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entrepreneur

Fashion, Living

Molly Fienning Takes Babiators to New Heights

March 7, 2017
babiators

Babiators are easily one of our top “go-to” brands for our kids, so we’re excited to introduce you to their co-Founder, Molly Fienning. After graduating from Harvard in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Molly lept into a career at IBM. But as the legend goes, she was soon selling covetable kids eyewear from her kitchen table and gaining a cult following with one of the best customer service policies we’ve encountered (you lose ‘em, they’ll replace them!). Read on to hear what Molly has to say about making a dream into a reality.

babiators

Babiators hold a special place in our hearts. I mean, is there anything cuter than a baby in sunglasses? How did the idea for Babiators originate and did you really grow the brand to a multi-million dollar business in under 5 years from your kitchen table?

I might be biased, but I agree there are few things cuter than a baby in shades! The idea for Babiators originated from my time as a military spouse. My husband Ted was a fighter pilot for the Marine Corps, which issues aviator sunglasses to protect their pilots’ eyes from sun damage and glare. I thought, why not make aviators for babies – aka “Babiators” – to protect kids’ eyes too?

When we launched, my partner Carolyn and I cold-called hundreds of children’s boutiques from our dining tables. Within nine months, we were retailing our shades in 75 stores and had signed Nordstrom up to become our first major account! Today, six years later, we’re in 3000+ doors and Nordstrom is still a great partner of ours (we’ve also added major accounts Bloomingdales, Saks, Buy Buy Baby, Diapers.com and others). We’ve sold over 1 million pairs and generate ~ $6 million in revenue annually.

babiators

“When we launched, my partner Carolyn and I cold-called hundreds of children’s boutiques from our dining tables. Within nine months, we were retailing our shades in 75 stores and had signed Nordstrom up to become our first major account! Today, six years later, we’re in 3000+ doors and Nordstrom is still a great partner of ours. We’ve sold over 1 million pairs and generate ~ $6 million in revenue annually.”

Wow! Your growth is amazing! You just launched a new frame style, The Navigator. We’re so excited to have a new style option for our little ones to get them to wear shades. Why is it so important for kids to protect their eyes and how do Babiators accomplish this? 

We believe that kids are born to explore, a truth we love and wouldn’t change for the world. Outdoors on awesome explorations, however, children receive three times the annual sun exposure as adults. In addition, kids’ eyes are even more susceptible to sun damage than adults’ eyes because of their larger pupils and clearer lenses.

At Babiators, we’re spreading the word that 100% UV sunglasses aren’t just a stylish fashion accessory, they’re a healthy necessity. No matter what the brand, we’d love for all parents to protect their kids’ eyes from harmful UV rays.

babiators

You co-founded the company with your husband. Do you have any advice for mamas wanting to start businesses and successfully work with their spouse? Any tips you’ve learned along the way?

I love working with Ted. There is no one I trust more in the world, and our goals are completely aligned for the business. That said, there have definitely been moments that weren’t easy. We learned that it’s important to set boundaries so “talking shop” doesn’t take over the relationship (for us, the rule is no work conversations after 7pm). We also love using the MBTI personality type analysis. There’s a short online test you can take to learn your MBTI type and thus discover how you work/communicate/stress differently from your spouse to honor your own and his or her needs.

babiators

“Outdoors on awesome explorations, however, children receive three times the annual sun exposure as adults. In addition, kids’ eyes are even more susceptible to sun damage than adults’ eyes because of their larger pupils and clearer lenses.”

You’ve created a cult following with your brand. What was the moment when you first realized your business was a success and what did that feel like?

I first realized we were onto something in a hospital at 3AM, the day after our first son was born! I was feeding him and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I picked up the latest issue of US Weekly (while my husband slept on the ground next to me). I opened the page to a photo of Mariah Carey’s baby nursery, where her son, Morocco, was propped up in his crib and stylin’ in our Black Ops Babiators!

I literally jumped for joy on the hospital bed after seeing Babiators in print for the first time. My husband woke up startled by my bizarre behavior and we broke into laughter. We have since seen some of the coolest Hollywood kiddos around sporting our Babiators from the children of Sarah Jessica Parker to Khloe Kardashian to Rachel Zoe. Ellen DeGeneres even featured us on her annual Mother’s Day Giveaway episode – a pinch-me moment, for sure.

babiators

You have a charitable component to Babiators as well, delivering sunglasses to hospital pediatric units. Tell us more about that.

For the past few years, we’ve donated hundreds of pairs of Babiators to hospitals around the country, and we’re now ramping up a larger effort this year – which we’re calling our Future’s So Bright campaign. 

This campaign was inspired by a brave boy named Finn Blumenthal, who was born with Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) disease and whose mother was looking for a fun and heartfelt token to lift spirits after her three-day old son’s open heart surgery. The nurses brought him back to his mama in our Rockstar Red shades and his newborn hair styled in a mini-mohawk! It had a profound impact on us that Finn’s family’s “bright spot” during those difficult days at the hospital was Finn styling in his new Babiators. He is an inspirational 2.5-year-old and a VIP member of the Babiators family!

This month, we launched limited edition “Shark Finn” Babiators (in shark gray, as sharks are Finn’s fave animal). We’re donating 10% of proceeds to the American Heart Association for CHD research. Please check them out for Finn!

 

Through this Future’s So Bright campaign, our dream is to offer more moments of fun and play to other children facing difficult times in hospitals. If a pair of Babiators can make one sick child happy during his or her hospital stay, that’s enough for us.

babiators

Quote you love: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Best advice you’ve ever been given?: Life is short, do what you love.

babiators

What are your 3 pearls of mama wisdom?

  1. Love What You Do. Building a business is a long road, so it is important to truly love what you’re doing. You might not love every aspect of your job, but a general feeling of excitement to show up most days and produce work is crucial. Otherwise, it is easy to burn out.
  1. Be flexible.  If something isn’t working, it is ok to adjust your path. We all learn through experience and need to be adept at changing course (instead of holding steadfast on a failing decision and going down with the ship).
  1. Persevere. As mothers, we all know that there is no quick fix to success. We’ve learned resilience as we love, care and fight for our children. It is not dissimilar for your business. A million small decisions contribute to whether or not your business thrives. Take that next baby step directly ahead of you, and keep on trucking.  

babiators

“If something isn’t working, it is ok to adjust your path.”

Exlusive heymama perk! Want to get your kiddos geared up in the latest shades? Babiators has offered 25% off using code HEYMAMA25 until April 1st, 2017.

Molly Fienning is the co-Founder of Babiators and lives with her husband and two children in Charleston.

Business, Fashion

A Sit Down With… Iva Pawling, Founder of Richer Poorer

January 25, 2017
Iva Pawling

We have a special place in our hearts for anyone who is a self-described Chief Fire-Put-ter Out-ter. Amen mama. Iva Pawling is the co-founder and CEO of Richer Poorer, a line of innerwear that includes socks, the perfect T’s and the newly launched, bralette, that has the attention of the editors at Racked. Only 5 years after her initial launch, Iva’s company was acquired. This California mama didn’t sail off into the sunset after her sale, instead she launched another company, Pointe Studio. Bravo!

Iva Pawling

We live in loungewear and love what you’ve done with your line, Richer Poorer. What do you think has been the secret to your success?

There’s no secret! Lot’s and lot’s of hard work. My co-founder Tim and I have been really methodical about how we’ve grown Richer Poorer. What started as an idea for a sock brand and really developed into this idea of “Innerwear” over the course of a few years of listening to our customers and understanding what it was they wanted next from us. Our decision to move into new products very much comes from them, along with what is it that we’re all wearing around the office that we want more of. Understanding what exists in the market and what we can make better has been essential to our growth.

What was your background in prior to starting your company and how did it influence you?

I’ve been in fashion since college. I started my career as an assistant at Kate Spade in New York. At the time, they had a great program for newbies where you would spend your first few months jumping from department to department for a few weeks to really understand how the machine operates as a whole. From there, you determine what spot suits you and the company best. It was such an in incredible first job experience. After that, I moved to Hawaii and I worked in PR, focused on (as best as you can on the islands!) fashion for a small firm. I then moved to California to work for my sister who has the jewelry brand, Gorjana. That’s really where I cut my teeth in the world of a new brand and what it took to grow it. I got bit by the entrepreneur bug there and left after about four years to start Richer Poorer.

When you launched your women’s t-shirts, they sold out in a day (wow!). How did you market these shirts and what surprised you the most about those incredible sales?

It was so exciting! Our product development team worked their tails off on our t-shirts and muscle tanks to make sure we were releasing a great product into the market. We mimicked our men’s “In My Tee” campaign that everyone loved, where we featured friends of the brand, young and old, and told little bitty stories about who they are and what they do. It made it really relatable while still feeling aspirational. It also helped that women were tired of spending $100 on a cotton tee-shirt and our $30 price point made it a simple purchase. Oh, press from Vogue and Who What Wear didn’t hurt!

