Ever feel like you are walking on the tightrope in the circus? I do – pretty much every day. Ever wonder how they keep from falling? Every time they step out, they walk that fine line. I have several buddies in the entertainment biz who have told me the secret is simply this – finding a good sense of balance …and a great safety net, but that’s a different blog entry
I wish there were a clear cut daily schedule for everyone or a one-size-fits-all set of rules, when it comes to achieving balance. But there isn’t – what works best for one person, won’t work at all for the next. So it is up to us as individuals to know ourselves well, and to figure out what works best – for you, for your family, for your business, for your sanity. In my line of work as a musician, and for any entrepreneur, if we don’t literally schedule in some business time, some family time, and some “me” time, it isn’t going to happen and we will be drained in one area or another. By nature, most entrepreneurs are driven, creative people, who love what we do and know that we need to work our tooshies off to survive as entrepreneurs. But as Mompreneurs, we also have to figure family and ‘down time for me’ into the mix, which means a whole lot of giving and taking and balancing.
For me at least, finding time for the work part is easy. And hopefully, we take care of our families by nature, scheduling in the school plays, baseball games, swimming lessons, play time, because we are good Moms. It’s the taking-time-for-me part I have the hardest time with.
Ever wonder why on a plane if you ever need to use the oxygen masks you are instructed to put it on yourself first? It took me a long while to understand that if we don’t breathe in the oxygen first, we can’t function and help anyone else. Aha! So I have permission to take that time for me and to re-charge the “me” battery. A good massage… going for a walk…taking a nice hot bubble bath with a good book and a glass of cabernet… they all work. But I will be the first to confess I am the last one who schedules in that me time. Perfect example – I have a membership to Massage Envy. At last count, I had 18 pre-paid massages waiting for me, and I have yet to put them on my calendar.
I am writing this entry after having just returned from a week and a half vacation with my sweet hubby, child and family. I am well rested, and I wonder, ‘why don’t I do this more often?’ to which I answer, ‘well the trip has been on the calendar for several months.’ Yes, I’m so ready to get back to work. But maybe before I dive back in, I’ll call Massage Envy and get some me time scheduled on the calendar.
I need to get into the habit of blogging here. To get back into the swing of it, I thought that an update on the current state of my business, Baby Fabulous, would be a good start.
This last year has been really crazy; a roller-coaster rid. But then, running a business is always like that, right? If the economy issues weren’t enough, there was sweeping regulation passed that went into effect last year and has had everyone in the children’s industry scrambling ever since.
The end of last year especially, was a very stressful time. We were watching a lot of retailers go out of business, which meant we were losing customers. Everyone who was staying in business was wary of buying anything until they knew what kind of certifications and testing was required – heck, we were nervous about producing stuff.
But we just keep going, kept trying to figure out how to proceed through all the murky waters. And we’re making it so far.
We’ve had our products tested and are CPSIA compliant. We’ve got products that are selling really well for our retailers who have stayed in business. This helps – we have the right price point, we manufacture our products in the US, we specialize in 100% organic baby clothing, and we have stuff that is very gifty. Any one of those aspects would help our sales immediately – having all of them is helping our sales to grow by leaps and bounds.
I interviewed a NW area sales rep yesterday and couldn’t be more excited to bring her on board. I’m sending a product sample to a reputable sales group for the SW region. Bringing on and supporting sales reps would be a good thing for me to blog about here as we continue to build the business. So, the business is growing and we intend to keep it that way.
Rush for this, rush for that, scattered, scattered, scattered. That’s pretty much how I’ve felt since I started my business with my husband a little over two years ago. We started the business so that I could escape the corporate world and the 10 hours a day I would have to spend away from my family.
However, starting a business has required great sacrifices from my family. My stress levels have gone up, up, up and away. I know that as an entrepreneur, I try to do too much and then get down on myself for not making it all happen all the time. Set impossible standards for yourself and you’ll never measure up.
So, this year, my mantra is “Order and Harmony”. The world isn’t going to end if I lighten up on myself a little. So far, it’s working. I take some personal time for myself everyday, I focus on my kids when I’m with them, I spend more time with them on the weekends.
The other thing that has suffered in the last two years is our environment. Our home is packed with business stuff and since moving here three years ago, we haven’t been able to focus on fixing the place up at all. I’m finally coming to the realization that my surroundings and environment have as much to do with my sanity as anything else. So, we’re taking on some projects around the home – without feeling that the business should be a priority instead.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t do anything differently. As crazy as it’s been, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Even though I’m a basket-case half the time, I have met my main goal of being with my children. And there have been good side-effects that I never foresaw, mainly how inspirational it would be for my kids to see us start our own business. They are constantly coming up with their own business ideas, they understand that working hard is a part of life, and they’ve had amazing experiences traveling with us to trade shows and other events.
I love my life, I’m just a little more determined to take time to smell the roses.
Baby Fabulous has participated in both gifting suites and gifting bags – so I get asked all the time “is it worth it?”. I figured this would be the best place to answer the question. I believe that the events and bags are worth it – but it’s a lot more complicated than that.
