Sun, 10 April 2016
Ohhh social media! It can be an incredible way to grow your audience and customer base, but it can also be an overwhelming, never-ending black hole of time-wasting insanity.
Social media can bring out the best in us, and... the worst in us! And playing the comparison game can make a mamapreneur feel so completely inadequate that she gives up before she even gets started!
So, what's the verdict? Should you just break up with social media altogether?
Well... our answer might surprise you!
On this episode of the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast, Beth Anne Schwamberger is joined by Bringing Up Betty Podcast Host, Sarah Evans.
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear the Full Episode ... and Stop the Social Media Insanity :)
Wed, 2 March 2016
Tue, 23 February 2016
The beauty of selling handmade items is that your creativity is your only limit. Molly Goodall certainly hasn't limited herself with her wildly successful children's clothing brand - Little Goodall.
We are seriously in love with these truly adorable products! Handmade children’s coats that double as imaginative costumes!? Yes, please! The visionary behind this product, Molly Goodall, ia fashion designer by trade who solved a need in her child’s life with one of the cutest pieces we’ve ever seen! We are huge fans of Molly’s business savvy and learned a ton from her process. Join us!
On The Podcast
01:09 - More About Molly
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear from Molly!
More About Molly
Molly lives in Dallas, Texas with her London-born husband and 7 year-old son, Carter. She and her husband met in an airport, how crazy and romantic is that!? He became a naturalized citizen last year and Molly appreciates the different perspectives they each bring to parenting. They also have a few pets: two bunnies, a very old cat, and many koi.
Fashion Designer Turned Etsy Store Owner
Molly studied fashion design at Parsons School of Design (before the institution became famous thanks to Project Runway!) By the time she was a senior, she knew she wanted to focus on children’s fashion. But after graduation she ended up working for a toy company. Life slowly started happening and she briefly abandoned fashion design, working instead as a fine artist. When she married her husband, she moved from NYC to Dallas, further removing her from the heart of the fashion world. By the time Molly's son was born, her work life included spending about 8 hours at a time painting watercolors. It wasn't an easy job with a newborn!
As all new moms do, Molly suddenly realized she didn’t have the time she once did. (We can relate!) Since she couldn’t focus on one project for hours at a time, she began to search for new creative outlets she could pursue with her son.
When her son was about 18-months-old, he was prone to ear infections. The doctor recommended Molly keep her son’s ears covered whenever he went outside. There was only one problem: her son loved being outside, but hated covering his ears!
Molly got inspired shopping a fabric store, running some yellow gold felt through her hands. She thought, “What if I made a coat that looked like an animal for my son? Like a costume. Maybe he would wear it.” During afternoon nap, Molly started playing around with the fabric. She ended up making a coat with a felt, lion-head hood. And guess what? Her son kept the coat on and his ears covered!
A friend of Molly’s owned an Etsy shop and suggested that Molly sell her new coat design on Etsy. Molly didn’t think she’d make any sales, but she gave it a try. She photographed her son wearing the lion coat and took detailed shots on her kitchen table. She listed the coat for the (what she thought was) outrageous price of $120 and went to bed. The next morning, she had a sale! That was September 2010 and Little Goodall has only grown from there. At this stage in her business, Molly handles the design and sales of her product, and has hired an outside source to do the sewing and manufacturing for each coat.
A Roaring Success!
Molly couldn’t believe that her ridiculously-priced item sold right away! Her first lion coat was a huge...might we even say roaring?... success, and it gave her business a massive jump-start. She also had an idea for fox and dinosaur coat designs, and began making and drafting those patterns. It was very time-consuming work. Just as soon as Molly would sell one item, she would repost and sell another. What a great business problem to have! And a sign that Molly had created a truly unique product.
Molly also thinks she hit a nerve designing items for little boys. In her experience with children's fashion, she saw that boys were given a smaller window of childhood. Once they hit a certain age, they’re basically dressed like mini versions of their dads. Molly wanted to offer boys a chance to be wild and creative. (Turns out girls love Molly’s coats, too! These designs are perfectly unisex.)
Keeping Up With Demand
Was it hard for Molly to keep up with such rapid demand? It was a nightmare! But also exciting, Molly says. Her product first sold primarily via word-of-mouth. As a stay-at-home mom, Molly found the new energy addicting. All of a sudden she was getting questions, comments, and convos that expanded her world beyond her child. That first Christmas, she couldn’t get materials and make coats quickly enough! At night, her husband would cut fabric on their kitchen table while she sewed in the dining room.
How Outsourcing Helped Molly's Business Thrive
While it was great to have a business boom, Molly was discouraged that she wasn’t getting time to design -- her true passion. Because Molly had to clock tons of hours at the sewing machine, it took much longer than she would have liked to create new designs for her store.
Molly wisely realized she couldn’t do it all and got help. Outsourcing a few, key elements allowed her to actually grow her business. Two elements in particular Molly felt the need to outsource were pattern-making and pattern-cutting.
Here’s how she did it:
After first toying with the idea of looking online for a pattern maker, Molly decided to narrow her search to local pattern makers. She found an excellent pattern maker in her home base of Dallas. Not only was this shop able to make her up-and-coming design patterns, they were also able to grade her patterns. Grading means they were able to take a pattern in one size and scale it to make additional sizes. Molly loved working with a local small business, and she loved finding an expert who could do particular jobs even better than she could!
The animal face details on Molly’s coats required up to 60 different appliqués. Molly had been hand-cutting the felt and thought if she could find someone to make metal dies, like cookie cutters, then she could have a box full of prepared pieces to applique onto her coats. Molly did just that. She found another small business who would accept her card
This push to seek outside help was prompted by a large order request from Gilt, a clothing company. They wanted 400 pieces, 100 coats in each of 4 styles, ready for Halloween. To fill such a big (and important!) order, she would have had to close her Etsy shop or find help. The choice was clear. (And Molly’s husband was more than happy to relinquish his throne as felt-cutting king!)
After hitting this crossroad, Molly also realized that finding a sewing room to manufacture her products would be well worth the effort. She ultimately ended up using a top-notch sewing room who also sews garments for a designer label. Impressive!
The Handmade Decision: Raise Prices or Get Help
Molly considers her location really fortunate. Dallas was once a manufacturing hot-spot and they still have pockets of high quality manufacturers in the area. At first, Molly went to NYC and met with various sewing rooms. It was important to her brand to keep manufacturing within the United States, but by choosing Dallas, Molly enjoys a local touch. She is able to problem solve when it comes to producing her products and to see first-hand that the factory is run well and employees are treated fairly.
Molly says that she has been able to develop so many new products since making the decision to outsource. Like all makers, she is closely tied to the outcome of her products. Though she felt a real hesitation around the decision to outsource, the benefit has been well worth the risk.
Molly remembers in Etsy history when the marketplace allowed their handmade items to be created by outside manufacturers. Though that announcement was met with some resentment at the time, Molly has firmly held to the belief that sometimes a product is better when a team assembles it. As a handmade artist, her DNA is in every garment she produces, but she doesn’t have to complete every step to make it so. Using experts in various fields has made her garments more consistent and far better than it otherwise would have been.
Not only does outsourcing manufacturing allow Molly to produce a better product, it allows her to price that product affordability. According to Molly, it came down to two decisions:
1. Either raise her prices so high to compensate for the 12 hours of her time she would spend sewing that no one would be able to afford her product,
2. Outsource portions of the manufacturing process.
That’s the crux of the issue for many handmade sellers!
Selling a Licensed Product
The big pattern company, Simplicity, came to Molly and said they were interested in selling her patterns. Pattern-selling is a great way for designers to expand, and the move was natural for Molly’s adorable animal coats. Molly noticed her coats were appearing on DIY Pinterst boards; because her coats are made of wool felt, she assumed many people thought the coats were user friendly and easy to work with. Actually, Molly’s coats are quite complicated to assemble and she got word that people were finding it difficult to recreate her coats! (A good problem!)
