April 6th, 2010

Why Moms Make Great Entrepreneurs

When I started this company back in 2007, I had no idea what I was in for, but now I realize being a mom gave me some essential qualities necessary to succeed.

Moms all run businesses.  The business of raising a child.  I am sure you have seen the numerous talk shows and chain mails that comment on the amount of money a mom should make, because we wear so many hats. But, we know that no amount of money can compare to the expeirence of being a mom.  The quality moms possess that makes it all worthwhile, without making a cent, is the innate sense to nurture.  Oddly enough, it is this same quality that stands to bring in the mother load for businesses.

There are many successful mompreneurs.  Maybe it’s because without consciously realizing it, they run a business like they raise a child.

Being a mom is about finding your way through sleepless nights without much reward.  Juggling daily activities that have an expansive range.  We routinely do what is necessary for our children.  We feed them, we wait, and they begin to grow.  We love them, we wait, and a personality begins to develop. We hold them steady, we wait, and they reach for the table and take baby steps towards independence.  We watch them fall, we wait, and they pick themselves back up.  We teach them, we wait, and they start making their own decisions.  We spend a life guiding them, continuing day in and day out,  collecting bigger and bigger rewards along the way.  The only one we need, is self satisfaction.  Being able to marvel at being a part of such an awesome opportunity. We don’t need accolades for our children’s successes, but the guilt we might feel for their mistakes, ultimately drives us to do better at our jobs.

Being an entrepreneur is the same process.  You spend months, if not years, researching.  Many sleepless nights follow without reward.  You juggle marketing, sales, developing a website, developing a brand, a logo and identity.   You keep on feeding the business, day in and day out,  and it begins to grow. You manage employees. You relish in the little successes. The trials and errors are the catalyst to improved decisions and ideas.  You hope, eventually, the business will take on a life all it’s own and become self sufficient.

Being an entrepreneur and a mother can be thankless jobs at times.  But being a nurturer, gives you an advantage.  Patience is inherent to nurturing.   It provides strength and the drive to face challenges and risks, no reward required. All entrepreneurs want success, but moms may be the most successful, because they know the outcome is well worth the wait.

March 17th, 2010

Getting Personal

I have always been an advocate of saying hello. To me it can make someone’s day and possibly create a lifetime connection. This is a story about how a simple hello (with the help of some PR) did just that.

When Hello World was featured in a local newspaper, I received many calls. One such call came from Patricia Feldman, owner of Sharp Threads Embroidery Company. She asked if I ever thought of offering monogramming on my sleepers. In fact, I hadn’t, but I loved the idea! She suggested we connect and our collaboration began back in December 2009.

Tricia began Sharp Threads Embroidery Co. in Colorado. A Work At Home Mom of three, she and her family have called Carmel home since last summer. While she produces embroidered Corporate wear and Business apparel she enjoys working with area clubs and organizations to meet their promotional needs. She also offers gifts personalized with names, monograms, or initials which are so popular right now. She especially enjoys collaborating with local designers to feature their products as personalized gifts.

I am so grateful she approached me and am happy to finally showcase her wonderful monogram and applique ideas on my website. Hello World is finally on board with the monogram trend. Since we are all about saying hello, in only makes sense to get personal.

We are offering FREE monogramming until March 17th, 2010. Just enter coupon code FREEMON1 for the $6.50 option or FREEMON2 for the $8.50 option.

March 17th, 2010

Corporate Good

As parents, we have a tough enough job being role models. When we expose our kids to society, many behaviors out there challenge what we teach our children. They might come home with new words, new ways of interacting and engaging. When I started this company, I set out to develop a brand and a philosophy that mirrored my positive approach to raising my family. The old cliche that it takes a village to raise a child, doesn’t work very well when the village is corrupt, unfriendly and negative. Everyday, I encourage my children to think positive, to surround themselves with others that enhance their lives, to accept and tolerate differences in others, and to celebrate every little joy they find in this world. They watch me smile and say hello to everyone that I see, and they know, as long as they are with a trusted adult, they too can say hello. No matter what negative circumstances we are faced with on a daily basis, we can always find a positive to balance it. Thanking others when they are giving, kind and friendly is one of these positives.

