They’re Mom, Incorporated: Suzanne Browne and Martina Delaney

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Mom, Incorporated had the opportunity to interview Suzanne Browne and Martina Delaney, the founders of Clevamama™, a mom-owned baby products company based out of Ireland that recently entered the American market. 

 

MomIncorporated: How did you get started with Clevamama™ and how has it evolved into the business it is today?

Suzanne: Established in 2003, in the midst of three very small babies, very little sleep and a conveyor belt of feeding and changing, we had what you might call a “light bulb” moment. That moment led to the creation of a small family run online baby website where we sold third party baby products from our own homes.

Although our online shop was successful, it wasn’t long before we began to realise just how lucrative the nursery industry was. People are always going to have babies and the nursery industry is one of few that actually thrives in a recession!

As Moms, our primary goal was to develop an honest brand with pure products that would make parents lives that bit easier, safer and healthier.  Hence the birth of Clevamama™ which coincided with the birth of my second baby!  Designed by Moms for Moms, Clevamama™ products are creative, practical and above all, affordable. With over 40 products in our range we are proud to say we are now an international brand of choice.  Continue reading

Becoming an Unintentional Work-At-Home Mom

By Kathy Zucker

Kathy Zucker

Over the past six years, I have been a managing partner in three companies. In the past year, I have written two business plans and raised a million dollars in investor capital commitments. In the past 16 months, I established a beverage company’s online and social media presence, redesigning the look and wording of all its marketing materials. The result of those efforts? The company has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon.com, shot to No. 1 in nationwide sales in the Amazon grocery section, and is now being sold at the Ritz Carlton, at the hotel’s request. And I accomplished all this while working from home.

When I launched my marketing consulting business six years ago, I never expected any of this to happen. But the biggest surprise of all? The fact that I am home at all. I never, in a million years, intended to stay home when I became a parent. I thought I would be your typical Manhattan marketing director, taking 12 weeks of maternity leave before putting my child into day care or hiring a nanny.

Life has a way of moving in unexpected directions. I found parenting to be much harder and more gut-wrenching than I ever expected. You don’t truly know what sleep deprivation is like until you have parented a newborn; it’s like walking around drunk all the time. And I found that I couldn’t stand being away from my daughter. Watching her little face pull away from me in a car window is one of my most emotionally searing memories of early motherhood. Also, my husband’s career started ramping up; I had been the primary breadwinner until then, but I agreed to scale back so he could go for the big time. Two parents working 60-hour weeks — we would never see our kid.

Struggling to balance parenting with your career?

It is surprisingly easy to start working for yourself. The most basic level of being in business is a sole proprietorship. You come up with a business name, register it with the state you live in, and get a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). It can all be done online; it should take about an hour to establish your business. And the cost? Under $100.

Why do you need an EIN as a sole proprietor? Privacy is huge; do you want to give your Social Security number to every client? Having an EIN also enables you to partner with other people; I often put together marketing plans that involve multiple vendors (interns, a web developer, etc.) At the end of the year, I issue them 1099s since they are independent contractors; no tax liability for me.

Having an EIN makes you look legitimate. Many clients request my EIN before they will do business with me. It doesn’t change my income tax filing status; I file one set of personal returns and all my business activity goes on schedule C.

Useful links:

Kathy Zucker, serial entrepreneur and mother of two toddlers, writes about juggling career and family in an urban setting. See what Kathy is up to at her blog and on Twitter.

 This article originally appeared on Metromoms.net on Jan. 9, 2012.

Mom Incorporated Live Online Event, Monday October 24th 9pm EST

We’re on the road.  The ‘Mom, Incorporated’ Book Tour has started and it is amazing and fabulous and wonderful.

And also impossible – because we cannot be everywhere.  And even as we touch down in YOUR city, sometimes the schedule doesn’t work.  And we get it.  Because this whole thing?  This work-life juggle?  It is JUST THAT….a juggle.

So, we have a solution – since we really want to connect with as many of you as possible.

As part of our Mom, Incorporated Book Tour – we are hosting a Live Online Event.  This Monday, October 24th.  9pm EST.

You’ll be able to find us right here.  We are coming to you.  To your computer.  To your living room.  To your kitchen.

Writing this book was just the beginning of this conversation.  Meeting amazing women in South Florida, Atlanta, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago (where we are right now) and the West Coast next week…. it is all a portion of our journey.

There is more to this “in person Book Tour” and we are extremely excited about it, but we know we can’t hit all of the cities where there are moms we want to meet.

So, until we can….  this is the beginning.

Join us, LIVE.  We want to talk to you, hear from you…..answer your questions and know what you think of Mom, Incorporated!

