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WonderWoman Wednesday… Tamiko Helen Hargrove, President and CEO of Helen Julia New York

In preparation for Earth Day, this week’s WonderWoman is Tamiko Helen Hargrove, President and CEO of Helen Julia New York. Tamiko created Helen Julia New York nearly six years ago with the goal of making her clients feel good. After spending years in corporate America, she knew the feelings of being stressed, overworked and burnt out all too well. 

Tamiko’s own personal experience led her to create a line that can literally take you away from the hectic world. If you cannot physically get to a spa, you can at least feel the relaxation of a spa treatment at home when burning any of Helen Julia’s collection of hand-poured scented soy candles. Lighting these deliciously fragrant soy based candles will dramatically improve your mood, and quite possibly turn up the heat for you and your special someone…who says eco can’t be sexy! Here’s how she did it…

When did you decide that you had to get out of corporate America and into your own business? Was the Helen Julia line your first idea for making the break?

While working in Corporate America I have learned so much and have worked with the best of the best in the fashion and beauty industry. I quickly became inspired working with brands such as Stila Cosmetics, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Lancome to name a few. Being a creative person myself, I always wanted to put a new “spin” on a project I was working on. However, in Corporate America, there isn’t much room to let your creativity take over. Working long hours and putting so much “creative” energy into working for someone else, I thought of a better way to utilize my valuable time and energy. And thus, Helen Julia was born. This was my ticket out of the corporate world and into my own creative heaven!

How did you get Helen Julia started?

Well, it all started with a thought… “What will be the first product to launch under the Helen Julia umbrella.” I have always been a HUGE fan of scented candles. Before the candle business turned into a multi-billion dollar business with so many luxury boutique candles, there weren’t a lot of beautifully packaged and amazing scents to choose from when I started my collection. I would find myself purchasing candles that smelled amazing while in their container but once lit, there was not a good scent throw. I’m all about presentation so packaging is very important to me. It was hard to find a good candle in nice packaging all in one. So, I had my “Aha” moment to create a candle collection that would be presentable as a beautiful gift while having the amazing scent that will fill up your room without the candle being lit. Helen Julia’s fragrances are potent in beautiful subtle scents.

I know you got your business name, as well as your fashion sense from your grandmother’s on both sides, tell us a bit more about that and the brooch logo.

Helen and Julia are my grandmothers and I thought what is the best way to say “thank you” to them; after all, without them I would not exist. My grandmother Julia Annette has a keen sense when it comes to fashion and style. So it was no surprise that I had developed that same passion. The brooch in my logo represents my grandmother, Julia. The brooch is located above her name. Julia Annette loves her brooch (and there is more than one in her collection). My grandmothers, Helen and Julia are both very classy and savvy women who keeps their family grounded and close. My slogan mark “When you receive love, you give love” is something my grandmothers would always instill in me (in their own unique way) to remind me that what you are taught is what you will inevitably give back.

What is your inspiration for the yummy fragrances you create? 

The inspiration behind my fragrances are scents to subliminally take you back to something special. Some of our fragrances are playful or romantic to remind you of your childhood or wedding day. For example our Pink Diamond candle scented in Cotton Candy reminds us of visiting the amusement park as children and our “I Do” candle scented in Rose Bouquet to remind us of our first corsage we received on prom night or our wedding day. Our fragrances and fragrance names are fun and relatable. Helen Julia is about the experience when you purchase our products. It takes you to a comfort place.

 

 

You made a conscious choice to craft your candles from soy products, was that a bit of a barrier when you first started? What benefits do soy based candles offer over traditional wax candles?

When Helen Julia was first launched our candles were made of Paraffin wax vs. Soy wax. We quickly changed our wax to Soy when we realized the world is going “Green” and more eco friendly. Soy wax is a cleaner burn and does not pollute the air as paraffin wax does. You will notice when burning a soy candle, your candle burns evenly down without much wax residue left on the glass.