As I started the new year, I struggled with the decision to continue blogging. There are so many responsibilities in running a business, that I fought to find time and content to write a blog. What could I write about that would align with my brand? I decided that thanking others for their positive impact on society, which ultimately supports my guidance as a parent, was a good way to start. A testimonial of sorts, not about products, but about companies and people I interact with who enhance the lives of others. Those who display simple good manners, who are giving and friendly, who think about others before themselves are worth sharing. I figured the best way to celebrate the little joys in my world was to write about them.

So for my first entry, I’d like to highlight a company whose philosophy of wholesome transcends into not only their chicken, but into each and every employee.

Last week, I took my six year old daughter into Chick-fil-A for the first time. She is a burger fan, but has recently acquired a new found love for chicken. I have always had good experiences at the drive-thru, but rarely go inside. I knew Chick-fil-A had a christian foundation and have always heard they treat their employees and customers with respect. Being raised a catholic, I witnessed many christian behaviors falling to the wayside once outside the church doors. And I may be the last to know, but Chick-fil-A practices what they preach.

The employees behind the counter were polite and friendly. How refreshing to see a smile and total focus on the customer. Then, the cashier said he would bring the food to our seat. I figured it was due to how busy they were, but then I noticed other employees doing it for all families. THEN, he said he’d be glad to get us any condiments or straws or napkins. Are you kidding me? I don’t have to leave my child at the table, looking over my shoulder to make sure she stays safe? What is even more amazing, is the effect it had on the customers. Everyone was happy, polite and friendly as well. I often tell my children when you change your behavior, others will too. The atmosphere was so pleasant and relaxing, and I believe it’s because of the genuine respect shown by their employees.

Chick-fil-A is a company that stays true to their philosophy, going above and beyond to make their customers’ experience rewarding. Too often corporate greed and corruption make the news. How reassuring to know that there are companies whose success is well deserved. I want to thank them for being good role models for those they employ, our society and our children.

December 9th, 2009

Always an Intern

When I got my first job at an architecture firm, I entered as an intern. There was a three year period before I could take the registration exam. Once you pass the exam you become an architect. Along with that, higher pay and more responsibilities. As the years passed, the firm at which I was employed grew and I was no longer the 15th hire, but the 15th from the top. As a project manager, I not only oversaw projects, I oversaw others within the firm. Because it started as a small firm, we held on to a family atmosphere. Not only did we help others along their journey towards the top, we never forgot our loyalty to those who helped us reach our potential. Answering the others questions became part of my responsibility, but I always looked to others to answer mine. And I had plenty. After nearly ten years at the firm, one of my last projects was the most challenging. I was thankful I never hesitated to ask questions. I had the mindset, that no matter how high I climbed, I would always be an intern. There was always someone to learn from.

I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I prided myself in the ability to work within a team to handle a task. I was always a component, never a leader. Yes, a project manager “leads” a project. But, the firm had an owner and he was the leader and my mentor.

As I started my business, I hung on to the mindset of an intern. I researched and did the hard grunt work it took. I lacked a mentor and the support of a team. But, by continuing to ask questions, I found the people who would have the answers I needed to continue my “project”. I eventually assembled a team and I am constantly adding to it. My team has proven successful in that I have received press that has brought some attention to my business. The phenomenon that has come from being an entrepreneur with a fledgling business is the attention I receive as a person.

Marketing has it’s down side for a small business, it’s high cost. But, the pay off, if you are willing to take the risk and feel you have the right people in place, is that it brings you success. Success is relative and all in how you measure it I suppose. It may not be success until you make enough sales to dig out of a financial hole (just ask my husband.) But, I will tell you, the sales will come.

The success I have seen is in the connections made. Press brings others to you. To be sure, you might not feel comfortable telling the interviewer production is slow and costly, but by them printing that information, opportunity knocks. A local sew shop might see the article and call offering help. They too need business and even if they aren’t a good fit for your company, it won’t hurt to talk to them and ask questions. A small monogramming company might call and suggest personalizing your product. You may have never thought of that, but it just might open a whole new interest level to your product. Another local mompreneur might call, introduce herself, and offer help. So many questions, so many people, and they all lead to sales.

