Meet Karla Trotman of Belly Button Boutique. She’s hosting our book tour at the Barnes & Noble in Plymouth Meeting, Penn., on Oct. 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. Karla is also among the women quoted in Mom Incorporated.
Mom Incorporated: You had a couple of difficult pregnancies. But what made you take the next steps and start BellyButtonBoutique.com?
Karla: Friends and co-workers who knew that I had a difficult first pregnancy would ask me questions on behalf of other friends who were suffering through their pregnancy. I realized that I had amassed a great deal of information to help women. There wasn’t a one-stop shop that offered products like the ones that I had identified. My husband pushed me to at least look into the idea, so I did a bit of research and found that a market existed for women who were pregnant and uncomfortable, all suffering in silence because no one really admits that pregnancy can be uncomfortable.
Mom Incorporated: What steps did you have to take to set up the business? How long did it take from concept to launch?
Karla: The first thing I did was call my accountant and ask him how I should organize the company. I then made an appointment with my lawyer to organize the business structure and do the paperwork. This was done two weeks before the birth of my second son. Four months later, I launched BellyButtonBoutique.com.
Mom Incorporated: What were some of your early challenges, and how did you overcome them?
Karla: I was working full-time and wanted to give the appearance of a solid business. Operating in cyberspace helps you do that. I spent good money on the site and made sure it represented everything I wanted my business to be. It was expensive but a great investment.
Another challenge was getting the word out. So I made sure I had some great sellers that already had a following and worked on SEO in order to drive traffic to my site.
Mom Incorporated: You’re involved in your family’s business, as well as the online site. And your LinkedIn profile says you have a social media consulting business, as well. What are your time-management tips?
Karla: I’m not at my family business 40 hours a week. My schedule is such that I can pick up my boys from school. I recognize that everyone does not have this flexibility, but I had a flexible work arrangement prior to this. When I was planning a family, I took a corporate job with a company that was supportive of working mothers. This allowed my husband and me to find a rhythm and balance in our schedule and budget prior to having the kids. The goal has always been to be a mom first and have my career fit my family life. That is my theme.
My business is great because I have drop-ship agreements with a lot of companies, so I serve as the middle man in a sense. I don’t have to physically ship most of my products.
As far as consulting, I consult businesses when I really feel that I can help them. Many times, fellow business owners just want tips on how to balance it all; that is what I offer.
Mom Incorporated: How has social media helped you with your business?
Karla: Social media opened a huge door. It allowed me to meet Linda Vertlieb, Frugal Philly Mom, who became a good friend. She introduced me to a producer at NBC, and I have been doing monthly segments for the past six months. This monthly segment has grown my audience and been a great way to strengthen my media skills. Having NBC attached to my work opens many doors for speaking engagements, consulting opportunities and working with different companies.
Mom Incorporated: How have you handled child care while running the business?
Karla: Both of my children are in day care during the week. They were in school when I was working full-time, so that never changed.
Mom Incorporated: Describe your home-office setup, favorite equipment and any favorite software or apps.
Karla: I work from my family business in an office. When I am home I am on my laptop … I go where the kids are.
As far as favorite equipment, I love that phones allow you to get your email. I can handle any issue as it arises. I’m simple … apps confuse me.
Mom Incorporated: What is your support network like — for your business and for you?
Karla: My parents, in-laws, aunt, grandmother and brothers all lend a hand. My primary source of support is my husband. My father is great with the business advice, as well. I am really blessed to have such a strong village. I’ve made many friends through the group Philly Social Media Moms, all of whom are experts in something. They are a wonderful resource and have been great friends to me.
Mom Incorporated: What tips do you have for moms who are pregnant?
Karla: Here are my tips for new moms:
- Ask the hospital for a postpartum abdominal binder at the hospital. It helps with supporting your back and stomach those first few days at home. It also provides compression for your stomach, uterus and abdominals.
- When you go to the hospital to deliver, make sure that you bring the super duper, overnight, extra-long, huge maxi pads with you. Trust me now; thank me later.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being a new mom is overwhelming. It’s OK to ask people to hold the baby while you take a nap or a shower. No need to suffer if there are open hands and hearts available.
- If dad wants to be involved, teach him what to do, and don’t be too harsh. Allow him to do things his way in order to build his confidence, so that he can do the heavier lifting later. Sometimes my husband dresses my kids and they look like homeless children, but I’m fine with it, because it’s something I didn’t have to do. Tasks like this, over the years, allow him to feel like he can handle himself with the kids, so that I can go away for the weekend and do ME!
Tip for experienced moms:
- Go away for the weekend without your husband at least once a year. It can be a girls’ trip or a college reunion with friends. Make sure that you reconnect to the core of who you are before you lose it … literally and figuratively.
Mom Incorporated: What advice would you give other women about starting an internet business?
Karla: Having an online business is a constant learning process. The rules change on a daily basis. Make sure that you have a strong network of like-minded folks who can help you stay up to speed and ahead of the curve. It can be rough — but oh, so rewarding.
Karla Trotman of Belly Button Boutique is hosting our book tour at the Barnes & Noble in Plymouth Meeting, Penn., on Oct. 6 from 7 to 9 p.m.