Brilliant Business Moms with Beth Anne Schwamberger

Love these two ladies!  They're brilliant, hard-working, and they with their spouses have built a crazy-big business doing e-book bundle sales.  A must-listen with some great business advice.  |  brilliantbusinessmoms.com

We've said it before, and we'll probably be saying it until the end of time - partnering with other brilliant people is a GREAT idea when it comes to growing your business. The talents, resources, and influence two or more people can bring to the table can add up to great big results. That's exactly what happened for Stephanie Langford and Erin Odom when they partnered together to form Ultimate-Bundles.com

Tune in to hear how their partnership formed, how they leveraged their unique skills, how they market their ebook bundles, and some ideas on tracking sales.

On the Podcast

01:18 - Stephanie & Erin's Blogging Journey
05:33 - Stephanie's First E-book Bundle
08:23 - Recruiting Authors
09:39 - The Pros and Cons of Adding Affiliates
11:08 - Erin Joins the Team
14:22 - How to Work out an Agreement for a Business Venture
18:31 - How to Find Great Help
23:17 - Tips on Recruiting Authors
25:37 - How to Decide which Books to Include
28:07 - Why Ultimate-Bundles Can't Include Every Book
30:54 - Marketing Strategies for Affiliates and Authors
35:08 - How to Track Sales
38:24 - Funny mom moments

Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear the Full Story

Stephanie & Erin's Blogging Journey

8 years ago, Stephanie Langford started the KeeperoftheHome.org with a toddler and a baby at home. For a few years the blog was just a hobby. Then her husband wanted to start a music school, so the family went all-out as entrepreneurs. Stephanie worked hard to make the blog more professional and earn an income from it.
Stephanie and her husband Ryan now have 5 kids, from age 10 down to a newborn (congratulations, Stephanie!), and in addition to running Ultimate Bundles together and Stephanie having her blog, they also run EntreFamily.com where they chat and podcast about work and life as an entrepreneurial family.

Erin Odom started TheHumbledHomemaker.com about 4.5 years ago. Erin has been a writer for a long time, and she didn't have a clue about the world of blogs. A friend told her that she should read mom blogs and "oh by the way you should start your own blog and turn it into a business that you can run from home." Once Erin had her second child she started reading blogs while she was up late at night nursing. At the time Erin was freelancing for several local newspapers for work, but she just gave blogging a try. She didn't know if she could turn it into a business, but she secretly hoped that she could!

For her first year of blogging, Erin focused on building a community, creating good content, and growing her readership. Three years ago she started to think about monetizing her blog.

Erin credits Stephanie with helping her to grow her blog. KeeperoftheHome.org was one of the first blogs Erin read, and she contacted Stephanie to see if she was interested in a guest post. Stephanie accepted her guest post and asked if she'd like to be a contributing writer for her site. Ultimately, Erin became the editor for Stephanie's site, and they later formed Ultimate Bundles together.

Stephanie's First E-book Bundle

Stephanie admits that she wasn't the first person to create an e-book bundle. Mandi from Life Your Way started a Simplify Your Family Life Bundle. Stephanie was part of a couple of those as an author of some e-books, but nobody was doing a bundle for the healthy living niche.

Stephanie thought, "what if someone could pull together amazing healthy resources like tutorials for creating your own skin care products, cleaning products, and more." Stephanie and her VA pulled that first bundle together.

A few weeks before the bundle Stephanie's husband Ryan got on board and wanted to make it really big. He told her that her financial goals were too small! He brought on some sponsors for the bundle and partners who would offer courses and product discounts. They pulled an all-nighter the night before they launched their first bundle and ran into all sorts of glitches and problems, but they got it off the ground, and it was a success!

The authors and contributors to the Healthy Living Bundle were so excited that they were making sales. The Langfords were just thrilled to offer something that was an amazing value at a great price, and at the same time they got to support great bloggers.

Stephanie says she never could have predicted what would come of that first bundle sale in the Fall of 2012. But in 2.5 years, Ultimate Bundles has grown into a very successful company!

Stephanie Langford with her husband Ryan and their kids (sans their newest addition!)
Stephanie Langford with her husband Ryan and their kids (sans their newest addition!)

Recruiting Authors

We assumed that for the very first bundle, it may have been tricky to recruit enough authors and convey the benefits of being part of the sale. Stephanie says there were a lot of back and forth emails. The authors had a lot of questions because they'd never been in an e-book bundle before. It was more complicated in the beginning, but thankfully Stephanie had been in the healthy living niche for a long time, so she already had many great blogging relationships. They had already partnered together on blog carnivals or seasonal events in the past. "Those relationships were really the key to getting something bigger going," says Stephanie.

The Pros and Cons of Adding Affiliates

Stephanie says that she was nervous about bringing affiliates on board for her first bundle sale. She wanted to make sure the ebook authors benefitted the most from the sale, and she didn't want their contribution to a bundle to be watered down by other people selling it. Ultimately, they did choose to add affiliates for the first bundle sale, and all their bundles sales thereafter.

They came up with a solution to really honor each author's contribution. Authors received a bonus so that instead of the organizers (Ryan and Stephanie) taking the extra profit that would have come from the affiliates they instead gave it to the authors who participated in the bundle and gave it to them.

This was a win-win because they were able to spread the bundle further, get the authors names and blogs out there into the hands of more readers but still reward the authors in a big way for participating.

Erin Joins the Team

Erin participated as an author in Stephanie's first healthy living bundle. Erin got the idea for a homemaking bundle not too long after. She was sitting in a MOPS meeting and the speaker was talking about all the roles homemakers play. We're the cooks, cleaners, organizers, oftentimes the educators, and more. Erin sat there thinking, "no wonder I'm overwhelmed!" At the time, she had a 4 year old, 2 year old, and a newborn, and she thought, "what can I do to help other homemakers like me?"

She wanted to assemble a group of resources that would help and equip homemakers to fulfill their role even better. She thought about doing a bundle sale similar to Stephanie's, but she didn't want to take her idea, and she didn't want to do it alone because she's not technologically inclined.

On the other hand, Erin knew she had a lot of relationships with other bloggers that she could bring to the table. She approached Stephanie, and Stephanie chatted with her husband Ryan about it. They said yes!

How to Work out an Agreement for a Business Venture

The Langfords and Odoms didn't go to a lawyer and have an official contract written up, but they did decide on their particular roles and write everything down and agree upon it.

Stephanie says that it came down to a lot of conversations about who had strengths in which areas and what made the most sense. They determined how to divide things up so that everyone was equally giving, everyone was equally using their gifts, and everyone was equally benefitting from the arrangement.

They had hours and hours of Skype calls trying to figure everything out, getting to know each other better and determining their strengths and weaknesses .

Running the very first bundle was a lot of work and truly exhausting. There was only so much Stephanie could do on her own to develop the bundle and make it an event that she was proud to put on. But with 3 people - Erin, Ryan, and Stephanie - they were able to accomplish much more. Even early on, both Stephanie and Erin had VA's helping them. Now they've expanded the team even more to include someone doing customer service and someone who does the back-end technical stuff. They've also hired graphic designers and copywriters.

"That's really the only way that any business can continue to grow and develop successfully is by realizing that you can't do it all on your own and bringing on other people who have strengths that are different than yours," Stephanie says.

How to Find Great Help

While some people recommend Elance or Odesk to find outside help, Stephanie and Erin both recommend reaching out to your networks. They've both been involved in so many different blogging groups that it's been easy to find most of their team members this way. Many of their team members have been bundle authors, one of their main staff on Ultimate Bundles right now is Mandi Ehman who already had experience running her own bundle sale!

This isn't to say that there haven't been struggles when it comes to hiring. They've had to hire outside of their network on occasion, and in these cases it seems to be less predictable on how the relationship will work out. They've gone through a lot of copywriters over the last few years. Sometimes it does take trial and error before you find the right staff, but working with the connections you already have, when possible, does make it easier.

The Most Popular Bundle

We were curious about which bundle, between Healthy Living, Homemaking, and DIY has been the most popular.

Stephanie says that the Healthy Living Bundle is the one where they've had their best sale ever, but it's still hard to say since the DIY bundle is brand new and they have more established relationships with authors in the healthy living and homemaking niches.