What is a typical day like for you Tamiko?

This is a fun question as my days are never the same! I am always trying to find new ways to expose and expand Helen Julia. I utilize social media networking quite often like Facebook and Twitter. I love “Mommy” social networking sites as they are a great support group for moms and “mompreneurs”. Since we do offer custom packaging for personalized projects, I am always targeting new brides or mothers to introduce Helen Julia for their bridal and baby showers. Looking for new fragrances to add to the collection is always on my “to do” list. We currently have 11 scents in our collection and I am looking to expand that to 20 scents. I want a fragrance for everyone to enjoy!

What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed Helen Julia? What’s your best marketing tip?

The best way to market your business these days is social media networking (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc). Personally, I find it a convenient way that’s FREE to get your product or service in front of millions of people. Now, it can be overwhelming with so many other businesses doing the same thing. However, that is when your creativity is put to the test to get your information noticed and remembered. I love a challenge and I find new ways to market myself that will be cost effective for business without breaking the bank to get noticed. There are many blogs and groups that are willing to support your business if you support theirs. It’s definitely worth the “help me and I’ll help you” strategy to get your business in front of potential new clients daily.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else starting their own business?

To be honest with you, I would not change anything looking back when I first started my business. Starting a business is a learning curve and you have to fall and pick yourself up over and over again. You will learn from your first mistake when you have lost money from that mistake. Taking baby steps is key when you are starting a business. Look at your business as your child. You have to nurture and feed it so it grows to what you want it to be. It’s not easy. There will be obstacles along the way as some things are just beyond our control. If you had a heads up on all the challenges you’ll have to face, you would probably have second thoughts with moving forward. So embrace the challenges, learn from them and keep trucking along. You’ll be fine and end up stronger than you can ever imagine!

What goals do you have for Helen Julia this year?

Some goals I have set for this year are adding new scents to the collection in addition to some new products other than candles. Helen Julia will launch room sprays and eau de toilette’s in our best selling candle scents. We have an exciting year ahead of us. We hope you’ll enjoy our new additions and we welcome your feedback.

What have you learned on your business journey that you’d like to share with other business owners?

Patience, Patience, Patience! I cannot express that enough. I have finally learned and understand what patience means. Running a business has its high and low moments. Not everything goes according to plan when you expect them to. This goes back to some of the obstacles that will confront you when you least expect it and it’s beyond your control. All you can do is be patient, find your way and slowly but surely the tides will turn. Giving up is not an option. When you have chosen to give up, you have accepted failure! The best of the best has fallen and have got back up to achieve the success they’ve claimed. You can do it too! Good luck and congratulations on starting a new career!

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WonderWoman Wednesdays…Shane Shirley-Smith President of Environmental Booty

This week’s WonderWoman is Shane Shirley-Smith, President of Environmental Booty. Shane believes that our future largely depends on our knowledge and actions. For this reason she created Environmental Booty, the green online community dedicated to helping society make conscious choices today that will change our health and the health of our world tomorrow. 

Here’s how she did it…

How did you decide to create Evironmental Booty? Was there a “lightbulb” moment?

EnvironmentalBooty.com was created because I wanted a way to help people learn to live healthier lives and create a healthier world.  My goal was to give people Eco-information, products to green their lives and a way to gather and share information about going green, caring for our earth and each other.  I created my blog to spread the message of healthy choices through Eco-conscience consumerism and looking out for our planet.  A few months after I started the blog,  my daughter took part in a play about pirates at school.  As she practiced her songs at home and told me what she was learning about pirate booty, the name Environmental Booty just popped into my head.  I  thought it would be a cute play on words to provide Environmental Booty for people as a way to green their lives.  Environmental Booty is about protecting the treasure that exists in yourself, other people and our planet.

How did you get the community started?

