Brilliant Business Moms with Beth Anne Schwamberger (general)

Learn how one mom blogger grew her income to over 10k/month using Facebook ads. 

Corina Holden, a mommy fashion blogger, used Facebook ads to build her email list and earn customers through her tripwire offer right away. 

She also retargets her website visitors with a brilliant offer for her outfit guides and capsule wardrobe plan, and she works really hard to build a great community and be super helpful to her audience.  

Learn how you can grow your blogging and digital product business using Facebook ads — even if your products are on the more affordable side.

For full show notes, go to brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode197.

Direct download: Podcast_Edit_13_with_Corina__New.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Are you struggling to get happy, engaged subscribers onto your email list? Maggie Frank-Hsu has the perfect solution — an email mini course! Learn how to keep your brand new subscribers engaged, excited to open your next email, and encouraged to learn even more from you because of the quick win you’ve given them.

For full show notes, go to brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode196.

Direct download: Maggie.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:43am EDT

I'm so excited to have two guests on today's episode that I happen to know quite well! Donnie and Abby Lawson are the husband-and-wife team behind JustaGirlandherBlog.com, and they are also my brother and sister-in-law!

Just A Girl and Her Blog primarily focuses on organization, productivity, and home decor, but Donnie and Abby also share their blogging strategies to help newer bloggers learn how to grow.

I'm partnering with Donnie and Abby for their Browser to Buyer course. They walk you through a three-part email marketing system, give you tangible examples from their own business, and even show you their stats and what works for them!

So not only is the course on sale from Tuesday, July 30, through Monday, August 5 for $79 (it's normally $99!), but they're also doing it LIVE on August 5-7.

To get your hands on this course, you need to go to brilliantbusinessmoms.com/B2B. You want to go directly to that page because that's where the sale is happening.

Go to brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode195 for full show notes.

Direct download: Donnie-Abby-Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

So… just exactly how many email subscribers do I need for a successful online business? Well when it comes to Kara Fidd, you can pull off a 20k digital product launch with a small list! No problem :)

It’s way more important to have the RIGHT, targeted subscribers on your list than it is to have lots of the wrong people on that list.

Kara Fidd has pulled off two, ridiculously successful product launches with a super small list. Her first launch was to 2,000 subscribers and she made $10,000!

Her second launch was to 6,000 subscribers and she made $20,000!

Listen to hear what Kara offers her new subscribers, how she structures her launches, and how she makes sales on auto-pilot each day.

Full show notes at brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode194.

Direct download: KaraFiddInterviewEdited.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:18pm EDT

Instagram Stories can be an incredible way to build close relationships with your audience online and build your business. But… you might be stumped on what to say! (I used to feel that way, too!)

After committing to IG Stories for more than 8 months now, I’m no longer stumped on what to say, and sharing something daily feels really easy!  

Keep reading (or press play on the podcast player!) to learn 7 Things to Share when you Have No Idea What to Say. (And these don’t involve long episodes of teaching or getting on video! These are truly easy-peasy things you can say in a jiffy!)

It’s time to find the fun in IG Stories and use them to build your business!

Get the full show notes at brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode193.

Direct download: SOLO_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Have you written off Instagram Stories for your business because they feel too time-consuming or complicated? I used to feel the same way! 

When I finally dug deep and learned how to use Stories to connect with my audience, I discovered it was EASY to always have content to share by deciding on my 3 main content buckets, and I discovered that by focusing on building relationships most of all, I’m able to convert WAY MORE of my Instagram Stories viewers into customers than on any other platform.

Don’t ignore Instagram Stories, because they’re a powerful way to build your business! Keep reading for best practices and strategies that work.

Direct download: Podcast_Edit_9.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Today I'm talking with Ashley Monda of Sunshine Sticker Co. I have known Ashley for quite a few years in the online business space, and I've watched her grow this business from the ground up.


Ashley started Sunshine Sticker Co. in 2015 and is currently making a steady income from it!


She has had such incredible focus: She hasn't veered off course, she knows who her customers are, and she serves them by continually creating and giving them all the planner products that they want!


Ashley has used her Facebook group to build really strong relationships with her customers and earn more sales in the process. You're going to love hearing about that, because Ashley didn't have to build up a beast of a Facebook group to see results! Her group has about 3,200 members and is the lifeblood of her business.


I just love her focus on taking care of her customers. We all know that is the very best way to build your business.

For show notes, go to brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode191.

Direct download: Ashley-Monda-Sunshine-Sticker-Co.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Do you ever feel like you can’t start or grow your business right now because …. (fill in the blanks here - life’s too busy, your kiddos are little and need too much of your time, your kiddos are BIG and need too much of your time, life’s too stressful, you don’t have enough support, and the list goes on….)

The fastest way to pull yourself out of excuse-land is to take one little baby step every single day. You can absolutely find a few minutes a day to start making progress. And life doesn’t have to be perfect to get started.


Annie Quigley of AnnieQuigleyArtist.com is proof that baby steps pay off. She started her online art business when her first baby was born. She worked in the margins as a stay-at-home mom. THEN, her husband deployed for 14 months and she had TWO babies at home!

She worked at nap time every single day, and built up a business that now provides a full-time income for her family!

She honed her craft, never gave up, posted consistently on Instagram, and builds relationships there to keep her sales strong.


When we hear business success stories, it’s easy to feel like everyone else’s path was so simple and straightforward (and nothing but up, right?!) Well… that’s rarely true, and in today’s interview with Medina King, I love how open and honest she is about her setbacks and struggles to grow her Interior Design business.

Medina first grew her business as a side hustle -- taking consultation calls in the bathroom while working her day job, and working late into the night too!

Then she had a baby, and she felt so discouraged at her lack of clients that she considered working for someone else instead.

Thankfully, she received several important signs that she should keep going, and she did!

You’ll love hearing Medina’s story, and her advice on using content marketing to build your business. EVERYONE should be creating blog content to help build their business -- even if you don’t consider yourself a blogger.

Take it from Medina -- creating helpful, interesting blog content has brought her a steady stream of interior design clients.

Go to brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode189 for full show notes.

Direct download: Medina_King_Interview.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:26pm EDT

In this episode, you're going to love the way Laura Smith of iheartplanners.com turned her product launch for her Sweet Life Planner into a true party. I mean, we're talking a 7-day full week Planner Palooza.

What I love about this launch strategy is that Laura just gave and gave to her audience. She didn't have to be sales-y at all and it was so much fun. You'll hear all about the incredible value that Laura offered to her audience, but how that also turned into so many sales that she sold out of her sweet life planner early.

Get the full show notes at brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode188.

Direct download: episode_laura_smith.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:25pm EDT

When someone tells me they took two of their slowest sales months and turned them into their BEST sales months … my ears perk up big time!

That's exactly what Molly Goodall has done by using Brilliant Product Launches in her business, Little Goodall.

Now...in Molly's case they're called Private Sales, and she uses Private Sales to:

1.) Build up a list of targeted email subscribers who are interested in her products. Molly says she grows her email list by thousands of people (usually a 30% list size increase) when she's promoting access to her Private Sale!

2.) Generate excitement around her Private Sale event, which lasts for a limited time, and includes deals on her products that her audience can't get at any other time.

3.) Sell like crazy during the live sale period (her version of a product launch), because her audience is primed and ready to buy, and she's created a brilliant offer that doesn't last long.

My favorite part about Molly's Private Sales? She's not creating all sorts of new products in order to generate these incredible numbers. She's taking items she already has and making the most of them.

Absolutely brilliant!

Direct download: Episode_Molly_Goodall_EDITED_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:35pm EDT

Have you ever gotten discouraged because a goal you’re working towards is taking you so much longer than expected?

I definitely have!

In this age of instant gratification and “overnight successes” it’s easy to feel like we just don’t have what it takes if our journey feels slower than others.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and my podcast guest today is here to prove that to you.

Rayzel Lam built up a niche blog audience around a really narrow (and controversial!) diet plan.

She focused on serving her audience as best she could -- with videos and blog posts, emails and building community in a Facebook group -- and then she launched a brilliant program to help them take the next step towards their weight loss success.

Rayzel’s program took her nearly 2 years to complete!! (I know….!!!) The day before she planned to launch it, she was crying in the shower feeling completely overwhelmed. She couldn’t get her sales page just right and felt like giving up.

Instead…. Some of her sneaky subscribers found their way to her unfinished sales page and bought the program anyway!

It was just the shove Rayzel needed to launch her brilliant program. So she did!

She earned $30k in sales over her 4-day promotional period, and this program has gone on to earn her, on average, just under 9k in sales every single month since.

I’m so glad she didn’t give up just because her goal took a long time to complete!

And friend, I don’t want you to give up either.

Take that next step, and launch your brilliant product.

Get the full show notes here: http://brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode186

Direct download: Rayzel_Lam_Interview_Rev2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:16pm EDT

Do you know what a product launch is? You might think it’s just for fancy start-up companies, or maybe a product launch only applies to a brand new product, but that’s not true!

You can use a product launch strategy to market ANY physical or digital product (and even affiliate products!) for incredible results.

With a product launch, you’ll take your audience on a beautiful journey so that they understand what your product is, who it’s for, how it can help them, and get them excited to buy on launch day!

Get the full show notes for this episode here: http://brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode185

Direct download: Product-Launch-What-Is-Why-Care.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:52am EDT

Have you ever thought that growing an online business was simply out of your league? Maybe you’re a mom with kids at home, and you’re not sure you have the time or talent to grow the business you’ve been dreaming about?

Today’s podcast guest, Bethany Dasko, has been there too. She’s a single mom with 3 kids, and when she lost her job last year, she decided to treat her online store like a real job instead, and her results are pretty incredible!

Bethany’s Shopify store now supports her family full-time, and she’s also used her shop income to pay off all of her consumer debt. Bethany doesn’t sell anything super expensive or crazy unique (she’s not a magical unicorn!) She sells SVG files - which are design files that can be used with a Cricut cutting machine or Silhouette machine. Her products range in price from $3.50 to $100.

What Bethany DOES do that’s a little unique, is use a product launch system to sell more of her designs. She knows how to create an irresistible offer for her audience and get them really excited and ready to buy when her offer goes live. Bethany says that product launches have played a huge role in her business growth, AND she has a whole lot of fun doing them!

Get the full show notes for this episode here: http://brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode184

Direct download: Bethany-Dasko-Single-Mom-Full-time-income-shopify-store.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Hey friend, do you feel pangs of guilt when someone tells you they can’t afford your products? I’ve been there, too!

Learn why you shouldn’t feel guilty about this, why that comment truly has nothing to do with you, and how to add more value to your products so you can confidently charge more.

Friend, your business, your family, your customers, and your sanity depend on you charging based on the value your products bring to the table. Step it on up, sister! You can raise your prices and not worry about the Bargain Brendas trying to bring you down.

Get the full show notes at brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode183 

Direct download: pricing-dont-feel-guilty-mamapreneur.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Feeling a little blah about your business? Hear my story of steering my work-at-home-mom business in a completely different direction, why that wasn't the solution at all, and the 9 signs to look for that show you might be feeling burned out. Plus, learn how to get the joy back in your business and make it feel fresh and fun again WITHOUT starting something brand new that takes up all of your time!

Get the full shownotes here:  http://brilliantbusinessmoms.com/episode182

Direct download: recording-1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Surprise! I’ve got another team member on the podcast for you. This will be our last podcast episode of 2017, and you can expect new episodes beginning again in February 2018. (Awwww! Don’t miss us too much! You can always listen back to old episodes in the meantime.) I think Victoria’s thoughts will be a great way to leave 2017. She talks about ways to honor your own boundaries and prevent burnout in your life.

As you plan for 2018, I hope you’ll keep these thoughts in mind. To get a head start on setting your own boundaries and goals, head to: bit.ly/blpprintables.

Direct download: BBM20Victoria20Wilson20201720Solo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

I’m super excited for this special holiday episode! I invited my team member Carlee on the show to talk about her family’s holiday traditions.

What I love about Carlee’s unique take on holidays is how refreshingly simple it is. By keeping Christmas others-focused rather than stuff and events-focused, Carlee and her family get to serve others, make a lot of great memories together, and kiss overwhelm goodbye in the process.

Press play to hear from Carlee! 

 

If you’re like me and you don’t love the “gimme focus” the holidays can bring, you can decide to change that focus in your home! The way to start is by making a list of what matters most to you that holiday season.

Believe it or not, we don’t buy our kids a lot of presents. But before you think our real last name is Scrooge, hang with me! I’ll explain what we do instead.

When our family made this list of what mattered most to us during the holidays, making great memories within our little family made the top of the list, along with finding ways to bless others and get the focus off of ourselves. Here are our the four traditions we follow each year to keep Christmas meaningful and simple.

  1. Prompt Acts of Kindness
  2. Go Easy On The Presents
  3. Surprise Another Family In Need
  4. Bless Your Community

Let’s look at those traditions in detail.

Prompt Acts of Kindness

Every year during the first week of December, the five of us as a family each put our name in a hat, and everyone draws a name. That week, each person focuses on showing extra kindness to the family member they drew -- from serving them to giving little gifts or taking care of a chore for them.

And, we really want to make sure our kids know their gestures are just as important as what my husband and I can give as adults. It’s not about size or money when it comes to serving each other, but heart and intention. Our kids did all sorts of things to show kindness, like coloring a picture, telling a joke, putting that family member’s shoes away, carrying groceries, or leaving little treats on a pillow.

Over the years it has been so fun to watch our kids get creative with how they can serve one another.

The next week, we each draw different names and the tradition keeps going all December-long.

Go Easy On The Present

Alright, don’t throw the eggs from your holiday cookies at me! We do get our children a small gift, but it’s not the main focus of Christmas for us. (Plus, they get plenty of gifts from extended family!)

Here’s what we do instead:

At the end of November or beginning of December, we’ll dedicate a weekend or two to taking each child individually on a ‘Christmas Date’. They get to pick their meal of choice at a restaurant of choice. We take our time at these dates!

My husband and I ask our kids reflective questions about the past year:  What were their greatest joys and challenges? We especially like showing our kids that because they’ve overcome one challenge, they can overcome another. We also help our children set goals for the coming year, and it’s been great to see how those goals have changed over the years.

After our Christmas Date meal, we head out to a few stores and give our kids a budget with the goal of purchasing gifts for their siblings. Our kids chip in with money they’ve earned themselves, too. This has been a wonderful way to foster our family bond, and it keeps our focus on others.

Surprise Another Family In Need

One tradition we all have so much fun with is surprising an unsuspecting family in need around the holidays. We’ll often fill our gifts with groceries and gifts for the kids in that family, and we deliver them every night for 12 nights leading up to Christmas Eve! The espionage-factor is half the fun and we try to keep our identity a secret the whole time.

This year we’re going to try out a 12 Days of Christmas theme where we match each gift to the items in the song. My kids came up with doughnuts as the “5 golden rings” in an instant! (If you have any themed gift ideas, I’d love to hear them!)

We make so many great memories each year by blessing another family in this way, and it’s a lot less stressful than hosting fancy parties or other Christmas events we could attend.

Bless Your Community

Of course the holidays are fun and festive, but for many people the holidays are sad, lonely, or just plain stressful. We encourage our family to take that one extra step to serve our community.

If you can make anyone’s day a little bit easier or happier, I promise that gesture will go a long way!

Some ideas to get you started:

  • Offer to help load groceries
  • Leave a bigger-than-usual tip
  • Pay-it-forward in the drive thru
  • Help a neighbor put up decorations
  • Shovel snow for a neighbor or business
  • Invite a family having a hard time over for a meal

What ideas can you come up with?

Here’s the bottom line: Prioritize what’s meaningful to your family, give yourself permission to say no, and look outside yourself this holiday season.

I’d love to hear if you’ll be bringing any of these ideas into your home this December. Leave a comment and let me know!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

~ Carlee

Direct download: BBM20Carlee20Russell2028Final29.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:55pm EDT

Getting More Out of Life By Knowing Your Personality

Anne Bogel was one of the very first guests on the Brilliant Business Moms podcast. And I still remember the giddiness my sister and I felt when she was the first ‘big’ person who agreed to an interview. (If you don’t know, my sister and I launched this podcast back in 2014. Sarah has since left to pursue her own business and she’s doing great!)

Though Anne modestly received the compliment, I’m still pretty delighted to have a noteable blogger on the show - again! Since our 2014 interview, Anne has since added ‘author’ to her list of credentials. Her book, Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything*, launched this year and is available now.

Knowing yourself isn't as simple as taking an online quiz like ‘Which seltzer water best describes your personality?’. (True story!) What I love about Anne’s book, and our conversation, is that it helped me delve deeper into what makes me, well, me so I can best optimize my success.

If you’re coming to this topic with no prior knowledge of personality types, that’s okay! Psychologists say that if you don’t know anything else about your personality, knowing if you’re Introverted or Extroverted is a good starting point, it’s the ‘the North and South of Temperament’.

What if you’re one of those people whose personality type is that they hate personality types, as my husband would say!? Anne has thoughts for you, too!

Other topics we discuss include:

  • Clues that you might be a Highly Sensitive Person (experts say about 15%-20% of species are highly sensitive) and what you can do to unlock the keys to understanding a finely calibrated nervous system.
  • How your personality affects how you run your business.
  • How you can leverage your personality to plan your day.
  • And the benefit of knowing how people’s differences helps you view the world.  

If you’re ready for some self-discovery, click play below:

(embed player)

*Amazon affiliate link.

Stay in Touch With Anne

Site: Modern Mrs. Darcy

Book: Reading People

Facebook: @ModernMrsDarcy

Instagram: @annebogel

Direct download: BBM-Podcast-Anne-Bogel-edited.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Digital designer, professor, PR specialist, small business owner, wife, mom of two - you might listen to the many roles of Lydia Kitts and think, “Woah, this sister needs to take something off her plate!” But before you go all ‘Judge Judy’ on Lydia, take a listen to the podcast. You’ll hear exactly how Lydia juggles so many things at once, while keeping people first, and does it with excellence. We at Brilliant Business Moms are just in awe of her!

Lydia lets us in on her unique planning philosophy, which involves using a combination of 3 planners. (I know, right!?) Throughout our interview, you’ll notice how Lydia is hyper-focused on the task at hand. She doesn’t let herself get distracted by giving every task a spot in her day, and keeping tasks in their spots.

In this interview, you’ll also get to hear Lydia answer a great question from one of our Brilliant Business Moms. Amy Gabriel asked, “I want to know how to build a timeless brand that has a strong and loyal following. How do you look at modern trends and base designs off of the current style, but also build something that will last for years to come?” You’ll just eat up Lydia’s answer!

If you follow the productivity tips and hacks Lydia drops in this episode, you’ll be able to keep your family first AND your clients happy just like she does.

If this all sounds like information you need as a momprenuer, hit the play button below!

Resources Mentioned:

Keep in Touch With Lydia

Site: TurnquistHouse.com

Facebook: @TurnquistHouse

Direct download: BBM20Lydia20Kitts.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

 

Today on the show we have a very special business mom and friend, Courtney Westlake. We’ve actually gotten the chance to meet and hang out in person, which was super fun! I met her sweet family and she met Holden; we just had a great time together!

 

Courtney has been blogging since 2011 at CourtneyWestlake.com. She shares a lot about her story of being Mom to Brenna, who has a very rare skin condition and special need.

 

Courtney is a blogger, published author, and now a very successful freelancer. I know you’ll learn a lot from hearing her story!

 

1:15 - Courtney’s Unexpected Beginnings As a Blogger

 

The majority of people will know of Courtney via her blog, which she began to document her daughter Brenna’s birth and early days in late 2011. Her daughter was born with a rare skin condition and accompanying special needs. (You can watch Courtney’s family story here...major tissue warning!) She originally started her blog to update family and friends, but the circle of readers quickly grew. The more Courtney wrote, the more people read! Courtney had no end-goal in mind with her writing, she was just processing being a mom to a child with an unexpected diagnosis.

 

In 2014, Courtney got a chance to meet a literary agent and she signed with her. And in 2015 she signed a book deal! A Different Beautiful came out in 2016.

 

2:55 - What’s It Really Like Publishing a Book?

I’ve had the pleasure of reading Courtney’s book and absolutely loved it. She is a very talented writer! I know many of you are thinking about monetizing your writing platform, and Courtney has some great book publishing insights.

 

Of course, there are a lot of ways you can go about book publishing. Courtney self-published a children’s book in 2014; her non-fiction book was traditionally published two years later.

 

She says the two experiences were so different! Courtney’s advice to help you choose your path? Think about your goal.

 

Courtney’s purpose in writing was to get her message out. Traditional publishing isn’t a super lucrative endeavor. She did receive an advance (an amount the publisher anticipates the author to sell in the first year) and once her book sold the amount of that advance, then she could start earning royalties. And to make sure there are no rose-colored glasses on, royalties are only about 15% of the sale of the book, not a lot!

 

It really is easy to look at big time authors on best seller lists and glamorize their success. But most first-time authors don’t earn very much money.

 

If you choose to self-publish with e-books or something like a print-on-demand service, Courtney says you can expect to make more of your own money, but your book may not get as far of a reach. For example, Courtney’s traditionally published book could be purchased at Barnes & Nobles in the US, Australia, and Canada. (Isn’t that so neat?!)

 

I can tell you from the outside-looking-in, Courtney’s book launch looked so cool! She has a sizeable following and has built great relationships with her readers. Courtney’s publisher was really happy with her launch, which of course made her proud!

 

There aren’t many ways to slice it: launching a product is a lot of work. And that’s just how launches go. During my most recent big launch, FB Brilliance, I really appreciated having my team to delegate to. And Courtney, also, had a launch team that did some of the work for her. Automating as many processes as possible is another great way to lighten the launch-time load.

 

7:05 - Transitioning from SAHM to Freelancer

One reason I wanted to have Courtney on the podcast is because she recently told me that she’s been able to do about 15 hours of freelance work a week, and replace her full-time job income! HOLY COW! I had to know how that’s working!

 

Before having kids, Courtney worked in a Public Relations department at a local university. After her first child - a son who is now 8 - was born, she started staying home. (Isn’t that true of so many of us?) She freelanced here and there, trying to see what would stick, but the jobs didn’t pay much.

 

With the birth of Brenna, her daughter’s special need was very consuming for a long time.

 

Now that both Courtney’s children are school-aged, she’s got the chance to do pursue more formal work again. She started writing pieces for different publications, and then eventually scored some business clients.

 

Those corporate clients are what have potential for high income. Last January she decided to maximize the growth and really go for it! It’s been going really well. To date Courtney keeps four really great regular clients, and a few others who provide less regular work, but are clients she really wants to work with.

 

With her kids now in school she can take on more work, and the increase has been a total blessing to her family. She can use her creativity and passion to earn a decent income

 

9:25 - The Ins and Outs of Writing for Businesses

What does it look like writing for a business? Content marketing is a buzzword these days, and the jist of it means is writing blogs, email newsletters, and website pages for any business.

 

For her clients, Courtney has provided the content - the written words - for entire websites before! She also has created sitemaps, going through the pages on their website they want revamped and so on.

 

For her regular clients, she almost acts as a marketing consultant in addition to providing the writing. Courtney’s clients can bounce ideas off her, and she loves learning what’s latest in marketing, writing, sales, and online media. It’s a win win!

 

10:33 - Kinds of Businesses Hire Freelance Writers?

I love that Courtney does writing for a variety of businesses. Included in her portfolio is: a construction company, a mid-sized bank, a content marketing agency that specializes in education writing (working with schools through them), and a nonprofit.

 

11:15 - Getting That First Writing Gig

Back in January, Courtney decided she would really go for the freelance work. She stared out by emailing different contacts locally, people she had worked with before or had some prior connection to. In those initial emails, she outlined why she thought the managers should hire her, ideas she had for their company, and so on. As cold outreach goes, she got back a lot of “Thanks, but no thanks” messages.

 

But - finally! - a yes came.

 

Her first big gig was a company wanting help with their website.

 

It snowballed from there. The last few months she’s tried to take the initiative and focus on people she really wants to work for.

 

12:12 - A Personal Touch Makes All the Difference

Going the extra mile to make a personal connection in those initial outreaches makes a huge difference. The content marketing agency she’s currently working with Courtney found on a freelance forum. The agency posted their need to have a writer who could take occasional jobs. Most of the commenters on the thread wrote back with a generic reply we’ve all seen, “Send me a PM!”

 

But Courtney went a step further.

 

She went to the agency’s website and got to know the firm. She found a direct email address and wrote a kind message to the agency director. Courtney got back a message almost immediately. The agency was interested!

 

Courtney took the next step to go directly to the director via email, which made her stand out from all the other commenters!

 

(And trust me! As a business owner who gets unsolicited pitches all the time. I can tell right away who took time to be personal and who didn’t.)

 

13:50 - When Charging Your Worth Makes You Go ‘Eeep!’

It can feel so uncomfortable to share your rates! I totally struggle with this on the odd-occasion I accept a coaching call for a high rate. And Courtney has struggled with that same feeling, too. In fact, the morning of our interview she quoted a job and didn’t land it because of her price. But at the end of the day, as mamapreneurs we have to stick with our prices! We know what we’re worth, and we know our clients and customers will get what they pay for. One person may not see your value, but that doesn’t mean many others won’t see it.

 

Courtney agrees it’s much easier to be choosy with jobs when she has a fuller load and not that urgent NEED for income. It’s certainly more fun to pick jobs that you’ll enjoy and know will bring a good income!

 

She’s been able to reach this ability to choose who she wants to work for (and be confident in her rates) by slowly and steadily building clients and sticking to her rate. “It takes time,” she says, “But you’ll get where you want to be. You have to know what your work is worth.”

 

And let’s be honest, ladies! Taking time away from our family or errands we need to do isn’t easy. Our time is valuable.

 

16:55 - Raising Rates and Regular Clients

Has Courtney raised her rates since building out her client portfolio? Her short answer is yes, but the change is hard to quantify since her writing projects are so varied. For some jobs she still gets paid hourly, though her hourly rate is high enough she’s happy with it.

 

Other jobs pay per project, and she certainly has raised the project rate the more jobs she’s gotten.

 

How does Courtney decide which jobs to take? She trusts her gut. When she meets a client and hears about their project, if her first thought is a ‘Heck Yes!’ she’ll go for it. And if not? She gives herself the freedom to pass.

 

18:18 - What Does A Writing Project Look Like?

Primarily, Courtney writes for websites, both updating the content of entire sites and writing new blog posts.

 

When she’s crafting the content for an entire site, she’ll make a site map of the different pages and what content needs to be on those pages, and then she writes the content.

 

For blog post writing, sometimes clients give her an idea of what they want and let Courtney do most of the work and research. Some provide talking points and she will build a post from the client’s initial work.

 

All of Courtney’s writing is what’s called ghostwriting. That means she tries to adapt her voice to match the client’s to make it seem as if the client is actually the one who wrote the piece. That means Courtney doesn’t get credit for her work, but she’s okay with that! It’s like she gets to put on a different costume each day and pretend to be a different person!

 

One project Courtney is currently loving is a case study she’s putting together. She’s gotten to interviewing her client’s client and write about their experience for marketing purposes. It’s like a journalistic piece, super fun!

 

20:10 - Is Courtney Still Building Her Personal Blog Brand?

With this new freelance schedule, is Courtney still blogging and building her personal brand? She admits did take a break from blogging over the summer, which allowed her to settle into the freelance schedule. Courtney has a new idea for an ebook, and wants to keep blogging to see where else it will take her.

 

At the same time, Courtney is confident that she’s finding her stride writing for others. She really likes the business to business model, rather than business to consumer.

 

22:22 - Do What You Enjoy

It’s natural to look around at the leaders in your niche and want to copy their steps for success. In Courtney’s experience (and my own!) there really isn’t one, clear path. She knows what success looks like for herself, how she wants her days to run, and knew that freelance business writing is the way to make it happen.

 

25:30 - Scaling a Service-Based Business

It is hard to scale a service-based business. You personally only have so many hours a day and finite resources to work with. Unless you hire additional people to provide your service, service-based businesses really can have some limits!

 

But Courtney has found that freelance copywriting works so well for her. The income she makes suits her goals. She doesn’t have to hustle all day long, she can just do her work on her schedule and bring in a decent income.

 

(The potential for a copywriter income is huge! Seriously. I’ve seen some charging $1,000 an hour! Copywriters Courtney knows are making $100,000 or more a year.)

 

26:50 - Taking Off The Rose Colored Glasses (Downsides to Freelancing)

We’ve been really talking up how great the freelance life can be...buuut, what’s the downside? Has Courtney ever had a total client disaster!? What’s the tough part of being a freelancer?

Years ago Courtney worked on a small project for a client referred to her by a friend. Courtney wrote a few press releases for this client and, as you do, billed for the work. And...crickets. Courtney send a few more messages, but never got a response. The client had gone totally off the radar, and Courtney didn’t get paid! Courtney says, “I felt really dumb to have not gotten some sort of deposit or something.”

 

Since then, Courtney has been extra careful with payment measures. And thankfully this lesson wasn’t learned on a huge project.

 

29:30 - Adorable Mom Moment

Courtney’s son Connor talked so much about how he loved the tacos at school, so Courtney made burritos for her family. Of course, he hated Courtney’s burritos!

 

She asked him, “How are these different than the ones at school?”

 

“Well...the school’s are good,” He responded.

 

Oh my goodness!! We work so hard for these kids! And at the end of the day, they just want cafeteria food.

 

Stay in Touch With Courtney

Blog: http://www.courtneywestlake.com/

Writing: http://www.westlakewrites.com/

Instagram: @cwestlake

Facebook: Blessed by Brenna

Direct download: BBM_Courtney_Westlake.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:22pm EDT

Building an Online Shop with Deployments, Moves, & 3 Kids!

Lauren Keplinger is a fellow military spouse (hoo-ah!), and mom of three kids ages 5, 4, and 1. She started her shop, Funky Monkey Children, during her husband’s deployment to Afghanistan in 2012. Since that time, she’s grown her custom business to over six figures in sales, including over 5,000 sales on Etsy. And, remember, she did this through deployments, moves, and the birth of 3 kids! If Lauren can grow a biz, I know you can, too!

Listen Now

1:16 - When Mom Wants More

When Lauren was pregnant with her 2nd child, her first was only about 6 months old. She got started sewing as a hobby with a really terrible sewing machine she bought at a yard sale. Lauren would make John Johns for her son and burp cloths for the new baby.

 

But she wanted more. (How many of us have felt that way!?)

 

As a military spouse, so much of life revolves around her husband’s job. She wanted a challenge for herself while she was home with an infant. Lauren started selling her creations on Etsy and the business just grew from there. She says it’s been a wild ride!

2:40 - Etsy vs. Self-Hosted Site??

Having her own site is a recent development in the last 18 months. The majority of her sales are still on Etsy.

And a question we frequently get is, “Should I use Etsy or a self-hosted site?” What’s Lauren’s answer?

She has mixed feelings! Etsy has a great built in traffic and its own platform. She can test new products and quickly see how they’ll perform with the built-in traffic of Etsy.

She’s found it harder to drive traffic to her own site. Lauren does keep an active Instagram account and has found that’s where most of her site traffic comes from. But beyond social media or word-of-mouth referrals, it’s been tough! For now, Lauren is Team Etsy because of the opportunities.

It’s tough to have a sustainable business site without a strong following. (I agree! The main way we drive traffic to our own shop is paid advertising.)

Bottom line: If you build it they don’t necessarily come.

4:05 - A Perk of Having Your Own Shop Site

I wanted to offer my experience that one mega benefit I’ve found of running a self-hosted shop is that I can easily collect email subscribers and get back in front of people with new products. (Especially when it comes to Facebook ads!)

Lauren does leverage her Etsy sells by including a card with a coupon code that works on her self-hosted site in every package, but she says the use of the codes are hit and miss.

But the strategy is smart! 90% of her purchases are gifts for other people, being sent directly to the recipients. Lauren already has the potential of the gift-giver to be a repeat customer, and by including the coupon code she can try to bring the recipient on as a new customer. Though Lauren says she has a few customers who have purchased from her multiple times always via Etsy, despite the coupon codes to her own site!

Another smart way Lauren tries to optimize email subscribers is by including her newsletter link on the message Etsy sends following checkout.

6:20 - Selling What Your Customers Want

Originally Lauren started selling baby items, because that was her season of life. At first she thought her products would be higher-end baby items, but turns out that’s not what Lauren’s customers wanted.

She always took custom orders on Etsy. And over time, she let those custom orders change her business direction as more people were interested in nursery items and baby shower gifts.

(As we’ve heard time and again on this show, listening to customers is a perfect way to grow your business!)

7:30 - Simplifying Gift Giving for More Sales

Is there anything a shop owner can do to make their products easy to give as gifts? Lauren has some great practices!

Offering product customizations is an instant hit with gift-givers.

I absolutely love how Lauren thinks of the list-minute shoppers (like me!) by offering her ‘Rush Order Upgrade’ service. She ships products even faster through priority shipping. In other words, you could order from Funky Monkey Children on Monday and receive your order in time for a baby shower that weekend.

Let’s be honest, people don’t always think that far ahead in advance when it comes to giving gifts, especially for baby showers! I absolutely love that Lauren truly thinks about her customers’ needs and finds ways to meet them.

9:20 - Hey, Etsy! Here’s an idea!

By the way, wouldn’t it be great if Etsy could filter your search based on turnaround time!? I would definitely choose shops with rush shipping for their fabulous products!

10:00 - Learning as You Go by Doing the Work

Lauren started Funky Monkey Children with no prior business background! She learned a lot by trial and error.

She started her shop buying bibs from Babies ‘R’ Us and monogramming names on them. Since that time, she’s worked hard to increase quality by (you guessed it!) listening to customer feedback.

In the early days she would get comments that one fabric seemed too thin or a certain bib wasn’t very high-quality. Hearing critical comments about your work can be hard to take, especially for someone, like Lauren, who doesn’t have any background knowledge in business (or sewing, for that matter!). Where the heck do you even find thicker fabric?

To answer those questions Lauren did the her homework and looked at how she could improve things.

It seems like a lot of work to undertake, and it is, but Lauren’s goal was always to have a sustainable business, not be a hobby seller.

Because of that commitment, she has committed to great customer service. Lauren knows that part of the job is to do the work of resolving and correcting issues, making it super easy to be a Funky Monkey Customer.

I’ve totally seen Etsy or other handmade sellers really struggle when they get negative feedback. It feels personal, but Lauren has a fresh, wonderful perspective: It’s just a business transaction. “If it’s not what you want, I’ll make it right,” wins every time.

12:00 - Two Strategies for Helping Unhappy Customers

One of Lauren’s most frustrating instances of an unhappy customer is when the customer ordered the wrong size and then was mad that the product came in the size she had ordered!

Lauren keys in on the emotions many of us have felt: “It’s hard when you’re working so hard on your business and you don’t want to spend the time to do it again or work for free! It’s hard to balance.”

One of her practices that’s been so helpful is to wait a day before responding to any criticism. Sleeping on it helps her to not have an emotional response, so she can approach it as the business transaction it is. Again, her philosophy really takes the pressure off: “They bought it, they’re not happy, and I can take care of it. It’s not the end of the world.”

I’ll admit - customer care really it’s hard for me! I don’t do my customer service anymore, and it’s a good thing! That’s a second strategy to handling customer care, outsourcing it. One on hand I can be super giving and when I think the cause is worthy I’ll give away whatever! But when customers want refunds for a reason that feels to me like they’re cheating the system, I get super emotional! As always in business, compensate for weaknesses and play to your strengths.

All of Lauren’s trial and error, testing and learning, have really paid off. Now she consistently gets great feedback that, in turn, perpetuates sales. She’s got 5-stars on Etsy and over 1,100 reviews; her shop stats clearly speak for themselves!

14:10 - Where to Source Products?

When you care deeply about quality, how can you get the right products for your custom work?

As usual, Lauren spent time trying and testing a bunch of options. She said she has hundreds of dollars worth of stuff she’s ordered sitting in her basement simply because they don’t meet her standards.

Another way she’s found products is by watching the conversations in Facebook groups specifically for embroidering and applique businesses. She would follow threads in those groups in which makers would mention their materials companies, then place a sample order herself.

I think it’s totally brilliant that, after Lauren made a sample order, she would try out the pieces on her own kids to see how the fabrics held up. Because we all know that how an item looks out of the bag is totally different after a few washes and drying cycles. What a great idea to use her kids as tiny product testers!

15:22 - How Many Materials Do You Order?

Placing an order is so tricky! How does a newer business owner decide how big of an order to place?  

Lauren didn’t start with wholesale purchases. She started buying pieces from Amazon and Babies ‘R’ Us, and it was a slow process from there.

Eventually, she upgraded her burp cloths, and then bibs. About two years ago she took a huge leap in her business and started buying bigger quantities, which allowed her to expand since not only did those larger quantities increase her profit margins, they also increased the variety of products she had available.

16:25 -  How Lauren Gets It Done

Where is Lauren now in business? What does her order fulfillment process looks like? Is she still embordering, packaging, and shipping every order herself? Or does she have help?

Lauren is still running her business all on her own. While putting in those kind of womanhours week after week is certainly impressive, she freely admits it’s not sustainable for the long term and expects changes in the coming months. Much of her growth has come on quickly and her business has doubled in the last year.

Steady childcare has made a big difference in her ability to grow her business. For a while she worked at naps and bedtime. In fact, for one entire year she worked weekends - all day Saturday and Sunday. Her family made this decision to save up money while her husband transitioned out of active military duty, but everyone understood the arrangement wouldn’t be perfect.

Last year she put all of her children in school, 5 days a week. Her two youngest go to preschool from 8:00am - 11:45am and her oldest child is in kindergarten. Lauren only works during those times and has found it to be so helpful mentally! When you’re trying to fit in work at every turn, it really is a recipe for stress and often feels as if there’s never enough time.

It’s helpful for Lauren to know there are set working hours, plus she can always pick up work later if needed.

20:00 - Business Mom and Military Spouse

About 6 months after starting Funky Monkey Children, Lauren’s husband deployed to Afghanistan. The Keplingers knew that this major adjustment was coming, and building the business during that time ended up being a great blessing to them. It’s been a source of income that’s followed her family through countless moves and many life transitions.

Being a military spouse, there have been many times Lauren’s business has taken a backseat to family life, and she’s had to be okay with that.

I appreciate how honest Lauren is in this interview! She says straight up that the pause moments often felt more like setbacks. And it IS frustrating because Lauren says it felt like every time she got momentum in the business, something would happen and she’d have to slow it down again.

But in the midst of so much instability, it was great to have something stable. She didn’t have to start a new job each time her husband received a new assignment; she could just keep building what she had already started.

22:45 - Business Game Changers

This past year, Lauren’s business has really taken off. What made it happen for her??

Adding child care has been a great help to Lauren as she grows her business. (And we talked a lot about this earlier, so no need to rehash here!)

This tip is a clever one! Lauren doesn’t have any data to back this up, only her anecdotal experience, but the findings are interesting! She’s been noticing on Etsy that her sales will be really consistent as long as she’s consistently shipping things out. If she’s shipping every single day, sales are consistent. But if she gets really busy and misses three to four days of working and shipping, her sales will decline for a few days until she ships out again.

In short, the more active she is in her shop, the more active her shop is. If she’s updating pictures, adding new listings, or doing any sort of general tinkering, it seems to drive sales higher.

Adding a variety of products has been also been a huge factor in the growth of Funky Monkey Children.

And finally, continuing to take custom orders has been a bit of a Golden Ticket for her growth! When people request custom orders and those sell well, it gives Lauren a whole new shop category!

For example, she’s been selling baby quilts. Those started out when she created a few for friends, and took photos to put in her shop. Then, guess what? The custom orders came in! “Can you make one with just initials and a birth date?” “Can you make a quilt for a baptism with a cross?”

Oftentimes we shop owners might think one particular product will be so successful, but it isn’t always! You aren’t always marketing to people just like you. It’s a good nuance to remember.

26:45 - Is Etsy oversaturated?

To finish our chat, we address that constant question, “Is Etsy oversaturated?”

Lauren’s bottom line is this: If you make your products stand out, you’ll build and expand. And hint: you don’t have to be the cheapest to stand out! (You’ll have to listen to hear Lauren talk about why standing out isn’t a race to the bottom for pricing!)

There’s room for growth on Etsy if you have a unique product, with a unique angle.

It may be cheesy, but I feel that it’s true that ‘the cream will always rise to the top’.

If you always work hard to serve your customers well, to be different, to find a space to shine, you know you’ll rise to the top.

People are buying things all the time. There’s plenty of room for more sellers.

30:05 - Adorable Mom Moment

Lauren’s 4-year-old daughter just decided she likes yoga. And yoga is the least competitive activity ever, right? But with 3 kids everything is a competition. The other day her daughter was finishing up her yoga video and said, “You know mom. I’m going to keep practicing yoga every single day. I’m going to go up to my room and practice with no one watching. And then I’ll become a yoga champion!!!” So cute!

Stay in Touch with Lauren

Site: FunkyMonkeyChildren.com

Etsy: Funky Monkey Children

Facebook: @FunkyMonkeyChildren

Direct download: BBM20Lauren20Keplinger.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:05am EDT

So first off, the very first thing I am just bursting to tell you is that the 2018 Brilliant Life Planner will drop in the shop this week of recording: Friday, November 3rd @ 10 AM Pacific / 1 PM Eastern. Make sure you’re following @brilliantlifeplanner on Instagram because that’s where the planner fun will happen. There’ll be so much going on for those of you who can join the launch live, and also for our early-bird purchasers. Pencil this date into your planner and come hang out! It’s been amazing to hear from so many ladies who are so excited for this year’s planners. It gives me all kinds of warm fuzzies to hear how you love it, how much you’ve used and loved it this year, and how much you’re looking forward to 2018! I just want to say thank you for loving and cherishing The Brilliant Life Planner as much as I do! I wanted to pop behind the mic and share a few quick insights into what I’ve been learning about regarding Time Management, Intentional Living, and Goal Setting - all those weighted, heavy words - this year since I had a baby in April. I hope to give you some perspective, some encouragement, and maybe even some wisdom.

Direct download: BA-Solo-Dont-Miss-This-FINAL.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

I just loved chatting with a brilliant Mompreneur I met this year through Instagram, Leesha Chamberlain. Leesha is a wife, a mom to one adorable little girl, and a wellness coach. She blogs at Living Contently where she helps women take better care of themselves and their families.

Press the play button below or read on to hear our conversation about self-image, how to create a beautiful Instagram feed, and how she uses her planner to maintain a healthy balance between work and home.

Listen Now

1:10 - So Tell Me Really, What IS a Wellness Coach?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been seeing a lot about wellness coaches these days! It seems like there are a ton of different ways wellness coaches run their businesses and I haven’t really taken the time to figure out what a wellness coach actually does! Thankfully, Leesha shared her own journey and gave me some clarification.

She’s been coaching people, especially moms, to health and wellness for about 18 months now. Leesha was drawn to wellness coaching due to her own childhood history of weight struggles, and a battle with disordered eating in high school. Leesha was able to conquer those battles...but only temporarily. When she was pregnant, those same issues came flooding back.

Knowing she had a little girl on the way helped Leesha realize enough was enough.She knew she had to do something better for herself and her daughter. She knew she had to learn healthy eating habits along with a healthy lifestyle.

This life-changing decision prompted Leesha to start looking at different options.  But with her history of disordered eating, plus her new role as a nursing mom, Leesha knew she needed to be careful.

She read a blog post that described a program the author used to lose weight after having her baby, plus preserve her breastfeeding relationship and adopt long-term healthy habits. (Win! Win! Win!) The author was a wellness coach and her program was successful for Leesha too! She found the accountability and support to be invaluable and lost 40+ pounds - that was all her baby weight and then some!

You can imagine with these kinds of dynamic results, Leesha was eager to share with others, which started her own journey to becoming a wellness coach.

To be trained as a wellness coach means understanding nutrition and fitness in a healthy, balanced way. Leesha learned that health isn’t restricting intake, but giving your body exactly what it needs.

 Inside the Planner of an Instagram Influencer and Wellness Coach

4:55 - Helping Women Get Healthy

Women often feel pigeonholed into maintaining one focus with health and fitness, like losing weight, and nothing else. As a coach, Leesha works with women at all different stages of their journey. She looks at the goals, backgrounds, and lifestyles of her clients, then together they create a plan with tools and resources that work.

Leesha is especially passionate about unlocking these wellness journeys for moms! It’s hard for moms to take care of themselves. But with Leesha’s programs, her moms create healthy lifestyles for themselves and the whole family!

5:51 - When Being Vulnerable Makes You Stronger

I can totally relate to pregnancy bringing up all sorts of body image issues. I gained 62 pounds when I was pregnant with Levi. He’s 6 months old now, and I’ve since lost almost all of it. But I still worry if I’ll ever feel like myself again!

This is the same type of fear Leesha stuffed deep down inside. But once she started talking, the power of those fears left. Who would have known that actually airing these worries would make them go away?

Women, we need to talk to other women and encourage one another!

7:30 - Curating an Intentional Instagram Feed

I actually met Leesha through her beautiful Instagram feed. I’m always on the lookout for brilliant business moms doing fabulous things, and not only are Leesha’s photos gorgeous, but her posts are so well done!

All her content is centered around getting healthy and living intentionally, and I just love how seamless she’s made her feed.

Of course, you don’t curate a beautiful feed by accident. Leesha says her two goals with Instagram are to tell her story and connect with others.

After all, her business model requires quite a bit from her customers. She needs women to feel comfortable about approaching her with their concerns about weight and self-image. So she has to make a strong first impression on her potential clients!

Leesha is really intentional with the content she curates for her feed. Each post touches on one of 5 main themes. (Isn’t this a great tip!?)

Leesha suggests choosing those 5-6 things that are really a part of who you are as a person, and curating only posts that fit one of those themes.

Leesha goes beyond just talking about her  business and helps people to connect with her on a personal level too.

Leesha’s 5-6 things are:

  1. Fitness
  2. Faith
  3. Family
  4. Motherhood
  5. Self-love
  6. Health

Take a minute and think through the qualities and passions that will define your own Instagram feed!

 Inside the Planner of an Instagram Influencer and Wellness Coach

11:30 - Capturing Gorgeous Instagram Photos

We’ve talked about big-picture content, let’s get down to the pretty images. Leesha has some fabulous tips for creating beautiful Instagram images.

I hope it’s encouraging for you to know that Leesha has no professional photography experience. Really!

You don’t have to be a super pro to have a professional-looking feed. What you do need, and what Leesha practices, is a desire to make constant improvements. Leesha is constantly gleaning as much information as she can to be better at her craft - both as a coach and a social media influencer.

Leesha was kind enough to share several of those tips with me.

  1. Pick 3-4 backgrounds to use consistently. You can use either a natural background in your house or something you’ve purchased like a piece of fabric or poster board. A consistent background will do a lot to make your feed more cohesive.
  2. Lighting! Lighting! Lighting! Again, to encourage those of us who are beginners, Leesha doesn’t have any fancy photography equipment! All her photos are iPhone photos. Lighting will be your game changer. And my favorite rule for lighting is the more natural light the better. This means Leesha often takes her images right beside a window in her house or using a big presentation poster board as a backdrop. So the light coming in from the window will reflect off of the white surface of the poster board.
  3. Edit, just a little. Since Leesha’s photo-taking is all smart-phone based, she relies on apps for editing. To crop or adjust lighting, her two favorite apps are Snapseed and Aviary. And of course there are tons of other photo editing apps that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Pick one and play around with it until you get something that you find attractive. (And go ahead and test more than one option!)
  4. Choose one filter for all of your images. Whether it’s a filter within Instagram or a third-party editing app, picking just one to use will help you achieve a cohesive, professional look. Leesha uses a particular filter on Aviary for each of her photos.

Instagram is a scrolling environment--where thumbs are whizzing past pictures every day! You want your images to stand out so that people say, “OH! That’s my favorite business owner’s post. I’ll take time to read what she said.”

And Leesha’s feed is truly beautiful! It’s so light and bright. She sprinkles other photos in with her standard backgrounds, but that white background is the glue that holds everything together!

The final effect is really professional.

 Inside the Planner of an Instagram Influencer and Wellness Coach

18:10 - Picture-Perfect Doesn’t Have to Take Forever!

Figuring out the perfect filter or the perfect app can be tough.  In so many aspects of her business, Leesha spends a lot of time at the front end to do research, play around with options, then figure out exactly what she wants before putting her plan into action. It’s worth the time you spend initially to get the results you’re after.

You might be wondering, how much time does it take to get that picture-perfect result?

Well, it varies and Leesha admits she’s a bit of a perfectionist. How much time she’ll spend on a photo really depends on the quality of the original image and how much editing she needs to do. If she can stage the photo on her specific background and have good natural lighting, it might take 10-15 mins to do her simple photos and edits.

Another way Leesha streamlines her process is to try to use the same edits each time.

But here’s the great news... the more you practice, the faster you get!

20:50 - It Won’t Always be this Hard

When you’re first learning something new, it can feel overwhelming.

It’s easy to think that a certain task or skill will always be super challenging and time consuming.

“Posting on Instagram will always be hard.”

“Filing my business taxes will always be hard.”

And sure, at first your images might take an hour to create from start to finish, but it won’t always be that way.

Cheer up, mama! Things WILL get easier! Keep learning and practicing. You can do this!

21:28 - More than Just a Planner...

It’s been clear talking to Leesha that she’s a total go-getter Mamaprenuer. It shouldn’t come as no surprise that she’s always been a planner nerd. (I totally get it!! You’re my person, Leesha!) I was blushing at the lovely compliments Leesha had for the Brilliant Life Planner.

Like so many of you, she wanted a planner that worked for her business and personal life. Leesha knew ahead of time that two separate planners would be less efficient for her.

One of her favorite components (and a favorite of many!) is the weekly reflection pages. Not only can you record memories and gratitude, you can also keep those goals you set at the beginning of the year at the forefront of your mind. It’s nice to have that weekly progress report, so you don’t lose steam by March!

Leesha says she always thought she’d be a scrapbooking type mom, but she’s not! The weekly reflection pages allow her to record the cute things her daughter did and said, so she can keep that record of what’s happening as her daughter grows, without spending the time that scrapbooking takes.

25:00 - Project Planner

Another page Leesha loves is the Project Planner! (And honestly, I don’t think this amazing resource gets enough press! I’m glad Leesha mentioned it.) On the Project Planning pages you can break down those big, whopping assignments of yours and list each specific step. It guides you through thinking about the budget, time frame, and what needs to happen to get that big project done!

27:15 - Getting Straight A’s in Planner School

Another benefit of the Brilliant Life Planner Leesha loved is a series I did in January: Planner School.

It’s a video-driven walkthrough of my goal setting process (with your Brilliant Life Planner, of course!) that initially took place in a lively, interactive Facebook group.

Leesha says she always wanted to be a woman with a pretty-to-look-at planner, but it’s not her style! It was so great for her to see all the colorful, stickered planner pages in the Planner School Facebook group. But the great thing about the Brilliant Life Planner? It’s pretty on its own - you don’t HAVE to do anything else!

28:28 - How Leesha Plans Her Days

It’s been so fun for me to see how different ladies use the Weekly Time Blocking pages. Leesha let me in on her process, and it’s just as unique and lovely as she is!

Like many of you (myself included) Leesha does not describe herself as a super strict schedule follower. Much like Julie Fuller, Leesha will use her time blocks to first plot out specific, time- sensitive activities like meetings and training.

Each morning, she’ll take time to write out her daily priorities to accomplish. And Leesha does mean priorities! She’ll list out her tasks in a numbered list, 1 through 10, by order of importance. So when Leesha gets a pocket of work time during the day, she knows exactly what needs to happen next.

Of course, some days go much more according to plan than others! This numbered priority list guides her. And what doesn’t get accomplished in one day just moves to the next.

With a new baby at home, that’s usually how my planner looks, too! In so many ways I’m actually an anti-planner! First and foremost, my planner is a tool to help me reach my goals and stay focused on what matters most. Life often means that my planner gets jumbled and things move around. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

30:13 - Give Yourself Permission To Move Tasks

I thought Leesha’s simple practice of moving unfinished tasks to the next day was so refreshing! We aren’t getting graded by how much we can check off a list in a day! That’s not a fair assessment of what truly matters.

Of course, I want you to work hard at your business goals and craft that brilliant life of yours. But, at the end of the day, I want you to lay your head on your pillow and know that cuddling your kiddos or having a meaningful conversation with your husband were the most important things you could do.

And those tasks that didn’t get finished? Just move them on over. You always get an A+ at life in my book :)

32:40 - Leesha’s Biggest Struggle With Time Management

If we’re being honest, being a mom is often our biggest time management struggle!

Leesha says that she’s pretty task-oriented and enjoys that feeling of checking off her to-do list. But of course, you can’t always start and finish tidy tasks with kids at home!

What keeps Leesha grounded is maintaining her priorities that she is a mom first, and a business owner second.

When you design your life with snacks, diaper changes, and cuddles in mind...it all works out.

37:10 - Leesha’s Adorable Mom Moment

Little ones help us see so much of ourselves! Leesha loves seeing how her daughter Grace has adopted some of her habits.

For example, when Leesha grocery shops she always takes a detailed meal plan and shopping list. As items get added to the cart, she checks them off her list. Grace already (within her first year!) has had to have a notebook and pen with her when they go to the grocery store to keep track of her little items!

Isn’t that the cutest!?

I loved this conversation with Leesha, and hope you came away feeling as refreshed and validated in your planning as I did!

Connect with Leesha

Instagram: @leeshachamberlain

Site: Living-Contently.com

Direct download: BBM_Leesha.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:20pm EDT

An Etsy Shop Owner's Planner Hacks for Productivity

Julie Fuller is the super creative owner of Tokyo Blossom Boutique where she sells Christian gifts for women. She’s married to a fellow creative, and together they have one handsome son.

As a busy Etsy seller and mom to a darling boy with special needs, it’s critical that Julie makes the most of her time. Press play on the podcast player below or keep on reading to hear all about Julie’s brilliant planner hacks.

Fun side note here!: Julie was one of the very first listeners of the Brilliant Business Moms podcast! Julie and I got to hang out at a conference in Nashville last year, and I wasn’t at all surprised to discover she’s as sweet in real life as she is online!

Listen Now

1:30 - Not Sure How to Grow your Biz? Listen To Your Customers!

Julie’s shop, Tokyo Blossom Boutique, has gone through a bit of a transformation in the time I’ve known her. Lately, her business has been growing in fabulous ways, and I just had to hear what changes Julie’s made that have led to her new growth!

Through 2016, Julie was selling lots of hand crochet and knit items. One of her products, knit cup cozies, was selling WAY more than the other items, but she couldn’t figure out why. At that time in business, Julie had been working hard to make her brand visually unified, rather than focusing on a target audience.

The more cup cozies she sold in person, the more feedback she got that her product was encouraging. One lady said she was buying a cozy for a friend who’s not very joyful, as a reminder to be joyful. (This one made us both chuckle a bit!)

After they purchased a cozy, customers would message Julie to say they purchased it because they needed the inspirational message to encourage them during a difficult time. One woman in particular wrote to tell Julie that her husband was facing tough medical issues and life was especially hard; She wanted a cozy to have that reminder to be joyful right on her daily cup of coffee. (Wow, that’s a powerful reason to buy a product! And Julie listened to each of her customer’s stories carefully!)

Early in 2017, Julie decided to focus on developing more encouraging products that her customers would love.

She revamped her shop and made mental notes of which products to purge and which to keep. The cup cozies, of course, stayed! Another favorite product, her planner clips, got a makeover; Julie redesigned them to incorporate inspirational messages. And the switch worked! Many customers are using the planner clips not just for planners, but to accessorize their Bible journals.

Tokyo Blossom Boutique is now happily a Christian gift company!

I just love the simple but impactful steps Julie took to refine her business:

  1. Meet customers
  2. Listen to them
  3. Serve their needs

5:30 - Selling Handmade in a Retail Space

The day following our recording, Julie moved into her first retail space! She’s officially a vendor at Woodstock Market, which is a huge retail store of local makers selling home decor and gifts.

Julie had been eyeballing this place for a year and a half...she knew it would be a great opportunity! Plus, once a vendor gets in, they receive lots of traffic and attention from local businesses and boutiques.

Though Julie’s desire to have space in a retail setting was strong, she knew there was a lot that had to happen in her business and personal life before justifying the risk. Julie’s husband Scott had recently started his own creative business, and she wanted to give him time to get his business going strong. Julie wanted to have the confidence that even a small risk wouldn’t hurt their family.

A wise move on Julie’s part was that she also wanted to make sure her shop was ready for a bigger platform. Though her products were visually appealing and high quality, she wasn’t confident that she could give a tidy description of her shop in one sentence. She wanted to work toward that unity within her business before contacting Woodstock Market.

The right time turned out to be 18 months after she first started thinking in that direction.

Julie had a peace about finally reaching out to the merchandising coordinator and putting in her application, and she heard back the very next day! Those magic words, “You’re a perfect fit, and your products are just what we’ve been looking for!” were exactly what she needed.

Since Woodstock Market is Christian-owned, they’d been looking for a vendor who offered Christian gifts. Talk about perfect timing!

After Julie got her initial call back from the space, she then had to go through an interview process. Julie says that she appreciated how honest and validating her discussion with the merchandiser was. Julie asked hard questions, like “What if I bomb as a seller!? And can you explain the details of this contract?” And she got straightforward answers right back.

In fact, everything worked out so perfectly, that Woodstock Market actually made room for Julie when they had just booked their last spot! She’s been getting great feedback from her in-store shoppers. And it’s encouraging to Julie that many local stores got their start as a vendor at Woodstock Market.

11:45 - Julie’s Brilliant Life Planner Business Hack

I already love Julie’s planner clips, but planner clips aren’t the only creative planner hack she’s made!

Julie has experimented a lot with the Brilliant Life Planner. The planning pages at the beginning of the year and each month have been a big part of her goal setting. But, like most of us, Julie says most of her hang-ups come during those daily, mundane tasks.

She would look at the blank week ahead feeling like a deer in headlights! What were all those nitty, gritty business tasks she had to do? Planning for social media, sending her newsletter, marketing, and contacting the right people...the list was overwhelming!

Inspired by Crystal Paine’s Homemaking Binder, Julie made a master binder for her business that she incorporates in her planner. She listed all her weekly, recurring business tasks by day and tucked that list in the front pocket of her Brilliant Life Planner. Now Julie tackles that blank week with confidence! She fills her schedule with the regular tasks first and then adds in all the unique ones.

Etsy Shop Owner Julie Fuller's Planner

16:00 - How to Make Sure Important Biz Tasks Always Get Done!

Julie’s system for tackling recurring biz tasks is brilliant! She has an awesome system in place to make sure none of the important tasks in her business fall through the cracks. She makes progress on all of them each week.

So what are some of Julie’s recurring business tasks?

On Mondays, for example, she makes it a point to give her Etsy shop an update. How does everything look? Are her listings up-to-date? Is there anything new she wants to add to her Shop Announcements? Julie keeps regular tabs on her shop so it always shines.

Does Julie kick herself if she misses one week of shop updates? Not at all! But having this important to-do on the schedule ensures it gets accomplished more often than not.

Some other biz tasks Julie keeps on her recurring list are interactions with fans on Instagram. Like many of us, it’s easy for her to update Instagram, but not necessarily to remember to come back and interact with fans, so she puts it in her planner.

Julie also includes a list of who to contact for marketing, such as wholesale businesses and box companies. So brilliant! If marketing isn’t a regularly scheduled part of your business, growth is pretty hard to achieve!

17:00 - Brilliant Planning = Crushing Goals!

Julie’s planning strategies have allowed her to meet her great big goals, and I couldn’t be more excited for her!

In 2016 she doubled her sales from 2015, and for 2017, her goal is to double her sales AGAIN!

Julie is well on her way to reaching that milestone. At the time of this recording, she’s up 60% in sales from where she was last year! And with space in a retail setting and Christmas coming, hitting that goal is definitely within reach.

Let’s be honest, meeting these goals didn’t happen by accident. Julie has been super organized and strategic in making steady progress on her business every week.

17:50 - Washi Tape Planner Hacks

So, does Julie have any other tips for making the most of her planner? Yes!

As moms, a lot of our schedule outside of business can be counted as recurring, like picking up the kids from school, or a weekly lunch date with our husbands, as is Julie’s case.

Julie noticed that she was writing the same words and events over and over again. As a result, her pretty planner was getting cluttered!

For those daily recurring items, she writes them all out in the slots on her Monday section. And instead of writing the same task or event sideways across the week, over and over, she takes a piece of washi tape and tapes out the same hourly slot through the week. It’s one way she keeps her planner neat and pretty, plus saves herself time.

The same washi tape hack can be used if Julie has a vacation coming up. If she needs to block out a full day or an entire week, Julie just stretches washi tape either vertically down the day, or horizontally across the week. Brilliant!

Etsy Shop Owner Julie Fuller's Planner

20:20 - Planner Clip Hacks

Julie uses 2-3 clips in her planner at all times. She uses one to mark her weekly planning page, and another for the monthly page. Marking the monthly page helps Julie make sure she doesn’t add events to her week that overlap with anything previously scheduled.

And when she’s working especially hard for a goal (like doubling sales from last year!) she adds a clip to her goals page too.

I just love this hack! Julie saves herself loads of time by speeding up all the small tasks she’s doing each day… like flipping through her planner!

21:15 - A Bonus Hack + A Fun New Addition for Planner Lovers!

Another great spot for using a planner clip is to mark your Habit Tracker page. But speaking of the habit tracker page, Julie (and many of you!) have asked if there are plans to include the habit tracker on the monthly page.

While we haven’t changed the format of the planner, we ARE creating habit tracker stickers! I’ve teamed up with Ashley Monda of Sunshine Sticker Co.  to make custom sticker pages just for the Brilliant Life Planner! They are gorgeous, and I can’t wait for them to hit the shop!

22:22 - Teeny Post-It Notes Making A Big Difference

Another thing Julie does with her planner that I just love is to use the smallest size sticky notes for repeated routines or lists. Turns out, those sticky notes are just about 1.5 inches by 2 inches and can fit across a several-hour block on our planner. Julie can then take her sticky of to-do’s and move them to different days as needed. How great is that!?

24:10 - Bullet Journal Hack

Don’t worry bullet journal fans...the planner works for you too! Julie also is a bullet journal user and has incorporated a half-and-half system in her planner.

She does time block recurring things. But during her big chunks of time, like the mornings when her son is at school or the afternoons if he takes a nap, she bullet journals. Rather than schedule 30-minute increments, she gets a lined stamp for planners and stamps lines into that block of time to create a bullet-journal style to-do list

I do the same thing! I frequently use my big blocks of time as a to-do list.

25:25 - Adorable Mom Moment

Julie’s son refers to her customers as ‘friends’. One afternoon as the two of them worked in their home office, he was very quiet and preoccupied with a project in the corner. He then came to Julie and showed her scraps of papers and glued them together. He said he made something for her ‘friends’ and they need to buy it so they’ll be happy. So cute! He gets it!

And you’ll have to tune in to the podcast for a second adorable moment that Julie shared!

