After a 20-year career working as a restaurant manager and maitre d' for Wolfgang Puck, I had taken a break to be at home with my two sons. When they both entered school, I needed to do something, both creatively and financially.
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this? How did you turn your dream into a business plan?
I had learned how to sew from my grandmother, and while I was pregnant sewing became my "nesting." Funny enough, many of the things that I made were inspired from Martha Stewart Baby magazine! After creating for my own babies, I started making things as gifts for friends, which then led to requests for custom items. A dear friend told me about Etsy back in 2007, and I was motivated to set up a shop there. At first I had difficulty navigating the ins and outs, and became discouraged. I tried eBay and setting up a website, but found it hard to get customers that way. After a short absence, I returned to Etsy and delved into their help resources, trying to learn and perfect as much as I could. I have yet to do an "official" business plan, but have notebooks full of planning and research.
What was your start-up cost? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
My start-up costs continue over time. I already had a sewing machine and fabrics [when I started]. As I have made money, I have put it back into my business for supplies, logo designs, a website and SEO, photography, advertising, and help with computer issues and marketing.
What was the biggest obstacle?
My biggest obstacle initially was getting seen. Much of my current business is return business, from all around the globe. But it has taken hours on the computer and lots of advertising to get out there. I also am challenged by the number of hours in the day!
Did your friends and family support your dream?
I have the most amazingly supportive family and friends! They are right behind me every inch of the way, and I could never accomplish what I do without them.
How did you maintain your confidence when doors were closed in your face, when people didn't get it or said no?
I was really disappointed after my initial try with Etsy, Ebay, and my website. Then I did a local craft show, which completely bombed, costing me much time and money. I just kept trying something new and reworking my goals. I never would have survived this period without the support of my family and friends.
How long did it take you to get everything off the ground?
I opened shop on Etsy in 2007, which was when I came up with the name Dolce Dreams and all of my tags, descriptions, pricing, branding, etc. I still have my "mom job," too, so this has been part-time. It is in the last year that it has all come together, and I am finally seeing things go where I have wanted them to be.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
I have continued to put any profits back into my business, buying supplies in bulk and fine-tuning operations. In the last year I have started seeing a profit.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
I love that my sons see firsthand what it is like to have your own business. I love all of my customers and enjoy the communication that comes with creating custom work. The drawbacks are when I can’t just go home and turn off my computer or take a day off … I work 24/7.
Where do you work from?
I work from home, or from my BlackBerry wherever I am!
Do you have employees?
No, I do not have employees. I entertain the thought for the future, but for the moment I enjoy making everything myself.
How has your involvement with Martha Stewart’s Dreamers into Doers helped you and your business?
I only recently became acquainted with Martha Stewart’s Dreamers into Doers site, and am terribly excited as I am a huge fan of Martha Stewart and all of the talent involved in her world. I am really looking forward to meeting all of the inspirational Doers and getting involved in all of the networking opportunities here.
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
Social media is a lot of work! But incredibly beneficial. I have a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and am now a member here on Dreamers into Doers. I was a 2011 winner of the StartUpNation Leading Moms in Business competition with the help of social networking. Participating in giveaways and product reviews on blogs has been a huge source of exposure for me.
Do you have entrepreneurial role models? What’s so inspiring about them?
Ever since I was 8 years old with my own cookie business, my mother has instilled in me the drive to be an entrepreneur.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
Sewing and creating is easy for me -- I love it and enjoy it. Computer technology is not one of my talents, so this is where I have needed help. I have learned and accomplished so much in that area, more than I ever thought I’d be able to do. When I am stuck, I reach out for help by Googling the problem at hand, asking my husband, or hiring a specialist. I try to challenge myself and learn something new every day.
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?
Pricing, photography, and customer service all come to mind. My regrets are not buying enough of some fabrics and too much of others.
What is your favorite product/service that you offer?
My personal favorite is my lavender and flaxseed eye pillows -- I can’t sleep without mine.
What is your best-selling item/service?
My best selling item would be the lovey clutches -- they are the perfect personalized baby gifts! I am selling more and more quilts; I just sent one to Greece personalized with the name in Greek letters, which was really neat.
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven’t become Doers yet?
My advice would be to set your goals every week and to do one thing every day to get you where you want to be. If something is not working, make some changes. And, whatever you do, don’t give up!
Is your "Dreamer" business your full-time job?
Dolce Dreams has been a part-time job and is rapidly becoming full-time!
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