The Environmental Booty site is a social networking community for people and businesses traveling the path to green. It was an integral part of the concept behind Environmental Booty to have a place where people could come together, make their commitment to treasure self, people and planet and network with other green minded individuals, bloggers and business owners.  The only way to do this was through creating an online community.  I did some research online and, as I did not have a lot of capital to invest in creating my own community platform, I created the Environmental Booty  Community using the free Ning platform.  Initially I invited a few friends, sent out a few Tweets, promoted EB on my blog, main site and our Environmental Health-Wellness-Beauty Facebook Group and now we are getting new members every day.  My goal was to create a site that belongs not to me but to the EB Members and I think I have accomplished that.   

There’s the great Margret Meade quote about nothing ever changing until communities come together to change them. How has that influenced you in your work at Environmental Booty?

 The quote is, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”   I live every single day with that as my guiding principle.  It truly doesn’t take a large group of people to create change.  Just look at the work of Erin Brokovich and you will see that if you have people who desire to create positive change, they can move mountains.  My goal each day is to reach at least one person with the message to think about the choices they make in relation to how it impacts their health, and the health of our environment.  I feel if I can do that, then the people I affect will affect change in those they meet.  It truly is about disseminating information when trying to affect change.  The more information people have, and the more they share with others, the more positive change can be created. 

Your community is run on servers that are 130% green, how is that accomplished? Do you think green servers will eventually become the norm with education on the subject?

The main EnvironmentalBooty.com site is hosted by HostGator which has servers which are 130% wind powered.   They are not just neutralizing their environmental impact, they’re reversing it. HostGator accomplishes this by purchasing certified renewable energy credits representing 130% of the electricity used to both power and cool every last one of their shared and reseller servers.  In real terms this is the equivalent of removing 444 cars from the road for a year, powering 321 homes with clean energy for a year, saving 5,654 barrels of oil, or protecting 551 acres of forest for a year.  I am no soothsayer and cannot say if all servers will someday be green.  I do hope that companies will have a desire to do all they can to lessen their impact on our environment.

What is a typical day like for you Shane?

Let me just say that every single day is full of putting out fires in both my personal and professional life.  Isn’t that how all women live each day?  I have 3 daughters (4, 10 and 13), a sweet little Chi-Poo and a very demanding husband so I have days which start before the sun comes up and ends just as the next day begins.  Every morning I always try to get in a workout, get myself together, turn on the computer and get the girls going.  On a good day I make a hot meal for the girls and on a bad day they have OJ and organic pop tarts!  Then I get my 3 girls to three different schools within a half hour and get to work.  I spend the day meeting with clients (I provide Social Network Marketing Consulting) over the phone, writing blog posts, doing research on green trends, working with suppliers for my Environmental Booty OpenSky Shop,  updating my websites and networking on various sites.  Once I get the kids home from school, it’s time for homework, dinner, baths, prayers, bedtime for kids, more work and laundry!   It is exhausting as every mom knows. 

What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed Environmental Booty? What’s your best marketing tip?

The most effective ways I have found to promote EB has been through word of “mouth” via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Our EB Members do a great job of spreading the word on their sites and networks as well.  As far as offering my “best” marketing tip, that is a tough one.  Each business is different and the road to success is different for all.  I think if I had to give my best piece of advice for online marketing it would be to get involved in the conversation and be genuine in your interactions with others.  Don’t just join networks like LinkedIn, never show up to interact and complain that you are not getting anything out of it.  Join groups, make connections, have a desire to help others without asking for anything in return and be consistent.  If you blog, post 3-5 days a week.  If you Tweet, offer valuable information each day or every other day.  If you have a Facebook account, check out what others are doing and comment. 

What advice would you give someone else looking to create an online community based on a cause?

That’s simple…don’t get discouraged, provide updated content, get to know the needs of your members and protect your members by blocking spammers immediately without guilt. 

What goals do you have for Environmental Booty this year?

My main goals this year are to grow our membership, find ways to promote the green message to our younger generations, provide green suppliers with a platform to showcase their products and continue to spread the word about green living products we offer in our Environmental Booty OpenSky Shop.