Stay In Touch With Julie

Etsy: Tokyo Blossom Boutique

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

What do you think? Will you try any of Julie’s planner hacks?

I know I need to make better use of my clips, and I’m excited to give washi tape a try for some of my daily routines!

Direct download: BBM_Julie_Fuller.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:51pm EDT

Today we’re talking with Jill Martin of Strong Hearts, Strong Women. Jill and her husband Sean live in Texas and are parents to 13 kids: 11 at home and 2 who live in heaven. Their family has been built by birth and adoption, and includes several kids with special needs. Strong Hearts, Strong Women is an online community that Jill has built over the last year.

I’m so excited to chat with this amazing woman about how she’s grown her business over the last year and how she’s used her planner to juggle everything and live intentionally.

You will absolutely LOVE how Jill has gotten her kids involved in planning too! It’s a unique focus that will probably surprise you!

Listen Now

 

1:15 - From Stay at Home Mama to Encourager and Community-Builder

Strong Hearts, Strong Women started almost a year ago, when Jill originally wanted to coordinate fitness and nutrition groups. It’s a passion of hers and something she already does in her free time. A fitness coach friend of Jill’s encouraged her to give it a go, so she did!

Thirty women signed up for a one-month Facebook group, and when she looked at the makeup of the group, Jill felt like the women would be best served by the addition of a Bible study. In Jill’s mind, “No matter how many push-ups you do, if your insides aren’t right you’re still not going to be happy with your life.”

Jill’s first group was so successful that ladies were begging her to do it again!

These groups, that initially began as month-long groups, kept going for months after. Well into the New Year, Jill hosted a group every single month, with between 30-40 new women in each group.

From these groups, Strong Hearts, Strong Women was born. Jill put together a 3-week test group with women she knew where they talked about common struggles they experience. Together, the group tackled fitness and nutrition issues, but also self-image, forgiveness, or feeling that part of your life was a mistake. (They dug really deep!)

Shortly after this beta test group, Jill’s daughter had a big surgery. During that time, when Jill was using Facebook live to talk about her daughter’s recovery, a lot of people really connected with Jill and asked her to keep Strong Hearts, Strong Women going.  Jill was grateful for that interest, but had a lot on her plate! What should she do next?

In July, she was finally ready to reopen the group. Currently the Strong Hearts, Strong Women community is at 260 members! She sees herself as a community leader -- helping women to focus on character qualities, growing strong in heart, mind, and life. In short, it’s a safe place to be honest about hard things.

5:35 - Using a Word of the Year

Encouragement is Jill’s word of the year for 2017. (Let us know if you chose a word of the year, too!) And though encouraging others was a big goal of Jill’s, she found that she was the one getting encouragement in return.

6:20 - Family Goal Setting

Jill has always been a big goal setter and she’s introduced the practice to her kids. Each year between Christmas and New Years, the entire family picks areas of life to focus on and decides what they want to learn and spend time on.

All together, they brainstorm the next year and lay out their goals.

One year, Jill’s daughter wanted to make homemade bread, so they chose a new recipe to try each month and wrote it at the top of the month on her calendar. Isn’t that so fun!?

7:25 - Using the Brilliant Life Planner

Calendars have always been important to Jill since she loves scheduling and plotting things out. The Brilliant Life Planner came her way at the perfect time last year and she especially loves the visual planning tools, like the Big Goal Mind-Mapping page.

The way Jill uses these pages is that her kids will choose one character quality to write in the center as their big goal. For example, they may choose kindness or diligence.

One of Jill’s daughters, Joanna, has given us permission to use her worksheets as an example. (Thanks, Joanna!!!)

Joanna chose kindness for the year. She wrote kindness at the center of the mind map. Then she has all sorts of ideas for how to make kindness part of her life on the lines pointing back to the center: have more people over, more pizza nights, read to her brother, and so on.

I love how the Martin family centers their year around these one-word character qualities! And they don’t limit themselves with their goal-setting. Jill says their goals can be about anything: educational, business, personal, spiritual, crafty...whatever they want! As long as the goal connects back to the character quality, it gets put on the calendar for completion.

For Jill’s goal of encouragement, she would plan out how to make that happen for the year, like writing letters to friends or doing an act of kindness.

Joanna working on her sunburst goal page

9:50 - Kindness in Action: How a Character Goal Comes to Life

To give a real-life example of how this plays out, Jill shared more about Joanna’s goal of kindness.

Joanna has some academic struggles, including reading and writing. Jill took this as an opportunity to get reading onto Joanna’s goal list by asking: What are some kind things you can do for others?

Sure enough, reading aloud to another sibling (a brother with a lot of disabilities) made her list. He recently received a diagnosis of brittle bone disease, which means his lifestyle is especially limited, and Joanna found a way to help.

One of the MANY things we love about Jill is how she views challenges as opportunities. In Joanna’s case, she saw the challenge of her brother being in bed as an opportunity to put a smile on his face by reading to him.

Is that not a triple win!? Building character, bonding with siblings, and - surprise - becoming a great reader all wrapped up in the goal of kindness.

Jill and her older teenager have physical copies of our Brilliant Life Planner, while her littles use our printable pages, which you can get for free here: http://bit.ly/blpprintables

Each month, Jill and her littles do a monthly check-in with their goals. I can’t love this enough!!! As a busy mom, I use the weekly reflection pages to check in on my own goals, but how fabulous to check in with the kids on theirs, too!

13:45 - How a Goal of Encouragement Led to an Entire Community

Jill started off 2017 with a character goal of encouragement, and she’s been using that to guide her choices ever since. She says she would never have guessed that her goal of being more encouraging to others would lead to an entire community of women who are growing in their faith and their character.

The Strong Hearts, Strong Women Facebook community is a closed community that’s free to join. Jill governs her Facebook group tightly so the women in it know it’s a safe and secure place to bring their struggles.

Members of her group get a monthly printable and devotional guide, as well as workbook pages; they can complete as much or as little as they want. The topics of these resources are geared around a character quality of the month, which the ladies in her group select.

15:50 - How Block Scheduling & Buffer Zones Help this Mama of 11 Run a Tight Ship

Can there possibly be a typical day with 11 kids in the house!? (And did we mention Jill homeschools her kiddos!?)

Surprisingly, Jill actually does have a typical day. She says she runs a tight ship, and she likes it that way:  “I’m that person who likes surprises when I plan them,” she laughs. “I like to know what to expect.”

Having multiple kids with special-needs, Jill has spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices. And you know what? Her favorite doctor, an orthopedic surgeon, taught her about efficiency! She only waits ten minutes in the waiting room, her family gets to spend a half hour with him, it’s not rushed, and everyone leaves happy!

That wonderful doctor taught her how to schedule her home. While homeschooling and managing her kids will change with the seasons of life, what doesn’t change is block scheduling and leaving buffers. That’s what the smart surgeons do!

The offices that squish everyone in for the sake of more patients end up spending only 5 minutes with each patient, which means nobody's happy.

Jill didn’t want that for her life.

She follows the natural rhythms of life to block out her day:

  • From Get Up to Breakfast
  • From Mid Morning Snack to Lunch
  • From Lunch to End of the School Day
  • Afternoon
  • Evening

Then, depending on the ages of her children, Jill will put 3 - 5 tasks in each time block, accounting for buffer time within each block.

Her high schoolers get to come up with their own schedules, but they’re not allowed to get behind on work!

Life will happen in the middle, so Jill PLANS to have time to change diapers and deal with meltdowns...or answer the phone...or fix a clogged toilet...or whatever comes her way!

Here’s her trick: At the end of the block, nothing from that block moves on to the next.

Some of the Martin kids gathered for read aloud.

20:00 - What We Can Learn about Productivity from High Schoolers

It’s really simple when you think about it! Even high school works like this: If English class is over, but you haven’t finished all the work for that class, do you stay in English or move on to the next class?

You move on to the next class, and you pick up where you left off with English tomorrow!

Jill uses the same system with her time blocking.

The things that occur in her morning block (between Breakfast - Morning Snack) stay in that block. And she has a buffer zone built in.

So, if it’s a good day, Jill might use that buffer to do business and social media stuff. She does mini tasks in those buffer zones or gives extra help to her kids, whatever is needed.

If a Morning Block task doesn’t get finished, it moves on to the next day in the same block. So the next block is FRESH.

Jill is fresh, tasks are fresh, and no one is stressed out. Tomorrow is always there!

(I LOVE that!)

21:20 - The Rhythm of the Day

The tasks that Jill needs to do every day are defined by the fact that most of her 11 kids are at home. The 2 oldest are away at school, but she has every age from littles to teenagers still at home. Her family lives on a farm in the country and they homeschool.

So first up in the day? Farm chores! These come before breakfast. Then, after breakfast, they do morning school work. She’ll put the hardest tasks first on the list, the ones that hit her children’s weakest points. It’s a mental thing and it teaches her kids to push themselves. So that might be spelling, language, or vocabulary development.

Jill’s buffer zone almost always includes diaper changes, bathroom issues, and medication delivery.

Then they have additional reading time, then go into math and writer’s workshop.

Next up is lunch and a prep time. Each kid has an assigned job. These jobs stay the same for the school year. One person sets the table every time, every meal, every day...for the whole calendar year!

Each person does their job before lunch. Then they do afternoon school work: history, science, singing, and art.

Then the afternoon includes free play, outside time, and farm activities.

For the evening there’s family time: Dinner, playing outside, games, riding bikes, whatever sounds fun!

24:50 - Rolling Right Over the Stuff that Keeps Others Down

Jill has an incredible mindset when it comes to her kids with special needs. She doesn’t want the disabilities of some of her children to define their family life, or their own lives!

She describes their approach as “not fussy; we just roll with it!” she says, “some kids get vitamins, some get seizure meds. It’s not an obstacle for them, it is what it is.”

27:00 - No Obstacles. Only Opportunities.

Isn’t Jill proof that every mom is capable of doing and accomplishing so much more than we think we can!?

Jill says, “If you make too much out of it, it will be. The mountain in front of you is only as big as you perceive it to be. You can decide: I’m not going to let this be an obstacle, I’m going to let it be an opportunity.”

Jill admits that her schedule was much more complex when she had just two kids. Now, it is much simpler. She sets those boundaries now because she has to.

27:35 - Facebook Live Tips - From one Brilliant Biz Mama to Another!

One thing we love about Jill is how she leverages Facebook Live to grow her online community and her ability to encourage others.

Jill says that she doesn’t practice, and she doesn’t do trial runs. If she’s going to a friend’s house, she’s not going to practice how she’ll answer a friend’s questions or have a conversation with them! She’ll just talk to her friend!

Jill treats Facebook Live the same way She usually has reasons for going live and she won’t just fish up topics for fun. Her content is natural and relevant for her audience.

So Jill’s Facebook Live Advice? “Don’t practice! Don’t make it too big. If you flub up, just go on or delete it. It’s not a big deal!”

And rewatch yourself to catch those mistakes or quirks you might want to fix for later lives!

30:40 - Jill’s Funny Mom Moment

One of Jill’s favorite memories is when her eldest, Jacob was really struggling with how to be patient with his youngest brother - who was a bit of a copycat and drove Jacob just a little crazy!

The two were playing basketball in the driveway when Jacob yelled, protesting, yet again, about his brother’s copying. Jill started out with a stern warning in her Mom voice, and Jacob quickly responded, “But I’m sick of opportunities for leadership!!!!!!!!!!!”

(Too funny! Jill’s kids love to joke about how she frames every struggle or nuisance as a “leadership opportunity!”)

Stay In Touch With Jill

Personal Page: Jill Martin

Facebook Page: Strong Hearts Strong Women

Facebook Group: Community Group-Strong Hearts, Strong Women

Jill's Full Course: Recalibrate

Direct download: BBM_Jill_Martin.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:50am EDT

Oh Friends, I’ve been dying to share this episode with you! Today on the show I’m pleased to welcome Jamie Clinard, who owns the shop Saturday Morning Pancakes. She creates adorable t-shirts for moms and kids inspired by 90s hip hop. You’ll have to head to the show notes to check out Jamie’s hilarious and so adorable shirts.

What makes this interview so exciting and so incredible is that by digging into Facebook and Instagram ads last summer, Jamie has taken her business from being a nice hobby ($500-$1,000 a month in income) to hitting $1 Million in sales in March of 2017! She told me she’s on track to do $2.6 Million for her business this year(!!!)

Listen Now

And, no, Jamie didn’t start teaching others how to grow a business to get these amazing results. She doesn’t have all these hidden revenue streams or $1,000 products she’s selling. She just dug deep and focused on her t-shirt shop.

Jamie got busy serving her customers well, finding new customers, creating ads, testing audiences, and scaling what’s working. That’s all she’s done, and she’s hit $1M in sales! When Jamie reached out to me to tell me what a difference Facebook ads have made in her business, I was seriously stunned!!  

Now I KNOW Facebook ads work, but to go from a hobby biz to a 7-figure biz in less than a year?! They’re even more powerful than I realized!

I hope you will listen to this interview with an open mind. Don’t set up barriers for yourself and think, “well, Jamie must have something special that I don’t.”

Or “Jamie just got lucky.”

Or “Great for Jamie, but this won’t work for me.”

I want you to know Jamie is a SAHM, just like me and just like you. She grew her business in the margins. She was tinkering with ads during naptime and bedtime, and her business started taking off!

In fact, after the first month when business really exploded, she had to turn her ads off because she was getting SO much business. She took the time to hire the right employees, set up the right systems, and then she turned the ads back on for massive growth!

I hope hearing from Jamie will get you excited at what’s possible when you use Facebook ads to grow your business!

4:00 - A Shop That Started...Thanks To Pancakes!

Jamie is also a mom of two kids, a 4-year-old girl and 18-month-old little boy. She worked in gang prevention before she got pregnant. She loved her work, but when she was expecting her daughter, her family decided it was time to pursue something different. There’s so much negativity in the world that Jamie wanted to find an outlet to bring more light and laughter to people.

Jamie has always been a fan of 90’s rap and hip hop. In college she created a playlist called ‘Saturday Morning Pancakes’ to crank up every Saturday morning while she made pancakes for her roommates. They were the kinds of songs you just HAD to dance to!

So when she thought about a company name, that was the first thing that popped into her mind. She thought about how funny it would be to incorporate hip hop phrases into kids clothing… turning something “tough” into something funny and cute.

And it worked! People loved it. Saturday Morning Pancakes has taken off. (Just wait until you hear the behind the scenes!)

7:24 - Best Seller From The Beginning

Jamie’s first tee design is actually still her best seller -‘Regulators Mount Up’. The song is so popular and well-known, but the twist of the kid tricycle is just so funny. That’s why Jamie thinks the tee has sold well.

8:40 - Crazy Business Growth...Thanks to Facebook Ads!

We’ve been hinting a lot about Jamie’s crazy growth, let’s get to it!

Until the summer of 2016, Jamie was doing everything for her business -- from the screen printing and shipping, to the marketing and designing, in her garage - with two kids in the house! Something snapped in Jamie and she wanted more from her business. With that motivation, she started researching Facebook ads, Instagram marketing, and email newsletters. It was pretty overwhelming to tackle all at once! So Jamie decided to pick one method and roll with it.

It was around this time that Jamie found FB Brilliance. She was in a PR-focused group called Cupcake Magazine. She asked if anyone knew anything about Facebook Ads, and a member directed her to Brilliant Business Moms!

She found us thanks to that group, and joined our course. It took Jamie two months to get through the content with two little ones at home, but it was exciting! She kept pushing past the tech hurdles and tougher parts of mastering ads, and she finally got her ads up and running!

Jamie’s first ads were okay, but once she sat down and thought about her customer, it all started to come together. Jamie started thinking about all of the websites she would visit online, and all the interests she had, and she used that to narrow in on her targeting and show her ads to the right people.

She started testing a few audiences at once, and things really started snowballing! As Jamie’s sales started to grow in a big way, her husband finally told her, “You need to turn off the ads!” She got so many orders that it was almost scary! She knew she couldn’t continue to run the business on her own. Jamie and her husband sat down together to refocus, and make a plan.

Jamie hired a fantastic college girl to help her with shipping, and the business kept growing the more she scaled her ads. It was really fun...and addicting!

After a few growth spurts, Jamie was able to get some warehouse space and hire even more staff to handle fulfillment and shipping.

With all this growth, Jamie is still really involved in her business. She does all her Facebook ads and product design herself, but she has a team that helps her ship, and a company that helps her screenprint her tees.

13:20 - Nobody Can Nail The Heart Of Your Brand Like You Can

Jamie tried hiring an ad agency to help with Facebook ads, because she thought there might be a lot of information she didn’t know. But… the ad agency totally bombed! They were targeting all sorts of strange interests and creating ads that just didn’t resonate with Jamie’s ideal customers. This experience helped Jamie realize she REALLY was the person who knew her business best!

At the end of the day, a big fancy ad agency can’t capture what makes your business unique as much as you can. No one else has that special sauce!

In our case Ellen, our team member, is perfect at making ads exactly how I envision them. Jamie also has an awesome team member  Carli, who is their Social Media Manager and always hits the nail on the head with her funny posts.

Jamie’s first hire was her General Manager, Jenn, who is in charge of all operations. (To meet her entire, awesome team, just visit their about page!) It is scary to let go, but oftentimes letting go in some areas will allow you to grow! Isn’t it hard to be a mom and CEO?

16:00 - Tips For Hiring A Team

We always recommend hiring for personality. That really matters!

Jamie has found that her customers really connect with her team! They love getting to see them in action. Her team shares hilarious videos on Instagram stories, and Jamie loves it when fans write to her saying, ‘Your Team Is So Cute!’.

16:50 - Just HOW Big Did She Grow?

To give you a sense of how much Jamie’s business has grown: she has 9 employees, a shared warehouse with an aftermarket company, and a shared space with a non-profit.

Her business is bringing in six figures each month. “I never thought this was possible in my LIFE! I didn’t even think six figures in a YEAR was achievable!”

18:14 - Crushing Business Goals at SMP

Okay, so I have to go on a little rant here. A lot of us mompreneurs receive patronizing comments on a regular basis: ‘“Oh honey, your cute little business” - that kind of thing. And it’s so frustrating! All of us are capable of six figure years and more!! We need to ignore the patronizers who think we just have a cute hobby. Our businesses can be so much more than that if we want them to be!

In fact, Saturday Morning Pancakes is already a seven-figure company! (That’s still a goal of ours here at Brilliant Business Moms!) When Jamie hit a million in sales for the year, she was so in the grind trying to make sure everything was working, that she almost missed the milestone! (It happened in March of this year!)

Once she realized that her company had surpassed seven figures, she and her husband did have a celebratory beer on the couch, and kept on working hard. “I would say to myself, ‘It’s working! It’s working! I hope it keeps working!’ I kept thinking I would wake up one morning and the ads would suddenly not work.”

So far, Jamie’s business just keeps on growing, and now, she’s got a huge base of happy customers who will continue to come back and buy from her again and again!

21:00 - Why You Shouldn’t Set an Ads Budget

So you ladies might freak when you hear how much Jamie is spending on ads, but stick with us to hear her ROI!

Jamie determines how much to put into a given ad set (a particular audience that she’s showing a particular ad to) based on whether she’s getting sales for $6 or less from that ad set. If a couple of days go by and Jamie’s cost per sale is much higher than $6, she’ll turn off that ad set.

And if she’s getting sales conversions for as little as $1 to $2 each, she will scale those ads aggressively!

At first, Jamie started with ads for 2 t-shirt designs, and tested 5 different audiences per shirt. These days, she’ll often have 7 different ads going to 7-10 ad sets (audiences) inside each campaign.

Jamie never caps her budget. If your ads are doing well, and earning you profitable sales, don’t limit your success by capping!

Early on Jamie and her husband DID experience some moments of panic: “Oh my gosh! We’re spending $500 a day on ads!”

In March, when they hit 7 figures, they probably spent $1,000 a day - and made $5,000 or more back in sales on that same day.

Again, she always bases her spend off of her conversion metric:  $6 sales conversions or less = scale up baby!

You might have some growing pains at first, but if you’re making profitable sales and can fill your orders, keep scaling! Hint: This is EXACTLY how we do things here at Brilliant Business Moms too, and I never would have hit six figures so quickly without this strategy!

(And, yes, Jamie checks on her ads at least 3 times a day to make sure they’re still profitable :)

24:05 - A Great Big Ads Mistake

Since Jamie is earning such a great profit from her ads already, one day of having a loss with her ads would be a bummer, but it wouldn’t end her business or anything!

And of course, Jamie has setbacks or days when the ads perform less well than others.

Jamie told me about the time when she meant to increase an ad set budget to $50 a day, but accidentally changed it to $5,000 per day! She didn’t catch the mistake for almost 3 hours!!! Eeek!!!

Sales went through the roof, but she DOES NOT recommend this method! Her cost per sales  conversion was $30 each, so Jamie was losing a bit of money on each sale. Thankfully she caught her mistake quickly enough and didn’t spend the entire $5,000! It was more like $300, with some sales thrown in to recoup most of those costs.

Jamie’s story totally cracks me up, because it sounds like something I would do! We all have goof-ups, but usually they’re just opportunities for growth and knowing what not to do next time :)

25:30 - Why Spending Big Can Mean Big Profits

It’s easy to spend $1,000 a day when you’re getting profitable sales. In Jamie’s case, if she’s spent $30,000 on ads in a month, she’s made about $100,000 in sales that month - or more! Jamie says she’s getting back 3x her Facebook ad investment.

If for every dollar I give Facebook they give me back three or four dollars in return? Well, I’ll keep giving them dollars all day long!

Cause here’s the thing:  You can decide not to spend money on ads and work your buns off to earn $10,000 month all on your own. And I know you can do it!  

But think about all the extra cash Jamie gets in the door from ads. She’s working the same amount as that solopreneur bringing in $10,000/month, but in Jamie’s case, she’s bringing in $70,000/month after she accounts for her ad spend. Even if you then factor in her growing team and say, half of those profits go to expenses, Jamie’s still coming out way ahead at $35,000/month in her pocket.  (This is just a general example for you to see why ads can be amazing for your business!)

“It felt like magic,” Jamie said.

Scaling Facebook ads for massive sales can be easy when you have a great product and you know your target market really well. And the more ads you run, the better you get at knowing what your customers will respond to!

26:50 - Campaign Structure

Most of Jamie’s campaigns are optimized for conversions and then she chooses the purchase event. Facebook is so good at optimizing whatever action you tell them to!

I’ve started optimizing for purchases with my $15 mini classes. I can show my ads to a cold audience, get super affordable purchases, and get a 2-3x ROI on my ad spend.

And here’s a quick tip! Facebook has a neat resource called Facebook Blueprint. Sometimes they’ll do mini classes to help your ads experience. The teaching style is a bit robotic, but sometimes the instructors will totally nerd out and give you insider info!

This is a recent tip I learned inside a Facebook Blueprint class:  People who are strong clickers are different than strong converters.

Some people assume a traffic campaign will be enough -- just to get clicks and eyes on their site. But there’s way more competition for those clickers. And the clickers aren’t necessarily the same people who will convert into a customer. Just something to keep in mind as you run ads.

29:10 - Getting Started With Facebook Ads

So what did Jamie’s first ad look like and how did it do?

Her first ad was...also her worst ad! The very first ad Jamie ran was a promo saying they hit 10,000 followers on Instagram. She had 30 Facebook followers at the time. Needless to say, the results weren’t great!

After taking our course, Jamie’s first ‘real’ ad was for one of her adult tee shirts that read ‘But First Gangsta Rap’ with a selfie of her wearing it. She was targeting cold audiences as she hadn’t quite figured out lookalike audiences just yet. But her sales were profitable!

Jamie says she tried targeting from every angle to narrow in on her ideal customers, and probably 90% of the audiences she tested were not successful, but the 10% that were she threw everything at them and made massive sales!

Jamie’s purchase pixel was already in place to track those sales and measure exactly how much it was costing her per sale for a given audience she was targeting.

31:05 - How Much Should You Spend to Know if it’s Working?

Some of Jamie’s audiences convert immediately, low and quickly. Those are the ones she pushes money towards. Some audiences have no sales for 3 days, but all of a sudden they take off like wildfire.

Jamie gives each ad set about 3 days at $5 a day before calling it quits. And if she has a gut feeling to push one audience a bit further, she’ll go with it! The more you run ads, the more you’ll get a feel for what’s worth hanging onto and what you can stop on day 1 because you just KNOW it’s not going to work out!

32:33 - First Month Ad Results

Jamie can describe her results best by growth.

She started advertising after finishing FB Brilliance in August. She experienced an immediate growth in sales of 500%. It was fast! And she instantly became a crazy person with Facebook ads. She really wanted to push things off the ground. She was researching audiences and checking her ads every 6 hours.

“You can’t give up right away if it doesn’t go well,” Jamie cautions. She went through about 20 audiences before one worked. But once it worked, it REALLY WORKED.

I still remember Jamie emailing me at the end of last August telling me about her month of 17k in sales! Things took off for her really quickly because she was constantly testing and tweaking her ads strategy!

The selfie with her tee shirt was her only ad she was running at the time, but then she created ads for her ‘Regulators’ kid tee. Facebook tends to like women’s shirts better than their kids’ shirts, which is interesting!

34:40 - Way to go Facebook!

I see Jamie’s ads in my Instagram feed all the time! I’m someone who sees a product I love, and I will buy it right away! Way to go Facebook, very smart with the targeting ;)

The Facebook pixel is seriously awesome, you guys. They will go out and find people who will give you sales at the most affordable rate!

35:50 - Mind Blown With Lookalike Audiences

Delving into Lookalike audiences really blew Jamie away. She did a lookalike audience based on her website visitors at first. Then she created an audience based on people who watched a marketing video SMP produced. Jamie has created lookalikes of people who have visited certain pages on her website, and a lookalike of her customers. You can get really deep with it! It’s amazing what Facebook can do!

36:31 - So Many Lookalike Options!

I, Beth Anne, am currently running ads to build my email list. Let me give you an idea of how many lookalike audiences I’m leveraging:

  • I have a lookalike of everyone on my email list
  • I have lookalikes of people who have visited certain blog posts
  • I have a value-based lookalike (which is a new feature Facebook rolled out where they take all your customer data and try to find people who will spend the most with you!)
  • I have general customer lookalikes
  • I have lookalikes of webinar signups

You can do so many things with lookalikes, and the coolest part is, no one else’s lookalike will be just like yours - so you’ve got all these killer audiences of millions of people that only you can really target to! (Ok not exactly but… you won’t be competing person-for-person the way you would with an interest-based  audience!)

37:20 - Are Lookalikes the Best Performers? Or Interest-Based Audiences?

Cold traffic sometimes will perform better than lookalikes for Jamie! If the shirt she’s advertising has been around a while, then cold traffic audiences are better. If it’s a new shirt she’s introducing to her audience, lookalikes or retargeting ads are best.

One caveat:  sometimes Jamie finds that her ads will suddenly stop performing. What she’ll have to do then is change up a new picture and post text for the same shirt, reset the ad, and the sales turn back on. This is all part of being a savvy business owner!

38:36 - Jamie’s Best Ads

Let’s have a look at some of the best ads Jamie has run.

The first ‘But First Gangster Rap’ Tee, featuring her daughter’s preschool teacher!

Image: Selfie type of photo that moms relate to. It’s totally cool, casual mom style!

Copy: Coffee is great, but for reals, though. Nothing gets our day started quite like a little Biggie Smalls, am I right?

Get free shipping with promo code → GRFreeShip

Grab yours here -> Bitly Link

40:20 - Talking To Your Audience Like a Friend

I love how conversational, casual, and fun Jamie’s ad is! This is how you would share about t-shirt you really like with a friend. That’s why it resonates so much with people.

Jamie says she doesn’t want her company to feel like a big name brand.

Saturday Morning Pancakes include gifs and memes in all of her emails. Jamie responds best when she can laugh with someone and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t!?

41:11 - Another Winning Ad

Copy: First Gansta Rap. Then Coffee. Then I do the things. Grab this super soft gangster rap tee and turn your cold, cozy mornings into hip hop awesomeness.

Get your free shipping code here → GRFreeShip

And if you remember back to Melissa Kaiserman’s episode, she also said her customers don’t often use her free shipping codes! They just love the product!  It’s nice to include coupon codes, but don’t be surprised if most of your new customers don’t use them!

42:57 - Pricing Tees

Jamie charges $31 for an adult tee and $21 for her kids sizes. So again, people aren’t coming to her for cheap tees, but they are coming to her for these hilarious and fabulous products that tell the world what they’re all about!

Another factor in pricing the tees is that they’re sourced with high quality fabric, which makes her costs higher.

Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth, and of course, leave enough wiggle room so you can afford to pay to acquire a new customer.  THAT’S how you scale up a business!

44:00 - Has Manufacturing Changed?

Does Jamie screenprint her own shirts? SMP does work with a screenprinter now, due to the quantity. There’s just too many to do on her own! But Jamie does still screenprint a few of her shirts.

During Christmas of 2016, Jamie was still screenprinting 60% of her tees, and her heating element went out! She was desperate for a solution, and even tried baking her tees in her oven! Jamie says she was desperate to make things work and not keep her customers waiting!

45:46 - Another Ad

This ad is a flat lay of a t-shirt that says ‘You're The Wu To my Tang’ with a cute pair of sunglasses and cut-off jean shorts.

Copy: GREAT NEWS! We are now offering our Wu Tang tees in another color! Woot woot for Wu Tang!

Grab yours here: (bitly link to the shop page)

Get 10% OFF with the code WuTang.

(And shocker again! Not a lot of people are using the 10% off coupon!)

46:22 - What’s Working For Jamie Right Now

Jamie has a great product that appeals to a specific niche. She’s always testing marketing.

What else is working for her right now?

“Build a community! People know when they're being sold to,” Jamie says. “I love my customers, and I’m sure we’d all be best friends if we had the chance!”

I know just like Jamie, you and your customers are passionate about all the same things. You all have a story. Jamie has extended her branding and connection to her customers all the way down to the packaging of her products! Everything she does is light and fun!

If you’re just trying to make a quick buck, people will know. Your business should be community-oriented.

48:00 - Loyal Customers

Jamie says she’s always had a strong, loyal customer base. About 70% of her customers are new this year because she’s just growing like crazy. But once she earns a customer, they ARE repurchasing!

This is why even if you can just break even on ads but get a bunch of loyal customers for years to come, it's worth it!

50:04 - Jamie’s Adorable Mom Moment

You’ll have to listen for this adorable burn from Jamie’s 4-year-old daughter! I was cracking up!

51:20 - FB Brilliance is Opening its Doors Again!

Was that not incredible hearing from Jamie!?

Here’s the exciting news: If you’re ready to dig into Facebook and Instagram just like Jamie did and explode your business growth, I’m opening the doors to my course on Facebook advertising, FB Brilliance, this month!

The doors will open Thursday, September 21st and they will ONLY be open for a week. I will close the doors Wednesday, September 27th - and that’s it, friends!

I won’t re-open the course til next April.

But I don’t want you to wait 7 months to learn a strategy that will get you the biggest bang for your buck and help you scale your business like Jamie did.

In the meantime, I’m running a scholarship program from Tuesday, September 12th - Saturday, September 16th. This scholarship will be hosted inside my new Facebook group FB Ads For Brilliant Mamas.

Five motivated ladies who submit their answers to all 5 assignments I give during my lessons will receive lifetime access to FB Brilliance, for free!

You want to be in this group, and you WANT to be eligible for this scholarship by completing our totally doable assignments.

And if you’re not sure about FB Brilliance, you still want to be in the group because you’ll learn a lot from my live sessions! (Jamie is also going to make a surprise appearance in the group towards the end of September!) Don’t hold yourself back! I know you can do it!

Even if you have doubts that you can succeed, we will all be there to rally around you and help!

And you can still grab our cheat sheet, 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Run Your First Ad right here: brilliantbusinessmoms.com/facebookadscheatsheet

Keep In Touch With Jamie

SaturdayMorningPancakes.comWow! Brilliant Business Moms is giving away full scholarships to their fabulous Facebook ads course, FB Brilliance. I'm so excited to use FB ads to grow my business!

 

Direct download: BBM20Jamie20C.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:36pm EDT

Thats amazing! LJ grew her blog from nothing to over $30,000 in sales of her ebook using Facebook ads! I want to grow my business like that!

 

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we’ve been talking all about Facebook ads and their potential to help you grow your business this month on the podcast. If there’s anything I’m ridiculously passionate about, it’s using Facebook ads to explode your business growth. I’m on a mission to help as many brilliant mamas realize their potential as possible!

I’ve got another amazing case study for you today from LJ Johnson. What I love about her story is that a year ago she didn’t even have a website!  She just had an idea in her head. She was passionate about planning trips to Disney on a budget and wanted to help other moms do the same.

In January of 2017 LJ started her website, Smart Moms Plan Disney, and in March she launched her first product with a presale. LJ has done more than $30,000 in eBook sales since then. I think that’s pretty crazy for someone who didn’t even have a website a year ago!

It’s not often you’ll find someone who starts a blog, and less than six months later brings in five-figure sales stats, but that’s the power of Facebook ads! You can really amplify your business growth.

If you’re out there just thinking about a business idea, I think you’ll be completely inspired by LJ’s story. You’ll feel empowered that you can do this, too!

Exciting News!

The other thing I wanted to mention is that LJ talks about going through my Scholarship Program for FB Brilliance. And I wanted to let you know I’m hosting the Scholarship Program again this year! 5 brilliant, amazing ladies will get to enroll in FB Brilliance for free.

And I’m not talking limited access or limited stuff. Nope, they get the whole sh’bang! They get lifetime access to the course + all updates. Access to my weekly coaching calls that happen for the first 8 weeks of the program. Access to the private Facebook group to connect with other amazing Mamapreneurs. Access to my mastermind pairing bonus (yep… everyone will get matched up into an 8-person mastermind this year!). My scholarship students get everything!

To be considered for a scholarship, make sure you request to join my private Facebook Group right here. Every day, for 5 days in a row (from September 12-16th) I’ll share a lesson. At the end of the lesson, there will be a simple assignment.  Each woman who completes all 5 assignments will be considered for the scholarship. We will pick those 5 winners based on who has done the best job on each assignment. Plus, each lesson and assignment will set you up to be more successful with your own Facebook ads, so it’s a win-win!

Wow! Brilliant Business Moms is giving away full scholarships to their fabulous Facebook ads course, FB Brilliance. I'm so excited to use FB ads to grow my business!Last year we had 3 winners. These ladies have been totally motivated, and totally rocking and rolling in their businesses. I loved having the chance to gift this course!

(Something else fun...and I don’t even know if I should mention this! But I actually gave everyone who submitted a scholarship application a special discount code for FB Brilliance last year! So if you’re on the fence, you should give the Scholarship Program a shot! It’ll give you a sense of my teaching style and steps you can take to set you up for success.)

Ladies, I just can't wait to see you in those lessons!

And one more note before we get into the interview. I wanted to say that LJ gives FB Brilliance a pretty rave review. That is totally unsolicited! She just started sharing how much she loves FB Brilliance and how it’s changed her business. I just want you to know I did not try to pull that out of her! She just started sharing, which was so, so sweet. I love that she’s enjoyed the course so much. And I honestly think you will, too. Make sure you’re on our list so you get all the updates about FB Brilliance!

7:05 - Meet LJ

LJ Johnson is the founder of SmartMomsPlanDisney.com. She lives in Kentucky with her husband and 4 kids. Her business is not even 1 year old yet, and she’s already done amazing things!

I am just so excited at how she’s grown a blog and created a product from scratch this year and you won't believe her sales numbers for that brand new eBook!

LJ achieved her insane growth primarily using Facebook ads and I can't wait for you to hear her story.

8:26 - A Business Is Born from a Personal Passion

LJ’s business idea was brewing for a while. She knew she wanted to do something Disney-related because her knowledge around doing Disney on a budget was seriously ridiculous! (As in, she and her family had been going to Disney every month, and sometimes twice a month for several years!) LJ was eager to bring friends along for the ride.

She discovered Brilliant Business Moms in the Fall of 2016 -- the last time the doors to FB Brilliance were open. In fact, she stumbled upon our 5-Day scholarship program ON Day 5! She watched the entire series after the fact, but almost wrote the scholarship off as she didn’t think she would have time to complete the assignment.

LJ’s super amazing husband agreed to wrangle their kids for two days while she worked through the assignments so she could be considered for a scholarship.


And that was literally the beginning of her business! When we asked you all to start a business Facebook page so you could run ads, that was the moment LJ had to think of a name for her business!

“My business was born in FB Brilliance,” LJ says.

10:25 - Faith, Trust, and Ebook Pixie Dust

Those initial business tasks took LJ until the first of the year, which is when she officially launched her business.

At first, she was considering becoming a Disney travel agent, but it wasn’t a great fit for her passions. LJ felt the real pressure to make a profit, especially since she was spending a lot of her own money on Facebook ads to build her email list.

The idea of writing an eBook came to her in March of 2017. She realized that two of her areas of expertise were managing money and going to Disney World, and her ebook was born: Disney World Within Reach: Meeting The Mouse Without Breaking the Bank.

This book was the answer to a question LJ has received hundreds of times: “How do you afford to go to Disney?” LJ always thought she was giving common sense answers, but as we business owners have to remember, what comes naturally to us doesn’t come naturally to everyone else!

Disney has improved LJ’s life in so many ways, from getting her finances in line (her family was almost a quarter of a million in debt!) to learning how to make the most of time with her family.

15:00 - Maximizing eBook Sales

Through our emails, I recommended my sister-in-law Abby’s Book Boss* resource to LJ. In that course, Abby shares her own eBook launch strategies - such as offering presales and working with affiliates - which LJ took to heart.

By creating a product that really helps people and following solid marketing advice, LJ has more than earned back every cent she has invested into her Facebook ads. During just her week of presales, she sold over $11K worth of ebooks! And that was just presales! Those customers hadn’t actually received the final product yet!

Within two and a half months of the book going live, LJ made $35K in sales. LJ says she is reinvesting a lot back into her new company, but the income has already outpaced the real estate company she already has!

17:38 - How to Run Presales

In February, LJ started a Facebook group, which really works well for her niche. Fans were posting to LJ’s business page asking their Disney planning questions, and LJ was eager to answer them...but she felt uncomfortable answering personal questions in a public place. She had the idea to start a private Facebook group where moms could ask their questions, and it worked well.

Facebook did a great job of matching up the perfect members to join Smart Moms Planning Disney. By the time the book pre-sale started, LJ had about 5,000 members in her group, with tons of engagement!

LJ told her group an ebook was coming the moment she started writing it! And it worked out great since she got tons of amazing feedback during the writing process. (People were even begging her to finish the book as quickly as possible!)

Once LJ was ready to warm up buyers, she introduced the book price at $50. She knew most moms might find $50 for an ebook too much to pay, but she wanted to establish that value in their minds. Plus, when she announced the presale price of $35, everyone was super excited for the deal and eager to buy!


LJ’s goal was to sell $3,500 total, but she made that amount in the first day! LJ credits all of her success to the working of God.

22:33 - Favorite Tools to Run a Presale

Of course, Facebook is LJ’s #1 tool. She says she never would have connected to her audience without it.

Another tool LJ loves is SamCart. This app makes it easy to offer customers other products you have for sale. And in fact, it motived LJ to diversify her product offerings and create several packages for customers to choose from.

SamCart includes training that suggests using ScreenFlow or PowerPoint Mac to create a slideshow pitching your products and how they work together. She also purchased a quality microphone to record her voice overs.

LJ invested $1,000 to use SamCart for a year, but it paid for itself on her first day of sales.

25:00 - Using Facebook Ads for Affordable Leads

LJ ran her first Facebook ad on Christmas Day, but there was a MAJOR glitch. A friend sent her a screenshot which showed that LJ’s landing page was completely messed up and looked awful! Still, those leads were coming in at $2.20 each, which is pretty great considering her error-filled page. LJ quickly turned off the ad and did some troubleshooting. Once she was back online, she started getting leads for as low as $0.15 a day!

LJ watched our FB Brilliance course in bits and pieces. But whenever she would hit a dry spot or snag with her ads, she picked back up and watched the next module - which usually solved her problem.

Due to her background in real estate, LJ is comfortable with the idea of investing money in order to grow. She was okay to spend money up front (about $2,000 a month for a few months) to build up her email list so they would be ready to buy when the time came.

Once LJ started writing her book, she backed off Facebook ads and let the momentum organically continue. These days, she is spending about $200 a month on targeted ads.

28:21 - LJ’s Brilliant Ad

LJ’s most successful Facebook ad is her simplest.

She tells the story of how her first Disney trip was a total disaster! But she came back home, learned more, and tried again. The second trip was a huge success!

Then she directs visitors to her free cheat sheet on a carefully designed landing page.

This simple ad is her highest clicked link of all! Despite the fact that she’s really pushing other ads to evergreen blog posts.

From the investment she’s put into Facebook ads, LJ already has 10,000 subscribers on her list. That kind of growth is incredible for such a new business!

And the proof is in the pudding that LJ’s sales funnel is on point. In fact, she has a recent example of one customer completing her entire sales funnel in the course of a one day! The customer:

  • Signed up for her free cheat sheet
  • Clicked immediately on the delivery email and joined her Facebook group
  • Began engaging with the group, and clicked over to LJ’s popular blog posts
  • While reading her blog, the customer requested LJ’s first ebook chapter for free
  • And by the end of the day, had purchased LJ’s $50 eBook!

31:12 - My New Assignment for LJ

Since things are going so well, I have a new experiment for LJ to try:  Retargeting ads for the people who ended up on her product landing page but didn't end up buying. She could offer a special bonus or $5 off coupon, or even a customer testimonial ad to recapture those visitors and get the sale.

At this point, LJ says she can’t handle more sales. (And I know that’s a great problem to have!) Currently, about 6 out of 10 orders are digital, but taking care of the printing for those few physical orders is a lot. LJ is interested in assembling a team at some point to help her grow.

33:47 - The Magical Story LJ Paints with her Ad

So let’s dig into LJ’s ad. It’s so well done!

Copy: I know you barely have a second here between taking care of your kids and career. In fact, you’re so busy you don’t think you have time to plan a vacation this year. But you know your kids are only the perfect age for that Disney World magic for so long before the time passes you by.

I’m LJ and I understand exactly how you feel.

But to be honest, my first trip to Disney wasn’t all that magical. I was so busy, I just showed up in line and stood all day. I had no plans, no reservations, and no idea where anything was. We stood in the heat all day and did very little.

I didn’t go back for 3 years.

But when Baby #2 started walking, I wanted to go back again.

And this time I wanted to be prepared.

An obsession was born.

I now look back on that next trip with such fondness and feelings of joy. I wouldn’t trade those magical memories of my kids and husband for a million dollars.

Since then, I’ve gone to Disney over 20 times. I spent over 100 days at Disney World in the last 2 years. I’ve taken not only my four kids but also people of every age from newborn to school age to grandparents! I’ve stayed at almost every Disney resort, rode every ride, seen most every show, ate at so many of the restaurants.

And I’ve started this blog to help other working moms find the magic I found at Disney World. I’ll make it easy for you to plan your trip because I don’t want you to end up like me during my first trip! I even have a free cheat sheet that will give you all the important steps to plan your trip.

Click here to sign up and grab my free Disney World Planning Cheat Sheet. → bit.;y/WDWFreeCheatSheet

Photo: It’s a fun flat lay, desktop shot. And she has snapshots of Disney World overlaid on the desk, as well as a checklist.

Headline: Disney World? You CAN go this year.

Tagline: Disney World:  Make the Magic Happen in 2017

This ad has so many shares and views, it’s really perfect!

36:50 - BUSINESS MOM POWER!

You guys, this is why moms business are going to take over the world!  Moms love supporting other moms, and telling other moms about the awesome things they find! And, moms listen to each other. I just love this energy!

LJ is also passionate about moms having an outlet, and being able to earn an income from home.

(Audio abruptly cuts here due to some technical difficulties we had, bear with us!)

39:00 - Getting Creative with Targeting

We see that LJ has an ‘Ear Hat Ad Set’ that is marketed directly to travel agents for them to be affiliates of her book. Pretty smart!

Copy: You’re the expert. Your client is looking to you to provide assistance to make their trip to Disney World as magical as possible. They want you to tell them where to eat, where to stay, what they should fast pass, and how to save money.

If you’re like most people, you probably value a great recommendation. When someone tells you about a product that makes your life better, you’re grateful to that person and you’ll go out of your way to help them in the future.

The word for this is loyalty.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could make a great recommendation and earn your client’s loyalty for years to come?

And it would be even better if you got paid to make that recommendation!

If this sounds intriguing, click here to check it out the program.

And the link goes to a smart landing page explaining the affiliate program for LJ’s book.

40:10 - Narrow Your Target Audience With Your Ad

What I also love about this is that LJ let her ad do the work of narrowing down her target market. A lot of newbie advertisers try to perfectly pinpoint their audience on Facebook, only to get frustrated that Facebook doesn’t have that exact audience at their disposal.

But the thing is, it doesn’t cost a lot for Facebook to show your ad around. Let the very clear message in your ad copy, image, and headline do the narrowing for you. It’s totally okay if thousands of people pass you up on your offer, as long as a few of the right people see it and respond. That’s the power of Facebook!

40:54 - Facebook Ads Are NOT Just For Huge Companies

A lot of people think that Facebook ads are only for huge businesses, but I’m here to tell every Brilliant Business Mom that ads are doable for any business of any size!

You don’t even have to run your ads every day to see great results. You can have a successful campaign for $50 a month, get new people in your funnel for about 10 Days, turn off your ad, nurture them, measure your results, then tweak from there!

41:30 - A Fabulous ROI

When LJ started her real estate company a few years ago, at the time she was really nervous about investing! “Am I really going to spend all this money? I might never get it back!” And thinking about FB Brilliance, LJ says if anyone is on the fence she can attest that the course is a great investment.

She says, “This course had everything I needed in it. You gave me the direction for me to head in.”

(That is SO sweet and kind. Thank you, LJ! And our interview ends really abruptly here due to technical issues. But stay tuned! We’ve got great things ahead.)

43:30 - Ready To Try Your First Ad??

Did this interview leave you just itching to test Facebook ads?? We have a cheat sheet you can grab before you do: 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Run Your First Ad.

Don't run a Facebook Ad until you read this!

It'll save you time, tears, and money!

43:50 - Closing Comments

Whew! That was so fun talking to LJ! One thing I wanted to mention, there were a few awkward starts and stops to the interview,  and you might have heard baby squeaks in the background. That’s because I was holding Levi while recording, and his schedule was a bit different than mine :)  We did have to cut this interview short, and didn’t get a chance to hop back on due to scheduling, but I did want to share LJ’s story!

Her success is absolutely crazy.

And one thing I wanted to point out is that LJ is not afraid to invest funds up front in her business to get results. You can absolutely do Facebook ads on a budget. But LJ did scale more quickly to see bigger results more quickly.

As LJ shared, she comes from a real estate investing background. And in real estate, you’re often putting up large sums of money before seeing a return. And honestly, that’s how a lot of business growth works.

We’re almost spoiled to think we don’t have to spend anything and can just start a profitable business from thin air. Yes, we live in an amazing time where we can set up shop on the internet instead of having the huge overhead involved in a storefront or physical place of business. But that doesn't mean starting an online business will be free.

There is always a cost to growing your business. The question you have to decide is what expense do you want to trade in: dollars or hours?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer. But if you’re ready to trade dollars for quicker growth, I think you’ll love FB Brilliance!

Direct download: LJ-Case-Study-Podcast.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:40pm EDT

Erin Odom blogs at TheHumbledHomemaker.com. She’s wife to Will and Mommy to a lovely trio of redheaded girls and one sweet baby boy (yay! another boy mom!). Erin says she’s a recovering overwhelmed homemaker, and she writes about motherhood, homemaking, healthy living, and family finances. Her debut book, More than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated, is coming out on September 5th. I just have so much praise for her book! I’m so excited for Erin and delighted to have her as my guest today. Welcome to the show, Erin!

Listen Now

2:10 - How a Low Point Turned into a Brilliant Book

When Erin’s family was living the difficult story she recounts in her book, she would think to herself, “God is teaching me so much. What good will come from this? If I ever make it through this time, I want to do all I can to shatter the shame and stigma of the poor.”  But she never envisioned she would write a full book, and with a major publisher!

Erin was raised in upper-class middle America, went to private school, and received a college education. Yet her book opens with Erin walking into the Department of Social Services to apply for food stamps. Like many of us would be, Erin was embarrassed and shocked to have found herself in that position. In fact, she says her pride was so strong that initially, she thought she would write an expose on government aid and how broken the system was! Erin’s story is one of being humbled over and over again.

Her book formally began when an agent, actually through Facebook, reached out to her. Her agent told her three things were needed to publish a book:

  1. Be Able to Write
  2. Have A Platform
  3. Have a Story That Meets A Heartfelt Need

Erin had several long phone conversations with her agent about her life, what she’d learned, and ideas she had, but things kept coming back to this low point in her life. While going through this time she would think, “We are just barely making it,” but at some point the tables began to turn and she started saying, “Okay, we can be more than just making it.”

6:45 - The Long Road to Publishing  

Book writing can be more rigorous and drawn out than you might think! Erin signed with her agent in January 2014. She took two years to write book proposals due to other professional projects. Her book was finally written in 2016, and is now getting published in late 2017.

Thanks to the time between the actual living through these events and the writing of her book, Erin had already processed much of the emotions bound up in her story. She had shared bits and pieces of the story to real life friends and blog readers, and already faced much of that shame and privilege in the eye.

8:15 - Expecting Critics

Erin is also wisely looking ahead and anticipating critics. Especially due to the controversial nature of a few, main topics in her book - like government assistance - she knows there will be people who disagree. Erin says she’s at peace with that now, but also won’t be surprised if she sheds strong emotions when that first negative review comes! But even still, she says she couldn’t NOT have written her story.

11:30 - If You’re Thinking About Writing A Controversial Book (or Business)

Especially for other Christians, Erin’s chief advice is to pray about the decision. Her book couldn’t have been written without lots of prayer!

Also, she suggests doing a ton of research on your topic. Erin had her own story, but also she needed to research the facts to help her gain objectivity.

13:10 - Wisely Choosing What Influences Your Work

Whatever book or business you want to produce, you’ll be influenced by what you read and listen to during the process. A couple of books in particular were foundational to Erin’s writing process during the proposal phase. She was very drawn to books which read like fiction, even if they weren’t!

Bonnie Gray’s Finding Spiritual Whitespace was one such book on Erin’s list. Gray did offer practical tips on how to find whitespace, which was helpful to Erin in a time of entrepreneurial burnout, but her book was framed in memoir. Erin really loved that feeling!

Emily T. Wierenga’s Atlas Girl, was another title that gripped Erin’s attention. Wierenga’s book didn’t have a practical element, but she does chronicle her time moving around the world, alongside the story of her mother having a terminal illness.

Erin took this inspiration and thought, “if I want to write a book geared toward financial practicality, I don’t want it to be dry and boring.” She wanted her book to take her readers into the story. Erin wants people to feel that space with her, and evoke their empathy. “The way we evoke empathy for other people's stories is by sharing our stories.”

17:00 - The Hard Work of Book Writing

Writing this book wasn’t easy, even having always loved writing and majoring in Journalism! Erin says she thought it would be much easier to write her book than it was. Around 2015 she was in entrepreneurial burnout mode, and simply longed to write. As her blog became a business, she got farther away from those writing roots and wanted to get back. Since this was her heart, she thought book writing would be easier....but it was MUCH harder!

The memoir was emotionally difficult to write. There were many layers of her financial situation, and painful realities to walk through - some of those stories made it into the book and some didn’t.

But writing the practical part? Well, Erin confesses that it was kind of boring to write! (We’re all business moms, aren’t we? We can admit there are boring parts to business, right!?)

Primarily, Erin wondered if readers would even be helped by her tips! She didn’t want to write a book that only gave people the warm fuzzies, she wanted to write a book that gave steps to life change. (Phew! Erin placed a tall order on herself with this book… but I think she totally delivered!)

18:50 - What If This Is Super Obvious?

It’s tempting to think that everyone already knows the things we do. When Erin was writing the book, she incorporated many tips her parents instilled in her. Both Erin’s parents grew up in large families with not a lot of extras; and though her own father had a great job, frugal living was the norm.

She realized in the moment that God prepared her for her lean years since she was a girl. And Erin realized while writing the book that not everyone grew up in a family that was super frugal like hers was. (What’s common sense to us is often knowledge that others need to learn about!)

22:10 - Hope for the Frustrated

If Erin could tell a mom feeling financially frustrated just one thing it would be, “There is always hope.” Of course, she can’t predict levels of financial success, but she can say, “Wherever you are doesn’t mean you’ll be there the rest of your life.”

In any trial, it’s easy to think the trial will go on in the same way forever. Erin says, “Especially if you are listening to Brilliant Business Moms and you’re an entrepreneur, trying to make a business for your family, you’ve already taken a big step!”

One major issue the Odoms discovered is that they had an income problem. A key component of her book is to identify that if you’re financially frustrated, you may have either an income problem or a spending problem. Once you know the root cause, you can find a solution.

“If you have a small biz or are planning on starting one, you are steps beyond what many are,” Erin says.

25:05 - Making a Blog a Business

The Humbled Homemaker (Erin’s successful blog) launched in 2011 and it was on a bit of a whim. She was freelancing for newspapers, and one of her editors told her, “Erin, there are moms making an income from home with their blogs.”

The idea was certainly intriguing to her!

At first, Erin had absolutely no money to invest into a business. There are lots of ways to start a blog or business by investing money up front, and you usually do get quicker returns. But Erin didn’t even have $10.00 for a website domain. Her first domain literally was thehumbledhomemaker.blogspot.com. Back then, as is true now, you couldn’t monetize a wordpress.com site but you could monetize blogspot.com domains.

Erin’s blog was completely DIY’ed. Though one crucial step was Erin getting into a mastermind group from the beginning. The group provided her tons of resources, one of which included a friend who was eager to design her site!

It was about 2 years before Erin was making more money online than her husband made as a teacher, and it was 3 before she was making a very good income from her blog.

Erin and her husband Will thought a LOT about whether or not  he should quit his job. In 2014, he went down to teaching 4 days a week, and in December 2016, he totally quit his job as a teacher

One reason her husband didn’t make the leap to quit his job was because they weren’t sure if their marriage would survive working together!! It’s a joke, but with a bit of truth to it! The first 6 weeks of working together in early 2017 went really well...and then their 4th baby was born!

As with most newborns, a family adjustment was required. But 8 months in, Erin says it’s gotten better as time has gone on.

Blogging as a business isn’t easy, and comes with lots of work. (Pssst. Another venture Erin had a big hand in was starting the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle with Stephanie Langford!)

With all of these activities spinning at once, when Erin’s agent signed her, she was in a stage of burnout. But thankfully her agent did not pressure her to write a book proposal right away. (And it is highly unusual for an agent to not put pressure on writing a book proposal!)

29:50 - Book Marketing

Some authors will receive a launch budget from their publisher, but not most! You have to do a LOT of marketing yourself, even with a traditional publisher. Erin did receive a marketing budget but is still pouring a lot of her own time and money into the book.

One benefit of a traditional publisher Erin enjoyed is that she didn’t have to hire an editor or designer for her book. The quality of those services was very high caliber.

Receiving a marketing budget depends largely on the publisher and the size of the author’s platform. But even with a marketing budget, Erin says that a publisher would not cover 100% of those expenses. The publisher may have a plan in mind, but the author will lead the way. In fact, some of Erin’s marketing ideas were covered by the publisher, while others were not.

32:44 - Why Traditionally Published?

It’s possible to make more money by self-publishing if you know how to market well, so why traditionally publish? Erin says working with people has made it really worthwhile! She loves the accountability, and it fits her personality well to work with a publisher. That’s not to say she would never self-publish another book, but she’s really enjoyed this experience!

33:20 - Book Payments

Let’s talk about the book money, honey! It is traditional to get paid part of the book’s advance before even writing the book! Erin’s publisher pays the advance in thirds. She got one third when she signed the book deal, the second 3rd upon getting the completed manuscript, and the final third when the book is published.

Other publishers offer 50% upfront, and 50% when book gets published.

Erin’s blog has taken somewhat of a backseat to the book, and so having that advance money is a really nice cushion as the blog is her family’s primary source of income!

35:40 Mark your Calendars for Erin’s Next Book!

Erin already has her 2nd book on contract! It is a gift book that will come out in 2018. (And, yes, Erin wrote 2 books and had a baby in a twelve-month period, which she tells us isn’t necessarily recommended!)

The upcoming book is a gift book, and it’s called ‘You Can Stay Home with Your Kids: 100 Tips, Tricks, and Ways to Make it Work on a Budget’. Actually a team at her publishing house came up with the concept and title, and asked her if she would write it!

Erin was amazed that books go up on Amazon while they’re being written! (Like the book Erin is still writing which will come out in 2018.) Why the early-bird treatment? In the book world, preorders are everything.

I just loved sitting down with Erin and chatting about her story, her incredible book, and her business wisdom. I hope you’ll go grab your copy of More than Just Making It, because I know you’ll find it incredibly encouraging and chock full of practical advice!

37:40 - Adorable Mom Moment

You’ll have to tune in to the podcast to hear all about the sweet moments that are happening between Erin’s girls and their new little brother. So much cuteness!

Stay in Touch With Erin!

Erin’s New Book: More Than Just Making It

Erin’s Blog: The Humbled Homemaker

Facebook: The Humbled Homemaker

Instagram: @thehumbledhomemaker

Direct download: BBM20Erin20Odom.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Shalene Massie is the founder of Rhythm of Birth and Postpartum Journey. She is a doula as well as a birth and postpartum educator.

And, she personally gave me fabulous tips for my own delivery and postpartum time surrounding the birth of my baby boy!

Today we’ll be chatting about how she grew her online business using Facebook ads.

Listen Now

00:45 - A Passion is Born  

Shalene got started in the birth world when she was living in South Sudan, Africa with her family. She found out she was pregnant and thought, “You know, so many women give birth without the option of medical care. I want to experience birth in a primitive culture.” When she came back to the States, she knew she wanted to hire a doula to assist in her birth.

Living in a new culture also made Shalene want to learn as much about birth as she could. She knew she might be called on if someone was in labor - in South Sudan, it’s all hands on deck - and wanted to be as prepared as possible. Unfortunately, she, her husband, and daughter had to evacuate South Sudan due to warfare. But on the plane back, Shalene knew she could carry that passion with her. She knew it was time to start her doula training.

Shalene’s family moved back to the states in 2012, and she jumped right in. To date she has attended about 114 births and has been teaching for five years.

2:55 - In-Person Business to Online Business

One of Shalene’s greatest business successes is that from the time she started, she’s been able to stay constantly busy with her in-person doula clients and classes. Her doula training process lasted three years, and after that time she needed to decide how to grow her practice. Shalene was at capacity with her in-person clients, so she turned to the online world.

Shalene says she actually started backwards. Though she teaches birth classes, she started an online postpartum class. There is a huge gap of information related to the postpartum period, and her class grew like wild!

4:24 - Shalene’s Facebook Ads Strategy

A popular way to use Facebook ads is to get new webinar sign ups, which also builds an email list. Shalene did just that for her postpartum class.

About four to five months ago, she ran Facebook ads to a webinar signup page.

Shalene had a videographer help her create a video ad that she felt was powerful and this really increased the number of people who signed up for her webinar. She was pleased with how the ads were working.

Shalene is a student of our FB Brilliance course, and says she learned a TON of information in that course to guide her ad development and lead generation strategy.

(Side note: Shalene says that since FB Brilliance, she’s become very geeky when she looks at other websites, wondering, “Are they using Facebook pixels!? Are they targeting me?!” You’ll have to listen to this episode for a great business idea Shalene and I cooked up!)

And just a reminder, statistics say only 6% of businesses on Facebook are currently using ads. There’s a huge opportunity out there!

6:54 - Shalene’s Successful Facebook Ad

Let’s dive right into Shalene’s ad to see why it was so successful.

Ad Copy: Hello pregnant mama! Join a free, live, postpartum planning webinar.

(She gets right to the point and says ‘this is who I’m talking to’. That’s one thing that’s so important with ads! Talk ONLY to your ideal customer. Ok, back to the ad!)

“In preparing for baby, I spent so much time thinking about the birth that it’s easy to forget about the weeks of change after baby comes home. If you’re expecting, sign up for this webinar pronto! - New Mama” (Confession: that new mama was me!)

In this webinar, you’ll learn 5 ways to begin planning for your postpartum transition and life after your baby is born, a secret myth about postpartum, how to feel at peace and minimize the risk of postpartum depression, and 5 things you’ll be so glad to know postpartum. Plus, get a fun, free gift at the end of the webinar.

If you can’t make the webinar live, sign up to get the reply sent to your inbox.

Click this link to join a tribe of mamas for postpartum planning: (LINK)

(There are so many killer strategies Shalene uses in this ad: bolding important words, incentivizing viewers to stay til the end, and adding a sense of mystery.)

Headline: Free, live postpartum webinar.

And then she has her bit.ly link, and the fabulous video she created along with her videographer.

10:35 - Stats for Shalene’s Ad

Shalene has 64 likes, a few hearts, 23 shares, and 8,200 views on this particular video ad.

These stats are really solid! Trust me, even ads I run to 100,000 people don’t always get that amount of sharing!

If you’re outside of the business space, sometimes you really do have an advantage. People don’t share business webinars with their friend! But if they have a pregnant friend, they’ll share a great free class with them in their feed.

11:42 - Shalene’s Video Ad

Shalene’s video opens up with soft, lovely, music and a full-screen logo for her brand, Postpartum Journey.

She cuts to scenes of women caring for their newborns, and then text throughout, “Anxious about the postpartum transition…and caring for your baby? Feeling overwhelmed? 50%-80% of new mothers experience some form of anxiety or depression during the postpartum period, and many women find it hard to immediately bond and connect with their newborn.”

(That stat REALLY hits the pain point of her ideal customer, doesn’t it!? If someone was on the fence, she’s really reminding them that they need to take time for her class.)

And then we see the face of a new mother against a white background. She says, “You’re stronger than you think you are, and more equipped for this than you realize.”

And another mother saying, “You can do this. You are so much stronger than you realize. And you’re beautiful, too. The beauty comes from that strength.”

Then text on top of a lovely scene of Shalene helping a new mother, “Confidence and guidance in caring for your baby.”

Then cut to a mother giving her new baby a bath with a caption that says, “Peace of mind...” followed by more scenes of mothers and newborns, “as you care for your baby, and enjoy your postpartum experience.”

Then a shot of a hand tracing an outline, “Preparing your heart.”

We see a mother from earlier in the video telling viewers, “Be gentle with yourself.”

Then we see Shalene’s lovely face with these words, “You are beautiful and you are strong.”

Then a text slide outlining the details of Shalene’s class:

  • Postpartum Plan
  • Nutrition
  • Setting Up Nursery
  • Baby Basics
  • Placenta Encapsulation
  • Stories
  • Encouragement
  • Family Preparation
  • Newborn Care Procedures
  • Postpartum Depression
  • Infant Sleep Consulting
  • Healing and Strengthening after Pregnancy
  • Babymoon
  • Returning to Work

Followed by another text slide which reads, “This program is a great way to begin your preparation and learn ways to practically, emotionally, and mentally to prepare for the postpartum transition.”

