She’s Mom Incorporated! Karla Trotman, Belly Button Boutique

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 Trotman and family

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.

Maternity support belt

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.

First Days Kit

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.

She’s Mom Incorporated! Scarlet Paolicchi, Moms Wear Your Tees Social Media Marketing

Scarlet Paolicchi of Moms Wear Your Tees Social Media Marketing is among the women featured in Mom, Incorporated. We caught up with this mother of two — ages 4 and 6 — for an interview recently. She’s giving away one Moms Wear Your Tees Business Directory listing. The listing includes a tweet about your business and with your business link via @mwytsocialmedia. ($25 value). To enter, you have three options:

  1. Follow our Facebook Moms Wear Your Tees-Small Biz Tips.
  2. Tweet about the giveaway with @mwytsocialmedia
  3. Let Scarlet know your favorite article from http://momswearyourtees.com

Scarlet Paolicchi

Mom Incorporated: When did you start your business and what inspired you to do so?
Scarlet Paolicchi: I started Moms Wear Your Tees Social Media Marketing in January of 2010, and I did it because I wanted to be able to do something I enjoyed doing that had enough flexibility to work around my family schedule and to help supplement our household income.

Mom Incorporated: What were some of your initial challenges setting up your business and how did you overcome them?
Scarlet: Luckily for me I was able to set the website myself with no problem,  but the challenge is then letting people know you exist and getting them to visit your website and then converting them to customers. I overcame this through social media. The only advertising I have done for my business is through social media, and all of my growth is organic. I have a lot of repeat customers and I have had excellent referrals, so this helps get my website out there and visited as well.

Mom Incorporated: How have you carved out time to work and what kind of hours do you keep?
Scarlet: I try to get my work out of the way before noon and then be free to devote my time to my son and daughter, but it doesn’t always work out that way!

Mom Incorporated: How have you handled child care while running your business?
Scarlet: Because I work from home, I don’t have to use child care. I am able to get my son busy with a project or just let him free play, and it is OK if I need to get up and help him with something or get him busy with something else.

Mom Incorporated: Where is your home office? Describe your setup, favorite equipment and, if you run your business online, any favorite software or apps.
Scarlet: My couch! I work from my couch with my MacBook and I blog, tweet, and facebook all day on and off.

Mom Incorporated: What are some ongoing challenges of running your business from home? How are you working to overcome them?
Scarlet: The biggest challenge for me is getting my name out there. I just keep plugging away at sharing my website social media marketing services and free business resources through different social media venues.

Mom Incorporated: What is your support network like — for your business and for you?
Scarlet: I have a wonderful husband and kiddos that support me and I have also met a lot of really great entrepreneurs online, and I enjoy networking with them as well.

Mom Incorporated: What do you do for yourself apart from your business and your family?
Scarlet: I like to get out in nature. I love to go canoeing, walking and hiking.

Mom Incorporated: What advice would you give other women about starting a home-based business in general? Any specific advice about starting a business like yours?
Scarlet: I think that getting up the courage to start something new is always tough, but I think if you can find someone else who is doing it successfully, it can give you the confidence to say, “I can do that, too.” You have got to believe in yourself AND work hard consistently, and you can achieve your goals. (Having goals is important.)

Specific advice for any business is to pick your URL with care and make sure you have your keywords in it to make your search engine optimization that much easier. I learned from my mistake and chose a more suitable URL for my blog- Family Focus Blog. http://familyfocusblog.com

Mom Incorporated: How do you market your business and what seems to work really well for you in terms of marketing?
Scarlet: All of my marketing is through social media. My biggest producers are Twitter and Facebook, but I have several other networks that I engage with as well. I have some articles on my website that share great tips on how to use Twitter and Facebook to market your business effectively. I have 22, 700+ twitter followers @familyfocusblog and 7,700+ twitter followers at @MWYTsocialmedia, and I get a lot of traffic to my sites from Twitter.

Mom Incorporated: Anything else you would like to share?
There are several free business resources on Moms Wear Your Tees Social Media Marketing including articles on business management tips , marketing tips, and a great business resource award that I offer.

Worksheet: Getting a Handle on Your Time

Mom Incorporated includes a variety of worksheets and checklists to help you plan out your business journey. It features charts to help you decide how much you need to make, how to set up your office and how to home in on your target market. Here’s a chart you can download, which focuses on getting a handle on your time.

DOWNLOAD: Worksheet: Getting a Handle on Your Time (right click on PC or CTRL click on Mac to save to your computer).

DOWNLOAD: Worksheet: Getting a Handle on Your Time

Mom, Incorporated is a ‘Hot New Release’

This is a milestone for us.

“Mom, Incorporated” is not only on the “Hot New Release” list for Women in Business, but look at this…. we were giddy to see it as number 4!  This past week, as our book moved from ‘pre-sale’ to actually ‘for sale’ on Amazon, we watched in awe as the numbers dropped from nine copies available to six, to three, to an amazing “This Book is SOLD OUT”!

While it did feel a touch surreal, it is, naturally, re-stocked and we are back-to-reality and just thrilled to be here….getting ready to kick off our book tour.  We are starting this Saturday in South Florida and then will begin our move up the East Coast.  We will be joined in Florida and Atlanta by our good friend, Heather Solos – and we certainly hope to see YOU there.

We would be remiss if we didn’t *also* share that we broke the Top 20 Best Selling Women in Business books as well and are hoping to see ‘Mom, Incorporated’ continue to inch its way towards the #1….and hey….wouldn’t it be fun to see it rank in business books too, not just women in business?