But, by far the best connections are the ones where others reach out to YOU for advice. There is a tipping point in rank as much as there is in sales. At some point, you emerge from intern to project manager. For me it has become the most exciting part. It reminds me of my days in the architecture firm. Being able to give back and offer advice has it’s advantages. You just feel good. I’ve done some hard work, entered into an industry I knew nothing about, and now I have the opportunity to share my experiences. I am in awe of that fact.

And so I trudge on my journey, and although I have been given godspeed, as they say, I know where I stand. I am so thankful for how far I’ve come, but know I have a lot more questions. I may have reached a point where others can learn from my mistakes, but for me, I am still searching for answers and looking to others for guidance. In my mind, I will always be an intern.

November 21st, 2009

The Power of Dooce

Wednesday, after blowing out my tire on a curb and waiting for hours for help, all I had to look forward to was taking my dog, Pilot, to training school graduation. If you have seen the pictures of my dog, you might understand why dragging that small horse into a “sit-stay” is not my idea of fun.

As I was settling in, I heard my laptop dinging with email notifications every couple minutes. My first unread message said “I saw your baby sleepers on dooce.com and thought they were so cute…..” I scrolled down to find the subject line of one email after another reading ‘Notification of payment received’ Forty two in all. WHAT!!!! OMG!!!!

My marketing team introduced me to the blogging world. Dooce.com was the first blog I ever followed. Not being a blogger myself, nor ever reading one, I had very little understanding of the marketing impact of blogs. I was getting ready to launch my website, and was being advised that I should include my own blog on my site to help drive traffic. What started as a study exercise, became a need for a daily fix.

For those of you who don’t know, dooce.com is a blog written by Heather B. Armstrong. She is a brilliant writer. When you read her, you feel like you are sitting across the table having coffee with your best friend. Or at least somebody you wish was your best friend. She is blunt, open, humorous, entertaining, compassionate, and real.

When her second child Marlo was born, I sent the blogger extraordinaire my SmartZip™ Sleeper. I felt like I had gotten to know her so well. I mean she tells the world what some of us don’t even tell our friends. I needed to thank her for being a bright spot in my life every day and congratulate her on the new family member. I was so glad I had the perfect baby gift to send a working mom who was about to relive those fun diaper changing moments.

I immediately received a “Chuck” postcard thanking me for the baby sleeper. I was thrilled she got it, figuring thousands of people send her things every day, there was a good chance it might get lost in the shuffle.

A couple of months passed and business was growing slowly. Local boutiques were re-ordering. I got some local printed press in the Current in Carmel and even an interview with a local news station Fox 59, (which will air Nov. 23 at 4pm.) Online orders started trickling in. A couple a day. And I was happy with the progress.

When I saw forty two orders in my inbox on Wednesday….Let’s just say, I am glad I don’t have nanny cameras in my house and there is no possible way anyone could see my reaction. I now know what it feels like to hyperventilate. I was screaming, shaking with excitement. Lightheaded, I started sweating and holding on to the counter. I faintly remember my kids in the background worrying about my well being, and thanking GOD that my six year old can dial 911.

The SmartZip™ Sleeper was the FEATURE in the Daily Style at dooce.com.

It’s been two days and I have received so many orders, that I had to enlist my neighbor to help with the shipping. This was literally my first free moment to tell the world my amazing news….

Pilot successfully completed his training class, AND

Hello World™ Clothing Company is now on the map thanks to Heather B. Armstrong and the power of dooce.

November 18th, 2009

SmartZip. Smart Choice?

If you are anything like me, you shop for value. Price is, of course, the most obvious characteristic of a good value. Quality is a close second.

Case in point, the price of the SmartZip™ Sleeper. I bet you are wondering, why would I buy the SmartZip™ Sleeper for $28 when I can get three baby sleepers at Children’s Place for $30. Umm Hello World?! Oh, and, I can get a good quality one at the Gap or Old Navy for about $16-$18. Yeah, Yeah. Believe me, when I developed the SmartZip™ Sleeper, I knew this competition was out there.