Visit courses.postartumjourney.com to register.

WOW!  This is a jam-packed video that really conveys the value of what Shelene offers!

13:50 - Creating a Video Ad on a Budget

I was so impressed with Shalene’s video, I just had to know how she created it. “It was an exciting endeavour!” she says.

Shalene’s videographer worked for Virginia Tech, and lived close to her. Turns out, his wife was pregnant, so they traded services! He also taught her a lot about video editing, so she had skills she could take with her for future business videos.

Shalene turned to former clients to act as the stars of her video. And we love her strategy for getting the most out of the videos she recorded. During one longer video shoot she recorded a ‘10 Baby Basics’ videos. She ultimately included this content in one of her courses (genius!)

Along with recording the ‘10 Baby Basics’ video, Shalene asked about 10-12 women to come into her makeshift home studio and asked them to record words of validation or encouragement for other mothers.

A few scenes of the mothers giving encouragement, as well as clips from her ‘Baby Basics’ footage, made the final cut for Shalene’s video ad. (And you can bet a beautiful montage of those moms made it into her online course!)

So to recap, Shalene used several brilliant strategies to create her video ad:

  • Trading services. This way, everyone can let their skills shine and get what they need - it’s brilliant.
  • Thinking ahead to repurposing content. Shalene created course videos by using these generous ladies and their babies, but also took bits and pieces of those videos to create an ad.
  • Something we didn’t mention earlier: Shalene got photo and video release forms signed by all participating clients.

18:11 - Shalene’s Crazy Good Cost Per Lead

I love talking numbers, so let’s get to it. (And if you’re on the fence about video ads, this will be the kicker to convince you!)

Shalene received 354 webinar signups from a cold audience, which means these were brand new people who had never heard of Shalene or her classes before. She got each of those leads for an average cost per lead of $1.38.

These are fabulous stats, guys. And this was the very first ad Shalene ran!

Another thing to point out:  Sometimes the number of leads you get can increase over the following week or so. Even with the campaign off you can get a few more along the way from people sharing the post or tagging their friends. Pretty cool!

20:40 - Targeting Audiences

Let’s dive into the audiences Shalene targeted for her ads.  

BabyCenter is an app and website for new and expecting parents. Shalene targeted fans and people with an “interest” in this website. Note:  When you target a particular website interest on Facebook, you’re not just reaching everyone who ever liked that Facebook page, Facebook is so genius they’ll be sure to show your ad to people who have also visited that website very recently too.

Other interests Shalene targeted: the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and the general interest of ‘Natural Childbirth’.

Another brilliant move by Shalene:  She created a webinar lookalike audience. To quickly define, a webinar lookalike is a Facebook audience created by users who look similar to your webinar attendees. You can create one by uploading your list of webinar signups in the audiences section of Power Editor.

Surprisingly though, Shalene’s webinar lookalike didn’t generate leads! She reached about 663 people but had no signups. Like any smart business owner, Shalene quickly pivoted her strategy, turned off that ad set, and focused on ad sets that were generating affordable leads.

A quick note if you’re discouraged that you don’t have a big enough audience to create an effective lookalike, don’t despair! You can create a strong lookalike audience by creating a lookalike of your customers.

This audience can be small but mighty ecause you already know those people are interested in your products and not just freebie seekers. And chances are, people similar to them will also be interested in purchasing from you too!

Shalene also targeted the online app and community The Bump.

And an especially brilliant ad set that she created with the help of a friend:  Her friend suggested to target people looking at psychological-based material on Facebook, and add in the filter of pregnancy. This is so smart because Shalene’s course is largely geared toward moms wanting to avoid postpartum depression and other psychological complications after birth. Such a smart strategy!

Finally, Shalene created a super broad audience to target of pregnant women. She then narrowed this audience to:

  • Women living in the United States
  • Ages 24-35
  • Who make at least $50K per year

Then Shalene excluded people matching one of the following criteria:

  • Already had children
  • New parents
  • Parents with toddlers
  • Parents with preschoolers
  • Parents with adult children

She did this to reach women who were expecting a baby for the very first time, but hadn’t had that baby just yet.

Even with this narrowed audience, Shalene’s potential reach was 3.4 million people!

Bottom line, your business shouldn’t have any trouble finding audiences to target! The sky is the limit when it comes to who you can reach on Facebook (and why shouldn’t it be with more than 2 billion active monthly users?!)

28:20 - How did the Audience Targeting Go?

As we mentioned previously, Shalene’s lookalike audience did not produce any leads. From the leads she did receive, Shalene paid anywhere from $1.26 per lead at her lowest (from The Bump US ad set) up to $4.66 per lead (from Natural Childbirth General Interest).

This range does have a huge variation, but it’s actually very good! Shalene’s ad and copy are very compelling. It’s easy for a new Facebook advertiser to try 5 different ad sets, but maybe none of them work. And it’s not that the ad itself isn’t good, it’s just that some audiences don’t respond.

One of the biggest factors that will determine your success with Facebook ads is your ability to continue testing new audiences to find the biggest winners!

For future ads, Shalene asked her current clients what top apps or pages they follow, and will target those audiences. SO smart!

31:22 - Setting an Ads Budget

Shalene’s ads started on just $5 per day for each ad set. (To refresh:  Each audience she targeted hangs out in its own ad set) and she increased her ad set budget from there as her ads performed well. Once Shalene identified those top ad sets, she came up with a budget that felt comfortable to her and stuck with it.

Drawing in attendees to her webinar through ads worked well, but Shalene learned an important nuance to her ads strategy:  She set her campaign too far in advice for the webinar in hopes of getting more attendees.

Shalene discovered that she needed to narrow the time frame between sign up and webinar. To prove the point, her very first webinar had 100 signups and 20 live viewers. The next webinar, with the longer lead time, had 300 signups but only 10 live viewers.

With a longer time span between signup and webinar date, people were more likely to forget about her class! A valuable lesson learned. Shalene says she’ll only do a 7-10 day window for future webinar ads.

(Just a side note here:  Even a year ago it was easier to get live viewers to my webinars! The online business world is constantly changing and competing for people’s time and attention continues to get more difficult, but being committed to experiment and adjust as needed will help you to succeed.)

33:35 - A BIG Lesson Learned

While Shalene’s ads were on point, she didn’t see the sales numbers she was hoping for after her webinars. The reason? Her site wasn’t truly optimized for conversions.

Shalene didn’t have a video about her or her courses on any of the pages. So while she got a decent amount of traffic, people didn’t buy because they didn’t know enough about Shalene.

In the last 6 months she’s really taken the lead on strengthening her business in this area! She recorded a ton of sales, welcome, and thank you videos. Now, Shalene’s site is much more inviting to potential customers.

(At BBM, we are constantly tweaking our site and our pre and post webinar sequences. There is so much to that! It’s a conscious and continuous process.)

Simply put, there’s more to the sale than a Facebook ad to get an email subscriber. Of the people who attended Shalene’s webinar, she had a 10% conversion rate. That’s truly a fabulous rate! But now she’s got to work on getting people to show up live and tightening up her site for even more sales.

37:30 - How Shalene Serves Clients and Her Family Well

One of the best decisions Shalene ever made was to hire a nanny. Having a nanny on retainer is THE reason Shalene says she can meet clients during the day, and live an on-call lifestyle.

She used to pray and be on pins and needles that her clients would deliver in the evenings when her husband got home. And now, she doesn’t worry a bit!

Shalene did increase her fees to account for this expense, but she thinks it’s an absolute necessity for Mamapreneurs, particularly if you’re serving clients. Add this expense into your business budget for peace of mind.

39:50 - Plans for New Ad Campaigns?

I seriously can’t wait to see how Shalene’s next Facebook Ad Campaign goes when she tweaks her entire sales system!

She says she may not use a webinar as a freebie, but has a huge library of resources to offer via Facebook ads. She’s working with a business coach this month to answer those very questions.

We are so excited for Shalene’s testing of sales funnels. (We’re also testing new funnels constantly!) We can’t wait to see how her growth mindset, continuous testing, and heart for pregnant and new Moms helps her to scale her business over the next year!

42:10 - Shalene’s Adorable Mom Moment

It means so much to Shalene that her husband and daughters really support what she does. Especially with the crazy, on-call life of a doula. In fact, her family was so supportive they hustled to get her to a Christmas Day birth! You’ll have to tune in to hear how this whirlwind story turns out.

Connect with Shalene

PostpartumJourney.com

15% OFF Discount Code: BrilliantPP

A Free Labor Land Guide: bit.ly/laborprep

Direct download: Podcast-Shalene-Massie-FB-Case-Study.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

Goodness! I always feel like I have so much content to teach you all, that I constantly want to do solo episodes. I almost feel greedy to take over the podcast schedule...but not THAT greedy!!!

Let’s get to it!

Listen Now

0:30 - The Struggle We All Face

The constant struggle we all face is getting more sales.Of course we need to make sales (we’re running businesses!) but we don't want to get the sale by being annoying or manipulative.

I often hear Mamapreneurs say, “I’m just not that great at marketing.” or “Selling just isn’t my strong suit.” And they almost use those phrases to excuse away the fact that their product sales just aren’t great.

Here’s the thing.

You don’t have to be great at marketing or selling to see great results!

What I want for you is to create an amazing, fabulous new product. I want you to structure a product launch that makes your audience crazy excited, gets them to show up, and leads them to buy your new product in crazy numbers. And you feel GREAT because you haven’t pressured them, you’ve not once been pushy or manipulative.

But you can only accomplish this goal by having an organized process in place that helps you launch your product well.

2:30 - Big Business Misconception

One of the biggest misconceptions in business is when business owners say, “I’ll create this awesome product. I know my audience wants it.” But they don't follow through to part two. Creating a product is great! But that’s only one part of the equation. You still have to build excitement for that fabulous product and give your potential customers a reason to come and buy NOW.

People will always have a reason to not buy immediately. That won’t help you or your business! And frankly, it won’t help your customers because you’ve got something fabulous for them and they need it in their hands as soon as possible!

In this episode, we’re going to talk about 3 ways you can get your audience excited about your new product.

3:36 - #1 Hint at What’s Coming

The first way you can get people excited about your new product is to hint at what’s coming.

Use the principle of curiosity and pique the interest of your customers. You want people to know you’ve got something secret you’re working on. You’re testing and experimenting behind the scenes, and something exciting is happening. People love that sense of intrigue!

Ways you can do this:

  • Share a photo of your computer screen. Maybe you cover most of the screen and show just a glimpse of the landing page you’re working on or your new course.
  • Share shots of sketches, or bits of a new material you’re working with.
  • Instagram stories are a great way to show behind-the-scenes of your shop.
  • Use the P.S. line in your emails to hint at what’s head. (P.S. I’m working on something extra special, more news next month!)
  • A fun twist to building curiosity: ask your customers what they think the new product might be!

But the big rule is this: DON’T GIVE THE WHOLE THING AWAY AT ONCE!

Most people spend so much time creating the product, but they put no time or energy into getting people ready to enjoy their product.

You can’t work, work, work, and then - Surprise! - give your audience this product they weren’t ready for. You’re almost catching them off guard.

Use the weeks, or even months, before your product comes out to prep your audience for the excitement ahead.

6:01 - #2 Get Your Audience Involved

You can actually get your audience involved in the creation of your product, and that goes a long way towards building excitement. You want customers to feel like they’ve had a part in creating the product which gives them a sense of pride and ownership in your business.

It might seem counterintuitive to the previous point, but both methods can happen at different stages in your customer journey. And if you time it correctly, your audience may not even remember exactly what you asked their input over by the time you build curiosity about the upcoming launch.

We’ve got several ways for you to get customers involved - and invested - in your product creation:

  • Use a free survey tool like Google Forms to run an audience survey. While there are other paid options, like SurveyMonkey, you’ll actually have a good bit of options without spending money.
  • A fun way to integrate social media and surveys is to use the app Polls for Pages by Facebook. Just search ‘Polls for Pages’ using the Facebook search bar. You’ll have the ability to ask practically any type of survey question you can think of, powered free of charge to you by Facebook. (Hint: Brilliant Business Moms did this back in June! What we heard from you is that you needed cost-effective tools to help you grow your business. And you needed time effective tools, since you’re busy ladies. In our Polls of Pages survey, we also asked what you wanted to learn about, and the highest voted topic was social media. That’s how we created our latest class, How To Be Brilliant On Social Media! This class was a huge hit because we delivered information our customers directly asked for.)
  • When my sister and I wrote our first book, Time Management Mama, we involved the community at every level of development. We constantly asked in our Facebook group for advice and tips from our audience, and we included that collective wisdom in our book. This type of crowdsourcing really got people invested and willing to share with friends
  • Another strategy we’ve used is to invite our customers to vote on covers of both our book and yearly planner. Inviting customers to vote on how your product looks is a simple and fun way to include them! You can ask their opinions about anything from covers, to packaging, to style.

11:30 - #3 Give Samples To Loyal Customers and Influencers Ahead of Time

Giving an early look or sample of your product to influencers or loyal customers who always rave about your business is a really smart move.

Oftentimes, you’ll see this happening with book releases. An author almost always sends out advanced release copies of her book to a group of people she knows will post great pictures and honest reviews of the upcoming release. (Which also taps into the building curiosity we talked about in #1!) People want to be in on the secret. You can use this strategy with any physical product, or online course, as well.

13:25 -  Surprise! A 4th Way To Get People Excited!

I know I said I’d give you three ways to launch your product, but I’m so excited I’ve got a fourth! This may seem like a no-brainer, but make your launch date solid, and start mentioning it several weeks ahead of time if you can.

What I often see happen is a business owner gets the first few tips right, they have their product in the hands of influencers and have been hinting at it, but they’ll say things like ‘Coming Soon!’ or ‘Coming Next Month!’ That guesstimate is way less powerful than giving people an actual date.

You want them to put a date on a calendar. Make your launch an event, and get people ready and waiting to grab your new thing! When you open the cart, you want customers who are ready to go and rushing to the page the day your product is live.

And as you can guess, there’s a lot more I can teach on the subject of launches!

15:30 - Introducing Our Newest Mini-Class

I’m happy to announce our newest mini class is here! Last month we did a live class, How To Be Brilliant On Social Media, and it got rave reviews.

This month our mini-class is:

Brilliant Product Launches: Throw your Product the Party it Deserves + Earn Passionate Customers in the Process

And, as of today, the cart is open! You can get your ticket for $15.

The class will be held LIVE on Thursday, August 24th at 6pm PT and 9pm ET.

If you can’t show up live, still snag your ticket before Thursday, August 24th because we’ll be selling replays after that for $27. When you grab your ticket now, you’ll get access to the class and bonuses forever!

bit.ly/bbmlaunchclass

In Brilliant Product Launches you'll learn:

- How Launching a New Product is just like Christmas (plus how to ensure you're not coming across like the grinch!)

- How to Build Excitement and FREE marketing around your product.

- How to use Simple Psychology to Give your Customers just what they want

- How to Launch in a Way that has your Customers Thanking You (instead of running away in horror!)

(This happens to us at BBM every time!)

- Grab Plug and Play Strategies that you can use to Build Buzz so you'll have a Launch toolbox at your fingertips

(I don’t want to give you 20 exact ways to launch a product. That’s actually a lie! There are lots of ways to do it, and you have to figure out what works for you and your audience.  We’ll teach you principles, but you won’t feel frustrated over not being able to jump through tons of hoops.)

- Get Real Life Examples of my Own Product Launches and their results

(Even the ones that didn’t do well!)

Plus, we’ve got some wonderful bonuses for you:

  • Email swipe copy for all different kinds of products from all price ranges
  • Email templates to know what to say and when to help you get the sale
  • Landing page template to know how to show off your product in the very best light
  • Product launch checklists so you can know how to prepare for your launch, including: photoshoots, the graphics you need to create, what landing pages you need to create, and so on

We hope to see you in class!

22:30 - What Our Past Students Are Saying

Our social media class received some rave reviews, and I’ll share a few with you.

“I really loved the class. I’ve done a lot of research on social media, so I thought I knew a lot, but you really broke it down and the lightbulbs started to go off for me.”

  • Jamie

“Class was fantastic and chock full of goodness and goodies as always.”

  • An Anonymous Student

It means so much to me that this last student said our class was great ‘as always’! We work really hard around here to be so confident that our products will wow you, our refund policy is rock solid. If you’re not amazed, we don’t feel right keeping your money. Period.

Thanks for turning into this episode. I hope we’ll see you in class!

Brilliant Product Launches - Throw your Product the Party it Deserves + Earn Passionate Customers in the Process

bit.ly/bbmlaunchclass

Brilliant Product Launches - Throw your Product the Party it Deserves + Earn Passionate Customers in the Process

Direct download: BBM-Podcast-BA-Solo-Product-Launch_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:13pm EDT

I thought Facebook ads and Instagram ads were just for the big guys. I'm so glad I was wrong! If you've been thinking about adding this type of marketing to your social media strategy for your small business, check out this podcast and see how one smart Mom used Facebook ads to make her business take off!

Have you written off Facebook or Instagram ads as “just not for you”?

I want to encourage you to take a look at ads with fresh eyes this month as we explore how many different types of Mamapreneurs are using them to build their businesses.

You’ll hear from Etsy sellers, designers and membership site owners, bloggers and eBook writers, and course creators.

All of them are scrappy Mamapreneurs working with tight budgets - just like you! And all of them are finding success with Facebook and Instagram ads.

On this episode, we’ll hear from Melissa Kaiserman, who’s using Facebook and Instagram ads to bring in more sales for her Handmade Cash Envelope Organizers.

Melissa sells an affordably-priced product, and she’s able to bring in brand new people to her shop and make profitable sales.

Press play on the podcast player below to learn how you can make sales using ads too!

Listen Now

If you've been around Brilliant Business Moms for long, you probably know Melissa Kaiserman. She’s basically an honorary team member of Brilliant Business Moms and an active member of our Facebook group -- always ready to answer questions and help people out.

It’s been way too long since we had her on the show and we're so glad she's here today. (Three years, can you believe it!?)

Melissa is the Etsy shop owner of A Time for Everything, where she sells amazing cash wallet systems for adults and kids. She’s also the founder of Makery Space, an online business providing practical help for Etsy Sellers.

Follow her on Facebook to watch her wonderful weekly show, Etsy + 1. She’s a total pro when it comes to selling on Etsy successfully.

Since most of you know Melissa already, let’s dive right in.

1:20 - Using Facebook Ads in Her Business

Melissa enrolled in FB Brilliance but had a slow start to actually running her own ads. Her fear of getting something wrong, and hesitancy to do the work knowing it would require tweaking, stopped her for several months. But in the summer of 2016, she decided to dive in.

The very first campaign she ran, she targeted interests that she thought would be a good match for her product. She knew people who followed organizational blogs would be her ideal target market. Interestingly, not as many budget-conscious folks who follow Dave Ramsey or frugal blogs buy her products, since they’re not big spenders. Melissa’s campaign targeting organizational groups did okay, giving her a cost per click in the $0.20 range.

Then she decided to do a lookalike audience of her email list. She had been building her list for a while with content centered around living on a budget and, naturally, her blog matched her shop well. Once she targeted a lookalike audience, Melissa’s cost per click went down to $0.08! “This is a lot smarter way to target my ad set!” she thought, rather than focusing on a general interest.

Finding that perfect combination is all part of the learning process. And thanks to Melissa’s commitment to test and not give up, one of her biggest wins was right ahead.

She decided to do a Christmas campaign and then she decided she would use her customers as a lookalike audience. She downloaded her orders from Etsy and uploaded the customers to Facebook and Facebook was then able to create a lookalike audience. This audience was even more targeted than an email list since it was created from the emails of actual purchasers. Her cost per click in that campaign was around $0.04! And to cold traffic! You guys, that’s crazy!

4:00 - Defining a Lookalike Audience

Let’s stop for a moment and define what a lookalike audience is, for those who may not know.

To build a lookalike audience, you give Facebook a piece of data, for example, Melissa’s customer list, and what Facebook does is take the people you have and go find you about a million other people on Facebook who are really similar to that initial bunch. Then, Facebook shows your ad to those similar people. You can see why lookalike audiences are so powerful!

4:50 - Womp, Womp. A Few Bummers!

With Etsy, you can’t directly track how people get to your shop. (Although, following our advice, she sent people to a page on her blog and then redirected to her Etsy shop.)

However, Melissa could see her shop sales and traffic increase during the time frame her ads ran, and she realized “here absolutely was a correlation, even though she couldn’t pinpoint one for one.”

Another slight bummer, Melissa noticed her cost per click did go back up after the first of the year. It was hard to get back to that $0.04 to $0.08 cost per click range. Her current campaign averages $0.09 per click.

Also using lookalike audiences, Melissa ran another set in the Spring that received about $0.12 a click. But still, Melissa is happy with the performance of her lookalike audiences! Facebook knows what it’s doing!

6:58 - Melissa's Successful Ads

Let’s dive in and look at some of the successful ads Melissa ran to drive traffic to her site at an amazing rate.

In this slideshow video ad, Melissa focused on her bread-and-butter cash wallet system. She showed a selection of those wallets in the slideshow. Her content appealed to the concept: “Are you trying to find the right envelope in your purse, but it’s a mess? Try something that’s pretty and will last for years!”

I thought Facebook ads and Instagram ads were just for the big guys. I'm so glad I was wrong! If you've been thinking about adding this type of marketing to your social media strategy for your small business, check out this podcast and see how one smart Mom used Facebook ads to make her business take off!

For those listening, we’ll describe the ad below.

Ad: During the ad she shows the cash envelope at different angles, and at the end, she uses the tagline, “Find the beauty in budgeting.”

Body: Does living on a cash budget have you rummaging in your purse at the register for the right, beat-up, paper envelope? Find the beauty in budgeting with this handmade, laminated, cotton envelope system wallet that’s lovely, durable, and will last for years.

Headline: Organize your budget with a cash envelope system wallet.

Coupon Code: For Free US Shipping, Use the Code: FACEBOOK

(But Melissa tells us that only one person has ever redeemed that coupon code! Isn’t that interesting!?)

9:38 - What Program did Melissa Use to Make a Video Ad?

Melissa just used the native slideshow creator within Power Editor. That’s how easy it is to make an ad! Have fabulous product photos, upload them to Facebook, and let them do the heavy lifting for you.

I thought Facebook ads and Instagram ads were just for the big guys. I'm so glad I was wrong! If you've been thinking about adding this type of marketing to your social media strategy for your small business, check out this podcast and see how one smart Mom used Facebook ads to make her business take off!

10:08 - What Sales can She Attribute to Her Ad?

The only time she ever tried to figure a sales percent increase was from her ad campaign from last August. During that time period, she saw a 63% increase in sales from the same time frame a year prior.

Summer can be pretty slow for Etsy shops unless the shop is seasonally focused. What a great strategy to run ads to create sales during a slow time! The ad ran for just 5 days and had tremendous success.

Moody Sisters Skincare also used ads to overcome their summer slump, resulting in their best month ever! To go from a very slow month to the best is pretty cool! You really can get started at $5 a day.

12:30 - ROI

I know these questions are a bit theoretical, but I love asking them! Even if you can’t use the Facebook pixel on Etsy, you can still do detective work and see how it’s helping your shop. Especially if you're getting affordable clicks like Melissa!

So, doing guesswork while looking at her Etsy sales, Melissa compared the difference in sales from the same time period in previous years. That’s where she came up with that 63% increase we mentioned earlier. Her return on investment was 5 times what she spent on ads, which was $50. And, half of her ad sets were the organizing interest sets that weren’t as effective. The other half was her highly effective lookalike audience.

Because this particular ad was so effective, Melissa has kept the same ad and changed the copy a bit as needed. For example, at Christmas, she might mention how her wallets are a great gift. She also changed her coupon to be more versatile and simple. Melissa now uses the same ad and ad set repeatedly and just runs it when she wants some more affordable traffic with targeted potential customers.

Can you see why ads are so fun!?

Melissa has received some criticism for not spending money on promoted listings. In general, her Etsy relevancy has always been pretty good and she shows up in search. For Melissa, why would she spend all her ad budget to get people already on Etsy to her shop? It’s more worthwhile to find people who haven’t gotten there yet and send them over.

15:56 - Pattern by Etsy and the Facebook Pixel

I wanted to talk some about Pattern, Etsy’s new selling platform, and the Facebook pixel. Melissa has the scoop! She recently started a free trial of Pattern. In the beginning, she wanted to try out Pattern but didn’t see great benefits right away.

At this point, the platform has gone through a few iterations, and Melissa can see the benefits.

Someone who can’t manage inventory or shipping for more than one shop would probably enjoy Pattern. You can send people to a domain without the distraction of Etsy. It’s your own space, in a way, but still connected to Etsy. Everything from inventory to orders to shipping is managed in one spot.

As of this recording, it is possible to install the Facebook pixel on Pattern. You can’t do the standard event code, but you can use your Pixel ID code. Pattern also allows for Google Analytics tracking, which is a huge advantage! If you have a Pattern shop, you could send people there directly and not to Etsy through a redirect, giving you a clearer picture of what’s happening.

Plus, you can get back in front of those who haven’t bought yet with retargeting ads!

I thought Facebook ads and Instagram ads were just for the big guys. I'm so glad I was wrong! If you've been thinking about adding this type of marketing to your social media strategy for your small business, check out this podcast and see how one smart Mom used Facebook ads to make her business take off!

18:29 - The Etsy Scoop

Melissa is our Go-To Etsy Expert! We had to get her take on what’s new at Etsy.  

“The main thing right now is that there’s a ton of testing and experimenting happening,” she says. Melissa cites tons of changes coming from Etsy since about February of this year, including:

  • A New Shop Manager
  • New Stats
  • Yes Checkout
  • even a CEO Turnover!

Through all the testing, Melissa’s best advice is to be patient and hang in there. Don’t panic and don’t go changing a bunch of things.

Often Melissa says she’ll see something tested and then hear people making definitive statements about a change Etsy made. Don’t panic over theories! Keep doing what you're doing that’s working well.

Sometimes you can make small changes, but don’t stress about them. For instance, Attributes is a new factor Etsy added that affects relevancy. This feature is actively being tested and constantly changes. They haven’t made any permanent changes, but you can choose attributes that might naturally fit the listing. Don’t stress!

This is exactly the kind of stuff she addresses in her Etsy + 1 show... it’s on Thursdays at noon Pacific. She addresses Etsy changes, her thoughts about it, and practical applications. Like Makery Space on Facebook to catch the show.

I thought Facebook ads and Instagram ads were just for the big guys. I'm so glad I was wrong! If you've been thinking about adding this type of marketing to your social media strategy for your small business, check out this podcast and see how one smart Mom used Facebook ads to make her business take off!

(Isn’t Melissa totally an encyclopedia of information!?)

23:16 - Melissa’s Adorable Mom Moment

Right before recording, Melissa had a funny moment! Turns out that one of her teenagers with YouTube ambitions had swiped her recording equipment, and Melissa was scrambling to find the pieces before our interview!

Click here to subscribe

Direct download: BBM_Melissa_Kaiserman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:51am EDT

Beryl Young is the founder of an online community for deeply feeling, giving moms called Recapture Self. Ready to reclaim their identity beyond storyteller, snack maker, and boo-boo kisser. (I love that!)

She offers photography classes, both in-person and online, and has a fabulous community that helps moms capture everyday moments and make creativity part of their lives.

Listen Now

1:07 - Beryl’s Sad-But-Important Start to Photography

Like many moms, Beryl didn’t set out to start a business. Her story has a sad beginning, but we hope you will be able to listen because it’s a very important part. (Beryl's story includes infant loss.)

In 2009 joined a 365 Project challenge with her friend. 365 Project is a visual photo diary, which challenges participants to take a photo every day for an entire year. Beryl quickly began learning from the community of other 365ers on Flickr.

Around the same time, Beryl and her husband were talking about planning a family and one thing she knew she wanted was amazing pictures of her family. A quick look at newborn photographers was enough to give Beryl instant sticker shock! Though she totally values professional photography now, Beryl was determined to learn how to take amazing photos herself!

3 months into the photo project, she got pregnant...and wasn’t feeling super great, so her photography project was put on hold. Sadly, at 20 weeks gestation Beryl found out that her daughter was very sick and she passed away. Losing her daughter, Bella, was hands down the hardest trial Beryl has ever had to walk through. But, yet, through that loss, she was inspired to start photographing again.

Eventually, Beryl launched a small blog and began to share her photography with short captions. People starting reading, responding, and eventually asked her to photograph their families. And a business was born out of this sad chapter in her life.

5:25 - Sometimes The First Business Isn’t the Right Business

Beryl started to receive requests from friends and family for photo sessions. Though she booked sessions for a solid year, she knew it wasn’t quite the right thing for her.

The more she worked as a photographer, the more she realized that it meant the most to her to photograph her own sweet girl! (Yes, Beryl welcomed a second daughter!) Beryl knew something was lacking in the industry: photography workshops for parents.

6:34 - Teaching Photography In Person

During her entire photography journey, Beryl worked full-time as an elementary school teacher. She taught technology, which was a unique role in that she got to work with both the students and teachers, training each group in relevant tech tools.

She had an ah-ha moment! Business for moms is a place where skill sets and passions collide.

During maternity leave, she developed the idea for a class to teach moms how to take beautiful photos of their own kids. She developed the bulk of her class and then got to the hard work of promoting her newly developed course.

Initially, Beryl partnered with a local moms group and asked them to advertise the class for her. (Keep in mind, she was promoting her course before Facebook offered ads!) In the first hour, she had 12 registrations. That’s truly amazing for an in person class!

She taught this in-person class quarterly. And eventually built a suite of online classes.

9:36 - Teaching Photography Online

The transition to teaching online was harder for Beryl. Her very first online class was free, geared toward any mom who has experienced pregnancy loss. She learned a lot in that course creation process.

MOMTOGRAPHY™ ONLINE felt a lot different to create.

Her baby loss class was a lot more heart centered. And MOMTOGRAPHY™ ONLINE required far more technical details. It took two years to really develop her content.

Actually creating her content was fairly easy for Beryl. Which her background as a teacher, she had lots of experience breaking down a  complicated concept into its easiest parts. Finding time to put together the course (while holding down a full-time job!) and figuring out which tech tools could best help her execute the class was the hardest part. Not to mention, how in the world would she market the class??

Beryl’s tech tool tips:

  • Scrap together a combination of your favorites.
  • Less is more.
  • Beryl hires a web designer on retainer, so she always has the ability to change up what she needs. Her designer custom built a framework for Beryl’s site.
  • WishList Member is the plugin she uses to deliver passwords to her customers.
  • Password delivery is run through ConvertKit.
  • Beryl says her workflow isn’t super automated. Since her course is live run, she does benefit from a buffer time between cart closing and class start

Her very first course simply consisted of password protected pages on her site. She put trust in her students that they would hold the password in confidence.

14:30 - Less Is More Marketing

Her very first MOMTOGRAPHY™ ONLINE course ran the month between when her school year ended and her entrepreneurial journey began.

The stakes were high! Beryl knew it HAD to work to be able to quit her job.

Connection marketing works really well for Beryl. Knowing who your product is meant for, and where you can connect audiences in different ways is key. She ended up connecting with a lot of parenting bloggers.

Beryl’s first launch went really well! Her system of connecting herself with the right influencers and people really worked!. She did lots of free classes, webinars, and guest posting to get the word out.

17:37 - Analyzing a Webinar

Beryl recently did a webinar for our BBM audience. And while we had a great time, Beryl discovered that business owners aren’t really her focus! Though she delivered a great presentation, the sales just weren’t as strong as they had been before.

We both thought the class would be a great fit for you all! But while every mom might have the desire to take great photos of her kids, the time and energy of a business mom isn’t necessarily going to photography.  You ladies are like, “If this won’t built my business, I don’t care!”

Not everything will be a huge win! And it’s ok! You have to see what sticks and what doesn’t.

We are happy to report that Beryl’s class DID find great success with Facebook ads. (And you ladies KNOW our feelings about Facebook!)

19:35 - Beryl’s Facebook Ad Strategy

Beryl’s ads for MOMTOGRAPHY™ ONLINE run to a free 1-week experience. Then, she uses an email sequence to kick off a promotion of her 6-week paid class.

Beryl has discovered that marketing to parents is tough! Her live webinar attendance isn’t huge; most students usually watch a recording after. Her launches aren’t built around ‘how many sales can I get live?’ She finds her customers usually need a few days to get all the pieces of the free class, then be reminded to buy the paid course.

22:38 - Beryl’s Newest Business Venture

In the last year, she has been asked to teach MOMTOGRAPHY™ ONLINE in many different places.

She’s explored creative coaching and mentoring, wanting to blend one-on-one help and teaching. Then she thought, “I bet I have alumni students who’d be willing to teach in their hometowns.”

Currently Beryl has 4 online course alums going through a 3-month training program to teach the local, in-person version of the class. These alums hail from California, Ohio, Florida, and Oklahoma. MOMTOGRAPHY™ will truly be a nation-wide business. Isn’t that just brilliant!?

Beryl truly has played to her strengths, turned that into a product, and is serving her customers.

26:45 - Business Training for Licensees

Beryl’s new venture is much like a business coaching program that allows other moms to start their own businesses.

The 3-month training course focuses on three primary areas:

  1. Mindset
  2. Methodology
  3. Marketing

Her students get lots of materials, like PowerPoints, and coaching along the way. They’re licensed for a year, and then pay a fee to relicense every year to stay an official teacher.

29:19 - Photography Tips

We couldn't let Beryl go without asking her this important question: what’s the biggest mistake new photographers make?

In her opinion, it’s overshooting. She finds that new parents are so invested in photographs, “I have to get this moment!” so they put the camera behind their eyeball, and shoot away, but come home to 1,000s of pics on their hard drives that they’ll never sort through.

As a photographer, Beryl remembers that she’s the director of her photos. If she can pause, take a step back, and sink into the moment, she can start to watch and notice more. Then bring the camera up when you sense the right moment coming. Shoot with intention. What is the purpose of the photo you’re about to take?

(And this philosophy totally fits with Beryl’s less is more mentality.)

31:18 - Beryl's Adorable Mom Moment

You know these are always cute! You’ll have to stay tuned through the end to hear Beryl’s!

Direct download: BBM20Beryl20.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Work-at-home mom? Struggle with time management? Listen to this ep!

This episode is dedicated to another repeated question we received in our community survey: How do you manage your time? Or one of my favorites, “Can it be DONE??? Mother and businesswoman???”

Yes, it can be done! At the time of this recording, I have a newborn baby at home, a 6-year-old in school, and am a military spouse - and, of course, I run Brilliant Business Moms. It does take some finessing, and you have to be creative. I’m hopeful that this episode will spark some ideas for you.

Listen Now

I do want to mention that I got several questions on specific life circumstances, like:

  • How can I have a full-time job and build a business on the side?
  • How can I build a business while I homeschool full-time?

Since I have never been in either of those situations while growing my business, I do not want to pretend I have any expertise answering that particular question. I have time management tools and tips that work for me, but it would be glossing over your specific situation to pretend like I can speak directly to your circumstances. (And one day we will bring ladies on the show who have more expertise in those areas.)

Alright, let’s get to it. How is it that I’m doing everything I’m doing? How do I even get sleep!?

The #1 Thing You Have To Know

You guys don’t realize I’m doing a lot less than it appears!

Remember my fabulous team? It’s thanks to Ellen, Carlee, and Victoria that I appear to be doing much more than I am! These three ladies work quite a few hours every week and they have all sorts of expertise. They can write posts about Pinterest, webinars, Facebook ads, or a new tech tool - just like I would. They write a lot of our weekly emails. (Have you noticed that our emails are now signed ‘The Brilliant Business Moms Team’?) They regularly answer our Facebook group questions and pass along the more complicated ones to me. They post on social media.

I never want you to think it’s me writing, when it’s actually not me! We’ve decided to use a collective voice when we write much of our content. That ‘team’ language frees me up to do things only I can do: podcast episodes, course creating, group coaching calls, developing and designing new products. (We’re excited for the new planning and time management products we’ll be releasing over the next few years!)

My hand in the business is very much taking part in our big-picture strategy and growth for Brilliant Business Moms.

For example, in this community survey we’ve been talking about, I made sure every question was what we needed it to be. I’m driving our content plans and creation of future products. The main role I have is painting the big picture, planning growth, moving forward, and identifying how best to serve our audience.

I know a lot of you may not be at the point of being able to hire a team. But I really think if you just hire a few hours a week you’ll be amazed at how much more quickly you can grow. Have a growth mindset with all your decisions. For me, I’m not willing to work even 40 hours a week because I want more time with my baby. My paycheck isn’t as big as you assume it is. Because it’s worth it to hire out a few tasks to have that peace of mind, invest in the lives of other women, and have quality time with my family.

How My Work Life Looks With A Newborn

Levi was born in April 2017, and for the first 6 weeks after I didn’t do anything in the business. I was very hands off. I thought I would be off a lot longer than that, but with the slower pace of life I had a lot more time to think and the ideas just came rushing in! (Raise your hand if you can relate!)

Some things are not possible without childcare!

Levi is not in any sort of daycare. He’s primarily home with me. Just this week, I hired a babysitter for Levi, a high school neighbor. She watches him a few hours at a time, a few days a week for me, so I can do tasks that wouldn’t be accomplished otherwise. Tasks such as: conducting podcast interviews, recording tutorial videos, and hosting my live coaching calls for FB Brilliance students.

Especially when I know my students have spent good money for my courses, I don’t want their time with me to be interrupted by a baby.

Leverage one-handed technology.

I’m nursing my son Levi. So, when I’m feeding him, I often have my phone with me. The fact that I can answer emails while feeding Levi or on-the-go is great! I love being a mom in the 21st century!

I also use the Google Keep app to save notes for myself or my team. Just hit the mic button and do a voice recording.

Using the phone as my office, in 5 min increments.

Okay, but what if I was still a solopreneur? Having any sort of life balance with a newborn would be tricky. It certainly is a time to work in the margins. Literally, sometimes, 5 mins increments. If you’ve got a new baby in the house, you probably won’t have those clean start and stop times without childcare help.

I work all over the place now, and I don’t have a neat little office setup. Things are way more fluid. My phone is my new office! Google Keep and Wunderlist are my go-to apps for getting things done.

And remember, I’m the lady who makes and sells planners! I do love time blocking and having hard stops and starts. But when you’ve got a new baby, give yourself lots of grace. Do what you can.

Okay, but what if I REALLY need to work!?

When I need to get some hardcore computer work done, I’ll often have Levi on my lap. I maybe can get 15 mins of really good work in, or more if I’m lucky.

If your kids are still around age 3 or age 4, you could really leverage their naptime to get work done.

If your kids are older than 4 (like my little guy Holden, who’s 6) still facilitate quiet playtime! You’ll be amazed at how your children’s creativity can blossom during those moments.

Balance it all? Give it up.

Here’s a big secret.

You don’t have to do it all. (Promise!)

You can give up those things that don’t provide value to your business or your customers. Especially if you’re feeling crunched for time, only do those tasks that will support your goal.

For example, our Brilliant Business Moms community has told us time and again that you prefer the podcast much more than blog posts. So we do try to make sure at the bare minimum a podcast goes out each week - everything else is icing.

The same is true of social media. We’ve scaled back in a lot of ways there! And just a tip, if you’re listening to me scale back social media and thinking, “But! But! Social media is the only way I’m making sales!” Focus on building your email list. If you’re afraid about tanking your sales potential by focusing on your email list, I promise you’ll be surprised if you focus more on email!

And if you’re wondering how to increase your sales by building an email list, we’ve got a free resource for you. 20 Optin Offers Your Subscribers Will Love.

 

Focus on big, high impact things. And I’m telling you, your email list should certainly be one of them!

Throw the routines, and find the time.

I used to have really solid daily routines, but they’ve gone completely out the window with a new baby in the house. Levi doesn’t have a great routine, yet, and I’m finding myself working bit by bit during some pretty crazy hours.

Some mornings when he wakes up around 4:30am, I will just stay up after and get some solid work accomplished. Now, I do NOT do that every day! I may do this every other day, at the most. But it’s a great way to fit work in with a new baby.

If you’re SUPER struggling to fit work time in, I almost wonder if you’re not super excited about your business anymore. That may be more of your problem than not having time. (And if that’s the case, go back and listen to our episode ‘Do You Ever Feel Like Giving Up’.)

Most of the time, I work 2 hours a day in teeny snippets. But I love the business so much that losing a bit of sleep here and there, or giving up a Saturday morning, isn’t a huge deal. Again, if you feel like you’re forcing it, maybe your heart isn’t in it. I think it is easy to find time to work when you’re passionate about what you do.

And also, I say no to a LOT of things. I don’t go on other people’s podcasts, I don’t do joint webinars, I’m not part of group programs or masterminds. I don’t add extra things to my calendar. Even though I’ve seen tons of mastermind-type groups lately I’d love to join! I just say ‘No’.

What I have been saying yes to are courses and training programs. If you have unexpected down time, or a slow time in business, maybe you can commit to a training program to watch and take time to learn, while growing your business. (I watch my classes while I feed Levi!) Maybe you’re not getting lots of interviews, and that’s okay.

It's time to relieve my babysitter, so this episode will have to come to a close! This is work / life balance, friends. I hope you took away some helpful pieces of information.

Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant.

Direct download: BBM_Beth_Anne_Solo_8.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Brea Albulov is a stay-at-home mom of 2 littles and founder of an online shop called Hope Carried. Hope Carried creates high quality, handmade, babywearing products - and employs mothers who face barriers to entering the traditional workforce.

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1:02 - The Birth of a Babywearing Business

Brea, like many mompreneurs, opened her business by accident.

She used baby carriers, but didn’t really love the ones she found. When her kiddos were tiny, she wanted a ring-sling type carrier, but her family just didn’t have wiggle room in the budget for one. So, being a savvy mom, she pulled out her sewing machine and made one for herself. Brea says she then became obsessed with creating baby carriers! She started playing around, making carrier after carrier, and perfecting her design. People started asking if they could buy Brea’s carriers, and early on she simply sold her carriers for the cost of production. But seeing how popular her products were becoming, she knew that she wouldn’t last for long unless she made a few adjustments.

About six months after she started experimenting with carrier designs, Brea raised her prices, opened an Etsy shop, and grew from there! But one important piece of Brea’s mission was still missing. Brea never thought she would be a business woman, but she DID know that she had a passion for helping others and her business would reflect that. After hearing a story on NPR about refugee women who have barriers to employment, Brea found her mission. About six months after opening her Etsy shop, she hired her first employee who was experiencing a barrier to employment, and Hope Carried was in truly business, creating an amazing product and helping others.

5:23 - Adding Team Members

The number of team members she can hire varies based on whether or not the shop is in a busy or slow season, but generally she has between 4-6 ladies working for her.

In fact, after Brea listened to our episode about hiring Virtual Assistants, she has since added an Operations Manager to her team!

6:05 - Hiring People Facing Barriers to Employment

Brea found her employees through her local community. She teamed up with a local non-profit that supports all populations who face barriers to employment to get employee referrals. Brea is especially interested in hiring moms, which fits her business model and mission.

The local non-profit hosts open houses where Brea can talk to job applicants and work with their case managers. At the first open house she attended, Brea was blown away! There were so many people who came, literally walking or taking multiple busses to get there. She couldn’t hire nearly as many people as she wanted, but she could hire some and that’s where the change begins.

Brea runs a training session with her new hires, either working through a translator or using Google Translate to teach them how to sew her baby wraps. Thanks to a non-profit generously providing sewing machines to any Hope Carried employee, Brea’s employees are able to work from home. This gives them a tool they can use to make all sorts of things, not just Hope Carried products.

We are just so excited for the business Brea is growing!

Brea’s Resources:

10:06 - Business Logistics

So Brea has multiple seamstresses, working in different places, all making the same products. How does that work?

About 2 years ago Brea’s family was able to move out of their tiny apartment into a house with more room, including an unfinished basement! The move was, in part, thanks to Hope Carried taking off.

Brea’s mom designed a cutting table for her to use, complete with a pulley system and custom tracks for different cuts and dimensions of fabric needed to create Hope Carried wraps and slings.

Here’s a peek at her process:

  • Bulk fabric gets shipped to Brea’s house.
  • Either Brea, or a helper, will cut the fabric.
  • Her seamstresses will come and pick up the precut fabric, plus all the other parts they need: thread, labels, rings, and so on.
  • Seamstresses assemble the products in their workspaces.
  • Seamstresses bring the completed products back to Brea’s house, where Brea checks them and stocks them in her basement.

It’s pretty amazing that her operation is all local!

11:38 - Sourcing Materials

While Brea’s systems are down pat, she does say one tricky part of business is sourcing materials. The certified babywearing non-welded rings are pretty easy to find. But she’s had more trouble consistently sourcing quality fabric. On a few occasions she’s gotten a great order of fabric from a supplier, but has had to send a second shipment back because the quality is just different. And, of course, those are often the most popular colors, cutting off that revenue stream.

She’s not a big enough operation to buy in bulk, wholesale, but that’s the long term goal.

15:15 - Returning Fabric

How do you even deal with returning fabrics work? Often, Brea never gets her money back. And it’s rare to get back her shipping costs. A lot of times she’ll order samples as a safer bet, but it’s not a guarantee. Eating the cost is painful! It’s a bummer when manufacturers don’t hold up their end of the deal. It’s an unknown and a setback, but Brea doesn’t let that stop her.

16:30 - Keeping On Keeping On

Even though Brea always wanted to be a SAHM and not a business woman, the passion of the difference she can make keeps her going. It’s worth it to her.

There comes a point in business when the mission is bigger than you, and that’s what keeps you going through all the tough business moments.

Brea is not only changing the lives of people who wear her products, by giving them a high-quality product to use to cuddle their babies, but also the lives of her employees. It’s just beautiful!

Little Levi and I using one of Brea's beautiful ring slings!

19:08 - Baby Product Safety Checks

Do Brea’s babywearing products have to go through more safety checks than other products? Yes! There’s an alphabet soup of organizations that have to certify her products.

Baby wearing products have to be tested for weight limits, suffocation hazards, flammability, lead, and small parts, as well as the structural integrity. She has to have a recall registration system in place. It’s a lot!

How does a mom even get started?

  • Don’t freak out! Take a deep breath, and get involved with whatever governing body fits your industry.
  • Find Babywearing Compliance Facebook pages and support groups
  • Baby Carrier Industry Alliance has great resources for this niche.
  • Print off whatever you’re reading on the internet; it’s just easier to keep track of that way.
  • Bring someone else in to read over the rules with you.
  • Prioritize your tasks, and go one step at a time.

By breaking down her goals one at a time, before she knew it she realized she was certified.

24:00 - Instagram Marketing Strategy

Brea says her strategy is certainly evolving. She gets a lot of photos for Instagram from her customers. But a lot of her social media photos are from professional photo shoots.

Brea says one of the things that has grown her business the most is having a professional photo shoot.

Seeing beautiful images compels people to buy. It was a total game changer to invest in a high quality photos!

There are a lot of ways you can get creative with your photos if you don’t quite have the budget for it yet.

  • Find a local business owner you could pay with your product. (In Brea’s case, she worked with a mom photographer who accepted part of her fee with money and part in free baby wraps for any future baby showers).
  • See if you can borrow, rather than rent, a photo shoot space. (One of Brea’s friends has a beautiful home that she allowed Hope Carried to take over for a photo shoot.)
  • If you’re part of a Facebook group that deals with small business, you might find a photographer in that setting.

You’re sharing a lifestyle with your photos. That’s the key to social media marketing.

The other key to Instagram is to be engaging. Share your life with your followers! Think about what else your target demographic might want. In Brea’s case, it’s not just babywearing. They are interested in healthy lifestyles. If the mom might be expecting, she could be thinking about a birth plan. Or if a mom is adding more children to her home, she might be wondering about managing time.

Think of your instagram profile like a magazine. It needs to encompass all of your customer’s life.

29:40 - Influencer Marketing

Digital influencer collaborations are a big part of her strategy. She looks for pictures of people who embody joyful motherhood. She’ll reach out and ask if she can send them a product in exchange for beautiful photos. Sometimes she goes further and will ask the influencer to write a few thoughts to share.

Tips:

  • Sometimes she reaches out to people, sometimes people reach out to her.
  • The app Collabor8 has been really useful for matching Brea with digital influencers: http://www.collabor8app.com/
  • Be super clear with expectations. If you want 5 pictures and in certain settings, oh and a blog post, say that clearly!
  • Brea made a contract to be incredibly clear with her expectations. (Even saying something like, “Don’t feature other products, just mine!”) Since instituting the contract, she hasn’t had an issue.

34:50 - Getting Featured in a Mag

Brea’s babywearing products have been featured in Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine. How did that happen!?

Brea just reached out to the magazine. She keeps a stack of media outlets that she’d like to be featured in, and has crafted an email template that she’ll use and customize for each one.

She wrote to Pregnancy & Newborn in May, but didn’t get featured until the holiday gift guide. And that’s the way that press works. It’s all planned months in advance, so be mindful of that if you’re sending out any emails.

Tips:

  • Share who you are and what your product is, and what the benefit is for them. Why would that particular outlet be interested in featuring you?
  • Brea pitches all over the place! You never know who’s going to bite.
  • Attach three or four photos to that first email.
  • She hired a graphic designer that made Hope Carried a media one-pager. It’s got beautiful images of her product, what their mission is, and other interesting tidbits.

37:37 - Etsy vs. Self-Run Shop

Like Brilliant Business Moms, Brea uses both Etsy and a self-run shop with Shopify. We had to ask what she thinks about each!

Brea loves Etsy because:

  • It’s more personal.
  • People engage with her brand more. (Brea finds that Etsy users are more prone to communication before they buy, which can set your brand apart if you treat them well!)
  • Her shop isn’t promoted, but sales stay consistent.

Brea loves a self-run shop because:

  • It’s much more customizeable.
  • She can add more tutorial videos about how to use or products or to educate her market.
  • She can do more hands-on marketing and advertising of her shop.

40:46 - Adorable Mom Moment

You know you love these! You’ll have to tune in to listen for Brea’s.

Site: HopeCarried.com

Instagram: @HopeCarried

Facebook: Hope Carried

Now it's your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!

Direct download: BBM_-_Brea_Abulov.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Do You Ever Feel Like Giving Up? We've got advice for you!

Hundreds of you answered our community survey (thank you!) and over the next several months we’ll be using that information to bring you the content you said you need from us. Seriously, I wish I could call everyone who responded and give you a business coaching session, a pep-talk, or a long distance hug! Since that’s not exactly practical, my team and I will do the next best thing. The next several solo episodes we release will my very raw and real answers to questions that came in through the survey. These podcast episodes are just one of the many ways we’ve got planned to use this survey to bring you actionable information.

One of our favorite questions we asked you was, “If you could ask Beth Anne anything, what would it be?”

And an interesting, often repeated reply was this cut-to-the-chase one, “Do you ever feel like giving up?”

My honest answer?

YES.

Listen Now

 

To be even more honest, I'll tell you that it’s not a feeling that ever goes away. There are certainly moments where I think maybe all the work and stress aren't worth it and it would be much more luxurious if I could just read books at naptime.

Especially for those of us who are fortunate enough to not require a second job for our families to make it, the temptation to close up shop can be incredibly tempting! It makes staying motivated to keep going that much more difficult.

In this episode, I want to offer a few takeaways and truths that I hope will help.

  • Everything in life worth doing is hard. Like marriage and motherhood and almost everything else worth doing, business will be hard! But, in our home, hard work is a virtue. We don’t value staying comfortable, we value pushing boundaries and limits.
  • You, my community, keep me going. If I’m being very honest, one of the greatest motivators I have in my business is YOU, the Brilliant Business Moms community. You’re here week after week and you keep me going. If you’ve been helped by our courses or products, thank you! It’s an honor to serve you and I couldn’t imagine letting you down. There are lots of people starting businesses these days, but I’m only interested in you ladies: the gutsy mamas putting their families first and businesses second.
  • You’ve got to balance pursuing passion and making money. Never, ever start a business where your only goal is the bottom line! If you’re not passionate about improving the lives of your customers, you will fizzle out. I understand this advice is totally counter intuitive. The purpose of a business is to make money, but you’ve got to have a "why" bigger than that. I will freely admit that once I could take home a consistent paycheck, that was major proof for me that my business was working! The desire to quit does go down as your sales go up. But it can’t be your only motivation.
  • When you feel like giving up, take a breather. I mean it! Even if you put your Etsy shop on vacation mode because you’re just not feeling it, do it. You run the show. Give yourself permission to do whatever it is you need to come back refreshed and recharged. If you need to take a week off, do it. And if you’re thinking, “I have tons to do! Are you nuts!? I can’t take a week off!” maybe you really do need a breather, more than ever. If you’re feeling overwhelmed because you’re working so hard and it’s not working out, you’ve got to see where the issues are. Ask yourself these questions, and leave the other stuff behind:
    • What do I  love doing?
    • Why am I doing what I do?
    • Where are people connecting with me?
    • Where am I starting to get a few more visitors or subscribers? 
  • Have supportive friends and family. I’m so fortunate that my husband Chris is my biggest supporter! Even last night I was in tears over something. It wasn’t one particular thing, but I was talking about it - and then there were 10 things that had built up throughout the day. Chris was right there for me saying, “You’re doing a great job. It’s not your fault,” offering me nothing but encouragement and reminding me of the important things. A year ago when I was working so hard to grow the shop and nothing was taking off, Chris was right there saying, “You cannot quit! You’re really good at this. And I know you can do it.” He told me this on plenty of days I wasn’t sure I could! Surround yourself with people like this as much as you can. What if your spouse isn’t supportive? Maybe you’re not making progress and it’s frustrating everyone. In that case, a breather could be that much more important. Have honest conversations when you’re not all emotional, but do have them. (And maybe the Brilliant Business Moms community can be that for you, virtually. I am blessed by how encouraging and supportive you all are to each other.)
  • Find some help. I can’t emphasize enough how much hiring help has helped me. I was overwhelmed. I was working way too many hours. The business had taken over many of areas of my life. As soon as I hired help, I was able to scale back. How do I sleep? How do I have time with my family? People think I do much more than what I actually do! There are a lot of things that appear like I’m doing them, but my team is actually doing them and that’s how I sleep and have time for my family. There is a trade off. I definately take home a lot less of a paycheck, but it’s worth it. I’m in business for the big picture, but I knew I couldn’t be in business for the long haul if I kept going at my unsustainable rate. Also, I value being able to support my team (and their families) with the work I can provide.

The Heart Behind Brilliant Business Moms

Something else you all wanted to know is how I stay so positive, perky, and happy. It made me happy to hear from a lot of different people that you get that perspective. But, once again, I may need to burst your bubble. I’m not that happy and perky all the time! This is real life, I’m a real person and I’m super flawed.

I’m a person of extremes. That super mellow, calm and steady type? That’s my husband! Me? I’m either super happy, or super frustrated. Believe me, there are tons of times my team gets to see the spitfire side of me. Don’t get me wrong, I truly am happy and positive a lot of the time, but not all the time. Because I have supportive people in my life who pick me back up, and I can be happy and positive for you all. Chris, most of all, and my wonderful team members are always there to encourage me when I’m feeling down about the business. I hope you have wonderful people like this in your life.

But the biggest reason I can stay happy and positive is because of my faith. I am a Christian, and I believe that there’s a purpose for everyone who exists on this planet. I believe that I’m called to more than just taking care of my own selfish desires. That is a huge part of how I stay happy and encouraged. I want to be real and authentic and I simply could not create this episode without sharing what’s at the core of my heart.

Another thing that keeps me going are the even bigger goals and visions for how Brilliant Business Moms can serve others. I want to use the income I bring in from Brilliant Business Moms to build orphanages in India and other places! Thinking about the ways we can minister to orphans and children with special needs totally keeps me going.

And while we’re talking about it, let me share a bit more about these future plans. To lay the foundation, income and profits are two different things. Right now, a big portion of my revenue pays my team and another chunk goes to Facebook ads to keep things growing. And then I take a portion for my paycheck. But there is SO MUCH MORE I want to do. I want to make giving back a huge part of my business. And to be honest that’s what can really discourage me the most. I want to see bigger growth, bigger profits. Not to pad my pockets, but to help others in bigger ways.

Right now, my primary job is to be a wife and mom. I can’t run myself ragged and neglect my own family in the process of building this business. But I do have crazy big dreams for the coming years. Stay here with us, and you’ll get to join along.

That’s it for this episode. I hope if you’re having a rough week or month, you’ll be ready to take a breather, or get right back up again! Know that you can use your business to make a difference.

Direct download: BBM_Beth_Anne_Solo_7.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:05am EDT

Laura Clark of Whole Food Nanny is a busy mom of 3 crazy cute kids, and wife to Mr. Clark. Whole Food Nanny is dedicated to helping families make healthy eating part of their lives. She focuses on eating less processed foods - especially sugar - and a lot more whole foods. (I have to admit I need help with this!)

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On the Podcast

1:15 - Eating Healthy as a Mompreneur

7:16 - Getting More Energy

12:20 - Simple Substitutes for Sugar

14:28 - Final Thoughts on Healthy Eating

16:40 - Custom Diet Recommendations for Me

19:50 - Turning A Passion for Healthy Eating Into A Business

27:24 - Course Idea to Creation

31:08 - Making Sales

32:40 - Laura’s Adorable Mom Moment

Eating Healthy as a Mompreneur

Before asking Laura how she started and grew her business, I wanted us all to benefit from her knowledge around healthy eating. So many moms struggle with making healthy eating part of our daily lives, particularly getting our children to enjoy healthy eating! What tips does Laura have for busy moms to get and stay healthy?

#1 Get away from packaged items at grocery store!

One of the biggest ways moms can set themselves up for health is to eat mostly whole foods, instead of processed. How? Ditch packaged items - it’s that simple, and that hard! Over the years, Laura’s family has found ways to seamlessly incorporate this choice into their diet - keep reading to learn how.

And to give a quick definition, whole foods are foods that come from the Earth, are nutrient dense, and make our bodies work as they should. Foods with artificial colors and flavors disrupt our natural processes, and can sap our health and energy and are largely why we have so many health issues occurring today.

#2 Swap the Quick and Easy for the Whole and Healthy

Keep it simple. If you want a snack, grab an apple or banana. Grabbing a piece of fruit is just as simple opening a snack from the pantry. Not only will you feel fuller from the whole food, but you’ll get nutrients to help you and your kids feel good inside.

(Now that Holden is older, I can just give him a whole apple! It even tastes better to him than cutting into slices. It’s such a simple thing: but just eat the whole apple!)

Cook in bulk. Believe it or not, Laura hates to cook! She loves giving her family healthy food, but she’s ALL about not spending an entire day in the kitchen. One thing she does is always cook in bulk. So if she makes a batch of muffins, she will make more to add to lunches or use for snacks after school. (Make Laura’s Banana Blueberry Muffins!

Soups are a quick and easy dinner. It’s simple to put the leftovers in mason jars and freeze them for lunches another day. Laura’s family loves soup and I love that these dinner ideas aren’t gourmet, but they taste good and don’t take all day to make.

#3 Get your kids involved with meal prep.

Learning to cook teaches our kiddos basic life skills, not to mention saves you time! Feel free to give your children age appropriate ways to help: setting the table, helping with dishes, or cutting the carrots.

Really, we often just lack creativity or knowledge to make things simpler in the kitchen. This is where places like Laura’s site come in handy! There are so many great ideas and recipes at WholeFoodNannycom.

Getting More Energy

What mom business owner DOESN’T need more energy!? The number one culprit of our lack of energy is sugar. Really! But what sugar are we talking about, exactly? Added sugar. Not sugar straight from the cane, or the sugar found in fruit and dairy. What we’re talking about is any sugar added, either by you or a factory.

When you start cutting back on sugar, you’ll really notice how much better you feel. You might feel worse at first, because you’re going through sugar withdrawals. (Eeek! How bad is that!?) 90% of all processed foods include added sugar. And added sugar, well, adds up quickly!

Being a busy mom can make us tired already but believe it or not, over consuming sugar is making us even MORE tired. Not to mention we might be parenting unnecessarily badly-behaving kids who have eaten too much sugar.

Simple Substitutes for Sugar

What could we use instead of added sugar in our foods? Laura had several ideas for us.

  1. Honey (or something like it, agave nectar)
  2. Natural sweeteners like bananas.
  3. Cutting the amount of sugar called for in half. (Instead of 1 cup, use ½ a cup!)
  4. Changing your palette by eating less sugar. As you cut sugar out, you’ll begin to taste even small amounts of sweetener really easily.

Final Thoughts on Healthy Eating

It’s easy to automatically think of brownies or chocolate or sugar cereal when we mention cutting out sugar. But the reality is that there is sugar added into 90% of the processed foods in our grocery stores! That’s right, sugar isn’t even primarily found in desserts

Everyday items like flavored yogurts, spaghetti sauces, and crackers all have added sugars. Even inconspicuous items like breakfast drinks and protein shake powders are sugar culprits! It may not seem like much, but when you consume it all day long, it adds up fast. Laura says most diets we could consider to be “healthy” have quadruple the amount of recommended sugar because they’re full of processed foods with added sugar.

Laura provides an unprocessed grocery list you can use even at mainstream grocery stores, and that list is a great place to start--no weird items--at Get Eating Clean.

Custom Diet Recommendations for Me

Okay, so when Laura said yogurt often has added sugar, I had to press! I love yogurt, but I usually choose the flavored kinds. What would be a good alternative for me?

Laura pointed to Stonyfield brand as the most natural brand-- but make sure to get their plain kind as even a vanilla will have added sugar to bring the flavor. And Laura recommends full fat yogurt, as it is less process than low fat.

You can always check the ingredient list and nutrition facts to get the scoop on sugar levels in food.

But let’s be real, I may feel a little sad because plain yogurt wouldn’t taste great at the start, how could I change it up? Laura had great ideas!

  • Add in maple syrup
  • Make a berry puree sauce from frozen berries
  • Use fresh berries to sweeten the yogurt

The big idea here is that YOU are the one in charge of how much sugar and what type of sugar you’re putting into your food.

Turning A Passion for Healthy Eating Into A Business

Laura was getting more and more into working out and started listening to podcasts while she did. (Great idea, Laura!) She really loved Chalene Johnson’s Courageous Confidence Club, and it got her thinking maybe she could start a business too.

Like so many other SAHMs, Laura believes that moms need something for themselves. For example, before starting her business, Laura taught Zumba classes. And Whole Food Nanny was a project she thought she would really enjoy, and could make some money from at the same time.

The Clark family’s journey to whole foods started with Laura’s 7-year-old daughter. For an intense two-year period, Laura studied health and nutrition in an attempt to treat her daughter’s symptoms: asthma, ear infections, and debilitating food allergies.

As she researched, she found her daughter had a diet problem because, as she learned, food will always affect our bodies, either now or later.

Laura’s family decided to make small changes and those changes really started to add up. Laura wanted other moms to see the difference that sustainable changes, not crazy extreme diets, can truly make. We love her heart to help other real moms!