Keep your eyes and ears open, because Ultimate Bundles just completed their Digital Photography Bundle, and they have a Business Survival Bundle coming this Fall :)

Tips on Recruiting Authors

Erin is the relationship-building Queen, and since she's recruited the authors for all but the very last bundle, we had to get the inside scoop on how to approach them and build great relationships.

  1. Don't be scared about approaching anyone. Erin spent hours and hours trying to figure out who's who in each niche and interacting with bloggers that a few years ago, she may have been afraid to approach. Tell yourself, "I'm going to approach them and the worst they can do is say no."
  2. Be authentic. Erin is approaching authors and bloggers with something that she wholeheartedly and enthusiastically believes in, so that makes her job easy.
  3. Let them know that it's a quadruple win. It's a win for them as the organizers, a huge win for the authors who make a good income, a win for their affiliates, and a win for their customers.

Thankfully, Erin rarely gets told no, but one of the hardest parts of her jobs is turning people away. During the last sale she had to turn more than 100 people away. The more they grow the more strict they have to be on the quality of the e-books and products included. They want to put together the best product possible, so that means they can't include everyone.

Erin Odom with her husband and their three girls.
Erin Odom with her husband and their three girls.

How to Decide which Books to Include

Mandi Ehman is now the point person for book selection, but for the past several years Erin has done all the vetting for homemaking and healthy living. She has VA's that help her to go through the books but Erin is the ultimate decision maker. Often if they're down to a few choices and Stephanie and Erin will get on Skype to look over the books together and make the final cuts.

Erin says It's almost like moving around pieces on a chess board. They look at the overall bundle and the different categories. If there are too many books in one category, they may have to pass on some. They also look at the platform size of the blogger contributing although that's not the only factor.

We were curious about whether or not Erin enjoyed reading all the submissions she receives.

She said it's fun. She always tries to keep the customer in mind. She and Stephanie are their ideal customer so they always consider what they would like. Erin also loves building relationships with authors.

Why Ultimate-Bundles Can't Include Every Book

Ultimate-Bundles has really expanded its offerings with each bundle sale. The first-ever healthy living bundle only had 33 books. That was more common at that time. When Erin came on board for the Homemaking bundle, her ENFP personality shone through, and she had so many books for Stephanie and Ryan to consider. They were getting overwhelmed with close to 100 books for the bundle. This is when the brand became Ultimate Bundles, and they try to beat themselves every time.

At the same time, they knew there would be a point where there would be overwhelm: Overwhelm for the authors promoting the sale and overwhelm for the readers buying the bundle. What they wanted to do was create an amazing resource library - an essential library for whatever the given topic was. They also want to build a relationship with the authors and be able to support them well through the sale, and that would be impossible if Ultimate Bundles included every single book.

Marketing Strategies for Affiliates and Authors

Stephanie and Erin shared a lot of great tips on making sales.

  1. Set tangible, realistic goals but push yourself a little bit.
  2. Have a plan and a strategy, and write down exactly how you're going to accomplish your goal.
  3. Email is really important. Those are people who like you, want to hear from you, and want to know what you're recommending.
  4. Write great content. Present the bundle sale well using awesome, evergreen, shareable posts.
  5. Share those great posts on social media. Use social media not so much as a promotional tool, but more as a way to drive traffic back to your site.
  6. On your site, mention the bundle below every blog post and within your most popular posts.
  7. Have an authentic voice.
  8. Work really hard and give it your all.
  9. Track your links so you can figure out what works best.

Overall, Stephanie and Erin know that their email lists are where they make the most sales, so they focus their efforts there.

How to Track Sales

At Ultimate Bundles, they use Infusionsoft for advanced link tracking. Even their affiliates can use a different link on their blog posts versus email versus social media. Then you can really see where your sales are coming from.
Another way to track links is via UTM tracking in Google Analytics. (We haven't tried this yet, so we can't speak to how easy or difficult it is. We just know that it's there!)

If you're not equipped to track a click all the way through to a sale, you can use bit.ly or pretty links to determine where you are getting the most clicks, and this should be a pretty good indicator of sales. Just use a different link for each place where you mention the product or sale that you're promoting.

Funny Mom Moments

Both Erin and Stephanie's daughters had some funny things to say! You'll have to tune in to hear their stories :)

Stay in Touch with Erin and Stephanie

Stephanie KeeperoftheHome.org
EntreFamily.com
Ultimate-Bundles.org
Insta: @entrestephanie

Erin:  TheHumbledHomemaker.com
Instagram @erinbodom

Love these two ladies!  They're brilliant, hard-working, and they with their spouses have built a crazy-big business doing e-book bundle sales.  A must-listen with some great business advice.  |  brilliantbusinessmoms.com

We've said it before, and we'll probably be saying it until the end of time - partnering with other brilliant people is a GREAT idea when it comes to growing your business. The talents, resources, and influence two or more people can bring to the table can add up to great big results. That's exactly what happened for Stephanie Langford and Erin Odom when they partnered together to form Ultimate-Bundles.com

Tune in to hear how their partnership formed, how they leveraged their unique skills, how they market their ebook bundles, and some ideas on tracking sales.

On the Podcast

01:18 - Stephanie & Erin's Blogging Journey
05:33 - Stephanie's First E-book Bundle
08:23 - Recruiting Authors
09:39 - The Pros and Cons of Adding Affiliates
11:08 - Erin Joins the Team
14:22 - How to Work out an Agreement for a Business Venture
18:31 - How to Find Great Help
23:17 - Tips on Recruiting Authors
25:37 - How to Decide which Books to Include
28:07 - Why Ultimate-Bundles Can't Include Every Book
30:54 - Marketing Strategies for Affiliates and Authors
35:08 - How to Track Sales
38:24 - Funny mom moments

Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear the Full Story

Stephanie & Erin's Blogging Journey

8 years ago, Stephanie Langford started the KeeperoftheHome.org with a toddler and a baby at home. For a few years the blog was just a hobby. Then her husband wanted to start a music school, so the family went all-out as entrepreneurs. Stephanie worked hard to make the blog more professional and earn an income from it.
Stephanie and her husband Ryan now have 5 kids, from age 10 down to a newborn (congratulations, Stephanie!), and in addition to running Ultimate Bundles together and Stephanie having her blog, they also run EntreFamily.com where they chat and podcast about work and life as an entrepreneurial family.

Erin Odom started TheHumbledHomemaker.com about 4.5 years ago. Erin has been a writer for a long time, and she didn't have a clue about the world of blogs. A friend told her that she should read mom blogs and "oh by the way you should start your own blog and turn it into a business that you can run from home." Once Erin had her second child she started reading blogs while she was up late at night nursing. At the time Erin was freelancing for several local newspapers for work, but she just gave blogging a try. She didn't know if she could turn it into a business, but she secretly hoped that she could!

For her first year of blogging, Erin focused on building a community, creating good content, and growing her readership. Three years ago she started to think about monetizing her blog.

Erin credits Stephanie with helping her to grow her blog. KeeperoftheHome.org was one of the first blogs Erin read, and she contacted Stephanie to see if she was interested in a guest post. Stephanie accepted her guest post and asked if she'd like to be a contributing writer for her site. Ultimately, Erin became the editor for Stephanie's site, and they later formed Ultimate Bundles together.

Stephanie's First E-book Bundle

Stephanie admits that she wasn't the first person to create an e-book bundle. Mandi from Life Your Way started a Simplify Your Family Life Bundle. Stephanie was part of a couple of those as an author of some e-books, but nobody was doing a bundle for the healthy living niche.

Stephanie thought, "what if someone could pull together amazing healthy resources like tutorials for creating your own skin care products, cleaning products, and more." Stephanie and her VA pulled that first bundle together.

A few weeks before the bundle Stephanie's husband Ryan got on board and wanted to make it really big. He told her that her financial goals were too small! He brought on some sponsors for the bundle and partners who would offer courses and product discounts. They pulled an all-nighter the night before they launched their first bundle and ran into all sorts of glitches and problems, but they got it off the ground, and it was a success!

The authors and contributors to the Healthy Living Bundle were so excited that they were making sales. The Langfords were just thrilled to offer something that was an amazing value at a great price, and at the same time they got to support great bloggers.

Stephanie says she never could have predicted what would come of that first bundle sale in the Fall of 2012. But in 2.5 years, Ultimate Bundles has grown into a very successful company!

Stephanie Langford with her husband Ryan and their kids (sans their newest addition!)
Stephanie Langford with her husband Ryan and their kids (sans their newest addition!)