4 Ways Being an Entrepreneur Made Me a Better Mom and vice versa

This guest blog post from Adelaide Lancaster, co-owner of In Good Company Workplaces, originally appeared on WorkitMom’s Entrepreneur Mom blog.

Adelaide and her business partner Amy Abrams are also co-authors of the new book The Big Enough Company. You can meet Adelaide and Amy when they join Aliza Sherman and Danielle Smith on Oct 4, 2011, in New York City. Find out more here.

Here’s Adelaide’s official bio:

Adelaide Lancaster is an entrepreneur, speaker and co-author of The Big Enough Company: Creating a business that works for you (Portfolio/Penguin). She is also the co-founder of In Good Company Workplaces, a first-of-its-kind community, learning center and co-working space for women entrepreneurs in New York City. She is a contributor to The Huffington Post, and a columnist for The Daily Muse and The Hired Guns. She lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband and daughter.

Here’s Adelaide’s post where she explores some core lessons she has learned from being both mom and entrepreneur.

I think that moms make excellent entrepreneurs. I also think the reverse is true. After spending the last year navigating these two roles simultaneously, I’ve been surprised at how many of the core lessons overlap. It occurred to me that most of the things that make for a successful experience as an entrepreneur are also the things that make for a successful experience as a mom.

In my case, I was an entrepreneur for seven years before I was a mother. And although I still consider myself a new mom, I felt more prepared (in some ways) for the tremendous journey of motherhood because of what I’ve learned running my own business. I’ve heard lots of experienced mom entrepreneurs talk about the secrets of their success before. Some point to the ingenuity, creativity and resilience, while others highlight their keen multi-tasking and prioritization skills. I agree these have come in handy, but for me it was four different lessons that resonated most strongly.

Lesson 1: Get comfortable with “good enough”

Entrepreneurs often find themselves battling impossible and unrealistic standards. Moms do, too. Entrepreneurs contend with overnight success legends — small wonders who “hit it big,” while moms constantly battle all sorts of mythological creatures from Mrs. Brady to the modern-day super woman who can (wince) “do it all.” What’s more, neither moms nor entrepreneurs have jobs that are ever done. There is always more that you can do. More that you can give.

As an entrepreneur, I had to learn to embrace my limits and limitations despite and in spite of an endless number of tasks. Once I realized that I couldn’t “do it all,” I gave up trying. Instead I focused on doing what was important, as defined by my priorities and goals.

As a result, I was more successful. This proved to be quite a valuable motherhood lesson. Tempted to be fully equipped, fully prepared and overscheduled with enrichment opportunities, I recognized early on the negative impact that doing too much was having on the experience. It turns out that one recommended parenting book is enough, that fewer toys encourage creativity, and less gear makes life simpler. Once I forgot about everything that “should” be done, I was actually able to do a lot well and enjoy myself.

Lesson 2: Accept that progress happens in its own time

Businesses grow and develop at different rates, same as children. Some startups take longer to get out of the gate, while others explode overnight. This causes a lot of angst about what “should be” happening. Many entrepreneurs battle to speed things up, proclaiming, “look at how much we’ve done!” Other entrepreneurs feel bad that they haven’t yet reached  particular milestones. However, experience shows us that most businesses get there at some point and what matters is positive progression, not the rate of development.

Instead of comparing against businesses “born” around the same time, I learned to appreciate the uniqueness of my business, its goals and its own path of achievement. Again, this was a very helpful experience to have in my arsenal as a new mom. It made me less anxious when my baby was slow to roll over and also less boastful when she was quick to crawl. I understood the futility of comparison and the importance of the freedom for her to figure things out in her own time.

Lesson 3: Be honest

Entrepreneurs often feel obliged to paint a very rosy picture. Worried about displaying any hints of doubt, uncertainty or incompetence, we tend to spin things all the time. “Business has never been better!” “We are right on plan.” But the truth is that being an entrepreneur is all about embracing the uncertainty, reveling in the unknown and constantly recalibrating as you go along. In order to do this successfully you need feedback and input from others, which you will only get by being honest. No one will give you suggestions if you are already claiming that everything is great.

Instead, you need to give an accurate assessment. “Here’s what we are doing well, but this is what I don’t quite understand.” The same is true for the experience of motherhood. You won’t get anywhere by pretending it is all roses. Hard days get mixed right in with the blissful ones. And you only get the support (and answers) you need by sharing the truth about what is going on. What’s even more important is realizing that being honest doesn’t lessen your (perceived) commitment. I love being an entrepreneur even when I feel stuck. I love being a mom even when I’m tired, frustrated or at a loss for what to do.

Lesson 4: Understand the value of self-awareness

Both entrepreneurship and motherhood bring with them an onslaught of unsolicited advice and strong opinions about how to do it “right.” But what most entrepreneurs and moms quickly learn is that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. Trying to follow what others think you “should do” is a recipe for dissatisfaction both at home and at work. I learned that I would only be able to create a business that delivered the rewards I wanted if I was very clear about what kind of entrepreneur I wanted to be. Because of that, I’ve been able to strive for my own definition of success and eschew well-meaning but ill-fitting advice that I’ve received along the way.

My experience doing this as an entrepreneur encouraged me to give a lot of thought to what kind of mother I want to be and what kind of family environment I want to cultivate. I knew that the more aware I was of what I wanted, the better choices I’d be able to make. There’s nothing better than to be able to comfortably and confidently say, as an entrepreneur or mom, “This is what works for me.”

How is being an entrepreneur – and mom – informing your life?