Course Idea to Creation

Much like her approach to whole foods, Laura’s approach to course creation is refreshingly simple.

She started by sharing this transformative information on Periscope (a live video social network), and this try at her beta course was very successful! She had a link in her bio to PayPal (so smart!) and was blown away by the response.

Next, Laura upgraded to a full website, and created a course on reducing sugar intake.

First, she outlined her course modules, then she filled out the content. She first sent it out as an ecourse, and once again the response validated the idea.

This fuller paid course does offer more hold handing to help people understand which foods benefit them and how students can practically implement those diet changes. Once again, Laura outlined her content, wrote it, and recorded her modules.

First she did her recording from her manuscript, then created her slides, and then purchased a place to house the course.

As we all know, there is a ton of trial and error with a business!! She got some helpful feedback from her initial students and has currently pulled off her course for editing, but it’ll be back soon.

Making Sales

Initially Laura took payments via a Paypal link on her Periscope bio. Is that still an effective way to make sales? Laura says, for sure, her best tool for making sales has been live video. It’s great to have a way to connect with people directly and sale your product. (Definitely! Periscope isn’t where I hang out, but I love Facebook Live and live Webinars are an incredible way to build a following!)

Laura’s Adorable Mom Moment

One Sunday Laura styled her hair differently for church, but felt really self-conscious about it all morning! Coming home, she asked her daughter if her hair looked good that day.

Her daughter replied, “No mom, it looks terrible. In fact, you should have asked me before church!”

Kids are SO brutally honest!

Connect with Laura

Site: Whole Food Nan

Direct download: BBM20-20Laura20Clark.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

We appreciated the new perspective that Sarah brought to today’s show! Even if you don’t have your sights set on celebrities, her tips are great for any business owner wanting to grow through influencers.

Sarah Shaw is a 3rd generation entrepreneur, and she has done it all. She’s worked in the film industry, had a successful handbag business, and is particularly skilled at reaching out to celebrities to get her products more recognition and make more sales. She now teaches others how to do just that at sarahshawconsulting.com. In addition to all of this, she’s a single mom to 9-year-old identical twin girls (so fun!)

Listen Now

On the Podcast

1:10 - Launching A Handbag Business
10:15 - How Do You Even Get A Celebrity’s Address!?
11:36 - Filling Huge Department Store Orders
17:20 - Hitting $500,000 in Sales In 2 Years
20:05 - Tenacity in Business
24:00 - Setting Your Business Revenue Goals
28:30 - Getting Your Products in Front of Celebrities
37:00 - Leveraging Self-Confidence
40:28 - Sarah's Adorable Mommy Moment

Launching A Handbag Business

How did Sarah get started in business? What made her handbags a smashing success? She started her handbag company on a whim while working in the film business, doing costumes for movies. She had this random idea, which surprised her because she never thought she’d be an entrepreneur. “I am a third generation entrepreneur, but I thought no way would that life be for me! I want a steady paycheck and retirement!”

But when small business is in your DNA, it’s hard to fight! Sarah worked on this handbag idea during her nights and weekends, shuffling around her schedule to do it. She asked everyone she had ever met in her life for help! It felt a bit dumb, but she didn’t let the feeling deter her from trying.

One of her big early mistakes was that she didn’t have any insights on figuring out pricing structure. When you have a product-based business and are laying out money to create your items, if you’re not correctly pricing your work you’ll go out of business fast.

Service-based businesses have it a bit easier in terms of pricing. Their ROI is generally higher, and oftentimes the startup costs aren’t as steep.

As her business grew, Sarah knew she had to get on top of pricing. Let’s say a bag cost her $25 to make, she might be selling those wholesale at $50, while a store sold it for $100. She didn’t know how markups worked and her numbers didn’t add up. When she would sell bags person-to-person, she would maybe sell a bag for $30 or $40 and feel good about it because she just wanted her money back. Profitability was not on her mind, and it would have driven her out of business if she didn’t realize her pricing structure wasn't sustainable.

The one business aspect she totally DID get right off the bat was marketing. She wasn’t afraid to ask people, even those she knew randomly, if they wanted to buy her bags. Then, friends of friends started asking for a Sarah Shaw Handbag and word spread around LA. Some of Sarah’s friends worked on movie or television sets, and she asked if she could set up a table of her handbags at lunch. She sold a few more bags this way.

Over dinner one night, a costume designer friend of Sarah’s was lamenting the fact that she had to outfit Donald Sutherland in only Donna Karan clothes. (Donna Karan was a big name designer in the late 1990s.) Then Sarah had a lightbulb moment: I can get my products to celebrities and let them market for me!

Before the age of social media, what a brilliant way to get your product in front of more eyes!

“I called everyone I knew who had film connections and started to get bags into the hands of agents and publicists.”

As Sarah built business, she started an email list of people who purchased her bags. When she started her celebrity product project she sent an email to her list of 1,000 and told them what she was doing, letting them know that she was getting bags to celebrities. (This was a great practice run to some promotional emails she would be sending later!)

About 5 to 6 months after sending those initial bags, Sarah had an unexpected payoff! Liv Tyler showed up on the pages of InStyle magazine holding one of her bags she had sent over months and months earlier. Another day Sarah was waiting in an office and flipped open US Weekly to find Kristen Davis carrying one of her bags, too!

“I started sending those pictures to magazines, mentioning the celebrity holding my product, and they started writing about it. Not many people were seeding celebrities with products at that time, but it seemed logical to me. I was sort of a pioneer in that field.”

After that, her business took off!

She got her bags to over 70 A-List celebrities. She made bags specifically for Julia Roberts in Oceans 11 and America’s Sweethearts. Those bags were purchased by Bergdorf Goodman and Sundance Catalogue, respectively.

One of her most business-changing connections, Sarah was asked to make a bag for the Legally Blonde movie. Though the bag was never seen in the film, it did make the cut of an advertising poster. Thanks to the publicity, her company went from half a million in sales to a million that year. Nordstrom bought tons of bags, over $150,000 worth. And Sony Pictures was so excited about it that they sent over mini movie posters to include in each bag.

Sarah appeared on E! Entertainment and Access Hollywood. She found that success really builds on itself. “And I have to thank my lucky stars that my friend complained to me over dinner one night!”

Sarah is grateful for this unique way to have validated her product. “You need to make sure you have something to keep you going, and to know that you have something more than just you and your mom think is cute!” And Sarah’s celebrity endorsements certainly prove that.

How Do You Even Get A Celebrity’s Address!?

We had to ask, how do you even go about getting the address of a celebrity!? Sarah’s business started before Internet use really took off. Back then, she just called up agencies to ask who represented So-and-So. Sometimes she would write a letter or send the product with a note, “Could you please get this to Sarah Jessica Parker?” But there was no way to verify if her bag got into the hands of the celeb.

Now, Sarah recommends using ContactAnyCelebrity.com. This site has contact information for pretty much any famous person on the planet. Nifty!

Filling Huge Department Store Orders

A lot of moms listening are thinking that it would be a dream come true for a big store to place orders for their products! Does Sarah have tips to help make sure this mega-business dream would work out? Is it even profitable?

Sarah strongly cautions mompreneurs to take any relationship with department stores very slowly. “They’re not always your best friend. They could love you today and hate you tomorrow.” And one return of a mass order from a department store could easily bankrupt your business.

Sarah recommends to get a solid base of small stores (think boutiques and shops) who actually know and support you first. Then you could turn to department or mass market stores (think Costco and Target). Really think about working with those bigger retailers as icing on the cake.

Sarah explained that these days, most stores work essentially on consignment - though it’s more complicated than that. Usually in the small print they’ll have language referring to either a 30, 60, or 90 day period after which all of your products would get returned if they don’t sell through!

For moms who do want to pursue bigger stores, Sarah recommends you test the waters first. Either suggest or agree to a small test run of products before going big time. She says most stores will want to start small anyway, but really encourage it - and be thrilled with the chance! “If it doesn’t go well, it won’t be a financial disaster.” (Hard words to hear, but true!) Picture a store chain with 80 to 90 stores. You might suggest to test your product in their top 10 stores first.

Sarah also warns that working with the buyer can be SUPER important. You want to ensure they’re purchasing your best bestseller, not just their favorite product. (And you’ll have to listen to the podcast for a fun entrepreneur family story Sarah has!) Bottom line: you know your products best, and send what you know will work. You’re the expert on your product! Her wisdom was SO good, and applies to lots of areas of business.

Hitting $500,000 in Sales In 2 Years

One of Sarah’s businesses made an impressive $500,000 in sales during her first 2 years, with just one patented product!

“I’m kinda an animal when it comes to business!” Sarah says. She had lots of investors in her handbag company, but had to close the business in 2002 when she lost most of her investors after 9/11. She hobbled along in business for a while, but realized she couldn’t function without that investor money.

She tried a few ideas, but realized how much she didn’t know about running business. With Sarah Shaw Handbags, a lot of her day-to-day operations were hired out. So she started teaching herself Photoshop, email marketing, and website building.

In 2003 she created the genius idea of a handbag organizer. She patented the product and thought she’d have an easy time getting it into the hands of all the stores she once sold handbags to. Her attitude was very carefree, “I have all these stores who sold my handbags and they love me! I’ll sell a ton!”

But none of those handbag reps wanted her new product.

‘It lit a fire under my rear end!” Sarah said. And she thought, “I’m going to show you all you’re missing something huge!”

And she set out on a mission.

Tenacity in Business

Sarah initially kept her focus on high-end stores found in the pages of fashion magazines. (Remember, this was in 2003-2004. There was very minimal search engine optimization and no social media!) Then she had a shift in her strategy. “I started looking for distributors overseas. I wondered what it would be like to work with mass distributors like QVC and Walmart.” She took a closer look and realized that the small stores were really making up the bulk of her revenue. She made enough to get personal revenue for herself, about 85 stores in her 1st year, and at end of 2nd year she sold in 400 stores

The business snowballed from there.

Much like her handbags, she got the product to media outlets and to celebs. She even made custom handbag hangers for Jennifer Aniston! She also scored a magazine feature in Redbook and sold about 900 hangers after that. “Living in Los Angeles you can get lost in celebrity magazines - the Marie Clarie’s and Harper’s Bazaar - but don’t think about the other magazines that actually have some of the largest reaches in the country.”

Needless to say, Sarah’s tenacity paid off. She called a minimum of 10 stores a day trying to get her handbags in. “I’d psyche myself up and gather all my selling materials around me, then I’d pick up the phone. I don’t take no for an answer...as long as they leave the door open, I’m going to keep putting my foot through it.”

Setting Your Business Revenue Goals

No matter your business, Sarah says you’ve got to spend the time on the avenue driving your business. “I don’t like to think about how much the company as a whole will make. What I like to do is figure how much money I personally want to make and go from there.” A $1M goal, for example, is huge! Take the money goal and divide it by how many products you have to sell to hit that goal. Maybe I need to sell 1,000 products to make $1 million. And you need 100 stores to order 10 units. If you don’t think you can get 100 stores in a year, and they each ordered 4 times a year, you’d still make the money. Break down your goal into more manageable bites and work on hitting those goals one at a time. (Maybe it’ll be something like every 10th store you call gives you a yes, then you know that you need to call 10 stores each day for 10 days to get the number that you need!)

In Sarah’s case, she wasn't getting anywhere with the stores she usually sold to. So what did she do? She found sales reps who could help her, and also help her product get licensed. “Suddenly I could turn my one product in twelve colors into something to support my family.”

Getting Your Products in Front of Celebrities

Sarah has carved out a real space in the marketplace for herself, getting businesses owners connected with celebrities to promote their products. I had to ask if she could give us specific advice on how other women in business can reach out to celebs and actually get noticed but getting products into the right hands.

Sarah had a few really solid tips:

  1. Know your customer base and which celebs would resonate with them. If you go after Celebrity A but they don't necessarily care about her, no matter how much you push it the news will fall flat because they like Celebrity B better. You really want a return for all this effort!
  2. Be clear about why you’re getting your particular product or service to THAT particular celeb.
  3. If the celebrity is never seen out and about, it may not be worth your time to source them with products. Make sure you’re sending to celebrities who keep a public profile. (For example, if you make baby hair clips you could send it to someone who just had a baby. And if they’re the type to take their baby on walks in the stroller, it would be a good bet to send your product to that celebrity.)
  4. When you find that perfect celebrity, reach out to them and write a honest note about why you want to send them your product. Most of the time celebrities are happy to receive the offer; it’s rare that you’ll get a no.
  5. Follow up with the agent or publicists to ensure that the celebrity has received your product.
  6. Once you have confirmed that the celebrity has your gift in hand, Sarah thinks it’s great to put up a landing page on your site featuring everyone who has your product. If you do this, it is very important to get the disclaimers right. Something like, “We know these celebrities have received their product as a gift, and were not paid to receive the product as a gift. These individuals have not reviewed this product.”
  7. Sarah is a huge fan of the media blitz! She thinks it’s a great idea to write to popular magazines and tell them which celebrities have your product. (Fun fact: you do not need to purchase permission to reprint a photo featured in a magazine. You can simply scan the image into your computer and put it on your press page.)
  8. Or, you could write to various bloggers with the same news. The blogger may not necessarily be interested in finding and featuring celebs, but the news that your product is in the hands of an A-lister may give you credibility!
  9. If ever you do spot your item in the same picture as a celebrity, Sarah says it’s important to act fast on the news! You want to really publicize the moment.
  10. But if you’re worried about not being able to meet demand, you can simply write a note in your shop that, “Because this item was featured in People Magazine, it’s on backorder until blah blah date.” Don’t worry about the windfall, just take it as it comes!

I thought her comments about how to handle an unexpected windfall was SUCH a good point! I did something similar with a product in which I did a Kickstarter. I did preorders, and was able to then go place the big order with my manufacturer knowing I already had sales. It makes sense that if you get a ton of unexpected traffic because of a celebrity being seen with your product, use the momentum to take the pre orders or backorders, whatever you call it! That way, you have cash to make the product. Or if you’re a handmade business, now you have the cash to find your assistant to help you produce more product.

Leveraging Self-Confidence

Calling stores in the blind can be really scary! Or maybe you’ve loved a celeb since you were five and are trying to send them free product. It can be intimidating! What you need is to boost your confidence. Get in the mental space of “We all eat, poop, and sleep!”

Celebrities aren’t any different from other people! Store buyers aren’t better than you and don’t know more than you. They’re all normal people with a job that makes them famous. We all know their face, but not really them.

Sarah told us a story of one time when taking her kids to the pumpkin patch in LA, Amy Adams was also there with her son. But just outside of the patch, there were tons of photographers standing on hay bales set up like a grand stand taking photos of them. “Celebrities can’t even go to the pumpkin patch without being hounded. It makes it more humbling to think of them as real person. They can hardly have a personal life that isn’t scrutinized.”

And of course, it is exactly being in the public eye that makes celebrity attention so valuable - but it’s good to keep this all in perspective.

Sarah's Adorable Mommy Moment

Sarah has identical twin girls. When they were around 3, they were at grandma’s house to celebrate her birthday.

Sarah’s sister said to one of her daughters, “Go and see your mother.”

And Sarah’s daughter said emphatically, “That is NOT my mother!”

When asked what she meant, her daughter replied, “That is my mama, NOT my mother!”

(Sarah said she’d spare us the diaperless twin story that ended up with poo all over their cribs! But safe to say, they never slept in just a diaper again!)

Connect with Sarah

SarahShawConsulting.com
@SarahShawConsulting

Direct download: BBM_Sarah_Shaw.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Direct download: BBM20Kirsten20Oliphant.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

If you find yourself answering the same questions over and over (and getting super excited about answering those questions!) maybe you need to think about adding a teaching element to your business. That's what today's guest did, and we learned a ton from her!

This week on the podcast we're taking with certified doula, Alice Turner, who turned her love of mentoring other doulas into an online course, adding a new element to her service based and online businesses.

On the Podcast

00:30 - Meet Alice + Our Surprise Co-Host
1:46 - Stocking an Ecommerce Store
5:25 - Figuring Out Order Fulfilment
7:26 - Rebranding & When Your Business Has Two Customer Groups
13:45 - From Service-Based Business to Teaching Others
17:42 - How Do You Run Two Businesses At Once!?
20:10 - Growing An Audience for Your Online Course
22:08 - Leveraging Video Marketing
26:20 - Alice’s Embarrassing Mom Moment
28:26 - Doula Labor Tips for Beth Anne

Listen Now

Meet Alice + Our Surprise Co-Host

Beth Anne: I’m so excited to welcome Alice Turner of Your Doula Bag.com. She’s a birth doula, a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and an online business owner which is SO cool. She has over 10 years of experience working as a doula and has translated that into having a successful e-commerce store as well as selling online courses. She’s a mom of 4 kids and has a supportive husband, too. Welcome to the show, Alice!

Alice: Hi!

Beth Anne: And I forgot to let everyone know, this is an extra special interview because Victoria from our team is also here! Welcome!

Victoria: Yeah, thank you! I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag too early. A lot of you may know I’m also a doula as well, and I’m a customer of Alice’s business. It’s a fun connection. Hopefully, it’ll be helpful for the interview.

(Also, if you’re a keen listener, you might notice that part of our conversation got cut out at this point. Due to some tech issues, we lost part of Alice’s interview. Technology works until it doesn’t, am I right?)

Beth Anne: I love that! Victoria, do you want to jump in with a question?

Stocking an Ecommerce Store

Victoria: Alice, I would like to ask you about your e-commerce store. I want to talk about that before your online courses. One thing I’d love to know is how do you choose what you’d like to stock in your store. How do you choose which products to keep? I imagine it’s a bit different than keeping a brick and mortar storefront.

Alice: It’s definitely different! The store has been around since 2009. I really started out with just practical tools, thinking doulas mostly wanted tools for their bag. But it seems that doulas are also interested in more fun products! So I started to add fun things like tee shirts, buttons, and stickers.

It’s been a balance to know what to stock but I get some ideas when I go to a conference. I might attend a doula or childbirth education conferences, have different products on the table, and see what draws people’s attention and what they get excited about. From there I can change what I’m offering online to match the needs of my customers.

Sometimes I get emails asking why I don’t carry a certain product. Or they’ll say something like, “I can buy everything I need except one thing, can you start carrying that?” That’s easy!

It’s always fun to see what’s lacking and where I can make up.

Victoria: I do have a followup question, but first I want to say going to conferences is a good strategy. Attending conferences is a great idea for people who might be struggling to work online, wishing they had an in-person connection. Set up a booth and see what people gravitate toward on your table!

My follow-up question is this: do you have tools to manage your inventory? Do you use online tools? A spreadsheet?

Alice: My store is on the Shopify platform. It’s pretty easy to manage inventory that way. I use their built-in tools to keep an eye on it. It’s still a bit challenging, trying to balance between selling products and teaching. I thought these two arms of my business would be more alike, but they are actually very different. I thought there’d be a lot of back and forth between my customers, and that the same person who bought a T-shirt would want also want to buy a course, but it’s not the case. That has been a surprise to me!

Figuring Out Order Fulfilment

Beth Anne: My online store is also on Shopify. I love it! It’s so easy to set up.

And I do want to touch on the point about your customers being different in a moment, but I’m curious about one thing first. Do you stock everything out of your home and fulfill orders yourself? Or is there another system you’re using?

Alice: That’s a great question, and it’s changed along the way. Starting off I was all on my own with a closet full of inventory. But as the business grew with more orders, I contracted out shipping to someone in my neighborhood actually. They had all my inventory and did the shipping for me, I just passed the orders through. That arrangement worked out well until she was unable to continue doing it late last year. It’s back to me and it’s pretty challenging.

I haven’t formally announced this yet, but I will be looking for a buyer for the products part of my business sometime this year. It’s a new development, but I’ve found that there isn’t as much overlap as I thought between my customers. I think it might be time to formally separate the two businesses.

Beth Anne: Very interesting! I think it makes sense. At some point, you can spread yourself too thin, and you want to dig deep into one branch of your business instead.

Alice: Yeah, exactly. It is a time for growth, but also sad to a point. I do love the product aspect of my business but if I really want to focus on helping doulas run their businesses, I should spend more of my time there, which is my company mission. It’s all in the works.

Victoria: So our BBM ladies can follow you and keep out an eye for your all-call for a buyer! Awesome.

Rebranding & When Your Business Has Two Customer Groups

And as you were just saying, the customers of your courses and products are different; can you talk a little more about that? How did you notice? Do you have ways of talking specifically to one group and then the other? How do you manage to talk to two separate people in your business?

Alice: Yes, that’s been challenging and fun to figure out. I would say I try to do blog posts and videos about the business side. And we’ll do sales and share about that on Instagram on more of a product side since that really lends itself to pictures. But when I write blog posts or make videos, it’s not really about a product or how to use a product; it’s more about the business, like how to set up an electronic contract, for example.

Beth Anne: We’ve certainly found the same thing to be true here. Victoria runs our planner Instagram account, but when it comes to selling business courses that’s where I use webinars and videos to teach and sell.

Alice: That’s awesome!

Beth Anne: So I know you’re rebranding, going from Your Doula Bag to 100% Doula. The whole idea of rebranding seems overwhelming and scary to me. All sorts of stressful things! I’d love to hear more from you about what that looks like. What are the steps you’ve gone through?

Alice: It is very daunting. And it has taken a while for me to come to the decision to break out of the product-side of my business. I found that when I started offering different types of things like products, classes, and webinars, it was confusing to my customer.

For example, they’d say, “Don’t you sell those backpacks I love?” and I’d respond, “I do! And I also sell courses to help you grow your business.” It just wasn’t consistent.

Especially keeping the name Your Doula Bag felt more like a product-based business to me. 100% Doula was a name that had more flexibility and is more of an umbrella over all my products and services. But getting the word out has been a slow trickle. Instagram made it easy to change my name, and Twitter was super easy to rebrand. No one actually said anything after I changed those two platforms! Facebook is much harder to change, and more of an involved process. I’m not completely there with educating all my customers. A lot of people still know me as Your Doula Bag.

I have even had some customers seem sad that I was changing my business name! That’s been interesting to handle, too.

From Service-Based Business to Teaching Others

Beth Anne: I love, Alice, how you took your service-based business, which you still do, and turned it into an online business course. You have an awesome online business course for doulas, and you still practice as a doula. A lot of women out there have a fabulous skill they could teach on, but would be nervous to turn that skill set into a course. What advice would you give that woman? How did you move to that online business space?

Alice: I love being a doula. I love talking about the work, reading about it, and thinking about it. It just really gets me excited. I keep talking about attending conferences, and even though there aren’t that many, the ones I’ve attended have had a big impact on my business decisions.

When I would go to a conference and talk informally with people, I found that I was answering a lot of questions. Maybe a doula would say, “I’m trying to balance childcare and being a doula.” I could say, “That was hard for me too, but I figured it out this way.” Or I might be answering a question about how I use Twitter to grow my business.

I realized I didn’t know anyone who is out there talking about running a business as a doula, or selling products to doulas. Maybe that was something I can do. There was a gap in the offerings, and maybe I could fill it. Since then, definitely, other companies are filling that gap, which is exciting. But after I found that I was answering a lot of questions, I thought I could be the one to give information. I’m thinking about someone who might be on the fence about their business, but finds themselves often to be the person in a group answering everyone’s questions; it only makes sense that they would be a great person to teach and help others.

I’m still doing the work of a doula because it really is what I love. Some of my customers see a picture on Instagram of where I’m at a hospital at a birth and will write back surprised that I’m still working as a doula. Of course, I’m still a doula! I don’t want to give that up because I have other stuff going on. It’s a job I can learn from. And if I’m teaching about it, I think it’s important to stay relevant.

Victoria: I have two thoughts. 1) I think it’s great you noticed you were getting the same questions a lot and thought you could be the one to answer it. That’s the spark of an entrepreneur! You’ve got a problem? I’ve got the solution. Hopefully, that’s inspiring to others. You also don’t seem to have a scarcity mindset, which is really refreshing.

How Do You Run Two Businesses At Once!?

And 2) Could you talk a bit more about practicing as a doula while running a separate business? I know a lot of our ladies have many interests and sometimes you can feel crazy pursuing two things at one. How do you keep those two businesses separate? Or does it feel like one in the same?

Alice: Well in my case, the businesses are certainly connected. In my doula service business, I have the luxury of having a lot of repeat clients. Many of my clients go on to have other babies, so I’m able to slack off a bit in the marketing side of my personal doula business and spend the marketing energy on my other online programs. I feel lucky I’m able to get enough clients just by referrals from prior clients and repeat clients.

Victoria: One business can coast, and one is more in hustle mode.

Alice: Exactly. I am trying to teach more childbirth classes, and I’m working with a new group we formed of Lamaze educators here in Atlanta. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time as I want to devote to that, but I try to make peace with that in my head that I at least keep myself in the game, but not having to spend tons of energy on growing that particular business.

Growing An Audience for Your Online Course

Beth Anne: Okay, so this is what I see a lot of women maybe struggling with. You had essentially your service-based business on autopilot thanks to an awesome referral network, but then you go online. Maybe a mom is wondering how she’ll get those first customers for her online course?

I know you have some conference connections. Was it word of mouth to get those first students in the door? Or were there other marketing strategies that helped you grow?

Alice: I think what helped with getting the course started and growing it is that I was already doing a fair amount of regular blogging and videos. I would do videos on topics related to growing a doula business, and as my email list was growing I could send them new info about what I was doing. Because the course is video based, that helped since people already knew my style from my YouTube video and could assume a course would be similar.

Before I launched the course, I was doing a few Google Live Hangouts to talk business. That helped get the word out about what I did and what I was talking about.

And, of course, social media. I tried to post about the same topics I would be teaching in the courses.

(You can watch Alice’s videos on her YouTube channel.)

Victoria: I think it’s so great to see solid marketing strategies as a base. If you have a good base, you can turn it to whatever direction your business needs to go.

Leveraging Video Marketing

We were just talking about social media marketing and using videos and you definitely do a lot of that. And I'm a fan! Why did you start using video? What makes a good video? How do you know what makes a good video?

Alice: I love using video! When I was hearing your question I was thinking how I got started. I can’t remember what exactly forced me to turn on the camera back then, but I really love learning from video. And I just know that YouTube is so easy. When I started, Facebook Live wasn’t available, but just the fact that you can turn on a camera and reach people easily is so cool.

And blogging isn’t my favorite. I hire out people to help me write. I don’t really love just sitting down and writing; I would much rather have a conversation about the topic. If I could sit down to coffee with someone and tell them how to get clients, I would love that! But if I had to write a paper on it, I’d hate it! 

So I did YouTube videos pretty regularly. And this year I’ve done more Facebook Live. They’re both good, but a bit different. The live component is really fun. I don’t mind winging it when I'm talking about a subject I love.

Victoria: With using YouTube, were you always cognisant about SEO and tagging and keywords? Or did you not worry about it?

Alice: No, I did try to get the description right, with a link back to my website. I do put thought into that. But usually, my ideas for YouTube come thinking about what I should blog about.

Alice’s Embarrassing Mom Moment

Beth Anne: Alice thank you so much for chatting with us today! It’s been really fun seeing how you’ve mastered so many different areas of business. You’re really rocking and rolling, and I know it’ll inspire other moms to get clients or students.

As we wrap up, we always ask our guests to share a funny or adorable mom moment.

Alice: I do have a funny moment, but I don’t look like the best mom in it. I was having a particularly busy day. I was probably packing up boxes, sitting in the shipping area of my house and trying to get stuff done after dinner. I was tired and busy, you get it. So my oldest daughter, who’s in high school, started telling me about something at school and I was getting frustrated with her because she was slowing me down. I didn’t say it, but inside I was thinking, “Can you just go do your homework?” I asked her why she needed me. And she said, “I’m writing a speech about why you should have a doula and I wanted to interview you.” So I don’t know if that’s a funny moment, but I felt bad and laughed at the same time. And I told her I was so sorry to be getting frustrated with her when there she was wanting to write a speech about me.

Beth Anne: I think that’s the epitome of being a business mom. You’re always feeling busy and overwhelmed, and it can be hard to always stop and be attentive to what our kids need. But our kids are always watching and viewing us as these role models even when we don’t feel like we’re being a role model.

Alice: The good news is she made a very good grade on her speech and was very knowledgeable!

Doula Labor Tips for Beth Anne

Victoria: I’m throwing in a fun question. We know Beth Anne is expecting at the time of recording, so I’d love to hear a fun pregnancy or labor tip for her.

Alice: What baby is this?

Beth Anne: This will be my first birth. We have one son, Holden, and we adopted him. This is my first pregnancy and will be my first birth.

Alice: Oh, exciting! Victoria, I can only give one!? Okay. If I could tell all pregnant women one thing, it would be to move around in labor - it’s so much better. A lot of people think (and pictures often show) women in labor should be in hospital beds. And certainly there’s a time for that, and if you’re doing an epidural, of course, you need to be in bed. But before your epidural, or if you’re not having one, move around! A lot of women don’t know they can. And a lot of nurses don’t know to tell their patients that they can!

Beth Anne: And here’s my “plan” for now: To stay home as long as I can. Move around a ton at home. Try everything possible. Then when I can’t stand it anymore we’ll go to the hospital and I want an epidural right away.

Alice: Yeah! That’s a really good plan. Laboring at home is wonderful.

Victoria: You can even move with an epidural using a peanut ball, rotating hips. And sometimes you can move a lot with an epidural depending on how strong it is. Even when you get there, keep gravity working in your favor.

Beth Anne: Yes! That’s true. I’m already so impatient. I have 4-6 weeks before he’ll be here, but I’m so ready now.

Alice: It is so hard! Those last few days are hard and can be long. I love that you said 4-6 weeks. You’ve got the range.

Beth Anne: I’m trying to be realistic.

Alice: Best of luck! That’s very exciting.

Beth Anne: Thank you! Thanks for talking with us. I love your business model and all the ways you’re using your skills and talents and passions.

Connect with Alice

Site: 100percentdoula.com

Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!

Direct download: BBM_AliceTurner.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:39am EDT

This is going to be a solo episode with me, your host Beth Anne Schwamberger. I’m going to be talking all about finding and leading a great team in your business.

This is a question I get all the time: How did you find your team? The ladies who work for you are so awesome, how do I find these people for my business!? And what do you do once you find them? How do I get these awesome VAs to stick around?

Those are exactly the topics I’m going to dig into during in this episode.

On the Podcast

4:43 - Finding A Great Team
8:15 - What I Look For
19:40 - How To Lead Your Team
28:07 - Letting Go (of Micromanaging)
30:00 - Be Open To New Ideas
33:30 - Facilitating Creativity
35:02 - Working With New Employees
41:34 - Bonus Tip: Help Your Team Prioritize
45:00 - Wrap Up

Listen Now

 

I want to start with a caveat: I don’t want this at all to sound like I’m tooting my own horn. I’m not this totally amazing, flawless boss. I have lots of room for improvement in terms of being a leader, and the boss of a few employees. I’m constantly messing up - and also learning! - and having to say sorry. I constantly need to get feedback, and ask how I can make my business an even better place to work. I’m just one, humble mamapreneur sharing what I have learned so far. I’m sure that a year from now, or 5 years from now I’ll have loads more to share.

Many of you are in the beginning stages of hiring help for your business, and some of you are seriously just thinking about it. But I know you’ll absolutely relate to my 1-year experience having a team and leading a team. Keep in mind I’m just a few steps ahead!

I also want to point out this is the very first episode I’m recording since Baby Levi has been born! I’ve been taking a nice, long break from work - honestly barely checking in, which has been fabulous. I plan to keep things pretty minimum for a few more months. Bear with me during this episode, as I’m a little out of practice and not getting as much sleep as I used to! Hopefully it’ll be fun to hear from me, knowing I’m thinking about you all and missing you all. I’m excited for jumping back in during a few months.

Finding A Great Team

The first step of this formula is finding your awesome team members. I’ll just share quickly my experiences finding a great team.

And to quickly clarify, when I say ‘team’ I mean:

  • Ellen (Tech guru, problem-solver extraordinaire, and the glue that holds our team together)
  • Carlee (Answerer of emails, organizer of stuff, keeper of spreadsheets, and maker of downloads)
  • Victoria (Community builder, social media manager, and coordinator of podcasts)

These are the three ladies who work in the business every single week. Beyond these 3, there are several independent contractors who work for me. Contractors like Sarah Heddins who edits our podcast, Hadassah Stoll who does most of my graphic design work, and Lydia Kitts who does all my InDesign stuff and planner formatting. These are people highly skilled in a particular area who I hire to do specific tasks and jobs. Our independent contractors do those same jobs for a lot of other people as well.

For Ellen, Carlee, and Victoria, I’m their main squeeze. Some of them work with other clients here and there, but BBM is the main thing that they do week in and week out. They feel like Brilliant Business Moms is where they work. Their roles change and morph, they are constantly learning new skills and have new tasks and get to work independently.

There’s a difference between someone who does specific tasks working for many clients, and someone who does many tasks for a specific client.

All this to say, our independent contractors are just as amazing and awesome, too!

Finding my team really happened gradually. In all cases, I hired each of these ladies through word-of-mouth referrals and personal reference. The Brilliant Business Moms private Facebook group was (and continues to be) a place where I find help for my business. My sister and I started that group a few years ago when we were teeny tiny, and over the years I’ve grown to know a lot of the women in the community. Over time, some ladies in the group would post that they’re looking for some VA (Virtual Assistant) work, and post the skill sets they had.

What I Look For

So what are some qualities I look for when I hire someone on my ream? It’s someone working every single week, and they’re invested. I want my team to feel like they’re part of something, not just punching a time clock.

1) Hire for Character

The difference between hiring someone like a podcast editor means that I’m hiring for a particular skill: sound recording. That’s not necessarily something everyone can do, so I really want to make sure I get the person with those skills.

But for example, someone who’s going to be in my inbox every day doing customer service, in that case it’s not necessarily the skill I’m after, it’s what that person is like. It’s much more about their personality, than an easily teachable skill.

I want to work with someone who I can build a strong relationship with, and feel like I can really trust them.

At this point, I can usually throw out a new idea to my team and trust that either Carlee, Ellen, or Victoria will take it and run with it!

You can teach people skills over time! All the ladies on my team, at one point or another, they’ve taken courses to teach them new skills. Those are the things I’m happy to spend money to allow them to take a course and expand their knowledge, because I know they’re smart and motivated they’ll help BBM do great things.

2) Hire People Who Believe In Your Mission

The mission of Brilliant Business Moms is to help women make money doing what they love. It helps that all the ladies on our team are brilliant business moms themselves! They get what BBM is about. They get all of you.  

There are tough days, for sure, but I know these women are in it for the long haul. They’re not going to take a tough day out on any one of you or anything! Because they’re so passionate about the mission, and they know we’re all in it together.

3) Hire People Different From You (Like Really Different!)

If you can, hire people with different personalities and different skill sets, than you. I know a lot of you have interacted with Ellen, Carlee, and Victoria quite a bit. They all have different personalities, and skill sets! That’s incredibly helpful.

When you think about hiring help, you want to hire people to do the stuff you’re not good at. You want that person to be quicker than you at certain tasks. You do not want a Mini You.

Here’s the thing about a Mini You. A Mini You is going to annoy you like crazy. A Mini You probably wants to also have their own business and call all the shots, and not necessarily work on a team!

I think about my personality and I really don’t like working for other people. I really, really feel strongly and passionately about being my own boss. So if I hired a bunch of Mini Me’s, it wouldn’t bode well for building a team! They wouldn’t want to work for me long term, and wouldn’t enjoy it.

Find people who are really different from you, but you know they’re solid. Know this is someone I can trust, has similar values as me, is a fabulous work ethic, is a great problem solver, and someone who’s really smart. That’s what I look for.

4) Remember: You Get What You Pay For

I do not recommend that you go to Upwork.com and find the cheapest person you can. It won’t work well long term! Consider the long-term vision you have for your business, and maximize your business growth for the long run. That’s way more important than the bottom line.

If you want someone to do cheap, shoddy, inconsistent work. Go ahead and find that person who will do the work for $3 an hour.

But if you want your business to be successful for the long term, including building a solid team, you really need to fork over a little bit more per hour.

I’ve heard from quite a lot of other bloggers and online business owners who have gone through a bunch of VAs in the past that they tend to struggle with finding quality people who stick around and who nail the projects and tasks. The common thread I tend to see is they’re not paying their employees enough. Of course if you’re not paying your employees what they’re worth, they’re going to look for work elsewhere! If you don’t create an environment in which they’re fulfilled, they’re going to look for work somewhere else.

You might not be shelling out big bucks right away, but you need to have that long-term view.

I tell my team all the time I wish I could pay them more! I do give raises and bonuses when I can. I want them to know how much I value them and how amazing they are. I want them to know that long term I don’t plan to keep them at whatever hourly rate they came to BBM with. I want to slowly raise those rates over time. When we do a big launch and it goes well, I want to give them all bonuses to thank them for hustling hard. (The same is true at Christmas! They got bonuses and gift cards. Just find those ways to value your employees wherever you can.)

How To Lead Your Team

Now we’ll assume you’ve found your team and talk more about leading your team.

The first tip I have is: take the time to give praise. And I don’t mean praise in between feedback and critiques. You want your praise to stand on its own. Go out of your way to send an email to say they’re doing an amazing job. Or, that they went out of their way to solve a problem creatively. Let that praise stand on its own.

And make sure your praise is genuine! I never want to give a disingenuous compliment. I want to be 100% honest and transparent with my team members. With that, they know if something needs improvement. They know if something got missed, and I want to make sure it doesn’t get missed the next time. I’m 100% honest and upfront with feedback and when things need tweaking. I don’t apologize at all for being picky! I have a strong vision for BBM and how I want it to look, how I want it written, and how I want it communicated. That’s my job! I’m the CEO. I have to have a clear vision. But with that, I know my employees can’t read my mind. That’s a big mistake I see new bosses make. They have a strong, clear vision, and assume everyone on their team has the same strong vision.

That’s not true! You’re the leader. It’s your job to be an effective communicator and convey that vision to your team. Never expect people to read your mind. Always expect the new project or task will take a bit of back and forth.

I’m never, ever frustrated that we may have to go through 5 rounds of revisions before it’s what I wanted. For me it’s part of the job. It’s how things go. I want you to have those expectations for whoever you hire. It’s gonna take multiple rounds of revisions. Especially when your employees are new. Never, ever be irritated if it takes a while to get your vision.

Communicating With A Remote Team Hack

One trick that I’ve found helpful to communicate as clearly as I can is to do screencast videos for my team. One of the benefits of having a team that works remotely is we each get to work on our own time and schedule. But it’s also harder! I can’t walk down the hallway to Victoria to give her my real-time feedback. Scheduling a Google Hangout (especially for projects with quick turnarounds) isn’t always going to work when we’re figuring out 4 time zones.

What works well for us is to do screencast recordings.

So, if Ellen and Carlee are doing a landing page, I’ll make a video and go point-by-point through all the changes I’d like to make: this image here is too small, change this color, edit this content. I nitpick the heck out of those landing pages! I’d be super confusing to type all of that feedback in an email, right?

The screencasts can also be useful to teach your employees something new. For example, when Victoria took over the podcast I used screencast video to show her all the steps she needed to do to get an episode up: how to upload to libsyn, and use this other piece of software to tag the file. Get yourself some sort of screencast software (like LiteCamHD, Camtasia, or Screencast-O-Matic.)

When I first started the videos I wondered if I was being too extreme. Is it too annoying to hear me drone on and on? My team loves getting these videos, actually!

And funny enough, apparently their spouses and kids all know my voice and listen to the the videos, too! In creating those videos, they get to see the raw and uncut version of Beth Anne. Sometimes in my screencast videos the dog starts barking, or Holden needs me, or I’m frustrated about something  they see the real Beth Anne even though we don’t get to work side by side.

Letting Go (of Micromanaging)

One thing that’s important to say now is let your employees do their own thing in terms of their workflows. Even though I’m super nitpicky about how I want an email worded or the landing page to look, I’m only nit picky on the final product. I do not micromanage behind the scenes.

I do NOT say to Victoria, “Hey, when you’re doing the podcast workflow, do it in XYZ order. This is exactly how you have to do it. You have to use a spreadsheet I created.”

Rather, I say, “Here’s what needs to be done. Here are the tools you’ll need. Come up with your own system.”

We all have different personalities! Our brains work totally differently. I know if I created a whole system and passed it to Victoria, it may not work well for her at all. I want to give my employees the freedom to get things done the way in the way they want it to be done.

What I should really care about is the end result.

Be Open To New Ideas

I also want to encourage you to be open to new ideas in your business. I work with women who are brilliant, creative, and motivated. And I want you to hire amazing people, too! If you can assemble a fabulous team, you have to understand that they bring a ton to the table. You want to encourage creativity and feedback from your employees.

Do not run your business like a dictatorship! Sure, you are the boss. At the end of the day you decide what stays and what goes. But along the way encourage feedback, encourage new ideas, and encourage ways to improve the business. Each of your employees are experts in their own little part of your business, and oftentimes they might just have a better pulse on what’s going on.

Victoria has a better pulse about what people are saying on social media. Carlee has a better pulse on the customer service questions we’re getting in our inbox. And Ellen has a better pulse on all the tech tools that we’re using, where the glitches are, and where it can run more smoothly. I am literally just the leader, giving them the tools they need; they’re the experts in the trenches. I for sure want their best ideas for how to serve our customers with products and processes.

I know for many of you who’ve run your business own your own for awhile, it feels like your baby. And I know it’s really hard to let that baby go! But when you do so, that little baby just thrives and flourishes in new ways that wouldn’t have been possible with just you.

The same way you have strengths and weaknesses, the people on your team have strengths and weaknesses. You want to harness that energy and let the strengths of your team strengthen your business.

Facilitating Creativity

Letting go of micromanaging also makes for happy employees!

Remember, you’re going to be hiring really smart people. And smart people don’t want to just check tasks off to-do lists. They’re motivated and want to challenge themselves and try new things.

Keep in mind, this creative overdrive won’t happen on your team member’s first day.

Those first 1-2 months will be about you slowly giving your client more and more tasks in the business. There won’t be as much fun creative stuff early on. But, overtime, as they get to know your business and customers well, and they’ve mastered those boring and mundane tasks, the creative collaboration will come. Keep in mind that you’ll want to help your team be involved.

Working With New Employees

This is a mistake I see business owners make all the time when hiring new employees.Don’t set your expectations too high for a brand new team member.

Take a deep breath and trust that if you’ve done your homework, you’ve interviewed your team member, and know they have solid character and believe in your mission, trust that you made a great choice and give that person time to adjust. The person you hire will need time to adjust to their new role on your team, you as their boss, and the projects you’re giving them.

New employees (and even old employees tackling a new project) will have a learning curve. Just plan on there being mistakes to work through up front.

There will be kinks, there will be balls that get dropped. Be super patient, and give constant feedback as well as constant encouragement to your team. It’s hard being a new employee and feeling like you’ve got 100 things coming at you. And it’s hard to get feedback on a project you turn in thinking it’s perfect, but get 20 items to change.

I’m going to be honest with you, I always thought I did a good job of this - but recently I learned that everyone on my team, at one point or another, thought I hated them! That makes me really sad! You can hear more about that in our group episode. And I really think that’s because I have super high expectations, I’m really picky, and I am not afraid to give all the feedback a team member needs to be up to my standard. Whatever level of praise you think you need to give, give at least double of that. Then give it a couple of months to see how things are really going.

The other thing you can encourage new employees with is that they’re going to get better.  

Literally, at this point sometimes I think these ladies read my mind. They take initiative and solve problems before I realize there are problems! That’s because I hired amazing people and took a lot of time up front to tell them exactly what I was looking for over time, and now they know exactly what to do.

For me, that’s awesome! It’s another reason why you want to build a  team, and not just hire random people who are the cheapest you can find for a given job. Carlee, Victoria, and Ellen don’t just do the tasks, they solve new problems and come up with new projects to move the business forward.

I can be so hands off, just because they’re awesome!

As I’m recording this episode, my baby will be 4 weeks old tomorrow - and I am not worried about the business at all! I have no pressure. And that’s only happened because this awesome team is running things behind the scenes without me.

Bonus Tip: Help Your Team Prioritize

As entrepreneurs, we tend to have multiple projects going at once. I try to focus in on a few of those at once, but there are always a few more projects on the backburner. But the projects that I tend to pick actually have a lot of moving parts, there are a lot of people to communicate with and things that need to be created. When you have a lot of moving parts, help your team prioritize. The last thing you want to do is have team members who are stressed out and overwhelmed all the time. They’ll burn out - and move on to a boss who doesn’t give them ulcers!

At any give time, each of these ladies may have 50 BBM action items on their to-do list. And I know there’s no way they’re going to get all 50 action items done that week. What I do instead is say, “Hey, I know I mentioned this to-do at the end of last week. Given this other project going on, that first task is no longer a priority. Save this task for when we have breathing room.”

Help your team know what’s nice to do, and what needs to happen now.

When you’re hiring really motivated people, they will want to do an awesome job. And if you don’t tell them, “Hey - don’t stress”, they probably will worry! Because your team will assume everything you ask them to do needs to be done as fast as humanly possible. But again, you know they’re humans just like you. In the same way you don’t get everything on your list done, you need to have realistic expectations about what your team can get done. Make sure to let them know when priorities shift. It can be as simple as an email, “Hey! On Monday this task was a big priority but now it’s Wednesday and this new task really needs to get done. Sorry I didn’t catch it sooner! But it’s time to change gears.’

Wrap Up

So that’s really it! Those are my main tips for finding and leading a great team. And I phrase it that way - ‘leading a great team’ - for a reason. What’s great is the team. I’m not an especially great leader, but I’ve found incredibly talented and awesome ladies to lead. It’s my job to foster that awesomeness. I don’t have to be amazing and fabulous, I just have to bring the amazingness out in them and I find that super rewarding.

One last thing, even if you’re on a budget, start with that one fabulous person and start them with just a few hours a week if that’s all you can afford. That’s a much better approach than finding a random person on a generic site to work 20 hours a week for $3 an hour. Invest in those people who can grow in your business. I think you’ll be amazed.

A year ago, when I first hired Ellen, I never would have guessed sitting here a year later I’d have 3 team members. I definitely wouldn’t have guessed all that we’re able to do and all the people we’re able to serve and reach. That would not have happened had I not hired a great team. Or if I just found random people to do random tasks. The best advice I can give to you is intentionality your team members.

Now It’s Your Turn To Head Out There And Be Brilliant!

Direct download: BBM20-20BA20Solo20236.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Get ready to laugh! We've got another Brilliant Business Moms team podcast!

We’ve got Carlee, Ellen, and Victoria here, sharing how they’ve found work as Virtual Assistants and their thoughts on using VAs in your business. I know they get questions all the time about how they came to work on the Brilliant Business Moms team, and these ladies have a wealth of knowledge to share.

Listen to the Podcast

 

On the Podcast

1:20 - How Our Team Came To Be
14:02 - What About Competition?
17:07 - Meeting Your Online Team In Person
20:50 - Working Well With Clients
26:18 - The Question Beth Anne Has Been DYING To Ask
36:31 - Riding Big Learning Curves
41:18 - Standards in Service-Based Business
44:06 - Setting Limits in Service-Based Business
50:10 - When VA Relationships Don’t Work Out
1:01:45 - Boss Perks

Beth Anne: Ladies, I’d love for you to start by sharing how you got into work as a Virtual Assistant.

1:20 - How Our Team Came To Be

Victoria: Sure, I can start! I got started a couple of years ago, and really out of necessity. I wanted to spend more time with my baby but I still needed to bring in an income. So I put together the work I had been doing professionally prior to having a baby, and thought maybe I could do that same type of work as a freelance contractor.

We laugh about how easy this is, but I literally sent emails to a bunch of people! I sent about 25 emails in a week to different individuals that I followed online. (I do have a small blog, it’s not monetized, just a place on the Internet. And because of that I had knowledge and awareness of different mom bloggers out there.) So I sent these emails along the lines of, “Hey is there anything I can do to help you? Let me know.”

The very first VA job I did was make a media kit for someone. I didn’t know anything about media kits or graphic design, but I figured it out and did the job.

As far as my connection to Brilliant Business Moms (BBM), I was a long time fan girl of the podcast and the brand. I reached out to you, and Sarah at the time, and asked if I could be helpful, and eventually that translated into the working relationship we have now.

Ellen, you started similarly, right?

Ellen: Yes! I had a blog, but was really enjoying the behind the scenes stuff way more than blogging or creating things.

Through blogging I knew a few others bloggers that I liked and got along well with. At first I offered free (or super cheap) work, because I really wanted to get experience. Most of that was raising my confidence, helping me know if I could actually do the more technical work and get paid for it.

Working with those first few ladies that I really knew helped me realize I CAN do this, and I can keep going.

I think I mentioned in the BBM group that I was looking for work, and either Beth Anne or Sarah reached out to me about doing a simple job. That’s how my work with Beth Anne started. I was copying and pasting names from a spreadsheet, and they were really happy with how fast I was!

A tip for when you get started: If you are doing free or cheap work, make a boundary for that, maybe 10 free hours or 2 weeks, so you’re both clear on expectations--but it’s a great way to get started!

Beth Anne: I think that’s a great way to get started, you two. When you reached out to us, Victoria, I remember reading your email and wondering if you were really offering to do things for free! We asked, “Is she crazy!? How is she this nice?!”

At that time we didn’t take you up on the offer to do things for free, but we knew because we had that relationship you were in the back of our minds for as soon as we could afford a VA in our budget.

One of your first tasks, Victoria, was helping format our ebook Time Management Mama. And then in the meantime your clientele built up a lot and I remember thinking, “Oh no! I think Victoria’s too busy for us now!”

And Ellen, I remember Sarah finding your post in our Facebook group and reaching out. (And we still encourage moms to do that! Post in private Facebook groups. Share who you are and what you can offer. It’s a great place to get started.)

And Ellen did work so well and so fast Sarah and I quickly started to freak out that we weren’t paying you enough! What you were charging at that time was such a small rate, but it’s good that over time you’ve built confidence and increased your rate. It’s really important as a VA to value yourself.

Victoria: Beth Anne, this is so funny to hear from your side! I do want to add that, in that time of waiting for a job, or if you have someone you know you want to work for someday, in the meantime as much as you can be helpful, do it. Support the people and the brands you care about. The group was still close enough that Sarah and Beth Anne often asked for input on projects. It’s a good practice to give before you expect to get back. In life, that makes you a nice, moral person. But in business, it sets up the organic working relationship.

Beth Anne: And Carlee! You’ve been so quiet, but I’d love to hear how you started!

Carlee: I feel like the newbie and almost the imposter in this conversation! It’s really funny how I started. I’ve always worked from home, but with jobs like grading papers and tutoring: on my time frame and pretty minimal because I homeschool my kids. But my youngest turned 10 last year, and has been doing well and getting more independent in school, my husband and I realized that I could take on more hours.

I even actually applied to some jobs outside the home, and had no peace about it. I didn’t want the jobs and I didn’t want to be out there, and we were still homeschooling.

For those of you who don’t know, Ellen is my (little!) sister-in-law. She was hesitant to tell me about VA work because a lot of people don’t really understand it or get what it means. (And now I face that too!) But when she finally explained what she had been doing, she told me she thought I would really enjoy the work and would be a really good fit for VA work. So I gave it a try! I did the same thing, I posted in our Facebook group and fell in love with BBM from the moment I started.

I got a client right away who was excellent and paid me in courses. She knew what she wanted me to do and what classes would be helpful for that work. So I was able to work and learn all at once. Rather than paying me in money the first month, she paid me in classes.

When Ellen’s husband was heading back to work for the school year and Ellen needed to drop her hours, there was a scramble to pick up the work that Ellen couldn’t do any more. There was the problem of the inbox and a few other issues! And if i remember the story correctly, she asked Ellen what Ellen thought of me coming on.

Beth Anne: Yes! I think that’s right. Because Ellen, I don’t think you would have suggested it to me first.

For reference everyone, and I have to tell this story because it’s so funny, Ellen literally had Be Brilliant mugs in her house for an entire year and was shipping them for me - and it took an entire year for her to ask me if she could have a mug and could I take it off her paycheck!!! It’s like, “Ellen! You can have as many mugs as you want!”

So that’s very much Ellen’s personality. She wouldn’t have come to me to say I have this sister-in-law looking for VA work and she’s awesome. But the connection did happen organically.

Carlee’s daughter, Mckenna, actually attended one of our Pinterest webinars. And once I found that out I gave Mckenna the course to help with her Etsy shop. And then one day the lightbulb went off. I knew we needed to add another member, and I knew the team member would be primarily offloading tasks from Ellen’s plate. But I didn’t want to have to jump back in and be that person to explain to a new person how Ellen was doing everything! And I also knew Ellen, and that she would absolutely need to feel comfortable telling the new person exactly what needed to be done. So I thought, “What about Carlee?”

Carlee: It came out of those relationships. And to fast forward, Ellen does not have a problem bossing me around. I’ve known Ellen since elementary school, and I have been the boss forever. So Ellen has SUPER enjoyed getting the chance to tell me what to do.

Ellen: Oh, I do. I do. :)

Carlee: I love it. And Ellen’s personality is so sweet and genuine. She wouldn’t hurt a fly. If someone told her no or had been incompetent, she would have just fixed it for them and not said anything. So it works well that she can tell me point blank, that’s not right - do it again.

14:02 - What About Competition?

Victoria: I feel like this is fun to get Brilliant Business Moms history. And I think this is a good place to point out one thing Beth Anne has done really well in terms of building our team. It’s stereotypical to assume that anytime you get a bunch of ladies together there’s going to be a bit of cattiness and jealousy.

This is such a good spot to say we have 0, no we have negative 50 million of that, on our team.

I would just imagine in other settings, maybe you bring a new team member and - wait, what!? she’s related!? How did she get in here? I’ve worked in places before where people had that negative outlook on life. What I love about our team is there is none of that. We were very much, “Yay! Carlee’s here!! We can get even stronger!”

And Beth Anne, I think that was good insight and foresight on your part knowing your team well, and knowing how we needed to operate together to be successful. We all play to our strengths. And we said in a recent episode, this past year was our most successful ever. And I think it’s due in large part by putting the exact right people together.

For the business owner out there looking to put a team together, if you even see a hint of any negativity - stop it, cut it out. You want people who work so well together.

Carlee, I think you said that a win for one of us is a win for all of us.

Carlee: From the business owner end, I totally agree. As the team leader you have to be aware of your team and foster good relationships. You have to pick the right team and shut down negativity.

From the VA end, and this is something Beth Anne shows in all her business practices, it is not about competition.

Victoria and I are not in competition, and our jobs overlap all the time. There are times she does my job for me and I do her job for her. It’s not about if I do it better or she does it better, or who does more. We are a team. A win for one is a win for, and a loss for one is a loss for all.

So when a babysitter can’t make it and you lose work time, we all chip in. Or, in my case I had a chicken emergency this morning (#WyomingLife), when those things happen we gladly jump in and fill in for each other.

There’s only collaboration and not competition among a team.

17:07 - Meeting Your Online Team In Person

Beth Anne: I have to say I don’t know if I’ve done a great job of fostering this, but I think you all are awesome and do a great job working with one another! You two, Carlee and Victoria, especially have jobs that overlap all the time and you manage it and figure it out and work together so, so well.

One thing that definitely helped is when we were all able to get together in person at the Business Boutique in Nashville. That was the first time I got to meet Carlee and Victoria in person! All of us getting to be together really solidified the team.

We are all coworkers, but we’re all friends as well. We care about each other as people and that’s really important.

Carlee: I think it helped because we all have slightly different personalities in person than online than everyone expected. Obviously, I’ve known Ellen forever...so that doesn’t count. Beth Anne was a little different than I thought, and Victoria was too.

But that was so good! We’ve talked since then about personality and communication styles and strengths and differences. Choosing to be friends and enjoy, and help each other has helped us communicate better according to each other’s styles.

Victoria: Choose conferences wisely: whether you’re building a team, working on a team, or working as a VA. I would even say look at the calendar of where you want to go, and check-in with your groups to see who will be there, and choose which events to attend that way.

It can be hard in the online world to know how to connect. Even if you’re simply trying to meet people to put on your team, conferences can be a great way to meet a bunch of people in one location.

Our team was able to meet in person for a longer work session in San Diego, and I know not everyone in business is in that spot. Conferences are more accessible, and while you’re there do as many auxiliary events as you can to meet people and network.

Beth Anne: I totally agree. I had only talked on the phone to all of you before working with you. For someone looking for VA work, if you can meet up at a conference and interact in person how great would that be!? It gives them a better sense of who you are and what you do.

I think I can know how a person communicates pretty quickly when I meet them in person. And doing online work you have to be a good communicator.

20:50 - Working Well With Clients

Beth Anne: So obviously, you all are rockstars and I love that you all work so well together. I would love it to share with everyone what are your tips. How do you work well with clients? What do those relationships look like?

Ellen: It may be cliche, but communication is so big. Being able to communicate over email is essential. Don’t be afraid to clarify, or ask dumb questions. It’s better to clarify up front when you’re working with someone on a project, rather than move forward unsure and frustrating your client. Communication really is just such a key part; especially with online work, when you can’t just go down the hall and have a conversation.

Up front, you want your expectations to be clear, and know it’ll evolve over time of your working relationship.

And even something as simple as responding to emails with new tasks, “That looks great, I’ll take care of it.” and offer a time frame of completion can be helpful.

Beth Anne: As a team leader, whenever you ask for clarification, I love it. It shows that you care about doing the job well and about my vision for things. There is no dumb question! I want you to ask as many clarifying questions as you need.

Carlee: And sometimes we’ll do a project knowing it’s not totally perfect or exactly right and submit the draft to you for feedback and tweaking or vision and direction. Sometimes it helps for us to take what Beth Anne has said, put it on paper, and see what we’ve missed.

Victoria: I second the practice of sending drafts and getting concrete feedback. Something I’m consciously working on (not perfect at it!) is to take detailed notes as I work, especially when working with several different clients. It’s important to mark differences in the styles you need to keep track of between your clients. Or you need to write notes about how a particular client handles a certain situation. Especially if you’re working with a bunch of different people, those details can get lost or muddled.

I can be a very creative, free thinker and sometimes I’m tempted to make up the answer to a problem for myself, which works in my life but not when I’m working for other people! Maybe this habit of keeping notes comes naturally to you, but for me it for sure does not. But I’m making myself do it!

In the same breath as talking about communication, I think transparency is really important. Maybe you need to send a note to say, “Hey, I’m really struggling to understand how your sales funnel is working, but I’m taking notes and will ask you again if I have questions.”

I also try to be really detailed with my time records so people know how long a project took me. I think having strong communication and being transparent builds trust.

Ellen: Early on in my VA work I had to face the fact that I am very much a people-pleaser. Before I got started I read the Bootstrap VA -- and it’s an awesome book. It helped me learn to be okay with criticism. I knew going in that would be my big struggle, so I made a very conscious effort to prepare myself. Getting feedback isn’t bad, and you can’t take it personally. You have to be able to take critiques, learn from it, and work with it.

But this tendency is probably something a lot of people struggle with; I knew for me it would be a particular weakness and I wanted to be prepared to work on distancing myself from my work so I could take feedback well.

Beth Anne: That is true - and I give all of you all tons of feedback!

Which brings me to my next question that I’ve been dying to ask you all!

26:18 - The Question Beth Anne Has Been DYING To Ask

About 6 months ago or so, you all confessed to me that when you first started working for me, the first couple of months, you thought I hated you.

But when you guys made this confession to me, we were obviously past that point, and I thought you liked working for me at that point, but I still wanted to know:

  • Why did everyone think I hated them!?
  • What made you feel that way?
  • And why in the world did you keep working for me!?

Victoria and Ellen: *Not it*

Carlee: Okay, Okay. I’ll start. When I came on the team, we pretty much jumped right into a Kickstarter campaign - and then straight into our gigantic FB Brilliance course launch.

Side note: If you’re going to do VA work, don't think you’re going to do only do one thing. That doesn’t actually happen.

I was hired to handle our inbox. I had been around about two weeks, and suddenly I was writing a refund policy. I think the policy was for our planner. In my draft of the document I used lots of formal wording, which defaulted to my love of English grammar.

Then I got an email from Beth Anne that said, “Never use the word ‘therefore’, ever again!” I was like, “Okay then. Sure.”

Needless to say, we didn’t end up using what I had written! It was comical

Early on I did lots of screenshare hangouts with Ellen as she was handing off tasks to me and teaching me how to do certain things. During one of our conversations I said, “Ellen, I don’t think Beth Anne likes me! I don’t think she’s happy with me.”

And I kid you not, Ellen’s exact words back to me were, “Oh I’m so glad you think that because you’re one of the most confident people I know, and I feel that way half the time too, so if you’re feeling that way then I feel better about myself.”

It was great for me. Because I knew Beth Anne loves Ellen! Beth Anne thinks Ellen is the best thing ever. So if Ellen is thinking that about Beth Anne, but Beth Anne totally likes her, maybe she totally likes me!

So we just worked through it. Ellen and I helped each other through it. And when Victoria hit that same spot, Beth Anne told her, “Go talk to Carlee.” And so she did. (And Victoria made sure I knew Beth Anne told me to talk to her. It was not gossip!) We talked it through, and I was able to help Victoria see that’s

Why did we stick around? Because we’d all rather have the person who says, “Never, ever use the word therefore!” than someone who will dance around and not give a direct answer.

I don’t want to deal with the game and fluff; I want to be told what’s great and what’s not, and be done. It’s a waste of time to do it any other way. It’s a respect level. Because even when I questioned whether or not Beth Anne liked me, I knew I liked Beth Anne and I liked Brilliant Business Moms, and I wanted to stick around and get better.

Beth Anne: I feel like the mean head cheerleader or something! And my team is all, “We like Beth Anne but she doesn’t like me!”

Ellen: For me, because my feelings happened very early on, I knew I was learning how to handle criticism. I learned that I do like the direct feedback. I’d rather know exactly what you want, and move on with that. That’s just part of the working relationship--we have to learn to deal with criticism!

Victoria: Okay, guys. I would not hate it if you threw a fluffy pillow to me and then gave me criticism. Just saying.

But yes, at the end of the day, we all pursue excellence in our personal and professional lives. And it’s good to get it straight, and know how to move on.

I also feel I need to be the voice of practical necessity here. In addition to what you guys just mentioned, part of me is like, “Well, I still need a paycheck, so this is going to be worth it.” On a very real level, there’s a sense of knowing that it may be hard, but it’s going to be worth it.

Man, this is getting very deep quickly.

I’ll just say that I’m painfully extroverted. I’ve been noticing in my life that I like to work really hard, but as soon as the work gets challenging, I want to sprint on to the next thing.

The best things come from more of the marathons and not the sprints.

I also realized in myself that it’s a sign of maturity to believe it’s worth sticking through the hard things, and having an uncomfortable conversation or two to get through the tough spot - and, in our case, preserve the team and progress we’re making.

I don’t know if that’s a VA thing or a work thing.