Molly's fox coat turned out to be the zietgiest product. One season, an Italian trend forecasting company featured Little Goodall in its issue. Talk about a BIG win! With this kind of press swirling around Molly’s coats, Simplicity reached out to her and offered to purchase the rights to her design and create patterns to sell.
Molly thought the business move was a good one, as creating and selling pattern pdfs wasn’t in her wheelhouse. The time and energy needed to figure out pattern creation would distract Molly from her most important business goals. She sent Simplicity a few coats, images, and the patterns she had created. They worked their magic and she collects the licensing fees.
How Does Licensing Work?
In Molly’s case, she was paid an advance for the rights to her pattern up front, and then royalties after.
Since the initial license sale, Simplicy was sold by another company who discontinued her line .To date, Molly isn’t entirely sure where her licensed patterns stand with this new company. Some details were lost in the switchover, but she’s making efforts to work it out. Molly also has had to deal with another party copying her patterns and attempting to sell the knockoffs; she used the services of a lawyer to handle this issue.
Wild Things To Write About - Molly's Book Deal!
Quantum Publishing, a professional book sales agency from the United Kingdom, reached out to Molly with a pitch to write a book. The way book sales agencies work is that they first create ideas, then sell books. Molly had to make projects and patterns for the book idea, then she did the illustrations and the text. The entire process took nine months.
Molly couldn’t swing the childcare necessary to give her time to make the book, so she got creative and shifted her day. She went to bed at 8pm when her son did, and woke up at 4am or 5am to work for a few hours in peace and quiet. When her son woke at 7am, they went about their normal day. Molly admits the day shift was weird, but it worked perfectly well for a season of time. (And she still uses that model when she’s in the middle of a big project!) Molly loves that she was still was able to enjoy the summer with her son. After all, you only have one summer with your 5-year-old.
Great Trade Shows for Handmade Sellers
Trade shows are a great way to put your best foot forward and get in front of interested buyers. Molly has several great show recommendations for other handmade sellers.
Molly was the first of a group to attend the Etsy Wholesale show, which Etsy paid for!
NY Now is a gift show held twice a year for retail stores to place their orders for Spring and Fall. This show is great because it allows your brand to go to one place where everyone has an opportunity to meet and place product orders. A shop can literally leave NY Now knowing exactly how many orders to manufacture for the year.
At NY Now Molly met many people who loved her product, but they didn’t carry children’s clothing. That gave her the prompting to look into other trade shows.
This show is $500 to enter and Molly feels it is well worth the effort. What she likes about this show is that they are great at bringing new people into the universe of handmade. Also, this trade show offers seminars on important topics like calendar planning and web marketing. She feels it is a great place to develop relationships with a store you can maintain for years to come.
This is the next trade show Molly wants to check out. It has a focus on children's products.
Why Raising Prices Means Everyone Wins
Pricing is always tricky. As Molly has had to raise her retail praises to adjust to be able to do wholesale, we wondered if she’s seen a diminishing quantity of sales. Turns out, Little Goodall hasn’t seen a drop in retail! Actually, Molly has an example of one particular item that didn’t do well at all, but when the shop raised their prices, this item took off. Molly thinks a lot that has to do with perceived value.
The brand Little Goodall doesn’t do sales very well. It wouldn’t do any good to set a price at something like $39.99. Her customers aren’t looking for bargains, they’re looking for investment pieces. A Little Goodall coat is unique and their customers just have to have them!
Does Tons of Press Lead to Sales?
We’ve always wondered if being featured in something like a print magazine has translated into a sales boost. Little Goodall has been featured in top publications like The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, but neither of these mentions has resulted in a burst of sales.
What has boosted sales? Instagram and Facebook mentions from influential bloggers!
Working With Bloggers
Many bloggers have requested Little Goodall coats for giveaways. Molly has found it’s a delicate balance to get the right fit. She was noticing that other giveaway entrants would provide $12 items. People who entered those giveaways weren’t necessarily Molly’s target audience - they were simply people looking to win free stuff! Molly needed to find bloggers who spoke directly to her target market: lifestyle and fashion bloggers, for example.
Molly has also found that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to audience size. A blogger with 10K followers may not produce a great result, but if a blogger has 2K followers who are really interested in her product and would be potential customers, there’s probably room for a partnership.
Product-Market Fit is just so key!
Molly's Adorable Mom Moment
Over Thanksgiving, Molly’s son Carter broke his arm. It wasn’t a serious break, but enough to have a cast and be a bit exciting! When Carter’s cast was removed, the doctor made a big deal to repeat that Carter’s job would be to keep his arm very still while the cast was cut off. After repeating “your job is to keep your arm very still” multiple times, the doctor asked, “Okay Carter, what was your job again?”
Carter responded, “An architect! I’m going to be an architect!” How sweet and perfect is that!?
We learned a TON from Molly’s accomplishments! It’s always wonderful to see a handmade shop succeed.
Find Molly Online!
Tue, 16 February 2016
Have you ever looked at the photos on another blog and wondered, "How in the world do they get those gorgeous shots?!" Wonder no more, because Johlene Orton of Flavours and Frosting is giving away all her best photography tips in this episode. You don't have to be a food or recipe blogger to use her advice. Johlene is self-taught and has progressed from an automatic camera user to a manual pro. You'll be empowered to do the same after learning from her!
On the Podcast
01:27 - Meet Johlene
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear from Johlene
Johlene lives in the Gran Canaria, a Spanish island, with her husband and two children. Originally from South Africa, she moved to the Canary Islands for love and now lives in a three-language household with plenty of love and culture to go around!
Johlene sold cupcakes in her city, as well as hosted cake decorating workshops and dessert parties. She started blogging to showcase her baking. Fun fact: Johlene’s blog was originally bilingual, with posts in both English and Spanish.
Transitioning From Product-Based to Blogging Business
Johlene first used her online platform to sell her delicious products. But when she made the switch from Blogger to Wordpress and dug into the tech side of blogging, her business transitioned to being exclusively online. Johlene realized she could leverage her time and talents much more if she stopped creating products to sell individually and instead focused on digital products, services, ad and affiliate revenue.
Building A Blogging Income
The one thing that holds true for most bloggers is that there isn't just one revenue stream in their business. Many different parts can come together to make up a vibrant whole!
Johlene is no exception, and she has found success doing sponsored posts, creating recipes with promoted products, and affiliate marketing. As she has gathered knowledge and expertise, Johlene has begun to use her skills to help others. Occasionally, she will take clients on a retainer and instruct them on how to build a food blog. She helps them with Pinterest strategy and scheduling, scheduling with Edgar for other Social media sites, along with giving them advice and direction for growing their business.
No One Ever Said Blogging Was Easy!
The switch from Blogger to WordPress gave Johlene a big reason to learn more about turning a blog into a business. After blogging for three years without a lot of tech savvy, Johlene knew it was time to get serious. A friend suggested that Johlene check out Amy Porterfield; Porterfield’s site was a springboard for Johlene.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. When Johlene migrated Flavours and Frosting from Blogger to Wordpress, she experienced some major problems. First, she had a glitch with her permalinks and went from 20,000 page views a month to 1,000 views. Ouch! During that same period, her site was highjacked and visitors were redirected to a sleazy site. Her blog even got blacklisted by a major search engine. Talk about a nightmare! Johlene was ready to give up on blogging; not realizing that this was only the beginning. She still had a lot to learn.
Johlene looks back on this time as both the best and worst of her blogging experience. Through these struggles, she began to learn new things and experienced doors opening.
Getting Started With Photography
Johlene used to use a simple point-and-shoot camera for her food photographs. But when she started following other professional food bloggers, she realized she needed to up her game.
She had to convince her husband to invest in her online business, and she was able to make the case for them to purchase a Canon 600D (European EOS Rebel T3i)* for the business.
*denotes affiliate link. Learn more in our disclosures here.