Iva Pawling

You went from startup to getting acquired. What did you learn during that process and would you do anything differently?

Anyone that has gone through the acquisition process will tell you just how arduous it is. My best advice is to be loose with expectations. No matter what side of the deal you are on, buying or being bought, It takes a lot of effort and commitment to get through it, and it often times isn’t a simple and smooth process. I, like many women, want to keep people happy and it’s hard to do during an acquisition. We were lucky to have a really good group on the other end that tried to make it as painless as they could, but it’s just tough. And most importantly, have a great attorney.

Do you have a company mantra or set of ideals that mean something to you? If so what are they?

I have two! Honest Hustle and Elevate Everyday.

Honest Hustle speaks to our humble beginnings and how we operate as people and as a company. Tim and I started Richer Poorer with littler more than a few dollars and determination. There was no seed round to hire great talent. We had to be really scrappy with how we did things and had to get as much as we could out of very little. While we now have almost 30 employees and departments and budgets, we still expect everyone to operate with that mentality.

Elevate Everyday speaks to not only what we hope our products do for our customers, but how we want people to think of Richer Poorer. We have a – no asshole – policy. We don’t hire them and we won’t work with them. Elevating each other up on a daily basis is so important to a healthy office culture and what we hope to pass on to our audience. We are happy to come to work everyday and hope to make our customers happy daily.

Iva Pawling

“We have a – no asshole – policy. We don’t hire them and we won’t work with them.”

We often hear that the best advice is to follow your gut. When have you gone against the grain and done something just because you felt it was the right thing to do? Did it work out?

My goodness, yes! Starting Richer Poorer was a massive leap of faith. Six years ago when we started the company, socks were not something you started a brand with. Everyone thought my business partner and I were insane. My gut told me that we were going to be early to a trend that was going to be something of value, so I listened to it. I think what’s most important though, is knowing that sometimes your instinct will be wrong, and even when it is, there is a learning lesson within the experience that sometimes may be more valuable to you than had you gotten it right.

We love to collaborate with people here at heymama and it seems that you guys do too. Can you tell us more about these partnerships?

Collaborations are great. We try and work on partnerships as much as we can, whether that be on actual product, content or trips. From a marketing perspective, obviously getting the other brand / companies audience to know our brand is really valuable. From a personal perspective, some of my closest friendships I’ve made from this industry were born from collaborations.

We want to snuggle up in the pages of your Instagram feed! Do you manage this internally or do you work with an agency? What has been the most important aspect in growing your following?

We handle it internally. We hired an agency to do it and they fired US after two weeks! We’re really picky with what we want on our social channels, what is on brand for us, and what our audience wants to see from us. Knowing who we are as a brand and being consistent with that has been the most important part of growing our following.

Iva Pawling

“I think what’s most important though, is knowing that sometimes your instinct will be wrong, and even when it is, there is a learning lesson within the experience that sometimes may be more valuable to you than had you gotten it right.”

Who do you look to for inspiration on Instagram?

I’ve tried to back away from the perfectly manicured feeds lately, and really pay attention to the ones that have something valuable to say, like @words_of_women and @be.the.love.today, or make me laugh, @womenirl and @prattprattpratt. Chris Pratt is seriously the best.

What do you see as the next big trend in innerwear and how do you stay on top of industry trends?

Bralettes! We just launched ours last month and they’ve mostly sold out over the holiday season. Racked featured them, and we’ve gotten so much great feedback on them. I think the generation under my old, 30-something self, has all but burned underwire bras. I think we’ve hit a nerve with customers because ours are not lace. They are made of an incredibly soft modal cotton and are really cozy. Comfort is the name of innerwear trends and we try and suss out what the next item is that we can design better, make more affordable, and fits seamlessly in the world of Richer Poorer.  

We love your philosophy that you need to take care of yourself to be a better mother and wife for your family. If you had a full day with nothing pre-scheduled, how would you spend it?

With no child, I would workout, get a massage and take a nap by a pool. No devices, and a book in hand.

With a child, I’d spend the day at home and go on a stroll to the park. Our life is pretty busy, so I love nothing more than our days at home being lazy and playing.

Iva Pawling

Running a business and being a wife and mother is busy. Do you have any time-saving hacks that you’ve incorporated into your daily life?

Less sleep! I wake up really early to get my workouts squeezed in before the house is awake which is the only way for me to fit it in my schedule without taking time away from everyone else. And this past year, Amazon Fresh. Not having to go to the grocery store anymore has saved us a few hours during the weekend which is time back for me with Ford.

We know you love beauty products almost as much as we do. Do you have any beauty rituals that you can’t live without?

I have become an absolute cult follower of Glossier. I do not have time to spend 20 minutes doing my makeup in the morning, so taking care of my skin is most important, and having a fast makeup routine is second. Their products are my fav – cleanser, moisturizer, concealer, brow gel, highlighter – all of it!

What 3 things would you tell a mama with a dream who wants to build her own business?

1. Things aren’t what they seem. It’s really easy to look at all these moms on Instagram that are juggling it all and feel like you should be doing the same, on your own. What you don’t see on Instagram are the nannies, family members and close friends who are picking our kids up from school and helping us keep our heads on straight.

2. Shoot for the stars, but judge yourself fairly. It takes a long time to build a business. Our society has gotten really good at holding up the instant success story. That is the absolute exception, not the norm. It takes a lot of years, tears and hustling hard to get a business started and to grow it.

3. It’s okay to pick work sometimes. I had a really hard time with this one as I would be absolutely guilt ridden when I had to prioritize time at work or travel sometimes, over Ford. I firmly believe Ford will be totally fine if I have to be gone at times that he wants me home. Ford knows he is the most important thing in my life, but that doesn’t mean that he is the most important thing in every minute of every day. If he really needs me, I without a question drop everything, however missing a school performance for the most important meeting of the year is simply necessary sometimes.  

Iva Pawling

“Things aren’t what they seem. It’s really easy to look at all these moms on Instagram that are juggling it all and feel like you should be doing the same, on your own. What you don’t see on Instagram are the nannies, family members and close friends who are picking our kids up from school and helping us keep our heads on straight.”

Heymama Iva Pawling is giving all of our readers a special treat: use code HEYMAMA to get 20% off your purchase 

Business

5 PR Mistakes NOT To Make When Starting Your Business

January 18, 2017
Jenelle + Lily_Kisha Batista Photography

One of the most important things when starting your business is getting it seen by as many eyes and ears as possible. Word of mouth and spreading the word organically is helpful, but incorporating a PR strategy into your launch is a must. With countless products and services hitting the market daily, having a solid game plan during the early days will have your brand thriving for years to come. heymama member and PR professional, Jenelle Hamilton shares her secrets to finding success in the magical world of media. Read on…

Jenelle Hamilton

As a PR professional working in the industry for over 15 years, I have worked with dozens of brands across all categories. From large corporate companies to boutique start-ups. But no matter the size, I have seen some PR blunders that are commonly made and can hinder the success of your brand. Below I share 5 of the mistakes to NOT make, when starting or launching your business:

1. NOT Allocating A Budget For PR

Now I know what you are thinking, of course a publicist is going to say this! But I am honestly not suggesting this because I am looking for new clients. I am recommending this because it is the most efficient way to raise brand visibility and get the results you want. Look at it this way, if you were facing legal action, you’d hire a legal professional to help and advise you, right? Most people wouldn’t try to represent themselves in court, they’d want a professional to guide them through the process. The same principle can be applied to PR. Publicists are professionals in their field, who have built close relationships with the media over a long period of time, sometimes decades. They know exactly what editors are looking for and how to present it to them, which makes the process a whole lot easier for them, and you.

Can a business owner secure placements by themselves? Absolutely! I know many brands who have come to me with much success, having obtained fantastic press themselves. However, those are the lucky few and they seldom know how to maintain that momentum over an extended period of time. When you work with an experienced publicist who has great relationships in place, they can help get your products in front of the media quickly and can secure steady coverage over time. I have had clients tell me that they had personally sent out hundreds of emails to the media and got zero responses. When you work with a professional, they know how, and when, to speak to the press, as well as the best ways to get you to your goal – and quickly.

I would strongly suggest you crunch the numbers and allocate a budget for at least 3 months of PR services to get you started. This will give you a good foundation to build your company on, so if you choose to continue alone after this period, you will at least have had a solid start.

2. NOT Doing Enough Research

If you are lucky enough to have the funds to hire a PR professional or firm, then be sure to do some research, before signing on as a client. Over the years, I have heard so many horror stories of clients that have come to me after a “publicist”, had promised them the moon, and did not deliver. Tip: If a publicist says they can guarantee you placements in A and B magazine, or on X & Y TV show, be weary. Nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to PR, it is all subjective based on an editor’s interests and what excites them. A good publicist knows who and what to pitch, but only paid advertising is guaranteed.

