers â€“ Hands up â€“ who backed up their system last week?? Ouch!!? Think about this, how would you feel if you went to turn on the computer and it was blank, dead, gone.? That can and will happen.? You need to back-up regularly and you need to check those back-ups.? One thing I recently discovered is I backed up regularly to another computer.? However, I didnâ€™t know how to retrieve the documents I backed up.?
3)????? Internet down â€“ Do you have a friend in the neighborhood who also has a computer that you can use.? How about the local library.? Most of the time you can wait it out, however, for many of us if we do legal or medical transcription, itâ€™s crucial to be able to get it there.? I once had an attorney preparing for the trial of the century (at least he thought so).? The case rested on me (at least thatâ€™s what he told me), and right when it was time to send him all the pleadings, our phone went dead.? (For all of you wondering, we did pay the bill, it was a technical problem).? I immediately rushed over to my neighbors and was able to send the documents.? My client was none the wiser.?
4)????? Summertime â€“ MOMS, tell the truth, itâ€™s hard.? In the summer with the kids home from school itâ€™s harder to run a home-based business.? They are bored.? You are busy.? And just because the school bell rang its last toll, the work still comes in. Here too you need to plan ahead.? Two words, Summer Camp!? If you canâ€™t ?do summer camp, then definitely get creative.? Stock up on crafts at the Dollar Store.? Get Paint by Number Books and things that will take time, and be fun.? We have some fun ones at our site at www.virtualwordpublishing.com. ?Also, allow your children to get creative.? Get 3 ring notebooks and allow them to write their own book adventures or design their own magazines.? Scissors, a few old magazines, paste and a little imagination will go a long ways.
5)????? In laws â€“ Itâ€™s gonna happen.? If you want to get busy in your business, have company come in town.? Guaranteed, thatâ€™s the time that you will be your busiest.? Iâ€™ve been in business for 23 years now, and it seems that every time company comes into town, I get hit with a major rush.? And it doesnâ€™t get easier with the more years in business.? But one thing I do is plan ahead.? Because I live in Florida and get lots of company, I canâ€™t take time off every time.? However, what I can do is rotate and take time off with different clients.? That way Iâ€™m not working for all my clients during that time.? Also, if you donâ€™t have a separate office, do something, anything to get a computer in a room so you can close the doors and work.? When they see you there, to many it feels you are available.? When you work a 9-5, no one considers you home until 5:30.? However, when you happen to be in the same house, itâ€™s often easy for them to think you can socialize.?
These tips should help you survive and thrive in your business even when times are tough.?
Hi There Amigas!? Looking for something fun and free and easy to do inside with the kiddos while you get in a few minutes of work?
Then, if that is not enough to keep the little buggers busy for a while, simply e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask me in the subject line to send you the music for free.? I will send you two FREE songs via MP3 versions with suggested activities that go right along with the song and some free coloring sheets too!
Click right here for more than 80 free bilingual language cards in Spanish and English.? Have one child be the teacher and the rest be the students as they learn a second language together and you maintain your sanity!
Happy Educating!? ?Sea feliz educando!
I’m learning that there is a myth, the supposed truth, and the truth about the myth when it comes to being an entrepreneur and free time.? The myth with being an entrepreneur is that once you have your own company you will have all the free time in the world, are able to take vacations?whenever you want, your schedule is totally flexible and your life is completely and totally your own to do with what you will, when you want to do it. ?What I have been told by fellow entrepreneurs, articles and books is that the “truth” is when you become an entrepreneur, your life is never your own, your free time is even less free and vacations are never truly a vacation.? As with most things, reality is somewhere in the middle.? I am going to take this topic from 2 different standpoints.? I am going to speak to those aspiring entrepreneurs and give you a little reality check,?then I am going to speak to my fellow entrepreneurs, and give you a little hope.? I just returned from a week long family vacation to the western
Caribbean.? Sounds like a dream huh?? Well, it was!