Recruiting Authors

We assumed that for the very first bundle, it may have been tricky to recruit enough authors and convey the benefits of being part of the sale. Stephanie says there were a lot of back and forth emails. The authors had a lot of questions because they'd never been in an e-book bundle before. It was more complicated in the beginning, but thankfully Stephanie had been in the healthy living niche for a long time, so she already had many great blogging relationships. They had already partnered together on blog carnivals or seasonal events in the past. "Those relationships were really the key to getting something bigger going," says Stephanie.

The Pros and Cons of Adding Affiliates

Stephanie says that she was nervous about bringing affiliates on board for her first bundle sale. She wanted to make sure the ebook authors benefitted the most from the sale, and she didn't want their contribution to a bundle to be watered down by other people selling it. Ultimately, they did choose to add affiliates for the first bundle sale, and all their bundles sales thereafter.

They came up with a solution to really honor each author's contribution. Authors received a bonus so that instead of the organizers (Ryan and Stephanie) taking the extra profit that would have come from the affiliates they instead gave it to the authors who participated in the bundle and gave it to them.

This was a win-win because they were able to spread the bundle further, get the authors names and blogs out there into the hands of more readers but still reward the authors in a big way for participating.

Erin Joins the Team

Erin participated as an author in Stephanie's first healthy living bundle. Erin got the idea for a homemaking bundle not too long after. She was sitting in a MOPS meeting and the speaker was talking about all the roles homemakers play. We're the cooks, cleaners, organizers, oftentimes the educators, and more. Erin sat there thinking, "no wonder I'm overwhelmed!" At the time, she had a 4 year old, 2 year old, and a newborn, and she thought, "what can I do to help other homemakers like me?"

She wanted to assemble a group of resources that would help and equip homemakers to fulfill their role even better. She thought about doing a bundle sale similar to Stephanie's, but she didn't want to take her idea, and she didn't want to do it alone because she's not technologically inclined.

On the other hand, Erin knew she had a lot of relationships with other bloggers that she could bring to the table. She approached Stephanie, and Stephanie chatted with her husband Ryan about it. They said yes!

How to Work out an Agreement for a Business Venture

The Langfords and Odoms didn't go to a lawyer and have an official contract written up, but they did decide on their particular roles and write everything down and agree upon it.

Stephanie says that it came down to a lot of conversations about who had strengths in which areas and what made the most sense. They determined how to divide things up so that everyone was equally giving, everyone was equally using their gifts, and everyone was equally benefitting from the arrangement.

They had hours and hours of Skype calls trying to figure everything out, getting to know each other better and determining their strengths and weaknesses .

Running the very first bundle was a lot of work and truly exhausting. There was only so much Stephanie could do on her own to develop the bundle and make it an event that she was proud to put on. But with 3 people - Erin, Ryan, and Stephanie - they were able to accomplish much more. Even early on, both Stephanie and Erin had VA's helping them. Now they've expanded the team even more to include someone doing customer service and someone who does the back-end technical stuff. They've also hired graphic designers and copywriters.

"That's really the only way that any business can continue to grow and develop successfully is by realizing that you can't do it all on your own and bringing on other people who have strengths that are different than yours," Stephanie says.

How to Find Great Help

While some people recommend Elance or Odesk to find outside help, Stephanie and Erin both recommend reaching out to your networks. They've both been involved in so many different blogging groups that it's been easy to find most of their team members this way. Many of their team members have been bundle authors, one of their main staff on Ultimate Bundles right now is Mandi Ehman who already had experience running her own bundle sale!

This isn't to say that there haven't been struggles when it comes to hiring. They've had to hire outside of their network on occasion, and in these cases it seems to be less predictable on how the relationship will work out. They've gone through a lot of copywriters over the last few years. Sometimes it does take trial and error before you find the right staff, but working with the connections you already have, when possible, does make it easier.

The Most Popular Bundle

We were curious about which bundle, between Healthy Living, Homemaking, and DIY has been the most popular.

Stephanie says that the Healthy Living Bundle is the one where they've had their best sale ever, but it's still hard to say since the DIY bundle is brand new and they have more established relationships with authors in the healthy living and homemaking niches.

Keep your eyes and ears open, because Ultimate Bundles just completed their Digital Photography Bundle, and they have a Business Survival Bundle coming this Fall :)

Tips on Recruiting Authors

Erin is the relationship-building Queen, and since she's recruited the authors for all but the very last bundle, we had to get the inside scoop on how to approach them and build great relationships.

  1. Don't be scared about approaching anyone. Erin spent hours and hours trying to figure out who's who in each niche and interacting with bloggers that a few years ago, she may have been afraid to approach. Tell yourself, "I'm going to approach them and the worst they can do is say no."
  2. Be authentic. Erin is approaching authors and bloggers with something that she wholeheartedly and enthusiastically believes in, so that makes her job easy.
  3. Let them know that it's a quadruple win. It's a win for them as the organizers, a huge win for the authors who make a good income, a win for their affiliates, and a win for their customers.

Thankfully, Erin rarely gets told no, but one of the hardest parts of her jobs is turning people away. During the last sale she had to turn more than 100 people away. The more they grow the more strict they have to be on the quality of the e-books and products included. They want to put together the best product possible, so that means they can't include everyone.

Erin Odom with her husband and their three girls.
Erin Odom with her husband and their three girls.

How to Decide which Books to Include

Mandi Ehman is now the point person for book selection, but for the past several years Erin has done all the vetting for homemaking and healthy living. She has VA's that help her to go through the books but Erin is the ultimate decision maker. Often if they're down to a few choices and Stephanie and Erin will get on Skype to look over the books together and make the final cuts.

Erin says It's almost like moving around pieces on a chess board. They look at the overall bundle and the different categories. If there are too many books in one category, they may have to pass on some. They also look at the platform size of the blogger contributing although that's not the only factor.

We were curious about whether or not Erin enjoyed reading all the submissions she receives.

She said it's fun. She always tries to keep the customer in mind. She and Stephanie are their ideal customer so they always consider what they would like. Erin also loves building relationships with authors.

Why Ultimate-Bundles Can't Include Every Book

Ultimate-Bundles has really expanded its offerings with each bundle sale. The first-ever healthy living bundle only had 33 books. That was more common at that time. When Erin came on board for the Homemaking bundle, her ENFP personality shone through, and she had so many books for Stephanie and Ryan to consider. They were getting overwhelmed with close to 100 books for the bundle. This is when the brand became Ultimate Bundles, and they try to beat themselves every time.

At the same time, they knew there would be a point where there would be overwhelm: Overwhelm for the authors promoting the sale and overwhelm for the readers buying the bundle. What they wanted to do was create an amazing resource library - an essential library for whatever the given topic was. They also want to build a relationship with the authors and be able to support them well through the sale, and that would be impossible if Ultimate Bundles included every single book.

Marketing Strategies for Affiliates and Authors

Stephanie and Erin shared a lot of great tips on making sales.

  1. Set tangible, realistic goals but push yourself a little bit.
  2. Have a plan and a strategy, and write down exactly how you're going to accomplish your goal.
  3. Email is really important. Those are people who like you, want to hear from you, and want to know what you're recommending.
  4. Write great content. Present the bundle sale well using awesome, evergreen, shareable posts.
  5. Share those great posts on social media. Use social media not so much as a promotional tool, but more as a way to drive traffic back to your site.
  6. On your site, mention the bundle below every blog post and within your most popular posts.
  7. Have an authentic voice.
  8. Work really hard and give it your all.
  9. Track your links so you can figure out what works best.

Overall, Stephanie and Erin know that their email lists are where they make the most sales, so they focus their efforts there.

How to Track Sales

At Ultimate Bundles, they use Infusionsoft for advanced link tracking. Even their affiliates can use a different link on their blog posts versus email versus social media. Then you can really see where your sales are coming from.
Another way to track links is via UTM tracking in Google Analytics. (We haven't tried this yet, so we can't speak to how easy or difficult it is. We just know that it's there!)

If you're not equipped to track a click all the way through to a sale, you can use bit.ly or pretty links to determine where you are getting the most clicks, and this should be a pretty good indicator of sales. Just use a different link for each place where you mention the product or sale that you're promoting.

