Before I launched Petite Priss I was beginning my tenth year as a professional in the marketing and communications industry. In 2009, I worked as a marketing account executive for the largest book distributor in the world. I worked with a fantastic team and I really enjoyed going to work every day. However, I knew I was supposed to be doing something more meaningful for myself and for others.
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this? How did you turn your dream into a business plan?
I launched Petite Priss in February 2009 for three main reasons: First, although I worked for many notable organizations during my career, I wanted to be more than just the person who implements someone else's ideas or follows through on someone else's decisions -- I wanted to implement my own big ideas and be the decision maker for causes that were important to me. Secondly, I am a military spouse and we move around a lot. I wanted to start a business that would be just as mobile as my family. As I supported my husband through his military career, I still felt it important to go after my own dreams. And lastly, I have always had a strong passion for causes related to girls and young women. I wanted to do something that would be fun and relatable to girls, but also encouraging to them at the same time. I wanted to start a business that would not only be profitable but purposeful.
I turned my dream into a business plan by taking it step by step. I made sure that I didn't get too far ahead of myself. I set achievable goals. I think sometimes we set our goals too far out and then we get discouraged when things don't pan out. I decided to go for the low-hanging fruit first and go for higher and higher fruit over time. That strategy allowed me to stay encouraged throughout the challenges I faced. I wrote out my plan and my vision many times. The one thing I didn't do was talk too much about my plan to other people -- I think that is how I knew I was on the right track. We search for approval from others when we aren't sure of ourselves.
If there is one thing I could pinpoint as to how I turned my dream into a plan, it was my faith. I had no idea how I would get it all done and if it would work, but I did not let my fear of the unknown stop me from moving forward. I formed a plan in my heart, wrote it down from my mind, and followed through with my faith. I think that is the key to success in anything you plan to do.
What was your start-up cost? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
It cost $9,000 to get the business off the ground. I paid for all of my start-up costs by using my paychecks from my marketing job and doing freelance marketing for other clients. Around the same time I decided to launch the business, two people contacted me about building websites for their business and creating some marketing materials for them. Things just started happening for me -- that was my sign that this was meant to be. I think when you have faith in something and you do your part, you'll start to find that things will start happening to push you along.
I bought all of my initial spa supplies and party decor with my paychecks. Every two weeks when I got paid, I would buy stuff. It took me three months to get my inventory where I wanted it to be, but I remained patient. I used the money I received freelancing to pay for a new website, advertising, and promotional materials, and I purchased a truck. When I came up with the idea to do mobile parties I didn't even have a vehicle. I did my first party by driving all of our supplies to the party in two separate cars! It's funny now when I think about it. But once again, I was determined to do this in spite of all obstacles.
What was the biggest obstacle?
My biggest personal obstacle was pushing past my fear. My biggest business obstacle was finding the money for advertising. When I started requesting rate cards to place ads, I got discouraged because it felt like it would be impossible to pay for the advertising I would need in addition to all the other costs of starting the business. Fortunately, the media company I worked with in Nashville was flexible and very supportive of small business owners. Advertising is still one of our most challenging obstacles because it is so expensive. We have had to find some creative ways to get the word out about our services. This is where my marketing background has come in handy.
Did your friends and family support your dream?
I have had many ideas over the years and my friends and family always knew I was capable of doing something great, but I don't think people really take you seriously until they see you moving forward with your dreams. They were supportive in that they did not discourage me, but they didn't get really excited until they saw me putting my plan into action. I knew I couldn't wait for people to cheer me on before I got moving with my plans -- I had to be my own cheerleader. I had to have enough excitement and energy to light a fire under myself to get going. If I had waited for someone else to do it, I would still be waiting. When my family and friends saw me making moves, they started moving with me and they have wholeheartedly supported me in every way since then. They are the ones that keep me afloat now on days when I feel a little deflated.
How did you maintain your confidence when doors were closed in your face, when people didn't get it or said no?
I just kept moving. There was no mental or emotional exercise I could do to keep my confidence up. I had to physically keep moving. I had to keep making phone calls, keep getting my supplies, keep building my website, keep getting the word out, and keep executing my plan no matter what. I knew I couldn't dwell on rejection. I couldn't give it a moment of my time because if I did those negative thoughts and feelings would take over, slow me down, and my business would be over before it started.
