What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?
I graduated from Washington State University with big dreams of becoming a news journalist. My first job out of college was a part-time job consisting of small projects at Fox Sports Northwest, and I quickly realized I needed a full-time job. For the next six years, I worked in the finance industry, which gave me the experience I needed to grow my own business. When the company I worked for closed its doors, my husband and I decided it was time to start a family. After welcoming Talon Charles into the world, I took on stay-at-home mom duties -- lots of cleaning, cooking, and diapers. Cooking is what led me to where we are today.
A friend of mine joined us one night for dinner and she brought these cute beaded salad servers. I knew I had to have some -- I could not stop thinking about them! Fortunately, I could never find them or the style I was looking for. So I decided to make my own!
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this? How did you turn your dream into a business plan?
I'll never forget it: it was the night of Japan's huge earthquake last March in 2011. I was glued to the TV for hours. Since I can't sit still while watching TV, I took a plain server from my kitchen drawer and my bead kit I've had forever. After I rewrapped it a million times, I sent a picture of it to my girlfriend and she text me right back, "I love it, where did you buy that?!" That was my "aha" moment! I posted a picture on Facebook the next day and it took off from there.
Having both a business side and a creative side, it was a perfect match. I Googled business plans and other people's success stories until I developed my own rough draft. It still needs to be polished a bit for sure -- that's on my "to do" list!
What was your start-up cost? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
Thankfully, my startup costs were about 40 dollars. This went to buying a few servers and a trip to the bead store. From working at home previously, we already had a home office equipped with with a copy machine, fax, and laptop. Luckily, I had a product that I could sell instantly with a picture and reinvest the money right back into my business.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Without a doubt, work and life balance is difficult for me, which I learned during my previous career. I have to make a conscious effort almost daily to switch back and forth. It's hard to do when you are so passionate and truly excited for something. I have my supportive husband and 2-year-old boy who help remind me what comes first!
Another obstacle I’ve had is manufacturing mass production. It's been a problem since day one. I am having troubles scaling my business since I am the only one making my servers. I've had to decline big wholesale opportunities and major whole sale gift shows because I'm not fully equipped wholesale wise yet.
Did your friends and family support your dream?
If it wasn't for my family and friends, we would not even be talking right now! I truly have been blessed in life with amazing friends and family who believe in me as well as in my product. It's hard to say they are not supporters when they continue to order Luv Handles for their friends and family!
How did you maintain your confidence when doors were closed in your face, when people didn't get it or said no?
I don't think it's easy for anyone when they take pride and believe in their work. Coming from a finance/sales background, though, definitely has not hurt in developing thick skin and realizing my product might not be for everyone. One of the first gift shows I applied to be in said no to me. The response was that although my product was lovely it just wasn't a product that fit their show. It was true, I'm not selling antiques so it's probably not going to do well in an antiques show!
How long did it take you to get everything off the ground?
I am humble when I say this: I feel like it did take off right after I posted a photo on Facebook. The reason why I say "humble" is because with other projects it took a lot longer and a lot of tears to get things moving in the right direction. I never take for granted the hard work that is put into reaching your goals.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
Well, I'm definitely not at a profitable position here in my first year of business. Every penny I receive goes right back into my business for inventory, marketing, and advertising. It's just a building process with the hopes of eventually bringing in a real paycheck.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
Being able to work from home and make my own hours is No. 1. It feels amazing to believe in something and watch it come to life! The drawbacks are that I have always been my toughest critic and I am super driven ... which leads me back to my biggest obstacle.
Where do you work from?
I just moved everything off my kitchen counter into our home office, yet I'm still finding crystals and beads all over the house! My son, every time he sees a bead, he picks it up and yells, "MAMA"!
Do you have employees?
My mom and mother-in-law are graciously taking my son two days a week. The things you can get done with six hours to yourself is priceless!
Is your "Dreamer" business your full-time job?
How has your involvement with Martha Stewart's Dreamers into Doers helped you and your business?
It's amazing the power of a group of passionate, hardworking, and driven women from all over the world. I have found some strong women on here, read their stories, and learned from their leaps of faith. The leadership and risks taken by all these women are truly inspiring and an invaluable resource. It also doesn't hurt when the ones I admire happen to "like" my product and post on their social networking sites.
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
Facebook has been an invaluable advertising tool for me since Day One. I have always loved learning about people's paths and how they got to where they are. By the click of a mouse or a "like" button, the connections you can make are unbelievable. The best part is that you just never know who is looking and who has ideas about your work that maybe you didn't even think of. It's so easy, resourceful, and limitless.
Do you have entrepreneurial role models? What's so inspiring about them?
I could definitely name-drop here (Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey), but the one thing I have found so inspiring about entrepreneurs is that each took a leap of faith, turning dreams into actions and creating something out of nothing. How can you not admire a risk taker who believes in her dreams?
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
Google, read, Google, read, Google some more! I have probably reread all the other DID feature stories two to three times each! You can learn so much from everyone's stories -- everyone is unique in their own way, and they keep on keeping on after their mistakes or failures. In building my business today, there have been many times when I had to check back into my past failures remember how I got around them.
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?
My oldest brother said, "Big risks equal big rewards." He offered that to me when I was 23, deciding to go from a cozy salary into straight commission. That particular risk did reward me financially at the time. Also, most recently, from my Chinese fortune cookie: "Failure is the tuition you pay for success." You really just have to go for it sometimes; if you fail, pick yourself up and go for it again, and you'll probably find out why you failed along the way.
What is your favorite product/service that you offer?
My wine stoppers have been my No. 1 sell. My customers keep coming back for more! I joke I must know way too many people who love wine! Coming in a close second, though, is my salad server sets in my Anna Amethyst collection.
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven't become Doers yet?
"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions, all life is is an experiment." I like that saying because it is scary to throw yourself out there and hope people understand or like your work. Especially if you pour your heart, time, and hard work into it. But if you don't try, you just will never know -- and to me that is even scarier.
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