Make sure you do some research. Speak with the potential publicist and ask questions about clients they have worked with in the past. If they have worked with clients similar to your brand, find out the results of the project and ask what they feel would be realistic for you. You have the right to ask for case studies or references from past clients and once you feel comfortable, then sign on the dotted line. Doing this upfront research will be worth it in the long run and will save you time, money, and wasted energy.

Jenelle + Lily 2_Kisha Batista Photography

3. NOT Considering Timing When Planning Your Launch

For business owners and start-ups without a budget for PR, the good news is that you can still get coverage through your own outreach. It may be more challenging and harder to get to the editors, but it is possible.

The most important thing for you to do is think about timing and using your common sense when planning your launch. For example, if you are launching an SPF cream, obviously the June, July or August issues would be when editors are writing about summer skincare. Therefore, you should plan to reach out to editors before those issues hit the shelves. The same goes for say, a skiwear collection. If you want to get into the winter issues (Dec, Jan or Feb), then plan to launch way before those dates. Remember, editors work 2-3 months in advance of those issues, so plan to reach out to them at least 3 months before the issue you are targeting. So, if you want to get in the June issue, you should plan on contacting the editors in March or April. So many people launch late and miss amazing opportunities to be included in a story. Make sure you plan accordingly.

4. NOT Researching The Editor Before You Hit Send

The number one rule in PR is to make sure you know what an editor writes about, before reaching out to them. Pick up a copy of each of the magazines you plan to target. Bookmark stories from the websites you hope to be featured in and jot down the editors’ names. This is a simple way to research what an editor has written about in the past.

I have had clients come to me, saying they reached out to literally hundreds of editors and didn’t get even one response. When I ask them to show me their list of people they emailed, I often see they were pitching the entirely wrong person. If you have a great product and they like it, they will feature it. Just make sure you are reaching out to the correct contact.

5. NOT Making It As Easy As Possible For The Media

Editors are very busy and receive hundreds of emails each day. You have more of a chance of being featured if you make it super easy for the editor you want to work with. Be sure to include all relevant information they might need in your email such as website address, price of the product or service and where it can be purchased. Editors will feature a product they weren’t so keen on in their story, for the simple fact that the info was there and ready to go. Don’t make that mistake. Be as thorough as possible and it will increase your chances of getting a placement in your dream publication.

Happy pitching!

jenelle hamilton

Jenelle Hamilton has worked at high profile PR Agencies in Europe and New York, but after having her daughter, started her own PR consultancy, Jenelle Hamilton PR and has the flexibility to spend time with her family. You can follow her Instagram adventures here.

 

Photos by Kisha Batista

Living

A Sit Down With… Coffee + Crumbs Founder, Ashlee Gadd

January 12, 2017
lee-brown-photography5

If there is one thing we’ve learned from our work at heymama, it’s that we mamas have a lot to say. And when we bring these voices together, we can move mountains. Ashlee Gadd knows exactly what we are talking about and that is why she founded Coffee + Crumbs. Combining her love of writing and photography, Ashlee created this collaborative blog about motherhood which achieved 2.8 million page views in the first eight weeks (dude!)! Ashlee and her team are already working on their first book, The Magic of Motherhood, which will hit shelves this April. When Ashlee isn’t wiping her boy’s boogers, she’s launching yet another project, The Year of Creativity, an online course empowering women to pursue creativity alongside motherhood. Exhausted yet? Ashlee’s not. Read on…

Ashlee Gadd

“I was looking for a safe place where mothers could simply share stories with one another; where we could write about the truth and heartache of motherhood, the stuff that is sometimes hard to talk about.”

Give us a little back story on your site Coffee + Crumbs? When and why did you launch it, and what is the mission?

Back in 2013, I had been looking for online spaces to submit my own writing on motherhood, but was coming up short. Most of the parenting sites I had stumbled upon only featured click-bait articles and lists, or nursery decor tips and registry advice. There’s nothing wrong with that content, of course, but that’s not the type of writing I wanted to pursue. I was looking for a safe place where mothers could simply share stories with one another; where we could write about the truth and heartache of motherhood, the stuff that is sometimes hard to talk about. The name Coffee + Crumbs flew into my head and I couldn’t shake it, even though one of my friends told me it sounded like a bakery (ha!). Coffee + Crumbs represents the dichotomy of new motherhood, that wondrous tension between calm and chaos. I e-mailed my dream team of writers, got to work on a new Squarespace site, found out I was pregnant (!), and officially launched Coffee + Crumbs in July of 2014, just a couple months before giving birth to my second baby.

Our mission at Coffee + Crumbs is to encourage mothers through our storytelling. Every time we consider adding a new element to our brand, like the podcast or an online course, I ask myself: will this encourage mothers? If the answer is yes, I usually dive right in.

How did your background help to prepare for your new journey as an entrepreneur?

I dabbled in marketing and PR after college, but I think my personal experience in blogging and photography has helped me the most. So much of this work has just been following my instinct and putting out the type of content that I myself would want to consume. I still don’t know what I’m doing half the time in terms of running a business, but I’m really good at googling things and asking smart people for advice.

You managed to get 2.8 million page views in the first 8 weeks post launching your site which is insane. What do you think drove this traffic and is there some magic marketing secret we should all be doing?

Ha! If I knew the magic marketing secret, I promise I would share it! Three of our posts went viral in that timeframe, and it was nuts. I want to say we simply struck a chord with people, but honestly I believe it was a lot of God, a little luck, and a splash of a well-working Facebook algorithm.

Ashlee Gadd

“Our mission at Coffee + Crumbs is to encourage mothers through our storytelling. Every time we consider adding a new element to our brand, like the podcast or an online course, I ask myself: will this encourage mothers? If the answer is yes, I usually dive right in.”

What has been your most popular post to date and why do you think it was so impactful?

When Love Feels Heavy catapulted Coffee + Crumbs into the Internet and continues to be our all-time most popular post. I think N’tima was able to put words to what so many mothers have experienced in early motherhood, yet weren’t able to explain. A lot of women got hooked on our site from that post; I hear it all the time. N’tima is the youngest writer on our team, but wise beyond her years. I’m incredibly grateful to have her voice among ours.

How exactly does your site work and how do you find contributors? Are mamas able to submit articles or do you work with contracted writers?

I have a team of twelve amazing writers who contribute regularly, and we also accept guest submissions a few times a year. We used to have our submissions open year-round but it became too much to keep up with because we only publish three essays a week. There is a lot of noise on the Internet, and I desperately want to keep Coffee + Crumbs a quiet place for mothers. My intention has always been that C+C would be a place for slow writing.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of leading your team of writers?

Making everyone feel valued, appreciated, and confident in their gifts. Most writers I know (including my team and myself) go through phases of overwhelming insecurity. We all suffer from imposter syndrome and writer’s block sometimes. This past year while we worked on the book, those demons were in full force for all of us. I tend to emotionally absorb a lot of that burden. I am so protective over these women and care for them deeply; I always want them to know how much I believe in them and am cheering for them. I never know if I am doing this well enough.

What tips would you give to young female entrepreneurs?

Find your lane. Starting a business is exhausting — there will be late nights, early mornings, hours and hours and hours of unpaid work. For me, the thing that has carried me through the stress and chaos is loving the actual business. I wake up every morning grateful and passionate that I get to encourage mothers through storytelling. I think young female entrepreneurs should ask themselves: what do I love to do? What could I wake up every morning excited to work on for the next 5 years? 10 years? What do other people say I’m good at? I think when you combine the thing you’re good at with the thing you’re passionate about, that’s when the magic happens.

Ashlee Gadd

“I think young female entrepreneurs should ask themselves: what do I love to do? What could I wake up every morning excited to work on for the next 5 years? 10 years? What do other people say I’m good at? I think when you combine the thing you’re good at with the thing you’re passionate about, that’s when the magic happens.”

What do you think has made Coffee + Crumbs so successful given new competitors enter the market every day? What’s your recipe for success?

Heavy question! I don’t believe new competitors in the market affect the “success” of Coffee + Crumbs. I turned 30 last year, and as I’ve been reflecting on leaving my twenties behind, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over and over again is that there is enough room for me. I used to believe in the myth of scarcity, but God has reminded me over and over again of the truth of abundance. What this means practically is that I don’t often worry about what everyone else is doing. I stay in my lane, and I cheer for you in yours. Stewarding Coffee + Crumbs has been one of the greatest joys of my life, and as long as we continue to encourage mothers through our work, we will always be a huge success in my eyes, no matter how many (or how little) page views or dollars we collect along the way.  

You are launching a new program called, The Year of Creativity, a twelve-month journey to empower women to pursue creativity alongside motherhood (bravo!). What advice would you give to mamas looking to get out from under the fog of motherhood and get their creative juices flowing again?  

My advice is to just…start. Mothers have a plethora of excuses ready: the laundry, the dishes, exhaustion, lack of time, lack of space, lack of mental energy. But I believe motherhood should inspire us, not deplete us.