When I kept moving, things started shaking! I had people come out of nowhere to help me and support me. I had no idea how I would afford professional photos of my parties to promote them. The first option slammed the door in my face, but I did not let that deter me -- I kept moving. Out of the blue, a young lady I'd just met through my networking offered to take professional photos of my first party for free. She also blogged about Petite Priss on her website. It was amazing how things just fell into place -- I couldn't have planned it better. That's when I realized that a closed door does not mean I get to have a pity party and quit. It means keep going, because something better is around the corner.
How long did it take you to get everything off the ground?
It took about 3 months to plan, purchase all the supplies, and promote enough to get the first parties rolling. Networking was key. I reached out to organizations that work with girls in the community. I volunteered to offer gift certificates and sponsorship packages to schools, nonprofits, and church organizations. Having the courage to put myself and my vision out there really helped get things going.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
It took 17 months. I had to make sure we limited our consumable supplies and find ways to make sure supplies lasted longer so they wouldn't have to be replenished so often. I had to be smarter about promotions and discounts. You cannot run a profitable business if you are constantly discounting your services or products -- I learned that the hard way. My business became profitable when I started streamlining my processes and procedures while working hard to keep the calendar booked with events. Once I had a regular stream of events and I kept my overhead down, I was out of the red.
The fact that we are a mobile business helps as well. I don't have the responsibility of paying a lease on a storefront and other monthly bills. I took about eight months off when I had my daughter and it didn't harm my business because if I am not running parties I am not losing money.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
I love the fact that I don't have to wait for someone else to approve my ideas. I can have a great idea and implement it right away. If it fails, then at least I know I tried. There is nothing worse than having an idea and it being shot down before it's given a chance. That is the one thing that frustrated me the most working for other people. I also love the fact that I am the decision maker. When something happens, I have the authority to manage it my way. It's also great that I get to run a business that caters to a cause that is close to my heart.
The drawbacks of being my own boss are sometimes I miss the support of a team around me. I am just one person and as my business grows, I can feel the pressure on me growing as well. It can be overwhelming at times. I have decided this year to pace myself and focus more on the structure and organization of the business now that I believe we have a good formula in place. Organization is going to be key in reducing the pressure on me and my stress level.
Where do you work from?
I operate the administrative side of my business from my home. That has been a plus because it allows me to spend more time with my family. During the week, my schedule is pretty flexible. On weekends I am out doing parties. All of our events take place at our customers' residences or any locations they select for their parties.
Do you have employees?
I have five independent consultants that run Petite Priss events in other cities. These ladies hold a contract and trademark license with Petite Priss, LLC, to operate the business in their respective communities. Each consultant has contracted team members to assist with parties in their area.
Is your "Dreamer" business your full-time job?
Yes. When we moved again in 2010 I started to look for another job, but then I realized this was a great opportunity for me to give my all to my business. I've been focused on Petite Priss full-time now for more than a year.
How has your involvement with Martha Stewart’s Dreamers into Doers helped you and your business?
Although I am part of so many online communities, Dreamers into Doers was the first one where I found so many women like myself, working hard to make their vision a reality and staying strong in spite of all obstacles. The networking and support aspect of the site is invaluable.
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
We have been using Facebook as our main social-media portal to interact with our customers. We also have our Facebook page linked to our Twitter page. We have a blog that, I admit, we need to give a little more attention to. One of my goals this year is to post more timely and thought-provoking content to the blog. We recently launched a Pinterest account; we have found that one of the best ways to get our customers to interact with us is to share unique ideas with them. If we see an original party idea, a gorgeous cake, or an original craft idea that aligns with our mission, we will share it with our fans; they seem to love it. Quick, visual tidbits of fabulousness really seem to draw a lot of response from them!
Do you have entrepreneurial role models? What’s so inspiring about them?