What have you learned on your business journey that you’d like to share with other business owners?

Don’t let your passion to grow your business interfere with your life.

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WonderWoman Wednesdays…Betsy Helgager Hughes President and CEO, Punch Of Creativity

 

This week’s WonderWoman is Betsy Helgager Hughes, President and CEO of Punch of Creativity. Betsy started Punch of Creativity with the idea that gift registries are nice, but most people would like to stand out from the crowd by giving a thoughtful and meaningful keepsake gift to WOW the recipient. From their exclusive Pregnancy Brain Challenge© Game/Gift for baby showers to their Moments to Remember Keepsake© Quilt to celebrate milestone birthdays, bridal showers, anniversaries and family reunions, a gift from Punch of Creativity will certainly stand out from the rest. 

Here’s how Betsy did it…

What was your vision for Punch of Creativity? When did you have the AHA moment?

Punch of Creativity really started with my passion for interior design. I’m sure you’ve watched HGTV and you’ve heard them talk about using a punch of color. Well, I try to use a punch of creativity in everything I do. From setting a table, to giving a gift, I thrive off of injecting unexpected creativity into everything. But with the economy the way it is, many people weren’t spending extra on the luxuries of interior design or home organization. I did notice, however, that people still celebrated babies and brides. People will always pool their resources to celebrate a new life or a life transition of special friends and family members. So, my real AHA moment came when I created and played the Pregnancy Brain Challenge for the second time at a friend’s baby shower. I received the same reaction from the guests that I received 6 months earlier (the first time I played it). The guests were caught up in a spell-bound moment, truly pausing everything (even cell phones) to celebrate and focus on the mom-to-be and to check out this new, refreshing game they had never seen played before. All guests, no matter if they knew each other or not, were in awe of the sentimental value of the game/gift. I knew if I didn’t begin to market it along with my other creations, someone else would! Also, I knew when I couldn’t stop thinking about it that I had to act. It’s the same thing I felt when I started my PR firm 8 years ago. It was a compulsion to develop, create and launch. Put it out there and see what happens is what I said to myself. You just never know. We could be the next SPANX for Baby Showers…a must have! When I really knew I was on to something was when my husband couldn’t stop thinking about the possibilities too. The same thing happened with a couple of my close friends and relatives. I would get random ideas and statements like, “I just can’t stop thinking about all the potential that’s waiting for you. I’ll help any way I can. You don’t even need to pay me. I’m enjoying being creative.”

How did you get the business started?

My husband and I spent about three weeks creating the Web site (www.punchofcreativity.com), identifying wholesale suppliers, finding a talented quilter, having another entrepreneur create our logo, and figuring out the profit margins on each item we were offering. We delved into a whole new world together of providing a product vs. a service, and it was exciting to think about the possibilities. We mastered (or should I say my husband mastered) Pay Pal, and USPS shipping options. My husband met with our accountant to ensure everything was fine on the business front, and he applied for copyrights on both the Pregnancy Brain Challenge and the Moments To Remember Keepsake Quilt concepts. We were driven to work early in the morning (4, 5 a.m.), during our daughter’s nap, and late at night after our daughter went down to sleep. It was truly a team effort. We bounced ideas off trusted, strategic-minded friends and relatives, and they too believed so much in the company concept that they were thinking, creating, and brainstorming at all hours of the day and night too!

What is a typical day like for you Betsy?

There is never a typical day. Running three businesses and managing the life of a nearly 3 year old involves multi-tasking, time-management, and a lot of teamwork with my husband George. We tag team responsibilities, so depending on if I have an order to complete, or a client conference call, he’s responsible for entertaining our daughter. If he has an installation or is responding to an RFP for his audio/video company, I am responsible for entertaining our daughter. Although she goes to school 3 days a week from 9-1, we still feel she is our most important responsibility and that is why we have created these companies, to make sure we can remain in a flexible lifestyle that allows us to put family first and to work as a team. We know with her growing up seeing us work together and as entrepreneurs will be beneficial in some way. Who knows, when Punch of Creativity really takes off, she might be running it one day. What a legacy that would be to be able to leave her! Her picture is in the “Our Story” section of our Web site, wearing one of our creations of course!

