Designer Mom

It’s official!!!

Posted by at 27 June, 2008, 8:34 am

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!

Category : Designer Mom

Still waiting for FAO…

Posted by at 24 June, 2008, 4:04 pm

Trying to keep the positive energy going. Here are some pics from the May 8th Toy Audition at FAO:

Front of FAO Schwarz
Me and the doorman at FAO SchwarzMe and baby sister inside FAO Schwarz
Category : Designer Mom

The waiting game…

Posted by at 20 June, 2008, 12:40 pm

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 ( 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!!!

Category : Designer Mom

FAO Toy Audition

Posted by at 9 May, 2008, 6:34 am

Ok, so I know it’s been waaaay too long since I blogged last. I figured it’s about time for an update! I guess I’ll start with yesterday since it was a pretty exciting day for Storybook Studio.

I had applied online for the FAO Schwarz Toy Audition last week before heading off to Chicago to meet my wonderful and oh-so-talented, fellow Mompreneurs (we had a blast BTW! I learned a lot and it was just so awesome to be inspired by likeminded women with such diverse backgrounds.). I was busy planning and preparing for the trip (and psyching myself up to fly for the first time in 9 years!) so I didn’t really give it much thought. I returned Monday to find that I had received email from FAO! They confirmed that they had received my application and invited me to the audition!! It all happened so fast I really didn’t have much time to prepare or get nervous.

Yesterday morning I woke up early and headed off to the Big Apple, dragging my mom and little sister (who is 17 and was MORE than happy to miss a day of school). We took the train up which was an adventure in itself. I live in Jersey but rarely even venture out of my town! Navigating the railways with connections and path trains…well, it was easy once I figured out how to do it. But the unknown is always (at least for me) a little scary!

We arrived in NYC and took a cab to FAO. I was so exciting to pull up in front of the toy store that I fantasized about when I was a kid. I had been there once when I was younger, and I pretty much thought that somehow, it just wouldn’t be as exciting. I was SO wrong! As soon as I walked past the doorman (who is dressed like a wooden soldier and speaks with a British accent) and stepped inside, all of that magic came back. It was amazing! Of course, I didn’t really have too much time to take it all in. I quickly made my way to the party room where the auditions were being held. I filled out some paperwork, found a seat and chatted with other toy makers while we waited. It was so interesting to learn about their products, and I have no doubt that at least 1 or 2 of the products I saw will either make it into FAO, or do very well in other stores. After about an hour or so, I was called in.

In the audition room, there were two tables with a buyer seated at each of them. I met with a woman who asked me some questions as I unwrapped my kit to display the contents and explained how it worked. I couldn’t believe it, but the president of FAO was also in there. He walked over to my table and asked me some questions. It was amazing just talking to him! The audition was short and sweet. They said they’d contact me in a few weeks to let me know what their level of interest in my product was. I left with a positive feeling about it, but who knows?! Now I wait…and wait…and wait!! It was a great experience no matter what happens, and I’m so glad that I went.

The rest of the day was great too! We explored FAO a bit more and I couldn’t resist picking up a few things for the kids. I ended up walking out with a few huge shopping bags. Then we had lunch at a little Italian restaurant around the corner, and made our way back to Penn station. It was so much fun to spend the day in NYC with my mom and sister – I really need to get back there more often!

In other news, I did get out and visit some local retailers recently and I spent the last month tweaking my product based on the feedback that I received. I ended up adding a hangtag to the side of the box that shows the items you can decorate with the kit and also describes the step-by-step instructions. I also added an item to decorate (either a hair band or tote). I had been considering this when I sourced the kit overseas, but I didn’t want to add another expense. In hindsight, I should have just sourced it. And item for the child to decorate immediately really completes the kit. These changes sort of made me crazy for a few weeks, but in the end, I feel more confident about my product. I’ve also received another wholesale order from a hair salon/gift shop for little girls. They’re ordering kits with the hair bands, which will just be perfect for their store. So I’m officially in 2 stores – I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but just I’m excited to be adding little dots to the map that hangs in my office.