Just start. Give yourself permission and go. Pick up a journal and write something. Start an e-mail account for your children and e-mail them a letter once a month. Pick up a camera and take a picture of the way the light hits your rocking chair first thing in the morning. Won’t you want to remember that? Buy a couple of $3 bouquets from Trader Joe’s and take a stab at making your own flower arrangement. Color with your children. Color by yourself. Just start! Making something beautiful is always time well spent.

And of course, my other advice is to sign up for The Year of Creativity. We have poured our hearts and souls into this program and we’d love to have you!

Since you don’t seem busy enough (kidding!), you also have a charity program called Mother to Mother Care Collective. Through this program, you fund women in need and are currently funding Puerta de Esperanza in Guatemala. Can you tell us more about this?

Yes! The goal of Mother-to-Mother is to connect our team and readership with opportunities to support mothers in need around the globe. We’ve partnered with Children’s HopeChest for our first collaboration, and their model (put simply) is to pair a community in America with a community in a developing country. The partnerships are based on relationships, and the end-goals are based on long-term sustainability. Right now we’re accepting direct donations toward two programs for the mothers at Puerto de Esperanza: one for empowerment resources, and one to establish a co-op. This April we’ll be doing some more fundraisers that coincide with our book launch, and I’m hopeful that we’ll reach both financial goals by that point!

Ashlee Gadd

“I don’t believe new competitors in the market affect the “success” of Coffee + Crumbs. I turned 30 last year, and as I’ve been reflecting on leaving my twenties behind, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over and over again is that there is enough room for me.”

Do you have any time-saving hacks that you’ve incorporated into your daily life?

I eat cereal for dinner. (A lot.)

What is the first thing you do in the morning?  Last thing you do at night?

In the morning I stumble out to the living room with my eyes half-closed, kiss my kids on their cheeks, then head straight to the coffee maker.

Right before bed, I rub coconut lotion on my hands and jot down a few things I’m grateful for in my new gratitude journal.

How do you get inspired when you are in a rut?

Read a book. Take a shower. I get all of my best ideas in the shower.

What are your 3 pearls of motherhood wisdom?

  1. Motherhood is an art, not a science.
  2. You can have it all, but probably not at the same time.
  3. Grace over guilt.

Feeling inspired by this interview? You can create alongside Ashlee and her team by signing up for The Year of Creativity – use promo code HEYMAMA10 to save 10% off the yearly price!

Ashlee Gadd

“Just start. Give yourself permission and go. Pick up a journal and write something. Start an e-mail account for your children and e-mail them a letter once a month. Pick up a camera and take a picture of the way the light hits your rocking chair first thing in the morning. Buy a couple of $3 bouquets from Trader Joe’s and take a stab at making your own flower arrangement. Color with your children. Color by yourself. Just start! Making something beautiful is always time well spent.”

Photos by Lee Brown Photography

Fashion

A Sit Down With Kelly McKee Zajfen, Co-Founder of Little Minis, Alliance of Moms & a Heart Mom

December 20, 2016
little minis

To say that Kelly McKee Zajfen is a superhero is an understatement. This LA-based mama is truly a gift to our community with her inspiring story of love (her family), creation (her business) and community (her non-profit). As the co-founder of the Alliance of Moms, a membership based auxiliary group that supports the work of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, their mission is to break the intergenerational cycle of babies born to teens in foster care. Kelly is also the co-creator of Little Minis, a line of rompers that has a cult-like following, selling out in minutes and re-selling on not one, but two Facebook groups with over 1200 members! Oh, and if that isn’t enough, she’s also the dedicated mama to four-year-old twins and a Heart Ambassador for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Inspired yet? Read on…

kelly zajfen

First of all, we love your Little Minis dresses. Apparently we’re not the only ones as you now have a crazy cult following for your adorable creations! Can you tell us about how it all started?

I don’t know exactly when or how it began, but we realized after our first trunk show the love was BIG and more dresses needed to be made. I really dove into meeting customers, speaking with them, and answering emails about requests to understand the growth needed and the demand. They are all limited edition because we use dead stock/vintage fabric so they really are special pieces and I think people really love that. I also love our customers because it’s wonderful to see people coming together over dresses and even trading them!

How does it make you feel to be working so hard on the collection and offer it at a reasonable price only to see your designs being resold for 3x the price?

I think it shows how incredible the pieces are and that the customers appreciate and love the fabrics and styles we choose. Prices will go up because of the cost of production and making them with the best factory, however, I want to keep it at a fair price. Selling it for $400-$500 is way too much for people to afford so that aspect of it is difficult. I want everyone to have a Little Minis!

We heard you had a trunk show where people were lined up around the block! What happened?

It was our very first real trunk show to showcase our season. We had done amazing pop up events before, but summer was a whole new experience for us. We had people lined up 2 hours before we started and we sold out our entire stock in 20 minutes. Needless to say, we learned SO much that day! We learned we needed to make more and we learned the love these mamas have for Little Minis is real.

That’s amazing! With the huge following Little Minis has, what do you have in mind to grow the brand? Any big plans for 2017?

We do have big plans! Be on the lookout for new styles and new rompers, including a unisex romper, coming soon! All those cute mamas with boys (including my Georgie) can finally rock a Little Mini. Also, we’ll be adding more inventory and keeping up with the demand. We’ve recently partnered with a fantastic new factory that has been incredible at production and I want to keep adding new and different styles.

kelly zajfen

“I really dove into meeting customers, speaking with them, and answering emails about requests to understand the growth needed and the demand.”

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

I get different advice all the time from so many of my amazing mama friends, however, one I have kept with me was “if something has made you upset, FEEL upset. Sit with it for 24-48 hours and be as upset/sad/frustrated as you need to be and then let it go.” Never hold on too long.

That’s such great advice. Things always look different when you have a chance to cool off! Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?

“Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” –H. Jackson Browne

You have the most adorable twins! Lily, your little girl, has a heart condition. Can you tell us about her journey discovering this and treating it?

When Lily was 2, I took her in for a sick visit at our new doctor’s office. They checked her heart rate, as they always do when you see your doctor, and they noticed her heart rate was too low. They called in another doctor and a nurse to do more vitals and within 5 min they had called Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). They said I needed to go there right away because something wasn’t right with her heart. It was probably the most difficult day and week I have ever had. They diagnosed her with a third degree heart block and within 6 months, she was placed with a pacemaker. Nothing can prepare you for this, however my goal and my job really, as both a mother and as a woman, is to make her feel special, empowered and strong, because of it. Lily’s condition has given us both the ability to give back to our community a lot of strength and love that was given to us.

We’re so happy Lily is doing great, what a brave girl! We can’t imagine the toll this took on you and your family. Can you tell us how this experience inspired you to get involved with CHLA and what you do to help?

My little warrior Lily is incredible. When we arrived at CHLA, it felt like a safe and warm environment. From the team that is there to greet you, to the volunteers who are making art for the kids waiting for surgery, to the incredible doctors…I was inspired to give back. I joined the Heart Ambassador Program which enables me to visit once a month to fill goody bags and deliver to the heart patient floor. Kids who have gone through surgery and are with their families are greeted and given a little something to say people are thinking of them. It’s very meaningful for me as I am a heart mom and have walked the floors. It’s a way to say that I have gone through a similar experience and there is a support team for them.  

kelly zajfen

“My goal and my job really, as both a mother and as a woman, is to make her feel special, empowered and strong, because of it. Lily’s condition has given us both the ability to give back to our community a lot of strength and love that was given to us.”

You are also a Co-Founder of Alliance of Moms (in all your free time!). Can you tell us a little about Alliance of Moms and how it was started by your mommy group? What are your goals?

The Alliance of Moms is a membership based auxiliary group, that supports the work of the Alliance for Children’s Rights. The Alliance of Moms creates educational programs to empower pregnant and parenting foster teens in Los Angeles.

It started with just 5 of us mamas who came up with the concept while we were in a “Mommy and Me” group. One of our Founders/Co-Presidents sits on the board of the Alliance for Children’s Rights and had hosted a fundraiser in her backyard to support pregnant and parenting foster teens. The more the 5 of us talked about how vulnerable and underserved these girls are, we felt there was a real need for an organization that was dedicated to providing education, advice, support for these girls in foster care. Thus, the Alliance of Moms began.  It’s very much spearheaded by my 4 amazing Co-Founders, and our incredible volunteers. What started as 5, has grown to nearly 500 members!

What a gift you are providing to the community! How can we get involved to support these girls?

You can join the Alliance of Moms! We host Cocktails and Conversation almost every month that really dives into the programs and who we are, and of course, you can always go to our site www.allianceofmoms.org and read more and join there!

You are a superwoman in our eyes! How are you able to give so much of yourself to helping others while caring for twins (!) and running your own business?