Carlee: It’s a work thing. I’ve worked a lot of jobs and they all come with great parts and hard parts. I can honestly say at this point, even if I couldn’t have those first few weeks, I’m living my dream. This is my dream job. I’m so happy to be here, but it doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

The other day Ellen and I had to redo a project we spent a lot of time on, but that’s the nature of the job! It’s the nature of the fact that we’re all moms, working in the margins, doing our best. It can’t be personal. And it can’t be all fun and sunshine and rainbows and then when it’s not I’m out of here. That’s not any part of life--not marriage, or parenting.

And that’s the best part about our team! On the hard days (and hard because they’re busy, not because they’re bad, they are hard because our to-do list is longer than the number of hours we have) we talk to each other and pick each other up.

What’s great is the other day I was having a very hectic day and Victoria reached out to me and said, “What can I do for you?”

Victoria: See? Here’s a fluffy pillow! The fluffy pillow is valuable sometimes!

Beth Anne: Victoria you’re such a nurturer and I love that about you. You pick up the slack for others.

Victoria: And vice versa! It happens to me as well.

Beth Anne: I am learning more and more as a team leader to get better about knowing how my team likes to be led. So, Victoria, I know in some cases it would be better to pick up the phone and have a conversation with you, than just send an email - which is my default. That’s part of my responsibility as a team leader.

When it comes to all that hard stuff, it’s the same for me too! There are days that I don’t want to get up and do the work I need to do that day, even though I run the show. Assembling a team that cares about the mission makes a big difference.

36:31 - Riding Big Learning Curves

Beth Anne: And Victoria, I know that the podcast has been one example of how you pushed through something that was harder was working on the podcast. I’m sure there were times you were tempted to say it’s not worth it! But everyone is so excited to have it back and you’ve created a great system for us.

Victoria: Yes! I can talk about that.

But first I do want to say, we all do care about the higher mission. We have all bought into Brilliant Business Moms. And if someone is having a bad day, the other has good day.

If you run a business or work in a business, you make a commitment. That basic level commitment is, “This work has to be done because it’s what I agreed to do,” and sometimes once you work through that basic level, then the higher level love feelings come back about why you’re doing it.

I hope it didn’t come out crass to say working for a paycheck is sometimes what keeps you going, I didn’t mean it to!

Beth Anne: No, it didn’t!

Victoria: Right, it’s just that sometimes you have still put one foot in front of the other.

Speaking of that, the podcast is a good example of what we’re talking about.

Around the time of our San Diego trip we had a team growing experience. We had a show due on Monday, and in my mind I had it basically complete and ready to go, but it was not that way.

Carlee and I proof for each other, and I sent the transcript to her for proofing. Since we were in person, Carlee looked over at me and said, “Victoria, these shownotes are awful. They’re not done at all. You need to go back and fix it.”

At first, I was mortified. Then I went through the stages of grief, getting angry then accepting what I had to do. This all occurred later at night, pressing up against the deadline. We worked through it and we hurried to get the show finished on time, and I swore I’d never work that late again!

And you guys still heard a great episode that day, having no idea what happened behind the scenes!

It was good for me to see that Carlee didn’t hate me, she just made a judgement call on the work.

Carlee: And that’s it! My thought process was, “You usually do this fabulous job, and this is not up to your own standards.” I wasn’t mad, it wasn’t personal, they were just bad notes. There’s no hidden meaning with us, and that’s how Beth Anne is, too. Beth Anne and I are similar in that, we really shoot straight but there’s no deeper, read between the lines insult.

Victoria: We really learned as a team, that we’re all here for the listener. We’re here for the community, to put out good content. It’s time like that the bigger mission does help.

41:18 - Standards in Service-Based Business

Victoria: I think anytime you’re in a service-based business, it’s so hard to not directly tie yourself to your service. I feel like with product-business ladies, it’s kinda nice to be able to hide behind the product. With a service-based business, it’s just you. You’re providing the service. And you have to work extra hard to separate the value of the service from the value of you as a person.

As a BBM team, we will always fall short in some way,  but we have a lot of grace for each other.

Carlee: And you’re making such a good point for anyone looking to be a VA or be on a team.

If you’re not working in person, you have to over communicate. Honestly, in this moment I should have explained what I was actually thinking, “These are not up to your own standards, did I miss something?” And really I was wondering, “Are you okay? Is there anything going on?

Victoria: And on my end I was thinking, “Nope, I just didn’t get them done as well for whatever reason this week.”

Carlee: You’re so honest, Victoria. I love it. This is the real deal, guys.

Victoria: Aren’t we calling these BBM Confessions!? It fits!

I think you have to be honest, and call each other out, but also give grace and be willing to move forward together. That’s why we’re all here, Beth Anne.

Beth Anne: As a team leader one of the things I can improve on is communicating when I need to give feedback or ask for something to be done to another standard. I always feel really, really bad when I want you guys to change something last minute. I don’t want to be that boss who controls every hour of your day. But because I’m such a work under pressure and last minute person, and I know I drag you into that.

44:06 - Setting Limits in Service-Based Business

Beth Anne: So I want to ask: how do you set boundaries on your time?

For example, I know that Victoria has set work times with childcare. Ellen and Carlee’s worktime feels more fluid.

How do you make sure I don’t take over your life!? Sometimes I know I do! That really concerns me.

Carlee: But you..so...okay *laughs* You do and you don’t. Especially for Ellen and I, you do take over our lives sometimes - but we know that in advance. It’s not a daily thing. But we are aware of an upcoming big launch or big webinar, and during those times Ellen and I structure our time around work.

On the days when we have a work event at 6pm at night, my crew knows we’re going to eat at 4:30 and then Mom is going to lock herself away.

That’s a choice we’ve made and we don’t have to make it.

Ellen: And it’s not every day. It’s rare.

Carlee: Yes. But what people should know too is we can literally say, “Hey, I’m leaving town for 3 days.” And while our tendency is to follow up with, “But I can still work!” Beth Anne says, “No! Take time off!”

We have crunch time, go time, all hands on deck -- but we also get the rest time. It wouldn’t be possible without the rest time.

Ellen: But there are times Beth Anne sends me a task on Friday night but she says it can wait til Monday. And often I will do the task that weekend, only because I usually work Saturdays, but there’s no pressure.

Victoria: Communication is good. My tendency is to do everything, but because my kids are little younger and I have very structured work days, I’ve tried to get better about projecting when a task can realistically be done instead of saying, “Sure I’ll get that done tonight!”

Early on as a VA I tried to do it all right away, and it wasn’t healthy! When given a job I would say, “Sure sure! I can do it” but I really couldn’t, and it was resulting in stressful moments for our family. But now, we have clear times - ‘This is when I work, and this is when I don’t work’ - and planning in advance has been helpful.

We haven’t talked about working with a bad client yet, but in my bad client experience it was expected that I could drop and do whatever this person needed right away. But setting realistic boundaries and communicating them clearly is good. Now I try to answer, “I’m done with work for today, but I can do it first thing tomorrow.”

Beth Anne: Carlee and Ellen, I would totally understand and appreciate if you want to be more structured! I want you to be happy with your work and stick around for a long time and I would have no problem with you telling me what works for you with your life.

Carlee: We are happy! And we promise it’s working. We as a team assign tasks according to those schedules, too. For example, I homeschool from 8 to 11 am, so I don’t have tasks that have to be done at 9 am. Victoria’s jobs are things she can do ahead of time, for example.

Ellen: For me, the late-at-night stuff isn’t good, but early morning is my time.

Beth Anne: And let me say what I love about Ellen’s early morning time is that I can go off to bed with a wishlist of items I’d like done, and by the time I wake up and have actually logged into my email Ellen has them done!

Carlee: Me too! I’m a late night person and just recently I sent Ellen a few corrections to landing page at like midnight or 1 am. I was worried I had woken her up with all these crazy messages! She wrote back first thing in the morning and said, “Hey thanks! Those were great. Changes made.” It had only been 5 hours since I sent the corrections and they’re done!

50:10 - When VA Relationships Don’t Work Out

Beth Anne: So let’s start talking about when the relationship is not working out. And this still cracks me up, because I’m still confused about the warning signs! You all thought I hated you, but kept working anyway!

Victoria: Honestly, what we just described is more a of a challenge of working online. Working in-person you can joke around at the beginning of the day, have a conflict in the middle, but end with a joke. I think the barrier of the screen means you have to overcompensate. It’s just hard! I still contend that online is what makes it weird.

And on a blog or business, you can always put the best version of yourself out there. But when you’re working with someone online you don’t always get the time to polish in between.

Beth Anne: Okay, that makes me feel a little better.

Victoria: And you’ve done well at helping us compensate! Getting us together at the conference and again in San Diego, that was huge.

Carlee: Oh Victoria! You are such an extrovert. This won’t be true for everybody.

Victoria: That’s true.

Carlee: For me, I haven’t worked for a bad client. But for me, the product is my big determiner. I have to believe in something. I have to look at the product and believe there is great value going out into the universe. I have to get behind something, so I guess I work at a philosophical level that way. I’ve said no to, and had a hard time working with a product that I just wasn’t able to personally endorse.

Whereas, Brilliant Business Moms is totally a brand and business and community I can get behind.

Ellen: If you feel uneasy at all about something..and uneasy is different than having hard times. There’s going to be hard times...but if you feel uneasy about the client or the work they’re doing, it’s better to say no and back out than put yourself in that situation. It’s better to be 100% confident about the people you say yes to.

Carlee: So true. And sometimes the uneasiness might come later. We talked about boundaries previously, and if someone doesn’t understand or respect your boundaries it won’t work. And maybe it’s as simple as time zone problem, where the times they want you to work you’re putting dinner on the table. But everyone has to be on the same page.

For me right now, I just don’t have the hours to work with additional clients. I’ve had to drop clients because I simply don’t have time to give them what they need.

Ellen: That’s usually the issue for me, too. It’s not a matter of not wanting to work with them, I just don’t have time. In fact, I’ve had to fire a few clients because my plate has gotten full and I literally didn’t have the time to do the work.

Victoria: Being realistic with what you’re able to provide is key. And be okay that you’re not the right VA for everyone. The case when I had to end a working relationship. The client wasn’t a bad person or anything. It was just that the things I needed to do I wasn’t able to do. There was a big task that had to happen every morning, very early. I tried so hard to make it work for a long time, but with two little kids it wasn’t possible.

As we were talking I just pulled up my breakup email with this client. I wrote, “I don’t think I’m the right VA for you. I’m not able to give you the support and assistance you need on a daily basis. I’d love to keep working until you find a replacement.”  

Peace out. (Just Kidding!)

I do worry if I say no to a job, I’ll never get another client, or that they’ll think badly of me. I often worry about my name or reputation, and that if I end a relationship will I ever work again? But truthfully, the sooner you realize it’s not working out the sooner you can prevent those unrealisitic fears.

I think as women we want to do everything and be good at everything, and that person doesn’t exist.

Beth Anne: Right. No one is good at everything all the time! So much of what we’re talking about comes back to honesty. I give you honest feedback about the work, and you give me honesty back with your schedule or a job you can’t do.

Carlee: And we’re getting so much better at saying No right away!

Ellen: I love Beth Anne’s video feedback. I get giddy and tell my husband, “Hey Tim, Beth Anne sent me a video!” It’s so great to be able to watch one of her videos and know exactly what she’s thinking.

Carlee: Ellen I don’t know if Beth Anne realizes that our entire families watch her feedback videos with us!

If you haven’t had the privilege of meeting Beth Anne in person, she is exactly who she seems to be: strong, a spitfire, kind, genuine. So her videos are seriously so funny. She tells us everything good about what we’ve done, and everything really really not good.

Ellen: Tim will ask why I’m laughing, and it’s because Beth Anne sent a video.

Carlee: Ellen and I will watch your videos at the same time and just message back and forth and we laugh so hard.

Ellen: It’s my favorite thing. Iit’s great to see the video, because I can go fix exactly what needs fixing.

Beth Anne: It really is the next best thing since we don’t have an office. And working in different time zones is a struggle, so it’s much easier to give feedback via video. We can’t constantly schedule a Google Hangout to go over things! I try in my screencast videos to pretend you’re right there.

Carlee: And usually in these videos she tells us stories or something that’s going on, which are always hilarious.

Victoria: And my favorite is when you comment on your environment, like a car driving by, and it tickles me.

Carlee: You know, I hadn’t put it together with that whole “walking down the hall...” but you really can’t email us to say, “There’s a line with the wrong shade of pink here.” It just wouldn’t make sense in email. The videos are great, and they do reveal your personality.

Beth Anne: Ellen sees the most of my videos because she also sees my raw course videos - and there are some where I go off on a rant where something isn’t working and I am so frustrated.

Ellen: My favorite is when I talk back to you and say, “Oh gosh! You just have to click the button, Beth Anne! CLICK THE BUTTON!” My husband will ask what I’m doing and I’ll just respond, “Talking to Beth Anne.”

Carlee: In one of your recent videos Beth Anne was concerned that we hadn’t published a pretty important page. We actually did have the page published, she was just looking on the wrong screen. Beth Anne was saying, “We’re at crunch time, guys! This needs to be done!”

Ellen: “Just click the button, Beth Anne!”

Carlee: And that just reminds us that there are things we do more naturally than you, and vice versa.

Beth Anne: It’s an ego boost for you guys! You get to see me at my best and worst. You know I’m a flawed human, and that’s good.

1:01:45 - Boss Perks

Beth Anne: One benefit of being the “boss” is that I get to collect a team who all have strengths different from me. We show this face to the world, and it all looks pretty and fabulous and polished. And I feel like I get credit for all of that! And, not only that, but I don’t have to do the things that aren’t my strengths, hardly ever, because I’m the boss and I just get to tell someone else to do it. And sometimes it does feel unfair! I do acknowledge that. There are lots of things I totally stink at.

Carlee: There has been a shift in the last couple of months. You’ve said more often “you and the team” are doing a project. And you’re asking us to put our name on the work. There’s more of a shift to ‘us’ rather than ‘you’. None of us want to be the face of Brilliant Business Moms or to be Beth Anne. It’s not a competition. But it is fun that you’ve started putting, “Beth Anne and the Brilliant Business Moms Team” because we are a team and it takes all of us to get all of these crazy things done!

Victoria: And it’s nice of you to admit. I imagine it would be tempting to and easier to just speak in the first person always. It’s nice to share the credit. It’s tricky to walk the line and preserve the brand that you’ve built up and who you are and how you help people, and acknowledge the team.

Beth Anne: You don’t want to work for someone who takes all the credit all the time.

Victoria: But I’m saying you could, though, if you wanted! It’s your brand. But it’s so nice of you to include “and the Team’.

Carlee: And it’s practical. Because we get emails, addressed to us, in the inbox that you’d just pass along to me anyway. It’s more efficient. And it’s good that people know who to talk to. It doesn’t all have to come from Beth Anne all the time, because you can’t be everything to everyone.

Beth Anne: It does set expectations up in a better way. This is a total team effort. I like that we get emails addressed to the team, like, “Hey, Carlee!” or “Hey, Ellen!” or “Hi Beth Anne and Team!” because it means they don’t expect email answers only from me. And I’m not setting people up for disappointment.

Ellen: And it fits really well with the BBM brand. How it started was a podcast that is all about the community and these women who are building businesses, it’s always been about that. And it’s neat to see the community come about as a team, too. Our team is a small part of the community, and we are also part of the bigger community, and we’re all working together.

Beth Anne: Yeah, I have no intention of being a weird internet celebrity where people care about what I eat for breakfast. That’s totally differently than saying, “We are Brilliant Business Moms.”

I would never want to be BethAnneSchwamberger dot com. That would be stupid long, for one. But it goes back to the brand always being about a community of moms, not one person.

Carlee: And there are plenty of questions we get that both Beth Anne and I know Ellen needs to answer.

It’s not even just the four of us, it’s the four of us and these incredible women in our community. We learn from them every day too, and they know things we don’t know.

Brilliant Business Moms as a whole is not about celebrity. We’re about community.

Beth Anne: Well thank you ladies for hanging out with me today. I feel like you each have a lot more to share because you’re all fabulous employees and I love having you on my team. And just an aside, this is seriously how much fun we all have together. We literally just got off topic for 30 mins talking about childbirth and labor because these ladies are awesome.

Thanks for listening.

Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!

Direct download: BBM20Team20Episode.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Business owners and mompreneurs need maternity leave too. But it's hard to find the balance of working and getting to know a new bay. Arianna Taboada shares her plans for new moms to have a healthy maternity leave and a thriving business.

Arianna’s job description is fancy--Maternal Health Consultant for Entrepreneurs--but what it means is she most often works with first-time mamas-to-be who are entrepreneurs to help them create a smooth maternity leave plan that keeps their businesses thriving while their families grow.

At this time of recording I was heavily pregnant, so of course talking with Arianna was incredibly timely and very helpful for me! And I know many of you out there have established businesses, but are thinking of adding more babies to your family. You’ll love what Arianna has to say.

Welcome to the show, Arianna!

Listen Now

On the Podcast

1:20 - About Arianna
4:41 - Opening a Private Practice
6:57 - Arianna’s Advice For Me?
10:27 - How Long Do Moms Take Off From Work?
14:05 - Real Talk: How Can You Prevent Postpartum Depression?
20:09 - Using an Ecomap
20:53 - Consultant Model
23:40 - Graduating Clients
27:14 - Arianna’s Adorable Mom Moment

About Arianna

Interestingly, Arianna started her maternity leave planning and coaching career before becoming a mom. I was so curious to hear how this business started for her, and how she got into such a unique field.

Turns out, Arianna has a Masters in Social Work from UNC, and a strong background in formal health center settings. She saw lots of female patients seek care for a variety of women’s health issues, and she really fell into focusing on women in that prenatal and postpartum window. (Or in sciency terms, the perinatal period: getting pregnant, being pregnant, having the baby, and figuring it out from there.)

Arianna’s Masters in Social Work has an emphasis in Maternal and Child Health, which she admits is a very unique field! In fact, there are only a few programs left in the states focusing on supporting women, children, and families during this special, challenging, and always a bit uncertain time.

She started out working in outpatient settings, like small health centers and federally qualified health centers. She worked in what’s known as the "Safety Net System," focusing on women who were very vulnerable, experiencing such things as homelessness and domestic violence. She began to realize that she was able to help these women navigate the pressures of caring for a family with tons of other pressures demanding their time, attention, and focus.

Once she went into private practice and began supporting entrepreneurs, though the layers of vulnerability were different, the skills were very much the same. Arianna found that the approach to caring for new moms is universal: “Every mom needs a network of support. It’s not the time to do it all in business and life, it’s the time to identify your community support, professional support, and friend and family support.”

We couldn’t agree more!

Opening a Private Practice

What did it look like for Arianna to move away from clinical care and towards getting private clients?

She was prompted, as many business owners are, by a life transition. In 2012 her family moved away from their home in North Carolina to Mexico, where she lives now. But she loved the work she was doing and wanted to continue doing it! Once settled in her new home, she rented out space in a psychotherapy center. Arianna took the more formal model of counseling she was used to and adapted it to her new environment. This is also around the time Arianna began providing support via the Internet, which opened doors to reach even more moms.

The first iteration of her practice was focused on postpartum health. A lot of Arianna’s early clients happened to be self-employed women and small business owners. This question of how to have a baby and get back to work” seemed to be recurring.

Her practice grew through word-of-mouth marketing and Arianna was able to establish a pretty strong referral network for her services once the word got out. (Marketing was a huge learning curve for her; before private practice, Arianna only had to show up to work at the health center in order to get clients!)

It wasn’t long before Arianna realized that providing support and counseling in the postpartum stage was often too late, especially for the mamas planning to go back to work. She could better meet the needs of her clients if she started earlier in the process. About 18 months ago, she shifted her business focus from postpartum to planning ahead for maternity leave and taking steps for that successful reintegration into work life.

Arianna’s Advice For Me?

Being 34 weeks pregnant at the time of this recording, I’m obviously Arianna’s ideal customer! I was already a mom before getting pregnant, but we have been far removed from the baby days! My son is in all-day kindergarten, and all of the sudden we’re going to have a newborn! I do want to have a maternity leave from my business, so what advice does Arianna have?

Arianna really encourages business owners to use the flexibility we have with our jobs to make gentle transitions. In an office setting, a mom might work full-time right up until the day she has her baby, take 6 weeks of zero work, then plunge right back into working 40 hours a week. Arianna really encourages being aware of timing and thinks a more gradual transition is optimal.

A better option is to make a hard and fast deadline, such as 37 weeks when a mom is full-term, to hand-off everything that would normally be on your plate. Yes, 100%! Don’t put off this handing-over until 40 or even 42 weeks. Try to honor the earliest deadline possible to give yourself space.

The other half is to think of the transition time back. Even if you’ve had a newborn before, babies can have different temperaments. And juggling more than one kid can be a whole new challenge.

Arianna suggests that her clients utilize a 2-3 week period of time when you’re getting back into work. Dedicate those weeks solely to finding your new groove and workflow. Don’t dive 100% back into a major project! Give yourself time to figure out childcare logistics, or how to get your older child settled, and figure out when your new one will be napping and eating. Setting up your new routine is a total learning opportunity and a great experiment.

(And I have to say, I totally think Arianna makes a great point! I like the mentality of "let’s just give things a few weeks and see how it goes." Don’t set yourself up on a strict schedule and a new plan before you get your bearings.)

How Long Do Moms Take Off From Work?

So, in preparing for Baby Boy Schwamberger to arrive, I’ve planned to take 2-3 months totally off from work. But I’ve heard from so many of my mom entrepreneur friends that my plan sounds great, but I’ll have tons of ideas while I'm feeding the baby in the middle of the night and I won’t want to stay away that long. What patterns has Arianna seen? Are there women who do themselves a disservice trying to sneak work back in soon? Or women who take a long, long time off and find that they’re unfulfilled?

“I’ve seen it much easier to plan for longer and come back sooner,” Arianna says. “It’s much better to do that than plan for too little time and realize you want more. The work will be there if you’re ready to come back earlier.”

Business owners and mompreneurs need maternity leave too. But it's hard to find the balance of working and getting to know a new bay. Arianna Taboada shares her plans for new moms to have a healthy maternity leave and a thriving business.

In Arianna’s personal experience, she was the business owner who planned ahead financially, in terms of content creation and marketing, to take 4 months off, with her last month being the testing period of easing back into work. “At 6 weeks I emailed my VA and asked for something to do! I was excited to engage again. Work is a big part of my identity, and leaving that completely behind was challenging.” Arianna describes that she grieved feeling productive when she was doing things like nursing around the clock and has seen this same pattern come from quite a few women. Again, the golden rule is it’s easier to plan for longer, and know you can come back sooner and to remember that “there’s no pressure related to completing or delivering projects right in those fresh few weeks postpartum. You can pick and choose your flexibility.”

Real Talk: How Can You Prevent Postpartum Depression?

Call it hormones or whatever, but I had to get real and ask Arianna about one of my greatest new mommy fears.

So brace yourself for some real talk.

One of my biggest fears is suffering from postpartum depression. One thing you might not know about me is that my first child is adopted, so he did not come home until he was 2.5 years old. I haven’t done the birth/baby thing before! And I’m totally freaked out about suffering from postpartum depression.

So my big question is this: Are there any tips to prevent postpartum depression?

First, let’s clarify terms. Postpartum depression is part of a broader category, Perinatal Mood Disorders, which include depression and anxiety, and these symptoms can come up anytime during pregnancy and postpartum.

Arianna says part of the fear factor surrounding PPD is that we see only the worst of cases in the media. We see those postpartum suicides, or the mom who didn’t get help until it was too late. She points out, “You know, the worst case scenarios ARE the worst cases. Postpartum depression is prevalent, but self-awareness and knowing what to look for, and what resources to seek out ahead of time, is a great way to set yourself up for taking care of yourself and being taken care of.”

And the good news is there are three, concrete steps you can take right now to setting yourself up to be supported:

First, lookup the Maternal Mental Health Professionals in your area you could go to if it turned out that you had a mental health issue.

Second, look for distinctions in the provider’s bio that describe them as being trained specifically in the field of maternal mental health. In the mental health field, you’ll want to lookup folks in your area who are specifically trained to support moms.

And third, keep the Postpartum Support International warmline somewhere you can access it - and tell your partner where the number is, too. This is a number you can call and talk to a trained volunteer to help you figure out how to access professional and help in your area. (Being a warmline means you might have to leave a message, but you will get a callback soon!) The number is: 1-800-944-4773(4PPD)

Arianna made it a point to say that seeking in-person treatment is really the most effective way to handle Perinatal Mood Disorders. Whether in one-on-one counseling, psychotheraphy, or group model sessions.

One of the biggest risk factors for PPD is isolation. You can take steps to prevent yourself from being isolated during the postpartum time.

Isolation can be especially prevalent for online business owners, because of the nature of virtual work. Especially if you’re aware that you have an element of isolation in your life, seek out activities to do during the postpartum phase that require you to get out of the house. Arianna says go so far as to list out those activities such as a new moms groups or a park to walk in; literally list out places you could go with your new baby to prevent being isolated.

Deep breath. Did that advice help calm your fears? I know it did mine. It sounds like being prepared and listing out your plan ahead a time is key.

I’m just sitting here, picturing myself with a new baby, knowing I”ll be too exhausted and too stressed to go look up mental health pros online or finding a new support group if I need one. But that’s the kind of thing I can do now for myself, I can make an entire doc of resources today that I may need to use tomorrow. I love those ideas! And, yes, I wrote a note in my Brilliant Life Planner as Arianna was talking to get my "Baby Survival and Support" list ready!

Using an Ecomap

Another way to categorize all of this helpful information is to use a social work tool called an Ecomap. She made one for her clients, and used one herself when she was planning her own leave! It’s a free resource to visually map out those support networks. And when you have a visual, it’s easier to see the holes, where you’re missing an element. You can download Arianna’s Ecomap that she uses with clients on her site.

Consultant Model

Shifting gears, I wanted to learn more about Arianna’s business model and how she’s grown it. As a consultant, she works with clients one-on-one to help prepare them for this big life change. I wanted to know, how many clients is she able to handle each month? What’s her client lifecycle like? When do they graduate from her services?

Arianna says she has really found a sweet spot when she’s able to develop a longer relationship with her clients. She offers a shorter period of services (1 month of work together in 2 sessions to do maternity leave planning) but has found once you do the planning, additional coaching along the way to implement the plan can provide wonderful hand-holding and guidance. A full client lifecycle - from planning through implementation - for Arianna would be about 6 months long.

Pre-baby, Arianna kept 3 client slots open each week, so for 3 days each afternoon she booked out her schedule to work with clients. Since getting back from baby, she’s had to reframe that workflow! Arianna still has 3 afternoons available for work, but only works with 3 clients at any given time. She’s scaled back her services to be able to provide the same quality and level of service without burning out.

And I have to say, talking to Arianna she sounds like such a serene and well-balanced person! I feel like she’s doing a great job of having a calm balance in her own life. (But she assured me that she does have her crazy moments!)

Graduating Clients

How does Arianna know when she’s ready to graduate clients from her services? Does she make an exit plan for her clients? Or does she trust clients to tell her when they’re ready to fly the coop?

Arianna knows herself and her business well. She has identified that the 1 year mark is really the longest that she’s able to deliver her strongest services. Her field is a tricky one, because uncertainties of motherhood can be ever-present.

For Arianna, a hallmark of having a fantastic client relationship is when the client she’s working with has the skills and tools to step back when the problem arise and can know how to navigate the unknown, deal with uncertainties, and pivot to make new strategies for moving forward. (These soft skills apply in motherhood and business, don’t they!) When she feels the client is confident to move forward and apply the tools individually without direct guidance and support, she knows they’re ready to graduate.

Sometimes Arianna recommends that her moms join a business coaching model support group for ongoing help.

I thought it was a very interesting point that Arianna doesn’t tell her clients, “Alright, from now on life is going to be perfect! You’ve got a bulletproof plan. You’ll never need help again!” Rather, she tells people, “You know how to handle the fact that life as a mom is always a bit crazy.”

That’s certainly the right expectation for new moms, isn’t it?

Arianna says one of the favorite things about her job is reframing perspectives. She comes from a strengths-based perspective, which means there can be a lot going wrong but she always likes to ask, “What’s one thing that’s going right today?”

Doesn’t that change up things?

Business owners and mompreneurs need maternity leave too. But it's hard to find the balance of working and getting to know a new bay. Arianna Taboada shares her plans for new moms to have a healthy maternity leave and a thriving business.

Arianna’s Adorable Mom Moment

Her family is getting ready to move houses in about two weeks of the time of this recording and her 11-month-old son has developed a new love of packing materials and suitcases. She said while she and her husband were packing, they lost track of their little boy - who suddenly wasn’t crawling around anymore. They had a parent-panic moment of trying to find the baby, only to realize that he had completely shut himself up in a suitcase! Sounds like this little guy is ready to move!

Keep In Touch with Arianna

Site: AriannaTaboada.com

Arianna was kind enough to tease an amazing new project she’s got in the works: 100 Businesses Babyproofed Project. She has a goal, between now and her birthday, to have conversations with 100 entrepreneurs who are expecting or plan to get pregnant in the next year about what it means to take maternity leave and keep themselves and their businesses thriving. We love that goal! Good luck!

Direct download: BBM20Arianna20Taboada.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Today on the show we are so excited to welcome Becky Kopitzke! She’s a mom of two girls, a blogger, an author, and a fellow course creator. Her fabulous program is called the Cranky Mom Fix and today we'll chat about creating, beta testing and launching her course.

Love these practical tips for creating a course! She walks through pricing a product, and how to launch an online course, including her Facebook ads strategy and the importance of her using and growing an email list. Interview with Becky Kopitzke on the Brilliant Business Moms podcast

Listen Now

 

On the Podcast

00:50 - Becky’s Heart for Moms
03:46 - Beta Testing
10:26 - Pricing an Online Course
12:54 - Launching an Online Course
20:02 - Beth Anne’s Insights
23:35 - How Much Did Becky Put Into Facebook Ads?
26:30 - A Successful Email List Strategy
28:15 - Overcoming Self-Doubt
33:30 - Being Authentic
34:08 - Becky’s Adorable (& Humbling!) Mommy Moment

Becky’s Heart for Moms

First and foremost, Becky and her husband of 15 years have two beautiful girls: Claire who's 9, and Noelle, 6. When Becky became a mom, she describes it as a baptism by fire. She was shocked, like many new moms, by the complete selflessness and awareness of another person that new parenthood requires. As a first time mom, Becky found out she “wasn’t well equipped emotionally or physically to handle all the demands of parenting.” And through this season, she developed a writing ministry. She began a blog and wrote weekly devotions for moms. Her first book, The Supermom Myth, was published in December 2015.

The heartbeat of her ministry is for women who are trying to be the best moms they can be. She noticed that moms often have one particular thing in common: crankiness! Whether it’s at the beginning of the day or the end, moms tend to get crank over all sorts of things. Becky says she struggled especially at the beginning of her mothering journey with being chronically cranky. As a Christian, Becky turned to the Bible to see what Scripture said about how to handle her crankiness. And this was the basis of her book.

Through her journey, she talked to many women who also wanted direct help handling particular situations or to know how to get out of their funk. So, she developed a coaching program from her insights: The Cranky Mom Fix. Becky says she’s been training herself through Scripture how to have a better attitude and be a less-cranky mom.

Becky leads Bible studies and speaks at women’s groups, bringing her message to other moms. She’s transformed from being the new mom who really needed help, to the person other moms came to for help. And her online program is a way Becky can reach even more moms, regardless of their location!

Beta Testing

Becky is so glad she decided to beta test her first course! She ended up with 27 committed ladies to help her develop the program over the summer. Through their feedback, the course ended up being much more substantial than she thought it would be.

She sent out an email with the message: “I am looking for 10 women to do an 8 week program with me.” Her course was all online and included ways to connect like a Facebook group and webcasting. She planned to present material for about 45 minutes and then provide handouts and activities for the women to do with their families.

Becky had this all planned out in her mind, and using this concept of taking a first group through her course as she created it, she was actually able to get paid for developing her program, but with a twist.

After that initial pitch email, she realized that a lot of women were interested, but not able to foot the bill for her course. She cut the price in half, and thought if she could get at least 20 ladies to join in the effort would be worth it. In the end, 27 women ended up being on board, and she even had to turn interested people away due to overflow!

That’s such an interesting beta test, because Becky learned there was a need and an interest and also learned where to price her course.

Before she began the beta test, Becky had her first unit of material prepped and ready to go. She would give the content via a webcast, and then on the alternate week do a Facebook live Q&A inside her group. She got feedback as she went along. Those 27 ladies in her test group paid a base price to be part of the project, knowing it was their responsibility to give input on the program. And, by the end of the summer, she was able to have a great course! Becky especially appreciated that her work of preparing the course was compensated by those early testers!

One thing in particular Becky learned through her beta test is what her students especially wanted out of the course. At first, she thought her students wouldn’t want too much information thrown at them. Becky originally designed the course to be highly accessible: the material was solid but didn’t require a ton of heavy lifting. But her beta students told Becky that they wanted to go deeper!

Of course, Becky was thrilled with this feedback! Along the way the idea of a daily devotional kept coming up, so Becky delivered that as well.

Becky says she ended up spending hours and hours to develop her course, and got to dig deep into the Bible to create these devotionals for her students. She says that the course doubled in content, and her students got twice as much out of the program! We love how Becky recalls that she “was thinking they’d be blessed by something that didn’t require too much of them, but a lot of them came back and said they wanted Becky to require much of them. That’s how they’ll learn.”

We think it’s great for business owners to take their product creation seriously. As business owners we get so excited thinking about a coaching program or signature course, and we create all this stuff, but did we stop to ask the students what they wanted?

In Becky’s case, the upfront investment in her students and course was well worth it.

Pricing an Online Course

Becky used a Chicago-based business coach to help her develop the course (and you’ll have to listen to the show to hear the super fun story of how she happened to meet her business coach!) where she learned that part of growing a business is being tuned into your market, and pivoting your plan to meet their needs.

Initially Becky charged $499 for her 8-week program. At that price point she had a lot of interest, but concerns about the price. Then, she adjusted her price to $250 and got an influx of requests. With the 27 women who bought into her course at $250, she was able to hire help for design, email marketing, and social media. Becky was wise about investing her initial dollars, doing things like asking her designer to create templates she could customize to her needs and keep a uniform look and feel. The beta test ended up funding the entire course creation!

Launching an Online Course

After Becky completed her beta test and added more content to her course, she was ready to launch! Becky’s course launched in the fall, and she cites that experience as another huge learning curve.

She thought she would have a polished, perfect, good-to-go course after the summer that would result in a huge launch in the fall. Becky took time to craft a concerted marketing strategy, including automated emails to segmented lists. Becky had her ducks in a row! She took strategic steps over the 3 weeks leading up to her launch. To launch the program, Becky hosted a webcast to about 250 attendees and pitched her program at the end. While she did have a solid program and women interested, she had very few buyers in the beginning.

And she couldn’t figure out why!

During her launch, the main feedback she got from potential buyers was that the timing just wasn’t right. She had a lot of moms tell her if the course could be offered in the Spring, they’d love to take it.

When Becky started putting the pieces together, she had a hunch that maybe the summer beta test went so well because that’s when moms had the most free time. And with Fall rolling around, people’s schedules picked up and moms didn’t have the margin.

So, what could Becky do? Test the Market and Pricing.

She knew her program was solid and she had great testimonials. Maybe the timing wasn’t right, but what else could be a barrier? Pricing.

With a program that launched at $299, Becky couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe price was keeping people from entering. So she slashed the cost one more time to the point that price simply couldn’t be an prohibitor. She eliminated that concern by dropping her course to $99, and even offered a $33/month for 3 months payment plan. Suddenly she had an influx of buyers! One beta tester even invited her whole moms group to join.

So timing was an issue, but cutting the cost barrier was the key.

Becky is happy to be in a place where she has a solid program that she was paid to develop, and having a launch in which she learned what to do and what not to do, and is now asking the question, “What do I do next? What’s the right move?”

Does she offer again at a different time and a premium price? Does she lock it down at a limited number of students? Does she try the $99 price point but only to 100 students? All of these questions are up in the air, but she’s comfortable being a Learn-As-You-Go Business Woman.

She still can’t believe she slashed the cost by two-thirds! But when the women flooded in, she knew it was the right decision.

Becky is certainly a smart lady who is willing to be flexible, willing to test and look at the results, and make decisions from there.

Beth Anne’s Insights

Okay, and I did just have to chime in and give some insights as to my experience with a course launch! For my signature course, FB Brilliance, I did an open/close cart model. My cart closed after 3 weeks of marketing, for the same reason as Becky - I wanted to be able to turn off the marketing and focus on my students. But one thing I did notice is that my sales weren’t super great at the beginning. I got nervous, too! But then, a huge number of people flooded in towards the end of my launch! In fact, the last day for our fast-action bonuses was our biggest sale day! Those final hours really can make a difference, but you do have to be so strong to wait until the very end!

Becky went into her course launch with the right attitude. She had the mindset that her program was a beta program and her goal was to learn what should be in the course to best serve her students; she learned so much from her customers - about the program and what they wanted - and counts the experience as a win.

How Much Did Becky Put Into Facebook Ads?

Because we’re pretty geeky over Facebook ads around here, I had to ask Becky about her use of Facebook ads with this course launch. Were Facebook ads helpful? Could she get customers at affordable rates? Did they contribute to her sales?

Becky says she didn’t see the return on her ads that she was hoping for, but she also didn’t go all in with Facebook ads or invest a ton of money.

She did attend one of our FB Brilliance webinars (Yay! Thanks, Becky!) and was able to do some work on the backend by setting up her pixel and working on a lookalike audience. While Becky did see an increase in likes on her author page, she didn’t see those likes translate into sales. But on the whole, Becky didn’t see lots of sales with her social media efforts in general.

Email marketing was her primary sales tool that made the most conversions.

Becky tested Instagram and Facebook ads, as well as Pinterest ads with the help of her social media manager. This particular experiment didn’t work as well as she hoped, but she’s not going to shy away in the future!

We can’t get over Becky’s positive attitude! She admits that she probably didn’t know enough about social media advertising to make it successful; but next time she’s committed to looking at the data and trying it again, understanding how the ad strategies work before trying them.

It’s totally common for business owners to just want to tease and experiment with a new strategy. But it’s hard to make a profit without a plan. Constantly, and to this day, in our Facebook course we still have people asking if they ‘have’ to send Facebook ads to their email lists or if they can just send people to their shop. But the quick and easy will never work! It’s rarely profitable to send ad traffic straight to a buy button; rather, it’s more successful to use ads to build your email list and then turn those subscribers into customers. At the end of the day, there’s nothing quite as powerful as an email list.

A Successful Email List Strategy

Becky agrees that the email list is key! She used a giveaway to build her email list, and that went very well! And she did take out a few Facebook ads to point to this giveaway.

We absolutely love her theme, the ‘Ultimate Me Time Giveaway,’ in which she had a bunch of brilliant business moms come together to offer can’t-miss products. Her giveaway featured items like Rodan + Fields, Lularoe, essential oils, and tons of items perfect for pampering a mom. When a woman entered the giveaway, they automatically subscribed to Becky’s email list -- and they received an entire string of emails afterward, warming them up to The Cranky Mom Fix.

Becky was able to grew her email list substantially before launching her course using this strategy and those emails were her best marketing. (And Becky actually got this tip from us! So fun!)

So Facebook ads weren’t a total bust for Becky, she just thinks she needs to be better equipped to optimize them for her purposes in the future.

Overcoming Self-Doubt

We wondered if Becky has ever experienced self-doubt when it comes to teaching on a topic she once struggled through. What happens when you were once in the position of having a problem (in Becky’s case, crankiness) and then solved your own problem, and now want to offer that solution to others?

Did Becky ever ask herself, “Who am I to be teaching and coaching women?” If so, how did she push past them?

“I have those doubts everyday!” Becky laughs. “But I can coach on it because I still live it. With every blog I write on motherhood, the book I wrote on motherhood, and my coaching program - I get the voices that say, ‘Who do you think you are to do this work?”” Becky says she knows those voices aren’t from God, which allows her to push past them.

Then Becky does something really interesting. She’ll listen to and answer those voices, “Well, who am I? I’m a mom, just like them. They don’t want to hear from a perfect woman who has it all figured out. They want to hear from a mom in the trenches along with them who is figuring this out as she goes.” (Isn’t that great!?)

Especially on the days when Becky notices she’s becoming testy and needs her own reminders, she’ll tell her audience exactly where she’s been: “This is what happened to me today and this is what I felt like doing/ Either I managed to pull it around or I didn’t,” and she gets thanked every time for sharing that vulnerability. Becky knows she is “not the model mom who does everything right, and that’s part of the appeal,” because she’ll lose her ability to minister to other women if she comes off as the one who has it all together all the time.

Becky personally finds that I’ve-been-there mentoring encouraging, and wants to give that to others.

(I totally really relate to Becky’s perspective! Personally, I feel the most insecure with regard to teaching on time management. I feel confident that I have great business strategies to teach, but when it comes to time management I feel more insecure. My sister and I did design our first planner together to solve our own problem, but for me, time management and being a productivity wizard don’t come naturally. I’m constantly trying new strategies to be more intentional with my life and time, and I’m in the trenches with the ladies I am teaching and sharing time mangement strategies with.)

Being Authentic

Becky points out that the best products and services come from when we’re being authentic with our audiences.

When we are faced with a problem, and need to figure out a solution - that’s where our greatest ideas come from. People can your example and say, “She’s been there, and I want to walk alongside her as she figures it out.”

It’s not about having all the answers, it’s about being willing to work for the answers and bring people along with you.

Becky’s Adorable (& Humbling!) Mommy Moment

Over the summers, Becky’s 6-year-old daughter participates in their summer library program. She gets a booklet that outlines activities to complete each week. One question her daughter had to answer was “Who is your favorite author. And Becky’s daughter wrote, “My mom!” That was so encouraging!

But kids also have a way of keeping you humble :)

Recently Becky signed up for a gym membership, determined to get into shape. Her 9-year-old said, “I can’t believe you signed up for a gym membership, Mom. That’s so not you!”
Thanks, honey!

Becky’s 6-year-old had told her for a long time that she had a ‘jiggly bottom’. And when Becky went to her first class she explained to her 6-year-old that she was going to the gym to help get rid of her ‘jiggly bottom’. But upon returning home, her 6-year-old daughter looked at Becky and said, “But Mom, you still have a jiggly bottom!”

Ah! This story was too much. Kids are great for keeping you humble and in check, aren’t they?

Stay Connected With Becky

Site: Beckykopitzke.com

Direct download: BBM20Becky20Kopitzke.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Maria Dismondy is a self-published children’s book author who has sold close to 300,000 books….and she’s done this while working at home with 3 kids. Maria has grown her business by finding unique ways to market her books, so I can’t wait to learn from her.

I know a lot of you want to self-publish or market your books better, and I know Maria has tons of wisdom to share.

Welcome to the show Maria!

On the Show

1:05 - Getting Into Writing
3:40 - Selling a LOT of Books
5:49 - Parents and Teachers As Customers
6:34 - Partnering With School Systems
9:57 - Getting Found Online & Making Sales
12:05 - Opening A Publishing Company
14:20 - A Unique Business Model
18:35 - Busting the Self-Publishing Stigma
21:13 - A Day In The Life
24:58 - Funny AND Adorable Mom Moment

Listen Now

 

Getting Into Writing

Right after college, Maria became a teacher and taught for over a decade. She used children's literature to teach indirect lessons to her students. For example, if she noticed a lot of teasing or a lack of community in her room, she tried to find a children’s book that would talk about community and begin that conversation in their class. Maria knew that teaching young children a lesson could be difficult. (And we Mamas know exactly what she’s talking about, right?) But an effective way to teach principles is to show the children an example and talk about the topic indirectly.

Maria had a hard time finding books about real life characters, especially kids, who had the courage to be themselves in tough situations. She found tons of books with bears or talking dinosaurs as the main character, but she wondered why there weren’t books about bullying, teasing, or self-esteem with characters of different cultures or disabilities that represent real kids in the United States.

So she wrote that book! Maria’s start-up mindset was, “If it’s not out there, I’m going to write it.” And out of that thought came her first book, Spaghetti in a Hotdog Bun.

At the time she was working full time as a teacher and was pregnant with her first child. After her baby was born, she went back to work part-time as a teacher, but noticed that her book sales and speaking engagements were increasing.

Maria ended up leaving teaching altogether in 2011 and has been writing ever since. She works primarily from home but often speaks outside of the home. She brings up how we often get hung up on titles. Is she a Work From Home Mom? Or a Work Out of the Home Part-time Mom? Maria says it’s hard in her case because for so many years she was defined as a First Grade Teacher and Reading Specialist, but then all of the sudden she doesn’t have a tidy title to wrap-up her work. It’s certainly a funny challenge for mamapreneurs.

(Here at Brilliant Business Moms, we are all about growing a business that works with you and your family - regardless of the term you put on it!)

Selling a LOT of Books

The amazing sales didn’t come about immediately after her book published. It took a few years, and lots of hard work, but, as of this podcast recording, Maria has sold over 300,000. Congrats!

Maria says she primarily used grassroots marketing and lots of free social media marketing. She focuses not on selling books but giving valuable information and content to her target market.

Maria smartly recognizes that, although she writes picture books for kids, her market isn’t children. It’s the caregivers, teachers, and parents who will be purchasing books for children.

Her goal is to build a community around her books and a network of people who believe in empowering children with tools to navigate tough situations.

Her marketing message isn’t, “I have a book for sale. It’s $10.95 and you can buy it on Amazon.” But rather, “Did you know these 7 lessons are really important to teach children before age 7? Let me show you the research.”

That hook is much more powerful, isn’t it!? It’s much more compelling to explain the problem you solve or the benefit you offer. In her case, it's providing easily accessible information for families and teachers to help raise children in today’s society.

Parents and Teachers As Customers

It’s hard for Maria to look back and see where her sales came from on the consumer side. She knows how many books she sold via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers, but not who her individual customers are.

But what Maria does know is the majority of her followers on social media are teachers. Her books are part of the curricula in several school districts, which means there are lesson plans written around her books. 

Partnering With School Systems

It’s incredibly cool that Maria’s books have been incorporated into schools! How did Maria make that happen?

With her background as a teacher, Maria knew the going rates for author speaking engagements - and she knew what teachers wanted in those presentations.

At first, she offered her school visit services for free. And once she had a few under her belt, she charged a small fee. Word-of-mouth has been her biggest form of marketing since teachers knew she was good with the children, and age appropriate. In the last 5 years, she has focused on her relationship with people at a school who are responsible for booking speakers, like principals and media specialists.

Following her speaking engagement, she would send a personal note and a small gift to thank the school for having her. In the note, she would ask two things: what else she could do to help the school, and (if they had been happy with her presentation) to please share the word with 3 colleagues.

That strategy has really helped her business!

Other than these personal connections, she doesn’t do advertising. (And this shows how word-of-mouth is a WONDERFUL way for business moms on a budget to make an impact!)

A year ago she produced a video where she invited 5 contacts from her prior speaking engagements (educators and staff) to come to Barnes & Noble and record their thoughts. She made this request really easy - the date and time were set and she threw in a gift card to sweeten the deal. This video got tons of hits and was very helpful for booking future engagements. 

Maria says that her speaking engagements are usually local to her. She has 3 young children and acknowledges that she has limits on her time. Maria isn’t willing to travel for work, so she’s limited to mostly local schools. Recently she did take 2 speaking engagements in Florida because they were within driving distance to Disney World, so that worked out well for her family!

A creative solution Maria came up with is to offer virtual school visits. These have been gaining popularity and she has done many virtual visits to schools in California and New York. There’s a handy video program she uses to ‘visit’ the school online. We think that’s an absolutely brilliant strategy!

Getting Found Online & Making Sales

Maria has never paid for ads. She started blogging after the birth of her second child and was really passionate about writing at the time. She blogged 5 days a week! Her target market was parents and teachers and she made sure her content was excellent, despite the exhaustion of having a 2nd baby! Since then, she posts 2 times a week. She has remained consistent with blogging, even as other social media platforms have ebbed and flowed.

Since then, she posts 2 times a week. Maria has remained consistent with blogging, even as other social media platforms have ebbed and flowed.

In her posts, she doesn’t force her use of keywords. But she writes organically and due to the volume of her posts, she pops up on Google often.

(We think Maria gets a major high-five for all that consistency!)

Even though blogging isn’t as popular these days, Maria still recommends it for the traction you get in the internet space.

Opening A Publishing Company

About two years ago, after a television interview, Maria was approached by a publicist for an NFL player. Her client wanted to write a children’s book - and the rest is history! Stephen Tulloch (linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles) co-wrote The Little Linebacker, which is a story about having a growth mindset and a little boy who is so determined to be in the NFL despite the odds against him.

The year prior Maria had hired a business coach. And though it was a bit out of her character to make heavy investments, she thinks her business coach was very worthwhile! Her coach actually predicted that Maria could start a boutique publishing company with high profile clients.

At the time, Maria thought a project like that may be a little too big for a work from home mom. So she tucked the idea in the back of her head, but soon enough the idea resurfaced. Since she couldn't self-publish The Little Linebacker (since she wasn't the only author), she needed another option. Maria worked with her graphic designer and web designer to create a platform for Cardinal Rule Press.

She says this project happened very quickly and wasn’t super strategic at the time. But it has paid off! (And don’t some of the best business ventures begin with a lightbulb moment?)

A Unique Business Model

After publishing her own books and experiencing success, Maria began to get requests for coaching and consulting. And Maria noticed that she got requests from traditionally published authors who wanted to go to the "other side" and self-publish.

At first, Maria was confused. Why would these traditionally published authors want to self-publish?  But actually, it’s something that most authors aspire to.

Maria heard over and over again that publishing was a big industry, and unless you have a big name it’s hard to make money. She also heard about difficulties people had communicating with their publicists, and frustrations over doing lots of hard work for little revenue.

So as Maria set up her business model, she knew she wanted to work with two kinds of authors. She wanted to, first of all, work with authors who had established a platform. And second,  Maria wanted to work with authors who had stories that empower children. In her publishing company, she has a team of editors and copywriters who review manuscripts (and authors) that are aligned with their company values.

Her publishing company is a hybrid model, which means the author may put forward $10K to $20K in creating their project, but they make back that investment much faster. Her authors get around 90% of each book sale, which is far more impressive than the 8% to 12% they could expect from a traditional publisher.

Busting the Self-Publishing Stigma

Self-publishing does seem to have a stigma in the public eye. We’ve heard naysayers say things like, "Self-publishing isn’t as legitimate as traditional," or, "People won’t take you seriously as an author," and so on.

How does Maria combat the naysayers? Not surprisingly, Maria gave us some helpful insight!

She believes the bias against self-publishing has improved over the last 7 years. About 7 years ago, more people began self-publishing and the industry has gained credibility since then. She doesn’t see the stigma as much as it was then.

In Maria’s mind, her book sales prove that mode of publishing truly doesn’t matter. If you’re comparing apples to apples, she sees herself as an author whose book has sold over 300,000 copies.

“[My writing] brings an income to our family that is more than I made with a college master’s degree. I worked long hours as a teacher, and I only work about 3 hours a day now. I have 8 children's books that make a difference. The way my books get into the hands of children may be different, but I’m proud of the difference it’s making.”

The sales really do speak for themselves in Maria’s case.

(I can relate to others casting doubt on the legitimacy of your business model! I can still remember last year when Holden’s pre-k teacher made the comment, “Now that he’s in school maybe you can get a real job.” I was an online business owner and used to be a nurse, but I was thinking, "I worked way more hours and made way less!" Smile and nod, and be confident about how you can help people make a difference.)

A Day In The Life

Maria goes to bed around 9:00 or 10:00 and reads a book to relax. She’s awake by 5:30 or 6:00, makes a cup of coffee, and gets right to work. This morning, she was up at 5:30 am and her crew didn’t wake up until 7:30 am. So she got 2 full hours of uninterrupted work done!

Maria makes a point to be very focused during this early morning work session. She’s not checking Facebook or getting sucked into her email. She’s attacking her to-do list from the night before. These hours are highly focused for her.

Once her 3 kids - ages 3, 5, and 7 - wake up, they’re her focus. She makes them breakfast and gets them off to school. She has one in school full-time, one part-time, and one home full-time.

Her two littles go down for naps or quiet time about 1:00 pm. Maria then checks her email or will do something like an interview or a virtual visit.

After her older daughter gets home from school, they do after-school playtime and dinner.

Her husband sells commercial real estate, so a few nights a month he will work late entertaining clients. On those nights, she puts her kids to bed at 8:00 and will work another 2 - 3 hours until he gets home.

On the days she needs to work outside the home, she works from about 8:00 am - 1:00 pm. Maria’s mother lives close and will come watch her children during these workdays -- she’s very grateful for that option!

Believe it or not, Maria even finds time to work out! Usually 2 mornings a week she makes time for exercise, and usually with her kids. She enjoys long bike rides or runs. Her son, who’s 3, loves to visit the train tracks, which for Maria adds up to a 4-mile run! She incorporates exercise as part of her day with her children, and we love that.

On weeks when her workload is light, she wakes up at 6:00 am and might get an hour workout and an hour of work.

Funny AND Adorable Mom Moment

Around Christmas, Maria ordered about 100 super cute calendars to send to her corporate clients. She had to package the calendars separately, and ship them out in time for Christmas.

So, imagine Maria in a busy, Christmas-time post-office with about 60 packages. Her son kept putting his hands on her face, hugging her, and telling her he loves her.

She thought her son’s sweetness was a stark contrast to the cold mood of the post office. There was a sad feeling in the post office, with everyone looking so sad, grumpy, and impatient.

Her 3-year-old looked at the line of people on the way out and said loud enough for all of them to hear, “Happy Halloween, everyone!” The mood instantly lightened as everyone laughed and smiled.

Isn’t that exactly what people need? A bit of laughter during the stressful holiday season when we *should* be enjoying ourselves.

I just loved chatting with Maria, and I hope you came away inspired and excited to make a difference with your business.

Stay in Touch with Maria

Site: MariaDismondy.com
Instagram: @mariadismondybooks

Children's Book Author Maria Dismondy

Now It’s Your Turn To Head Out There And Be Brilliant!

Direct download: BBM20Maria20Dismondy20Edited.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Millions of people read Rustic Wedding Chic, which is the #1 resource for rustic and country weddings online. What you may not know is this popular wedding blog is run by a Mom of 2 with her 3rd on the way, Maggie Lord. Maggie calls herself a naptime entrepreneur and we SO resonate with that idea.

Welcome to the show, Maggie! We’re so excited to have you!

On the Podcast

1:10 - An Inspired Bride
3:01 - Curating A Site
5:50 - Solving Problems Through A Directory Site
7:01 - Monetizing Your Platform
9:52 - Advice For A Blogger Building A Platform
12:20 - Working With A Team
16:27 - Working with Freelance Photographers
17:40 - Growing A Pinterest Following
20:06 - Thoughts on Content Schedulers
22:55 -  What Makes A Popular Pin
25:26 - A Frequent Pinner
27:50 - Testing Out Promoted Pins
29:34 - Maggie’s Embarrassing Mompreneur Moment

Listen Now

 

An Inspired Bride

When Maggie and her husband were planning their wedding 9 years ago, she had a very clear vision for how she wanted things to look. She pictured a rustic but chic and elegant feel for her northern Wisconsin, small town wedding, but struggled to translate it to vendors. There was no Pinterest or Instagram 9 years ago (can you believe it!?) and Maggie found it difficult to plan a wedding without a quick way to save and share the magazines and images she loved.

She thought if she was having trouble, surely other brides were, too. So she thought, “I bet I could start a blog.” And back then, starting a blog was super easy! There were a million different blog formats to choose from, so she picked one and set out to help other brides just like her. In the back of her mind, Maggie thought her new venture would be a great profession someday, but she wasn’t sure how the details would work out.

In the meantime, she enjoyed planning her own wedding! And, of course, sharing the process on her blog. Where did she find inspiration? Where did she NOT find inspiration? Where did she struggle? She compiled these thoughts on her blog, and Rustic Wedding Chic began.

Curating A Site

How did Maggie go about gathering and sharing content that was the best of the best for rustic weddings?

She thought if she could share ideas from other brides and photographers, then her readers could translate those ideas into their own weddings. Initially, she had the idea to reach out to photographers and ask if she could share photos of their beautiful, rustic weddings. She offered to do a write up on their work, with a link to their services. In the early days of blogging, this is how blogging was done.

When Maggie started 8 years ago, there were maybe 3 wedding blogs in the niche: The Knot, Style Me Pretty, and Martha Stewart Weddings. She had access to ‘real weddings’ (not even a term yet) that she could showcase. As this virtual collection grew, brides all over the country were able to find the right florist or cake decorator for them. RWC started by asking to feature the work of vendors, and now they get hundreds of requests a month from vendors.

Maggie quickly learned that ‘rustic’ was an umbrella term - and there were tons of wedding types you could call ‘rustic’, from lakeside to barn settings. Shortly after launching Rustic Wedding Chic, Maggie launched RusticWeddingGuide.com as a way to help couples connect with vendors and venues. Creating this resource came out of requests Maggie would constantly get about finding the best venues. It's fantastic to see savvy business owners become the solution to their own problems.

Solving Problems Through A Directory Site

Did Maggie need a bunch of expensive software to make a directory site? Did she have to become a tech whiz?

She admits that putting together a directory site was a challenge.

Maggie was very comfortable producing content in blog format. She had post-writing down to a science. Putting together this directory site forced her out of her comfort zone. She made the decision to start small, and build from there.

RWC was getting requests from both sides: vendors wanting to get listed and brides wondering how to connect with vendors. Since the Rustic Wedding Chic team is small, they had to really focus their efforts. Maggie pulled everyone together and they made their plan. Starting small and building up worked in Maggie’s favor, as currently there are over 5,000 vendors listed on this directory site.

Monetizing Your Platform

Since Maggie has monetized successfully, I wondered if she could walk us through that process and break down her income streams.

Early on she got help from her brother, who is the president of an internet company. He helped her brainstorm and make a plan to monetize WRC. She knew she had a strong readership and impressive social media numbers, but the path to starting a business wasn’t so cut and dry.

Along with her brother, she tested ideas - and it turned out that advertising was her strong suit. Maggie intentionally wanted to make sure that she could work with smaller vendors like Etsy sellers, so they worked out a model that was more like direct sales.

She also partnered with Google and used Adsense for selling ad spots.

The wedding world is perfect for featuring sponsored posts or Instagram campaigns. The game has changed a bit now than when she started, but still, the model of featuring products and services on your platform works.

Maggie is also an author! When she signed her first book deal, she was unsure of how the process worked. She signed with a good publishing company and invested in a book attorney to make sure she was making wise choices.

We love how diverse Maggie’s income streams are. She’s got many pieces of the pie all fitting together.

Advice For A Blogger Building A Platform

What would Maggie say to a blogger who’s new and trying to build a platform and create a package that would be attractive to advertisers?

Maggie’s advice is on-point: “People have to be really cautious of the niche they’re in. I felt comfortable being in the rustic country wedding space because it came from a very organic place, and people could tell I was passionate about it. I was going to be true to that topic.”

Once you find a niche, spend a lot of time and effort learning how you can dominate that niche. You want to have the best site, be the most authoritative, and give readers a good experience.

“Be brand conscious, even if you’re not a huge, well-known brand yet,  you still have to think of yourself as a brand.”

Maggie says that when bloggers try to work with bigger sponsors, they have to be confident in who they are as a brand. It’s difficult for any company to part with money, even if they have deep pockets! So you have to prove that your blog is worth investing in. The company wants to make sure that if they send you X dollars, it’s going to be worth their effort.

If you can put a package together to explain who you are, why they should work for you, and who your readers are in a compelling way, that makes the decision ten times easier. A simple start is, "I am the expert in this world because...(your reason)"

Brands have a million options when it comes to spending their advertising dollars. They want a blogger who will be the perfect fit.

Working With A Team

Maggie’s site is INCREDIBLY busy! She has lots of logistics going on behind the scenes to manage regular advertising spots, sponsored posts, working with publishers, and so on. She accomplishes all of this with a small team! We had to ask how she makes it work.

When RWC first started out, she was a one-woman-show. All she had to do was create the content and publish it to social media. When the social scene exploded, especially with the development of Pinterest (Rustic Wedding Chic was one of the first Pinterest users) and her site gained more readers - she was responsible for more work.

Maggie knew they had to grow as a company or she’d be limiting her potential and opportunity.

When Rustic Wedding Chic decided to develop the Rustic Wedding Guide, she needed a team member solely dedicated to that project. Since their list of vendors is curated, Maggie had to make sure the vendors were high-quality  - and this took a great amount of attention. She also needed a team member to handle paid subscribers advertising in Rustic Wedding Guide’s showcase listings.

Maggie was able to hire someone to dedicate their time exclusively to the wedding guide and taking care of advertisers.

A couple years ago, Maggie’s husband left a job he had for a long time and transitioned to managing advertising on the blog. RWC would get tons of requests asking for a media kit or ad prices for social posts, or to personall review a dress - her husband was able to completely take this responsibility off of Maggie’s plate. (We love wife-husband teams!) Maggie handles all of the content creation and does media appearances for Rustic Wedding Chic.

Rustic Wedding Chic hires freelancers from all over, from California to New York. Maggie frequently hires photographers to do styled shoots, as well as freelance writers to assist here and there. Her team is a healthy mix of full-time and contract employees.

Working with Freelance Photographers

Sometimes Maggie will work with a company who wants her to review or showcase their product. In some instances, the company is very direct that they want Maggie’s special touch on these features. Maggie likes to be hands on with that content.

Other times RWC will field a request for something like a sponsored post, and the sponsor wants Maggie’s team to only be responsible for creating images and sharing the product. She talks with the company to see what their vision is, and they find a solution that works for her and her team as well as the company.

Maggie really wants Rustic Wedding Chic readers to know that they can expect only product and photos that will deliver high value to their lives. No matter your niche, this standard is great for any blogger.

Growing A Pinterest Following

Maggie has an impressive 161,000 followers on Pinterest, and has leveraged the platform well to grow her business. We had to hear more!

At the time when Maggie joined Pinterest, it was still by invitation only during their small roll out! The friend who recommended Pinterest to Maggie wasn’t even thinking of her wedding business, just that the social media platform might be something Maggie would personally enjoy. But it wasn’t long before Maggie started looking at Pinterest that she thought it would be the perfect place to share their beautiful featured weddings, so she sign-up as a person, but with the first name "Rustic" and last name "Wedding."

They grew very quickly and early because they saw the value of people being able to look at, and curate for themselves, hundreds of images at once. When RWC started on Pinterest, there weren’t a lot of Pinterest users or competition. She certainly credits that early adoption to their success.

As we know, Pinterest isn’t perfect. Maggie says that now she will go onto Pinterest and it kills her to see other pinners stealing her images! Swiping an image that they have exclusive rights to, and linking to their site, which means her fabulous photographers don't get the credit they deserve. As great as Pinterest can be for business growth, there are certainly drawbacks.

Nowadays if you were to search ‘rustic weddings’ on Pinterest, you would probably get thousands of images from so many people. But just a few years ago, you would have only seen Rustic Wedding Chic content. We think this is totally a lesson in being an early adopter of new technology; don’t be afraid to try something new for your business!