Food Blog Photography Resources
While learning how to become a better blogger, Johlene stumbled upon many fantastic food photography resources. A few of her favorites are:
Tasty Food Photography by Bjork and Lindsay of Pinch of Yum
Food Bloggers Central by Nagi of Recipe Tin Eats
Food Photography by Nicole Young
Food Photography Behind the Scenes - Bright Food, Dark Shadows by Nicole Branan of The Spice Train
Key Ingredients To Awesome Food Photos
Experimenting With Backlighting
Just as recipe testing creates perfect dishes, Johlene has found that backlight testing creates the perfect photographs! Here’s a peek into her process:
After all that experimenting, Johlene has found certain ‘go to’ spots in her house. In an ideal world, she would have her photo shoots prepped in advance. But, as a busy mamaprenuer, she often is working around her kids’ schedules.
The Rule of Thirds
The ‘rule of thirds’ is commonly known in the photography space. But as newbies, we don't always know what we're supposed to do with it!
Imagine there are two vertical lines and two horizontal lines running across your photograph - dividing the image into nine equal sections. The focal points of the photo are found in those four points of the intersecting lines.
This means that the focus of the photo should intersect with one of these four corners. It doesn't necessarily have to be in the middle, but by focusing on those four corners for points of interest, your photo will be pleasing to the eye.
Johlene likes to fill the negative space around her focal points with elements. The focus should always be on the main dish, with the added elements serving as enhancers. Like this example of chocolate chips surrounding the chocolate bundt cake. Johlene once heard someone say that these negative space fillers should work as breadcrumbs leading to the main focus of the photo. Let those little crumbs enhance the main subject. (Genius!)
Shooting Angles for Food Photography
Most food photographers shoot their dishes from the top down, but Johlene has a style all her own. (She says she’s a rebel with a cause!) She prefers shooting slightly above the food at an angle, or directly in front. Close up shots are great, but Johlene likes to give her food room to breathe. We love that tip...give things room to breathe!
Tips on Using a Manual Camera
As a budding photographer, Johlene shot with an automatic camera. It worked well enough, but she was frustrated that under poor lighting conditions she could never capture the shot she wanted. After trial and error, Johlene has a much better technique these days.
Tripod and Tether Mode
We wondered, “Are tripods necessary to get the perfect shot?” If you really want to use manual settings and get the most out of your camera a tripod is important, Johlene says. Until a few years ago, though, Johlene didn’t see her tripod as a necessary piece of equipment. When she began using tether mode (linking her camera to her computer), she came around and began to view her tripod as a useful and necessary tool. (Remember how Kim from Lucy Jane Totes introduced us to tether mode?)
Johlene’s camera has a flip out screen, which she used to use to preview photos. But when she would import photos to her computer she would notice that a few of the shots weren’t up to par, and this came only after she had packed away the photo shoot. Some edits were easy to make; like fixing underexposed photos, but overexposed photos were harder to manage. By viewing the photos on her computer screen as they’re taken, Johlene has drastically minimized her photo shoot time.
Behind The Scenes of a Food Photography Shoot
Speaking of photo shoots, we also wanted to know how often and how long a foot photography shoot is. Do food bloggers do all their baking and photographing in one day? Is the process spread throughout the week?
For Johlene, timing food photo shoots depends on how well she plans. For example, leading up to a school holiday for her children, she knew time would be limited, so she planned recipes and baked dishes that she knew would keep well.
It takes Johlene one day to bake and one day to shoot. She will often bake a few recipes on one day, then decorate and gather props for shooting on the second day.
It’s a lot of work to be a food blogger and photographer! Johlene laughs when friends will ask, “What else do you do?” (As if there were time in her schedule for things beyond food blogging!)
Food Blogger Secrets for Scrumptious-Looking Food!
One struggle that seems universal with food bloggers is ensuring that their dishes look just as delicious in photos as when they come out of the oven. So what's the trick to ensure delicious photos?
A blow torch! Johlene uses e a torch (like one you would see for a creme brulee) to make her frosting look fresher on photo shoot day. (Genius!)
Savory dish food bloggers often have trouble photographing cheeses. (Who knew?) And apparently white ingredients are notoriously hard to shoot because it's difficult to capture texture with white.
So does Johlene avoid using white ingredients? It’s not always possible with baked goods, so she finds that adding elements (like chocolate chips or sprinkles) helps the look of white ingredients in pictures.
Food photography has become a passion for Johlene, but she’s also found that the more she’s learned the harder it has become. She keeps raising her standard and continues to improve!
The Tooth Mouse (Johlene’s Adorable Mommy Moment!)
Johlene's five-year-old son Luka is losing his first few teeth. In Spain the Tooth Mouse, not the Tooth Fairy, pays a visit to children who put their lost teeth under their pillows.
When Luka was telling his Mom about how he spotted a dead mouse on the side of the road walking home from school, Johlene’s first response was, “Oh, I hope it wasn’t the Tooth Mouse!” Her boy was concerned for just a second, before he quickly rebounded, “The Tooth Mouse is like Jesus, he never dies.” We were cracking up over that viewpoint!
We loved learning about a few different Spanish traditions from Johlene. Listen to the very end to get your own taste of Spanish culture!
Find Johlene Online!
Tue, 9 February 2016
When a stay-at-home mom on a budget launches a blog, her path to success is often different from the fantastical stories we tend to hear about. Success means plugging away - even when results are small and growth is slow. Success means focusing on what really matters - helping your audience and giving generously.
We love the kind of success Laurie Hise represents. It's real. It's genuine. And there are no casualties along this path. If you can relate, listen on. (And even if you plan to "make it" much faster, Laurie has some crazy good Facebook tips you'll want to hear!)
On The Podcast
01:26 - Meet Laurie
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear from Laurie
Laurie has been married almost 20 years (!!!) and has three kids, ages 8 to 15. She started her blog, Passionate Penny Pincher, 6 years ago on a whim. When a family illness took much of her husband’s attention, Laurie occupied her time by reading blogs. She noticed a gap in the money saving site niche and decided to start her own blog, then Publix Penny Pincher, to fill the need.
Mom On A Mission
Laurie has always considered herself to be a frugal woman. Around the time when her youngest child turned two, she got an itch to start working again and began dreaming up ways to bring additional income to her family. In the words of Laurie, “I knew that I wanted to earn extra income from home especially as they were getting older and heading off to school...I primarily was a stay-at-home mom. I started obsessively clipping coupons back in 2006 (folks, I was nuts), so the idea of potentially earning an income from home while telling other folks how to save intrigued me.”
She read Crystal Paine’s series How To Make Money Blogging and followed her advice. As she and her husband dealt with an illness in the family, Laurie used those late-night hours to research and start her blog. From the get-go, Laurie was passionate about donating half of her income to missions. Her husband thought the idea was crazy, but they went for it! After all these years, she still donates half of her blog’s profits to missions.
Many Blogs Fail - What's Laurie's Secret?
Of the twelve bloggers who began at the same time Laurie did, Laurie is the only one still working at her keyboard. What’s the trick? Consistency.
Laurie has showed up to work everyday, even though she made nothing on her blog for the first few years.
Why Laurie Dislikes "Success Stories"
Laurie’s popular post How I Make A Full Time Income As A Stay At Home Mom + 7 Secrets To Success has encouraged many moms to pursue online (or other creative working outlets) as sources of income for their families. But the post was hard for Laurie to write. When she hears people sharing their crazy success stories, it rubs her the wrong way. Laurie sees herself as just a wife and a mom who got lucky. Even though she’s hesitant to call herself a success, she wants other moms to know that working online is possible.
At the end of the day, Laurie's success is due to a lot of hard work and sacrifice. She didn't start making money overnight, but instead stayed committed and slowly grew her income over many years.
Why Comfort Zones are Bad for Readers
Laurie is a private person, so putting herself out there is uncomfortable. But she knows from her own experience online, that the more a blogger or influencer shares about themselves, the more she begins to know, like, and trust them.
