What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?
I'm still doing it! Petite Social is my part-time job. During the day, I'm a corporate recruiter for a national management-consulting company and am very fortunate to be able to work 100 percent from my home office. I love being able to do something creative, but at the same time keep my feet wet in the corporate world.
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this? How did you turn your dream into a business plan?
The idea of actually starting a business came about in May 2011 and I officially launched Petite Social on July 17, 2011! It feels a lot longer than 5 months!
After hosting 'nicer than your usual' birthday parties for my children, I was presented with several different opportunities to plan social events for friends. Toying with the idea of potentially starting a business, I knew I needed a portfolio and enlisted a talented friend (who was also considering a photography business) to photograph my events.
On a total high from the positive feedback, encouragement, a booked calendar, and seeing my events professionally photographed, I began to think my dream could become a reality and took the leap. It happened pretty quickly, so I haven't had a chance to put that business plan together quite yet.
What was your start-up cost? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
My start-up costs were minimal. I found a designer on Etsy who offered an inexpensive small-business starter package -- logo, business card design, and three-page website. I also purchased a domain name and invested money in professionally printed business and marketing cards.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Time! There's not enough of it! I'm constantly struggling to balance family, friends, and now two jobs. I'm in the business of planning parties so our weekends are usually busy and we do a lot of schedule shuffling around here to squeeze it all in. I think it will be a constant struggle.
Did your friends and family support your dream?
Yes! I wouldn't be here if they didn't.
How did you maintain your confidence when doors were closed in your face, when people didn't get it or said no?
Petite Social's style and services may not be everyone's cup of tea. I totally get it. I cater to a niche clientele and I knew going into this that I need to give the business some time to find my target market. I have to believe that as long as I love and believe in what I do, my work will speak for itself and the business will come.
Don't get me wrong, I have days when I question everything I do and wonder what I've gotten myself into. It's not always rainbows over here!
How long did it take you to get everything off the ground?
One and a half months. Once I decided that I was going to take the leap, I hired a designer for my logo. Once it was ready, I created my Facebook page, uploaded my portfolio on Flickr, and announced the launch of Petite Social through a marketing campaign I created on Mailchimp.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
I have a service-based business, so I didn't have to invest any upfront money in products and inventory. I recouped my start-up costs with my first booked party.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
I'm so lucky that I get to work from home and see my kids as often as I like. I get to make my own schedule and am fortunate to be able to pick and choose what parties/projects I take on. It doesn't hurt that Petite Social isn't my bread and butter, so that takes a lot of stress off! I have the best setup, but the drawback is that I don't know how to shut it off.
Where do you work from?
My home office is a small corner nook in my master bedroom, which has now been overtaken with boxes and boxes of paper, ribbon, glue guns, craft punches, etc. I'd be embarrassed to show you a picture. We're hoping to move in the next year and a little Petite Social studio is a must!
Do you have employees?
No. It's just me, myself, and I for now!
How has your involvement with Martha Stewart's Dreamers into Doers helped you and your business?
I've only been involved with DID since October and am still in the process of making new connections. But the connections and new friends I've made so far have been amazing! It's a fabulous, supportive, and inspiring group of women that I'm proud to be a part of.
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
I think you're missing a huge piece of business if you're not involved in social media in some way! I launched Petite Social with a Facebook page and have been able to grow my business and fan base through daily postings, tagging, networking, sharing ideas I'm inspired by, and promoting businesses and products I love.
I was also "discovered" on Facebook. I had only been launched for about a month and hadn't thought about submitting any of my events until my website was up and running. Chris Nease from Celebrations at Home found me on Facebook, contacted me directly, and asked to feature one of my events. Her feature helped get Petite Social's name recognized -- I will be forever grateful to Chris for welcoming a "newbie" to the party scene. Petite Social has since been featured on Amy Atlas, Hostess with the Mostess, Project Nursery, Love the Day, Catch My Party, P is for Party, The Party Wagon, and several local D.C. blogs. Facebook is an invaluable business and networking tool that every business should be on top of. I tweet sporadically and haven't jumped on the Google+ wagon yet, but all technologies I want to embrace. My goal for 2012 is to launch my own blog!
Do you have entrepreneurial role models? What's so inspiring about them?
My mom has been an entrepreneur since she was 18. She learned how to sew and made a career out of it, owning her own shops back in Vietnam and in the U.S. She may have loved it initially, but it became a job with demanding clients and long hours. And, at the end of the day, she wasn't enjoying it so she never taught me her craft or pushed me to be entrepreneurial. But I guess there's no escaping it if it's in the genes!
So, indirectly, by observing her, I've learned that drive and a relentless work ethic are key ingredients to making it as an entrepreneur. And, you have to love what you do.
And, of course, this community of Dreamers and Doers wouldn't be here without Martha Stewart.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
I never sat down to really think about it until now! I've been in human resources and recruiting for almost 15 years (yikes!). My roles have always involved building relationships, networking, sales, technology, and business. And, apparently, somewhere buried inside was this creativity I didn't really know I had.
So, I guess you can say that I've been able to offer a good blend of business savvy and creativity to get Petite Social off the ground.
What's the best piece of business advice you ever received? If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
There hasn't been any specific advice, but there are two sayings/mantras that have always stuck with me that I try to follow in business and life. The first is "Just do it and ask for forgiveness later." To me, it means make a decision, take the leap, and just do it. If it works out, awesome. And, if it doesn't, at least you gave it a try.
The second is "Onward and upward." I worked for a dot com when I was in my twenties. I was laid off and at the time it was the worst day of my life! I took it very personally and really hard. But in hindsight, the opportunities that came after that were better and even better! I had moved onward and upward.
What is your favorite service that you offer?
Custom-designed events. I like to take an idea/theme/character and then add my own take on it to make it unique.
What is your best-selling service?
I offer 3 levels of service: Virtual Styling, Petite Styling, and Grand Styling. I also offer photo-shoot styling and hope to see this part of my business evolve. The best-selling and most requested service is my Petite Styling. It's the 'Give my party a wow factor' service. It's in essence what my tagline says -- Little Celebrations. Big Style.
Is your "Dreamer" business your full-time job?
No, it's still part-time.
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven't become Doers yet?
Start small or big, but you owe it to yourself to try!
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