Thoughts on Content Schedulers

Maggie says she has seriously signed up or paid for practically EVERY content scheduler out there. Some she found helpful, and some were just downright frustrating.

She did use Tailwind for a while, but wasn’t a fan that her items would be scheduled SO far out. She’s also worked with a company that uses a bulk uploader for Pinterest. But despite trying out these many different scheduling options, Maggie just didn’t see that her pins were performing as well as they did when she pinned organically.

Maggie has gone back and forth as to whether or not a 3rd party service is useful. These days she still does take the time to daily pin organically and see what performs well. She will go back to her blog archives and see what post she could recirculate since there are always new brides needing to see past weddings.

Bottom line: Maggie has paid for ALL of the scheduling tools, but still feels that the best return on her investment is organic pinning.

That said, Maggie does use Pinterest Analytics. She thinks it’s very valuable to keep track of how many people you're reaching and which pins are most popular. Maggie did work with a social media expert to help her make sense of Pinterest Analytics. Her consultant asked Maggie if she’d ever notice that her pin view rate was about 4 million a month!! And then the consultant explained that a  pin view rate means a number of times your pins are interacted with in a month - in Maggie’s case, 4 milion! It was one of the highest the consultant had seen.

You can imagine that brides using Pinterest to plan their weddings are highly dedicated, if not a little obsessed! And the numbers show it. Maggie finds it helpful to use analytics to know how to hone her Pinterest strategy.

While content schedulers weren’t right for Maggie’s business, the value of gauging performance and observing trends certainly has been.

What Makes A Popular Pin

So what ARE those insanely popular pins that keep driving traffic back to Maggie’s site?

Maggie continues to be FLOORED that some of her content has been pinned over 145,000 times. Surprisingly, many of her top pins are fairly simple images. She’ll even see images of simple wedding features like mason jar centerpieces doing incredibly well.

(Though the success does come with difficulty. You can imagine how annoying and frustrating it is when Maggie sees her amazing pins pointing to OTHER people’s content. Let this interview be a friendly PSA: don’t steal pins!)

Highly popular pins are ones in which people feel like they’re going to get a piece of information or insight that can only be found at Rustic Wedding Chic. One of her pins is a lovely image with the title: ‘This Wedding Was Planned Under $10,000, See How They Did It’. A user can pin any pretty image, but it is highly valuable to be able to go to a site with solid information. Maggie has a pin called, ‘How To Have The Best Unique Guest Book’ that did very well, and another ‘Rustic Wedding Sign On Pallets’ which has had over 400,000 repins.

This kind of success makes total sense! Maggie’s not just throwing around pretty images, she’s giving practical advice that helps others.

One final note: while DIY projects aren’t a huge part of the Rustic Wedding Chic brand, those select posts do pin well. Again, Maggie wisely has observed that any pin through which the reader knows they’ll get exclusive information of how to recreate a look or complete a project will be a success.

A Frequent Pinner

Maggie’s favorite strategy is to pin content directly from her blog. On any given day, her site produces a few brand new featured pieces of content. Her daily Real Weddings posts will have between 12-24 images, each of which Maggie turns into a pin.

She also spends time going back to more popular posts or seasonal interests and searches for pinable content. (For example, at the time of recording we’re heading into summer. So Maggie is looking for posts like ‘25 Beautiful Summer Wedding Ideas’ or ‘Best Outdoor Seating Ideas’.) She estimates that she’s pinning between 50-100 images a day. She is constantly checking her Pinterest analytics to see what pins are popular and resonating, looking at stats like the pins with the most impressions, saves or click throughs in the last 30 days.

A lot of bloggers or business owners are curating content from not only their site, but also other related sites. Because Maggie has Sso much brand content, she could easily fill out a Pinterest profile with only her own images. But does she?

Maggie says probably 90% of her boards feature pins from her own site. And considering they have 9 years’ worth of content, it makes sense! But Rustic Wedding Chic does believe in sharing the love. They do try to pin and share content from other brands that they know Rustic Wedding Chic fans will love. Though on the whole, of their 60,000 pins most, maybe 90%, are from Rustic Wedding Chic.

Testing Out Promoted Pins

Just like us, Maggie was excited to see Promoted Pins roll out. She thought it would be a great way to reach new followers on Pinterest, but admits that for her brand she’s always been a bit disappointed with the outcome--they got repins but not new followers.

The best way for Rustic Wedding Chic to get new followers is still to create gorgeous content and work with great companies their readers will love.

In Maggie’s opinion, she thinks promoted pins are probably a great tool for businesses just starting out and trying to gain more followers because you need to be seen. Personally, she likes seeing promoted pins because she gets amazing suggestions of ideas that she truly enjoys.

Maggie’s Embarrassing Mompreneur Moment

Maggie calls herself ‘The Naptime Entrepreneur’ and has written a few articles on that topic. She has 2 boys - and one on the way - so her house is a bit crazy!

She used to try to work all hours of the day, but realized it wasn’t working when she made one embarrassing mompreneur mistake! She was at the park with her kids and drafted a hastily written email to a very prominent magazine, full of misspellings. She thought to herself that she would save the draft and polish the email once she was home. But when Maggie went to fix and send the email, she realized it had already sent!

Enough was enough. She realized she really couldn’t do it all! So now, she works when her kids are napping or sleeping. As anyone with kids and a business or creative outlet knows, it’s never easy. Maggie says it well: “When my kids are awake I’m CEO of Mommyhood, and when they’re asleep or at school I’m CEO of Rustic Wedding Chic.”

Connect with Maggie

Site: RusticWeddingChic.com
Pinterest: @RusticWedChic

Now It's Your Turn To Head Out There And Be Brilliant!

Direct download: BBM_Maggie_Lord.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Hi everyone! It’s me, Beth Anne, and today we’ve got a solo episode for you. I’m doing this solo episode because I’ve gotten so many questions from you brilliant business ladies about how I designed my planner.

How do I import a product from overseas? How do I find a manufacturer? How does one scrappy business mama come up with a product idea and make it happen? I’ll give you all those answers.

Let’s dive in!

 

Listen Now

 

On the Podcast

3:25 - First Product Iteration
9:50 - Finding The Right Designer
14:18 - Be An Expert In Your Niche
17:54 - Your Minimum Viable Product
24:03 - Improving On Your Product
26:10 - Finding a Factory
31:00 - Ordering Samples
33:30 - Taking Presales (with Kickstarter)
35:41 - Delivery Dates
37:34 - If You’re Having Trouble Finding A Factory
44:11 - Clearing Customs
52:14 - Fulfilling Your Orders

 

My experience with designing and manufacturing a product, as you might expect, has to do with planners. My product started originally as the the Brilliant Business Planner which launched in June 2015. That first iteration morphed to the Brilliant Life Planner, which launched via Kickstarter in August 2016.

I’ll take you through this process. And rest assured the takeaways will apply to you regardless of your nice.

(But to that point. I’ve heard from many of you with great ideas of planners, journals, and other paper products that solve problems in your niche.)

If you have a fabulous idea for a product that you just know is going to improve people’s lives, and you know it’s a better product than what’s on the market currently., JUST GO FOR IT! Yes, there are a lot of steps and unknowns, and you’ll learn a lot along the way, but you’ll be so glad you did it. When you’ve produced a fabulous product that you can put into people’s hands and help them, it’s really an incredible feeling.

That’s my pep talk as we get started :) I’m going to share my journey and the big takeaways you can keep in mind for your own product launch.

First Product Iteration

As my sister and I were writing our book Time Management Mama we wanted a planner that allowed us to plan our business and lives in one place.

Our planner idea started with lined, blank paper. We sketched out what we wanted on those pages. We really wanted work and personal to do lists, and top 3 priorities for each week. And we knew we wanted our weekly layout to be time blocked.

We just sketched it out our ideas. I should go pull up our old sketches for fun :)

Neither of my sister or I are very artistic or good at drawing. These early sketches were SUPER rough. We just knew what the end result should be, but we needed help bringing it to life. From there, we found a designer to take our sketches and turn them to a digital file.

Takeaway #1:Those of you trying to produce a totally unique physical product, will eventually need a CAD file. CAD stands for Computer Aided Design. You’ll need an expert to translate your ideas to this digital format, so that your factor can use and produce your product in mass quantities!

We got off easy when it came to finding a designer! As soon as we mentioned we were working on creating a planner, one lady in our community reached out and said, “Hey! I make planner pages and am well versed at using Illustrator to create printables. I’d love to work with you.” (SUCH a gift, right?)

This gal took our very rough sketches, translated them to Illustrator, and gave us ideas about how to make the planner even better.

Takeaway #2: When you find your designer, one of the best things you can do is be really prompt with feedback.

Design and development takes a lot of time. It’ll take way more back and forth than you imagined. If you want to keep your project moving forward, you need to write back to that person within 24 hours every time. Otherwise, you’ll be the kink in your own system. Then a year will go by without having a product, but it’s because you didn’t give prompt feedback!

Since this time, we’ve worked with a few different designers and they all appreciate feedback. They’re in creation mode and ready to work, you just have to give the direction you want to go.

You need to also give detailed feedback. Never assume that this designer can read your mind! Spell everything out for them, even when it comes down to the spacing of a line or font choices.  

One tip: When I feel like a piece of feedback will be hard to explain via email, I’ll do a video recording. I use a free app called liteCam HD for these quick recordings. What I’ll do is pull up those exact files that the designer sent back to me, and record my screen with me looking at the file. Following my mouse movement, I can say things like, ‘This line is too thick. And these colors aren’t quite what I wanted. But I like this section.’

Finding The Right Designer

If you’re fortunate enough to have a designer reach out to you and ask you to hire them, you can always go to a site like Upwork.com and submit your job. You’ll give details about the job you need done and the hourly rate you’re willing to pay.

I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of paying by the project. I know a lot of graphic designers have project fees - something like $1,500 for one project! I don’t like that at all!!! Here’s why. I want to build my working relationship with a designer and start with a few hours of work before I commit to using them exclusively. Sure, design portfolios are great. But I don’t know how well we’ll work together until I give the designer a few hours of work and we have some back and forth. How responsive will they be? How quickly do they make the changes I request? How easily do they understand my feedback?

Maybe someone who’s skilled, just can’t get your vision. Or maybe you two will have a language barrier that can be tricky. You need to cut ties before the project goes too far! Again, I don’t want to pay $1,500 if it took someone 5 hours to do the work! Or $1,500 if it took a couple hundred hours and I should pay them more.

For me, the hourly rate makes sense. I have them invoice me on a weekly basis, and I pay promptly. I recommend you start any designer with a small, low-impact project and go from there.

It’s ideal to have a designer who is versed in both Adobe Indesign and Adobe Illustrator. (Currently, I do have two designers - one to make my signature florals pretty in Illustrator and one to format the planner in InDesign. They’re both wonderful ladies I enjoy working with!) And, as I said earlier, if you’re creating a physical product you’ll need CAD files.

Be An Expert In Your Niche

The last word I’ll say on product design is this: look at the marketplace and know what other similar products are on market - THEN know how your product will set itself apart.

I firmly believe in the benefit of studying and becoming an expert in your product space.

For example, when we were working on our first planner - I purchased 20 different business and personal planners. I bought as many different ones as I could find with different covers and layouts. I wanted to be an expert in the marketplace. What are the issues and things these products are not addressing? What do these planners do well?

I knew after the first iteration of my planner that I wanted a hard cover. This is an example of a feature other planners had that we didn’t. Sure, at the end of the day a planner is a planner, but there are many little features you can customize to reach your audience. (After being frustrated ourselves that we couldn’t find weekly time-block layouts, we decided to design the Brilliant Life Planner with our weeks divided into time-blocked sections.)

To this day, the Brilliant Life Planner has pages inside unlike anything else. That distinction came from us carefully considering what we needed, and considering what problems other products on the market weren’t solving.

The void your business ends up filling may not be huge, but you don’t want to go through tons of time and effort to create something already existing. Knowing the void that you feel not only will steer your business development, it’ll help you with marketing later on.

I see some people who don’t want to look at what others are doing in their niche and think, “I’m just going to create from my brain and it’s going to be totally unique.” While I do understand that point of view, I have experienced that you miss things by not knowing what’s out there. It’s your job to be an expert in your space.

Your Minimum Viable Product

Once you’ve worked with designers to come up with the digital file you’ll need to make your product, you have to actually manufacture your product!

When it comes to getting your product produced at most affordable price, you will likely have to look at an overseas option. The Brilliant Life Planner is currently manufactured by a factory in China.

One hurdle with using a factory overseas is they often have pretty high minimum quantities you need to order before they’ll work with you.

There are a few ways you can work around this hurdle:

  • Produce your minimum viable product, knowing there are improvements you will make over the next years.
  • Take presales for your product. Once you have one product sample or prototype, get some photos and offer people a sample if what they’ll get. You can take presales with an expected production date in mind.

I’ve done both!

The Brilliant Business Planner was first produced by a printer in the Pittsburgh area. We found a printer close to my sister Sarah, and came to that printer with our planner idea and got a sense of options. This printer couldn’t do a hard cover planner, but they could do a thicker paperback cover and spiral binding.

We gave them our design file and they gave us a sample. Actually our first planner had a white cover, so one immediate change we made was to make our cover a lovely shade of bluish-green.

Our printer could accept a minimum order quantity of 100 units. Volia! We had our Minimum Viable Product. Keep in mind that factories will generally want you to order 1,000 units.

Even with that smaller order quantity, our minimum viable product still cost us several thousand dollars to produce. The cost-per-unit was much higher with smaller quantities. And, as it usually is, much higher with a manufacturer in the United States.

By going overseas to manufacture the new Brilliant Life Planner, everything on my dream sheet - product gift box, custom shipping, full color, thick monthly dividers, metal edge reinforcement - was the same price as my minimum cost-per-unit in the United States.

I still don’t recommend coming up with an idea and plunking down thousands of dollars right away! If we went overseas for our first planner order, it would have cost at least $10,000 - and that would not have been a wise business move. You want to validate that people want your product, before spending tons of money to create the product.

In retrospect, we even could have done presales with the business planner rather than putting our own money into the project.

Once we brought our first Brilliant Business Planner to market, we were able to make sales - but I’ll be honest, those first sales weren’t great. But the women who bought this planner loved it and used it every day. We chalked up the slow sales to our planner not launching in the right season (we launched in June) and with a half-year planner. Then we tried a run of the planner closer to planner season with a full-year planner, and sold 300 units. That was great for us! Getting the timing right was huge.

Using the strategy of a minimum viable product will allow you to start with small, manageable steps - and iterate your way to success.

Improving On Your Product

Even if you think your product is perfect right out of the gate, keep in mind that there will likely be changes your customers want. We sent out a customer survey shortly after our product first launched and asked if there was ANYTHING at all our customers would want changed.

People loved our florals and the planner, but didn’t have a business and need all the sheets. They wanted the time blocking and project pages, but not the pages dedicated to growing a business. I thought I could serve a lot more women if I made the planner for any woman who wants to live intentionally. And that’s really how the Brilliant Life Planner started.

Around this time, Sarah stepped away from the Brilliant Business Moms brand, so it was on my shoulders to get the new planner design in place. But it was WAY easier because we had a base of design files and could easily tweak and improve.

I also knew I wanted a much smaller planner, and hardback. Our local printer couldn’t accommodate, and so that made me explore other options for manufacturing.

Finding a Factory

Okay, I get this question all the time. “Beth Anne, HOW did you find the factory you worked with?” You guys, I used Google and Alibaba. It’s that easy!

Here’s a quote from Marie Forleo I love that applies to this entire process: “Everything is figureoutable.”

It’s so true! I feel like a lot of business owners out there want all the answers before they’re ready to get started. I’ll be honest, you’ll never have all the answers. There was a moment in creating the Brilliant Life Planner when I literally had this amazing product - 1,600 planners on a boat ready to come to me - and I didn’t know how to get them to clear customs. I didn’t know what to do!

Everything is figureoutable. You can do this and find the answers.

You should not wait until someone comes along who is going to hold your hand. Newsflash: that person doesn’t exist!

Sure there are people like me, or business coaches, who will give you a lot of information. But at the end of the day, no one person will have all the answers you need. A lot of running a business is figuring out your answers.

What I did to find my factory was visit Alibaba.com. On this website, you can find factories from all over the world who show you the products they’re experts at producing. I searched keywords like: ‘planner’, ‘weekly planner’, and ‘hardcover planner’. I found a factory and was able to see that the structures of the planners they produced was really similar to what I wanted.

I got in touch with this factory via email; there’s even a chatbox within Alibaba that you can use to contact the factory. I asked them very specific questions about what I needed, “What’s your estimate on the cost per unit based on these specs? How long will it take to produce my order?”

The factory quickly sent back photos of other planners that they had produced, and it gave me the confidence that they could print my planner.

When it comes to working with a factory, keep in mind that you never EVER EVER want to throw down cash and order 1,000 units and wash your hands’. Always order a sample first. You need the proof in your hands that this factory can produce the quality you’re looking for. You have GOT to order a sample to see if any tweaks need to be made. You want to ensure that the end result is just what you want.

Ordering Samples

Initially I ordered 4 samples - with my 4 different covers. The inside of the planner was the same, but the covers were different. I paid $500 to get those 4 samples produced. That investment was hefty, but think about it from the factory’s standpoint .They don’t want you to throw them $5 for 4 units and run. They need to know you’re serious about doing business with them. Their team had to work with me and my designer quite a bit to make sure the files were formatted correctly. Plunking down that $500 said to them, “This is serious money and I know it's taking you time to work with me and ship this sample.”

The factory shipped the 4 units pretty quickly, since we didn’t have to clear customs with the small quantity, and got my samples within a week.

After looking at these samples, I realized there were tweaks that needed to be made and corrections to the files. There were 2 covers I loved, and 2 I didn’t. I requested the changes, ordered 4 more samples. With this additional round of samples, I also included a gift box and card with each planner. Once I had these final touches in place, and was confident the factory could produce what I wanted, I picked my four favorite covers and we were in business!

Taking Presales (with Kickstarter)

Since I only sold 300 units of my first planner, it felt like a risk to not use pre sales as a way to test the market. We used Kickstarter, but I have to be honest I was not a huge fan of running a Kickstarter campaign.

We spent a lot more money than first projected with making the Kickstarter video and photos needed to showcase the product. Plus, there’s a lot outside your control with Kickstarter.

If I ever would take presales again, I would put the product in my Shopify store and explain that it’s for presale, giving people the expected shipping date.

You think you’re being smart to take presales before ordering in mass quantities. And while it is smart, you can easily spend $10K getting a Kickstarter off the ground. Especially if you hire a photographer, videographer, graphics, and so on.

Honestly I’d rather see more people do minimum viable products. You could set up an online store with listings, hire a photographer for a hour or two to get product photos, and go from there.

Delivery Dates

One thing I learned is it takes much longer than you’d expect for your product to clear customs and get to your hands. If you’re using any factory outside the US, give yourself 3 months for the product to be to you - or to your fulfillment center.

I was pretty lucky with how the Brilliant Life Planner shipping worked out. I ordered 1,600 units in mid-October and was able to get them to my house by mid-December. This process was a 2-month turnaround which worked hugely in my favor, but I wouldn’t expect this kind of magic to happen every time! Give yourself at least a 3-month margin for sure.

One way you can help this process along is to communicate constantly with your factory. In my case, the factory I worked with needed a 50% deposit, for materials and paying employees. The other 50% cost was required to get the planners on the boat and shipped to me. It took a month for my 1,600 units to be manufactured, and another good month for shipping and clearing of customs.

(Again, I was REALLY lucky with this time frame. But in the future, I’d give myself more margin. I’m a big fan of under promising and over-delivering. Of course your customer would be thrilled to get a product sooner than expected!)

If You’re Having Trouble Finding A Factory

Before we talk about what it’s like to get a product through customs - which was a HUGE learning curve - I did want to point out one thing.

If you’re having trouble finding a factory producing to your standards, here’s a pointer. You can look up import and export records from other companies in the US as that information is part of the public record.

If there’s another company who also produces a product in your niche - a high quality leather shoe, for example - you can find out which factory that particular company used.

Now, of COURSE your product is going to be different! You aren’t going to knock off anyone else, but rather fill a void in the marketplace. So back to our shoe example. Maybe you find another company with a similar, high quality leather show. Or even just another shoe company; you could search ‘TOMS import records’ or something like that. You will likely find a factory that could work with you on your shoe design if you search around.  

Here’s how you do it: Google search ‘import records’ for whatever company you’re searching. Be aware that the company official name may be different than how their name presents.

You can find bill of laden information from many companies using ImportGenius.com. Every shipment into the United States will have a bill of laden, and on that document you can see the name of the factory. Import Genius does cost some money, you may want to try other free resources first. But if you can’t find what you’re looking for, Import Genius may solve the mystery.

For a lot of products it’s a safe bet that they’re produced in China. You could use a one-country plan, select ‘China’, and see what you can figure out.

TradeAtlas.com has bill of laden records also. And I was able to get a good amount of details using their free options.

This will take some detective work, but using Google and possibly a few additional Internet resources and you should be able to figure things out!

Clearing Customs

After you’ve taken presales (if you’re choosing that route!) and have 50% to plunk down to the factory, the next step is to focus on shipping and getting your products cleared by customs. Any big shipment into the US will need to be cleared by customs. And I’ll be honest, I’m still very confused by this process.

From the factory you’ll get a bill of laden and other information. What you’ll need to do next is find yourself a customs broker. How did I find a customs broker? I Googled it! (It really can be THAT easy to problem solve in your business.)

I searched ‘customs broker San Diego’ and ‘customs broker Los Angeles’. From my paperwork I could see that initially my shipment was first going to Los Angeles, but then would be transported closer to me in San Diego.

Obviously when it comes to working with factories overseas communication isn’t going to be as constant. But when it comes to working with people who are State-based like customs brokers and freight forwarders, it’s much easier to just pick up the phone and call them. (I did find that a lot of these places are very unresponsive to email.) I called up the first company I found, and got an answer, “We don’t do that, but try this company.” And then I got the same thing again! But finally the third company was able to help me out.

Though it was a winding way to find my broker, as soon as you find a great customs broker, they’ll know exactly what you need. So my broker was able to quickly come back and say, “Hey, here’s some additional information and a piece of paper I need from your factory.” And you say, “Great, let me get that for you!” Hopefully your factory is really responsive and you can put that information into the hands of your customs broker.

My customs broker filled out all this necessary information for me. There was one tricky Excel spreadsheet that I had to fill out myself, but it got done! In my case, I waited too long to get a broker. I got very lucky, but you really should have your broker lined up before your products ever leave port.

In my case, my planners left port and it was another week before I found a broker to help get our products through customs. But (thankfully!) she was able to jump to action and we got the planners to port.

Let’s say if you don’t have your act together, what’s the worst that could happen? If your products are waiting to clear customs, they’ll just be waiting at a port somewhere. It’s not the end of the world, but depending on factors like how the shipments are stored your product could be impacted.

My factory already had a company they worked with lined up to take their shipments off the boat and put them in a warehouse. I didn’t have control over that step, so I had to wait for these parts to move. It took about a week for the shipment to get unloaded off the boat, and then finally the company could give me the status. At this point, I needed to present paperwork to prove my shipment had cleared customs and my freight forwarder could get the planners.

At the end of the day, my customs broker dealt with all these nitty gritty details. (And I was so grateful for her expertise!) We did end up getting our own truck and not waiting for the freight forwarder to bring the planners to me. We called the warehouse and asked if we could come get the planners; they worked with us and told us the specs of the truck we’d need -- and we got those planners! But if we had given ourselves more margin, we wouldn’t have been so pressed for time. I can’t recommend enough that you just find a broker who has lots of experience and can help you navigate the waters.

You don’t have to do this on your own! I promise, with the right help you won’t be stuck in some warehouse in Compton saying ‘let my products out!’ (Not that I know who that person would be :) LOL) Bottom line: get someone on your side who can help you.

Fulfilling Your Orders

We filled our own orders this run of planners, but next time we will be using a fulfillment center.

How do you go about finding a fulfillment center? You guessed it, Google it! Search around and call a few up. Give them your unit numbers, your specifications, and what you need them to do with the orders. Ask for their cost to store and fill those orders, and then compare statistics from a few difference centers.

Not to mention, when you call up the center you’ll get a sense of the company and how professional they are, how organized they seem.

And that’s pretty much it! Let’s recap our big takeaways.

Takeaways

  • Find a quality designer who’s skilled with Illustrator and InDesign if you’re manufacturing something like a planner or journal, and CAD if you’re making a different kind of physical product.
  • Order samples from your factory first to make sure they can create your product to your standards. And another note, if you’re having a hard time communicating with your point person at your factory, just ask if you can work with another person in the factory. (I loved working with my point person, Betta, and highly recommend her!)
  • Find a customs broker for the largest port near you. And ask your factory where they would send your shipment. Give them the final address of your product, either your house or fulfillment center, and they’ll tell you how to get your shipment. Pick up the phone to communicate with the key players in this process!
  • Use Google! Be a detective. And take deep breaths along the way. Ask around and you’ll always find someone with the missing link you need to create your product.
  • Start with a minimum viable product. You will likely begin with a US-based company first and produce a tiny run, or take presales for your larger overseas factory order.

You CAN do this! You can run your fabulous business and create an amazing product for your customers.

And I’m curious, what are you planning on designing and producing this year? Shoot me an email and let me know: brilliantbusinessmoms(at)gmail(dot)com.

And if you still have questions, I’d love to answer those. If we get lots of emails about the same question, we’ll do an episode answering them.

Thanks for hanging in there with this more technical episode.

Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant.

Direct download: BBM_-_Beth_Anne_Solo_5.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Laura Smith is a wife and mom of two little littles, plus she runs an online business at IHeartPlanners.com. And actually this is the second time Laura has been on our show! I am excited to have her back, especially because Laura has agreed to get really real with us and talk about a really juicy topic. You don’t want to miss this one!

Listen Now

On the Podcast

1:11 - What’s New With Laura
2:55 - Bravely Talking About Failure
4:23 - Disconnected Freebies
8:46 - When Hiring Help, Doesn’t
12:48 - Affording To Fail
14:28 - Laura’s New Plan
16:26 - When Deadlines Set You Back
20:00 - The Course BLowing Laura’s Mind
20:26 - More Successes Than Failures
26:14 - Advice if You’re Afraid of Failing
27:27 - Laura’s Adorable Mommy Moment

What’s New With Laura

Wow, so much has changed since we first had Laura on the show back in 2014! Her little girl was just 12-weeks-old and the business wasn’t quite 2-years-old yet. Not one thing feels the same! That little girl is now almost 2 ½ and she has a 7-month-old baby boy. Her family made the move from Pittsburgh, PA to Iowa, and her business is incredibly different.

Laura says, “So much has changed! Not one thing is the same. I don’t think hardly anything I was selling when I last talked to you is what I sell now.”  She has shifted away from physical products to digital, since, like many people these days, she has found that digital products work better with her lifestyle; they’re less stressful and more profitable.

Back then, Laura was a true solopreneur, but now she has a ton of people helping her with her business - and plans to expand that. One of the best things Laura says she has done in her business is bring on people to help so she’s not doing it all herself.

(And I know we say this all the time around here, but hiring help is truly this AMAZING thing. It’s a game changer.)

Laura Bravely Shares About Failure

For Laura, this past year she’s hit her biggest failures and greatest successes. And we are all so so lucky that she’s agreed to let us peek behind the curtain.

In terms of revenue, profit, and growth, 2016 was Laura’s best year. That said, it was also the year that she tried many things which totally bombed. “If you find the magic way to go through business and have everything work out perfectly, let me know!” Laura joked. “The bigger you get, the bigger the successes and the bigger the failures.”

Laura agreed to talk about her failures in order to encourage other women. (Thanks, Laura!)

One “Failure” from the Year: Disconnected Freebies

One major thing that didn’t work out well for Laura was a launch she attempted in September.

After not being heavily involved with her business while welcoming a new baby and moving, she poured a lot of time, energy, and money into this launch. This launch was supposed to be her first big venture after coming back, and a way to boost sales before the end of the year.

She hosted a free challenge with a partner to kick off the launch, and everything was running smoothly...except she only made 10 sales in September, whereas the prior year, selling the same product, she made over 700 sales!

Laura is still really glad she did the launch, but was hoping for more of a change in her business, and for sales to really pick up!

So what about marketing going forward?

Laura says it was definitely a learning experience as far as marketing. She remembers mentioning briefly during the planning stages, “I don’t think the connection between my free challenge and the product at the end is really tight. Eh - I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Learn from Laura! If you doubt your own idea, or hear an offhanded concern about your strategy, don’t dismiss that warning bell.

She says anytime you offer a freebie that should then lead to a sale, make sure there is a tight correlation between the freebie and the product you are selling. You want the product you’re selling to be the next logical step for people after consuming the freebie. In Laura’s case, she had a TON of people excited about this amazing freebie she offered - with lots of engagement and participation. But when it came time to offer the product, which was fairly disconnected from the freebie, it just didn’t work.

I see this all the time in new business owners! Their freebie doesn’t connect logically with their product. It’s easy to get excited about building your list, but it’s hard to take extra time to make sure everything connects. Don’t skip that step.  

And as Laura learned, it’s easy to feel like they’re tightly correlated in your mind than they really are. I think this analogy is perfect: “I loved my freebie AND I loved my product. Wouldn’t everyone else? No. Just because you love puppy dogs and chocolate, doesn’t mean you need to do a puppy dog challenge and sell everyone chocolate.”

When Hiring Help Doesn’t Pan Out

Overall, hiring help has been one of the best things Laura has done in her business - both in terms of personal sanity and helping her business grow. She is a HUGE fan of hiring help, whether that’s hiring people to help directly in your home, someone like a Virtual Assistant, or a web designer to build your website.

But the reality is, It can be very scary to hire help! You have to invest some money up front, with no guarantees about how it will turn out.

Early last year Laura wanted to build out funnels that were a bit more sophisticated than what she had been doing -- more complex than just offering a freebie which leads to a sales pitch for a product. She wanted to test out ads, opt-ins, and limited-time offers.

Laura knew that with a brand new baby and a toddler, there was no way she would get those funnels set up with the team she had. She wanted to hire the job out to experts who could get the job done.

Long story short, she paid an expert over $6,000 to set up these funnels - and the results have been, well, nothing. She paid about $600 in ads and only made $400 from the initiative.

Laura is quick to clarify that this experience didn’t make her run into a dark hole and say that funnels and Facebook ads would never work for her. On the contrary, Facebook ads actually DO work, and they do work for Laura. But they did not work for her in this specific situation. The moral of the story is three fold:

  1. Sometimes you have to try a few strategies before finding what works. Do your homework, but it won’t always work out the way you think it will.
  2. When you do choose to hire someone, as much as possible, try to start them off with a mini-project first. (Laura tries to find a one-time project that she can pay a new help $50 to complete to test and make sure everyone is compatible. In Laura’s case, she knows this expert has gotten results for tons of other people - but their fit wasn’t good.)
  3. Take financial risks that fit where you are in business. Had Laura tried this sales funnel project 3 years ago, she would have had to shut down the business! Back then she didn’t have $6,000 to lose. At this point, while losing a chunk of change is a bummer, her business will be fine for the long haul. Take risks appropriate to your stage in business, and do it with forethought and wisdom. Have the expectation that nothing in business is guaranteed.

Can you Afford To Fail?

Sometimes I see new business owners want to throw all of their money and life savings into a project, but it doesn’t work that way, because what will you do if you lose that entire investment?  As your business grows, then you can make more calculated risks about investments.

At the time of recording, Laura has been in business for 4 years and she has worked with a ton of people that did help her business, and ran many successful launches. But even then, she STILL makes mistakes. “Just because you’re newer (and have a failure near the beginning) doesn’t mean you’re terrible at business and should run away. That’s not true! If you need to cry, go have yourself a good cry, and come back and make a plan of what you’re going to do now.”

Laura and I both agree that the only thing separating a successful business owner from a not-successful one is whether or not they keep going after a setback.

Laura’s New Plan

What I love about Laura is that she didn’t let a few setbacks set her back. WIth regard to sales funnels, she’s back in the saddle! Her motto is: “You never know until you try!” She is continually trying and testing new strategies and she’s experienced huge successes with sales funnels. In fact, she had one funnel that brought in way more than the $6,000 she lost working with the expert.

Through the funnel that failed and then the successful new strategies, Laura’s lesson learned is: “Had I just said, these aren’t for me, they don’t work for my business--I had a bad experience I’ll just bury my head in the sand--I would have lost so much. As far as funnels, you’ve got to test different things. You can’t throw an ad up in 30 minutes, and then if it doesn’t work, say, ‘My audience doesn’t respond to ads.”’

Though expert advice disagrees, Laura has found that running ads directly to a sale has worked very well for her audience. She can’t tell you why! But most of the time, she does better running ads straight to a sale rather than an opt-in. There’s just something about her audience that loves a good sale!

The moral of the story isn’t “Maybe your audience will do this or maybe they won’t,” but to take the time to see what works for YOUR audience.

When Deadlines Set You Back

Laura’s final example isn’t so much a setback, but more of a net neutral.

She worked very hard on another funnel (it’s been the year of funnel success and failures for her!) and it again did not convert. It was neither a loss, nor a profit. They made back their investment, but couldn’t make it profitable.

Yet again, this was another case when she should have listened to the voice in her head. There was a big mismatch between the freebie and the product she was offering. It’s easy to see that disconnect in someone else’s business, but not yourself. You would notice, for example, if a friend wanted to offer a freebie on dog training and sell a chocolate box subscription. It’s just harder to see it in yourself.

When you’re working hard on your project and you’re really excited, you just want to get it out of the door ASAP! Laura says if she had held back and been patient, this product wouldn’t have been as disjointed.

In fact, one of Laura’s goals for this year is to set fewer deadlines in her business. Deadlines do help you get things done, but arbitrary deadlines can make you push out products that aren’t quite ready - or haven’t been tested thoroughly.

Don’t get me wrong! We’re definitely fans of setting deadlines at Brilliant Business Moms, but it’s good to know when you need an extra week or two to put the finishing touches on a product that you can think it through and take the extra time. And Laura shares that your relationship with deadlines can change along with your stage in business. When you’re first starting out, deadlines help you get the work done. But further in your business, maybe you can take more time to refine your work regardless of deadlines.

The Course Blowing Laura’s Mind

Thinking about how your stage of business can affect how you treat your business, Laura gave us a quick recommendation of a course that really has been helpful to her as a seasoned business owner. It’s Todd Herman’s course The 90 Day Year, and he talks in depth about the different stages of businesses.

More Successes Than Failures

Lest you think Laura’s business has been full of failures, we want to spend the remaining time highlighting her successes! Laura’s optimistic approach to failure is so inspiring. She doesn’t let it get her down, she tries to learn and moves on to the next success. And some great successes she’s had! 2016 was her biggest year to date; she had by far the most revenue, had the most profit, and reached the most people.

One success she experienced was getting a really profitable funnel up and running! Funnel-building is something she’s not been able to do up until this point in her business. Every business owner has limited time, and previously she had focused most of her attention on limited-offer launches to her whole list. Laura realized that she was not capitalizing on the opportunity to make sales right as a new subscriber signed up to her list. And now that she has, she’s excited about the ability to stabilize her income through funnels without having to work hard on launch after launch.

Another great success for Laura this year was launching her course List Building Academy. This is her first product outside her usual scope, and it’s designed to show other bloggers how to build a profitable email list. At the end of 2015, Laura remembers struggling to know what direction her business should go. She was conflicted about deviating from her home organizing/planners/printables blog theme, and adding a course about building an email list. It is true that if you spread yourself too thin, you won’t be effective at anything, and Laura is usually the person who wants decisions to make sense objectively; but she thought it was time to follow her heart in this case! She was SO excited about creating content for her List Building Academy course that she decided to go for it. And we aren’t surprised that it’s been a wonderful product addition to her business!

In other news, Laura had a baby boy this year - so that was a total win! And her family moved halfway across the country.

She hired a new team member who has been amazing for her business. Laura says, “If you’re not always talking about how amazing the people who work for you are, you don’t have the right people.” Laura says her team has been a total lifesaver, and they do some things better than she does! Especially with a new baby and a big move, her team allowed her to hardly work at all, and yet things could continue to move forward in her business.

And I SO agree! When you find the right people, it’s incredibly freeing for your business! The things you struggle with, others can do ten times faster. It allows you, as a business owner, to play to your strengths.

Advice if You’re Afraid of Failing

Success and failure go together sometimes. I wanted to know what advice Laura had for someone who fears failure.

Laura’s advice for those of you who might be struggling with the fear of failure is straightforward: “Don’t let the fear stop you from trying. And don’t look at failure as a bad thing.” She doesn’t see her past year as a negative at all, or that she’s personally a failure. Failing is part of learning.

Just like Laura’s new baby boy who falls down a lot while he’s learning to walk - and that’s okay! Falling - or failing - is part of learning and growing. I love how Laura approaches this: “If you’re afraid to take any risks or try anything new, it’s going to be hard to grow in the online world that’s changing very quickly.”

Take risks. Embrace it. You will fall down at times, but it’s totally okay. Get right back up.

Laura’s Adorable Mommy Moment

Laura’s daughter is totally mesmerized with her hands when they get wrinkled in the bathtub. She’ll proudly announce, “Hands all rinky bathtub!” Laura thinks her daughter’s pronunciation of ‘wrinkled’ is so precious. (And I do too!)

Laura has loved watching her daughter become a big sister and love on her little brother. Recently Timothy (Laura’s little boy) was crying and Laura asked her daughter why she thought Timothy was sad. Her little girl said, “Because Timmy wants daddy!” Kids are so sweet!

(I am really looking forward to Holden becoming a big brother! I can’t wait to see that sibling interaction.)

Keep In Touch With Laura

Site: IHeartPlanners.com

Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!

Direct download: BBM_Laura_Smith.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Today we are so happy to have Stacy Tuschl on the show! She started her now 7-figure business when she was just 18 years old, in her mom’s backyard; and currently she has over 40 employees and has been able to build her business by spending just an hour a week on that business. This freedom has allowed her to dedicate her time to something she’s very passionate about: helping other women take their business to the next level. She also hosts a podcast called She’s Building Her Empire and you can learn more at StacyTuschl.com

Welcome to the show, Stacy!

Listen Now

 

On the Podcast

1:15 - Building a 7-Figure Brick-and-Mortar Business
3:36 - Moving To A Commercial Space
6:50 - Community-Based Marketing
8:50 - Hands-Off Business Woman
11:40 - ‘Is Your Business Worth Saving?’
14:44 - Pushing Past A Low Point
17:51 - She’s Building Her Empire Podcast
22:55 - Stacy’s Adorable Mom Moment
19:23 - Facebook Live Podcast Recording
25:25 - Stacy's LIVE Event

Building a 7-Figure Brick-and-Mortar Business

In high school, Stacy was a competition dancer, but she knew that she wouldn’t make a career out of dancing. While she was going to college, she started teaching dance classes in her parents’ backyard for free (She says that honestly, it was more for her than for the kids!). Her original goal was to keep her dancing passion alive, but she quickly fell in love with teaching the kids and giving them that experience.

Three years later, nearing college graduation, Stacy was still offering classes - but now she had 100 kids in her backyard!! About to graduate college with no idea what she wanted to do next, Stacy started putting the pieces together: she loved being a leader and teacher. It was a no-brainer to start her own business.

She incorporated her dance studio at 21, and it turns 15 years old this summer. At the time, Stacy couldn’t even dream of becoming a 7 figure business.

Her secret is that her company has always been good about over delivering, and “giving to the community and to the kids, and because of that we can’t help but have all these kids coming to us every year. We just keep getting bigger and bigger.” (And by “we” she means her amazing team.)

Moving To A Commercial Space

At the beginning, because she was doing her classes for free, no one expected a highly professional set up. But when she started charging for her classes, she realized people expected much more.

The first thing she did was rent a commercial building, because, it was too risky to buy right away. Stacy rented a small space year-to-year for a while. Within 3 years she saw that her business was profitable, that it was working, and then built a 9,000 square-foot commercial space. Her first studio was very large, but she wanted to make sure that her business wouldn’t be going anywhere; they could grow into and then max out the space they were in.

Her second location was at least 10 years into the life of her business. And she was aware that changing cities could potentially impact her success, and it was another risk. So she rented a space for 3 years (which is usually unheard of for commercial properties--they expect longer leases) and knew if the business went well in the new location she could continue to scale up and build that second building.

Her second location is around half the size of her first, and though it’s only been in place for about 4 years she thinks it’ll quickly surpass her first.

Stacy’s team had a hard time finding land, so they found a foreclosed building - where the land was worth more than the building! The gutted the building down to the block and put a $1M renovation into it. Now it’s a 7,200 square foot space, which includes a tenant space. (Stacy’s tenant is a nail salon, and they signed a 10-year lease with her, to give you an idea of how commercial rentals usually work!) They’ve also planned out a Phase 2 of her property, which would create additional tenant space.

Community-Based Marketing

It’s obvious that Stacy’s customers are so incredibly happy and she blows them away with her studio experience. We wanted to know, other than word of mouth, what are some main ways that she has marketed her dance studio business?

Stacy was happy to talk with us about other forms of marketing. But she couldn’t talk about growing her business without word-of-mouth because “when you deliver to your current clients, they can’t help but talk about you to their friends.” Her business grew from 17 students to 100 in just 3 years. And at first, she didn’t pay a dollar for marketing because she made it a priority to talk to her existing audience.

At this stage of business, Stacy does have the money to invest in marketing -- but still, the number one way people hear about her business is word of mouth. It’s so powerful!

She has seen great success using Facebook ads and can attest that Facebook ads work for local businesses. Her studio regularly runs advertising to their local community. Stacy also has arranged a few paid partnerships, pairing up with local businesses for various services.

She also spends marketing money giving back to their community. Each year they host 3 events free of charge for their local community, including a trunk-or-treat event. Having 450 kids trick-or-treat on their property is AMAZING marketing. They’re paying for their community to come to their location and check them out. Stacy says, “Their first impression and experience with us is that we’re giving to them before they ever pay a dollar to us.” (And isn’t giving before getting how Stacy built her entire business!?)

Hands-Off Business Woman

Stacy has been able to keep her dance studio running by spending just an hour a week on her business, which has allowed her to focus time on her current passion project.

How can you build a team and work less? How can your business thrive?

Well, for starters, Stacy says that working increasingly less on her business wasn’t something she set out to do. But as she started investing in more training - like live events and seminars, reading books and listening to podcasts- she kept hearing advice to build a team and delegate the work. This did not come naturally to Stacy! But after 15 years of working at it, she’s gotten good at delegating.

As Stacy built her phenomenal team, she gradually noticed that she had fewer and fewer responsibilities on her plate, and they didn’t need her.

“My passion is business in general. I love--and it sounds so boring to people--but I love working on my computer and getting new things done and having that challenge...as soon as I realized I had this incredible team, I asked, “Now what do I do?”

Her passion is to teach other female entrepreneurs. So she has devoted her (now free!) time and energy to the online space and pursuing educating others.

Many people have prodded Stacy to sell her business. “I have no interest in selling my dance studios!” she says. She loves what she’s doing for her community and has no interest in selling what has become a fun experience for her. Plus, over the past 15 years, she’s built systems into place to make her company self-run.

Her advice is to grow your business one employee at a time--you don’t go from zero to 40! Hire one person as you bring in more money, invest in your team, and then grow organically.

This model has also worked for Stacy in her new online business. She’s been at this venture for a few years now, also starting from scratch. She needed at least one person on her team to delegate to, and the larger she gets and more money she brings in, the more people she can afford to put on her team.

'Is Your Business Worth Saving?’

At first, it doesn’t sound like a nice question to ask, but Stacy knows that every entrepreneur (and we know this is especially true for Mompreneurs whose business isn’t as profitable as they hoped, or they’re drowning in work or have lost their spark) has asked it -- including her. What then? All entrepreneurs get to the point in business where they ask,

Stacy wanted to reach out to the people asking themselves these questions: “What am I doing? Is it worth it? Can it really be a business? Will I make money?”

And she wrote her book especially to those who want their answer to be ‘Yes!’ Stacy knows that many entrepreneurs just need strategies and the right tips and tools to go in the right direction. But she also wisely understands that “sometimes we actually want to give up and we don’t want the answer to be yes; we really don’t have a passion for it. My biggest question I ask people is, ‘Did you ever have a passion for what you do in your business?’ Sometimes the business side takes over and we start doing things we don’t love to do. But if there ever was a point you loved an aspect of your business,” we can get back to that thing.

For example, let’s say Stacy didn’t love the business side of her studio - but loved dancing instead. If she felt like giving up, she could get back to teaching dance and hire people to run her studio. In your business, do what you love and outsource those other parts.

(For me, I’ve found that outsourcing the Brilliant Business Moms tasks I don’t like to do makes a huge difference! I’m so much more excited to get to work every day when I’ve got someone else behind the scenes helping me. And guess what? Those other people love doing those tasks!)

Stacy says she knows a lot of you listening might be quick to say you don’t have the money to outsource. To that concern, Stacy responds, “I want to tell you this: it is a temporary situation. Understand that this is not permanent. You might have to do everything right now, but it’s temporary. Keep telling yourself that. Keep making a list of things you’d love to outsource when the time comes...Right now you may have to work your butt off as a solopreneur to get there. But you will get there if you keep pushing.”

Pushing Past A Low Point

We appreciated what Stacy had to say: “When you’re looking at someone who has a level of success you want to achieve, they have absolutely had a ton of failures...People want to know what does that low point look like? How did you get through that? And I have so many examples I could share with you. When you’re an Entrepreneur you take risks. And sometimes when you take risks they aren’t all going to work out.”

Stacy’s personality is to move very quickly. She gets things done in rapid and record time. People will give her a two-week project, and she can get it done in a day.  But things can break down when you move fast. There are pros and cons to every mode of working.

In Stacy’s case, her biggest mistake was not realizing that she was in her comfort zone. And it may not seem like being a mistake, she says, but if someone told you your business could hit $1M in year 10, but you didn’t hit it until year 15 - you may not think you’ve made a mistake, but you might have prevented yourself from growing.

Stacy had been going to the same conferences, and meeting the same friends. She wasn’t stretching herself.  And when you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. But amazing things happen when you get to a whole new league!

In fact, the only reason she started an online business is because she stretched herself. She attended a live event that was insanely expensive. In fact, so expensive that she had a hard time paying for it! But, making that investment allowed Stacy to get into a room full of people that she normally wouldn’t have come across. It was people she needed to meet, and a network she needed to break into, in order to move forward in her business.

Stacy says she should have made that step a long time ago, so it was a mistake for her. In the business world, no matter your focus or the niche you’re in, the minute you stop growing and learning and changing - you could get left behind.

She’s Building Her Empire Podcast

As we mentioned at the beginning, Stacy is also a podcast host for She’s Building Her Empire. We often get questions asking if the blog or podcast should come first; which will help your business grow more? We wanted to know Stacy’s experience. Did the podcast grow her audience? Or was her podcast more a tool to help her serve her existing audience better?

Stacy is quick to point out that while podcasting, blogging, and Facebook Live can be great ways to spread the word about your business - they are often slow to start. “We think we’re going to have this platform and blow up with a thousand listeners every single week, but that typically doesn’t happen,” Stacy said, and we know it’s true!

More than 50% of podcasts on iTunes have less than 176 listeners per episode, which is crazy low when you think about it. It’s low, but think about yourself being in a room of 176 people every week and giving them your message - that would be great! It's a different vibe when you think of it that way

The Podcast is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to grow.

Facebook Live Podcast Recording

Stacy is a big fan of repurposing; she likes to do everything, but doesn’t always have time! She has a really unique way of recording podcast episodes and creating social media content. Stacy will actually record her podcasts while on Facebook Live! After the session is done, she’s got great social media content and material for her podcast.

Another great example of how Stacy repurposes content is by recording content via Zoom (which is a video recording platform), then uploading the video to YouTube and stripping the audio for a new podcast. Stacy thinks it’s great she can be in many places online, without having to actually BE in each place.

Your audience isn’t all in one place. There’s some on Pinterest, others on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Stacy can take her podcast, put a shareable social media graphic on it, and put her content everywhere. She gets a lot of mileage from one-time work.

(We think this is such a great idea!!)

Mixing platforms like this can be tricky because “your podcast listeners might not enjoy you constantly communicating in real time with people on Facebook Live.” Stacy works around this quirk by leaving a comment at the top of the video that mentions she’s recording an episode and There will be a Q&A at the end, so stick around. Her audience knows that if they commit for the whole session, they’ll get their questions answered at the end.

But when Stacy does mention that she’s recording on Facebook Live in content headed for the podcast, it’s great because maybe the podcast listener was unaware she puts out content on Facebook and will go to visit her there.

We just had to ask HOW does Stacy do it? Does she mount her phone with the Facebook Live rolling?

She says that she sets up the camera to give a ‘behind the scenes’ feel. Viewers can see her mic and background. And, in her experience, everyone thinks it’s so cool to have the inside look. They appreciate this view way more than just a talking head on her phone.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed with social media, think about where could you double up your efforts. Can you repurpose any of this stuff? Is there a sentence from the show notes that can go into a social media graphic that links to YouTube?

(Wow, I learned so much! I want to do some streamlining in my own business after talking to Stacy!)

Stacy’s Adorable Mom Moment

Stacy tries not to work in front of her kids. She sends them to daycare, and when they’re home she’s totally in Mom Mode. But during a busy time, like a launch season, you have to figure it out. During one of these busy times, Stacy was working at home while her husband played with her daughter, who was 4.

She casually asked her daughter, “Is it okay if mom works, or do you want me to play with you?” And her little girl said, “It’s okay, Mom! You keep working. I’ll keep playing over here.”

Stacy was so touched by her daughter’s insight, until a few days  later when she told Grandma, “Mommy works on her computer and doesn’t play with me.”

Kids! They are watching and listening...and sharing too!

Stacy's LIVE Event

I love how Stacy got to an amazing place in her business by taking it one step at a time, just like all of us do.

Stacy has a live event coming up in April I wanted to let you know about: She's Building Her Empire. A 2-Day conference happening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You'll get to hear a lot more from Stacy, as well as other amazing speakers including 'Boss Mom' Dana Malstaff. On the event website you'll see a detailed breakdown of the 2-Day agenda, plus get all your questions answered. Visit the event page to learn more.

brilliantbusinessmoms.com/buildingherempire

Keep In Touch With Stacy

ShesBuildingHerEmpire.com

ShesBuildingHerEmpire.club

Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!

Direct download: BBM_Stacy_Tuschl.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Today on the podcast I am super excited for a new format that I hope to do regularly, and that is bringing on the entire Brilliant Business Moms Team: Carlee, Victoria and Ellen! Today we’ll be chatting about the FB Brilliance course launch, and not about the numbers like we did last week on my solo episode, but more about what we loved about the launch, what we want to improve, and how we can give our customers a great experience. Listen Now Our Favorite Part Carlee: We all agreed that our absolute favorite part of the launch was this 5-Day series we did on Facebook Live. People could listen to all 5 days, then we gave a task or homework for each day, which they answered in the comments. We complied the answers from everyone who participated in all 5 days, and those women were eligible to win 1 of 3 full scholarships. Victoria: It was fun on our end to compile those answers and get to know more people in our community. I enjoyed watching these highly motivated ladies do the work, seeing what they’re thinking about their business, and watching them do the leg-work to be successful. We only had a limited number of scholarships, but as we read them all we wanted to really honor each one, because we saw that they were acting on what we were teaching! Ellen: I loved this series! There was so much interaction on the videos, and they did so much work! When people couldn’t afford the course, but they got in on a scholarship, they were really motivated to work, which was fantastic to watch. Victoria: It would be great to circle back and see how they are all doing now! Beth Anne: We had the 3 winners, and then about 14 more, out of 40 submissions, who took us up on the 50% off scholarship. It would be fun to see where they’re at now. The FB Live series built a lot of buzz about Facebook Ads. As they took action, they could see how FB Ads would work for their business. You guys know I was really nervous about selling a course for such a high price point ($497!), but the scholarship program mitigated that, as we gave some really smart, motivated women a chance to get in free and rewarded the rest with half off. Carlee: All the hard work they did for homework on the FB Live series--like narrowing down their customer avatar--changed people’s businesses. They were so excited about the homework! Beth Anne: Yes! That goes back to the core of Brilliant Business Moms: You can learn great things and grow your business whether you ever spend money with us or not. You can still get valuable information that you can take action on. Victoria: I also loved watching Beth Anne and Ellen develop the quirky, fun, engaging Facebook Ads you guys came up with. They were so creative, and it was so fun to see Facebook Ads for a course on Facebook Ads! Beth Anne: Yes, and I am so excited for next year, especially as we’ll have some in-person time for the next launch, as I can analyze those ads and come up with more that are fun, engaging, and on brand. I don’t want them to feel like an ad; instead I want them to walk away chuckling. The Stressful Aspects Beth Anne: Ellen said in an email, “Let’s not close the cart on a night we are all traveling and getting settled for a conference!” The cart closed on November 2nd, and we were all travelling. Beth Anne had 2 flights to get to Nashville, Ellen flew in earlier that day, and Carlee flew in and was staying with a friend that night. The cart closed at Midnight Pacific, which was 2 or 3 AM in Nashville, so Carlee stayed up all night answering emails. We realized too late we should have set the cart to close a day or 2 earlier, so we will definitely be planning MUCH better this year for the cart close dates. It put a lot of pressure on Carlee and Ellen because cart closing is when people are asking a ton questions about the course, and if it will work for them, etc. Ellen also mentioned another thing that DID NOT work for us: All the Crazy folders we tried for organizing the course in Google Drive. We were modeling our organization in Google Drive off Amy Porterfield’s system I learned in a course. We thought her amazing folder organization system would be awesome for this launch, but we definitely decided that it wasn’t for us. We are more of an “Organized Chaos” team! If we have to click through 3 different layers or levels and keep digging down, we are just annoyed! Carlee: Yes! And that was the issue! It was SO organized, we had to click down through layer after layer, and we found out we were only using the bottom layers that are actually holding our course content--the nitty-gritty, like “Raw Video,” or “Transcript Drafts.” Ellen: I really like how we changed things for our Webinar course. The folders are organized, and the files are labeled right, so it’s fine to have 15 files in a folder because they are all labeled right. I’d rather have 15 files than click through 15 layers. Beth Anne: I do want to share how we are organizing course content these days. We have a Google Drive folder, so right now it’s “Webinar Course.” And then we have folders in there to hold each type of content. “Raw Videos” where I put my raw footage for Ellen to edit. Then “Promo Images and Graphics,” “Bonus Documents,” “Webinar Guide” which is our email freebie, “Final Videos,” and “Transcripts and Worksheets.” I’m with you guys--if you go into the Transcripts and Worksheets folder, there are 20 files, but they are so well labeled, it’s super easy to see what’s what. Victoria: Beth Anne mentioned transcripts, and I wanted to share about that for a minute, as something we’ll do better next time. We love to provide the written content to go with the videos we provide, like show notes or transcripts. That was a task assigned to me, and I pulled in Carlee (because you know, it’s better to have a friend come along to help). We found the work was tedious and was getting pushed to the back burner, but we held on to it for too long. We did eventually say, “Hey, this isn’t working well,” and we outsourced it, but we held on too long. I learned that I needed to say: “Hey team, I can’t do this!” and then it was much better for everyone. We need to be quick to admit when something isn’t working and make the change that makes it healthier for everyone. Beth Anne: When you guys came to me and said you have someone who does transcripts and she’s fast, can we hire her, I felt so bad! I don’t want my team to be stressed out when there is a solution for the issue! But I totally understand the temptation to think, “No, I’ve got this! I can do everything. I’m super team member!” I loved that you guys came to me and said this isn’t working. Now we have someone who does those transcripts and it’s great! Carlee: I think in the end it was a good team building thing. I was still new, Victoria was still pretty new, and we didn’t know each other. I had only gone through the Planner Kickstarter and then the FB Brilliance launch--it was trial by fire! As hard as that was and as much panic as it caused for a moment, it revolutionized our communication. We learned Beth Anne’s style and how she loves to lead our team, and we learned how valuable our opinions and voices are on the team, and now I don’t have any problem saying, “That is so not my strength, and someone else needs to do that!” Beth Anne: As the ‘Team Leader’ I want you all to have a great working experience! I want you to love your jobs, and I want to keep you on my team! Hopefully, now you all know you can come tell me when something isn’t your strength and we can make it work for everyone. Carlee: And for a launch as big as this one (the biggest one any of us had ever done!) we learned the communication we need, and it translates over. For instance, the podcast is a big job with a ton of moving parts, and we each have to do our job. It’s so easy to communicate now! If someone doesn’t do their job, or something’s not right, it’s easy to talk about it and we have each other’s back and we look out for each other. Victoria: This thought just crystallized: when we admit our weakness, it actually makes us stronger. Admitting you’re struggling with something makes the team stronger. It’s my tendency to want everyone to think I’m capable, and I think I’m going to let the team down if I don’t keep this task, even if it’s not something I’m good at. But actually, it’s letting the team down to hold on it and not ask for help. The intensity of the launch, that pressure cooker situation, helped us run through all these things quickly because there wasn’t time to let things linger. Holding on to a weakness of yours doesn’t make things stronger. Ellen: I felt that way last summer regarding customer service. I told Beth Anne, “No, no, I want to help you, Beth Anne. I can do customer emails, I’m fine.” And Beth Anne realized I wasn’t fine. We brought Carlee on to run customer service, and having her here for customer service during the launch made all the difference. We’re learning our strengths and playing to those in the business. Beth Anne: I agree. I noticed a huge difference when we brought Carlee on. I do love being in the inbox, and answering emails, but I realized that was keeping me from doing the core work of the businesses. So I brought Ellen in the inbox, but then I realized a few weeks later that she wasn’t having time for her work that falls within her core strength, like creating landing pages, learning new tools, and ninja tech work behind the scenes. Carlee: And during the FB Brilliance launch, that inbox was insane! I don’t know how to accurately represent what the inbox looked like. Easily 150 unopened emails in a day, and when the bonuses ended, which was our biggest day, we had a couple hundred emails in one day easily. It’s a huge task. I never would have known that when you launch a product or project you get that many personal emails to answer. Beth Anne: Yes, and when it’s a big purchase like FB Brilliance, they want to know it’s a good purchase for them. People want to make sure they are making a good decision, so they need a little more personal help and guidance. I am already thinking that with our really big goals for September 2017 if we’ll need an extra person in the inbox for the next launch. Carlee: Yes! And because I was so new last year, I didn’t take advantage of Google’s canned responses for the answers that don’t need to be personal (like, “How will I get my bonuses?"). Beth Anne: We did start to do some structured responses when you’d notice the same question coming in over and over, and you’d ask me if you could turn it into a structured reply. Carlee: We did learn! There are definitely things we could do better in the inbox, with the potential of a couple hundred emails in the inbox every day. Beth Anne: Speaking of stressful things, that I do to myself, and we WON’T be doing next year.... FB Brilliance was already a course we had, but I wanted to rework it and make it bigger and better. This always ends up happening to me, I just think I’ll change a few things and it won’t be a big deal, but I ended up doubling the course. Ellen: We had to redo a lot of videos, too, because Facebook had changed so much of what it was before. Beth Anne: One thing that bums me out about social media courses is that it all looks different. It’s like, “Ugh! Did you really have to totally change the way Power Editor looks?” Understandably, new students will freak out if their screen doesn’t look exactly like it did on the video. They want to make sure they’re in the right place. A ton of videos and new content had to be revamped. So, of course I was creating all of that...during and after the launch, while also having 200 new students who needed a lot of help and support. We opened the doors October 14th and closed them November 2nd. So that was a stressful three weeks of marketing and course creating. November and December were stressful because I was still creating videos and passing them to Ellen for editing. Plus we had transcripts and worksheets to create, weekly office hours to hold - AND the Brilliant Life Planner to launch! I do think a couple months of weekly office hours is something I want to do for my new students. But thankfully this time around we won’t be creating hours and hours of content. Carlee: As much as it was stressful - we felt bad for YOU, Beth Anne. It was a lot of work for you. On the other side, we set it up as a drip course - meaning that we only released a module or two a week. I felt like that was so good! Even with a drip course, sometimes students skip harder modules, especially the techy modules. If they had moved on too soon, it would have been bad. As hard and stressful as it was, having it structured as a drip course ended up being positive. Releasing a Course In Production Victoria: I have to admit this is one part of the course that made me nervous! Would people be mad they purchased a product-in-progress? What would people think? It worked out really well because people got the course in a paced way. And it gave me the confidence that if you’re the course creator, you can tell people how your course is going to go. We were always upfront, and students knew the modules would be released slowly. It’s really freeing! It’s your course, and you can call the shots. Turns out, you really can sell something that isn't complete! It was unconventional but proved you can run your business exactly how it works for you. In retrospect, there wasn’t any other way we could have done the course launch. We’re all busy moms, and you couldn’t, like, go off to a cabin in the woods for month and record. Ellen: That paced release really kept the excitement in the private Facebook group up! People were asking for the course modules, or bonuses or whatever, and they were invested, and that kept the momentum going. Carlee: There was a core group completing the lessons as we released them, so that group was at the same place, so they helped each other. And those participating in office hours were often in the same spot, with the same questions. That was a positive aspect of the paced release. Beth Anne: I’m still debating how to release the course next year. For the few over-achievers who want to jump in all at once, it’s nice. But part of me does get concerned because if you jump around too much and don’t get the foundation, it won’t work. If you want to do a video ad campaign, but skip how to write good ad copy, it won’t work for you. We’ll have to mull this over - how to give the students the best experience and grasp the most they possibly can. Carlee: It’s not conventional, but it is the new thought in marketing. Rather than creating a product and trying to find people who will buy it, marketing like crazy, instead, you create the product, put some out, then test and tweak. We got feedback on the first modules and changed things on the following modules. Transcripts, Worksheets, and Learning Styles Carlee: We found out that people loved worksheets. So we made sure people had something tangible for every module, if not every lesson, because of that positive feedback. It’s a service to our customers to be creating at the time they’re in the course. It’s like instant feedback. Beth Anne: In the future, we may even do something like road maps; like ‘here are the lessons you must watch if you’re an Etsy shop owner.’ We’ll have more roadmaps for each niche, and things like worksheets and checklists. We want the content to be presented in as many ways as possible to ensure the best support for our students. Carlee: FB Brilliance hits everyone at their learning style. We got an email from a student who loved our transcripts because those acted as notes. And it was great for the student because they didn’t have to write anything down. Some people will just use the videos, and some will use just the transcripts...so the more we can hit different learning styles the better. Beth Anne: And Ellen can you talk about your idea for a guide? Ellen: In the group, especially as the modules started coming out, we would have students watch the videos but have time in between viewings that they could forget necessary pieces of content. I think it would be great to have a condensed guide directing people to the right spot. (ex. ‘Hey if you wonder X, go to Y module.’) Since the course is 13 modules with so many videos, reference documents would be really helpful. You could quickly pop back to the video and know exactly how to do a lead ad, or why you should use unpublished page posts. Beth Anne: There’s just SO much to Facebook ads it cracks me up when people say to make your course an easy path from A to Z. The problem is we DO want to get people to proficiency quickly if you can, but there are 20 different ways to go from A to Z with Facebook ads. I feel like I’m doing a disservice to my students if I don’t cover all of those ways. The other thing with Facebook ads is you do not know what will work until you try. A strategy that worked for me in my business may not work for others. You just have to try it out. I feel I have to present these different options to students, which means there is so much content in the course. Victoria: Our saying around here is, “There’s a module (or lesson) for that!” Beth Anne: You all had a great knowledge of what’s in each lesson between creating the slides, watching the videos and working on transcripts. That became really helpful in terms of answering questions about the course. It was nice that we didn’t have to write out 5 paragraph answers, we could just point people to the lessons. You guys are like my course concierge! How the Team Handles Questions Carlee: Since FB Brilliance launched, Ellen and I have done a lot since FB Brilliance with Facebook ads ourselves. It’s nice to be able to have that intimate knowledge of the course so we can answer more questions. Ellen: Even just dabbling a bit myself, and helping you Beth Anne, it’s so much easier to answer questions. I haven’t just watched and edited the videos, I’ve done the work and know the ins and outs. Knowing the tips and tricks first-hand makes it so much easier to answer questions - plus we don’t have to ask you all the time, Beth Anne! Beth Anne: You guys bringing personal experience to the table is so helpful. On maternity leave, we’re working on ads funnels to be running all the time to bring in more product sales. I’m going to hand off that to Ellen, and we will work on learning how to scale up or turn off. I’m excited for you to dig into Facebook ads, Ellen! Ellen: I’m excited, too! Carlee made another great point: not only have we gained experience but we have an amazing group of women answering questions really well who have experimented with their own ads. When someone comes along who isn’t that experienced, those ladies can provide answers. Beth Anne: It’s fun to watch people move through the course and be successful. The way we frame the group during this launch will be different and this goes back to acknowledging what isn’t a strength. Anything that I feel like I have to do every day immediately becomes a dread for me - and I put it off. When we launched this past year, I ensured people knew they’d get the weekly office hours, but I over promised my involvement in the Facebook group. I am going to be 100% honest right now (Maybe a little TOO honest!). I don’t love Facebook groups! They can be helpful, but I do not love that constant back-and-forth that’s required. I’d much rather do an office hours call. I’m an all or nothing person: I’d rather take 2 hours on a Friday and answer all the questions at once. But that’s my strength! I know I give the best possible level of support through office hours, not by being in the group every day. I’m getting to the point of knowing when to say, “I’m not going to do this - but my team will.” Carlee: And for the record, the team loves being in the Facebook groups. Beth Anne: I do feel guilt around my random presence in the Facebook group, but I have to do what will work for me. Weekly office hours works for me. Carlee: Here’s the thing - if anyone hasn’t been to office hours, you’re missing out! They are amazing. You get to pick Beth Anne’s brain and get live feedback on your ad or images or copy. Her office hours are more valuable than a group, but it's not instant feedback. You have to wait until Friday. Victoria: And your time is valuable! Like we mentioned last week, you spent a lot of time learning the information that you know - and because of that, we sell a premium course. It goes hand and hand. You’re not setting yourself up to be a Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, but your time is valuable and the hours you put into your business are limited so that means they’re of high value. Our course is charged fairly, and it’s super fair that you hold office hours. I think it’s cool how our Facebook groups naturally develop, but don’t feel guilty at all about not participating every day! It preserves the value of the course that our business is trying to sell. Carlee: Our team is in the groups regularly answering questions. It’s a benefit that you give your students access to your team, even if there’s not access to you all the time. Victoria: Yeah, and there’s boots on the ground. We’re good about getting people to you quickly if we don’t have the answer. Beth Anne: And I’m so thankful! We CAN give people a great experience because it’s not riding on me! I think about this all time: How cruddy would my business be if it was just me? It would be a mess. I’m glad you guys are in there and giving support. I can focus on my strengths, which in this case is showing up Friday mornings and giving live feedback. And my team does a great job handling the day to day. Limited Time Bonuses vs. Discounts Carlee: So what I learned with this being my first launch, and I learned it about Beth Anne and from Beth Anne, is what it looks like to give incredible value in bonuses. (Our bonuses were Brilliant Pin Promotion, the printable Brilliant Business Planner, Case Studies, and Craft Your Brilliant Webinar Course) When you give a discount, it sets the standard that your products can always be discounted. A bonus sets it up to reinforce that you buy something, but you also receive all these extra goodies. For someone who is selling a course or a product, think through what bonus you can offer - and keep in mind a digital bonus won’t cost you anything. Bonuses keep the value and integrity of your product that much higher, and you give your customers or students so much more value. Beth Anne: And we saw first hand that the day we closed the door on the bonuses was our biggest day of sales. People did not want to miss out on those bonuses! Carlee: And we got emails at 1 or 2 AM where people were panicked that they missed the bonuses. Victoria: Were we really strict on those? Did the 2 AM people get the bonuses? Carlee: No, we were pretty strict. Victoria: Because Carlee’s the general! Beth Anne: I am so thankful that customer care is Carlee’s job. I just want to give everything to everyone, but it’s an integrity issue! I gave my word that the bonuses ended at midnight. Acting with Integrity Carlee: It really is an integrity issue. Another example is that we were headed to the Business Boutique right after the cart closed. Everyone was telling us, and it sounded good at the time, that we should sell FB Brilliance at the Boutique. We honestly could have made a lot of sales! But Beth Anne said she had to stick to her word, and we all agreed. It’s the same with the bonuses--when you say there’s an end time, while you can give a little grace, to overextend grace cheapens our word. Beth Anne: It also felt like it would be an insult to my core audience to sell it at the Business Boutique. They knew for 3 weeks there was an end date to the launch. To give away something special to this new audience, when really my core audience should get my best, felt wrong. So we didn’t sell it there. The bonus situation came up again with the Brilliant Life Planner. Everyone who purchased got the digital business planner, Time Management Mama, and access to Planner School. We did have people reach out and say they loved the planner, but it was pricey, so did we have a discount code? We just said ‘No’ to all those requests. The price is what it is (there was a $5 off coupon for affiliates, but that’s it) because we had the confidence to say: Over 1,000 women paid full price, so we don’t need to discount our product. I am so glad we stuck to our guns and didn’t just give discounts. We sold out! A Launch Without a Team -- Yes You Can! Beth Anne: If you’re getting ready to launch a product, and you don’t have a team, or even one person helping, don’t be discouraged! When I launched Brilliant Pin Promotion, the course was ready to go, out the door. If you don’t have a team, make sure you do all the course content before you ever start into marketing and launching. Also, create a detailed outline, then create the slides for your course, and record your screencast video with those slides. You might need a little editing, but it will be pretty polished! Looking back, I would choose not to have a private Facebook Group if I didn’t have a team. I am not able to give tons and tons of support in a Facebook group! You can launch a fabulous course, with great content, and no private Facebook group. I would think long and hard about whether or not to add that group if it’s just you. Ellen: And same with Transcripts and Worksheets. I really wanted to create a guide for Brilliant Pin Promotion, but I didn’t have the hours to do that on our budget. If you’re doing your first course, you can cut those out and save time. Carlee: One option is to hire someone who is really fast and really high quality at a job that you aren’t good at. You can hire someone off Fiverr or Upwork to do that one job. Victoria: Or, find a partner! If you have no extra funds, find someone to barter or share jobs with. Brand new people might work for free or low cost in exchange for a testimonial, or they might agree to be paid after your launch. Be upfront and honest in your business transaction, but I’d love to see women helping other women in business. We need to get rid of the scarcity mindset, and instead have a mindset to help each other! Beth Anne: I totally agree! There are always ways to barter and trade services. Get creative! I don’t want anyone to feel like because they don’t have everything in place they can’t do this--that’s the last thing I want you to walk away with! You can go for it! You will improve your product, customer service, content, and marketing over time. The FB Brilliance launch was huge--we’ve never done anything that big before--and it was an improvement on things we’ve done in the past, but we are sitting here thinking of how we’ll improve the next one! Welcome the room for improvement! What We'll Do Differently Next Time Ellen: One thing I am excited about is our plans to be together and do much of our launch work in person next time. We work well together as a team remotely, but when we are together it’s so much easier to bounce ideas and get instant feedback. Sitting next to each other is so much better than messaging or email. I think that is going to make such a strong launch to have that week together to get those details worked out and get FB Brilliance ready to go! Beth Anne: Yes! I love it when we all get to be together in person. You are all so smart and creative and I love sitting down with you and hearing your thoughts and ideas. And, we are giving ourselves so much more time to make this launch! Last year we did the planner Kickstarter from the end of Aug to end of Sept. Two weeks later--Tada! Here’s the Facebook course. This year we’ll meet at the end of July, then all of August is to create fabulous Facebook content, and we open the doors in September. We will have space to let this grow and build. And as a marketer, that gives me so much time to plan out different ways to market the course - and to do more fun marketing. Victoria: I am amazed how big this launch was. We really turned this one on a dime! What will it be like when we have more time!? Beth Anne: One thing I’ve found is the most effective way to bring in sales is webinars. For the past launch, we did 4 webinars. But if I don’t have time to scale my FB campaigns, we don’t get webinar sign ups. We had about 10,000 webinar sign ups, but this time I’ll get to dig into my Facebook ads campaigns without having to do all these other things. That wraps this episode up! I hope you all learned a lot and got a peek behind the scenes at what works well and what we hope to change. I hope it’s getting you thinking about your own products you are creating or getting ready to launch. Comment below or email us at brilliant business moms (at) gmail (dot) com if we can answer any other questions! And now, it’s time to announce our Podcast Relaunch Giveaway Winners! There were 4 great prizes, and to enter people just had to leave a rating and review on our podcast. Winner #1 will get to pick from our 3 fabulous prizes, and then Winner #2 will pick next, and so on. If you are a winner, email us at brilliant business moms (at) gmail (dot) com Winner #1: Emily Counts Winner #2: bycbabie Winner #3: Emily Bends Winner #4: Linzi900 We look forward to hearing from you! Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!

