What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?
After nearly two decades working at various firms in corporate graphic design for big business/Fortune 500 companies, we saw our industry changing drastically. The annual report was all but extinct and the art of printing was taking a beating. We were also tired of seeing our best ideas hit the cutting-room floor. We were looking for new chapters in our lives and new ways to utilize our design and printing skills.
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this? How did you turn your dream into a business plan?
Jamie had become increasingly passionate about writing in the past 10 years, both personally and professionally, and was inspired to write about motherhood after her daughter was born seven years ago. She developed a manuscript and book proposal, which was picked up by a literary agent but not any publishers. She ended up putting it on the shelf for a few years, but during this period of soul searching was inspired to refresh it, not as a book but as a product line; she reached out to Kate to join in the fun. Coincidentally, Kate had also been thinking about creating a product line around her passion for cooking and collecting. It wasn't long after their initial conversation that Egg2Cake was born.
What was your start-up cost? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
Let's just say considerably more than what we thought going into it! The initial funding has been a strategic and delicate balance of personal, angel, and government loans. Our biggest expenses in the first year were printing our product inventory and going to that first trade show to begin selling our merchandise. We wanted quality and we wanted to support U.S. manufacturing businesses.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Launching a company during a recession has been by far our biggest challenge. We've become very judicious about every decision we make and amazed at our abilities to solve problems on our own.
Did your friends and family support your dream?
Yes, they say it takes a village to raise a child and it takes one to start a business as well! Our families have been invaluable every step of the way, serving as daily sounding boards and cheerleaders. Both of our husbands are entrepreneurs, so they knew the territory. Jamie's husband and two partners own Openfield Creative, a development company specializing in web and mobile communications; they designed our website for trade and provide ongoing consulting and updates. We also had help from family and former business colleagues with printing and paper resources as well business plan writing.
How did you maintain your confidence when doors were closed in your face, when people didn't get it or said no?
We have always received positive feedback from Day One, even if the recession curbed spending. And it's important to add that the feedback has to come from broader circles than family and friends, for obvious reasons! When you start getting press and a lot of compliments at trade shows, you know you're on to something. We also feel some of our products, such as our Belly Growth Chart for pregnancy, are very unique, and sometimes being the "pioneer" makes for a longer road to mass appeal.
How long did it take you to get everything off the ground?
From initial conversation to an official launch at the National Stationery Show last year took six months: filing business papers, naming, logo design, trademarking, branding, product creation, print coordination, fulfillment, funding, marketing, research, website, trade show preparations, etc. It was simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating!
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
For a business like ours, the cost of entry means that we've got a few years to go before we are truly profitable, but we feel good about our progress.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
By far, the best thing is freedom in planning our days. And this makes for a great setup with children. To be clear, making your own schedule is not about working less; it's about having more control over when and how you do it. Rest assured, taking time out during the day for something else will mean making up for it at another point. But if you're into what you're doing, working odd hours is what you'll naturally do anyway. The drawbacks are managing cash flow and sometimes feeling overwhelmed or vulnerable when a challenge arises. So, get those mentors and networks established from the start!
Where do you work from?
We use our homes as a base, each working from dedicated offices. What probably makes us different, though, is that we are in two different states and two different time zones! We've been working this way for nearly a decade, so there really wasn't any transition when we started the business. In fact, we think it gives us a few more hours in the day due to the time zone differences.
Do you have employees?
Just two felines in each office who seem to be lacking in ambition, drive, and work ethic.
How has your involvement with Martha Stewart's Dreamers into Doers helped you and your business?
It's been great to read all of the start-up stories and be introduced to a few. We love reading how successful people get their start -- there's always a drama to be revealed somewhere! And it's really important to surround yourself with like-minded people for inspiration and support.
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
We use Facebook, Twitter, and our blog to reach out to people and to develop our company brand and voice. As we like to say on our website, there's more to the good life than paper goods, and these tools allow us to speak and create in a much broader space that extends well beyond our current product offering.
Do you have entrepreneurial role models? What's so inspiring about them?
We try to always be reading on the side, and early on Kim Lavine of Mommy Millionaire was a standout, not just for her success but also for how forthcoming she was about how she got started and the challenges and opportunities every step of the way. Everyone needs a mentor or someone who is willing to share it all. And, of course, Jamie's husband, who's in the sixth year of his own entrepreneurial adventure and Kate's husband, who is going on 19 years in his business, are invaluable to us.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
Working in the corporate design world for so long has provided many great experiences and skills in communication, collaboration, presentation, budgeting, and time management. And design itself is based in critical thinking and problem solving. We are also hardworking, independent self-starters by nature. A little OCD goes a long way too! Continuing growth comes from daily occurrences as well as reading, researching, and networking. Obviously, the Internet plays a key role these days in helping people connect and interact beyond geographic boundaries. Lastly, we say if you're doing something you're truly passionate about, you'll find that it is beautifully intertwined with all aspects of your life. What you do in other aspects of your life inspires and drives your business, and vice versa.
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?
Watch how every dollar is spent. You can do a lot more with a budget than you ever imagined just by thinking outside the box!
What is your favorite product/service that you offer?
The journals are closest to our hearts because we have always kept journals of one sort or another and are obsessed with documenting life. So the idea of turning a personal passion into viable work that helps others less inclined is thrilling! We also really like the pregnancy growth chart because we haven't seen anything like it, outside of the tape measures that wrap around the belly. It was inspired by the growth charts that people use with their kids, except this one is horizontal and not vertical. When else do we celebrate girth?
What is your best-selling item/service?
Our Mamentos journals (for pregnancy and first year) are our top sellers. These are unique because they're mama books, not baby books; a nice alternative to the more traditional items in the market. They're closely followed by our door hangers, belly chart, and Momglish dictionary.
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven't become Doers yet?
The big picture, whether you're in Year One or Year Ten, is always daunting, so break everything into smaller, manageable tasks. Then prioritize a list for today, this week, and the long term. Once these three categories are clearly defined, focus wholeheartedly on the immediate tasks and do it like your life depends on it (it does!). Baby steps, one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. So unoriginal, yet so true!
Is your "Dreamer" business your full-time job?
While we did leave our day jobs behind, we each still freelance. It's a great way to feel a bit more secure in the start-up phase and get a break from the endless decision making that goes along with a new business.
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