There are always a lot of factors that go into making anything you do for your company “worth it”. When deciding to participate in a gift bag or gifting event, you have to consider the cost, the product / display / presentation, and the amount of pre-work and post-work you’ll be able to do to promote your company’s participation.
Both the gift bags and gifting suites will require a participation fee and a certain number of products for giveaway. Business owners have called me for advice on gifting suites and they’ve blown me away with the amount that they are being charged. They make me feel lucky to have worked with the event organizers that I have, because at no point have I ever felt I was being ripped off. With cost, you have to consider the level of celebrity and media that will be delivered. You are basically paying for celebrity endorsements and media exposure – so make sure you’re actually going to get your products into the hands of some recognizable names.
The Gifts and Gifting
Next, you have to figure out what you’re going to give away and how many. When we did the gifting bags – they went to big name celebrities and only a select number of celebrities, so we gave away bigger ticket items. For the gifting suites, there will be a mix of celebrities and media, so you’ll want to have smaller or promotional items to give away, in addition to some of your premier items. If you’re doing a gifting suite, put time and thought into your display just as you would for a tradeshow. It matters – you want to stand out.
Making it worth it
Honestly though, it’s what you do before and after the event or gift bags that really determines whether or not the event is “worth it”. You absolutely need to send out press releases and brag brag brag about it. You need to follow up with the media contacts. Let the world know that your company has participated in these invitation-only events.
We got great thank you notes from the gifting bags we did. If you do a celebrity gifting suite, don’t be shy to ask for pictures! That is what they are there for and I guarantee you everyone will be more than happy – this is the payoff – the pictures. Ask them if you can quote them if they say anything about your product. You have to work it to make it worth it. Post the pictures on your website and use the pictures and quotes in your marketing materials.
It is definitely a great opportunity to be invited to these events. I think it is very valuable tool to lend credibility to startups, and on top of that – lots of fun! But make sure you are not being charged extreme costs, that you have in writing what they promise you, and that your product is guaranteed to get into the celebrities’ hands.
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We picked up new boutiques in Orange County yesterday. I do not have a background in sales (beyond waitressing / bartending my way through college), so I have been on quite the roller-coaster ride since walking into my first boutique and making my first pitch.
Two new clients yesterday, one was by appointment, one was a cold-call. The appointment yesterday was the first one I’ve been in where they actually had an area for me “set up”. I was thrilled. It made such a difference to have a few moments to get the line sheets and samples out and arranged in an orderly fashion before giving my spiel.
Luckily, I had quite the drive to get to my appointments and I had spent it thinking of how I would present my line with more of a presentation than I have in the past. I’m used to just launching right in with “Our signature item is..”. Now I start with “Have you heard of Baby Fabulous?” and then “let me tell you a little about the company”. Which is just a two-liner high-lighting the main things about our brand.
As I write this, it sounds weird to me that I haven’t had more of a presentation in the past. But everything is a learning experience. Every single time I make a sales pitch to a buyer, I learn something new about how to improve my pitch the next time…if not quite a few new things.
Our line is finally extensive enough that there is literally something for everyone. I’m completely itching to design the clothing collection I’ve been working on in my mind, but there are a few other things to invest in for the business before launching a new line.
Which is good because it gives me plenty of time to do my visualizing regarding all the buzz there will be around the release of my first seasonal collection. I will get there, all in due time.
We had a rewarding evening out with the kids, doing what THEY love – Chuck E. Cheeze. And we worked so hard all week, meaning our kids sacrificed time with us all week – so we spent a good three hours there letting them run themselves ragged. It was a great way to kick of the three day weekend.
I’ve spent a good part of my morning making sales calls for appointments. I touched base with a couple of our existing retailers and made calls. I met my goal of setting at least two appointments for the OC area this Friday. Last December, I decided to start focusing on sales as if I was training for a marathon. You can read about my training plan on my startupkidsline.com blog here.
In all honesty, I haven’t focused nearly that amount of time on that I planned to focus. However, everyday I try, try, try again. Plus, we’re picking up a sales rep in the southeast!! *YEAH* I am inspired by Leslie’s goals of all selling in all 50 states by the end of the year. I really believe we can accomplish this.
The girl I just got off the phone with was sure that she had seen Baby Fabulous somewhere…it was great to be able to respond “well, we’re in quite a few boutiques, we’ve participated in celebrity events, and we’ve been featured in quite a few magazines, so it could have been anywhere.”
I still have to remind myself to breathe before I dial and to smile and to keep it conversational. I’m learning more and more by the day. I’m supposed to be taking a business intensive Sales seminar in a week or so. I know I’ve been driving the coordinator nuts with trying to contact me. I’ve been so busy and I’ve had email issues on top of it. I finally realized today that I had somehow managed to set my inbox to 10MB so it was bouncing all sorts of stuff. Ah well, I finally fixed it. He thinks I need a lot more than just sales help though. I do, I need help getting our first sales kit together so somebody else can help with sales!
Right now though, I have to run out the door to pick up my daughter from her Spanish immersion kindergarten…then, when I get back, I’ve really, really, really got to send out all the emails I promised in the sales calls I made today. Fifty states by the end of the year!!!