Yes, there are several people who inspire me. What inspires me most about them is how they have established themselves as experts in their areas of business. When your target audiences begin to view you as the go-to person in your industry, that's what takes your business to the next level. There has to be something that sets you apart from the pack. What I have noticed most about the entrepreneurs that inspire me is that they are consistent and they are personable. Those two qualities have enabled them to build solid brands and a loyal following among their customer base. My goal is to establish Petite Priss as a brand in much the same way.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
I have a BA in communications and public relations and an MA in education. My background in communications and working in diverse industries the past 10 years has helped me with the most important parts of my business: planning, creativity, and customer service. My career allowed me to witness the inner workings of a business. As a marketing professional, I worked with everyone from the CEO of the company to the mailroom employees. Marketing people are always in the mix of everything within an organization.
I also have the ability to think outside the box. I was challenged to be innovative when I worked in marketing. I brought those skills over to my business. Everything I learned and experienced during my marketing career helped me as I built my own business. I also believe my background in education and working with youth during my career helps me interact well and connect with our most important customers -- our Petite Priss girls. I continue to grow and learn by researching my industry and continuing my education through workshops and seminars that focus on the areas I need improvement in.
I want to create more original and unique products, so I plan to enroll in a graphic design program this year. The most important way I continue to learn is to always view my business from the outside in. When I do a party, I step back and look at things from a customer's perspective. By doing so, I learn new ways to make things more efficient and make our services more innovative each and every time.
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?
The best advice I have gotten is just to keep doing what I am doing. A lot of people see what we have accomplished and they recognize that we are on to something special. The advice I receive over and over again from friends, family, customers, and strangers is to just stay on the path I am on and keep working hard. That tells me that we are doing something good and if I just keep working, it will be worth it.
If I had to do it over again, the only thing I would change is my organization strategy from the start. I have done a lot of administrative cleanup that could have been avoided if my structure and organization were solidly in place from the beginning. Tasks such as setting up a digital archive for event contracts, bookkeeping processes, and team trainings are things that I would dedicate a lot more planning time to if I had to start over.
What is your favorite product/service that you offer?
Our personalized journals are my favorite product that we offer right now. My plan is to continue to launch more confidence-inspired products. I feel our girls are bombarded with negative messages. Our goal is to add positive messaging to the things girls use on a daily basis, such as journals, mirrors, brushes, hair bows and more. Our Valentine's Day bows say, "I love me!" I love these products because they're fun but they serve a greater purpose.
My favorite service we offer is our "Prissy with a Purpose" program. Through this program, underprivileged girls can be nominated to receive a free Petite Priss party. And this past summer, I conducted free motivational workshops for two nonprofit organizations in the city. The workshops culminated with the girls doing speeches on what confidence means to them. I love doing stuff like that within the community -- it not only builds awareness about Petite Priss but it is in total alignment with our mission. The girls who most often need encouragement can't always afford to book a party. Through our nonprofit partnerships, all girls have an opportunity to become official Petite Priss girls.
What is your best-selling item/service?
Our best-selling service is our Petite Premiere party package. It includes 12 girls and comes with four spa services, as well as all the must-haves for a party, like goody bags and personalized water bottles. Our goal is to be a one-stop shop for our customers. Anything they need for their party, we can customize a package to make their planning stress-free and convenient. We can provide everything including photography and the cake. We are slowly moving into general party planning and soon will be able to coordinate events for our customers that go beyond our foundational scope of services.
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven’t become Doers yet?
If you feel you don't know enough, enroll in a class to learn more, find a mentor who can guide you, or train yourself if you have to.
Lack of knowledge is not an excuse. If you feel you don't have enough money, start slowly like I did. Build your business one paycheck at a time or one dollar at a time if you have to.
Lack of funding is not an excuse. If you feel you don't have enough support, recognize you alone have enough power to get things started. The support you need will come through from the most unexpected places if you just put yourself out there.
Lack of cheerleaders is not an excuse. There is no excuse for allowing your life to pass by without living it to its full purpose. Any thoughts that run through your head that tell you otherwise should be ignored because those thoughts are rooted in fear.
I know it's hard to ignore because fear is loud, but you must remember faith is more powerful. Stop letting fear keep you from reaching your true potential.
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