Today it’s a rainy day and I’m actually happy to be stuck inside at home. I’m cleaning, organizing and working on some graphics for clients. I’m tired and sore (the puppy knocked me down the stairs when I got home yesterday. I’m ok. No broken bones ;0) so I think I’ll just take it easy. I’ll be back SOON with more updates. I promise!!

Category : Designer Mom

My first store!

Posted by at 6 April, 2008, 3:34 pm

I’ve been meaning to get on here for days and just haven’t had a split second! It seems like I’ve been running in circles since the kits arrived, and I’m desperately trying to settle into some kind of routine. It probably sounds crazy, but I’m not yet comfortable sitting at the helm of my ‘empire’ just yet. It feels funny to be making rules and policies up as I go along and just a little scary to be winging it.

So although nothing huge has happened since the last blog post, I do have a little happy news to share. I went on my very first sales call on Friday and I’m happy to say – it was easier than I’d imagined. She loved my packaging and the fact that I wasn’t skimpy on the supplies in the kit, and seemed very happy that the box fits perfectly in one of their gift bags. It’s a very stylish gift boutique with a fantastic mix of wedding, baby, stationery and toy items. I was able to sit down with the store owner and we talked for a while. She actually lives 2 streets over and her son is in kindergarten with my daughter! Anyway, we’re going to have a craft party at her boutique for a group of about 6-10 little girls. It’s kind of like my ‘coming out’ party, and I’m very excited about it. This week I hope to knock on some more doors. I’m so happy to be finally be at this point, and all I want to do is sell, sell, sell!! I have also contacted a few boutiques by email and have sent samples which they will receive this week.

I finally sent my press release out via PRWeb and received a voicemail from a producer of a tv series in FL. Of course I called back immediately but found that she was gone for the day. AAhhh!! So that’s been quite a cliff-hanger – I tried hard not to think about it all weekend! I hope to be in touch with her tomorrow. I’ll be sure to let you all know if it turns out to be anything!

Category : Designer Mom

They’re heeeere!!!!

Posted by at 17 March, 2008, 6:58 pm

Well, I wish that I could say that I was over-the-moon excited about receiving my much anticipated 1st shipment of product, but to be honest, today was just an absolute blur. As much as I tried to prepare and believe that I was ready for it to arrive – I wasn’t. Most days I feel like I’ve come a long way on this journey but nothing could have prepared me for the surreal experience of seeing 2000 unassembled kits on pallets in the middle of my husband’s warehouse driveway.

As I stood there staring at pallets of unsold product, the only thing that stopped my heart from leaping out of my chest was my ‘too tight’ bra. I truly do belive in my product and feel that I have a clear vision for the direction I’d like the business to go. However, starting/running a business can be exciting and overwhelming all at once. Each task that you check off of your never-ending list of action items is a baby step in the process – and you truly do need to crawl before you walk. So here I am, almost two years to the day of when the concept hit me and I started the ball rolling with product design, sourcing, and making a million decisions that have all led to this final product. Up until now, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Why shouldn’t I? I have crossed my t’s and dotted my i’s – I’ve ‘been there, done that’ and I’m no longer a newbie in this game – right?? WRONG!!!!

In a nutshell, there are some things wrong with the shipment – things that coulda, shoulda, woulda been avoided if I had known that I needed to constantly remind the factories about certain things. I should never have left anything up in the air thinking, “Nahhhh, I’m not going to bother them about that again. They know what they’re doing’. NEVER take anything for granted, and even if it’s something basic, do not assume that someone else will just take care of it.

Overall, nothing was horribly wrong. Just things that are time consuming and aggravating, and time is money, and…why didn’t I have the overseas factory create ‘retail ready’ packaging??!! Hmmm? Oh…because I wanted the box to look like a mini studio with the peaked top and awning. Not sure if it was worth the trouble at this point…in fact, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t (filing this under ‘lessons learned the first time around). The contents of each kit were supposed to be poly-bagged together. Guess what? That didn’t happen. Each paint color was separated by color, batched in 20 unmarked boxes of 100 tubes.