We all feel more of a connection with people who open themselves up more. So for that reason, Laurie has reconciled her discomfort and is willing to be more transparent. When she sees income from ads or affiliate sales, she knows it is because she was able to make her readers feel at home. Helping readers connect with the information she shares is uncomfortable, but sticking with it has been rewarding. (No one ever said business was comfortable or easy!)
Solve a Problem? Build a Business!
Laurie shares some excellent business advice in her article How I Make A Full Time Income As A Stay At Home Mom + 7 Secrets To Success: choose a business model based on people’s needs. In Laurie’s case, she doesn’t blog simply for the sake of blogging. Originally, her blog was Publix Penny Pincher. Her goal was to create meal plans and shopping lists which coordinated with Publix weekly sales. Her site has slightly expanded its focus, but the core of her business model remains the same.
Laurie thinks there is certainly space for bloggers who are simply great writers, but she knows her strength is in catering to the needs of her readers. And she has consistently met the needs of her readers for 6 years!
Can Low Expectations be a Good Thing?
Laurie suggests mompreneurs focus on their businesses, not the money, and set low expectations. Her advice is quite different from traditional business advice! Prior to blogging, Laurie had never made more than $7/hour. She didn’t come to the online space with years of marketing and advertising experience. Growing her blog did take a longer amount of time because Laurie was so new to business and marketing, but that meant that any monetary win (no matter how small!) was a big win. Focusing on driving traffic, not building revenue, was Laurie’s method.
Free Ideas for Driving Traffic
Facebook has been the greatest driver of traffic for Laurie. She has three (free!) great ideas for using Facebook.
Does your Business have a Magic Word?
Though her content posts are excellent performers on Facebook, Laurie's page has a few magic words as well. When these words are included in a post, Facebook chooses to show those posts to a large volume of people. For example, Starbucks is a magic word on Laurie's Facebook page. Those deals spread like wildfire! (We understand!)
Because of her niche, Goodwill is another ‘magic word’ that drives a lot of traffic from Facebook to her site. Although recently Laurie noticed that a Goodwill post did very well one day but when she re-posted the next day, she heard crickets. It’s all about the right people seeing your post at the right time. (Isn’t that Facebook algorithm pesky!)
An Insane Commitment to Facebook
Laurie’s Facebook page shows the work she puts into it. Her recipe roundup posts (like this one) get tons of shares! One of Laurie’s recent Facebook posts, from Money Saving Mom, has 1,415 shares. Impressive!
But Laurie’s schedule is intense. She has chosen not to outsource Facebook posting and commits to posting around the clock (except from about 1:15am - 5:15am) every day.
How Laurie Wins with Facebook
If we decided to start posting every hour on our Brilliant Business Mom Facebook page (with just 4500 fans) it would be crazytown! As a deal blogger, Laurie is already posting 15-20 deals on her site each day. There’s already a lot of content going around. So she didn’t necessarily need to get her readers used to seeing an intense posting schedule, they already were.
Laurie’s Facebook posting strategy is the most unique we’ve heard! Here are the highlights:
Laurie's Facebook Scheduling System
Laurie’s scheduling system is a bit willy nilly. She sets up posts using Facebook’s built-in scheduler. This is another strategy Facebook seems to favor over outside scheduling apps. She has a simple spreadsheet that tells her how many times to post categories of her own content (recipes, deals, etc.) and how many times to post other people’s links.
She likes sharing content from other bloggers who are doing well, and has appreciated other bloggers doing the same for her. That altruistic outlook builds a strong community and is a win/win for everyone!
Laurie's Strategy for Repeat Posts
Laurie has a detailed system for figuring out when and how often to repost her own content.
The Handiest Facebook Tip We’ve Ever Heard
When it comes to sharing content from others, how does Laurie find and curate all of those other posts? It sounds like it would be a time-consuming process! But Laurie has a handy tip that makes Facebook sharing much easier!
Laurie has made a point to like the pages of the popular bloggers in her niche so that she'll see the posts they share.
Finding the Facebook ‘Save Link’ Tool On A Phone:
On Laurie’s phone, she sees an arrow in the top right hand corner of a link. The options are to:
Beth Anne couldn’t quite find the ‘save link’ option, but maybe her phone needs updating :)
Finding the Facebook ‘Save Link’ Tool On A Desktop:
When Sarah looked for the same arrow, she visited Facebook as herself (not a Brilliant Business Moms page admin) and saw these options:
Finding Facebook Saved Links
It’s easy to access these saved links for posting later!
On a Phone:
On a Desktop:
As far as Laurie can tell, your links will be saved as long as you want to access them. We think this tip is a brilliant way to store excellent content shared by you and others. And as smart as Facebook is, we have a hunch you’ll likely start to see similar posts in your news feed.
The Obnoxious Girl Personality (and why online business sometimes requires it!)
The sensationalized aspects of Pinterest marketing don’t come easily to Laurie! The all caps and superlative language feel obnoxious and a bit soul-selling. But, ultimately, Passionate Penny Pincher is a business and Laurie has to make business decisions. For example, her team was spending a lot of time on a ‘Kroger Coupon Matchup’ series but seeing little results. A quick title change to ‘7 Deals You Need To Get At Kroger Today’ and the series took off!
Laurie asks herself, “Is this (decision) worth giving up control over to get the traffic?” She admits the balance is a struggle, but she also has a strong center of knowing what is and isn’t worth the time she’s investing away from family to make her blog work.
Seeing Mom Make A Difference (Laurie’s Adorable Mom Moment)
Despite the great success of Passionate Penny Pincher, Laurie’s family life hasn’t changed a great deal. All of their money, minus the half that goes toward missions, goes to savings. Her kids see that Laurie works hard, but they still live on a frugal budget.
One day, Laurie’s kids were able to see just how much her mom's business makes an impact. Eating at a restaurant, their family came across a reader who thanked Laurie for her blog as they were able to adopt a child thanks to the money they saved. A few days later, Laurie’s daughter came up to her and said, “Mom, you’re helping people. You helped those people get their little girl!” What a sweet way for her daughter to recognize Laurie’s work!
Find Laurie Online!
Tue, 2 February 2016
From the minute you start chatting with Jamie Samples, one thing is clear: she is one-of-a-kind! Jamie truly stands out in a world that tells us all to be the same. She's a country girl at heart, an animal lover, and a firm believer that we'd all be better off if we did business like our grandpa's!
Jamie has tons of wisdom to share on setting yourself apart with both the niche you choose and the way you choose to market. She has such a crystal clear understanding not just of what her target market needs from her, but how they need for her to reach them.
You won't want to miss hearing from this brilliant lady - she's full of wisdom, kindness, and wit!
On The Podcast
01:05 - Get To Know Jamie
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear from Jamie Samples of Yellow Barn Media
Get To Know Jamie
Jamie lives in Michigan with her husband, Eddie, and son, Edison, whom they adopted through the foster care system. As you might expect, Jamie’s family also includes many four-legged friends: a horse, a miniature donkey, two dogs, and a handful of indoor cats!
In 2008 Jamie started her “little, bitty business”, unsure of where it would go. Today, Yellow Barn Media is a solid source of income and provides for her family.
Niche Down, Niche Down!
Jamie considers herself a bit of a social butterfly, which made the advent of Facebook and social media especially exciting for her. Having a background in network marketing, Jamie wondered how social media could enhance her work. She started playing around with Facebook, then began to strategically use Facebook in her business. Jamie casually coached others on how to use Facebook for business, and she did it for free.
Friends noticed that Jamie lit up when talking about social media marketing and suggested that she should start charging for her coaching sessions. She took their advice and formed a business.
For a while, Jamie worked a full time job and did social media coaching as a side gig. Another wise mentor told her that if she wanted to bring her passion to the next level, she should niche down. He asked her, “What could you see yourself doing for the rest of your life? What do you have a ton of knowledge about?”
For Jamie, it’s horses.
Jamie rebranded her business to Yellow Barn Media and ramped up to take the equestrian world by social media storm.