Thank you! I’m pretty convinced every parent is a superhero! I think the key is that every superwoman has super mama friend/family that help! I make sure that I do as much of my work when the kids are in school, and at 3pm, I’m mama. When they go to sleep, I can go back at it with shipping, emails, social media… that stuff. But prioritizing and making sure you stay within the expectations of any job or duty is incredibly important, and not letting it take over the best job in the world, being a parent.

What is your spirit animal and why?

I think a bear! It represents strength and also the connection to earth (I’m a hippy at heart) and I’m so protective of my little cubs. Not to mention, I hibernate in the winter and really feel my best when it’s spring and summer.

Can you share 3 Pearls of Wisdom on Career, Motherhood, and Life?

1. Career: Support the people who are in your community. Investing in the friendships and supporting each other will help you not only grow your business, but your life.

2. Motherhood: Don’t ever compare yourself to other mothers. We are all doing the best we can and often losing our minds. We should all collectively route for each other.

3. Life: Get out of your comfort zone. Often times when I have pushed myself, in work, in travel, in life… I have found I’m more capable and enjoyed more.

kelly zajfen

“I’m pretty convinced every parent is a superhero.”

#LADYBOSS, #STARTUPSTORIES, Beauty, Interview, Shopping

Katia Beauchamp On How a Box Full Of Sample Sized Beauty Products Became A Billion Dollar Business

July 28, 2016

Subscriptions have definitely taken over the market, and with how convenient it has made our life, we are very happy about it. Together with her co-founder Hayley Barna, Katia Beauchamp has created Birchbox, a beauty editor approved box of samples delivered to your door every month. I mean, it’s basically like having a birthday every month. Who wouldn’t want a box full of beauty surprises to try 12 times a year? Read below to find our more about how this #LADYBOSS developed her addictive business.

What was the inspiration for Birchbox? How did you get started?

We started Birchbox while we were in business school. We had noticed there wasn’t a lot of activity happening in the beauty industry when it came to the internet, because beauty is so touch, try, and feel. So, we thought, how can we change that trajectory? The other inspiration was real life; my co-founder, Hayley, wasn’t the type of person to seek out beauty on her own, but she always had the best products because her best friend was a beauty editor. That crystallized the opportunity – we wanted to build a beauty company that could sell products online and serve as everyone’s beauty-editor best friend. We then developed the business model, which included personalized sampling for $10 a month, content to teach you about the products you received, and an e-commerce shop so you could purchase anything you really loved.

Who is the Birchbox customer and how are you able to identify the niche in market?

Our target customer is a woman we define as a “discerning multitasker”. She uses beauty in some way, shape or form, but has an average relationship with it – she’s not passionate about beauty. And she’s been underserved by the industry. Hayley and I represent this customer ourselves. We thought, why is beauty so hard? The majority of women don’t want to do the work of figuring it all out – we just want it to be as easy as possible to get the best things. So, we created a company for the majority of women, celebrating being your best self in an elevated, natural kind of way.

How has your business model changed since the beginning, how much of it focuses on the sample sizes in your boxes and how much of it is the full-sized products?

The biggest change is the growth of our e-commerce business, specifically sales of full-sized products. Our revenue split is 65% subscription and 35% full-sized product sales, which is the fastest-growing part of our company. Our goal is to become a new way to shop for beauty and to make it really fun and engaging; it’s not just about the discovery but being with the customers from the first touch all the way through the transaction. There have been other big changes such as international expansion, launching Birchbox Man, allowing customers to choose specific samples, and adapting our algorithm to personalize our boxes even further.

What was your experience like raising money? At what point did you decide to raise capital? And were there any specific markers that pointed out to you that there was a need to raise money?

We decided we were going to raise capital pretty early after we tested the concept. When we were in business school we launched a beta test to understand whether the model was viable or not. We invited 200 people to pay upfront for two months of Birchbox and had really great results. So, at that point we knew we wanted to raise some money but didn’t know if we were going to go the angel route or venture capitalist. We met with so many people and we decided to go venture capitalist, which was based on how big we thought the opportunity was. The more we realized this could be a massive company, we needed investors that could grow with us.

What do you think made Birchbox a good gamble for those investors?

A lot of it was timing – investors were looking at industries that had stagnated in terms of delivering a new customer experience. There wasn’t anyone else out there disrupting beauty retail online, and the market size and our unit economics were really strong. It wasn’t easy though until we had actual revenue and proof points to show that people would actually change their behavior and buy samples.

What are your day to day responsibilities as a founder of Birchbox?

That’s changed overtime. Hayley and I, plus our first and second and third employees did a lot of everything in the early days. I used to be the one, for several years, that was responsible for creating the relationships with beauty brands and negotiating deals. Today, my day-to-day is running and financing the business. I focus on what’s changing in the market and how to plan for that long term; continuing to make sure that our board is getting the right information that they need and to grow the board and add the right people to it. I’m more focused on longer term than I used to be.

“You have to take small steps and let the customer shape what product becomes. The sooner you can get a product to market and test it, the sooner you’ll know whether you have a product with purpose.”

What do you enjoy the most?

The people. From an internal perspective it’s so motivating to have such talented people of this caliber that really want to be here and want to work hard to build something together. It’s so inspiring. I also love rallying around our customer – the woman I spoke about earlier who has a more average relationship with beauty and has been an outsider in the category. We’re showing her that we respect her and are delivering the best experience in the most efficient way.

What are the marketing channels Birchbox is focusing on?

Mostly digital. Social is a really core place for us because it allows the customer to tell our story. We’ve also done some television and digital radio to get a wider reach.

You see everything as far as what’s out there in the beauty market, what’s your number one beauty product that you can’t live without?

Being able to get ready quickly is really important when you have so many other things to do, so dry shampoo, in my opinion, is a critical development for feminism. I don’t know what women did before it.

What tips would you give to young female entrepreneurs just starting out?

It’s important to test your idea and move from the business plan stage to actually getting real feedback from customers. To do this you need to understand and accept that, at first, it will not come close to your full vision. You have to take small steps and let the customer shape what product becomes. The sooner you can get a product to market and test it, the sooner you’ll know whether you have a product with purpose.

What were your early challenges with starting the company compared to the challenges you’re facing today?

Everything from getting brands to give us product and trust us as a marketing and retail partner to hiring and developing the team. Today, the biggest challenge is making sure we’re thinking long-term and that whatever we’re working on today is a step towards that long-term vision. Also, executing and investing in things at the right time and making sure we’re communicating effectively throughout the company so everyone is clear on the priorities.

You are extremely busy woman and a mom with twins, how do you make time for your family?

Becoming a mom made me more efficient, better at time-management and a better delegator. Before having kids it was hard to turn my brain off from work – it was always on my mind – but now I’m able to do that and it’s beneficial to the company and my life. I just try to think about what is really important and then make space for it.

What’s the company culture like? What’s it like to be a mom and work at Birchbox?

The company culture is really ambitious but also very supportive. There is a true appreciation here that new moms can be ambitious. The transition back to work is tough – it’s hard to come back those first few months and get readjusted as a working mom. Our employees understand and respect that needing more flexibility doesn’t mean they don’t have ambition.

How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

It has really changed as the company has needed it to change. The most important thing is that there is a willingness to put the company first and focus on making sure that the people working at Birchbox are getting the information and access they need to take the company to the next level. We’re the sum of our parts, so it’s important to make sure that everyone feels appreciated and empowered.

What are you looking for when you’re hiring people? Any tricks or questions?

How they problem-solve and their approach to challenges. People who have an optimistic perspective in their ability to solve problems. At the higher positions, we look for people who empower their team and give their team the support and access they need.

What are you excited about? What’s coming up on the horizon? Anything in the works you can share?

We are about to be six years old in September and anniversaries are always exciting. Plus the holidays are coming up before you know it so we’ve been working on that, and we also have several new brands and products launching in the months ahead. We’re really focused on continuing to evolve how we do things so we can surprise our customers and stay as relevant to them as possible.

Photos by Julia Elizabeth

Advice, Business, Contributors

DO’s and DONT’s of Pitching

July 7, 2016
Pitching

For all of those budding entrepreneurs looking to spread the word about your endeavors, we tapped our friend Jackie Thomson at Leapfrog to share a few tips on pitching your brand and here are a few easy do’s and don’ts to remember…

If you’re pitching to someone, you ALWAYS have to have a story to tell. DO always start with the elevator pitch and don’t forget to include the following; why are you different, what makes your brand newsworthy and how can you offer a unique point of view? When you can say this succinctly, you are ready to share your story. Before you tackle the next step, DO be sure that your photography is top notch and, if you have a product, be sure you have it photographed on a white background. Get a head shot, have your bio ready, and make sure you’re proud of your Instagram “quilt” and website.