Funny Mom Moments

Both Erin and Stephanie's daughters had some funny things to say! You'll have to tune in to hear their stories :)

Stay in Touch with Erin and Stephanie

Stephanie KeeperoftheHome.org
EntreFamily.com
Ultimate-Bundles.org
Insta: @entrestephanie

Erin:  TheHumbledHomemaker.com
Instagram @erinbodom

Direct download: Episode209220Erin20Odom202620Stephanie20Langford_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am EST

Love this lady!  She's so kind, caring, and giving.  She manages a team with grace and reminds you that you don't have to be cut-throat to succeed in business.  Love the comparison of different Pinterest services too.  |  brilliantbusinessmoms.com

If you've been blogging or Etsy selling for a while now, you've probably polished quite a few skills in the process. Have you ever considered taking one of those specialized skills and turning it into a business all its own? That's exactly what Kate Ahl did with Simple Pin Media. As a contributing blogger and VA, she learned the ins and outs of Pinterest to help grow the site, Frugal Living Northwest, then she took her skills on the road and started her own Pinterest service company.

Simple Pin Media helps bloggers and small business owners promote their brand on Pinterest so they are freed up to create awesome content that serves their readers, customers, and clients. When it comes to rapidly-growing businesses, I tend to picture a cut-throat, extremist CEO running the ship. Kate couldn't be further from that image! She's kind, people-oriented, and has grown her business through referrals by genuinely caring for each client and employee she brings under her wing.

You're gonna love Kate. Press play on the podcastplayer below to hear her story!

On the Podcast

01:09 - Unemployment was Running Out, So Here's What Kate Did...
05:44 - An Unexpected Service
07:46 - The Simple Pin Solution
11:10 - Keep your Personal Pinterest Account or Start Fresh?
13:57 - The Secret Scoop on Secret Boards
16:49 - A Comparison of Pinterest Tools
24:02 - Pinterest Strategy
26:00 - How One Person Helped Kate Grow her Business
28:07 - People over Proficiency
31:19 - A Typical Day for an A-Typical Family
33:43 - How Kate Wows her Clients
36:19 - Why We're Our Own Worst Enemy
40:05 - Kate's Funny Kids

Unemployment was Running Out, So Here's What Kate Did...

About four years ago Kate started working with a friend of hers who owned Frugal Living Northwest. Three years into her role as site contributor, Kate's husband lost his job. As they approached the end of unemployment, they knew Kate's part-time salary wasn't going to be enough to support their family of five.

This was in early 2013. Facebook was changing its algorithm and people were flooding to Pinterest. Kate's friend, Angela Davis, suggested that Kate become a Pinterest manager and manage people's business pages on the site.
Initially, Kate thought Angela was crazy. Angela encouraged her by saying, "just do some research. Practice with the Frugal Living NW site and see what you think." This was September of 2013, and Kate spent 2 months saturating herself with everything Pinterest. She joined Facebook groups, read tons of blog posts, discovered Viraltag, and consumed everything possible about the site.

In January of 2014 Kate got a friend to help her create a website for her new business, then she started her client list with 2 blogging friends of Angela's. Kate said to them, "I will take you on as beta clients, and if this doesn't work, we're just gonna pretend it never existed!"

Kate was ready for the business to fail but she also really wanted it to work because her family needed the income so badly. (I think you can figure out how this one ends!)

An Unexpected Service

The main benefit that Simple Pin Media provides is that bloggers and business owners don't have to worry about Pinterest. They can focus on their readers and followers because that's what will last forever. What Kate really provides - beyond more followers and pageviews, is the relief of someone walking alongside the blogger. They don't have to navigate a confusing form of social media alone.

The Simple Pin Solution

Simple Pin Media has several different packages depending on a business owner's budget and needs. No matter which package a business owner chooses, the essence of what Simple Pin does is take exactly who that blogger or business owner is, and pin pins that are 50% their content and 50% content that fits their brand.

Each client starts the process by filling out a branding form so Simple Pin knows just what they should or shouldn't pin for them. Oftentimes, Simple Pin will clean up board covers and chance the location of boards. They may re-do the titles and descriptions of boards so that they're optimized not just for Pinterest but for Google too.

Simple Pin maintains a business' Pinterest account by keeping it fresh and keeping it active. Kate says that consistency is key when it comes to being successful on Pinterest.

Keep your Personal Pinterest Account or Start Fresh?

Many new bloggers and business owners wonder if they can keep all of their personal boards, pins, and followers when they decide to launch their new site or business. It can feel so daunting to start a social media account from scratch.

What does Kate think about transitioning a personal Pinterest account to a Business account?
If your business aligns with some of the personal boards you already have, feel free to keep it and transition it over to your business page. When you do this, make sure you put all of your business-focused boards at the top.
For example, if you're a mom and you've already created several boards for kids activities, crafts, and clothing, and you decide to start an Etsy shop full of hair bows for girls, you can keep that personal account. Just add new boards solely focused on your business, as well as intermixing your product pins in with the boards you already have.

On the other hand, if your new business is completely different than what you pin about (for example, you're starting a cat toy business and you've never pinned a single thing about cats!) then it's best to just start fresh with a brand new Pinterest account and page.

What if you can't decide?

Kate says a great rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "If I was to sell my business today, would I be able to sell this Pinterest account right along with it?" If the answer is no because there's too much of "you" wrapped up in that account, chances are it's not the right account to use for your business.

If you're not willing to give up your Pinterest page, then you should consider keeping that page for your personal use and starting fresh with a new business-only Pinterest page.

The Secret Scoop on Secret Boards

There are several great reasons to use secret boards on Pinterest:

  1. Pin personal items that don't relate to your business. (Ex. Kate's family had to remodel a bathroom in January, so she pinned all sorts of bathroom ideas to her secret board under her business account!)
  2. Pin a bunch of items at once without flooding your followers' feeds. Scheduling tools and programs can help you to do this as well, but a DIY approach would be to save those items to a secret board and pin them to the appropriate boards throughout the week.
  3. Pin ideas or inspiration. If you're creating a new series for your blog or just need photo inspiration, secret boards are a great place to collect ideas without having to worry about descriptions and organization.

Secret Tip: A way to pin to 2 accounts at once. Pinterest doesn't make this easy, but there is a trick within Tailwind. You can add both accounts into the scheduling program, and from there, as long as you're logged into one of your Pinterest accounts, you can add pins to either one.

A Comparison of Pinterest Tools

ViralTag - Pin and schedule content from anywhere on the web. The pin number is unlimited. Cost: $29/month.

Tailwind - Same batch pin scheduling, but Kate prefers their analytics. Tailwind also has smart scheduling so they'll pick the best times for your pins to go out. Price: $15/month and a limit of 400 pins per month. Or pay annually for $119 ($10/month) and get unlimited pins.

Ahalogy - Functions like a sub-Pinterest for only a select number of people. If you're approved to be a content partner. (There are only about 1,500 or so) then your content is shown to brands who can use your content on Pinterest or their own site and potentially pay you for that content. However, as a user, you're severely limited by the content selection and what you can pin from Ahalogy. For Kate, it's a new window of exposure for her client's content.

Board Booster - Great program for Pinners who want to set Pinterest on Autopilot. You set up a campaign and then Board Booster loops through content that you already have on a given board. It can take a long time to set up and be confusing, but the program is still fairly new. It doesn't work well if you want to continually discover new content to pin. Price: First 100 pins are free. After that, the monthly plans come out to 1 cent per pin. (ex. $5.00/month for 500 pins)

Pinterest Strategy

Kate's biggest tip in regards to killing it on Pinterest is to be consistent. You need to be fresh, active, and curating great content.

With so many things on our to-do lists, how can we realistically be consistent with Pinterest?

Kate recommends getting on Pinterest for a few minutes in the evening while you're relaxing. Some people pin for 10 minutes per day, 3 times per day, but if that feels like too much, just use a pin scheduling tool to ensure that you're pinning at least 20 pins per day. You can get on Pinterest once a week and schedule out those 20-45 pins per day for the whole week. We can all find one hour per week to devote to Pinterest.

The Person Who Helped Kate Grow her Business

In November of 2014 Kate hired a business coach. She felt like she was tripping over her feet. She was in the middle of growing her team and had lots of ideas on what she could do with her business, but she didn't have a good foundation for it.

Kate's business coach has helped her to think clearly and strategically about how to put a foundation in place that would allow her business to be a well-oiled machine.

Kate found her coach via a friend who was working with him. She emailed the coach and said, "I'm a mess. I need help." They started working together the next week and they're still meeting twice a month.

