Mentors for Mom Entrepreneurs – 5 Tips on Selecting the Right One for You

A mentor is a trusted advisor that can you can talk to about your business, offer a different perspective, or help you work through a challenging situation. Consider it another resource in your toolbox. As moms you are already juggling so many things that you often have to call in the reinforcements for help: from babysitters and housecleaners to accountants and lawyers. A mentor is another resource that can help you take your business to the next level by supporting you in the areas where you may not be as strong.

In the first part of our series on mentors, we talked about why you should get a mentor (you can’t be an expert in everything) and offer suggestions on where to look to find a mentor. Here are five strategies on how to choose the right mentor for you. Continue reading

Tips from One “Mom with a Biz” to Another

Rebecca Batisto is the founder of Abask Marketing, a full-service marketing agency specializing in everything from social networking and website production to public relations and everything in between. She created the business from home while working a full-time job but as her “side” business grew she was able to leave that job to focus on running her own business full-time. And, just two weeks later she found out she was pregnant! She is now the proud mom to two children under three and is successfully running her business out of her home office in sunny South Florida. 

She knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur and a mother but becoming both at the same time was more of a challenge than she had anticipated. Rebecca shares some of the lessons she learned through this experience and offers some guidance to help you along your journey.  Continue reading

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Our guest blogger this week is Stephanie Lee of Scratchpad Secretaries. We featured Stephanie in our book in the section about virtual assistants. She’s awesome, and here is some of her great advice!

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

You’ve finally gotten to the point in your business where it’s time to delegate some projects and tasks. Good for you! It’s exciting to be ready to take that 5 step in partnering up with a virtual assistant to take some of that administrative load off your plate (and your desk!). Continue reading

7 Online Retail Mistakes to Avoid

Jennifer, Jeff and Kilian, the family's newest edition

Jennifer Gault-Varner is a serial entrepreneur who started, operated and sold a successful online business, BellaBluMaternity.com. But, she confesses, she made a lot of mistakes while getting that business off the ground.

“Your barrier of entry to get online is so easy,” she says. “It’s easy to acquire vendors, design a site and pop it up. But the actually running of an e-commerce store is quite difficult.”

That realization is what led Gault-Varner to her second business: Pure e-Commerce. The company creates turnkey online retail stores, stocks them with merchandise, and sells them to brand-new entrepreneurs — along with 40 hours of consulting advice.

We asked Gault-Varner to expound on some of the mistakes you can make with an online website, and how to overcome them.

  1.  “The top mistake is not dedicating a good portion of your time to search engine optimization.With the amount of competition on the Web, it’s everything,” she says. However, she warns, “Learn how to do it yourself before you hire someone. By not learning it, you’re at a disadvantage.” Gault-Varner goes on to say: “I’m a perfect example of someone who didn’t get it. I was spending $45,000 a month on advertising and never worked on my SEO.” If she could do it over again, she says, “I would have learned SEO from the very beginning and worked on it nonstop for the first six months.”She adds, “That’s one of the things I see my clients make mistakes with. They don’t like or understand something, such as SEO or blogging, so they don’t do it. They skip some of the most important tasks because they’re overwhelmed. You have to push through and learn those things.”
  2. Assuming your website looks good because you like it. Present it to other people. If you’re selling baby clothes, ask 10 friends who have babies. “Your website is your business card. People will make a decision in two seconds,” she says. Her tips:
    1. The majority of information should be “above the fold”  — that is, you shouldn’t have to scroll down to see it.
    2. The site needs to be clean.
    3. It needs to emulate the mood of the shopper or the businessperson if you’re selling consulting services. “A good part of my success with BellaBlu was that it was directed at pregnant women who deal in emotion. They loved the look and feel of my site. You need to think about the client and how he or she feels at this stage of their life or about the business they’re in.”
  3. Not selling a product you’re passionate about. Passion helps when it comes to marketing ideas and thinking out of the box, she says.
  4. Expanding faster than you can manage. Before you use Google Adwords, for example, make certain you’re ready to take on additional customers.
  5.  Reluctance to hire people to do the jobs you don’t have time for — not just in the business, but in your home, too. “I don’t clean my own house or do my own laundry,” Gault-Varner says. She can hire someone to do that at less money than she makes if she’s devotes those hours to growing her business.
  6. Not setting goals. Set your goals, then devise a plan to achieve that goal. “Subconsciously, you start doing things to work toward that goal.” She also suggests playing with different marketing avenues to see which works best for you.
  7. Not participating in social media. “I think it’s extremely important for retail e-commerce. People will go on your site. They’ll check Facebook, your blog and Twitter. So you need to keep up with them.”