How did you come up with the Pregnancy Brain Challenge© Game/Gift for baby showers?

A neighbor’s sister enlisted the help of Punch of Creativity’s event planning services. She lives in California and knew she could not be hands on, so she asked me to take the lead since I had already done several interior design and home organization projects for her sister. I had actually even designed the new baby’s nursery. The parents had chosen a numbers theme. To play off the importance of numbers and the theme, I created the game that included important dates for the parents-to-be, later to be named the Pregnancy Brain Challenge. I worked with her mom (who has tracked all three of her kids’ accomplishments and milestones over nearly 40 years) to get the important dates. I came up with the events. Once I had the dates, I imprinted them and their associated meanings on Onesies so that the game would not go to waste. The baby would actually be able to wear the game too! For an added touch, I also created mini-window stickers for the punch glasses where all the equations equaled 4, the new number of people that would be in their family when the new baby boy arrived. Her mom brought number cookies (in the shower colors) from Savannah for baby shower favors. So, numbers for the nursery inspired this idea! It can translate to bridal showers, milestone birthdays and other events as well.

What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed Punch of Creativity? What’s your best marketing tip?

Word-of-mouth and reaching out to awesome web sites and bloggers like you that might be interested in sharing something new and refreshing as well as supporting a mom and woman-owned business. We sent out an introductory press release to a select group of bloggers initially to get a feel for people’s interest in a new baby shower game, and many were thrilled and excited to hear more.  We recently sent a press release promoting the Moments To Remember Keepsake Quilt for a unique and memorable Mother’s Day gift as well as the personalized faux e-mail Onesies and Toddler T-shirts with fun mom-related messages. Now that we have some research back with 100+women’s perspectives on baby shower games, we will be releasing another press release in the near future featuring those results and offering up the Pregnancy Brain Challenge as a refreshing new alternative.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else starting their own business?

 For a product based business, I would say make sure you have plenty of operating capital so you can take risks on some opportunities to get your brand out there in more places and with ads as well as via other paid-for means.

What goals do you have for Punch of Creativity this year?

Ultimately, I would like for Punch of Creativity to be known as the maker of the must-have baby shower game – the Pregnancy Brain Challenge, and we would like at least 10 hospitals and 10 companies to participate in our corporate program with branded industry-related messages. We want to increase sales by the end of the year to where we can create jobs in this economy. We want each and every Punch of Creativity customer to be satisfied so much that they become repeat customers and proudly tell their friends about us. We want the Moments to Remember Keepsake Quilt to grow in two ways. 1. For Mother’s Day gifts/Baby’s First or Second Birthday, and 2. For family legacy keeping, and for family reunions. Talk about an emotional moment to look at a family quilt with past and present family members connected one quilt-square at a time.

What have you learned on your business journey that you’d like to share with other business owners?

Don’t go into business for the money. Do it because you’re passionate about it and it “moves” you. I’ve always said if you have passion about what you do, the money will come, but the money should never lead your way. I am passionate about surprising people with unexpected creativity.

Do you have plans to expand the business in other directions?

When you surround yourself with smart people, inevitably ideas will surface. Within a week of our launch, we decided to create the Bundle of Joy Celebration tin for companies. Initially we are going after PR firms and hospitals, but we are excited about creating messages for other industries like shipping services, fast food companies, financial services, and other businesses that celebrate their employee’s life transitions as well as their clients and customers.

Are you willing to hear from readers?

Absolutely! They can reach me at betsy@punchofcreativity.com and ask questions, give suggestions, or help us navigate a company or hospital with our products.