Understanding The Horsing Industry
You Brilliant Business Moms already know that businesses offer one of two things:
The equestrian industry is no different. In the equestrian world, you might see services like horse trainers or products like saddles. (Though Jamie notes in the horse industry, most businesses are product based and use e-commerce platforms.) Once you’ve immersed yourself in a given industry, the number of products and services are endless. This is a great perspective to keep in mind when creating a niche business model!
Rebranding, Risk Taking, And Diving In
Focusing exclusively on the horse industry was scary for Jamie. But after much thought and prayer, she knew it was the right thing to do. She admits that changing anything in business is a risk. But what greatness comes from playing it safe?
Jamie had a great strategy for breaking into a new niche:
Jamie hasn’t gained clients herself via social media, as she’s observed the majority of the horse industry doesn’t know they need the help! We think it’s very astute of Jamie to know her target market so well.
Failing Forward, Jamie’s Personal ‘Learning Opportunity’
Over the last couple of months, Jamie has hit a second crossroad in her business. Once again, it's time for her to reevaluate her business model and make some adjustments.
Talking about failures - or perceived failures - is admittedly uncomfortable. But Jamie is a firm believer that our would-be failures are actually marvelous learning opportunities. Whether you’ve been in business for 6 months or 16 years, Jamie says solopreneurs need to understand that failures are nothing to be ashamed of.
Jamie shares a very personal example of a business ‘learning opportunity’ she recently experienced. She developed a marketing course for her business - complete with 9 videos, and targeted the course for the horse industry. She invested resources to hire a videographer and produced a snazzy, informative, killer piece of content. This video marketing series was exactly the resource that the horse industry needed!
Jamie launched the course at an affordable rate of $47 and waited. The response was dismal. Jamie only sold 2 courses, which didn’t come close to paying for her investment.
Jamie so believed in the importance of this piece of content she produced, that she was still committed to getting it in front of as many people as possible. She decided to give away the course, completely free. Jamie stretched her dollars and paid $600 to advertise on the cover of a top industry magazine reaching 6,000 subscribers. You would think her opt-ins would have skyrocketed, right? Wrong. Only 12 people picked up Jamie’s course.
Jamie was beyond disappointed. She was actually angry! Jamie knew without a doubt that this course was desperately needed by her target market, but she couldn’t even give this valuable information away.
After talking with her wise business mentor, Jamie realized that the horse industry just wasn’t ready for the social media services she was providing. So she has begun to brainstorm a new niche where her social media marketing savvy might be more welcome.
What about the video course? Jamie was so proud of the content that she wanted others to be able to use it. As part of that testing the waters to see what’s next, Jamie decided to continue giving away her video-based social media course. Brilliant Business Moms can access it right here. (Isn't Jamie so nice?!)
Affiliate Marketing And Authenticity
Jamie is confident that a new niche for her business will appear soon. She has an excellent customer base already, and is excited to see what comes next.
Personally, we think Jamie should try more affiliate marketing! She’s a killer affiliate partner for the Brilliant Business Planner.
Her networking skills are crazy good and she has a knack for authentically recommending products. Jamie’s dad gave her this piece of advice: “Connect yourself with the right people for the right reasons.” When Jamie shares a product with her audience, they know she’s not trying to be salesy; she’s simply trying to connect them with a good tool. That authenticity and integrity is an invaluable combination, if you ask us.
Thinking Like A General Contractor
In her consulting meetings, Jamie found that what her clients needed wasn’t necessarily help with social media, they needed a complete marketing overhaul. Poorly designed websites, crummy logos, and zero marketing collateral was sinking their businesses. Jamie knew she didn’t have the skill set to help clients in each of those areas. And so rather than hurry around trying to learn each skill herself, she brought on others who were experts in these fields. Jamie has connected with a team of amazing people who all work together to help her clients succeed.
Jamie has found the analogy of a general contractor to be helpful. Like a contractor, she partners with experts who are smarter than her to build different pieces of a customer’s proverbial marketing ‘building’.
Thanks to the nimbleness of online work, Jamie was able to build out a virtual team and doesn’t necessarily need to see her employees face-to-face.
Facebook or Twitter? Depends On Your Goals
What’s the most powerful social media platform according to this social media expert? Facebook. For most business owners, Jamie says Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool. Perfect to get the job done. Though the days of organic reach are gone, with the right strategy Facebook is the tool to help business owners reach their intended audience.
But what about for Jamie’s business? Is it the same story? Reaching her target market with Yellow Barn Media, Jamie has actually found that more personal connections have been the most successful way to build her B2B company. Because the horse industry isn’t quite as in tune with online connections, she has had great success using physical mail to reach her clients that don’t spend a lot of time on social media. The old fashioned call and card has done the trick.
Jamie’s goals are unique, though. She needs to both find clients and get social media influencers to recognize her work. To get in front of those influencers, Jamie has found Twitter to be her secret weapon.
Send Out Cards, A Brilliant Tip!
Handwritten notes are decidedly Old School, but that personal touch is seriously lacking in today’s business. Jamie’s brilliant tip is to use a service called Send Out Cards. Perfect for busy business moms, Send Out Cards is an online platform that allows you to mail physical cards with personalized messages to customers. They offer thousands of cards to choose from, and many personalization options. Jamie says she could share numerous success stories of wowing clients with a personal card and a box of brownies, all for under $4 and done in 2 minutes time. Absolutely brilliant!
While social media and email marketing are Jamie’s passions, she understands the power of doing business the old way. In fact, she thinks businesses may experience more success if they were to learn from our grandparents’ generation.
Jamie is planning on experimenting with mailing a physical newsletter to clients. She wants to test the strategy and see if it sets her apart, especially when marketing to business clients who aren’t as active as they should be on social media. (Reminds Sarah of Amy Dacyczyn and The Tightwad Gazette!)
Social Media Advice For Business Beginners
Jamie has two simple pieces of advice for business beginners:
The number of social platforms and tools are endless, but to be compelling on any of them you must have a clear sense of who you are and use those platforms consistently. Test and measure to see what works and what doesn’t, then adjust accordingly.
Jamie’s Little Cowboy
Jamie’s son Edison is 20 months old and already showing an interest in the equestrian life, much to mom’s delight! Jamie thinks it’s absolutely adorable that her son will run through the house with treats in his hand asking for ‘Bubba’, the family’s horse, all day long. Could Edison be saddling up to the life of a cowboy? Maybe so!
Find Jamie Online!
Tue, 26 January 2016
On today’s show, we’re shaking things up a bit. Rather than grilling a guest with questions, we are the ones in the hot seat! Can we take the heat?! You'll have to listen to find out :)
We're chatting with Maggie Frank-Hsu, a content marketing and social media consultant. Maggie and Beth Anne met at Social Media Marketing Day in San Diego, and they bonded over a mutual love for social media along with agreeing that, "hey, this motherhood thing is really hard!"
They've been grabbing coffee and chatting all things business ever since.
Since Maggie really knows her stuff when it comes to social media, we decided to be a little bit vulnerable today. We gave Maggie complete reign to tear us apart when it comes to our Facebook strategy. "Throw us the book!" we told Maggie, and she kindly obliged.
(In all honesty, Maggie is super sweet! We knew we were in good hands!)
On The Podcast
02:00 - Facebook Growth to Over 200K
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Learn Brilliant Facebook Strategy from Maggie!
Facebook Growth to Over 200K
Maggie lives in San Diego with her husband and 15-month-old son. Originally from the East Coast, she has spent the better part of her professional career working in NYC and Charlotte, North Carolina. Trained as a journalist, Maggie took a job at a startup and eventually found herself working in marketing.
Maggie took the position of Social Media Manager with a nonprofit called Understood.org. There, she was heavily involved in strategy building leading up to the organization's launch. During her time in that role she was able to garner wide visibility for that group’s Facebook page and grow it to over 200,000 engaged fans.
Maggie now works as an independent consultant for small business owners - helping them connect with their ideal customers and reach their goals when it comes to social media.