Jennifer Gault-Varner and family, before Kilian's birth

One thing Gault-Varner does believe in is giving back. Gault-Varner has created a nonprofit, Kilian’s Kids, which donates laptop computers, Ipods, Ipads and DSI game systems to children fighting life-threatening illnesses.

Gault-Varner conceived her nonprofit after she and husband Jeff Varner celebrated his 10-year anniversary of being cancer free. One week later, Gault-Varner — who was pregnant with her third child — learned that she had breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy, all while carrying Kilian, who was born hale and hearty.

The gadgets she donates are meant to give hospital-bound kids access to the outside world, Varner says. Gault-Varner raises money for the project by auctioning retail websites and putting that money into Kilian’s Kids. Her latest auction ended Oct. 15.

She’s Mom Incorporated! Rebecca Buscemi, The Savvy Women’s Business Solution

Meet Rebecca Buscemi of The Savvy Women’s Business Solution. She is the host of our book tour in Baltimore on Oct. 7.

Mom Incorporated: Why did you decide to start a virtual assistance business as opposed to something else?
Rebecca: As the country was facing financial difficulty, so was this bedridden, 8-month-pregnant mama. I decided to look into what I could do while at home with my newborn and 2-year-old. I discovered virtual assistance and decided it was a perfect fit for me. I couldn’t bear the thought of returning to work out of the house after I had made the decision more than a year ago to stay at home with my family.

Mom Incorporated: What services specifically do you offer your clients? Which are the services you started with and what services did you offer over time?
Rebecca: When I initially launched my business, I offered virtual assistance to nonprofits, health care and education professionals. The services I offered were basic administrative services. At the time I was launching my initial business, Creative Virtual Office, I was focusing on the areas that I worked in previously. My undergrad was in early childhood administration.

This was the same time that social networking and social media were gaining popularity. I used these social networks to my advantage and solely marketed my business online, because it was free. While networking, I ran across other women that were just like me, mom entrepreneurs. I was becoming more and more involved with this group and was gaining more clients because of my networking and marketing efforts. My business began to evolve to a social media and internet marketing company that also offers virtual business management. I renamed my business The Savvy Women’s Business Solution in February 2010. I now offer less traditional administrative services and more services that focus on marketing and management.

Mom Incorporated: How did you go about finding your first client? How about subsequent clients?
Rebecca: I have found all of my clients through social media sites and word-of-mouth from other clients. Social media has been a very powerful marketing tool for me and also has been free. I have found that by providing relevant information that others want to know about, I am gaining their trust. Many of these people have become clients.

Mom Incorporated: What kinds of costs did you incur setting up your business, if any? What tools, resources, equipment, sites, etc. do you use daily to do your work?
Rebecca: The basic costs to start my business included obtaining my business license, registering my business with the state and joining the International Virtual Assistant Association. I already had all of the basic equipment that I needed, such as a PC, three-in-one printer, fax and scanner. On a daily basis I use Freshbooks to track my time, expenses and to invoice clients; Deskaway for project management; Hootsuite for streamlining and tracking my social media; Sproutsocial for online reputation and brand management; and Google for email and file/document hosting.

Mom Incorporated: Fill in this blank:
Rebecca: If you hate being delegated to, you shouldn’t be a virtual assistant.

Mom Incorporated: Fill in this blank:
Rebecca: If you are good at handling last-minute projects and being a self-starter, you could consider being a virtual assistant.

Rebecca Buscemi of The Savvy Women’s Business Solution is the host of our book tour in Baltimore on Oct. 7.