She’s Mom Incorporated! Lahronda Little, High Quality Organic Skin Carecare

Lahronda Little

Lahronda Little, founder of High Quality Organic Skincare LLC, never intended to become an entrepreneur. “I started the product line for myself,” says Little, who is a chemist. “I was at home with my babies (ages 2 and 4), and I had developed a skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris, also known as ‘chicken skin.’ ”

It took a year before Little developed a formulation she liked. It was her husband who suggested she might want to sell the product. She gave it to friends and acquaintances, “and people loved it,” she says. So last November, while still employed full-time, she launched the line using her savings.

Then, she says in Mom, Incorporated:

“I got to a point where I needed more money and didn’t want to deplete my savings.”

Her solution: credit card services offered by PayPal and Amazon. She spent about $1,500 on the high-interest credit loans. The key to success using these tools, however, was paying off the loans. In Mom, Incorporated, Lahronda vowed to pay off the debt within three months — a goal she achieved. We asked her about her experience with credit card debt, and her advice for others who might be inclined to use credit card debt to fund operations.

MomIncorporated: What other options, if any, were available to you when you went this route?
Lahronda: My other options were to continue spending my savings or put off the investment for another time.

MomIncorporated: What would putting off the investment have done to the business?
Lahronda: I’d started doing home shows for my business. In order to be prepared for the next home show, I needed a filler. So I had to make some decisions about how to fund that.

MomIncorporated: What elements factored into making this decision. Why were you so confident you could pay the loans off quickly?
Lahronda: I was confident that I could pay of the debt quickly because I am still affiliated with a corporate job. I wrote out a plan and put a cap ($1,500) on how much I would use. I bought my stuff. And from that date, I wrote out how much I would pay each month to pay it off.

MomIncorporated: Why use Smart Connect and Amazon — with steep finance fees — instead of a regular credit card?
Lahronda: I used the those sources simply because I was already affiliated with them with using PayPal services for payment and Amazon as a purchasing source for some of my packaging and raw material needs. It was a matter of convenience. I never wanted to use credit cards at all for my business. In fact, I do not have a regular card. I’ve not used one for years.

MomIncorporated: What warnings would you provide before advising someone to use credit card financing?
Lahronda: The biggest warning is to make sure you know the cost of borrowing. Also, have a clear understanding of your tolerance for credit. In other words, are you disciplined enough to follow through on payoff?

MomIncorporated: And what are the lessons to be learned?
Lahronda: Try to be as accurate as possible when determining your startup — do your research. Although in business unexpected things happen, it is a good idea to plan for the unexpected when writing your business plan.

 MomIncorporated: What advice would you offer someone else who wanted to go this route?
Lahronda: Have a plan. That plan should include specifics such as what you are purchasing, the cost of the materials, the interest rate and your time line. Everything should be in black and white so that you’re clear on the impact of your decision.

MomIncorporated: How do you balance your corporate job, your family and your business?
Lahronda: My husband and I work great as a team. We mesh well, and my husband understands what I’m doing. At 8 p.m., when the children go to bed, I work on HQO, and then on the weekend after finishing our family activities. I have a great support system. My family lives in the area, and I have a great baby sitter.

There have been days when I’ve been reduced to tears. But I’m getting better at crying for help. If I get behind on bottling and labeling, my sister helps.

MomIncorporated: Do you have plans to quit your full-time job?
Lahronda: What I’m doing now is not sustainable. I need to be totally working for myself. But I’m not making enough. I’m pouring everything back into the business. My packaging was great to get me started, but it has to be upgraded. I’ve been approached by a couple of online retailers, and the only thing holding me back is the packaging. Everything I’m making is going right back into the business.

She’s Mom Incorporated: Jill Leech, Potty Tots

Jill poses in her Potty Tots booth

Jill Leech, one of the women quoted in Women Incorporated, is the founder of Potty Tots, potty training kits for boys and girls.

In the book, Leech advises: “Allocate enough funds for advertising and marketing right from the start.” We caught up with Leech recently and asked her to talk about starting her business, and some of the challenges she faced getting it up and running.

Mom Incorporated: I understand that you came up with the idea of Potty Tots because of problems your own daughter was having. But what was the “ahah” that made you decide to create a company and take it to market?
Jill Leech:
When I was having difficulty potty training my youngest daughter I took a parenting class, and one suggestion was to make charts with pictures so children felt secure understanding what you wanted them to do. I thought I would just look up an illustrated potty chart online and buy one. To my surprise, when I searched online there weren’t any such charts. I decided to draw one and make the little girl look just like my daughter. She was very motivated because she loved that the chart looked like her and could see what to do next. She felt so proud of herself when she was independent and successful. It took the power struggle out of potty training by helping her to be more independent. The “ahah” moment for me was when I made charts for family and friends who had toddlers and found the same success. I knew then that this could be a product that could help other parents with potty training their children. And I started to imagine a whole company with a line of products for potty training toddlers.