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Mommy Mondays…Woman Charged for Squirting Breast Milk at Deputy

  This one is going to be interesting to watch…

A Kentucky woman was charged with assault after she allegedly squirted breast milk into the face of a deputy, sparking online debate Sunday in the local media.

Toni Tramel, 31, was arrested Thursday for public intoxication in Owensboro, WYMT-TV reported, but it is what she did next which has attracted headlines.

As Tramel changed into an inmate uniform, she squirted a stream of breast milk into the face of the female deputy watching over her.

A press release from the Daviess County, Kentucky, Detention Center, said that after the deputy decontaminated herself from the “bio-hazard”, Tramel was charged with third degree assault.

While the public drunkenness was merely a misdemeanor offense, the assault is a felony charge and a US$10,000 bond was set.

Reports of the case have sparked debates about whether using breast milk as a weapon should constitute a felony assault case, with many readers likening it to an accused person spitting on an officer.

Also sparking feedback has been the use of the term “bio-hazard” to describe breast milk.

Woman Charged for Squirting Breast Milk at Deputy – Incredible Health – FOXNews.com

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WonderWoman Wednesdays… Cynthia Mock, CEO of Adorable Baby Clothing

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.

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WonderWoman Wednesdays…Annie Neo

We here at Nursing Bling are honored to have Annie Neo, Director of Annee Matthew Maternity and Nursingwear as our first WonderWoman Wednesday profile.

In less than a decade Annie has transformed her idea of fashionable clothing for nursing mothers into a reality in a major way. Annee’s business philosophy is simple but true to the heart – she strives to create clothing that is not only beautiful, but practical and comfortable as well. Here’s how she did it…

When did it hit you that there was an untapped market for fashionable clothing for nursing mothers?

 When I had my daughter RayAnn, 10 years ago, I realised that there were very few nursing clothes in the market. They were frumpy and made me feel like a sack of potatoes when wearing them. Though functional, they were nothing close to being the slightest stylish. Not to mention, despite the poor quality, one has to pay a high price for it.

I then recognised that there was indeed a niche market to be tapped.

 How did you get into business?

 My sister-in-law, who is a tailor, helped turned my nursing designs into reality.

To balance my role as a home maker and an aspiring entrepreneur, starting an e-commerce business was the most convenient way to go and it also means a lower operating cost to begin with.

How did you go about finding manufacturers for your brand? Was it a difficult process?

 Yes, it was. With very low quantity, no track records and new to the suppliers’ world, it took a lot of convincing and good designs to gain the manufacturers’ confidence to accord their initial comfort in us. Finding the right manufacturer was tough and it was also a process of a trial-and-error.  Costs were high given the low volume.

 What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed Annee Matthews Maternity and Nursingwear? What’s your best marketing tip?

Our Corporate Philosophy: ‘’PRICE”

– Palatable price

– Romancing element as is created in each and every one of our design to have Mothers to always be in their best form; to the child , a caring mother who knows how to feed them in style and comfort and  to husbands as always a beautiful wife

– Integrity of our quality & services

– Consistencies in meeting our Clients’ needs

– Efficiencies in services

 Through word-of-mouth. Nothing beats having some real customers share their personal experiences with AnneeMatthew clothing. Our consistency in respective of overall delivery is our key to success.

 If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

 If we could turn back the clock, we will be more focus and confident in what we embarked on.

 What advice would you give someone else?

 Do what you love and believe in yourself. Stay focused.

 What goals do you have for the business this year?

 Our Spring 2010 and Fall 2010 collections are ready. Our focus is to spread our products across more countries

 What have you learned on your business journey that you’d like to share with other business owners?

Patience, tolerance and respect for others’ opinions and criticisms. Feedback is the key to keeping our designs abreast of market demand and trend. Some of the best lessons learnt were from mistakes made in the process.

Click here for more info on where to find Annee Matthew Maternity and Nursingwear in the US and Canada!

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