Direct download: BBM_Group_Ep.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Today we’re going behind the scenes of a $100,000 course launch. We’re going to dive deep and geek out over numbers. I’m really excited to break it all down for you!

I know that when I heard other business owners talk about a $100K launch - or even a $1M launch - it’s really easy to feel like 1) that’s a completely unattainable and unrealistic goal that would never happen to me (Which is how I used to feel!) and 2) that a $100K launch would bring me into a fantasy dreamworld. I thought if this ever DID happen to me, I’d be rolling in cash and everything in life would be perfect. And that’s not the case, either.

I want to give you a realistic look inside a $100K course launch. I want you to see exactly what I and my team did to earn over $100K in course sales during our launch month. You’ll get a firm grasp on the numbers as we dive into questions like:

  • How much cash-on-hand did a $100K course launch mean for the business?
  • What were our refund rates?
  • How much did I spend on advertising to get these students?

You’re going to get all the nitty gritty details so you feel like a $100K launch actually IS doable for you and your business, and that you understand as amazing as a massive launch is, it doesn’t solve every problem and mean life is perfect.

Listen Now

Time for a quick disclaimer: this episode will be full of numbers, stats, and data. The next episode we release, my team will be coming on the episode with me: Victoria, Carlee, and Ellen. We’re going to chat about what went well and what we’d love to change. That episode will be really fun! And if you’re not a numbers or data person, you’ll really love our team episode. But if you are a numbers person, this episode is totally for you. (I’ve got a piece of paper with so many numbers it's making my head hurt!)

The Big Picture

So the course launch we’re talking about is my Facebook ads course: FB Brilliance. I’m obsessed with Facebook and Instagram ads, they go hand in hand for me. I had a version of this course I released in the summer of 2016, but I wanted to add more content and make it a better experience. In October 2016 I decided to give FB Brilliance a facelift. We revamped the course content and did coaching calls with students for three months.

Facebook ads is a beast. I’ve seen other courses where they can break down and simplify a topic. That’s super great if it works, but there is so much to Facebook ads it’s not really something you can just ‘break down’ and ‘make easy peasy’. I wanted a course that covered it all, and took my students from brand new to Facebook ads ninja.

We added a bunch of new content, and raised the price of the course. FB Brilliance is by far my most expensive product, we chared $497 for it when we opened the doors in October 2016. Previously I had charged $200-$350 for this course, depending on whether or not the customer was using a coupon code.

I knew my students would need extra help to really get the hang of Facebook advertising, and set a price that would value my time and expertise.

Another decision we made during our course relaunch was that we didn’t want to leave the course open all the time. We learned that anytime we had a new Facebook ads student, they needed lots of help up front. New students needed lots of support, feedback, and hand holding. I realized that I didn’t want to have new students entering my classroom at all different times throughout the year because I couldn’t give them the attention and help they deserved and they wouldn’t get the best experience.

I made an intentional choice to open the doors on Oct 14th of 2016 and close them November 2nd. After Nov 2nd, no one could purchase FB Brilliance. Everyone started class together, and that way I could focus on digging deep with my new students and serving them well. I didn’t have to worry about onboarding new students every week. It was also fun to have people journeying together and getting feedback at the same time.

Before FB Brilliance I never did an open/close launch model. All of my products were available all of the time. I made a majority of sales for my Pinterest course through webinars. During the webinar I might have offered a coupon or limited time bonus; I love doing that to get people to take action. But I had never completely closed the doors before and told customers, “Nope, that’s it. You can’t buy it.”

It was a little scary at first! What if the launch didn’t go well? I was taking a product off the market and wouldn’t have it in my back pocket to grow the business. Looking back, I’m really glad I did the open and close model. It did allow me to have a big launch period, but then focus my time after the doors closed on my students.

If you are an instructor of a course with a lot to it and a lot of content, I highly recommend an open/close enrollment model. My team and I would all say it’s been great to have marketing be one batch of time and nurturing students a separate batch of time.

Okay, so let’s talk about the numbers. What does a 100K course launch look like? Let’s dig in.

The Numbers

Total Sales from Cart Open (October 14th) to Cart Close (November 2nd): $106,066 - no cents! (It would come down to nickels and dimes after payment processing.)

Total Brilliant Business Mom Sales: $97,646.50 (After paying our 1 affiliate, a good friend who hosted me for a webinar.)

Even after coupons and rewards, we sold over $100K of products. That amount felt awesome to me! Before this point my best business month had been $50K in sales. And to reach that milestone took a lot of hustling and Facebook ads and webinars. Bringing in $100K blew my mind, and it still does. My business has grown so quickly, and I’m always looking back in amazement of what my team and I have accomplished.

For me, this would not have been a $100K course launch without 3 awesome ladies working right alongside me. Without Carlee, Ellen, and Victoria doing customer service, creating ad images, and writing copy, I couldn’t have done it.

So let’s break down the sales.

We had 206 total sales. 206 new students who purchased FB Brilliance. I had options to pay all at once for the course ($497) and 99 of my students chose that option. There was also a payment plan (6 payments of $97, and those students ended up paying $582 total in the end) and 107 students wanted to do that. (I was surprised at all the people who wanted to plunk down the $497 all at once.)

If you calculate the math on those sales quickly, you’re going to say, “Okay, Beth Anne, you should have made more than that!!!”

Note that 32 of my students came through an affiliate, and I was only making 50% of those sales.

And I did other promotions. I offered my Brilliant Pin Promotion students $97 off the total price to thank them for being students. They could either paid in full at the $400 price point, or take $17 off those monthly payments. 12 total Pinterest students took me up on my offer; 6 paid in full, 6 paied via the payment plan.

I also did a promotion with the Genius Bloggers Toolkit (run by the fabulous people at Ultimate Bundles). I offered a mini course called FB Ads for Beginners inside the Toolkit. Since these customers already paid a lot to get access to the bundle, and already had a $97 course of mine inside the Bundle, I offered them a coupon for $97 off FB Brilliance and 4 students took me up that.

The last discount promotion I ran was a scholarship. I knew that $497 is a lot of moolah for my target customer, a SAHM/WAHM on a budget. She doesn’t have $1,000 around to spend on her business. I wanted to give a few hardworking and motivated ladies a scholarship opportunity. I did a five day series on Facebook Live that was comprised of a daily lesson and homework assignment. We invited participants to submit their ‘assignments’ in the comments of our Facebook live video. My team compiled the submissions throughout the week, and anyone who submitted all 5 answers by the deadline were eligible to be considered for the scholarship. We had 3 full-ride spots we could give.

Looking back I am SO glad we offered this scholarship! One student in particular is really rocking and rolling with her business. She works so hard, and is constantly trying to improve. In fact, she’s about to host a webinar which is super exciting! I’m so happy I was able to give these three ladies a scholarship, they proved me right - that they’re all motivated and hardworking ladies.

For everyone who didn’t win our scholarship, but did do the work, I offered a 50% off coupon. Maybe that’s crazy. We only emailed this offer to people who had submitted all 5 assignments, and I felt great about doing it. (And I did let the cat out of the bag, but I’m okay with that.) I really wanted to reward the hardwork of everyone who submitted scholarships. We had about 30-40 submissions who completed every assignment, and of those 14 took me up on my offer; 6 paid in full and 8 went on the payment plan.

I’m really excited to try out the scholarship program again. I know I just spilled a big secret, but I’m deciding not to be too worried. The Brilliant Business Moms community is so sweet and full of integrity, you’re smart and hardworking so I have every hope that a second scholarship will be just as well-met with hard work.

The cash that came in the door from people who paid in full was a total of: $41,717.50

And the cash in door from payment plans was: $55,929 (divided over 6 months; $9,321.50 each month for that period of time).

The first payment began that first month of sales. I had about about $50K of cash in the bank by November 2nd, and have been getting another 9K a month in the door through April 2nd.

Even after subtracting out my affiliate sales from the total sales, things are looking really good.

But of course, I had to spend money to make this money - especially, as you might guess, on Facebook ads.

Expenses

To generate over $100K in sales I spent $23,590.31 on Facebook ads. So after paying my affiliate and paying for my Facebook ads, the total profit to Brilliant Business moms was $74,056.19, and the rest of that amount came in the 5 months following the launch.

Ending the month with $50K in the bank, after paying for $23K worth of Facebook ads, and an additional $9K coming in each month felt great.

Thanks to my students on payment plans, I was able to take the rest of November and focus on finishing out final modules for course content, hosting weekly office hours, and answering questions. I was fully able to help my students succeed!

And of course it allowed me to prepare for planner season. Our Brilliant Life Planner sales season ramped up in December and January. It was really nice to only market one product at a time!

Refunds

We gave 8 total refunds for FB Brilliance. I gave people 60 days to return the course; if they did the work and weren't happy with their results, they could get a refund. But I was very clear to say, “You’re not getting a refund just because you changed your mind!” That’s wouldn’t be fair at all, right? And with a digital product, how would I know what the user’s end purpose was? It’s so hard to oversee.

We thought the 60 day window was a generous time frame and let people really dig into the course. Out of 206 students, only 8 were refunded. Our total refund rate was 3.88%, which is pretty good! I’ve been told to expect a 5-10% rate.

And of those who asked for a refund, it wasn’t because Facebook ads didn’t work. We had one student who realized their MLM was strictly against Facebook ads, for example. So we dug into the policy and, sure enough, that was the case. Another person was having lots of trouble getting the pixel installed; we didn’t have time to cater to all the different platforms this person was using and help them out - so a refund was easier to offer. Some refunds were due to hard life circumstances, like having to close their business and go back to a day job. To be honest, most of our refunds fell outside of our return policy, but we tried to be kind and understanding. It’s really a tricky thing to manage! I’ve seen some business owners be super strict with their policy. We want to have the highest integrity possible; it’s not fair to give someone a refund 6 months later just because they changed their mind.

But we’ll dig more into this at a later time!

Reality Hits, But It’s Still Awesome

I used to think that a $100K course launch meant that person went out and bought a Ferrari or something. That was not the case at all for me! It was more like me looking at the launch and saying, “Awesome! I’m happy to teach these students, and I can keep paying my team and expenses.” While it was great to have that big launch, the amount of cash I received at the end wasn’t necessarily this huge life-changing thing.

Hopefully you can see that through my story.

With that said, a $100K course launch truly was awesome!

I want to see more of you listening do big product launches! Shoot for the moon and hit those great big goals.

Now, I’m going to break down for you exactly what we did marketing wise to earn those 206 students.

Marketing

We primarily got these customers through selling on webinars.

I love webinars! I’ve been blown away by doing a well-crafted webinar to allow me to build relationships and knock the socks off my customers with the value. I enjoy selling in a way that feels authentic, and encourages people to get off their behinds and take action. If you want to learn more about how I sell through webinars, have a course Craft Your Brilliant Webinar. You can learn more about it by visiting: brilliantbusinessmoms.com/cybw

This course will help you hone your message and show how your product solves a problem. It will refine how you relate to your customers and provide value. Once you do all of that, your potential with Facebook ads is crazy.

This crazy business growth I’ve experienced has mostly been through webinars. This course launch I can attribute to doing webinars. I did 4 webinars, 3 were to my audience + new subscribers via Facebook ads, and 1 was an affiliate webinar.

The webinar dates were:

October 14th

October 20th

October 27th  (affiliate webinar)

October 28th (my last webinar)

The total number of webinar signups was: 7,513. That number was bigger initially, but since then a few people unsubscribed. It was more like 9,000 at the time of the launch.

The total number of signups were:

1st Webinar - 1,421

2nd Webinar - 1,719

3rd Webinar (affiliate) - 1,682

4th Webinar - 2,061

I was getting enough sales throughout the month that I knew my Facebook ads were paid for. Of course I wasn’t going to plunk down $20K in a week and cross my fingers that it would work! I scaled advertising as I saw the sales coming in. Even with me feeling confident on how to use Facebook ads, you never know exactly how a promo will go.

Ads I test still involve a few thousand dollars, but I’m not going to plunk down more than that until I saw profits.

I taught the same webinar each time I hosted it. I do want to change that up next year, but this year I was honestly revamping the course and in the middle of a launch, so there wasn’t time.

I sent out a post-webinar email sequence following each session. I would provide the students with awesome value, and after class I sent the replay and an ebook on 20 Brilliant Optin Offers they could use to build their lists. The main way I used Facebook ads was to build my list, and from there make sales. I gave ideas for freebies in this ebook, and guidance on how to use them.

Another post webinar email I sent was titled ‘What’s the Facebook pixel and why should I care’. This was basic information for customer needed to know, I made it really exciting but also told them it can be tricky. And I ended that email with ‘Don’t stress, I have training in my course’.

As I mentioned, each email sent a link to the replay along with a link for the next live webinar. And, of course, I linked to the full course to purchase.

The other thing I did for all my webinar customers was to offer limited time bonuses. It did get tricky to manage these bonuses with multiple webinars! I told everyone they would have four days to grab the bonuses, but would have the same people attend multiple webinars and get confused about the bonus limit time. What we ended up doing was telling everyone they could grab the bonuses through October 29th. And from that point it was a few more days until the cart closed.

I actually have a fun table that Carlee on my team made to show how effective the bonuses were. Looking at the sales day-by-day, for the last week the cart was open we had more course sales come in the Saturday when the bonuses closed than when the cart closed! (And this was after I told people the course wouldn’t be open again until September 2017!)

We had 40 new students enter the course on cart closing day, but on the fast action bonuses day we had 70 new people come into the course.

You can see by those numbers that momentum really builds with the course. When you launch a course, have faith that the majority of sales will come toward the end. Of course you want to see sales along the way, and it was great to know I could pay for those Facebook ads, but the last week of the promo was huge.

Facebook Ad Stats

My total spend on Facebook ads was $23,590.31.

Where did all of that money go?

The vast majority went on my webinar signups campaign. Essentially, I showed people an ad to my free class all about how to make a profit with Facebook ads, click here, signup, and attend my free class.

I spent $21,965.97 on that campaign. That campaign led to 7,168 email subscribers. And again, when I look back at what ConvertKit says now, I’m pretty sure I’ve lost a couple thousand subscribers from that promotion.

Some of my Facebook ad campaigns were to people on my list. I did run ad sets to my site visitors and email subscribers, since they’re people I can get to signup at an affordable rate and they’re likely to buy my product.

I have no problem spending money to get people into a free class because I want to make sure they get in the door and don’t miss it.

My average cost per email subscriber was $3.38. But broken down, I can see that when I targeted my ads to my email subscribers, it only costs about $1.29 to get those people to sign up. Ads targeted to my website visitors were at $1.69 per lead. The investment is totally worth it to me because those people bought the course.

With that average spend per lead, I will say that my general bench mark is $ per lead

I’ve heard from other Facebook advertisers that this benchmark is really low. But generally I’m able to get people for that $2 a lead.

In this case I was intentional with my ads in that knew I was offering the course at a higher price point. For some of my audience it was just outside their budget. So I did target not just by interest, but also household income level.

I didn’t want a bunch of people for my free class get excited, then cry at the end when they saw the course price!! That’s a bummer for everyone. I didn’t want to get people excited, but have them walk away.

And it doesn’t make sense to pay for $2 if no one can afford my product. Seeing the end result of about $3 per lead, but making sure it was inside their budget and they could afford my course was worth it.

While the vast majority of my $23K spend was acquiring signups, I also spent money on class reminders - just for my October 27th webinar.

To those people who signed up, I showed them an ad that read ‘Hooray! Class is today!’ The way in which I used this ad, I didn’t get a lot of clicks but I did get a high reach.

My ad reached 442 people, though only 8 people clicked, my reached was 25% of class signups for that day of class. And I only paid $2 a click. So about $15.64 total, but I was able to show up in 442 people's newsfeeds. (Of course I’m sending reminders to students via email, but the more places I can show up in front of someone the better!)

The other strategy I did to fill my classes was retargeting. So everyone who signed up to the class, I sent them an ad that said ‘Don’t miss out on the bonuses and growing your business with Facebook ads’.

The cool thing with retargeting campaigns is you can get great results with not a lot of money. I got back in front of about 7,000 - 9,000 people to remind them of my awesome product. I spent $130.30 on that retargeting campaign.

I did experience a HUGE bummer that I’ll never let happen again. Here’s the story. I work with an awesome guy at Facebook who helps me with my ads. I hopped on the phone with him and set up a custom purchase pixel for Teachable. We set it up, it was working, and we could see who purchased on Teachable vs. Shopify.  

It turns out we had to do one extra thing, and because of that oversight my sales weren’t showing up inside Power Editor! The sales were coming through, and I knew the ads were profitable, but the bummer was I couldn’t go back to those campaigns and say, “Awesome, this ad set purchased FB Brilliance this many times,” or, “This was an affordable campaign to get webinars, but not for sales.” I was bummed to not have that data!

This glitch had since been fixed, so I can now tell you which ads worked best and which audiences brought more money.

So I did a replay reminder campaign, and all the people who signed up for a class I said ‘Hey, you missed the class but grab a reply’. Sure I was emailing them, but I wanted that other touch point. I spent $971.87 on the replay campaign, and I had 605 link clicks and spent $1.61 per each click. It was a great use of ad spend because I know when people show up live, they’re more likely to buy.

It’s easy to put off watching a replay. And when people don’t watch the webinar, they don’t know what kind of teacher I am and the value I can offer. It was valuable to get as many people as I possibly could together live.

For cart closing I did a Facebook Live session, but the post didn’t turn into an ad until after the session. I spent $300 on that ad.

People who watched the video for 3 seconds - 4,104 ($0.07 per view)

People who watched the video for 10 seconds - 1,011

17 people watched 20% of the video, and only 1 person watched 100% of the video.

Man, looking back those stats aren’t great! It would have been better to get people on the replay page.

The other post I boosted was to announce my scholarship. I let people know about the 5 Day Video Series, and how it worked. (Our scholarship was a Facebook live session where I introduced the program and explained how it worked.)

I boosted that post for $200. I got 12,000 impressions, and 3,027 video views. Only 761 viewed the video for 10 seconds. Only 28 people viewed 25% of the video. And on down the line, only 9 people watched the full video.

Now these numbers don’t include organic reach. A better use of time an ad spend would have been boosting after the fact, and during give lots of incentive for people to join and engage live. (The more interaction in the moment, the more free reach.)

I’ve boosted posts more recently, and my goal was to get viewers to sign up with the free guide. The link for my guide was right in the description, and it’s so much easier to get a subscriber with a great freebie.

Facebook live is a beast. It’s great for free engagement, but not for paying.

Lesson learned, huh?

Recap

So to recap, I ran 4 webinars and promoted limited time bonuses - expiring a few days before cart close. The cart closing was also a motivator.

People who bought the course knew they would have weekly office hours to get live help with the content.

I sent lots of followup emails and was not being shy with those reminders!

Hopefully this episode wasn’t too tough to get through! My team and I will be on next week to dig deep on customer service, strategies we used, and the ways we’re excited to make next year’s launch even better

(For those wondering, the doors to FB Brilliance will open again in September of 2017.)

I’m excited to keep the transparency and continue to share what I’m learning in this stage of business. I love sharing the nitty gritty, and hopefully you love hearing it!

If you’re interested in learning how to use webinars to grow your business, we have a new course called Craft Your Brilliant Webinar that will get you on your way. You can learn more about it by visiting: brilliantbusinessmoms.com/cybw

Now it's your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!

Direct download: Beth_Anne_Solo_4.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

If you're a mom on Instagram, we bet you've seen a gorgeous Lily Jade bag. On today's episode of the podcast, we are pleased to welcome Meggan Wood, owner and creator of Lily Jade. We talk about her design process, working with social influencers, product manufacturing, and what it's like to be a husband-wife team.

Let's get started!

Listen Now

 

On the Podcast

00:34 - The Inspiration Behind Lily Jade
02:45 - Growing a Business Rapidly
04:45 - Working with Social Influencers
08:45 - Meeting Manufactures, Taking Feedback, & Lily Jade 2.0
16:02 - Working With Your Husband
21:24 - Giveaways Galore
26:00 - Adorable Mom Moment
29:45 - Our Own Lily Jade Giveaway

The Inspiration Behind Lily Jade

Meggan is married to Landon and mom to two girls, Caroline, 11, and Madeline, 7. Before becoming a mom, Meggan always loved cute totes and accessories. As a new mom, she hunted for a tote that would meet her needs, but didn't scream diaper bag. She worked in outside sales before coming home to be a SAHM, and she wanted a fashionable accessory to feel less like she had spit up all over her all the time. (And we sure do understand that!)

Meggan remembers going to discount retailers and finding the biggest leather tote she could that had sturdy strapping and different carrying options. She has always valued organization and created her own ZipLock bag system to organize the contents of these totes.

She vividly remembers sitting in a restaurant with her mother-in-law, lugging 2 bags to the table -- one bag for 6 month old Madeline and one bag for herself. She sat down and announced, “One day I am going to create a diaper bag that doesn’t look like a diaper bag, and fits all of my stuff, and that’s what I’m going to do.” While at that moment nothing drastic changed, the dream of Lily Jade began.

Lily Jade was birthed out of a real-life need. Meggan knew that other women surely could relate to her struggles -- and she was right.

Growing a Business Rapidly

Lily Jade has grown quickly in  just over 3 years of business. We’re amazed, and so happy for them. But, what has contributed to their rapid success?

First of all, Lily Jade creates a bag that their customer base is excited to talk about. It’s innovative, highly desirable, and appealing to a targeted niche customer. It’s not hard to find a raving Lily Jade fan!

Lily Jade also used social influencers to spread the word about their bags. Social influencing wasn’t originally part of Lily Jade’s marketing strategy, but the company quickly became aware that social influencers could be valuable to the brand. Lily Jade bags are fabulous demo products, and showcasing the bag was easy for mommy bloggers to do. (If you visit Lily Jade on Instagram, you’ll see a gorgeous feed full of moms who love their Lily Jade bags.)

Working With Social Influencers

When asked if using social influencers has paid off for the Lily Jade team, Meggan gave a resounding YES. We wondered how she found them and what her budget was.

Marketing the perfect designer diaper bag happened with a lot of trial and error. Meggan says when Lily Jade first launched they were able to work with a company who really modeled for them how to find and manage bloggers with social campaigns.

Meggan began to pursue the marketing of her product after she had already created the bag, and was in the thick of designing and finding a factory. (If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a business lifecycle, or business stages, click here to learn more.)

As Lily Jade approached influencers, budget wasn’t necessarily the most important factor - finding the right fit was. While numbers are important, Meggan worried more about the potential influencer’s ability to engage their audience. Did they have many likes and comments on each post? Was their board aesthetically pleasing? Was their Instagram feed thought out with time and attention to detail?

“Social channels are like window shopping for ecommerce customers,” Meggan says. (We LOVE that.) She wanted to make sure influencers they worked with would pay attention to details like the lighting of the photos, and knowing the product well.  

From there, she could narrow down her list. Since Lily Jade is a higher end product, they didn’t have to necessarily worry about paying influencers; they simply could give a product away. (And these bags are so high quality and great, we know Lily Jade has a line out the door of influencers asking for a bag!)

Meggan says she has had some “full circle” moments in her business when some influencers purchased additional bags for themselves and for friends. It’s a blessing to know that someone really does love your product.

And as much as their social influencers like Lily Jade products, they’re also willing to give honest feedback. Just before Christmas 2016, Lily Jade was able to launch their 2.0 line, created by making changes that had been suggested by their customers. Meggan sees the value in taking both negative and positive feedback to heart, and making her company even better, noting, “It’s awesome to take stock of our inventory and make an honest brand assessment. Where do we do well? Where do we need to do better?”

We think that openness to feedback is brilliant.

Meeting Manufactures, Taking Feedback, & Lily Jade 2.0

Meggan has made a trip overseas to China to visit the factory that produces Lily Jade bags in person. While she says you certainly don’t have to travel, and there are many ways to stay in touch with your suppliers and manufactures, for Lily Jade, it’s vital to see the process up close and personal.

Being a Texas gal, Meggan loves the opportunity to shake hands and give hugs to the people who make her business possible. Meggan explained that “it’s an honor to meet them face-to-face and thank them for what they do.” She tells the workers that their attention to detail matters, and Lily Jade bags are showpieces, and unique treasures, because of their hard work.

We wanted to ask Meggan about sourcing this fabulous product. While at Brilliant Business Moms we know a lot about manufacturing and creating prototypes of our planners, we know next to nothing about creating a bag!

She says that the beginning steps were really slow. She sat on her idea of creating a designer leather diaper bag for several years.

Her husband had a small business, and when he sold that business, Meggan pitched the idea to him  that it might be time to pursue her diaper bag idea. Her husband did some market analysis and research and told her, “I think you’ve got something here.”

Prior to Lily Jade, Meggan had zero design experience. She couldn’t even cut a straight line! She had a vision and a concept in her mind, yet didn’t even know how to get it to translate to paper or the computer.

Her very first step was to contact an Etsy seller who designed and made quilted cotton handbags. She first asked this shop owner to create a bag for Meggan to see. Meggan measured and cut the first Lily Jade mockup out of cardboard! She put pockets and inserts where she wanted them, sending the measurements to her Etsy creator. Together they created the first prototype.

Meggan carried the bag around herself for a while, and made some changes based on how the prototype worked for her, and how it didn’t.

Then, she and her husband found a design consultant from New York through LinkedIn. The design consultant was extremely knowledgable and helpful and explained lots of industry terms to help Meggan translate her vision. (Like the side of the bag is called a gusset, in case you wondered.)

From this stage, the design consultant was able to sketch out drawings and tell Meggan exactly what she needed to do get this bag to production.

Lily Jade launched with two bags, the Madeline and the Caroline -- named after Meggan’s little girls -- in a variety of colors. They started with US tandem made leather, in a New York factory. After the first run, they knew if they wanted to scale they would have to go overseas. Seeking out an international manufacturer was never a negative for them; they were honored to hire the greatest craftsmen and leather workers they could. After her husband Landon went to a trade show in Hong Kong, he choose a few factory options and settled on one in China.

Recently Meggan and her husband were able to visit the factory that puts together Lily Jade bags, and discuss a few changes to be made. Meggan thinks it is truly amazing to meet her manufacturers face-to-face and thank them for their work. (I can’t wait to experience this same thing, and visit my own manufacturers face-to-face!)

We love Meggan’s care toward those who make her business possible!

Straight Talk About Working With Your Husband Full-Time

Meggan and her husband Landon launched this business as a team. Lily Jade doesn’t exist without either of them!

I had to know what it’s like working with your husband full time! (My husband Chris has always been a helper and cheerleader to Brilliant Business Moms, and he is amazing, but even in those roles I can sometimes think, “Wait, I don’t need your help!”) We just had to hear from Meggan the pros and cons of working with your spouse.

Meggan explained their priority to keep relationship over business:

“Landon and I were husband and wife, college sweethearts, and parents ever before we had Lily Jade. Lily Jade can rise and fall, but we’re the Woods. We’re a family. We mean that, and we operate in that place. We tell our children that Lily Jade is what we do, but it’s not who we are.”

The Woods have a strong sense of family. Meggan says if you lose sight of that first commitment, working together cannot be enjoyable.

She also says a mutual respect and honor toward each other has to be a consistent theme. Working together exposes the weak places, and if a spouse is ready to pounce on a weaknesses it’s not helpful. But if your spouse can see a weak place exposed and say something like, “Do you need any help with that?” a culture of honor is upheld.

Meggan also acknowledges the advice she frequently hears to ‘not talk business on a date.’ But

the Woods family has a vision and desire for their lives, but it’s not ‘business’ to talk about Lily Jade. God has a bigger plan for the Woods family, so they very much view Lily Jade as just a 3rd party member. “They’re not our dreams, they’re God dreams,” Meggan says.

(Chris and I are the same way -- because we are dreaming big all the time, it comes up naturally and we enjoy talking business because really, we’re talking our hopes and dreams.)

Meggan speaks so tenderly about the quiet moments between she and her husband when they’re able to look into the windows of each other’s hearts, as it were. Landon will ask, “How’s Lily Jade going for you, honey? Where do you feel like you’re succeeding? Where can you use help?”

We think that working relationship is just beautiful.

Giveaways Galore

If you’ve followed Lily Jade for any length of time, you’ll know that giveaways are something they do often! For example, on the 1st Monday of every month Lily Jade hosts Adoptive Mommy Monday giveaways for adoptive moms.

The Giveaway Model in the broad sense has been part of their business model and marketing initiatives from the beginning. Early on Lily Jade would do ‘tag a friend and follow us’ type giveaways to build their social channels. Word spread and it wasn’t as necessary to do those big sweeping giveaways as often.

At this stage, they have a certain number of bags built into their inventory for giveaways each year. Meggan says it’d be fun to go all Oprah with Lily Jade and be able to shout, “You get a bag! And you get a bag! And you get a bag!”

But for now, their customers are wonderful supporters, and Megan loves seeing their pictures and reading their emails. That appreciation fuels what they do. And then people get excited and want to share a $300+ bag giveaway with their friends!

Adoptive Mommy Monday was birthed out of Meggan’s desire to bring awareness about adoption and honor adoptive moms. There’s a level of bravery, and financial risk that is unique to adoptive moms, and Meggan loves to highlights those encouraging stories. Meggan deeply believes that children matter, and their lives are valuable.

(And many of you know we adopted our son Holden from India, and I am due with our first biological child this April. We’d love to have kids from all over the place! This part of the episode nearly made me cry.)

Without adoption, Meggan wouldn’t have her sisters! She was the big surprise baby; “I was the stomach flu that didn’t go away,” she quips. She has one sibling from the Philippines and one from Georgia, which makes adoption near and dear to her heart. It’s fabulous that Meggan has used her platform to put eyes on the often unseen world of adoption.

Adorable Mom Moment

Meggan’s oldest daughter, who is 11, understands a lot of what Lily Jade is and has attended meet and greets with her parents, as well as conferences. She’s a true cheerleader, who comes in at the right time and asks, “How’s work? How’s Lily Jade? Do you feel like you had success today? What do you need to work on?” These are the same questions Meggan will ask her children through the course of the day. In this intense season of putting the hand to the plow, Meggan thinks it’s sweet her children are able to come alongside their parents and desire to participate in their work and cheer on their successes.

(I love this! And I can so relate. Holden totally thinks he’s part of my business. One time he asked, “How many sales did we make?” after a Facebook live event. He was so disappointed that this was a teaching even, and not a sales event!)

Our Own Lily Jade Giveaway

Don’t you just love Meggan? She has such a heart for serving women and making a difference with her business, and all while keeping her family at the forefront.  

If you’ve never seen a Lily Jade bag, you have got to check it out. Go to lily-jade.com and click “Shop Now” to browse. Meggan’s bags are gorgeous, smart, and clever, with amazing organizational systems.

And you’re in luck! Right now we’re doing a podcast relaunch giveaway after our great big, long podcasting break. There are 4 fabulous prizes, and one is a Lily Jade bag! We’re giving away a Madeline in Brandy and Jade, this high quality bag costs over $300.

You can click the link below for more details:

bit.ly/brilliantpodcastgiveaway

To enter you simply have to hit subscribe and leave a rating and review. We’ll draw 4 random names from people who left reviews between February 6th and March 6th. Then, we’ll announce the winners on the podcast and coordinate prizes through email.

Good luck!

Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!

Stay In Touch with Meggan

Lily-Jade.com
Facebook: Lily Jade Co
Instagram: @lilyjadeco
Instagram: @megganewood


This episode wasn’t on our schedule, but it was on my heart, so I wanted to pop in and share some business wisdom with you ladies.

Listen Now

 

It’s not that I think I am so wise, it’s just that looking back over the last year and taking stock of how things have gone, I realized something that I couldn’t help but share.

I know many of you out there feel the pressure to keep spinning your wheels. You feel like you’re caught up in the rat race, or on a hamster wheel and you can’t get off.

I want to encourage you to hop off the wheel and do something different.

First, I wanted to start by saying that I am so excited the podcast is back. Thank you so much for letting me in your ears every single week, and truly, I am so pumped for what’s ahead!

As I’m recording this, it’s midday on Feb 16th. Our podcast downloads for the month of February are already over 27,000 downloads. Without context that might not mean much, but let me tell you, this is already a RECORD high month for us!

You all know I took this past year off from the podcast, but before that the podcast was very strong. We published a new episode at least once a week for a solid 18 months. We had well over 100 episodes under our belt. Prior to this month, our highest month was 18,000 downloads, and that was March 2015. Two years later we finally topped that record!

A HUGE shoutout and THANK YOU to my amazing listeners!!! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the podcast and listening faithfully.

I want to read some recent reviews from you guys that are so incredibly sweet and, honestly, your encouraging notes really do keep me going.

JennyEliza24 said, “So encouraging! I listen this podcast to get inspired to own my own business. I’m still at the stage where I know I can do it, but I don’t have an amazing idea yet. This podcast -- and its super friendly host -- give me hope that I can do it too.”

I love that! On the show, we purposely bring on women who are at all different stages of their business. Some have been in business for just a year, and some have been around for many years. But even if you’re just mulling things over, I hope to provide that perspective and encouragement that you can do it too. We want you to say, “She sounds like me.”

Here’s another review from Carmen M. W.: “I have never listened to a podcast, never been interested. But that is before BBM! But then again, I’ve never clicked on an advertisement prior to Beth Anne’s. Needless to say, Beth Anne knows her stuff. Period. About two months ago, she drew me into her Facebook advertisement. Then, she drew me into all her goodies in her store and now her VALUABLE podcasts! Now, I have access to all the knowledge on marketing and tips that has gotten her where she is today. And to top it all off, she does it in a positive, uplifting way. Thank you Beth Anne.. you’re an inspiration!”

Keep the reviews coming, because they totally encourage me, and right now, If you leave a review before March 6th, you’ll be automatically entered into our giveaway! We’ve got four prizes you can’t resist.

  1. FREE access to my signature course, FB Brilliance
  2. A Madeline in Brandy & Jade bag by Lily Jade
  3. The VIP package of Brilliant Pin Promotion
  4. A 2017 Brilliant Life Planner

Click here for more details, including directions on how to leave an iTunes review.

But, talking about podcast downloads and all your fabulous reviews is not the only reason why I jumped behind the mic today. You’re probably intrigued by the title of this episode: They told me I was Making a Huge mistake…

Let me pull the pieces together and explain what that has to do with podcast downloads.

A year ago, my sister Sarah decided to leave Brilliant Business Moms. At the time, I was really sad, and to be honest, I was also pretty overwhelmed. I totally supported her decision, and think she’s still super happy about her choice. But I was overwhelmed because until that point we had been splitting tasks in the business and each had different roles and things we were doing. I thought, “Oh my goodness. I’m already working like a dog, how can I add Sarah’s tasks to my list as well?” I didn’t think I could handle it. I knew I needed to hire help, but, at that point in the business, even though we were making sales and bringing in money, we were not making a good profit.

Once a year we each got a teeny tiny profit paycheck. (And I’m talking teeny tiny!) I simply didn’t have cash leftover each month to hire help.

But I knew if I wanted to keep growing Brilliant Business Moms, I was going to need to assemble a team.

I had to take a step back from all the tasks I was doing in the business every week--all the things on my great big, mile long to-do list and ask, “What are the biggest impact things I can do to grow this business? What should get set aside so I can grow this to be a profitable business? What do I need to let go of so I can grow our team and move forward?”

When I looked at the big picture of the business, I knew that the podcast took a lot of time and work each week. And there wasn’t necessarily a clear, straight line between podcasts and increasing revenue and profits. Sarah and I loved doing the podcast to interview great moms and provide valuable content, but there wasn’t this clear connection between the podcast and sales. I also knew I had a bigger product to launch -- a course on Pinterest marketing. I had learned so much about Pinterest marketing, and I had used Pinterest effectively on a budget, and I knew I could show other moms like me how to do it.  But didn’t see how I’d have the time to do the course unless I dropped things from my list. I had to drop the podcast.

Now, I didn’t plan on it being a whole YEAR before getting back. And, I am very happy to be back.  But having said that, I’m still happy with my decision to take a break when I needed to.

They told me I was making a huge mistake…

All the advice from fellow business owners like bloggers and podcasters, plus my faithful listeners who loved it, was that it was a bad idea to stop the podcast. Everything I was hearing sounded like, “You can’t put the podcast! That’s your thing! It’s what made Brilliant Business Moms into Brilliant Business Moms.” And yes, I agree, Brilliant Business Moms did truly start as an idea for a podcast.

You know, in the same way a lot of bloggers get the advice that you have to blog consistently every single week, or 3 to 5 times a week, and if you don’t do that your audience will drop off and you’ll never get the momentum back.  And you have to keep spitting out content constantly, etc.

I asked myself some self-identifying questions, like, “What do I see myself as? Am I a podcaster? Am I  a blogger?  Or am I an online business owner?”

I realized what I wanted was to be was an online business owner, building a profitable business. A business owner  may produce content in all sorts of different ways, but a business owner is not defined by blogging or podcasting, which are the things they do, but rather by how they help people. What defines the owner is the product they put out, and how they can serve and help people solve their problems.

I knew I had a great product that would help people, but I felt so much guilt around focusing my time on product development and marketing. I felt guilty for a long time for not running the hamster wheel of free content, and spending all my time there every single week.

A year later, looking back, I realize I have still provided value to my community of BBM. Through Instagram, emails, blog posts, and free webinars, I have helped people, and honestly, I serve my community best of all when I spend time creating and developing solid products that grow their businesses.

I can’t feel bad about spending time creating these products for my community! Those products are a huge way that I get to help people!

I very much DID have all those fears in the back of my mind. “Maybe everyone’s right,” I thought. “Maybe I am making a huge mistake. Maybe my audience will drop off and wither away and I’ll have nobody left online. Maybe no one will care about the podcast when I do come back.”

That’s where those podcast stats come back in. I think when February ends, we will have doubled that record number of downloads. So, do I regret this past year of jumping off the hamster wheel? Do I regret putting the big rocks in first?

Not at all.

Building my list is a high impact activity, and now I have a much bigger list I can sell to--it’s truly a big rock activity. In December 2015 my email list was about 3,500, and as of this recording we’re sitting at 49,000 people.

Thank you so much, that when I posted on Instagram and sent an email, you all came back to listen! And I don’t think anyone has any hard feelings. I have only heard about excited, happy listeners.

And because I jumped off the hamster wheel, and I focused on the big rock activities, this last year I have been able to assemble a team.

Ellen was my first team member --I hired her to get my Pinterest marketing course out the door.

At first, Ellen was literally on a rationed schedule. I could only afford to pay her for 10 hours of work a week. She would have to check in with me and make sure she wasn’t over her hours!

But now I have 3 fabulous ladies who work with me every week. And I can bring on contractors and freelancers as needed.

Because I have that team in place, I can do this podcast and it’s not as much work as it used to be! I’ve got Victoria behind the scenes coordinating everything for me: interviews, promo graphics, show notes, and publishing. Podcasts are a lot of work!  Victoria is spending at least 10 hours a week on the podcast. Without her the podcast wouldn’t be back, and I’m so thankful I can get new episodes out the door. Make sure you give Victoria a great big hug, because this podcast wouldn’t be back without her.

But again, it was big rocks in first. I took a deep breath, looked at the big picture, and asked what are my great big goals, and how am I going to get to them?

Steps To Reach My Goals

In brief, these are the steps I took to getting my business to where I needed it to be:

  1. Got my product out the door
  2. Focused on marketing that product
  3. Increased revenue and profits
  4. Hired help to grow the business even more
  5. Which then let me focus on serving you guys even better with more free content and connection

As many of you know, Carlee is on customer service. She makes sure emails don’t get lost in my inbox, and that all your refunds and bonuses and whatever goodies you are looking for come to you without a hitch. Last year, I couldn’t have afforded to have her, and I wouldn’t have been able to serve you as well.

Don’t listen to people telling you that stopping, and doing something new is a big mistake!

So here’s my advice: take a step back, take a breath, focus on the great big rocks that matter most, and be okay letting other things go.

Understand your life comes in seasons. When I let the podcast go, it helped to know I would only be gone a few months -- I knew I wasn’t letting it go forever. I put it aside for a season so I could focus on high impact activities, and then I could bring it back when I had the right systems and team in place.

Remind yourself that life has different seasons for different things.

Thinking of life in seasons is helpful for me with baby boy due in April. We’re heading for a totally different season I have to adjust to and be okay with! I know I won’t make the same level of progress with my business, and that’s okay. I’m going to let myself take several months completely off from work. I’ll hop back when I want to, but it’ll be nice to have a season when family is WAAAY up high on the scale. Usually my life is pretty balanced, but family is about to tip the scales, and I’m looking forward to that season.

Before I go, I’ve got a fabulous freebie for you: The 5 Days to Craft Your Brilliant Webinar Guide. Now, the live Facebook series is over, but everything you need is in the guide to help you start crafting your own webinar, which will help you make more sales, build relationships with your customers, and set yourself apart in your space. Webinars were a big rock activity for me last year, and a huge driver in terms of building an audience and being able to help you all, and making more sales. Whether you sell a physical product, you are with an MLM company, or you sell services, a course, or an ebook, I want you to consider using webinars!  

brilliantbusinessmoms.com/webinarguide

Most of all, no matter what your big goals are, I encourage you to jump off that hamster wheel. Don’t listen to all the people telling you you’re making a big mistake. Map out the highest impact activities. Have confidence that your goals and milestones matter.

You have the ability to create the path that’ll get you there, and you can put blinders on to what others are saying.

And of course, now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant.

How to jump off the hamster wheel in your business

Direct download: Beth_Anne_Solo_3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Creating A Babysitting App Audrey remembers the specific moment she realized she needed creative childcare solutions. She was talking with her soon-to-be partner Amy in their church lobby, lamenting their childcare problems: the expense of a babysitter, the struggle of finding a good babysitter, the guilt of asking family for favors again... you get the idea. Thinking outside the box, they "decided to change (their) own destiny and formed a local babysitting co-op.” After lots of quick wins and great successes, these ladies realized they had stumbled upon a parenting hack that could help lots of families. They eventually changed their mission from serving their local group of about 16 moms to helping moms across the country. On a personal note, my mother was part of a babysitting co-op when I was little. She always talked about how amazing it was and how lucky they were. When Chris and I lived in South Carolina, I nearly got a co-op together -- but I found the logistics difficult and it never got off the ground. I absolutely love the idea of having an app do all of the work of a co-op for me. The app deals with the administrative headaches and even the potential social awkwardness of ‘who’s in and who’s out’ of my co-op. How Komae Works Each individual parent gets to decide who to trust as babysitters among their friends, and those friends get to decide, etc. A request for a "sit" will only be seen by hand-selected, pre-approved people. Using the App It's a straightforward process: -Download the app in iTunes or Android Store. -Create a profile, and tell Komae about you and your family. Do your kids have allergies? When is nap time? Are they bottle fed? Do they still wear diapers? -Once you’re set up, just post a request including the date and time you need a babysitter. -Your friends will see, “Audrey has a need from 8 to 9 on Wednesday, are you available?” And a friend can say if they’re available or not. -Connect with friends in your village by either searching a name or email if they’re already a Komae user or link to your Facebook account and invite friends from there. Behind the Name Komae means village in Greek. When naming their app, Audrey and Amy borrowed from the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." And like a village, this app functions around reciprocity; you give to and receive from those around you. They were so excited when, as the app gained popularity, users requested the ability to post when they were available to give care, not just when they needed a sitter. Isn’t that great!? Earning Babysitting Points Komae has a babysitting point system where 1 hour of babysitting equates to 1 point. When users put in the details of their sit, Komae calculates how much the sit is worth. In this way, the app removes that social friction of figuring out which kids require more effort, and how many points to assign per sit. Earning and using credits is a simple banking system: You earn points by watching your friends' kids, and you spend points when your friends watch your kids. The app makes it fair for everyone, and it's so much easier than having those awkward conversations. (And I have to say at this point, I was SO excited to get started with Komae - I couldn’t wait until we were done interviewing to download the app!) Developing an App The thought of actually developing an app sounds insanely difficult and stressful! I absolutely needed to hear from Amy and Audrey about what their process was to get this app up and running. When they launched the Komae mobile friendly web app in May of 2016, they had already been helping moms with the babysitting struggle for 2 years. Of course, the pair didn’t start working 40 hours a week until closer to launch time. In fact, they used their babysitting co-op to gain a couple of afternoons a week to work, plus they worked after bedtime. As of this air date, the My Komae app is available in iTunes and Google Play Store. It's not a quick process, though it's definitely worthwhile. Tip: "You don't need to be at your end goal in 1 month, 2 months, 12 months. It might take a couple years...Just focus on the next dot." Finding an App Developer How do you know if your developer will be the right fit or that they have the right skills? Both Amy and Audrey had husbands that worked in tech, and while they weren’t developers, they had the network and knowledge to find the right people. They used Upwork to find freelance developers. (With Upwork, you post a specific job and different people apply, then you get to choose the freelancers you want.) Alternatively, there are app development agencies. This option is very expensive but very effective. To raise funds to make this all happen, 6 months into their development process, the Komae team ran a Kickstarter and used that money to begin developing their Minimum Viable Product. (Minimum viable product means the simplest, slimmest version of your idea. The purpose is to gauge interest and success.) They did fully fund their Kickstarter - and also pursued a unique funding option I had never heard of, which I had to ask about! Funding with Pitch Competitions and Kickstarter At first, the pair set out to fund this project via Kickstarter. Their goal was $20,000. The Kickstarter was a bit of a nail-biter, as they fully funded (just over $20K) on Day 34 of a 35-day campaign! 2 days after their Kickstarter ended, they went to a pitch competition. A pitch competition is basically like Shark Tank in real life; it’s an opportunity to share your idea and be considered for financing. In fact, Amy and Audrey said they binge-watched Shark Tank episodes to prepare for their pitches! In just 2 minutes they pitched their Komae app and earned $10,000 more dollars (on top of their Kickstarter funds) to pursue development. Over the past 2 years, they’ve won 7 competitions that resulted in grants or investments for Komae. And with such a fabulous first success with pitch competitions, it’s easy to see why they kept going back for more! Pitch competitions are a savvy way to fund a project that needs a higher investment, or that you don’t have the skills to develop. If you want to find a local pitch competition, just Google search ‘pitch competition [your city name]’. One of the best pitch competitions they entered was from Jen and Jenny of the company Rent the Runway, whose foundation is called Project Entrepreneur. It’s an intensive weekend with training from other female business founders. 800 people started the application process, and only 12 were picked to pitch on stage. Not only were Amy and Audrey chosen to pitch, they were chosen as one of the 3 winners! They earned another $10,000 for their business, as well as 5 weeks of working in the Rent the Runway Manhattan office. It was an incredible experience, to say the least! They were able to network and learn from other companies. Even if a pitch competition doesn’t end in financing, it might have come with a consultation or networking opportunity that makes a big difference for a new business. Moms Spending 5 Weeks In Manhattan!? Of course, the Komae ladies were so excited to have won this mega prize, but then the reality set in: “Oh my gosh, what are we going to tell our husbands!?” Their husbands stepped up to the challenge. These sweet hubbies hunkered down and took care of the kids, while Amy and Audrey drove to and from New York every weekend (an 8-hour drive) to see their families. It was a big sacrifice for big gains. High five, husbands, for handling the kids for 5 weeks! I would have had no idea that all these resources were available for start-up business owners. But actually there’s a big focus on female entrepreneurs, and "it’s a sexy time to be a female entrepreneur, especially in the Midwest.” The girls have really enjoyed the community of support they’ve gained from their pitch competitions. App Development Difficulties Komae’s “biggest hurdle by far was having a vision of a deadline, and then the reality of when things came to fruition.” (And I can totally relate! Our podcast break was way longer than I expected.) Komae’s 4-week timeline turned into 20 weeks, especially with the glitches technology can often experience. But the best thing an entrepreneur can do is to learn that "it’s okay to take longer than planned, and to roll with the punches.” Marketing An App Within a week of becoming available in the iTunes store in fall of 2016, Komae already had 1,000 users. I had to know how they spread the word and marketed their product! At first, Komae was a mobile friendly web app, which was their minimum viable product. Komae spread organically at first through word of mouth, with moms inviting their mom friends using the irresistible hook of free babysitting. Plus, they were interviewed on the local news and were featured in a few articles that have also been a bit of a PR boost. But what they’re super excited about is putting marketing dollars behind their initiatives. Komae is focusing on creating social media campaigns, primarily, since moms hang out on social media. It’s the perfect place to market an app aimed at moms. Using a Launch Party Model They’ll do traditional marketing, but they know word of mouth won’t go away because, in order to benefit, moms need their friends to sign up too! Since moms add their friends to the app, the viral spread won’t go away. It’s like built-in marketing for the app; each new user potentially brings in five or ten more. They’ve got a great idea of moms throwing launch parties within their own local communities of moms. The Komae team knows they could spend time and money getting one person on board at a time, or they can spend money on something like the launch party model to get 20 new users at once. And the launch party model doesn’t estrange those who may not want to share babysitting with everyone at the party. Because of the way the app works, each user gets to choose who is in their village, their group of babysitters. The purpose of the launch party is simply to get everyone to download the app and get excited. Then they can connect with the people they are comfortable with at the party, but even more, they'll go home and invite other friends. Solving Your Own Problem Not only were Audrey and Amy solving the problem other moms had, they were trying to solve their own problem of needing childcare to run their side businesses. Audrey remembers that she hated spending money on a sitter for a business meeting that she wasn’t sure would end up making her money. It felt silly to spend that cash she wouldn’t necessarily get back! And then sometimes she would get a spur of the moment business meeting request, but had to scramble like a crazy woman behind the scenes to line up childcare for the meeting, before she could even give an answer. Once she had the babysitting co-op, she could immediately say, “Yes! I can meet you tomorrow at 2,” and find childcare through the co-op. Amy’s side business was a boutique bakery. Can’t you just imagine the kids trying to lick the icing off the spoon while Amy filled orders? It’s healthy for mom to have that time to work -- and for kids to have time to play with their friends -- and then be fully engaged with the kids when they are all home. And, it’s really helpful for someone who is the "sometimes working mom," or the mom with unpredictable babysitting needs. And with Komae, your kids basically get an automatic playdate, rather than a babysitter coming to your house to entertain your children. The kids are truly getting active, social playtime, having a blast with friends. They don't even know they're being babysat--you're dropping them off to play! Komae is a great solution all around. When it comes to the actual sitters, because you hand-select your village, you’re choosing the role models for your kids. You’re building a trusted network of mentors for your children to look up to. Social media usually brings people further apart, but with Komae it brings people together. Now when you stop at your friend's house, they know what you're doing and they care about your life, and they’ve built a bond with your children. Beth Anne’s Mom Confession I spill a hilarious Mom confession in this episode. You’ll have to listen to catch it! But let’s just say it has to do with babysitters and a secret we’ve been keeping from Holden! For the Mom who isn’t a Super-Fan of Babysitting Other People’s Kids One objection Komae gets a lot is, "I don’t have time to watch other people's kids!" or even, "I don’t WANT to watch other people’s kids!" And really, if that's you, you are not alone! Komae sits are not like babysitting, though. It’s more like you’re making your home a fun and safe place for your children’s friends to play. You can even get laundry and dishes done while the kiddos enjoy the playdate, plus earn points to get free time later! Amy’s Adorable Mom Moment Amy lives in Ohio and in the middle of winter they can get days and days and days of snow. Once dHer son was desperate to play outside, but because of all the snow days, she was behind on her work and said no. Let’s just say it was a day when Amy wasn’t getting along with her toddler! Her little guy got so frustrated that he was insisting on going outside while standing in the foyer naked, in only his snowboots! Amy posted a request on Komae, and soon was able to take her son to a friend’s house. Turns out, the friend was already planning to play in the snow! Amy got her work done, and when she reunited with her son everyone was much happier and had a great afternoon together. I absolutely loved learning from these two ladies. Their story is totally inspiring for any business mom. I think this product is an absolute must for all busy moms! And from their story, you should be encouraged to go out and take action on the brilliant business idea that you have. Stay In Touch With Amy and Audrey www.mykomae.com iTunes App Google Play Instagram: @my_komae Facebook: MyKomae

Direct download: BBM_Amy_Komae.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Today on the show I’m *chatting* with Vanessa Quigley of Chatbooks (and, no, I couldn’t resist the pun!). She is a mom of seven and Chatbooker-in-Chief of the photo subscription app, Chatbooks. Since its founding in 2014, Chatbooks has grown into a huge company. We are so excited for her success! Welcome to the show, Vanessa!

On The Podcast

1:02 - From Idea to Company
7:08 - Hilarity and Wild Success With A Viral Video Ad
10:37 - Working Closely on a Project

12:30 - More with Real Mom
13:04 - Organic ROI
14:26 - Start Up Business with Investors
17:45 - Working with your Husband
21:04 - Start Up Mom Hustle
23:46 - Day In The Life
24:42 - Adorable Mom Moment

Listen Now

From Tender Moment to Brand New Company

Until she became a mom, Vanessa didn’t take memory keeping seriously. When she had her first child, she bought her first camcorder and camera. Vanessa began using these tools to record their family story through scrapbooking - the old school way! Vanessa remembers, “I would put my baby to bed and spend hours with this creative outlet.”

She was an avid scrapbooker for years, but the last time she remembers touching a scrapbook was when she was on bedrest during her pregnancy with her 5th child. “That was the last time I did anything with printed photos,” Vanessa recalls. 