Mom Incorporated: What were your first steps? And how did you know what to do?
Jill:
My first step in creating Potty Tots, LLC was to create an entire program for potty training. With a background as a teacher, I wanted to create an educational and fun program that would teach toddlers this very first task in taking care of themselves. I decided that a storybook would be a great way for toddlers to identify with other children learning this for the first time. I created the Potty Tots characters with diverse ethnicities, personalities and interests so that toddlers would feel they were not alone in the process. Since children learn best when they are having fun, we created an animated DVD with music videos so children could sing and dance to learn the steps of potty training. In addition, I created a fun little football-inspired progress game called “The Toilet Bowl” so that toddlers could keep track of every little success, clearly see their goal and know when to expect a reward.

As for starting the company, I began by reading a book called Start Up Nation, Open for Business. I was really inspired to build a brand and a company rather than just create a product and sell to other stores. I read every book I could find on business and looked up every website I could that was related to starting your own business and having an online store. I reached out to other moms in business and asked questions on business-related forums. I was really amazed at how many women were willing to help a fellow “Mompreneur” just starting out. I will always be grateful for their advice and assistance.

Mom Incorporated: How long did it take to go from concept to launch?
Jill:
From the time I had the initial idea for the potty chart to launching the company was about a year and a half. After creating the program I had to hire an illustrator, animator and musician to bring the Potty Tots to life. Then I had to find a printer, manufacturer and developer for the website. There was a lot to learn in that relatively short amount of time, but it was also very exciting.

Mom Incorporated: What were the biggest challenges you faced?
Jill:
I would have to say the biggest challenge that I faced was getting the product out to the consumer. You can have a great product and website, but the orders are not just going to come flooding in overnight. You need to have a lot of capital to launch the marketing phase. Even in this day and age of the internet, you have to spend money on advertising and be open to many different marketing strategies. Lesson learned: It takes a lot of hard work, money and time to build a brand.

Mom Incorporated: How did you find your manufacturer and how did you fund the project?
Jill:
I love the internet! Not only did I find my manufacturer online, but I also found my entire Potty Tots team online (illustrator, animator, musician, web developer, company attorney, game developer — and the list goes on!) With the internet I am doing business with companies and individuals not only here in the U.S. but also in China, India, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Two websites I utilized and highly recommend are Alibaba.com for finding manufacturers and iFreelance.com for freelance artists and other professionals. Of course you always have to do your homework when hiring anyone. Make sure to check out their work and references. Ask for samples from manufacturers and call their references and ask how prompt they were in responding and about the quality of their work. It is also important to have a great relationship with your team. Make sure to hire people you trust and enjoy working with.

As for funding my company, my husband has been really supportive, and we have invested our own money in the initial product development, website design, production and the day-to-day expenses of running the company. We continue to invest money in new product development.

Mom Incorporated: What was your marketing plan? How has it changed since then?
Jill:
Initially my marketing plan for Potty Tots was to advertise in parent publications and on the internet with Google Ad Words and similar pay-per-click (PPC) programs. I reached out to mom bloggers to review the program to build product credibility. We also participated in trade shows for retail stores and parent events.

My marketing plan has changed quite a bit. Print advertising and many of the PPC programs were expensive and didn’t give much of a return on our investment. I have shifted to the social media realm of advertising through Twitter and Facebook. We launched during the period when mom bloggers were the up-and-coming way to market to moms. Knowing that moms are our primary target consumer, we are now focusing on marketing to moms by marketing with moms. We are starting a Mom Ambassador program, and we’re advertising on mom blogs that have influence in the blogsphere and who have tried the Potty Tots Program and love it. Word-of-mouth advertising is the best endorsement we can get. We also have videos on YouTube and are working on a campaign for our first commercial. Videos are one of the best ways to show your customers your product. Getting customers to tape a video review of your product is also a great way to add credibility to your product. Best of all, YouTube is free!

Note: A fantastic book on this subject is Mom 2.0 Marketing with Moms by Maria Bailey. I met her at a conference and she is the expert on marketing to moms and using social media.

Mom Incorporated: What are your future plans for the product?
Jill:
We have so many big plans for Potty Tots! We have a whole product line in the works. This last year we had sample dolls made, and we are just working on fine tuning those to bring to market in 2012. We also have a mobile app being developed as this goes to print! There are so many other products that relate to potty training that I know I will be busy for years to come creating and launching new products. I am really excited for the future of my company.

Mom Incorporated: What advice would you give other women interested in developing a product?
Jill:
The first piece of advice I would give anyone interested in developing a new product is to research if there is a similar product. You really want to be innovative and develop a unique product that will either solve a problem or is just so darn cute that everyone has to have one!

Second, it is so important to network. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. I wouldn’t be where I am today without advice or creative input from other successful men and women.

Last, keep on learning about every aspect of your business and the industry. Be flexible, and don’t be afraid of change. That is what learning is all about.

Once you start on this path, keep moving forward and never lose the sense of excitement that got you started on this journey. Never give up, and always believe that you can succeed. One of my favorite quotes from Walt Disney hangs on the wall in my office: “If you can dream it, you can do it.”