Without a Goal, What's the Point?
While this episode focuses exclusively on our Brilliant Business Moms Facebook page, much of what Maggie will discuss can apply to many different social media channels. (Just bear in mind the unique nuances of each as you implement these tips yourself.)
Before we dig in, Maggie wants us to remember that there's a clear distinction between what we do on social media with our personal accounts and how we use it for business. Often, new business owners forget this or get confused. But there are clear differences that we should keep in mind.
Personal Use of Social Media
Business Use of Social Media
More Than A Like
Currently, our Brilliant Business Moms Facebook page has 4500 likes. (Yay! Thank you for being awesome fans!) Likes are often the first metric people look to when determining the success of a Facebook page.
But Maggie says number of likes don’t actually tell much of the story. Some people may ‘like’ your page once, but promptly forget about you. And with Facebook’s algorithm, we know that the vast majority of your fans won’t see your content.
Others may like your page, but never engage with your content. That’s why Maggie says engagement metrics are far more telling. To encourage those of us with smaller numbers, a page with not many ‘likes’ could still have tons of engagement!
3 Questions to Ask for Perfect Posts
A great strength of the BBM Facebook page is that it isn’t salesy. If you’re only using Facebook to push product, you may want to rethink your strategy.
Imagine how those sales-heavy type posts are perceived by your audience. People are usually scrolling through their newsfeed in quick bursts of time, like waiting in line at Starbucks. Under these conditions, users are looking for content that catches their eye quickly and will pique their interest to read later. They don’t want a virtual megaphone in their face.
Your purpose behind sharing content on Facebook shouldn’t simply be to “get people to see your page.” Instead, craft every post you share on Facebook with a specific end goal in mind.
Maggie shares tips for developing the type of posts your audience will like:
Avoid That Tempting Cute Kitten!
It is tempting to post content solely to get a response from your audience. (Gosh, we love those likes and comments!) But while posts should resonate with your audience, they must be related to your business too. It's difficult to draw in your ideal customer if your posts are all over the place.
Pictures of cute kittens are often popular on personal newsfeeds, but that doesn’t mean you should necessarily share a photo of your cat Whiskers on your business page.
One unique way to bridge this gap is to try out interactive Facebook posts on your business page. Maggie liked this post Sarah shared recently.
This post drew in our audience and created a space for conversation and connection. Because our brand is partially driven by personality (we want our audience to get to know each other) this post did really well. The bottom line is to be organic with personal-type posts and not abuse them for the sake of a like.
One and Done!
Most business owners simply want to run their businesses, not engage in social media marketing. Brilliant Business Moms is a unique hybrid because part of our business is sharing social media marketing tips! However, as more solopreneurs enter the marketplace, social media marketing is going to have to be a part of their business model.
If you’re intimidated about carving out time for Facebook in your packed schedule, Maggie suggests creating a posting calendar and scheduling out posts. You can do this in one block of time using services like Buffer and Tailwind, or simply using Facebook Pages’ built-in scheduler. The key is to be consistent, and following a calendar is a great way to ensure consistency!
I just love how strategic and thoughtful Maggie is with social media. Be sure to grab her Guide - 3 Tips for Using Social Media to Find Customers.
A Brilliant Visual for the Perfect Post!
Maggie created a Venn diagram visual to help business owners identify the type of Facebook posts (really, any content!) they should be creating. Circle A includes ‘Problems Your Ideal Client is Googling’ and Circle B includes ‘What You Feel Like You Could Write About Forever’.
In our case, Circle A would be topics we often see in our Facebook group:
Circle B would be topics like:
What’s the intersection of these two? Our favorite mamaprenuers are interested in getting the most out of their time, and we’re interested in helping them build their business!
That means we should be writing content like:
Maggie noticed the recent share of our Tailwind affiliate link on Facebook as a teachable moment. Rather than simply sharing the link, as we did, Maggie suggested we could have written a blog post entitled ‘How Tailwind Saves You Time And Gets You More Customers’. That title would have been highly specific about the benefits of Tailwind to our audience, and probably would have gotten that Facebook post more engagement.
How to Create an Insane Amount of Content in a Tiny Amount of Time
The great thing about Circle B ‘What You Feel Like You Could Write About Forever’ is that it will be very easy for you to create a lot of content in a concentrated amount of time.
Plan For Creating an Insane Amount of Content in a Tiny Amount of Time:
Our Secret Weapon
Thanks to this podcast, we already have weekly content creation built into our schedule.
How would content sharing look if we were to apply Maggie’s strategies?
What if we were to use Maggie’s Venn diagram? How would that look?
Actually, in a January 6th post we unknowingly did what Maggie described! Same principle, we shared this blog post from our Blab with Crystal Paine, but with a twist. Victoria asked a question that fell into Circle A, “As a working mom, did you ever struggle with feeling less-than professional?” And we, through Crystal, were able to provide the answer. And, as it turns out, we did see much more interaction from that post ‘How To Balance A Business & A Baby...Without Going Insane!’
If we were to repeat this process every time we shared a podcast episode, we would not only likely have more fun creating content, but we would probably see more engagement.
So, how could we rephrase Danielle Arran’s episode? Like this: “You Asked How To Grow Your Email List, and Danielle Arran Has The Answer!” Maggie’s advice is that there is power in explicitly stating a problem and how you intend to solve it.
Another great tip Maggie had is to pull quotes from our podcast conversation to create even more posts and shareable graphics. Great idea! We need to get on that one...
An Important Reminder About Facebook Ads
These strategies sound great, right? While the tips Maggie shared are excellent best practices to optimize your Facebook page, they aren’t the end of the story. Facebook isn’t really free. The social media network clearly favors those who are willing to invest in advertising. But, for a paid ad to be successful, Maggie still reminds us that you should clearly know what you want to get out of your post.
If we were to write a blog post about Tailwind saving time, as Maggie suggested, we could put money into advertising with specific target goals. Maybe we want to target previous visitors to our site or women ages 25-35 with children. Facebook ads can be great, but only if you have a very specific business goal in mind.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Maggie brought up a great point when it comes to sharing on Facebook. As a business, we often share while we're on our business page. We're seeing all of our past posts, and clearly, we intimately familiar with what Brilliant Business Moms is all about.
But that's not how a Fan of our page sees things. We have to put ourselves in the shoes of the woman holding her phone, waiting in line at Starbucks. (Venti half-caff caramel macchiato, please!) If a fan likes your page months ago, but has never interacted with you, chances are they don’t remember the details about your brand.
For that reason, Facebook posts should be self-contained. You want each post to carry a bit of your personality, to be distinctively marked by who you are. Profile and cover photos should clearly include your product or service. Since you don’t have control over who is seeing your posts, you have to pretend as if it’s everyone’s first time being acquainted with your brand.
How Often Should you Post?
For a business our size, we wanted to know how often we should be posting to our Facebook page. Once a day? Twice a day? Maggie surprised us a bit and doesn’t buy any advice that says you should post a specific number of times a day.
She figures that we actually don’t know a whole lot about Edgerank, Facebook’s algorithm that determines who sees what content and when. If we were to be posting multiple times a day, even our most loyal fans may not even notice. (Maggie cited this article from Slate.com by technology writer Will Oremus.)
Maggie suggests simply experimenting to find the perfect posting schedule for your business. Try out a souped up posting schedule for a few weeks, then evaluate:
You have to decide if the increased time is worth it.
Ultimately, consistency is key. If you’re just getting the hang of Facebook, choose a posting frequency that you can certainly manage and go from there.
How to Jump on a Trend while Maintaining Your Brand
Maggie used the example from her Understood.org days. Back when the Black vs. Blue Dress controversy went viral, the editorial team at Understood.org wrote a blog post about percecptions of people with learning and attention issues tangentially related to the viral phenomonen.
In the Facebook post sharing that blog, Maggie made sure that the post presented Understood.org’s vision and purpose. That particular post did very well because it caught onto an idea, albeit a momentary one, its audience was interested in (the Blue/Black dress) and intersected it with the core vision of Understood.org.