The main theme this week has been production. We’re growing and it’s raising issues with production – mainly keeping up with orders. The blankets are quite a process – each requiring complete customization, from the placement of each letter to the fabrics to cut the letters out of and all the thread colors in-between. Sales are on the up and up and the contractor is working on bringing on more hands capable of the applique work around the letters. It isn’t easy and requires some practice to keep the letter in place on top of the plush without the letter bunching up.
I have lot of ideas for streamlining the process, but they require more funding and right now, we just don’t have it in the budget. We’ll get it into the budget now that we’ve identified the need, but it’s not there now. I felt so hopeless about the thing because we’re pushing almost every blanket to the end of our four-week time limit and I do not like that. The contractor is very positive and I know it will work out, so we’re just saying our prayers and working for the best. I know we can make it happen!
As a mompreneur(R), I have to wear a lot of hats and fighting the fires with production this week has caused me to get behind on some of the stuff I need to do to bring on our first sales rep. Like getting the sales kit together. I did not slack off on sales this week though. I have some appointments next week – which reminds me, I have more than a few emails to send to warm prospects.
My DH, and partner, is committed to taking over the bookkeeping, which could just save my sanity! Help is on the way because it has to be!!
This last week has been incredibly (blessedly) busy, busy, busy. We’ve had all kinds of things going on, but they are GOOD things, so I feel more relaxed than I’ve felt in a long time. Oh, how I hope this lasts!
We had a FABULOUS show at Baby Celebration LA. Here’s the nice thing about being a year+ into the business -we have finally invested in enough display items and signs that each and every show isn’t a bank – breaker anymore. We’ve been so busy that we didn’t get everything together for the show until the day before – no joke.
We did SO much better this year than we did last year. And it wasn’t so much the traffic as it was our confidence, our display, and our ability to apply what we’ve learned from all the shows we’ve done over the past year. It felt really good to have a really successful event that was relatively low-stress. I also want to point out to everyone that might not have the greatest first show that there is no telling how much brand-building you did; how much exposure you got. We heard NUMEROUS times – “oh, I’m so glad you’re here again” or “I was looking for you” and my favorites: “those are THE blankets” and “hey, there’s Baby Fabulous”.
And we’ve been rolling like mad ever since. Which is fabulous! Since there isn’t down-time (I haven’t even had a chance to catch up with everyone on the boards),we’re getting a lot done. I always manage my time better when I have none of it to spare.
As for today, I have offsite appointments, kids to get to and from school, product to ship, orders to drop to the contractor’s, lunches to make, and definitely, definitely, sales calls. So hi ho hi ho, it’s off to work I go…
Well, the one thing that has remained consistent in our business is that pretty much everything we need to accomplish is pushed to the very last minute. Our big event this weekend is no exception. At this point (1 1/2 years in business), we’ve done our share of events. So we have a lot of display materials and signs and of course, plenty of product. I’ve been non-chalant about prepping for this event – which cost us a pretty penny. Now, we have to be out the door tomorrow and I’ve still got to book the hotel.
Every event has been like this – I usually chalk it up to a combination of poor planning and parenthood. There’s just too much going on all the time. Every single day is a balancing act between meetings, kid schedules, sales (my BIG focus right now), processing orders, homework, household errands and chores. Sure, we’re dreaming of the days of house cleaners and personal assistants -but it’s not a reality yet.
This time though, I think that the whole last-minute thing has more to do with burnout than anything else. This is something I just admitted to myself yesterday. It’s been too long since I’ve had a vacation and I think I’m really feeling burnt out. Not the best mode to be in as I go into a two-day show where I must, must, must have my happy-go-lucky-sales-face on.
Or maybe it is. I have to admit, I’ve been a lot less stressed. And that’s even with the really big kicker – we have a scheduled power outage all day today. Yes, the day before we have to leave for an event that we haven’t really prepared for, we will be without power around the office.
And still, I throw up my hands and say “it is what it is”. I have a sneaky feeling that I’m going to learn that being less stressed is actually going to have a big impact on the whole thing. And feeling burnt out might, for the first time, keep me from trying to do too much.
There has been a lot of talk on the mompreneurs message boards about business blogging. So, since I am “Blogging Mom”, and I’ve been blogging for my business and about my business (two separate blogs) for over two years now, I figured I should go ahead and start touching on the subject of blogging in the mompreneurs? blog. I’m hoping to tackle business blogs one subject at a time, but I know I get wordy at times too.
The main questions that all pre-blogging business owners have are: “Is a blog necessary for my business?”; “Why do I need a blog?” and “What am I supposed to write about?”.
Today I’ll touch on why there is no question – you must blog!!
A blog is necessary for your business for a number of reasons, but the top two are the transparency (customer relations) aspect of blogs and the search engine optimization advantages.
Search Engine Optimization
Speaking of blogging – I owe content to another site I’ll be a new blogger on (that was a mouthful), so I’ll talk about “what to write about as a business blogger” next time.
Leave comments if you have questions so I know what they are and can try to answer them!! I’ve had my head in this stuff for years now!