For those of you that think owning your own company is the answer to all your prayers and once you get out from under those fluorescent lights and beige cubical walls the world will be your oyster, there is a lot to consider.? Many times when you punch out of your day and you are off on your family vacation, your time is yours.? You don’t worry about how much money the company is making while youâ€™re gone or how many sales or PR opportunities might be missed or if the “one big shot” is going to come along while you are floating in the middle of the?
Caribbean Sea.? You can worry about wonderful things like “when is that guy with my rum punch coming my way?”? When you are an entrepreneur you must be somehow accessible during your vacation ideally a few times a day.? You have to worry about how to check your messages?from just off the coast of
Cuba (at a cost of $6.00 per minute) and make sure everything is handled via email (at a cost of .55 per minute) ALL on YOUR dime.? You can never 100% take your mind off the company you left behind or the opportunities that might come your way at the most inopportune moments.? Thoughts like â€œif I could only make that call this week to that buyer, would I get that account?â€ or â€œWill I be able to pay my employees this month because I have taken 1/4th of the time off?â€
Now I want to speak to those of you that are in the thick of entrepreneur land who think you can’t possibly leave for an entire week!? Yes you can!? The beauty of modern technology is that you run your company from just about anywhere in the world.? It is totally doable and an absolute necessity.? You need to relax, recharge and refresh.? Your company will run better for it, your family will happier and you will be full of new ideas to make your business better.? Most of this is obvious stuff, but I’m going to go over it anyway.? About a week or so before you leave, try to tie up loose ends,?limit your?new sales calls and try to time things so that nothing “big” happens while you are gone.? While on vacation don’t beat yourself for thinking about work and donâ€™t fight the urge to WANT to think about work. As entrepreneurs, it’s what we do.? It’s in our blood.? Don’t fight it, it’s unnatural, BUT limit your “work” time.? (That’s easy to do when it costs .55 per minute every time you log onto the internet from
Honduras!!)? Have your village (something I preach all the time) mind the store as much as possible.? There are such wonderful options in fulfillment warehouses, order taking and phone answering services, that nobody needs to know that you are running the company from seas!? Make sure your QuickBooks, email website favorites, login information and passwords to all important sites and all files are updated, backed up and on your laptop for you to access.? (The last thing you need if for Amazon.com to email you a
PO, which you have 24 hours to confirm?on their vendor support website and you are out to sea without your vendor code and password!)? Yes, you must confirm receipt of all
PO’s Amazon emails you within 24 hours!? All this can be done, done well, done fairly easily and you can have the time of your life.? Only my closest friends and vendors knew I was gone and that’s exactly the way it should be.? ?
We had one of the best vacations ever and it was the week before Father’s day, one of the biggest guy gift buying days of the year.? Now get out there and enjoy your summer vacation!!!
Leslie Haywood, Founder and President Charmed Life Products LLC, inventor of Grill Charms www.grillcharms.com
I was recently quoted in an article for the Associated Press on the economy and how it effects small businesses.?
I don’t know of many businesses that it hasn’t effected.?Here’s my quote from the article … ?
â€œDiana Ennen, owner of Virtual Word Publishing, a publicity firm based in Margate, Fla., said she first started seeing a slowdown in payments about six months ago.
â€œIn the last four months, itâ€™s gotten really bad, and almost at a critical point,â€ she said.
Ennenâ€™s late payers tend to be people who work as independent contractors for companies which, because of the uncertain economy, suddenly decide to end the relationship. The independent contractor isnâ€™t getting paid anymore, and in turn is having a hard time paying Ennen.
When clients are behind, Ennen said sheâ€™s careful about how much new work sheâ€™ll do for them.
â€œI try not to get too far in advance, and I have to see some payment,â€ she said. â€œYou canâ€™t do a lot of work now and hope the payment will be there.â€
I also?mentioned that because I do publicity, I will often help my long term clients by generating publicity campaigns to help them make more money.?
How is the economy?effecting you?? What tips do you have to keep your small business or home-based business afloat???Let’s share some ideas.
Diana Ennen, President
Virtual Word Publishing, www.virtualwordpublishing.com?