So, I set out to develop a baby sleeper that not only had a unique function to make parent’s lives a bit easier, but one that also had exceptional quality. Being a mom, I had used the competitions baby sleepers. I wanted softer material, more durable material and better all-over design.

The SmartZip™ Sleeper is all of these.

Let’s review.

The SmartZip™ Sleeper is 100% interlock cotton. Most sleepers are a ribbed cotton, which gives the product added stretch, but it also causes it to lose it’s shape. The SmartZip™ Sleeper is still flexible, but holds it’s shape better. No more baggy knees or elbows.

The SmartZip™ Sleeper is also a slightly heavier cotton. This gives it added softness and comfort. It also makes it more durable. Several uses and washings of my competitors sleepers resulted in holes in the knees and my son’s toes popping out. An added bonus to this material, as reported by moms who have used the SmartZip™ Sleeper, is that its quality keeps it from fading and shrinking. This is good news, if you are planning on expanding your family.

The SmartZip™ Sleeper uses a two way zipper, that means, a zipper pull at the neckline and a zipper pull at the ankle. No other baby sleeper on the market has this added convenience. Traditional sleepers that only zip from the neckline down are a great invention. But, if your baby is anything like mine was, unzip at the top and risk him/her wiggling out of the arms too. My son also faired better during a diaper change drinking a bottle. Try keeping the bottle in his mouth while trying to get to the snap and the zipper pull under his chin. My diaper changes became such a frustrating task. The two way zipper is the same idea as the snap baby sleeper. The snap baby sleeper allows you to open only as far as you need it from the bottom. By using an additional zipper pull at the bottom of the SmartZip™ Sleeper, you can unzip as far as you need to, without having to fumble with realigning snaps. The result is a simpler, quicker, easier diaper change.

Finally, the SmartZip™ Sleeper doesn’t look like a sleeper. It is trendy enough to keep your little one in while running those morning errands. Most mornings I found myself rushing my older child off to school and then realizing I need to make a stop at the grocery store before my 10am appointment and I was already late! How I wish I could find a sleeper that wasn’t covered with trucks or busy patterns that screamed I LEFT MY KID IN HIS SLEEPER BECAUSE I CAN’T GET MY S*#T TOGETHER IN THE MORNING. So think of the SmartZip Sleeper as a baby sleeper and baby outfit in one. Now the SmartZip is a STEAL!

The SmartZip™ is a one-of-kind baby sleeper. A lot of effort went into making what is proving to be a better baby sleeper. (Which is not to say it doesn’t have room for improvement.) Though, I’ve been told, once you use it, you will wish you bought it sooner. The SmartZip™ is a Smart Choice. And if you don’t agree, don’t worry, I’ll refund your money no questions asked.

November 6th, 2009

The Letter to My Mother

I am not sure if you have heard of the Mother Letter Project. It has been around since 2007. The founder of the project is helping Lichinga, Mozambique. You can help make a difference too. If you have a need for some inspiration or support, take an afternoon and read some of them www.motherletter.com. There is even a book compiling them published around Mother’s Day. What an awesome gift.

So two years later, I have finally discovered it. Ironically, I stumbled across it on my brother’s birthday. And now I struggle to write it on the anniversary of his death. I must say I wrote this letter without really thinking my mom would ever see it. I submitted it on the Mother Letter Project site. I am not sure I would have the courage to give it to her or how she would feel about it. But, I love her immensely and here is why….

Mother,

Twenty six years ago you lost your son. As a young girl, I observed the discord and depression in your life. The way you and daddy cried and prayed. I felt you left me somewhere back there. Not intentionally, of course. You couldn’t bear to be close to someone, not ever again. You continued through life with a heavy weight on your shoulder that you couldn’t shrug off. You rarely spent time with a friend. You hid inside yourself. But, most days you smiled. Until I had my own son, I never realized how hard it was for you to smile.

The day my son was born, I cried so hard. Not because of joy, but because of your sadness, that I finally felt. I do not go a day in my life without missing my brother or being amazed at the fact that you faced every day whether you wanted to or not. I feel a special connection growing between you and your grandson. Thank you for embracing him. Mostly, thank you, for showing me that a person can continue to live even after one of the most important things you had to live for was gone. You are an inspiration.