People over Proficiency

Kate now has a team of 11 women in the Portland area. Her first hire was in July of 2014, and she chose an artistic, creative friend to help her find outside pins. Her friend knocked it out of the park! Since then, she's hired her team members based on referrals from friends.

The first thing Kate asks someone when she gets a referral is "tell me about who they are? Tell me what their strongest asset is?" If the answer is, "they're loyal, they're dependable, they're trustworthy, and they're hard-working" then Kate is sold! She can teach a team member how to do what she does, but finding someone with good character is not so easy.

As long as a team member is consistent, asking Kate questions, and committed to their client, Kate knows they're on the right track.

The benefits of hiring local.

Kate loves having a team that's local to Portland so they can meet twice a year to talk about what's going on with each of their accounts. Most of the Pinterest strategy comes from Kate, but she also wants to give each staff member the freedom to try new strategies and really see what works best. In between in-person meetings, Kate's staff members communicate via a private Facebook group.

A Typical Day for an Atypical Family

Kate schedules blocks of time to work Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 1 PM. During the week, Kate's daughters are both in school most of the day. Kate's husband is a traveling preacher, so he's generally not working on Mondays and Tuesdays.

On Mondays and Tuesdays Kate husband and her son pal around together while she's working. Wednesdays through Friday Kate shares a sitter with a friend. Her son gets to go over to a friend's house and have a great time, and Kate gets a great deal on childcare.

The evenings are sacred family time. No computers. No screens. Kate may pop on the computer in the evening after the kids go to bed but that's rare these days. When she was both a blogging contributor and running Simple Pin, life was a bit crazier!

Mamapreneur Kate Ahl of Simple Pin Media with her family.
Kate with her family

 

How Kate Wows her Clients

As a nurturing personality-type, it comes naturally to Kate to foster her client relationships. Her business is not on autopilot. She touches base with them in many ways:

  • Gives feedback on content
  • Makes sure the right links are in their posts
  • Makes email sign-ups more apparent
  • Is available. She sees them, sees their content, and knows that they're working hard.
  • Kate doesn't offer just be a pinning service but coaching to help you be a better business owner and manager

Why We're Our Own Worst Enemy

Despite Kate's business success and great feedback from her clients, Kate can still be her own worst enemy sometimes. She gets discouraged and begins to doubt herself from time to time. She questions whether people find her services valuable and whether they really want more information from her.

(Isn't this true of so many of us Mamapreneurs? It can be a daily battle!)

Kate's Funny Kids

You'll have to tune in to hear Kate's son's funny antics!

Stay in Touch with Kate

SimplePinMedia.com

Kate's New Course:  Pinterest 101: How to Set Up Your Pinterest Page for Success

Direct download: Episode209120Kate20Ahl20final_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:04am EST

Do you ever think about all the money and time you spent on college and higher education and wonder if it was worth it? You may be able to leverage the power of your education and experiences in ways you wouldn't expect! That's exactly what Racheal Cook did. She took her MBA and consulting experience and switched gears from working with huge companies to working with small yoga studios. She designed a business that fit her life as a mom to three young kids, but she didn't have to start from scratch. She leveraged the power of her previous job experiences, set up free sessions which filled her client docket, and ultimately created and marketed a super successful online program.

On the Podcast

01:10 - How Racheal Used her MBA to Start her Own Business
04:18 - How Becoming a Mom Shaped Her Business Design
06:02 - Getting her First Clients
8:55 -The Pros and Cons of Niche-ing Down
11:36 - What is the SBA All About?
15:05 - Racheal's Hardest Year in Business
21:14 - How to Use Free Sessions to Get Clients
23:02 - The Benefit of Being Choosy with Clients
25:35 - How to turn Down Clients Gracefully
28:26 - Launching and Marketing an Online Program
33:36 - How to Use a Challenge to Grow your Biz
37:29 - What Racheal is Most Proud of
41:39 - Racheal's Embarassing Mom Moment!

Press play on the podcast player below to hear Racheal's Story along with her best advice for mamapreneurs.

How Racheal Used her MBA to Start her Own Business

Racheal started her career path as a typical "Type A" achiever. She walked out of her MBA program thinking she'd ultimately be a COO or CEO somewhere. As a newlywed, she realized she was spending more time at the office than with her new husband. Sunday was her only day off and she usually slept away most of the day because she was so exhausted!

One of Racheal's goals was to be a mom, and she wanted to be a young mom. She realized she didn't want to take on the traditional career route of waiting to have kids until after age forty while she focused on work.

Her first business, the Yogipreneur started a bit by accident. She was focused on taking care of herself and took a leave of absence from her corporate work. She started doing yoga regularly, and her yoga instructor asked if she would look at her business and tell her how she could turn her things around to become a profitable yoga studio.
The light bulb went on as Racheal realized that there are plenty of small businesses that need help too.

Previously, she worked only with very large businesses as a consultant. Racheal's work with her yoga instructor evolved into the Yogipreneur where she works with yoga and health-minded businesses to grow and be profitable.

How Becoming a Mom Shaped her Business Design

Racheal says that becoming a mom has been the biggest catalyst for the way she does things now. When she first started working with yoga studios she used the same consulting model she had used in the corporate world. She would travel to the studios and spend lots of time on the ground observing their systems, finances, and getting to know their businesses in person.

Racheal's business model had to change after she became pregnant for the first time... with twins! Her pregnancy was complicated, and she was on bed rest from 26 weeks until delivery at 37 weeks. She had to figure out how to work without having to travel, so she took her business online and did everything via Skype, phone calls, in addition to online webinars and programs.

Racheal has created a lifestyle business where she can be home with her kids. She now works about 25 hours per week instead of the 80 hours she used to work in the corporate world. (Love it!)

Getting her First Clients

Racheal's business grew solely by referrals early on. She worked with her teacher at yoga studio in Richmond, VA and after she was able to turn things around for her within a few months, this studio owner knew a bunch of other yoga studio owners! She'd let her friends know that Racheal helped her so much and tell them to get on the phone with her!

Racheal worked with different yoga studios for 6 months at a time, then she'd move on to the next referral.
To this day, referrals still drive so much of Racheal's online business. Most of her private clients come via referral because a friend or colleague of theirs had worked with Racheal and told them what a great experience they had.

Even with so much emphasis placed on social media, chances are your new visitors are finding your website because one of their friends pinned something from you or shared one of your articles on Facebook. The power of referrals is still very much at work!

The Pros and Cons of Niche-ing Down

The Pros

A lot of people resist nicheiing down as they're afraid it will turn people away, but Racheal has found the exact opposite to be true in her business. If you're working online and geography no longer matters, then being in a niche is what makes you easier to find online. It makes you more memorable.

Racheal contends that having a clearly defined niche caused the Yogipreneur to grow so quickly. She wasn't just another yoga business coach under her own name her whole business was branded for yoga. Visitors to her sit instantly knew whether they were in the right place.

The Cons (although not really!)

Your niche may evolve over time. Racheal has been running the Yogipreneur since 2008, and only 40% of her current clients have yoga businesses. The rest are life coaches, wellness providers, or have other creative businesses. This doesn't mean she needs to abandon everything; it just means what she's talking about is resonating with people.

A Great Example of Niche-ing Down then Scaling Up

The Huffington Post started out as a very specific type of blog: a political blog. But now they cover absolutely everything on their site.

You can cut your teeth in a small market and become known in that space, then once your roots are established, allow yourself to branch out. (Great advice! Your niche doesn't have to limit you - it can help you to grow!)

What is the SBA All About?

When Rachael cut her teeth in consulting 10 years ago she worked for the SBA (Small Business Association) for a program called entrepreneurial initiative. Every town that's decent-sized has an SBA and some level of support for business owners.

You can go in and get free or inexpensive business resources and advice. They'll help you figure out whether you should be an LLC or an S-Corp. They'll have access to resources to help you do market research. There are people at your local SBA who are incredibly knowledgeable about your area.

Rachael worked with bio-tech start-up companies to prep them for their first round of angel investing. She had access to hundreds of thousands of dollars of industry research. She could help them write a business plan or figure out what kind of funding made sense for them.

SCORE is another great organization that's filled with retired executives who provide mentorship to new start-ups and new companies.  They'll look over your business plan and introduce you to people you should know in your industry, among many other things.