Now, there is an actual art to pitching, and practice does make perfect. DO your homework! Before you ever hit ’send,’ make sure you are pitching to the right media outlet and to the right person there. Spend some time reading the publication, scroll through it’s social media accounts, catch up on digital content. When you find stories similar to the ones that you’re aiming to see published, take note of the editor and find other pieces penned by that person. What’s their voice, what are their interests, what type of content do they produce? Keep in mind the timing of long and short lead media and what stories the editors are working on. If it’s July, the magazines are researching brands to include in holiday gift guides – DO think ahead.

DO start a conversation with the editor and approach him or her respectfully but in a voice that is appropriate to that person. I always check a LinkedIn profile and their Instagram account before sending a pitch. That gives a little extra context to the person and maybe even identifies a few points of common interests. DON’T pitch multiple people at a time and DON’T copy and paste pitches. But really, DON’T – your formatting will be off and editors know when they’re getting a canned pitch.
Finally, DO think of your pitch as a package; include, an introduction, a unique point of view, and a concrete story idea with a few images to illustrate those elements.
Advice, Business, Contributors, Productivity

7 Tips to Starting a Small Business

June 30, 2016
IMG_8921 copy

It was a little over a year ago that I decided to leave my job as an accountant. I liked my job and felt fulfilled, but leaving my baby every morning was really hard for me. I had been making jewelry previously… just tinkering with little things here and there, nothing major. Clay had just received a promotion at his job so we decided to have me quit and start making jewelry while being home with Ezra. But I had so many ideas, so many OTHER hobbies that I wanted to delve into… writing, weaving, pottery, I wanted to design surfboards for Clay’s little surf company, I wanted to design handbags! I was all over the place. Little did I know that a small business was about to blossom…

So over the past year, this idea of a jewelry Etsy shop blossomed into a full blown website incorporating everything I love: jewelry design, leather bags, poster prints and photography, home decor, we even have a stand-up paddle board designed by yours truly. After making so many contacts with some amazing creators in the social media space over the past year, it just made sense to work with these people who already had incredible talent in place. Visit our “Meet The Creators” page to get to know our designers!

There were definitely setbacks along the way — last October I didn’t even know if it was going to happen. I was feeling so frustrated and things just seemed to be dragging on. But we pushed through, and in January 2016 things really began to move and the brand behind Sugarhouse Supply started to form.

I wanted to share a few tips and tricks we learned along the way and although you will still make mistakes, I hope that this will save you a couple!

small business

1. Strong branding is everything

Pick a name that means something to you. This way you will be less likely to want to change it later on. Keep it simple and memorable. But as I am sure you know, branding isn’t just about a great name. It’s a look, feel and image of your brand. If you keep consistency with your logo, colors and even the font you use across every package, mailer, Instagram ad, blog post, etc., you will create a greater brand presence. People will begin recognizing your brand quicker if it is consistent.

2. You Need to Have Patience & Be Flexible

We began thinking up Sugarhouse Supply Co. in early April of 2015. I, being very naive and a little too optimistic, thought we could have EVERYTHING done by Christmas. But, being the brand we are, with several different products, mostly being curated by us individually or by other small makers, it just wasn’t feasible. The following SPRING wasn’t even feasible! I started getting a bit discouraged. We set our launch date for June 2016… more than a year after we had started thinking of our business! If you set a deadline or “launch day” that is actually doable, creating a schedule and plan, you will be so much less stressed and will be more likely to achieve your goal. Also, don’t forget to add in some “cushion.” Things always take more time and cost more money than you think they will. Create a spending start-up budget and stick with it! But don’t budget to your max limit. Plan on spending less than your max because there will always be things you don’t think about and things that cost more than you originally planned.

small business
3. Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Use your resources. If you know someone who is a photographer, branding expert, social media influencer, website designer etc. don’t hesitate to ask questions! Most will be happy to help and would love to support your business. I had SO MUCH help from talented friends and family with this business. It would not be what it is without their help. Never feel ashamed to ask questions.

4. Software Tools

I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign years ago when a company I worked for asked me to create flyers and brochures for their marketing team. It has come in so handy over the years, especially now! I have used Adobe InDesign to create our insert cards, logo, packaging tape, designing parts of our website etc. I have found Adobe InDesign worked best for me, but I have heard Illustrator is also a great one for simple designing. Highly recommend teaching yourself how to use this program or one similar if you have a small business!It doesn’t matter the size of your business, keeping things in order on a spreadsheet will save you a lot of headache. This is where my accounting background comes in handy, I don’t know what I would do without my spreadsheets. But, you don’t have to be an accountant to organize and stay on top of things. Keep track of your inventory, pricing, vendors, materials… etc. There is a place for EVERYTHING on a spreadsheet. If you do not have Microsoft Office, Google Sheets is also a great resource.

5. Creative Market 
Creative Market is a website where designers can post their artwork and creative material for sale. It has become such a great tool for me when searching for new fonts, web designs and magazine layouts. Check it out! There are so many amazing creators out there willing to share their work for great prices.When you’re dealing with a minimum budget for your small business, every penny counts!
small business
6. Social Media
Social media marketing is HUGE. There are countless Instagram influencers that have a large reaches that are happy to help promote your brand. In the past few years I have promoted so many small businesses. Now that I am on the other side, I know the huge benefit that social media collaboration on Instagram can bring. From past experience working with small brands and talking with several people with small businesses, I would recommend starting your Instagram promotion by collaborating with Instagram influencers with 15k-30k followers. Many of these users will accept product as trade for promotion or do not charge too much. Many users with much higher followings may also accept product as payment, (depending on the product), but the likelihood they will get to your message or agree to post as payment is much less. I would recommend reaching out to people with smaller followings to save yourself time, especially if you would like to have the post unpaid. I have found that their reach is very valuable if their engagement rate is there.

With this said, photography on your social media and the way you display your photos is extremely important. Creating well lit (think natural sunlight), clear and professional looking photographs will bring attention to your products and will most definitely give you a greater chance of selling. Having a plain white or black background will make your product “pop”. If you do not have a great place in your home to take photos, you can buy a paper backdrop roll with crossbar supports and shoot next to a window. But honestly, for our first small product photos, I folded a piece of white poster board and placed it near natural sunlight…worked like a charm. All our jewelry photography was shot that way and then I just overexposed the photos to get a bright white background finish. Once you grow and have a little more money to spend, you can rent studios space and pay a photographer for your product photos.

From past experience working with small brands and talking with several people with small businesses, I would recommend starting your Instagram promotion by collaborating with Instagram influencers with 15k-30k followers. Many of these users will accept product as trade for promotion or do not charge too much.

7. Website

There are so many website platforms to choose from these days, it is so overwhelming. In our search, we couldn’t find ONE platform that did everything we wanted. So we made some choices and compromised. See what is important to you and do your research! Before we realized how important choosing the right platform was, we built our ENTIRE site and put in countless hours of work only to find it wasn’t compatible with a very important payment option that we felt was 100% necessary. That was a deal breaker in our book, so we decided to switch everything to another platform, re-doing our whole site. It was such a headache! If we would have done the research and looked at all the options, we wouldn’t have wasted so many hours.

 

Starting a small business is completely exhausting, time-consuming, scary, but most of all, very exciting. It can be so rewarding in so many ways! I can’t wait to see what happens with our little Sugarhouse Supply Company. I can only hope that everything will be as amazing as it is in my head. Only time will tell, I guess!
I also wish you the very best of luck. It will be great, you will be great, and if you stick with it, staying true to yourself and your brand, you will be so successful.
XX,
Mary Lauren
#LADYBOSS, Business, Leadership, Productivity

#LADYBOSS: Building Brands Women Love, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson Goes From Co-Founder Of Gilt To Glamsquad

April 23, 2016
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson of Glamsquad with her kids

With more than 15 years of experience in the international luxury goods industry, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson is a wealth of knowledge and a rockstar business woman. In 2007, Wilson co-founded the popular fashion flash-sale site, Gilt, and has since written a book about her experiences there called, By Invitation Only. More recently, this #LADYBOSS has taken on the role of CEO and Co-Founder for the on-demand beauty service start-up, GLAMSQUAD. Read the interview below and check out Alexandra’s profile to learn more about this inspiring entrepreneurial mom and how she does it all.

Tell us your startup story. How did you start Gilt?

My four Gilt co-founders and I launched Gilt back in November 2007. We were devoted to the startup concept of recreating the excitement of a highly coveted NYC sample sale and turning it into an online shopping experience accessible to hundreds, thousands and ultimately millions of people around the world. For those who would be interested in learning more about the entrepreneurial journey, Alexis Maybank, my Gilt co-founder/BFF, and I wrote a book called By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop.

You’ve been really successful at fundraising. What advice can you give to women that are getting ready to raise capital for their businesses?

1. Build your network among potential investors and venture capitalists before its time to go out and fundraise.

2. Make sure you know your business plan, metrics included, inside out so that you are truly prepared and organized when you present to investors.

3. Practice. Practice. Practice.

 

Alexandra Wilkis Wilson

Management is really important when growing a business, any tips on how to be a good boss?

