Peggy's road to the career of her dreams may have been a long one, but today she is the proud owner of Comfy Cozy, inc., a successful line of glow-in-the-dark pillowcases designed to help kids conquer their fears of the dark.
What were you doing (career-wise) when you decided to create your own business?
I was the national sales manager for Wee Ones, Inc.
When did you start your business?
I officially founded Comfy Cozy, inc., in 1994. The idea dates back to 1989 though, when I hand-painted the first of my glow-in-the-dark pillowcases.
When did you know that you could really make a go of this? When I was contacted by a catalog company saying they wanted to carry several items.
What inspired you to do this?
The first pillowcases were for my nieces and nephews, so they get credit for the inspiration.
What was your start-up cost? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
I started with $5,000 in savings. Then I got a small business loan from the bank (for $20,000). I used the initial cash to build inventory. Honestly, that part was a mistake. I hadn't started to sell anything, but wanted have inventory when I did.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Marketing and promoting my product was (and is still) the biggest obstacle in growing the business.
How did you maintain your confidence when doors were closed in your face, when people didn't get it or said "no"?
Lots of people didn't get it, "it" being the glow-in-the-dark feature. So many people have asked, "Does it really glow?" as if I'm making it up. That gives me a chance to educate them about the product. I've been told "no" many times in my life -- I don't take it personally. You'd be surprised how many people that at first say no, become a yes!
How long did it take you to get everything off the ground?
I was still working at my "day job" for about a year after I decided to devote all my time to Comfy Cozy. Once I had my first screen-printer hired, it was just a few months before inventory was ready.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
About five years. Within two years of starting the business, I got married and had my first child. Then my youngest son was born 22 months later. I call those the "mommy" years, not so much the "mompreneur" years. It's all growing pains though, because one of my goals was to be able to work from home when I had a family.
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
I really haven't. I'm still getting the hang of it. Guidance in this department would be greatly appreciated. (Calling all Dreamers!)
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
I graduated from the University of Tennessee with a merchandising degree and went straight to work at Dillard's. Being a buyer for a large department store was an education in itself. I had 26 stores that ranged from small downtown stores to one of the largest in the chain (at that time). You have to deal with a wide range of issues. Working for Wee Ones put me on the "other side of the fence," and I learned the challenges of being the manufacturer. I also have a small business adviser thru the SBDC. I attend seminars and get one-on-one advice from them.
What's the best piece of business advice you ever received?
This is a quote I found years ago; it helps me keep going: "Success is a string of failed attempts to get it right." If you keep that in mind, the little setbacks will make you stronger, not defeat you.
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Lots! I would have made a better marketing plan in the beginning, jumped right in to selling to retail stores, started with a smaller inventory. [I would] not have been afraid to grow the business more when my kids were young.
Do you have entrepreneurial role models? What's so inspiring about them?
Betsy McPherson, who founded Wee Ones, Inc., is really inspiring to me. Over the last 10 years, my SuperWAHM friends (an organization of women who started a business at home, while they had kids) have kept me motivated and encouraged me to keep pushing on. As for Martha & Co., they have been so successful that the word "can't" isn't allowed in my vocabulary.
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven't become Doers yet?
Just take the chance. Start out small; grow into the role of "doer" by doing one thing at a time. Be excited, but be realistic too.
Check Out Peggy's Photos