Racheal's Hardest Year in Business

Although Racheal started her business in 2008, she didn't go online until the end of 2010 as her twins were turning one. This was her hardest year in business.

She had a website but didn't have a clue what it was supposed to be doing for her other than look pretty! Her website designer asked if she wanted a newsletter sign-up form, so over a couple of years she grew a little newsletter list even though she never emailed them.

By 2010, Racheal had run out of all of her savings from her corporate work. When she first started the Yogipreneur, she wasn't concerned about profit . She just wanted to work with enough people to prove that this was a niche she could serve.

But after you have kids the need to make real money can change drastically! She knew she had to start turning a profit. Her husband's English teacher salary only brought in $3,000/month for the family. So with babies still breast-feeding, no family in the area to help babysit, and no extra money to invest in the business, Racheal decided that she was going to make things work online.

The first thing she had to do was figure out childcare... but she had no money to spend on it so she got creative. Racheal and another twin mom in the city shared a babysitter. She'd spend a few hours at Racheal's house 2 days per week and a few hours at her friend's house. Even that babysitting money felt like a big stretch at the time.
She knew she had to fill her client docket fast to be profitable. She called everyone she knew asking for referrals and spent lots of time doing free consulting sessions. At the end of the month, she had a full client docket for the next 6 months! (See more tips from Racheal on filling your client docket fast.)

Beyond finding her customers and turning a profit, Racheal says her first year in business was tough because she had to learn a lot about technology. It was a steep learning curve. She didn't have money to spend on a new site. So 2010 was a lot of hustle, but by the end of the year she had a lot of new skills. She can now design and develop pretty much any website she needs!

By the end of her first 12 months in online business Racheal launched her first online program and made $50,000. She was able to break 6 figures in her business in that first year. (Wow! Work it, Racheal!)

Mamapreneur Racheal Cook - Love her Fired Up and Focused Challenge!  | brilliantbusnessmoms.com

How to Use Free Sessions to Get Clients

Racheal has two great tips to ensure that your free sessions are effective in building your business and not time-wasters for you.

  1. Have an Application Process. Even before someone gets a free session with Racheal, they have to fill out a 10-minute application, and she'll decide if they should proceed with a session. If she just put a blast out on social media aying "I'm giving away 20 minutes of free coaching" then everyone in the world will sign up. That doesn't mean they're the right person for you to work with or that they're willing and ready to invest in themselves. The application weeds out freebie seekers and brain pickers.
  2. Structure Sessions like an Interview. Racheal's potential clients go into their call with her knowing that they'll get a piece of valuable advice from her, but that it's really more of an interview. It's an opportunity to see if the relationship is a good fit for both of them and if Racheal can get that client where they want to go.

The Benefit of Being Choosy with Clients

Racheal cautions against accepting anyone and everyone who will pay you. It's very difficult when you're looking at your children thinking, "I have to get food on the table this month" but if you have this mindset of "I'll do anything to make money," you'll end up dreading your work and your clients.

You may end up with clients who don't respect boundaries, clients who always have excuses for why they can't do what you're recommending they do, or clients who expect you to be Google for them.

When Racheal is Choosey about Her Clients They:

  1. Both have more fun!
  2. Get better results
  3.  Give the wrong people permission to go and find the right fit for them.

How to turn Down Clients Gracefully

Racheal shares 3 main steps for turning down clients in a way that doesn't alienate, but rather continues to build strong relationships and provides value.

  1. Racheal doesn't take everyone who applies for a consultation. She may send a quick answer thanking them for applying will say, "I'm booked, or I don't think you're a great fit," and she'll recommend who she thinks would be the right person for them to work with.
  2. Keep a list of other support people potential clients might need. Often an individual needs more clarity on what they're trying to do with their business. For example, they have twenty different ideas and don't know where to begin. Racheal works with entrepreneurs who already have that clear focus and just need to grow.
    Another example are individuals who aren't able to follow through with anything and need more hand-holding and accountability. Racheal is not the right fit - but she knows other people who can help them.
  3. Be willing to be flexible and do what's best for your customers.  Inevitably someone will enroll in Racheal's signature online program called Conscious Business Design and say, "I thought this was what I was looking for but it's really not." They'll email and she'll say, "here's a sales coach or here's a branding expert. That's what you need first before coming to me."She refunds them and points them in the right direction.

Even those individuals that Racheal has turned down in the past will send her new clients because they now understand her more and what she does and they trust and respect her because of her positive interaction with them.

Launching and Marketing an Online Program

Racheal says that her online course took 250 hours to create and record... and another 200 hours to market!
She created the course just using screenflow and her voice over the content. She drew from several years of experience working with clients and doing workshops. She had already worked with 100 yogo entrepreneurs at that point!

How to Market an Online Program

  1. 3-Part Video Training Series. Rachel created 3 training videos to provide value and get people excited about her course. They were recorded in her home office, with her webcam, no microphone, and the lamp shades taken off of her lamps for lighting! It wasn't professional quality, but it worked. She sold out her program for its first launch season.
  2. An Email Challenge. Rachel added the Fired Up and Focused 21-Day challenge as a way to help business owners to be more productive. By providing value in 21 days of emails, this email challenge has helped tremendously in earning Racheal customers for her online program.

Are Online Programs Passive?

Racheal confesses that hers is not! Others have told her to put the program on autopilot, and she tried it once when she was pregnant with her third child, but she hated not knowing who was on the other end of their course.
Racheal feels that: "this is someone who spent a good amount of money with me. I want to know their name, I want to know what their goals are."

She only takes 50 people at a time for her Conscious Business Design Course, and live coaching calls, email coaching, and a very active private Facebook group are included in the course. Racheal also has two success coaches who are alumni of the program who make sure everyone in the course gets the help they need.
So Racheal says that although her online program is not passive, it's a leveraged way of working with people.

How to Use a Challenge to Grow your Biz

Racheal's Fired Up and Focused Challenge has been a huge success for her business. We were curious as to how it started and why it works so well.

The challenge idea began when Racheal was hosting an in-person retreat with one of her private clients and other "yogipreneurs" that she had brought together. Racheal went around the room asking what people wanted to get out of the retreat, and she was prepared to dig into the nitty gritty business stuff like marketing and finances.
But most people responded with, "I just want to know how to juggle it all. I just want to know what's the most important thing to get done each day...."

So Racheal taught her retreat attendees about focus and productivity instead. And people started saying, "Rachel is so great at getting me focused, helping me prioritize, and teaching me what to track for success."

She realized that entrepreneurs have no shortage of ideas but they have a shortage of time and a lack of knowing how to prioritize their ideas. How do entrepreneurs make consistent forward motion and get the ball rolling in their business? Many entrepreneurs feel like they're always busy but they're not really getting anything done. We mamapreneurs are pulled in a million directions each day. if we don't have clear priorities and know what drives our business forward, we'll never accomplish what we want to.

ideas-dont-grow-businesses-racheal-cook

(I'm definitely pinning this one for later... scratch that... I'm printing it out and hanging it above my workspace!)

What Racheal is Most Proud of

This past year she was able to let her husband quit his job so he could come work with her on the business, and it's been wonderful! As a former English teacher, he makes the perfect editor-in-cheif for her business. More and more, women entrepreneurs are hoping that they can do more than just contribute to their family but really create freedom for their family... whether that means more time together, the ability to travel... you name it!

What Did Racheal do that Allowed her Husband to Come Home?

When Racheal launched the Fired up and Focused Challenge, it 3xed her business over the year before. The biggest thing she did to replace her husband's income was double-down on what worked. Racheal says it's easy for us to get stuck in our businesses. Instead of focusing on what's working, we have a great win, and then move on to the next idea instead of taking that great win and doing it again.

So when Racheal found that the Fired Up and Focused Challenge did so well and helped her sell out her program, she launched it again two more times that year. Then in 2015, Racheal launched the challenge in January, and she just ran it again in May.

Racheal isn't trying a bunch of different things. She just focuses on what she knows will work. This frees up her time so she can work on other long-term projects like writing a book. She also spends time doing interviews and writing content for other sites.

Racheal's Embarassing Mom Moment!

Racheal finally left town as mom to a baby to attend a conference.... I'll let her tell you what happened next on the podcast!