I try and understand what motivates the people I manage so that I can inspire them in a way that is relevant. I have learned with time and practice how to deliver tough messages and how to give feedback, both positive and constructive. In a startup environment, it is important to create a strong culture that is relevant to the employee base and the mission/vision of the company.

Is there anyone you have worked for that was a great boss and, as a result, has influenced your leadership style? What was most impactful?

I have taken cues from a number of bosses and leaders over the years. I really appreciate strong communicators who repeatedly share consistent messages. I like bosses who understand what I am good at, not so good at, and know how to push me to deliver results in a manner that is motivating – that’s not easy!

How would you summarize your leadership philosophy?

I try to lead by example. I roll up my sleeves and do the ‘dirty work.’ You have to do that at a startup and honestly, it is part of the fun. My team knows I love to cold call and I am not afraid to ask people for help, whether that comes in the form of advice, capital, partnerships or word-of-mouth marketing.

Alexandra Wilkis Wilson playing chess with her son

What’s the biggest gamble you have taken in your career? Was is successful? Would you make the same choices over again?

Definitely taking that plunge, back in 2007, when I joined my co-founders to launch Gilt. We had no idea if the concept would gain traction, but we were determined, passionate and even a touch naïve. I would say that it was successful and I would absolutely make the same decision today.

What has been your greatest career challenge?

I view my career as a journey, with twists and turns, ups and downs. There have been many challenges along the way. When I was more junior, the challenges were about feeling unfulfilled and uninspired by my roles. More recently, as an entrepreneur, the challenges have been more about managing risk-taking from a business perspective.

When you are interviewing prospective employees what are you looking for? Is there anything specific that would turn you off right away?

Depending on the role I usually look for passion and a nice balance of confidence with humility. I get really turned off when prospective employees are unprepared and haven’t done research about the company in advance, I feel like that’s a preview of what the candidate would be like on the job. I also don’t love huge egos. There isn’t room for a huge ego at an early stage company.

Alexandra Wilkis Wilson

We’ve heard you say “you never take no for an answer.” How has that spirit helped you to get to where you are now?

If I were to “take no for an answer,” I feel like I would never have achieved anything! My parents raised me to have integrity, tenacity, drive and grit. If I fall, I need to pick myself back up and move on. I think this “can do” perspective is really important in a startup where there are constant challenges and setbacks.

What are your negotiating tactics to turn a no into a yes?

It is important to ask questions and LISTEN! Having a good dose of EQ (emotional intelligence) can be helpful as guidance on when to be pushy and when to back off and follow up later.

Do you have anything special you do to mentally prepare when facing a nerve-racking situation? How do you keep your cool?

When I get stressed or anxious, I try to slow down and focus on my breath. It’s my version of meditation.

How would you describe the work atmosphere at GLAMSQUAD?

We have an informal work atmosphere with an open plan to increase communication and transparency. Our office environment in our NYC headquarters is really fun and creative as we have a salon workshop that we use to onboard prospective beauty professionals who want to be part of the #GLAMFAM. Our salon typically breeds creativity and has good music playing to put people at ease and in the mood for beauty.

Being a mom and the CEO of GLAMSQUAD must require a lot of organization. How do you stay organized?

I am obsessed with the calendar in my iPhone! My work schedule is in purple and my family schedule is in green. I use my calendar not only for meetings and calls, but I also add many of my to-do list items directly into my calendar so that I am certain they will get done and I will have allocated time for them.

How did becoming a mom impact your career?

Becoming a mom has made me (even more!) organized with my schedule and calendar. I am constantly prioritizing and try to be efficient with my time. I can’t ‘hang out’ late at the office like I used to do earlier in my career, before children, but I am okay with that and hopefully my colleagues are as well.

Balancing motherhood and a career is always a juggling act. Are there special things you do to make the most of your family time?

I like to plan what my family will do each weekend. It gives me something to look forward to after the work week. I try and come up with special activities for my family, whether it involves going on mini adventures within NYC, or doing seemingly simple activities like playing board games and teaching my kids the valuable lessons of how to ‘win’ as well as how to ‘lose.’

You mentioned that you have mentored numerous women. Why is this important to you?

What goes around comes around. I really believe that. I feel so lucky to have many mentors out there who have shared their pearls of wisdom with me. Through mentorship, I hope I am able to help increase the chances of success for other entrepreneurs. If I can do that, that feels great.

What advice would you give to a female entrepreneur  just starting out?

Build your network! Maintain relationships!

What’s the best career advice you have ever received?

To figure out what you are good at and what you enjoy doing.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I am in a good place right now. I am very focused on GLAMSQUAD professionally. I serve on the board of the public company Perry Ellis, which keeps me engaged with the fashion and retail industry. I am involved in different capacities with a number of startups and supporting entrepreneurs who I believe will have a high impact. I think that in the future I will continue to be at the intersection of technology, fashion, beauty, retail, and entrepreneurship.

Business, Startup Tips, The Great Jane

5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Starting Your Business

April 13, 2016
girl typing on a computer with a cat

Jenny Galluzzo, a former journalist and serial entrepreneur, co-founded The Second Shift to provide meaningful work for highly skilled women who want the flexibility of a freelance life, and to help create gender diversity in the work place. We’re honored to have Jenny and her co-founder, Gina Hadley, speaking at The Great Jane, the weekend retreat for aspiring mamas looking to connect with like-minded women and inspire their next chapter, both professionally and creatively. You can get a taste of what we have in store with Jenny’s article below, but there will be so much more offered during the weekend retreat. To join us for this mind-blowingly inspiring and relaxing weekend please book your tickets here as space is limited.

 

I have lived through the start of three different companies; one failed, one was a hit, and one I am currently hard at work building. Below are some of the lessons I have learned along the way and things to keep in mind if you are thinking of changing your career path, starting a passion project business, or freelancing.

Be realistic.

Much like childbirth, starting a business is far more glamorous and exciting, in retrospect. When you are first starting out, there is the thrill of seeing your idea get off the ground, but then the reality of the actual work sets in. Here’s the thing about starting your own business– it is really hard. It takes a lot of work, time, and often money to succeed, and while you put all of this into the business immediately, the business doesn’t tend to pay you back very quickly. That’s the unvarnished truth; however, the flipside is the joy, fulfillment, and continued ambition that comes from seeing the business you birthed grow and thrive.

Before starting any endeavor, make sure you know the numbers.

Sit down and do the math and figure out how much it will cost to get up and running. You shouldn’t count on getting funded, so make sure that you can afford to keep the business afloat until you are making money. Some of the best advice we got when we started The Second Shift was to think about money as if it was before venture capital funds and angel investors existed. We are very conservative about what we spend our funds on because most of it came from our own bank accounts and from people willing to trust us with their hard-earned money.

Be honest.

Before you decide to leave a lucrative career to freelance or start your dream catering company, think through a few very important things:

How much money do you really need to be making and how quickly do you think you can earn that?

It takes a while to get a freelance/consulting career off the ground. If you depend on your income to live, you should start networking and taking projects before you quit your day job.

How much time is this going to take from your life and are you willing to give that time up?

 If you left your full time job to spend time with your children, or care for an ailing parent, how much are you willing to cut into that time to pursue your new business? Think it through and plan a job or a business around that.

Be prepared.

Make a game plan!

Create a list of things that you need to know or set up ahead of time. Are you better off creating a personal LLC or being paid as an individual (check out our blog on The Second Shift for lots of tax and legal help for independent contractors)? What time of day are you needed the most and do you have help and childcare to open up your free time? Do you have a separate office with a printer, scanner, and a strong WiFi connection, or do you need to find flexible workspace? Take it from me– there is nothing worse than being in a business meeting and realizing your child was never picked up from school. The more organized and prepped you are, the more you can relax and dive into work mode.

Stay positive!

Err on the side of realism.

While not trying to sounds like a downer, you may find out, when you do a deep financial analysis of the company you want to start, that the idea is not a business that will ever make money, or you can’t afford to quit your current job.

Don’t be bummed. You can use that knowledge to work around it!

Instead of starting off with a whole big vision, break it down to a feasible nugget, start that, and grow from there. Try finding a partner to share the cost and work load with. Work together at night and on weekends to get things going while you keep earning money at your full-time job.

Don’t quit.

The best advice I can give is don’t quit.

Even if you take on work here and there, it is harder and harder to get back to work the longer you have taken off. Tread water! And if you believe in yourself and your ideas don’t let anything I say, or anyone else says, stop you! Along the way you will have a lot of moments of self-doubt, but if you love what you do and it gives you joy, then you know you are on the right path.

Breaking News: We Created A Global Community Facebook Page and Here’s Why You Should Join

April 11, 2016
nyc moms graffiti jumping joy katya libin amri kibbler heymama heymamaco

Women need community now more than ever.  Join ours here.