So…armed with a box cutter, Sharpie and packing tape, I went through each box in the shipment, marking the contents on 3 sides of each box, separate each item and stack them accordingly in the warehouse. I was actually using a hand truck…the guys were really getting a kick out of watching me schlepping back and forth with boxes stacked on the dolly so high that I couldn’t see over them. I was definately feelin’ the girl power ;0)

First production run boxes in warehouse

Each kit will need to be assembled (even the stencils did not arrive collated). They forgot the velcro closure for the box, so I will need to have that sent…blah, blah, blah…I won’t bore you with the details, but to say that I’m overwhelmed and feel like I am right back at the starting line again, would be an understatement. Today my confidence went right out the window and it was replaced by fear and doubt. I hate days like this!!

But the good news is that today is just about over. The kids are in bed, my feet are throbbing, my eyes are closing…and tomorrow is a new day. I will spend a few more hours at the warehouse getting things organized, and putting together some kits to ship to press contacts and some potential buyers. Now the fun begins I suppose. I will be studying Leslie’s Blog (Grill Charms) because she just hit the ground running with her product and racked up so many sales in a very short period of time. Go Leslie!

I will be back soon to update you all on my progress and I promise to have more positive things to say about all of this ;0)

Category : Designer Mom

Come and join the Ultimate Blog Party!

Posted by at 7 March, 2008, 12:56 pm

What better way to launch a brand new blog than the Ultimate Blog Party! Come in join the fun, and enter to win great prizes!!

Hello and welcome! I’m Melissa Yamello, owner/creator behind Storybook Studio, a recently launched company who provides quality art and craft activities for children. I am part of the wonderful group, (which is where this blog is hosted) but you may visit our website at

For the ultimate party fun, don’t forget to check out our new product – ‘Sweet Shoppe Birthday Party’ fabric creativity kits!
Also, be sure and visit our free project archive for easy and fun crafts for kids, and sign up for our ‘Kids Craft Blast’ monthly newsletter!

Category : Designer Mom

Rule #1: Expect the unexpected!

Posted by at 7 March, 2008, 9:53 am

This first post to my blog was supposed to be upbeat and chock-full of interesting stories about my adventures in ‘mompreneurship’. I was going to tell you all about how excited I am that my very first production run comes in to the port today, and about all of the things I really need to be doing. But reality hit me with a big nasty sinus infection, and I am now typing my debut blog on my laptop, sick in bed with 2 dogs and 2 kids (who are also sick) with balled up tissues sprinkled about.

This kind of day happens to moms (and mompreneurs) everywhere, all the time. One minute you can be racing off to an important meeting, (or if you’re lucky, a long-awaited dinner with the hubby) and the next minute finds you rushing home to care for your sick child. You have to do a complete ‘about face’ and your priorities change in a snap.

Unpredictability is part of the job description when you’re a mompreneur as well. You might be fully engrossed in one aspect of your business – then WHAM! You received a call from your sourcing agent who tells you that you need to make a decision on something RIGHT NOW. Then WHAM again – the school called and your forgot to pack a snack for your child (then the ‘bad mommy’ guilt kicks in). This is the way it’s been for the last 2 years, as I’ve clumsily fumbled through this journey of having a product manufactured. I had no clue what to expect, or what would be expected of me. I don’t think you can prepare for it – you just do it.

Anyway, I just want to say that I’m so happy to be part of this fantastic group of Mompreneurs and will definately be blogging away regularly, as soon as I come out from under this sick cloud that seems to be hovering over my house!

**UPDATE** Just got a call from the husband – he’s sick now too and on his way home. Another baby to take care of – they’re going to have to quarantine my entire house!

Category : Designer Mom