Stay in Touch with Racheal

RachealCook.com

FiredUpandFocused.com

Direct download: Episode209020Racheal20Cook_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:48am EST

Love this Mamapreneur's story!  She sent her product to celebrities and it took off!  She has a booming business with 16 employees, and she still gets to create jewelry she loves.  |  brilliantbusinessmmoms.com

From a hobby in a closet to a major business in only a few short years? Jill Donovan has certainly accomplished a lot with her business, Rustic Cuff, which makes beautiful cuff bracelets. Jill's amazing story is laced with the theme of people and their importance in making her dreams a reality.

On the Podcast

02:50 - The Oprah Show!
15:10 - Still Handmade?
16:54 - Strategies to grow
22:00 - Early sales
25:15 - Scaling
29:05 - Expanding Inventory
35:12 - In Stores
37:08 - Total Sales
38:15 - The Importance of Packaging
40:58 - Questions about Starting a Business
42:20 - Jill’s Fun Mom Moment
43:45 - On Balance
44:16 - Creating the Ideal Work Environment

Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear her Full Story.  Jill is so much fun - you'll want to tune in and listen to her tell it in her own words!

 

The Oprah Show!

What does the Oprah Show, Canadian etiquette, and mortification have to do with Rustic Cuff’s beginnings? You’ll have to listen to Jill tell this story!

Still Handmade?

We were so curious, with the huge sales volume that Rustic Cuff does now, are the cuffs still handmade? Jill definitely got to the point where she couldn’t make each cuff herself, so after a year in business she found a work space outside of her home and hired women to help her continue to make the cuffs by hand. Jill now has 22 employees, 6 of whom are dedicated to the handmade production of each cuff.

Strategies to Grow

Early on Jill decided she didn’t want to spend money on advertising, she wanted her business to grow in a grass-roots sort of way. She selected 20 celebrities and sent them each several cuffs that she thought they would enjoy. She found beautiful wood boxes and packaged the cuffs in a special way. Jill sent them off and waited to see what would happen. Then one day, she saw Kathie Lee on the Today Show wearing one of the Rustic Cuffs Jill had sent her! Gradually she saw other celebrities wearing them in magazine photo shoots or on TV.  Jill has a page on Rustic Cuff dedicated to all of the celebrity sightings of Rustic Cuffs, check it out!

Early Sales

Early on, making cuffs was something Jill was just doing for fun. She had given a cuff to a friend who worked at a make-up counter. One day her friend called her to beg Jill to begin selling them because so many of her co-workers and customers wanted to buy one. At first Jill protested, saying she was just making the bracelets for fun. Eventually Jill gave in and made some to sell. Another friend convinced her to have a home party, and she sold 200 the night of the party. Things began to spread by word of mouth at that point.

Bracelets from Rustic Cuff.  Did you know this Handmade Business has had over 100,000 sales?!  Jill has grown it by sending her product to celebrities - great idea!  |  brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Scaling

Sometimes Jill says it feels like she is Noah and God handed her a hammer and said I know you don’t like animals or like to build, but I want you to build an ark.  I’m not going to show you the whole blueprint. I’m just going to give you one board at a time.

Every day Jill just learned what she had to learn for that day. She took growing her business one day at a time, and one plank at a time. Now she is part of Thrive 15 which would have been so valuable when she was plunged into the world of business, and didn't know what she was doing. Thrive 15 is great because you can learn from business mentors in short 15 minute videos on so many helpful topics.

Expanding Inventory

Inventory management can be tricky. You never know how your customers are going to react to a new product offering. Jill has definitely misread in the past and had thousands extra or been thousands short on products. It’s better to have more demand rather than over-spend and have too much product left over. Over time you get enough history and you learn the patterns and get a better idea of how much to buy. Jill would rather be left with people wanting a product that sells out, because the next time a new product comes out, they’ll remember that sometimes items sell out quickly, and they will be primed to buy immediately and not wait.

Jill has so many ideas for new cuffs, so sometimes she has to reign herself in and not do everything all at once!

Getting Into Stores

Rustic Cuff can be found in hundreds of stores across the country. For the most part the stores contacted Jill about selling her cuffs in their stores.  It's amazing how growth can happen when more and more people wear and love your product.

Total Sales

How many cuffs has Jill sold since she started her business? Listen to hear!  We were blown away!

The Importance of Packaging

Jill wants to invest money on the front end so that each cuff is presented as a beautiful gift to each person who purchases. Jill's advice: make sure everything you do is better than anybody else and is done with amazing quality. Create packaging that makes you look like a bigger company than you really are. Jill actually changes the packaging a little bit each season so that it stays fresh for her repeat customers.

Questions about Starting a Business

Jill gets a lot of questions from people about how to start a business. She points them in the direction of Thrive 15 where they can get great business advice from various mentors in 15 minute video segments. If you use the code RUSTIC you can watch as many videos as you want - free for a month.

Jill’s Fun Mom Moment

Jill’s girls think they are ready to enter the world as entrepreneurs!  Listen to hear their declaration!

Jill Donovan with her Daughters.  She's a Mamapreneur and Handmade Jewelry Business Owner.  Click to hear her full story and learn how to leverage your connections to grow your own business.  |  brilliantbusinessmoms.com
Jill with her daughters

 

On Balance

Jill doesn’t balance her two worlds, she just merges them! She brings her kids into her business world so that they are not alienated from it.

Creating the Ideal Work Environment

Jill has created a work-place where women have freedom and flexibility to work around their personal schedules and their children’s activities. They can leave work to pick up kids or attend a school event. They can even bring their kids to work, and all the kids hang out together while the moms finish up their day. This fabulous work environment creates a fun atmosphere and inspires a lot of loyalty among employees. Jill always hires people she really likes before she even needs them. She doesn’t hire people because they have a certain skill set. Jill feels that you can train people to do the jobs that need to be done. She tries to figure out what each person enjoys doing and what they are naturally good at. (Jill says she’ll hire both of us at Rustic cuff!  If we lived in Oklahoma we'd be on it!)

 

Find Jill Online

Rustic Cuff
Thrive 15
Facebook
Instagram

Direct download: Episode208920Jill20Donovan_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Do you have a great website idea but getting the project started feels a bit overwhelming? What if you could join forces with other talented women and grow that site faster, with less stress? That's what Gianna Kordatzky of FamilyFunTwinCities.com did. She reached out to two other moms with similar sites in her area, and they came together to form a new site that's become so much more popular and effective than any of their sites did on their own. What could you accomplish if you assembled a great team?

Do you have an idea for a great site but the process of starting and growing it just feels overwhelming?  Why not reach out to other moms and build a site as a team?  Learn from Gianna Kordatzky of FamilyFunTwinCities.com  |  brilliantbusinessmoms.com

On the Podcast

01:36 - Making a Home in the Twin Cities
03:19 - The Little Email that Led to a Big Site!
6:26 - The Growth of Family Fun Twin Cities
08:13 - Does a Collaborative Project Mean Ditching your Own Ventures?
09:04 - How to Work Together
13:18 - How to Work Through Differing Opinions
16:43 - The High Points of Working with a Team
19:55 - Tips for Other Moms who want to Create a Similar Site
24:32 - How Much Does it Cost to Run a Site About Family Fun?
27:18 - Site Monetization
30:00 - How to Handle Different Goals
32:58 - Legal Formation
38:00 - Gianna's Adorable Mom moment

Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear the Full Story

Making a Home in the Twin Cities

Gianna and her husband both grew up in small towns, so they never expected to raise their kids in an urban area. As the years progressed and they realized they weren't going anywhere, they decided to truly make the Twin Cities their home. Gianna started a website called Twin Cities Family and used it to figure out what fun things there were to do around town.

The Little Email that Led to a Big Site!

Two years ago, Gianna was part of a group called Blogging Your Passion by Jonathan Milligan, and he encouraged everyone to connect with others in their niche.

Gianna knew of two great sites that kept coming up on Google when she searched for family activities in the Twin Cities. They were FreeFamilyFun.com and TourMoms.com. She thought that the women running these sites were doing a great job.

Gianna still remembers the day when she typed out in the Facebook group comments, "I don't have anything to offer them." Jonathan responded that you don't know if you have anything to offer or not until you reach out and see.

So Gianna sent an email to the ladies who ran each of these sites and introduced herself and asked if there was a way they could work together to promote each others' sites. Joy who ran Free Family Fun was enthusiastic and wanted to meet. Anne who ran Tour Moms was excited but wasn't able to come to the first meeting.