Maggie recommends using and referencing hot trends, but only you can tie it back to the core of your business.
Don't forget to grab Maggie's Guide: 3 Tips for Using Social Media to Find Customers
Stay in Touch with Maggie!
Direct download: Episode2013220Maggie20Frank-Hsu_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:40am EDT
Fri, 22 January 2016
Get a sneak peek (ok I guess it's a sneak listen!) of our Audiobook, Time Management Mama - Making use of the Margins to Pursue your Passions.
Finally, there's a realistic book on Time Management just for moms.
To get our book, head to http://brilliantbusinessmoms.com/audible and search for Time Management Mama. When you sign up with Audible, you'll get one book free!
Tue, 19 January 2016
Has a setback in life forced you to get creative? Have you ever found yourself wondering what would happen if you transformed a creative knack into a business? That’s Katy’s story. She took a challenging time in life and made the most of it, and her dedication has paid off.
Katy has also created a unique technique for turning her handmade drawings and art into digital masterpieces that she can print or sell digitally over and over again. Tune in to hear her unique technique, and great advice on the pros and cons of digital versus print work for artists and creatives.
On The Podcast
01:13 - Flying The Little Red Flag
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear from Katy
Flying The Little Red Flag
When the company she worked for went under in 2009, Katy Campbell used the setback as an opportunity to get creative. Katy decided to start a stationery shop on Etsy, selling notecards and thank you notes. She named her shop ‘Little Red Flag’ after the red flags on mailboxes. So Cute! But it turns out, stationery wasn’t quite the best fit.
Katy did end up finding a full-time job, and shortly after getting hired found out she was expecting her first son. Wanting to decorate his room in a unique and meaningful way, Katy decided to design prints to fit with her transportation nursery theme. A few friends suggested she sell the products so, using her already-created Etsy shop, she listed a few to see what happened. The rest is history!
Katy’s Unique Process
Katy’s process for creating her products is very unique. Since her shop does have a strong emphasis on nursery prints, Katy keeps herself up to date with current trends in nursery and home decor. Then, she’ll pick an idea that resonates and start sketching or handlettering on paper. Katy then uses an ink pen or Sharpie to trace her sketches (in order to darken the lines), then scans the image to her computer and imports it into Adobe Illustrator.
Using the ‘Live Trace’ function in Illustrator, Katy creates a vector image of the outline. Normally, a bit of cleanup work around the edges will be required. To put the finishing touches on her designs, Katy creates various overlays and adds vintage detail.
Hand Drawn Digital Prints
All digital prints from Little Red Flag begin as a physical drawing, which sets Katy's work apart. Katy considers herself a self-taught designer. While being self-taught may be considered a weakness by some, Katy sees it as a distinct strength. In 8 years of learning as she goes, Katy has developed a style all her own that is impossible to duplicate. She has taken hand lettering and other classes over the years, applying her body of knowledge to each new product.
Creative, Passive Income
Katy’s method of transferring handmade art into digital files for sale is a brilliant way for artists to make a passive income from their products. As part of her business model, Katy does want to experiment with creating custom-drawn clip-art elements that customers can download. She would sell packs of various elements so others could form their own creations, using her designs as a base. Digital items are fabulous additions to any Etsy shop, as they are virtually maintenance free. As a busy mom of three, Katy loves seeing a digital order sale notification come through the Etsy app, knowing she doesn’t need to do anything else to process that order!
Managing Digital Sales
Little Red Flag sells both digital downloads and physical prints. At first, Katy liked having oversight of her prints from ideation to finished product. She decided to test the waters with digital prints when some customers wanted a particular print very quickly. Not being able to guarantee delivery by this customer’s deadline, Katy offered to sell the digital file of her print. Presently, Katy hasn’t made digital print sales a huge priority in her shop, though she does admit Etsy has made increasing strides for both sellers and buyers to work with digital products. Little Red Flag currently sells more physical than digital prints, but one of Katy’s growing to-do list items is to make each of her physical print listings digital.
Tips for Finding A Local Printer
Katy has found an amazing local printer to work with who makes ordering small batches and quick turn-arounds a breeze. She offers several tips for finding the right local printer, and how to ensure the quality of the finished product is up to your standards.
Katy stocks popular prints (like her train series, which she sells two to three of a week) and prints those in massive batches. More frequently, a couple of times a week Katy will put the orders she’s gotten into a simple .pdf file and send that to the printer. Because she has a great relationship with her printer, she’s able to print jobs as small as one and as large as fifty.
Use This Tip to Fool-Proof Working with a Printer!
When printing pieces, Katy uses InDesign to import her images into a new file, and then creates a .pdf prepared for bulk printing. Another great way that Katy has built a strong relationship with her printer is by making their job easy! Rather than sending a bunch of different prints and asking for varying quantities of each, Katy sends a single file exactly as it should be printed. So, instead of asking the printer to print one page twenty times, she will send over a file with the twenty pages of the same image they only have to print once. She fool-proofs the printing process by giving the printer just one job - open the document and hit print! What a nice touch!
Adding New Services
Recently, Katy added a custom book cover design service to her listings. In fact, Katy designed the cover of our book, Time Management Mama. She enjoys these special projects as she’s able to take them on with her tight schedule. Although, Katy has realized there are some very interesting book covers needing designed. (To hear just how interesting, you’ll have to listen!) She didn’t realize there was such a booming market for book covers!
Taking A Creative Sabbatical
With an overflowing ‘to-do’ list, Katy decided to take a creative sabbatical. She blocked out several weeks in her schedule to tackle business projects and dream up new plans. We think it’s genius that Katy didn’t set her Etsy shop on ‘vacation mode’, but simply pared down her listings to digital options. This means Katy’s workload during her sabbatical was incredibly manageable, plus she didn’t lose out on sales! Katy’s items are so popular, she still has had incoming conversations asking if certain listings are still available in physical format. Katy then has been able to address those questions on a one-to-one basis and do what’s best for her. Brilliant!
Custom Book Cover Design
With the advent of digital publishing, the self-publishing industry has simply exploded and will likely continue to expand. A new genre of book cover design has sprung up around this trend. Every blogger these days, it seems, has produced an e-book. There is a huge market for digital designers.
One huge benefit of working with a designer for your book cover needs is the continuous working relationship that is formed. As mentioned, Katy actually designed the cover of our ebook, Time Management Mama. When it came time for us to produce the audiobook version of TMM, we needed the same book cover rendered at a different size. The great thing about having already worked with Katy is that we simply asked her to create an Audible-friendly version of our book cover and Viola!
Katy is actually working on a brand new book cover for Sarah's book - which will come out soon! We can't wait to share it with you!
Who’s Your Competition?
Competition is unavoidable in the marketplace. Custom designers are up against services like 99designs, which promise hasty turnarounds but not a great deal of true customization. We prefer to use the services of other hard working mamas, and we know a lot of our listeners do, too! Don’t give up on Etsy. Business owners can actually solve a great many of their problems by utilizing Etsy, or other freelance services.
The Internet Age has changed the terms of intellectual property, as well. It’s easy to be inspired and do great work, but forget the original source. Katy uses the example of her aunt asking her to design a logo for a highly competitive niche. The logo Katy needed to design couldn’t even hint at any sort of copyright infringement. She had to do extensive research to protect the originality of her product. Big-box services like 99designs aren’t personally invested in the outcome of a product, so they may not be as compelled to take the extra mile with each client’s logo. These are issues you'll want to think through when outsourcing design work.
“Mommy Did It”- Katy’s Adorable Mom Moment
Nothing melts Katy’s heart like her children pointing to her work displayed in their rooms and saying, “Mommy did it!” The pride her children have for her business is just too sweet!
Find Katy Online!
Tue, 12 January 2016
What if your customers marketed your product for you everywhere they went? That would be amazing, right? That's exactly what happened to Katie Alarid when she created her adorably unique baby turbans. Immaculately accessorized babies were marketing her product all over the country, and her business has grown enormously in less than two years' time! Katie's turbans are now in 23 boutiques, and she sells even more of them from her own online shop.