Life gets crazy, you have kids and one day you realize that your friends you grew up with don’t quite get your everyday struggle. You love them to pieces, but they just don’t understand the daily grind and juggling act you face.  Here you can meet other mamas who do.   From resources, advice, tips, tricks and just a good vent at the end of the day, we got you.  Apply here: LINK TO FACEBOOK GROUP 

 

 

#STARTUPSTORIES, Fashion, Give Back, Lifestyle

#STARTUPSTORIES: Carly Burson’s Adoption Journey Inspires Her To Help Women All Over The World

March 10, 2016
Carly Burlson with her daughter and a teepee

Tell us your startup story? What is Tribe Alive and where did the idea originate from?

When I began my adoption journey, I knew that becoming a mother would profoundly impact my life; but I never imagined that it would alter the course of my life’s work. Although adoption presents opportunity to support a child, I was struck by the desire to address the core issue of child relinquishment on a global scale: namely, the economic insecurity facing women in the developing world. Tribe Alive was born from my decision to utilize years of experience in the fashion industry as a platform to alleviate poverty among people in the developing world.

 

What’s your previous background?

I built a career in visual design and merchandising and spent the majority of my years working with Ann Inc. and J.Crew.

Carly Burlson with her daughter and Tribe Alive pillow

What’s been the hardest thing about being a startup what’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?

Finding balance is always something I struggle with. Start ups are nonstop and require an impossible amount of time and attention. The time I’ve invested in building this business over the last couple of years has taken a toll on my personal life. I’ve had to really re-evaluate how I run my business and how I find time for my family and friends. It takes being extremely intentional with my time and recognizing that I can’t be all things at once. Some days I neglect business responsibilities, other days family responsibilities. It’s a constant balancing act.

I began to look at the root of the issue and realized that adoption was not a solution, but merely a bandaid.

 

What’s been the most impactful thing that you’ve learned starting your business from the ground up?

That I can not do it alone.

Tribe Alive product

Tribe Alive Pillow

What was your first step to get things off the ground after you had the idea for a Tribe Alive to help women in poverty stricken countries?

I first reached out to different non-profits (that I knew of in the developing world) that had years of experience working with marginalized people. I knew I had the tools and resources needed to be successful in building a brand, but I wanted to partner with organizations that would effectively guide me to truly impact the lives of women living in poverty. These organizations have become my lifeline and became the true champions of Tribe Alive.

 

How did you get the capital to start your company did you raise money or do a kick starter?

It was a combination our own savings and a crowd funding campaign that we launched in the beginning.

Carly Burlson working on Tribe Alive and her daughter

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Be patient.

 

Do you have a mentor?

I have many, but I would have to say that our non-profit partners (who are on the ground in the countries we work in) are who I lean on most. Most business owners seek out other successful entrepreneurs as mentors, but I never wanted Tribe Alive to become just another business that forces me to become lost in the hustle. Our partners keep me honest, humble, and grounded to my original mission. Without them I could easily fall into chasing growth, becoming focused only on financial success, and making decisions that do not honor the dignity of our artisan partners.

Tribe Alive bag

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a similarly structured business that gives back?

I would advise that it’s a venture that needs to be entered sensitively. There are many social enterprises out there that do not take the dignity of their artisan partners into account when marketing themselves. I want to see social enterprise move in a direction where companies stop exploiting the hard lives of people living in poverty, and instead incorporate ethical practice and giving back into their model, because it’s the right thing to do.

 

When did you adopt your daughter? What was the experience like and how has it influenced your life professionally and personally?

We adopted our daughter a little over two and a half years ago. It was an extremely difficult and long process, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything. I always knew we would start and grow our family through adoption . Adopting my daughter completely changed my life, but also my view on child relinquishment.

I began to look at the root of the issue and realized that adoption was not a solution, but merely a bandaid.

I did not want my legacy to be raising other women’s children, but instead to create something that would empower women to the point that child relinquishment need not be the option.

Poverty is the main cause of the orphan crisis in the world; and I can think of no greater injustice than a women not being able to keep her child simply because she’s poor.

This realization has completely changed the course of my life.

Poverty is the main cause of the orphan crisis in the world; and I can think of no greater injustice than a women not being able to keep her child simply because she’s poor.

 

How do you work with the women in these countries and how are you able to provide jobs for them?

We partner with incredible non-profits who facilitate our production in every way. We design everything in house and then source it through our partners, who manage design sampling, production management, quality control, out of country logistics and most importantly maintaining safe and inspiring work environments for our artisans.

Tribe Alive bag

What do you think makes a good boss?

Empowering your people to take ownership in their roles and contribute to the growth of the company. I want Tribe Alive to reflect our entire team and not just my own vision.

 

What do you look for when you’re hiring people?

Passion, integrity and creativity.

 

What’s your the five-year goal of the company?

We started working with a handful of artisans in Honduras and Guatemala, and in one year we’ve been able to employ hundreds of impoverished women and operate out of five developing countries. What I love most about running this type of company is that our victories are never enough. It always feels like we can be doing more; and I hope the beautiful burden of bringing these women employment never leaves me. If I’m asked this question tomorrow or ten years from now, my answer will always be the same. We just want to employ more women.

It always feels like we can be doing more and I hope the beautiful burden of bringing these women employment never leaves me.

 

What’s been your biggest moment of feeling like what you’re doing is making an impact?

There are so many stories I could share that ground me in my quest, but our Honduran artisan partner Eugenia’s story is one closest to my heart. Eugenia started working with us in January 2015 and was part of a small project. At the end of the production she told me she was going to use the money that she made to buy her daughter a computer for school. I remember seeing the pride she felt in her eyes.

I returned to Honduras in July, to check on a much larger production, and was able to speak with Eugenia again. She asked me if I remembered when she said she was going to buy a computer with the money she made from the last job. When I told her I did, she said, “Well now I’m building my own house with the money from this job.”

Stories like Eugenia’s keep me going. If Tribe Alive existed only to give Eugenia an opportunity to put her children in a home of their own, then that alone would make my sacrifice even sweeter.

Carly Burson's daughter painter

How many countries are you currently in?

We currently work in Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti and India and hope to re-establish partnerships in Ethiopia this year.

Why do you think it’s important that we invest back into women? How do they support the community and help it to grow and be healthy?

We believe that women are the key to our future. Not only are women more apt to inspire and mentor, but also they are statistically more inclined to spend their money in ways that benefit the whole. Women spend the majority of their money on food, healthcare, home improvement, and better schooling for their family. It’s called the ‘muti-plier effect.’

When we invest in women, women reinvest in the health and wellbeing of their communities. When you reach one woman, you reach one hundred more. We’re interested in positively affecting generations to come, which why we choose to invest in women. Women pay it forward.

Women spend the majority of their money on food, healthcare, home improvement, and better schooling for their children and family….When we invest in women, then women will reinvest in the health and wellbeing of their communities. When you reach one woman, you reach one hundred more.

 

How have you seen Tribe Alive impacting the lives of the women who are creating your products?

Our jewelry is made in a small community in Honduras where alongside our non-profit partner we employed over 70 women last year at living wages. The immediate impact of employment is that these women were able to provide for their families – fill bellies, send their kids to school, afford medicine – but our impact goes far beyond providing for the basic necessities. Those 65 women have children, friends, sisters and neighbors who watched them get up and go to work every day with pride and represent that there is hope for something better. When children witness strong, capable and self confident mothers everything changes and hopes and dreams are not only formed but viewed as a possibility. We’re in this to impact the lives of our artisan partners but more importantly the lives of their children.

 

Do you personally visit all the communities where your products are being produced? If so what has that experience been like?

Absolutely. It’s the most important part of my job. I have become very close with our artisan partners and have loved being able to share our lives with each other. Last year I was in Honduras for four weeks working alongside our partners on an important production and will never forget a moment I shared with one of our jewelry makers, Estella. After working together all day she looked at me and said “the only difference between you and me is that you’ve had opportunity and now I’m more like you.” I think the realization of how closely connected we all are has had a tremendous impact on my life. I’m grateful for experiences that have taught me that all people are pretty much the same and it’s small differences that divide us.

 

If you could have one wish for your own daughter what would that be?

That she grows up with the realization that we are all connected and it’s our job to take care of one another.

 

What’s an average day in your life like?

Pretty average. I first get my daughter off to school each morning, followed by a run with my pup and then home for coffee and emails. The rest of the day usually entails different meetings with different members of our team or Skype conversations with our out of country partners. I spend at least an hour a day designing and creating new ideas for the line and need that time each day to fuel my creativity since so much of my work is operational. The days I’m out of country working alongside our partners are what I live for the most.

 

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My life. I have so much to be grateful for. My family. My work. My friends. It all motivates me to get up and live each day.

 

You can learn more about Tribe Alive and purchase their gorgeous products here, and see Carly’s Heymama profile here.
Photo credit Hilary Rose Walker of ourstylestories.com.