Gianna and Joy met in person and continued to email back and forth. Finally, all three women were able to meet in person. At that first meeting of all three, Anne of TourMoms.com said, "so my husband came up with this idea that maybe we could go in together on one site."

Gianna , who's usually a leap-first kind of person, was actually quite hesitant at first because she felt like she didn't know the other ladies yet. She gave them an honest answer: "I don't know, let me think about it." For a month she kept milling things over and asking her husband the same questions a thousand different ways. Then she finally came to the conclusion that it doesn't hurt to try.

Gianna got in touch and thanked Anne and Joy for their patience and said, "I think why not - let's do this." FamilyFunTwinCities.com was born in the Spring of 2013.

Learn how to start and grow a family activities site with Gianna Kordatzky  |  Find other mamapreneur interviews at brilliantbusinessmoms.com
Gianna and her husband, Chris

The Growth of Family Fun Twin Cities

The collaborative site has grown a lot in the past two years. Some days they get more than 2600 hits. On their own, each lady got no more than 500 hits per day on their sites, if that. So together, their effort has led to way more than what they could have accomplished alone.

Does a Collaborative Project Mean Ditching your Own Ventures?

We were curious about what happened to each woman's individual blog after FFTC was born.

Gianna says that they each kept their own blogs for a while. Gianna mostly sent people over to FFTC and Joy of Free Family Fun did something similar. Anne still has her site, TourMoms.com, but she's changed the focus a bit to just cover the fun things she does with her family and refers people over to Family Fun Twin Cities as well.

It's great, though, that each woman was able to decide on her own time when and how to transition her own projects. As Gianna said, it doesn't hurt to try, and by slowly transitioning out of their own projects, they gave themselves plenty of time to see if the new venture would work.

How to Work Together

The FFTC ladies generally communicate via a private facebook group that's just for the three of them. They generally meet in person about every three months but have recently decided to get together more often.

How to Divide the Work

Gianna says the group has been really blessed to have three ladies who each have different gifts and personality types.

Joy is great at keeping things organized. She does the activities calendar for the site, which is its biggest pull. She also works on administrative and behind-the-scenes tasks. Gianna says that she and Anne quickly realized how gifted Joy is at the calendar when she went on maternity leave and they volunteered to take on the project. It's a lot of work, but Joy does it skilfully!

Anne is the best writer of the group. Her posts on FFTC are the most popular and get the most hits, so she's the main content creator for the site.

Gianna is the most outgoing, so she loves to meet and connect with business owners and help promote the site.

Because their differing roles fit their natural talents so well, everyone feels like they're doing what they were meant to do. And they each offer encouragement to each other when things get tough.

How to Work Through Differing Opinions

With three creative women working together, there are bound to be differing opinions from time to time. Thankfully, Gianna says that they've never had a disagreement where someone's feelings got hurt or anyone was accusing of someone else. There have been 1-2 instances where someone had to speak up to make sure everyone is aware that there is someone in the group who doesn't feel comfortable with the way a decision is going. As a whole, Gianna, Joy, and Anne work really hard to understand each other's points of view.

Gianna gave an example of how they worked through differing opinions in the past. A company wanted to use the services of FFTC and pay them a minimal amount. At the time, Gianna's family was struggling financially, and all she could think about was that they were going to get money and they need to say yes. Anne and Joy felt that this joint venture wasn't a great fit and would take away from their site. Gianna countered with: "this is an income generator and we need this." Later, she realized that she wasn't trusting God through things, and with time, she was able to look at the situation in a new light and realize that Anne and Joy were right - the venture wasn't a good use of their time and resources.

She got onto their Facebook group and said, "you guys are right - we shouldn't do this."

Gianna's advice when your team faces a disagreement:

Keep talking it out. Don't force a decision to be made until everyone is comfortable with it.
Time can be a clarifying factor. (Great advice!)

The High Points of Working with a Team

  1. Synergy is real! If you add up what Gianna, Anne, and Joy accomplished on their own sites compared to what FFTC accomplishes now, they're at way more than triple the traffic and value. Working together has produced a much stronger site and brand.
  2. Fun, family experiences. The ladies of FFTC get to do all sorts of fun things for free! Recently, a company in Minnesota asked them to come ziplining and review them. Of course they said yes and had a blast! They also get to meet local authors and business owners which is just so fun.
  3. The FFTC Birthday Party. FFTC has a Birthday party to celebrate the site's anniversary each year. This year, 100 families are expected to show up. Readers get to come hang out with them in real life and do fun activities to celebrate! Gianna just loves connecting with their biggest fans - the moms who are first to comment on their posts and Facebook page - it's great to provide them with awesome real-life experiences too.
Create a family fun site and run it with your friends!  Online business idea for mamapreneurs.
The Family Fun Twin Cities Team: Joy, Gianna, and Anne.

Tips for Other Moms who want to Create a Similar Site

  1. Figure out what you can comfortably do with your kids and family. Which activities will work well for you? Which of your kids can you take and which kids might need to stay home? Plan ahead so you're ready to take on the fun!
  2. Take Lots of Photos. Even if the photos are horrible and blurry - some photos are always better than no photos. People want to see the experience you had. (If you can take better than blurry, bad photos - then of course, that's great!) Don't forget to bring your camera and capture some memories.
  3. Reach Out to Other Moms. It's a lot more fun to run a site like FFTC with other people. If you hear about an awesome play you want to check out but you can't because you're busy that night, then you can throw it out to your partners and see who wants to go. Sure, it's scary to start a site like FFTC, but you can hide behind your computer when you make the ask. The other moms won't know how devastated you'll be if they say no! Just hit send and remember that it'll hurt more to NOT reach out than to reach out and perhaps be rejected. You'll never know until you try!

How Much Does it Cost to Run a Site About Family Fun?

Before they came together to form FFTC, Joy used to do only activities that were free because her site was FreeFamilyFun. Anne didn't spend her own money all that much either. Gianna just paid for things on her own and wrote about them on her blog.

Once FFTC was formed, though, Gianna felt the weight of not letting the other women down and keeping their budget low. Since the site was so much better with all three of them working on it, she wasn't afraid to reach out and ask to review events or get tickets for free. Gianna approaches businesses with confidence by letting them know what they can offer in terms of a review and site traffic, and she's confident that they'll do an awesome job! Because of this, FFTC has been able to do every activity they've wanted to do for free! She's very grateful for all the businesses that have supported the site - even down to getting the venue and entertainment for the site's Birthday Party for free!

Site Monetization

FFTC is currently working on three forms of monetization.

  1. Ads. They finally put Adsense on their site once they did some research and realized that the ads should mesh well with the focus of their site. They're also working on adding another ad network.
  2. Affiliate Marketing. Gianna would love to set up a hub where people could buy tickets for local events on their site, and FFTC would get a commission. Families already visit their site for the events calendar, so it'd be that much more convenient for them to grab tickets to all their events in one place too.
  3. Sponsors. They're reaching out to more companies and businesses who want to be sponsors and then be included in their posts, on their newsletter, and on their calendar page.

How to Handle Different Goals

The women of FFTC have slightly different goals for the site, but because their big goal is the same, it works out just fine. For example, all three women want the site to be successful and become the one-stop shop for families in the Twin Cities. At a lower level, their goals are a bit different.

Joy views the site as more of a creative venture. She has a full-time job already, so while she would like income from the site, what she needs most is a creative outlet, and FFTC provides that for her.

Gianna and Anne both love working on the site as well, but making an income is a more important goal for them. Even though they've been lucky to get to do so many great, free activities, they'd like a monetary return on their investment of time.

All three women love that the site is able to help families and they get to know new people in the Twin Cities all the time. As it continues to grow, everyone's goals should be met!

Legal Formation

Gianna, Anne, and Joy did not make their partnership official for quite some time. They worked on FFTC for a year before they decided whether or not to make things official and continue on with the site. Once they saw that things were going well and they all wanted to continue, Anne's husband, the business guru of the bunch, set the ladies up as an LLC.

(I just love that these ladies didn't let paperwork and legalities slow them down. They jumped in, gave things a try, and worked out the details later once they knew the venture was a success.)

The ups and downs of growing a blog with a group of people.  (The ups include a whole lot of fun family activities for Gianna!)
Gianna's four adorable kids

Gianna's Adorable Mom moment

Listen to the full episode to hear what Gianna's youngest is doing these days!

Stay in Touch with Gianna!

FamilyFunTwinCities.com

Direct download: Episode208820Gianna20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

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