Is there a product you can create that would market itself? Can you make something so unique, eye-catching, or useful that people can't help but talk about it? I think you can!
On the Podcast
01:10 - See A (Tiny) Need, Fill A Need
Press Play on the Podcast Player below to hear from Katie and learn how to get your customers talking too!
See A (Tiny) Need, Fill A Need
On the day Katie’s little girl came home from the hospital, she promptly threw up in her hospital-provided hat which sent Katie scrambling to find a replacement. Katie insisted on keeping her daughter’s tender head covered and protected from germs, so she whipped up a creation with some extra fabric and her unique design was born. Visitors later that day commented on how cute the ‘baby turban’ was, and Katie’s business was inspired. (We just love how Katie saw a need and filled a need in the same afternoon!)
A Business is Born
Someone suggested to Katie that she ask a local shop in town to carry the baby turban. While the compliments of friends and family are great, Katie wanted that ‘real live stranger’ factor we mentioned in Episode 127. Being a savvy business mom, Katie made her sales call with her adorable daughter in tow. And of course, her baby was wearing a product sample. That did the trick! That shop placed their first order and, from there, word-of-mouth helped Blu Taylor organically spread. Katie and her husband also decided to purchase a website to establish their brand's online presence.
Getting Into Boutiques
A boutique owner 70 miles away from Katie picked up the baby turban and quickly contacted other boutique owners about carrying the item. During a Holiday House Junior League event in Little Rock, Blu Taylor set up a booth and sold turbans. Customers from that event - with their little girls modeling the turban hats all over their towns - actually brought the word back to other wholesalers in their areas. Talk about organic growth!
Every time a customer goes outside wearing their adorable turban, the company grows. People can't help but talk about how cute little girls look in these unique hats. They stand out! Blu Taylor is currently in 23+ boutiques, but surprisingly Katie finds that her online retail storefront is stronger in terms of sales.
Driving Online Traffic
Katie finds that Instagram is a great driver of online traffic for her business. She sends her Instagram photos to Facebook and Twitter, responding to comments on all platforms promptly. Katie believes that her product is unique and something customers are excited to talk about.
A testament to the strong word-of-mouth referral Blu Taylor enjoys is how her products have spread to new markets. Katie notices that if she receives an order from a new state, like Oregon for example, in a few weeks she’ll receive more orders from that state. Once again, as that Mama's little girl is spotted all over town in her unique accessory, other mamas ask her about it and promptly head online to get their own!
Katie has personally experienced the ‘Wow!’ factor of her own product. Her husband jokes that their daughter needs to take off her baby turban in stores so they can get through shopping quicker... otherwise everyone stops them to talk about that adorable hat!
Instagram Strategy = Cute Babies
Katie sees the largest portion of her online traffic come as direct traffic via Instagram. In addition, people see her brand name on Instagram and then type in her website directly or search for her on Google. Katie has several tips on how she makes consistent sales with Instagram.
Why Starting with Wholesale has Made Katie Successful in Retail
Katie has experienced nice profitability with both retail and wholesale, which you don’t often see with a handmade business. BluTaylor began as a wholesale business, selling their hats in bulk to various boutiques, and eventually began to sell their hats online in their own boutique and at shows. Katie finds that women usually don’t give themselves enough credit for their time and skills when setting prices. BluTaylor operates by setting their retail prices after a wholesale price is set. This ensures that the business is profitable no matter who they sell to - boutique owners or direct to their customers.
Starting out with distributing her products in boutiques has really helped Katie’s pricing model. With boutique prices on her baby turbans in place, Katie already knows what a healthy profit margin is for her product and can set the retail price accordingly.
Katie has also found that doing some market research has helped her set retail prices. She asks her customers how much value they place on the product and then sets prices accordingly.
Honoring Boutique Owners
Katie’s business model really values boutique owners. Initially, BluTaylor did set a lower wholesale price, but as the cost of production grew, Katie found that she needed to increase her wholesale prices to make her business work. It was scary, but she had to approach her wholesale accounts to let them know about the price increase. Katie found that moving up both wholesale and retail prices incrementally softens the news of a price change.
Though Katie feared many boutique owners would bail ship, only one account decided to not carry her baby hats out of 23 total. That one lost account is easily worth it considering that Katie's time and talent is now properly valued, and her business is sustainable.
Katie's philosophy when dealing with boutiques is that no other person in their business will be buying their products at the level boutique owners will. She wants to give her boutique owners respect, so she will never undercut them on her own site. It's truly a smart, and caring strategy, if you think about it. Eliminate cross-competition and everyone wins!
Rebranding: The Why + How
When BluTaylor was founded in the summer of 2012 with a different business name, ‘Baby Turban’. The phrase accurately described her product and was easy to remember. (Katie still owns the trademark on that name.) As word spread about her adorable baby turbans, customers wanted the product in larger sizes for their older children, and even for themselves! Creating a ‘Baby Turban’ kids' line felt off. And Katie found that older customers were hesitant to wear a product with the word ‘baby’ in the name. To make her brand more accessible, ‘Baby Turban’ became BluTaylor.
In a smart move, Katie bought multiple domain names with iterations of both business names, and linked them to the new site, BluTaylor.com. Katie did not notice a decline in sales after her rebrand, and made it a point to share information about the re-brand for several months in all of her packaging and on social media.
Katie’s customers are so loyal that she even had one contact her in a panic: “There’s a new shop called BluTaylor and they stole your design!” Katie had to laugh. What a dedicated fanbase!
BluTaylor’s Preemie Program
When Katie’s son was born, he spent four days in the NICU after a high temperature scare and rush to the ER. While their time in the NICU was short, she felt for the many families who experienced much longer NICU stays.
As Katie developed her baby turbans, she realized that the unique design snugly fit the head of a preemie very well. She challenged herself to create a hat small enough for a micropreemie and succeeded. Since the skin of a micropreemie is so incredibly sensitive, they are only able to wear a few pieces of clothing - like hats. After creating the micropreemie version of her hats, Katie sent a few to families at their local NICU, and a BluTaylor tradition was born.
BluTaylor custom makes baby hats for families who request one on their website. The hats are a gift. Since no mom is really prepared for the arrival of a premature baby, Katie wants to bless the families with a needed item. Something as simple as providing a cute baby hat creates a sense of normalcy for the families, and gives them hope.
‘Blu’ stands for blue, the color of hope. And ‘Taylor’ is a fun way to represent tailor-made. With each hat purchase, a preemie-size hat is donated to a family with a daughter in the NICU. Katie knows that many moms in one local hospital received a hat via BluTaylor’s preemie program. A nurse contacted Katie to thank her for the donations, and said their NICU looks like a runway with all these en vogue baby girls!
Katie's Adorable Mom Moment
Katie’s youngest daughter, Charlotte, was the inspiration for Blu Taylor and has worn her mom’s adorable creations from day one! You'll have to tune in to hear about the adorable move she does because she's just so used to serving as a product model. It's too funny and too cute!
Find Katie Online!
Tue, 5 January 2016
A few weeks ago, we sat down with Crystal Paine, author of the book, Money Making Mom, and founder of the site, MoneySavingMom.com. Crystal has run a successful online business for 10 years, and she has so much wisdom to share! She hopped on Blab with us and allowed our audience to ask her anything!
The Result? The Most Epic Business Coaching Session Ever! Crystal gave incredible advice on what to do when you don't feel legit as a work-at-home mom, how to overcome low site traffic, and how to generate more income when you make handmade items.
Her responses were so incredible that we took several of them and made them into separate blog posts full of great tips.
Check out the related blog posts here:
There were a few technical issues with the Blab, but you can listen to a streamlined, edited version of it in podcast format below.
To watch the entire Blab in video format, press play on the video below. (Note: the video starts partway through the first question - sorry for our technical issues!)