Just in time for Easter, this week’s WonderWoman is Cynthia Mock, CEO of Adorable Baby Clothing. Specializing in formal wear for the pint-sized fashion plate, at Adorable Baby Clothing you can find everything from a fab faux fur for your little princess or a tiny tux for your little prince. But Cynthia doesn’t stop there, you can also find a great baby shower gift or something “everyday” sweet for your little one.
Customer service is the backbone of Adorable Baby Clothing, and Cynthia believes that it’s the key to her success. Here’s how she does it…
When did it hit you that there was an underserved market for formal clothing for children?
All you have to do is try to go shopping in a department store, and you’ll find out very quickly–choices are limited at best. Years ago there seemed to be an abundance of children’s clothing stores, which often offered a few more choices, but they seem to have disappeared over the years. If you do find a children’s clothing store in your area, they either are very limited on formal wear, or very expensive–not really a happy medium for most people. At Adorable Baby Clothing.com, parents will find not only a huge selection of styles and colors, but sizes. We don’t have to stock every single size and color, but we can sure get them from our vendors. Additionally, by not having to pay rent for expensive real estate, and all that’s involved with running a traditional “brick and mortar” store, we can keep our prices lower. We don’t skimp on quality — but I do try very hard to keep my prices extremely competitive for the consumers! I’m a consumer too, and love knowing I’ve purchased a quality product at a great price.
How did you get into business?
I owned a traditional retail store for several years prior to Adorable Baby Clothing.com. I tried working for someone else after I sold that business, but honestly, once you’ve been your own boss it’s hard to work for someone else, no matter how great they are. My goal for many years had been to own and operate an internet based business. I had looked at several, but none ever felt like “me”.
At about the same time I was going through the process of deciding where I wanted to go in business, I found out I was going to be a first time grandmother. I was so excited about this new phase of my life, and became even more determined to find just the right business–and then, it dawned on me–children’s clothing! I loved dressing my daughters up when they were little, and what fun to dress my new grandchildren (I have twin granddaughters!).
I loved the product from the beginning. The formal clothing is primarily manufactured by an American company called Lito. Formal wear for children is all they produce, and it’s made right here in America. Their attention to detail, fabrics, and pricing fit right into what I envisioned for my business. When you buy one of their items, you can basically plan to hand it down from generation to generation. All of the other manufacturers I utilize are also American companies. I even have a few vendors, who hand make items, so the customer is virtually getting a handmade item for their child.
How do you go about finding the clothing lines you feature? Is it a difficult process to constantly find the “new” hot brands?
I’ve been approached by countless importers to carry their lines. Although the prices have appeal, I am always concerned about quality, consistency, and the makeup up the fabrics. In today’s world of global economy you would think that you could find anything you wanted. In some sense that is true, but knowing that the garments you are selling to parents and grandparents for their children could be tainted, is not worth the gamble to me. I prefer to carry lines that are proven in time, and form an integral part of the American economy. Another factor I consider is whether or not the garment has a timeless appeal to it. If you look at the dresses and suits on Adorable Baby Clothing, you’ll see that virtually every one of them would be as appealing 5-10 years from now as it is today. What I’ve always believed is that buying a more classic style enables someone to keep on using that item, whether it’s for subsequent children, cousins, friends–whomever. Economically it makes more sense to me. Fads are great, but they are just that–here for a moment and then gone.
What is a typical day like for you Cynthia?
Oh gosh–lol–busy busy busy. Since I own and operate the website, I wear many hats. Typically it starts with reading any emails, and fulfilling any orders that may have occurred during the night. From there I try to do some social networking on Facebook, Twitter, and several social networking sites I’m a member of. Once that’s completed I work on the website–a never ending process- which might involve removing discontinued items, and as I’m doing now, adding new products. Often, I get phone calls from customers asking about a particular product, or when something is going to ship–I have some of the most interesting conversations with them! Typically I start around 7:00am and finish whenever I’m finished…which one never knows! I enjoy the challenges, and just wish I had two more hands, and eyes!
How does customer service factor into your business decisions?
Customer service–that is Number One with me. I’m a consumer too, and one of the big turn offs for me is when the customer service isn’t there. So many large corporations have automated systems which prevent you from ever actually speaking with someone–it’s so frustrating! I tend to gravitate towards companies that care about their customers. They’re willing to help, they’re friendly, they let you know they want you to be satisfied–and, so I try to be just that. It’s not worth making a sale and then having someone upset with the company because of poor customer service. My position on customer service is influenced too by the garments and various items sold on the website–if the quality and consistency isn’t there–I’ll end up with headaches and sleepless nights–that’s why I choose the companies that I choose.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed Adorable Baby Clothing? What’s your best marketing tip?
Probably the most effective marketing has been through the social networking, and email blasts that I send out. With so many companies on the internet you have to make yourself known. Another avenue I utilize consistently is Google. At least once a month I enter my entire product line into their database so that the search engines can find the website. My best marketing tip is to keep your business in front of people. We’re all busy people, and with that comes forgetfulness–ha ha–but truly, if you want people to remember you, you have to remind them you exist, and then give them a reason to come back, and/or tell others about your website.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
Knowing what I know now, I would have gone to college for a degree in computer science. Everything seems to revolve around computers now.
What goals do you have for the business this year?
My goals for this year are to grow sales by at least 20%. 2009 was a tough year, and although I made it through, I’d like to push forward. Additionally, I want to learn more about computer codes, and the inner workings of website design. I’m learning, but being who I am, I like to know everything there is to know, and I’m not there yet.
What have you learned on your business journey that you’d like to share with other business owners?
If you’re going into business for yourself, do it in an area you can be passionate about. I know that sounds corny, but if you don’t like what the product, or process is–it will make your life miserable. You have to be willing to take financial risks. The potential failure rate is huge, but with a lot of prayer and hard work you can become successful. Being in business for yourself is going to require you to work more hours than you ever did for another company. The responsibility for your success falls on your shoulders. If you don’t want that kind of responsibility, then going into business for yourself probably isn’t a good idea. Most importantly, you can’t let the “naysayers” discourage you. Most people are not risk takers in the sense of opening their own business. When a friend or family member announces they’re thinking of doing that, many will try to discourage you and encourage you to play it safe and just work a “safe” job. I know the first time I decided to own my own business it took me two-years to convince myself it was the right decision. That was over 6-years ago, and I’ve never regretted doing it. There have been nail-biting moments, and many sleepless nights, but in the end, I’ve loved every minute of the challenges, rewards, and wonderful people I’ve met.
This would be my analogy for life and business– There are always mountains in front of us. If you’re trying to see the top of the mountain, or figure out how to get over it or around it, most likely you’ll be so overwhelmed that you’ll give up. The way to get over the mountain is actually very simple–one step at a time. Once you start moving forward, and deal with what you have to deal with where you are at that moment, then suddenly you look up and realize you’re on the other side of the mountain. That’s what being in business is like. One step at a time.