Your Daughter

September 22nd, 2009

Pilot

I haven’t been blogging much recently. Here is one of the reasons.

Meet Pilot, the newest member of our family. No it’s not a horse. Pilot is a Great Pyrenees, Border Collie mix. He was kicked out of a car near a school bus stop in Kentucky. Apparently, he waited around 3 days for his owners to return. Some of the neighbors weren’t happy about his hanging around and threatened to shoot him. Luckily, a rescue group in Indy was notified and they picked him up. They named him Pilot because he was trying to drive the car home. He is about one year old. Huge already at 65 pounds. Since he’s a mix they say he won’t get to be as big as the pure bred Great Pyrenees. But, he will be close to 90 pounds when he is full grown. He is sweet and gentle. Loves laps, kids and cats. We found him online through petfinder.com. The best thing about rescue dogs is that they are normally fostered in a home. So their temperament is able to be matched to a perfect home. And he is a perfect fit for our home, with just enough puppy left in him to enjoy. My floors are looking cleaner than ever, but we are missing a few pairs of shoes and one too many of the kids toys. But, after all he’s been through, who could blame him? I think we’ll keep him and help him work through it!

September 22nd, 2009

On Becoming a TWIT-erer (Revisited)

Back in January of 2009 I posted this blog about Twitter on smallerindiana.com. I re-read it recently and decided it would be a good thing to post it on my personal blog (and to elaborate on it) since I have been tweeting for nine months.

I am brand new to all this social media networking. The marketing team I am using for my new business, strong armed me into it. For good reason. The tweeting began with my hands hovering over the keyboard. What Am I Doing Now? Easily answered over a phone line, but for some reason I couldn’t figure out what to say. Should it be business related? I am here, after all, to help put my product on the map. Do I talk about what I am really doing? Having an anxiety attack! Surely, that wouldn’t be the best way to gain followers. I felt a little exposed. Afraid of the water.

I must say, my first tweet was uneventful. They are improving, as is my number of followers. I even attend other social networks. I have immersed myself into a whole new community. Enlarged my social circle. Found a place to exchange ideas and gain insight. I have broadened my social etiquette. Followed with curiosity and un-followed without regret. Looking for business connections, I have made friends. I have since gotten over the feeling of being the new kid. Not a good chance I’ll ever make it into the “in crowd”. But, who ever thought becoming a twit would be a good thing.

Back then, I think I only had 100 followers. Now I have 1,200 and am very comfortable tweeting these days. I tweet an average of three times a day. And spend, maybe an average of 1 hour per day researching potential followers or catching up with current ones. I have not invested that much time, and I have gotten amazing results. My Google Analytics prove it.

The most important things I have learned:

  • Do not tweet only about your business. Most people won’t follow you if you are only trying to gain something.
  • Don’t necessarily tweet about what your eating every morning, but tweet some personal antecdotes, feelings, emotions, or quotes. It gives personality to your business and depth to your (Twitter) character.
  • Don’t use all the apps (or applications) that give you a million followers in a day. It doesn’t look very legitimate, especially if you only tweeted once last week.
  • Don’t follow too many at once or too many more than is following you. You look like a spammer and people will not follow you.
  • Follow people who interest you. I find followers a number of ways. I spend time on TweetChat about subjects that interest me or are pertinent to my business, I subscribe to SocialOomph for leads (but not to get automatic followers), and mostly I look to see who my followers are following.
  • Retweet others! This goes back to having interesting followers. You like what they have to say? Their insight might help others. Pay it forward.
  • Maintain consistency! I can’t say I have ever lost followers because I have had slow weeks, but I do drop followers if they haven’t tweeted in a month.

I cannot emphasize enough how helpful and important Twitter has been to starting this clothing line, or starting any business. Twitter is my free marketing tool, my free advertising tool, my free networking tool. It is my society away from society. I have connected with so many people all over the world, most of which, I would have never met on the street or in my travels. Friends and business contacts that reach the corners of the earth.

There are many people who say that social media is another deterrent from interacting with each other face to face. I agree, it can be addicting, and keep you from spending some time out and about. But, I would argue it’s not any easier or fantastical. It has all the same rules as ‘real’ society. And actually emphasizes one of the most important life lessons – “When you give much, you receive much.” There are random acts of kindness performed every day on Twitter, for people we don’t even know. How can a society like this be bad? I am proud to be a part of the Twitter community. I am happy to be a twit!

August 17th, 2009

Letter to our dog

Dear Jake,

I am writing this letter to let you know how loved you were. It is part memoriam and part therapy, to subdue my guilty conscience for neglecting you when Olivia and Ian came into this world.

I don’t have many memories from your first seven years of life. You were raised by your daddy who was single at the time. But, oh what a life you had.

My first memory of you is you trying to get into the bed when your daddy and I were dating. Your daddy was against it, but I couldn’t resist. I let you make your place between us, under the covers, head on the pillow.

You swam in the ocean daily, went to work with daddy and traveled far and wide. He was happy to share his left over steak and never hesitated to stop at Wendy’s to get you a BK Broiler. He was careful not to feed it to you before hanging out the window to cool. I chastised him for feeding you this way, but now I am glad you had that experience. Dog food looks awful.

When your daddy asked me to marry him, I was really concerned about how well you would get along with your new siblings. Kitties seemed to be more of a menu item than companions. You proved me right the first night. You cornered them immediately. I will never forget Tangy’s face upon your first introduction. Fear of you ruled their lives until the very end. They won’t admit it, but I am sure they miss you. Although, I am sure they don’t miss the baby gate that separated you guys for the last seven years.

Because you always lived in apartments, daddy took you to the park many times a day. That all changed when we had a house, the backyard became your playground. And you hated using it for your bathroom, tiptoeing around the edge so you wouldn’t step in the previous deposit. How I wish daddy would have kept up with that better.

Then I went ahead and had babies. What an evil woman I was. Poor guy. Your life changed so drastically. Within one year you had two kitties and one little girl to contend with. We had to keep you from sleeping with us to make room for her. She discovered you and poked and prodded you endlessly. Your growls let it be known, you were already too old for this.

We got you a puppy so you could have a friend and so he might teach you kitties can be fun. Instead, he chewed the house up, jumped on you, ate your food and took more attention from you. What a trooper you were. I can only think you were relieved, when we had to ship him off. He nearly broke your back he got so big. And he got into too much trouble. That was something you never were.

You figured out shortly after I moved in, that I was the one to follow for treats and attention. You never stopped trying for more attention. I’d go outside, you’d go outside. I’d come in, you’d come in. You had to learn how to tap the door to come in, because I would forget you were behind me.

Then Ian came along. You tolerated him much better. Was it his endless treat giving? Or the fact he would wait for you at the door and let you in? He seemed to respect your space. But, never hesitated to give you a pat whenever you passed by.

I hope you can forgive me for all the times I yelled at you for being underfoot, for stepping on you one million times, for forgetting your dinner during the hectic family times, for loving my cats, and for even bringing the kids into your life.

Thank you for never hurting those kids even when they bothered you, for barking every time a delivery truck went down the street and at every noise you heard in the house – especially when the babies were sleeping, for cleaning the floor on an hourly basis, for sometimes cleaning the table, even when you weren’t asked, for not eating the cats even though you wanted to, and for making me feel safe when your daddy was away.

In the end, your days at daddy’s office were few. And once I was able to let you back into the bedroom, you needed to be lifted to comfort. You missed making it outside one too many times. These moments were beyond heartbreaking. We knew your time had come.

Your life has changed once more. Ours is left with an empty couch, yours is filled with endless love. I had to move the furniture around, just so I didn’t have to look at your daily spot. Olivia took the news better than I thought. Ian threw you a ball yesterday, calling for you and asking where you were. I had our favorite breakfast, but you weren’t there to finish the crust from the peanut butter toast.

I miss you. We miss you. You wanted to go, we could see it in your eyes. I hope you heard all these things I wrote that I whispered in your ear the last moments. And I hope you are happy there, chasing the cats in heaven to your heart’s delight.

Our family will never be the same.

Mommy