Digital photography had become popular and Vanessa noticed she stopped printing hardcopy photos all together. She knew her photos were safe on her hard drive, plus she got busy with 5, then 6, then 7 kids! During that transition, Vanessa noticed she didn’t do anything by way of memory keeping. (And side note, don’t you love that phrase, ‘memory keeping’? I do!)

About four years ago Vanessa went to tuck her youngest, who was five at the time, into bed and heard him crying. Her son was holding a photo book! His preschool teacher had purchased simple, Dollar Store albums and filled them with photos from the year.  She gave one to every child as a graduation gift.  Vanessa thought this gift was so sweet - and she had no idea the impact it would have on her son.

Looking back on it now, Vanessa remembers this tender moment with a great deal of fondness: “My son felt like he was growing up. And it’s funny to think about a 5-year-old getting nostalgic. But he looked up to me and said ‘Mama, I don’t EVER want to grow up!’ I realized in that moment he was holding onto memories, physical memories of his life.”

Vanessa came away from that moment desiring to do a better job at keeping the memories of her children. 

Her husband had been working on another project (a cloud-based solution) with the goal of helping people safeguard and organize their memories. He had been operating on the premise that print was dead and everything needed to be organized and easily accessible in the cloud.

Vanessa still thinks this goal of cloud organization is a good one, but in that sweet moment, she realized that print wasn’t dead.

As she recounts it, “I marched downstairs that night and told my husband I thought physical photos still mattered. I told him I wanted him to print my Instagram account.”

Vanessa realized she had started using Instagram to curate her camera roll, and she wanted to give those memories to her kids. She needed to do the important mom work of telling her family’s story.

Vanessa thought her crazy idea would be better than nothing. Her husband had already assembled a development team, and they were able to pivot the project they had been working on and put resources toward this venture. In a week they had a working prototype. And it went crazy from there!

The app was amazing! Within 60 seconds they were able to print anything ever posted to Instagram into organized volumes. Chatbooks continued to grow with Instagram, and eventually began to add additional photo sources. Vanessa says they’ve grown by listening to customers and developing the product based on the feedback.

Hilarity and Wild Success With A Viral Video Ad

We’re certain that one key to the success of Chatbooks is that Vanessa’s team created a product that clearly solves a major problem of so many busy moms.

And recently, Chatbooks proved they truly understand their ideal customer by producing an absolutely hilarious--and spot on--video ad.

This ad is truly gold, and the proof is in the pudding. Vanessa shared, "We shared this ad on our Facebook page and it got such great feedback! Raving comments poured in, like, 'This is the only ad I’ve ever enjoyed watching!'" 

Vanessa’s number one objective with this ad was to acquire new customers, of course. But she said an equally important goal was to help people laugh, because “to survive all that's wonderful and crazy in raising our children, you need a sense of humor.”

And if making moms laugh was Chatbooks’ #1 priority, it worked! 

The ‘Real Mom’ ad was a huge financial commitment for this fledgling start-up. Last January, Chatbooks went through a huge round of financing and was able to put money in the bank to experiment with their marketing and goals, and so they did.

Chatbooks is based in Provo, Utah (which Vanessa tells us looks like a cute little snow globe in the winter), a locale full of creatives, including Harmon Brothers ad agency. Chatbooks had to pitch themselves to the agency, as they are pretty picky, and Vanessa feels super lucky to have landed them! (You may recognize the agency’s unique blend of comedy + ROI with their campaigns for Purple, The Squatty Potty, and Fiber Fix.) Vanessa and her team were thrilled to find out the owners were already happy Chatbookers. It became a match made in heaven.

Working on the ad script was a collaborative effort. It took a few writing meetings with the Harmon Brothers agency to conceptualize the ad. Vanessa was able to cast local talent; the actress who plays 'Real Mom' is named Lisa Valentine Clark and lives just a few doors down from the Chatbooks office. (Vanessa had admired Lisa's work in the film 'Once I Was A Beehive' and was starstruck that she got to work with a favorite!)

Working (too) Closely on a Project

Interestingly, Vanessa says by the time this ad launched she lost touch with what it really was supposed to be. She likens it to working really hard on a meal, but when it comes time to eat you've lost your appetite. Vanessa says by the end of production she wasn't sure if the ad would fly. (She also knew first-hand the scenes that didn't make the final cut, like a moment when Real Mom pushes grandpa into a pool!)

Vanessa says, "After working really closely on this project, when my husband and I saw the final cut before our launch party, we weren't even sure if it was funny!" But despite their reservations, it was time to launch. Her team took a deep breath and hit publish.

She remembers they held a little launch party with people from Chatbooks and Harmon Brothers; they "invited everyone to share the video on their personal pages and see what happened. Chatbooks obviously had money to put behind the ad, but they wanted to see how it would grow organically."

The result was amazing.

Chatbooks earned back their investment (in app installs and new orders) through organic sharing before they put any money behind marketing spend. Vanessa says it was a very good Christmas :)

More with Real Mom

Vanessa assures us there are more Real Mom stories to come. She even gave us a hint! During the baseball game scene of her ad, we get a peek at Real Mom's husband.  Chatbooks has discovered that dads are actually doing a lot of chatbooking, and we might also see some spin-off ads with the Chatbooks dad.

Organic ROI

We still can't get over that in the first week alone, Chatbooks earned back their ad spend through app installs and new customers! "It’s been fun and rewarding," Vanessa confirms.

Vanessa didn't have exact numbers for us in terms of total ROI. She and her husband are co-owners of the business, and her husband is the numbers guy, while she keeps the big picture in mind. And Vanessa says that she operates with eternal optimism, and finds she works best if she can just assume everything is going well until she's told it's not.

But suffice it to say, Vanessa says their Christmas was very good! And they felt very blessed.

Start-up Business with Investors

It's hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea of having investors for my business. It freaks me out! But what’s Vanessa's experience with investors?

"Initially my husband had been working on another project and we funded that ourselves. We were at the point where if things don’t pickup right away, we either had to call it quits or call in support. My husband had started other venture-backed companies, and this original concept he was working on that turned into Chatbooks had some angel investors. Personally, I would loved to have started with our own bank accounts and have full ownership of the company. We had spent all of our own money and were scraping the bottom of the barrel for Nate’s original attempt. We knew we had no cash, and knew we could only grow so much without it." 

Thankfully, Vanessa's husband had experience with investors and was able to close the round of investing to produce this ad. Chatbooks knew they had an amazing product that their market would love, but they needed to get the word out. And they already had other products in mind to develop, but without a big marketing share like some other photo books companies, Chatbooks needed cash for marketing.

Vanessa totally debunks the myth that you don't get to call your own shots if you have investors.

"If you get the right investors, they're on your side. They want you to succeed. It's nice to have accountability; it’s easy as a start-up to go off the rails without those checks and balances. Our investors feel like they're on our team. It's been nothing but a blessing for our company." 

Working with your Husband

My husband, Chris, helps sometimes in my business and it’s great, but I can’t imagine us working together full-time on the same business! I asked Vanessa to tell it to me straight! What IS it like to work with your husband, and how do you make it work?

Vanessa says it’s wonderful! For years her husband had been dropping hints that he wanted to do a business together. Before her husband wanted her to follow along with his business plans, but Vanessa always thought, "I'm the boss of my world, and you’re the boss of yours!"

When she pitched him the Chatbooks idea, she watched her husband create the app and give constant feedback, but Vanessa was really hesitant about going into business together. Their marriage had worked really well for 20 years, and she was afraid of the partnership being more than she could handle.

But eventually, Vanessa says, "I took the leap of faith and jumped in. I feel like it has enriched our relationship. We had been married for 23 years and had been through a lot. We had a lot of opportunities to work through our differences. We don't always agree, but I respect him and he respects me. I don’t have business experience, but I have an intuition about what works. We've become closer."

At this point, Vanessa can’t imagine starting a company alone.

We think that perspective is so great!

Start-up Mom Hustle

Vanessa is in the thick of it. She's got five kids still at home, and two in college. She feels really lucky that she can prioritize family first and do a job she loves.

She says she's used to juggling things. She graduated college with a degree in vocal performance - and a baby! Broadway wasn't for her, but community theater was. She did her own thing, and it worked! She would perform in shows, take a break and have a baby, and get back at it.

Vanessa already had a good rhythm of scaling up and scaling back her life as her family needed.

Like many moms, she looked forward to her youngest being in school all day. Vanessa thought she would go back to school, and pursue her talents again. She never imagined going to the office every day, but Chatbook is a company she's super passionate about - and something she's enjoyed building with her husband.

Her idea was to be home every time the kids were home, but she had great neighbors and great carpools. In those early days, her friends would take her kids home and Vanessa would get back about 5 pm. In the early phases of start-ups, that's the sort of daily grind that is necessary.

But as her team grew, she disciplined herself more and made it a habit to be home when her kids were home. This year her resolution is to only go to the office 3 days a week, to be more present with her family while they're under her roof.

Day In The Life

Her days start early.

Physical health is really important to Vanessa, and she makes it a priority to wake up early and exercise, about 6 AM. Between 7:30 and 9 AM she's getting her kids off to school. She works from 9:30 to about 2:30 or 3 PM, then she picks her kids up from school and is Mom. At night she sometimes will pull out her laptop again, but has a New Year's Resolution to not bring her computer to bed.

Adorable Mom Moment

Her 3rd child is a senior and going off to college, and her daughter Laken is a sophomore in college. Her baby just turned 9. The night before his birthday she checked on him and snuggled him as moms do, and she just needed one last kiss from her 8-year-old. And he absolutely REFUSED her! She couldn't get to him! Vanessa said she had to wipe a tear from her eye! But it worked out well :) the next morning he woke up and said, "Mom I want to start year 9 off right," and he gave her a kiss. We melted!

Stay In Touch With Vanessa

Chatbooks.com // Blog
(Chatbooks.com is also where you can log into your Chatbooks account and work on your books.)
Instagram: @chatbooks
Instagram: @vanessaquigley
Email: vanessa(at)chatbooks(dot)com 

Direct download: Vanessa_Quigley_Edited.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

I am SO excited to bring you this show today! We are going to talk about the ONE strategy that has impacted my sales the most this year! I'm super passionate about this topic. Honestly, I try to talk about this strategy with business owners everywhere I go. I constantly want to convince more people to use this strategy because the difference it has made for me is seriously crazy-cakes.

Do you have a guess as to what it could be?

Knowing me, you might think this strategy is Facebook ads, but it's not!

I love this strategy because it's approachable and affordable for business owners. Facebook ads are how I get customers in the door, but this strategy is how I build relationships and sell the things I want to sell.

The strategy is hosting webinars.

I know you've probably heard a lot of online business owners talk about webinars over the years, and maybe you already have decided opinions about them. If you're rolling your eyes at this point and thinking, "Webinars aren't for me. Business mom out," I need you to give me a few more minutes -- and I am pretty sure I'll change your mind. :)

Listen To The Show

The Numbers Speak For Themselves (3:26)

If you'll give me the chance, I'm going to talk about the 6 big webinar myths I hear all the time. I'm going to debunk them, and teach you the truth about making webinars work for your business.

I have crazy-cool stats to share with you that speak for themselves.

This past year, Brilliant Business Moms has grown an insane amount. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it! Chris and I finally sat down and did the books, like responsible business owners, and figured out where our sales were coming from.

We've had $285,000 in revenue (sales in the business). $201,000 of that was from sales of my online courses.

So, the courses I sell are:

  • Brilliant Pin Promotion
  • FB Brilliance
  • A brand new course coming soon!

The other $84,000 revenue was planner sales, primarily. And keep in mind planner season flows into 2017. So we had an awesome season, but only part of the tally accounts for 2016. Other revenue was made through some shop sales and affiliate sales. (Hint, hint... guess how I make my affiliate sales? Webinars!)

Over 2/3 of my income came from course sales. And literally the main way, about 90%, of my course sales have been through webinars. People come to a free class that I hold around a given topic, they get to know me and trust me, and they get value out of that free class, whether they purchase anything or not. And then a good portion of those attendees decide they're ready to take it to the next level. They think, "If this is her free class, I know her course will be awesome!"

Webinars for Physical Products (6:23)

And I have to tell you, I was very close to doing a webinar to sell my physical planners. So if you're a business that sells physical products, please don't turn this episode off! I have a lot of thoughts and ideas for you. (In fact, that'll be one of the myths we debunk!) This strategy 100% applies to you.

I was really close to doing a webinar to sell my planners. But to be honest, it takes a couple weeks to create a really great webinar, and the planners were selling more quickly than I anticipated. I was nervous that by the time I got my webinar together, half of the planners would be gone.

The main reason I didn't do a webinar to sell planners is because the Brilliant Life Planners sold too fast. (A good problem, but still a problem!)

For our next planner season, I'll get the planners to my doorstep much sooner and will absolutely make webinars part of my selling strategy.

Proving Webinars Are Powerful (8:49)

I want to share a few stats to prove to you that webinars are crazy powerful.

One of the ways I filled my webinars with happy students was with Facebook ads. We're talking about getting people to attend my free class; and my goal was 2,000 signups. Keep in mind I'm only running these ads to cold traffic. These are 2,000 brand new people through the door who knew nothing about me before seeing a Facebook or Instagram ad.

On average, I'd spend about $4,000 on advertising on average to get the 2,000 people. And I'd make about $8,000 in sales, so the profit margin is 50%. You more experienced business owners may be looking at that 50% profit margin and thinking it's way too low. And I get it. It's not awesome per industry standards, but I was mostly excited about getting to know a new audience. I spent $4,000 to get 2,000 new email signups, and I made $4,000 profit. I felt really good about that!

On average, that's 63 course sign-ups out of those 2,000 webinar sign-ups. With these numbers I'm getting about a 3% conversion rate. People who are insanely good at webinars and have it down to a science can get way higher than 3%, but I felt amazing with these numbers! Because guess what? Those sales were to people who didn't know me before that webinar!

One stat you'll see floating around online marketing looks something like this: Let's say you've built an email list and worked hard to have a relationship with that list. The best practice is to nurture the list over time, and then send out a ton of messages pitching your product. Conservatively, you should estimate a 2% conversion rate from those efforts to people who already know you. But I hung out with total strangers on my webinar and got a 3% conversion rate. That blows my mind!

The first time I launched my FB Brilliance course, in July, I brought in 125 course sales from about 3,000 webinar signups, and those were from my email list of about 20-25K people.

It was a pretty straightforward process: I emailed my list a few times, and about 3,000 people took me up on my offer. I only pitched my course and bonuses to the people who signed up to my webinar. I probably should have pitched it to my whole list, which I should have! I didn't go through all the motions of building anticipation and hint, or make tons of calls-to-action. I just said, "Let's do this!" and got the webinar out the door. And I had a 4% conversion rate!

I'd prefer to do this method than bug my list like crazy for only a 2% conversion rate! Webinar sales always blow my email sales out of the water. It's just more effective.

Here's one more non-webinar example. My current list has 50,000 subscribers. Only 1,600 of them purchased a planner, and a lot of these people are brand new. Many of those 1,600 weren't already on my list, but I didn't do a webinar on time management or goal setting.

That conversion rate is 3%. It's better than the standard 2% conversion rate. But it also happened over a couple of months. It happened with loads of social media posts and emailing. Lots of buildup and time and content to get that 3% conversion rate from my list. Whereas, I probably could have just created an awesome webinar around goal setting and time management and had a much higher than average conversion rate.

Are you excited for the potential of webinars!? I really hope that you are.

Webinars are fabulous because not only will you get to show off your personality and knowledge - and get to know your audience - but also your audience becomes your friends. It's so much fun that your attendees want to walk away from the class to take action.

Alright, let's get started debunking 6 Webinar Myths, plus I'll give you the Truth About Making Them Work For Your Business

Myth #1: I need to be great at public speaking. (17:33)

It happens all the time. When I start talking about how great webinars are, people panic!

People (usually introverts) think that in order to put on a great webinar they have to be fabulous at public speaking - not true!

First of all, I am not great at public speaking. Yeah, I'm a Chatty Cathy, but I'm not great at public speaking. I'm a rambler, you guys! That's just as bad as the person who doesn't have enough to say!

I have so much work to do when it comes to upping my public speaking game.

In terms of my experience, how many times have I been on a stage speaking to a large group of people? Maybe twice.

The only time I can think back on is when I was part of a mission program with my college. I spent  a couple months volunteering at an orphanage in India with a mission project. And when I came back I had to speak at a chapel service about my experience. It was supposed to be an inspirational 20 minute talk, explaining what we did and inspirational insights from the Bible. At the time, I was at the time a molecular biology major. I had no background to be inspiring!

So that's one public speaking experience.

Recently I did a breakout session at the Business Boutique conference in Nashville. This was in front of maybe 35-45 people. To be honest, I find that setting WAY more intimidating than a webinar, or my chapel experience, because of the close proximity. By biggest fear is that I'm going to accidentally spit on someone in the front row! But keep in mind, this Business Boutique event didn't even happen until after I fell in love with doing webinars!

I am not a public speaking expert, and I haven't taken a single class on public speaking.

Think about recording a podcast, it's a totally different environment. We have editors to make us sound way better than we really do, when I was recording with my sister we had each other, and we had another person doing most of the talking! Podcast recording is not really public speaking.

Here's what I would say if you think you need to be great at public speaking, or have a natural speaking talent: practice is what makes you great at webinars. That's been my experience and it's what others say, too.

The cool thing about a webinar  is that you're the boss! You decide what you want to talk about. You create your slides, which remind you of what you want to say. And you get to practice as many times as you want. As you practice the flow will become increasingly natural.

Even though I recommend you show your face in the webinar, you aren't looking out on a crowd of faces! It takes away the intimidation factor. And if you need to, you can hide behind a slide and not show your sweaty pits or wardrobe malfunction. Webinars are actually the perfect way for an introvert or a shy person to share their skills and knowledge.

I know you'll get amazing at doing webinars if you just practice crafting the right kind of presentation.

Now that I've done tons of webinars,  an in-person event or a mixer is way scarier than a webinar!

Myth #2: I have to sell an online course to make a webinar work. (24:50)

I hear this myth all the time!

Of course webinars are great for selling courses. I've done it, and I know lots of online business owners who are selling courses through webinars.

But here's the thing. I think you'll stand out even more and be really surprised at your results if you use webinars to sell whatever it is you already sell online. Whether you sell ebooks, physical books, homemade baby goods, whatever the case is, I think that you can make a webinar work for you and your business.

I've seen webinars work well for book launches. You could teach a topic related to your book, do an author Q&A, and maybe offer a juicy incentive like a book giveaway every 15 minuets for all live attendees.

Sarah and I used webinars to launch our very first planner. We talked about how to balance a business and family during the presentation, and at the end of the webinar we had a special coupon code for our brand new planner. We only had a few thousand Facebook fans, less than 5,000k, and our email list was maybe 1,200 people. We had about 100-200 people sign up for each webinar (one in the morning and one in the evening).

Only 20-30 people showed up live; our live attendees had so much fun, gave thoughtful and encouraging comments, and about 10 people from each webinar purchased a planner! That's a great conversion rate, about 50%. (How would it feel if you made 20 new sales a day? It's pretty exciting!)

Another benefit of the live webinar is that we could answer questions. I'm thinking of so many products that I would love to get help answering my questions about them before I purchase. For example, I would love to know how to do a baby wrap. I just bought one, and I have no idea what to do with this thing! I feel like I need to practice 100 times with a baby doll so I don't drop my real baby! What if a baby wrap business offered a free class on wearing your baby and getting life done? If I saw an ad for a class like that, I would sign up for sure. And would be a super loyal customer, because they took the time to teach me how to use their product.

If you sell a physical product, think about the help and value you can add by doing a webinar.

I've got a few examples to get your wheels turning :)

Julie Fuller of Tokyo Blossom Boutique has a fun shop and sells awesome, adorable planner accessories. Julie is super creative and has gorgeous handwriting. She decorates her planners and totally blings it out! Her planner pages look really pretty and classy. Julie is going to create a course on planner decorating. She could do a webinar showing 5 quick ways to make your planner beautiful and functional, and it'll lead right into her course!

Even if her course isn't ready right away, who am I going to buy planner accessories from? Julie, because she is going the extra mile and rocked my socks off in her webinar!

(And by the way I'm totally giving my biz friends assignments right now! LOL)

Melissa Kaiserman of A Time for Everything sells cash envelopes systems for  people on the Dave Ramsey plan, or other cash budget systems. Now, Melissa already does awesome and her sales are fantastic. But what if she did a budgeting webinar? Or a webinar on how to set up a cash budget that will work for you and your family? I think the webinar sales would blow her away!

What about you? How can you use a webinar for your product in a way that makes you insanely helpful? When your customers get to know you and form a relationship with you, it would be really tough for them to switch and go to someone else. And even if they found a product they wanted from someone else, you'd likely get their feedback to improve your product!

Myth #3: You need to have expensive tools and programs to run a webinar. (34:16)

(And yes we're just at Myth #3. I told you I'm not a skilled public speaker. I'm a rambler!)

I'm sure you've been to webinars where hosts are using Webinar Jam or Go To Webinar. If you Googled these tools, you know they are expensive. Plus, the more people you have, the more expensive they get!

News flash: you don't need those expensive tools to run a webinar.

Here are the tools I use to record my webinars:

  • A Yeti microphone, which you can get for around $100. (You can also get a Snowflake microphone for around $35.)
  • My computer. (Obviously! Hopefully you already own one, but if not you can get a decent laptop for a couple hundred dollars these days.)
  • You Tube Live Events, using your YouTube Business account. (Which is basically like the new Google Hangouts. It's free!)
  • Leadpages for my webinar landing page. (This is a paid service, but you can easily make a page on your own site.)
  • Chatango for my chat option. (Which I embed on my Leadpages webinar page, and could easily be embedded on any webinar page. Also free!) 
  • Google Slides for my presentation. (This is part of your free Google Drive tools. Can you believe it!?)
  • ConvertKit, which is my email service provider, because you want to collect signups. (An email service provider could be your biggest expense. MailChimp is free for the first 2,000 subscribers. Sarah and I used MailChimp for our first webinars!)
  • I did choose to invest in video lights for night webinars, but you don't have to do that. If lighting is a concern, just make sure to host your webinars during the day to use natural light.

That's really all you need! If you're really on a barebones budget, just grab the basics: a microphone, Mailchimp, and your website to embed your video and a free chat box--and you're good to go!

To me, I feel like there's more room for things to crash with fancy systems. I've been to a lot of webinars where things go crazy. It seems that the more tech you have, the more you can get bogged down. Google Hangouts has only failed me one time in a couple years.

Bottom line: hosting your own webinar is really affordable if you need it to be!

Myth #4: You have to be great at selling and marketing. (39:57)

A lot of people think they need to have that obnoxious salesman personality in order to make the webinar work. Maybe you're sitting in your chair right now thinking, "The thought of selling to people live freaks me out! I can't do it!"

Take a deep breath.

Because I DO recommend you offer something for sale at the end of your webinar!

But I DO NOT want you to be sleazy or salesy!

First and foremost, whether or not people buy from you, people should walk away able to take action and have a quick win. You want to focus on fabulous content and solid teaching.

And what you can do in a webinar that you can't really do without video is to show off your personality! You get to be you in all your glory. Part of the fun is people seeing your mistakes, and that you have a sense of humor and can handle the mess.

If you're afraid that your personality stinks, or you have quirks, know that there are people out there who jive with it. And guess what? They think your quirks are the most amazing thing about you!

Here's an example:

We've established that I'm super chatty and wordy and ramble on and on. I always get people who comment in webinars, "She talks too much." But I ALSO get people who say, "I love that you want to explain things in detail, it feels real that you're real."

If they don't love you, they aren't your ideal audience.

How do you make friends in real life? You make friends by hanging out with people, and having a real conversation. It's hard to have a relationship just off of letters, emails, or Facebook posts.

The most genuine relationships happen when a real life conversation is happening. Webinars are the next best thing to a face-to-face conversation with people from all over the world.

The other thing I want to say about selling is that there are formulas, or specific steps, you can take your customers through that really feel seamless and natural and lead to a sale.

You get to be you--talking in your normal, non-salesy voice--and you'll get way better at it and more comfortable the more you do it.

You're approaching this sale from a place where you just taught people tons of awesome stuff, and you want to help them take their business to next level. You're excited to share your product with them, and have confidence that your product will positively change their life.

Myth #5: You need to have a huge audience. (46:53)

I hear this a lot from business owners, "I'm not ready for a webinar because I don't have the budget to spend on Facebook ads. My audience is just too tiny. I'm nervous if I offer a webinar, it will be me and one other person."

For my first webinars with Sarah, we had a small group but we  had a great time

I promise even if only 5 people show up, you'll have a great time! You'll get amazing practice, plus you can take the replay and use it in other situations.

You could send your replay to your list, or a as a thank you to new customers or email subscribers. It's not a waste even if no one shows up, because you can use that recording in other ways.

The other thing is that webinars are a great way to build your audience. The more webinars I've done, I always get new attendees who say, "My friend told me I just had to attend your class." I get emails and Facebook posts all the time from people asking for the next class! People will tell their friends about your fabulous webinar. Promise!

Another thing I share about webinars I am hosting is how fun it is to hang out with like-minded people live. I love all the chatting between business moms, and when they start to collaborate with someone they've just met. It's fun to know that in this often lonely online world you can meet up with people real time. That's the incentive for signing up to a webinar.

Customers don't get to connect or communicate with you when they grab your checklist or cheatsheet. Webinars are an inincredibly powerful form of communication!

Myth #6: Webinars are over done, and just a trend. (53:20)

Some people think webinars are just a fad. "As soon as I jump on the webinar train, webinars will be overdone and old news."

Not true!

I completely acknowledge that the format webinars are given in,  the structure, the tools used to put them on, may change over the next decade. Sure. Absolutely.

But building relationships with your customers on video? That's not going away, you guys. You see it all over. There's Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and Instagram Live, Snapchat, and YouTube - which feels like it's been around forever - aren't going anywhere.

Selling and building relationships with your customers via video isn't going away. When you dig into webinars you'll realize that you're building skills you can take with you for the long haul.

I think one of the reasons I'm really comfortable to hop on Facebook Live at any given point in the day is because I do webinars all the time. It becomes second nature.

While we're on the subject, you could technically do a webinar just using Facebook Live. At this point it would be tricky to have a clean, polished slide presentation. But something like a baby wearing demo, craft project, Q&A, or a product launch would be great! Just set up your phone with the right kind of mounts and do the webinar right there. You could be commenting in the chat, giving people links, and telling them where to go to find your product.

A webinar is simply using video to provide awesome value and sell a product. That's not going away.

There are more and more people in this online marketing space using webinars to sell. You may notice your feeds are inundated with offers for free classes and lessons. But there are so many niches out there where hardly anyone is doing webinars! (Maybe yours is one of them!)

Plus, I don't care who's doing what! I'm confident my webinar is way better than anyone else's. So I'll keep putting them out there, giving a lot of great value, and people will tell their friends.

People who are in other niches outside of the online marketing space have a great advantage.

I don't know about you, but I have loads of friends on Facebook who are body coaches.

Let's say after giving myself time after this baby comes, I want to get back in shape. Maybe I want to try a beach body program and get into one a challenge group. Well, I've got 15 friends who are all selling beach body programs. How do I decide which friend I pick?

(Hint, hint: There are 1,000s of others in your niche selling something similar as you! How will you set yourself apart?)

I'm going to pick the friend who seems most passionate about her product and who walks the walk. I'm going to choose the one with the most knowledge and expertise, and not just fluffy duffy tips. And honestly at the top of my list is the friend I relate to the most, and I really like the most - because that's the person I'm going to have a great working relationship with.

You've got to be the person in your space with the most knowledge and the most passion, who walks the walk, and who people really like.

But that's a lot to live up to, right?

It's a lot to cover in word format--social media posts and blog posts.

Webinars are a one-stop-shop, you can accomplish all of this in an hour, and have people who all the sudden know you and like you and think you're the real deal.

5 Days to Craft Your Brilliant Webinar (1:05:50)

There it is. We just busted the 6 myths about doing webinars. How are you feeling?

If you're ready for next steps...take a deep breath. Don't stress. I've got you covered!

I'm actually doing 5 Days to Craft Your Brilliant Webinar next week. It's a free, live video series on Facebook Live. Monday February 13th - Friday February 17th I'll be on Facebook Live everyday at 9:30am PST / 12:30ET with tips everyday on how to craft your very own webinar.

After watching this series, you'll have the framework in place to get started growing your business with webinars.

To prepare for this free video series, go to:

brilliantbusinessmoms.com/webinarguide

to grab my free 5 Days to Craft Your Brilliant Webinar Guide that includes all you'll need to follow along with the videos, plus worksheets and cheat sheets. So grab that now, before we get started Monday the 13th, to be super prepared for our 5 day class.

By February 17th, you'll feel awesome about hosting your first webinar.

Don't Forget To Enter Our Giveaway! (1:04:36)

We have 4 fabulous prizes and we’ll be drawing 4 winners!  The first person we draw gets their pick among these prizes, and on down the line through winner #4 FREE access to my signature course, FB Brilliance. (FB Brilliance isn’t even available to purchase right now! It costs $497 and I only open the doors once or twice a year; the doors won’t even be open until September 2017.) This giveaway is the only way you can get access to FB Brilliance! Another lucky winner will win a Lily Jade bag! We are super excited to include a gorgeous Madeline in Brandy & Jade bag in this giveaway, which retails at $335. If you aren’t already familiar with Lily Jade, these bags are amazing. They’re diaper bags, but look nothing like diaper bags. They’re totally beautiful and you’ll still want to carry this bag when your kids go to college. The VIP package of Brilliant Pin Promotion, which retails for $247, will also be a prize option. Much like FB Brilliance, this course will teach you everything you need to know about advertising on Pinterest. And our last prize option will be a 2017 Brilliant Life Planner, which has been sold out for a few days now! We’ve held back our most popular cover, and this giveaway is the only way you can grab a 2017 Brilliant Life Planner!

Before you go, don't forget about our Podcast Relaunch Giveaway! I'm giving away access to FB Brilliance (our Facebook Ads course), Brilliant Pin Promotion (on Pinterest Marketing), a Lily Jade bag, and a Brilliant Life Planner. Just subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave an honest, clean review by March 6th to be eligible to win one of those amazing prizes.

Now it's your turn to head out there and be brilliant!

Direct download: Beth20Anne20Solo202.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:15pm EDT

Starting up a Service-Based Business with Hannah Hageman - Brilliant Business Moms Podcast

Hannah Hageman is a mom we met within the last year, when she was just starting a blog online. And it's been really interesting to see how she's transitioned that blog into a service-based business. We thought she'd be great to bring on the show since she hasn't had a business that long, but she's already bringing in an income and supporting her family!

Hannah is mom to two adorable boys and wife to one handsome husband. Her web design company is focused on helping local businesses get visibility.

Welcome to the show, Hannah!

On The Podcast

00:45 - A Colorful Past

04:05 - Transitioning from Blog to Business

08:13 - Earning Your First Client

12:06 - Dealing With A Demanding Client

14:34 - Firing Clients

16:30 - Creating A Client Questionnaire

20:27 - Start-Up Costs For A Web Design Business

24:50 - Doubt and Nervousness

27:29 - A Day In The Life Of A WAHM

30:40 - Hannah's Adorable Mom Moment

Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Learn How Personal Finance Impacts Your Business with Rachel!


A Colorful Past

Hannah was born in Seattle, and while she was still young moved to Northern Poland so her mom could get a PhD in International Entrepreneurialism. (Wow!) Then their family moved to Florida for a bit, but eventually they landed back in Washington. Finally, she and her husband moved to Montana - and Hannah says she doesn't want to move anywhere else for the rest of her life!

She considers herself a woman who doesn't do anything halfway. Over the last year Hannah has been on a self-discovery journey, in terms of the kind of business she wants to start.

(A cute example of how she doesn't do anything halfway is that in one week, Hannah: got married, went to Hawaii on her honeymoon, started a job, bought a car, and moved into a new apartment.)

Thanks to her background, she has the perfect blend of analytical and creative thinking to become an entrepreneur.

Hannah is married to Craig and they have two sons: Nells is 4 and Gunner is 2. She loves babies and businesses, but says she should only have one at the same time! Hannah recognizes that creating a start-up company is a lot like having a baby. It takes lots of attention and effort - and who knows, maybe there's even some crying at 2am! But she's putting in a lot of hands-on work now, so that later she can hire help and spend even more time with family. We heartily approve!

Transitioning from Blog to Business

Before diving into blogging, Hannah tried a few direct sales businesses, but didn't feel like she fit into that world very well. So she decided to take her entrepreneurial skills online.

She first saw Crystal Paine making a living online, and it got her thinking, "Why would bloggers spend so much time online if they weren't getting paid?" Hannah always thought that blogs were just for people who wanted to journal online, and missed the revenue potential. Blogging also fit the work from home model that she wanted.

One day, Hannah simply started blogging. She didn't throw a huge launch, or make a big deal. She just started.

In those early days Hannah says she learned a lot about conducting business online, networking, and getting plugged into communities.

But, again, she felt like she didn't fit in with the mommy blogger types. She says, "I knew online was the space I wanted to be in, but blogging wasn't the thing I wanted to do."  Hannah had built her site using Squarespace, and was loving it! The intention behind Squarespace is to make it easy to build beautiful websites, and Hannah found building her site easy, but soon began to realize that not everyone found website building so seamless.

So she thought, "Why not use my skill of building websites?"

Other than acquiring a business license and filing her LLC, Hannah didn't create a lot of fanfare around her business start. She just began working. She realized she had a skill and her market needed it.

Through a home buying experience, where she struggled to get in touch with local contractors, Hannah knew firsthand how frustrating it was to find businesses online. She understood how it can be hard for contractors and other small businesses to always answer their phones. That's why a web presence is so crucial for any small business! But these customers also don't have time to create a site from scratch or drop $4,000 for custom web design. And so Hannah Hageman Web Design was born.

And her business took off! She's booked out several months in advance, and is constantly getting new inquiries. Customers are coming out of the woodwork! Though she didn't do market research beforehand, this striking proof of concept proves that her intuition was right.

Though taking a plunge based on intuition can be a risk, Hannah trusted that she was on the right path. After direct marketing went wrong, and blogging wasn't a good fit, Hannah knew web design felt right. She knows she's good at web design and people around her need help!

Earning Your First Client

Hannah took a really gutsy move to getting her first client. She knows this strategy might be unpopular, but she trolled Facebook for local businesses in her area without a website or with an inactive one. Then she made about 5 to 10 cold-calls and offered her services.

The first guy she called returned Hannah's request about three weeks later. He said he had been meaning to return Hannah's voicemail and was ready for her to start. Start what? Hannah thought. Oh! Building his website! Hannah remembers getting the call under pretty unprofessional conditions, cooking dinner at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon. She had gone three weeks without any contact from her cold-calls, and wasn't expecting a return.

Her trick was hitting the pavement, finding a need, and meeting that need. Understanding her market meant that Hannah knew she needed to reach out via phone because her customers wouldn't necessarily understand a marketing email. Moving from Seattle to Montana was a bit of a technological backtrack. She had to adjust to the Wild West way of doing things, and she did!

Hannah continued to get call backs and as she booked more clients, news spread about her services. This gutsy way of marketing has paid off. At the Business Boutique an attendee approached Hannah and asked about her name lanyard: "You do web design?" Hannah responded, "Yes I do! Do you need a site?" And Hannah Hageman Web Design earned a new client!

"It's as simple as putting yourself out there," Hannah says. "All you have to do is see a need, and know what your market will respond to. If you don't get in front of people, they won't know you exist."

Dealing With A Demanding Client

So, has Hannah ever dealt with a really demanding client? Maybe someone who was very picky about features, or required different skill sets than what Hannah was able to offer? How does Hannah know she'll be a good fit?

Working with clients in general, Hannah thinks that a bit of disagreement and clashing is inevitable. And if you ever feel like you really do just need to fire your client, you're allowed to do that. (Even if it's your first!)

Hannah tried to combat poor client experience from the beginning. Despite not having a big fancy launch, she still put systems in place to protect herself. She figured out which tools she wanted to use, and how she wanted to present herself to clients.  She created a process for client interaction, and only has run into trouble when she veered off of that course.

Tip: Figure out how you want to run your business, and communicate those standards to your client, then stick to them.

You can tell by a person's demeanor when the relationship starts to veer off course. (In the particular case Hannah is thinking of, she never agreed to do work she was unqualified to. But she has found communication difficult in this particular case and is bearing the brunt of that tumultuous relationship.)

Firing Clients

It feels kind of like we're talking about a breakup! We had to ask Hannah her tips for breaking up with a client in a respectful, tactful way.

She hasn't totally fired a client, but she has stopped work mid-project.

Websites are a big part of business. There are so many ways to use a website, and it seems like ideas can go in all different directions - not all of which are possible. Hannah had a client wanting her to design a T-shirt, which is outside of her wheelhouse. She politely declined that offer, but gave him a next step to take that wasn't her.

Creating A Client Questionnaire

Hannah put a lot into her client questionnaire process, and knows it's saved her unnecessary grief in her business. We wanted to hear a bit more about how she structured that document, and how it works.

There are two types of questionnaires Hannah uses: an introductory system and a client system.

She doesn't have a specific list of questions at the introduction phase. Since her business is confined to the geographic location of her hometown, she often ends up asking initial questions over the phone or face to face. Hannah tries to ask probing questions during these conversations, to get a sense of how much the client already knows about design and technology.

Tip: Don't be afraid to dive deep during your introductory questions, as that will give you tons of information about the client you're going to be working with!

Once a client has signed, Hannah then uses her client questionnaire system, a series of questions to help translate the client's vision onto paper in a way that Hannah can use to create their website. Hannah got this 'homework' strategy from Elle & Company and Lauren Hooker.

Tip: It may feel strange to give clients homework, but it is so necessary that clients do a bit of work and be equally invested in the outcome! The client questionnaire model translates to a lot of different businesses. For example, a life coach could use it to gauge where the client is in life to create a baseline for talking to them. Once you're on the clock, all that work is going to cost money. It's wise to get that information up front so the client gets the best value and you are satisfied.

Start Up Cost For A Web Design Business

Hannah's answer to this question is super encouraging. Her start-up cost for her business was less than $300! (And it was only that high because one of her kids broke her Microsoft Surface and she had to replace it for about $200 on Craig's List.)

Tip: All you need is a working computer and internet connection. It takes almost nothing to start and there are so many free tools you can use.

Another smart move, Hannah began her Squarespace subscription month-to-month ($15/month) since she didn't have a full year's fee up front.

Her business license was $70.

This is such great news for mamaprenuers wanting a low-cost start-up option! If you're creating a product, there are so many up front expenses: materials, tools you might need, and so on. We think it's absolutely amazing that Hannah started a business for $300 that has brought her family a steady income since she began.

Hannah has a second business that she wanted to talk about: creating an online directory for contractors in her hometown. Remember back when Hannah was buying a house and had a hard time finding businesses in the area to do a few repairs? Again, Hannah saw a need and filled it with her business.

There was only one problem. Her start-up directory would require a $3,000 piece software to get started. She didn't have that money in her pocket, but she did have two options for funding. She called up all the contractors she knew to proof the concept. Every single person she spoke to gave a resounding yes, and asked when they could send her a check!! Hannah ran with this idea, and at the first of the year reached back out to those initial contractors who were interested in the idea. They all agreed to buy, and Hannah rewarded that action with juicy benefits and bonuses. We can't wait to hear how her local business directory turns out!

Doubt and Nervousness

As you can tell, Hannah is quite confident and self-assured! We had to ask her if she ever struggled with doubt or nervousness when it came to growing her business.

"OH YES!" Hannah said.

With her directory business, for example, the first contacts she reached out to were members of her church. Hannah says that even though she knew them, making the call was super nerve-wracking! But getting one positive response made it easier to get the next "yes."

Hannah decided that she has a big dream, and it's a good one. Her dream is going to change the life of her family, and she has the power to do that - but not if she succumbs to fear.

Fear is natural. Let it come, then let it pass, and make the phone call. 

Hannah's a big believer in fake it 'til you make it, and reminds herself to "be the confident, professional, and experienced web designer you know you will be in three years - but have to be right now to impress the one person in front of you."

You just need one yes. 

Yes, Hannah was afraid, and yes, she still experiences a lot of self-doubt, but NO it doesn't stop her from doing what she needs for her family.

A Day In The Life Of A WAHM

It is not easy being a mom and a serial entrepreneur! Hannah has two littles at home, and she's starting up businesses. She defines her days as chaotic. Many days she doesn't get anything done, but then she starts fresh; not even the next morning, but the next hour. She just keeps trying.

Hannah did sit down with her husband and laid out her plans. She showed him what she was dreaming of achieving, and explained that they could only make those dreams a reality if they worked together.

Together, she and her husband agreed to a certain amount of time Hannah could spend each week on her business, until the business grew to a point they were able to hire help.

When her husband gets home from work, the Hagemans eat dinner together as a family, and then Hannah hides in her 'lair' to work. She does that three or four times a week. And sometimes when her kids nap at the same time, about one to two times a week, she gets a couple of hours of work accomplished.

But this 'work whenever you get a minute' strategy wasn't sustainable. Life got a bit crazy working in the periphery, so she decided to focus her days. Hannah spends her mornings giving total attention to her boys, and finds that in the afternoon they aren't as demanding of her attention.

Occasionally she'll put them in daycare (like the day we recorded this podcast) if she really needs to buckle down.

Hannah sits down on Sunday nights with her Brilliant Life Planner (awww, thanks Hannah!) to plan out her week, placing to-dos within the time blocks. She doesn't leave any detail out: work, grocery shopping, naps, showering, everything!  "I know when the boys go down for a nap today, I need to work an hour because it says so in my planner," Hannah says. Having that baseline at the beginning of the week, Hannah finds it easier to get all the working hours she needs.

Hannah describes her work as more rhythmic than routine, but it's working. She gets about 10-15 hours a week in the margins. And we know that's great!

Hannah's Adorable Mom Moment

Her 4-year-old presented himself the other day with tons of sparkly, foam star stickers all over his shirt. They were supposed to be safely tucked away in the craft cupboard in his bedroom! He walked out strutting with such confidence and said, "Mom, I'm the mayor of this house!" Isn't that the cutest!?

Stay in Touch with Hannah!

Site: HannahHageman.com

Hannah wants to encourage any new mom pursuing business, and invites you to contact her either in our Facebook group or via email. 

Direct download: BBM20Hannah20Hageman20edited.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:45am EDT

Personal Finance and the Mamapreneur with Rachel Cruze - Brilliant Business Moms Podcast

If you don't recognize the name Rachel Cruze, you'll likely recognize the name of her dad: Dave Ramsey. She now serves as a Ramsey Personality and uses her knowledge and experience from growing up as Dave’s daughter to educate others. We were so excited to sit down with Rachel at the Nashville Business Boutique and chat with her.

We loved what she had to say, and know you will too!

On The Podcast

00:25 - Rachel's New Book

01:43 - Mommy Guilt

05:43 - Comparison & Growing A Business

09:17 - Identifying Business Priorities with Money

11:46 - Growing Up As Dave Ramsey's Child

14:15 - Allowing Your Kids To Fail

15:22 - Rachel's Business Insecurities

19:18 - Rachel's Adorable Mom Moment

Rachel's New Book

As Rachel traveled the country and talked to people about personal finance, she began to notice really similar themes bubble up. That common theme is this: more than ever we're letting other people's lives and lifestyles determine how we spend our money. Comparison is so integrated into our lives, particularly due to social media, that we can't seem to escape it.

Rachel began to realize if we could beat down the comparison trap, fight through it, and put good money habits in place, we could live the lives we want and not what's being dictated to us by culture.

We often think women, in particular, have a unique struggle when it comes to comparing themselves to others. But Rachel says she has heard from 56-year-old men who battle the comparison trap!

The bottom line is we ALL compare! It may look different, but we all do it.

Mommy Guilt

We carry a lot of guilt and shame as women. Of course, we all know about the Mommy Guilt! How you're mothering, what you choose to do or not do...it's crazy what allow to bring us guilt! So maybe women do carry that weight a bit more than our male counterparts. (Ugh! Don't you hate it!?)

So, does Rachel Cruze struggle with Mommy Guilt?

Yes! And it blew her away. She says when she and her husband announced to a friend their pregnancy, the friend's first words to her were, "Welcome to the world of comparisons."

"REALLY!?" Rachel thought. Then the comparison game started: "Are you feeling sick? If you're sick, did you get *sick* sick?" She thought it was so silly that women even compared morning sickness to each other! (And when you think about it, it is pretty ridiculous.)

But, yes, even Rachel Cruze struggles with Mommy Guilt, particularly that nagging question, "Am I doing this right?  

Within her close circle of friends, most of Rachel's girl friends are stay-at-home moms, so she does feel the tug of being a working mom. But here's something we loved that Rachel said: when she's with Amelia (her daughter), she's Mom. And she tries so hard to not look at the phone or social media during those moments. As a result, the times she spends with her daughter are very rich because she works hard to be there.

And, speaking of comparison. Rachel has really keyed in on the phrase 'to each her own' (We love that!).  She has come to the place that she respects what others do differently, and doesn't focus on the things that don't matter.

We think it's pretty awesome that little Amelia will get to grow up and see her mom doing what she loves! Working moms, you're a role model to your children, stepping into your God-given talents to conquer fears and doing what you feel passionately about.

Comparison & Growing A Business

What would Rachel say to the woman who feels like she needs to take on debt to get ahead?

It's simple: Taking on Debt = Taking on Risk

Stress levels go through the roof when you've got a debt payment looming, and you don't know if you can make the payments. People often don't account for that level of risk when they take on debt. While this principle applies to businesses of any size, it's especially true for start-ups.

You've got to run your business at the speed of cash.

Even at Rachel's multi-million dollar business (Ramsey Solutions), if they don't have the cash - they don't make the purchase. Rachel says you will never regret moving at the speed of cash. Instant gratification is everywhere in our culture, but slow and steady wins the race.

And Rachel gets it: "You look on Facebook and see, 'Oh awesome, this Sarah girl started two years after me and already has all theses followers and is doing all these things I'm not even halfway there.' BE PATIENT!"

In the marketplace, scarcity is a lie. We think that just because someone else had a chance to create before we did, the moment is lost. Urgency creates bad business decisions. Don't get ahead of yourself before you're actually there.

For example, you might make careless decisions with loaned money that you wouldn't make with your own money. It feels like your business has all this extra cash, but it's not true! Really the money belongs to someone else. And you might feel like you can create products without verifying if it's something your customers might want first. But the decisions you'll make with that loaned money aren't as strategic and thoughtful as they would be with your money.

Rachel points out that studies have shown that when you spend with debt, you spend more. You're much more intentional about purchases made with your own money.

And your mistakes follow you. Imagine paying back a loan for an idea that didn't work! How mad would you be!? Say you created a purse, but it turned out it wasn't as hot an item as you'd hoped. Then you're stuck with inventory and a loan payment.

Identifying Priorities with Money

The great thing about a budget is that you get to create it.

You decide your own values.

There are foundational things we need to pay: housing, food, transportation, and basic bills. But beyond that, you can decide! Are you putting money away each month to take the kids to Disney World? Do you want to budget a bigger 'Entertainment' category so you can attend two concerts next month? You get to decide, as long as it's within your income!

The same can go for your business. These are basic fees you'll need to pay every month to keep your business running. But on top of that, you can decide. Are there investments you'd like to make? Every month you can save up and make that purchase.

Rachel also wants us to know that having a visual is so important. You can't budget with numbers in your head, so write it down!

In business it's easy to grab a fancy tool or program, even if it's only $20 bucks a month; but if you have a ton of those tools and you aren't using them well, you're not being purposeful with money in your business.

Oh, and make sure your personal and business budgets are separate!

Growing Up As Dave Ramsey's Child

Rachel finds that a lot of people think she and her siblings grew up obsessed with money, talked about mutual funds over dinner, and went to budget camps in the summer. That's not the case! But her parents were intentional about teaching the Ramsey kids how money works in the ebb and flow of life. She thinks they did a great job of teaching common sense regarding money.

And she says Dave is a bit more animated and sassy on the radio for entertainment, but his passion and heart are true. And fun rants aside, she says Dave Ramsey as a CEO is very careful and deliberate.

When Rachel was 15 she remembers bouncing three checks at Hollister in the mall. And Dave made Rachel go to the bank and apologize to the executive bank branch manager for lying, as her dad called it--the lie being Rachel had told the bank she had money to spend, when she really didn't. Her overdraft fee was waved :) and she hasn't bounced a check since! It was a lesson well-taught and well-learned, with natural consequences that made sense.

Allowing Your Kids To Fail

Speaking of natural consequences, Rachel has some great insights about letting your kids fail. When a child can make small and inexpensive mistakes under mom and dad's protection, the lesson sticks. It's better to have a first money mistake be fairly insignificant, and far worse if the first time a child fails financially is taking a car loan when they can't afford it.

Rachel's Business Insecurities

Rachel has been surprised at the insecurities she's faced in her business.

Having worked at a phenomenal company like Ramsey Solutions for so long, she knows that she's in a bit of a bubble. But breaking more into the outside publishing and speaking world with her new book, she has faced some of those insecurities head on.

For example, writing is not her natural gift. She's not the most secure and confident when it comes to her writing. So having a book published from her big platform feels a bit intimidating! When she sees other people in her field sell more volume, she can start to feel discouraged.

But what keeps Rachel grounded is her why.

"My job is to bring hope to people with regard to their money. It isn't about me! It's about getting content to people and giving them hope in an area where they feel hopeless." When Rachel comes back to her why, it all makes sense.

And when she sees pictures on Instagram of people sharing her book, she's reminded that her readers don't care what list she's on or not on. Truly, what she cares about is THAT person changing their life. And it's hard to think about yourself when you're busy thinking of others.

So many of the things we care about, our customers don't care about. What they care about is getting a great product, or doing XYZ better thanks to our services. So we have to stay focused on our mission.

Rachel's Adorable Mom Moment

We know you moms will appreciate these little moments in Rachel's very normal "Mom" world. Just the other week, Rachel found POOP in her living room. Her daughter Amelia's diaper was on, but still there was poop by the fireplace! What!? How did that even get there!?

Rachel's daughter is 18 months and talks all the time. One night when Rachel and her husband needed to give their daughter medicine, Amelia looked up and said, "Medicine downstairs." And sure enough, it was! Such a prodigy, right!?

We love how Rachel lights up when Amelia is her subject! After all, we are all Moms first.

Stay in Touch with Rachel!

Site: RachelCruze.com
Twitter: @RachelCruze
Facebook: Rachel Cruze
YouTube: Rachel Cruze
Instagram: @rachelcruze

Direct download: BBM_Rachel_edited.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

It's not a rumor.

The Brilliant Business Moms podcast is back!!!

HOLY COW, you guys! It's been a long time since we talked! But I'm finally back with Episode 139. In this episode we'll give you the down low on what's been happening here at Brilliant Business Moms since the last time we talked.

So the last time we chatted was March 2016. And I have to say, we planned a break - but not that extensive of a break! I'm super amped to get going again.

Here's what's happened since we've been gone.

Listen To The Show

 

Goodbye, Sarah.

During one of the last episodes you heard, we told you my sister Sarah was leaving Brilliant Business Moms. That remains the case. Sarah made a really tough choice, which was the right choice for her, and left the brand. You can now find Sarah at SmallBusinessSarah.com, where she's written another eBook! Search 'Sarah Korhnak' on Amazon for all of her titles, like this one. Sarah is an accountant by trade, so she approaches small business advice from a very practical place. I'm excited to see where my sister takes Small Business Sarah! I'd love it if you stopped by her site to let her know you're thinking of her and cheer her on. I have to say, I miss Sarah all the time not being part of the business, but I'm super grateful that we still get to talk and hang out since we're sisters of course! :)

Hello, Team Members!

Since Sarah left the business, I expanded the brand to include a team. This has been one of the best decisions I've made as a small business owner. Some of you are amazing solopreneurs, and you rock it - but that is not my strength or desire! I feel really grateful to have a team of ladies that work with me every single week. Let me introduce you to them:

  • Ellen is our resident tech guru. She works behind the scenes, testing and implementing new technology. Ellen is constantly creating pretty graphics and landing pages, she's totally a jill-of-all-trades, and she learns incredibly fast. If you ever get to meet Ellen in person, give her a huge thank you! She is the woman who keeps the lights on!
  • Then we have Victoria, who is our resident social butterfly and communicator extraordinaire. She runs our Facebook page and the Brilliant Life Planner Instagram account. She also runs a lot of the behind the scenes for the Brilliant Business Mom of the Week feature, as well as writes blog posts and other content. Victoria works on this podcast behind the scenes, coordinating interviews and writing show notes.
  • Carlee is our customer service ninja! Carlee is seriously awesome! You don't want to know what my inbox would be like, or what response time you would get, without Carlee. She's the friendly face you'll encounter when you write an email. Carlee is there to help solve your problems. Because she has such a pulse on what our community wants and needs, she's constantly coming to me with ideas for improving and expanding products to serve you better. Carlee is the reason you feel heard and understood!
  • I've just introduced our core team, who works with me every single week. But, we want to give a shoutout to our freelancers who help to make Brilliant Business Moms possible. Hadassah Stoll and Lydia Kitts are our designers. Sarah Heddins is my podcast editor. And special thanks to Chrys Jones for updating our podcast jingle.

Our Brilliant New Products

In addition to growing the team, we've had a few other big changes in the business. We dove into the world of online courses. I now have several courses that have really changed the business in awesome ways. They allow me to make more sales when its not planner season, and serve many more of you. I love that I can literally give you my brain and what I know in terms of marketing and growing a business.

Creating courses is part of why I took a break from the podcast--I wanted to get these awesome products out the door. I did spend a bit more time creating products than I thought :) but now the podcast is back every single week!

You also probably saw that the Brilliant Business Planner has transformed and improved to become the Brilliant Life Planner - a planner not just for ladies in business, but anyone who wants to live an intentional life.

(Creating this product has been a huge learning experience. During upcoming episodes I'll do a podcast all about that process of designing and manufacturing a product from scratch.)

The response to our planner has been so amazing and humbling. As of this recording, we are sold out of 2017 planners! But don't be too sad, we'll have a digital version of the planner available so you can still get this resource and our fabulous bonuses. Our plan is to launch the 2018 Brilliant Life Planner and an undated version of the planner in October.

Our Brilliant New Podcast

As far as the podcast goes, we have so many great interviews lined up with mamapreneurs to learn from. I can't wait to share these with you!

We're going to be adding more solo episodes. I've started to get lots of similar questions around a few topics and I am eager to answer! Questions like: "How am I creating and selling online courses?" "How do I go from an idea in my head to an actual physical product to ship to customers?" "How did I find and hire my awesome team?" I want to really dig deep and answer these questions for you.

You can expect a new podcast episode every Monday; we'll alternate between a mamapreneur interview and a solo teaching episode. We're also going to do more coffee break episodes! I plan to bring my awesome team onto these, and we will all dig deep and chat about a topic. (For example, I know you all want to hear from me about how I found the Brilliant Business Moms Team. Beyond doing a solo episode, the team and I will talk about how they find work and how to know who's a good boss.)

This very first week back we have several episodes for you to binge on! (You're welcome. We know its been way too long!) To celebrate the return of the podcast, you'll hear not only hear from me, but two awesome interviewees: we've got Rachel Cruze talking about money and business, and Hannah Hageman who has great insights about running an online business and is now making a steady, fabulous income - without tons of startup costs.

Next week you can anticipate my first solo episode, which will be about the one marketing strategy that has been the biggest difference-maker in my business this past year.

We're Doing a GIVEAWAY

Just leave a review on iTunes to enter!

We are so excited that the podcast is back, and we want to make sure all those brilliant ladies out there can find it! To celebrate, we're hosting a giveaway!

NOW through March 6, 2017

All you have to do is 1) SUBSCRIBE to the Brilliant Business Moms podcast and 2) RATE & REVIEW the show and you'll be entered to win.

(You do need to use either the Podcast app or an iTunes account to review the show. If you can use an Apple device, like an iPhone or iPad, it's super easy - just click on that purple Podcast app and find our show that way to leave your rating and review!) 

We have 4 fabulous prizes and we'll be drawing 4 winners!  The first person we draw gets their pick among these prizes, and on down the line through winner #4 :)

  • FREE access to my signature course, FB Brilliance. (FB Brilliance isn't even available to purchase right now! It costs $497 and I only open the doors once or twice a year; the doors won't even be open until September 2017.) This giveaway is the only way you can get access to FB Brilliance!
  • Another lucky winner will win a Lily Jade bag! We are super excited to include a gorgeous Madeline in Brandy & Jade bag in this giveaway, which retails at $335. If you aren't already familiar with Lily Jade, these bags are amazing. They're diaper bags, but look nothing like diaper bags. They're totally beautiful and you'll still want to carry this bag when your kids go to college.
  • The VIP package of Brilliant Pin Promotion, which retails for $247, will also be a prize option. Much like FB Brilliance, this course will teach you everything you need to know about advertising on Pinterest.
  • And our last prize option will be a 2017 Brilliant Life Planner, which has been sold out for a few days now! We've held back our most popular cover, and this giveaway is the only way you can grab a 2017 Brilliant Life Planner!

Good luck!

I am SO pumped for Season 2 and so glad you ladies are along for the ride.

Now it's your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!

Direct download: BBM20Solo201.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:45am EDT

Ohhh Social Media! Should you give up on the comparing, negativity, and insanity involved? Get honest advice on social media marketing from mamapreneurs - and take a deep breath because you don't have to do it all! CLICK HERE NOW TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST - you'll learn which form of social media is right for which business, the one thing that matters more than strategy when it comes to picking a platform, case studies of six-figure business owners who have ditched all but one form of social media, and why YouTube still matters, even in the age of live-streaming.

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.

They cover:

  • Life-changing biz and mom tips! (Seriously, Sarah shared about this sippy cup and it looks pretty life-changing to me!)
  • What forms of social media work best for which types of content and businesses.
  • How to choose a social media platform for your business - and why there's more than just strategy involved.
  • Whether or not you should do it all... and if you shouldn't... what should you do instead?
  • Instagram versus Facebook versus Pinterest versus Periscope versus YouTube versus Twitter (if we have to!)
  • Why YouTube shouldn't be overlooked - even in the age of live-streaming.
  • Case studies of business pros who use just one form of social media, ditch the rest, and still make six figures.
  • How it's possible to build a big business without involving social media at all!

Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear the Full Episode ... and Stop the Social Media Insanity :)

Direct download: BBM20Coffee20Break.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:50pm EDT

Direct download: Episode20137_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:41pm EDT

Amazing! I love this podcast episode about talented designer and handmade seller Molly Goodall. Her children's coats are to-die-for! Etsy Seller Tips | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

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
01:55 - Fashion Designer Turned  Etsy Store Owner
06:02 - A Roaring Success!
08:17 - Keeping Up With Demand
09:35 - How Outsourcing Helped Molly's Business Thrive
15:04 - The Handmade Decision: Raise Prices or Get Help
18:43 - Selling a Licensed Product
21:02 - How Does Licensing Work
22:35 - Wild Things to Write About - Molly's Book Deal!
28:55 - Great Trade Shows for Handmade Sellers
33:34 - Why Raising Prices Means Everyone Wins
33:55 - Does Tons of Press Lead to Sales?
39:30 - Working With Bloggers
41:28 - Adorable Mommy Moment

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.

(That good ol’ fashioned husband/wife teamwork is part of so many business successes - like Donnie and Abby or Stephanie and Ryan!)

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:

  • Pattern Making

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!

  • Pattern Cutting

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,

or

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.

Etsy Wholesale

Molly was the first of a group to attend the Etsy Wholesale show, which Etsy paid for!

NY Now

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.

American Made Show

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.

Playtime New York

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!

Shop: Little Goodall
Facebook: Little Goodall
Instagram: @littlegoodall
Twitter: @littlegoodall
Pinterest: Little Goodall

Direct download: Episode2013620Molly20Goodall_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:14am EDT

I feel like I finally get photography! Such great tips from a self-taught food blogger and photographer. I can follow her advice step by step and get better photos instantly. Photography tips and tricks | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

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
03:58 - Transitioning From Product-Based To Blogging Business
05:26 - Building A Blogging Income
08:28 - No One Ever Said Blogging was Easy!
11:14  - Getting Started With Photography
12:41 -  Food Blog Photography Resources
14:50 - Key Ingredients To Awesome Food Photos
16:37 - Experimenting With Backlighting
19:20 - The Rule of Thirds
22:06 - Shooting Angles for Food Photography
23:50 - Tips on Using a Manual Camera
26:41 - Tripod and Tether Mode
29:52 - Behind The Scenes of a Food Photography Shoot
31:16 -  Food Blogging Struggles
34:43 - The Tooth Mouse (Johlene’s Adorable Mommy Moment!)

Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear from Johlene

Meet 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

  • Avoid too much light. Heavy light washes out the food being photographed. For that reason, food photographers should also avoid direct sunlight and shadows.
  • Use directional lighting. Directional lighting means the food is lit from only one direction.
  • Use a backlight and a side backlight. These are the most flattering angles for food as they enhance the texture.
  • Use a reflector when needed. (get creative!) If Johlene finds she needs more light cast upon her subject, she employs the use of a reflector. And we love how creative Johlene gets: She uses a simple white dustbin lid when she needs additional lighting. (Problem solving skills to the rescue!)
  • Use a remote. Don’t solopreneurs often wish for more than one pair of hands? Using a camera remotecan help you get the shots you need - no more worrying about steady hands.

(Learn more photography tips for beginners here.)

Gorgeous food photo by blogger Johlene Orton - check out this post for amazing tips on improving your photos! And you don't have to be a pro to get gorgeous shots like this! | brilliantbusinessmoms.com
An example of Johlene's gorgeous photography!

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:

  • Set up shots with a window behind the food. (Good light, but not direct light!)
  • Experiment with a diffusor for your light - such as lightweight curtains.
  • Wait for certain times of day to shoot. Late afternoon, for example, is often perfect.
  • Test various times of day and seasons. (Yes, even the seasons can affect how your pictures look!)
  • Test different windows and light sources throughout your home.
  • When experimenting, you want to hit the right location at the right time.

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!)

Brilliant illustration of the rule of thirds in action with food phogoraphy. Plus a great tip on "breadcrumbs" and how to use them to enhance your photos. Photography tips. Tips on photos for newbies. | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

 

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.

  • Focus on the lens, not necessarily the camera. Johlene says that when you buy a camera, the body of the camera isn’t as important as the lens. You’ll get the most for your money if you invest in a quality lens.
  • A Prime lens is better than a zoom lens. In Johlene’s opinion, it’s better to use a prime lens rather than a zoom lens. The prime lens requires a photographer to physically move closer or further from the subject in order to get the right shot, and Johlene says it produces much better photos than a lens that has the ability to zoom in or out. 
  • Johlene uses a 50 mm 1.8 lens.* (She wanted a 50 mm 1.4,* but that lens was out of her budget. The 1.8 is about a third of the cost.). The first number (50 mm) is the focal distance, meaning how far away you need to move from your subject to get a good photo. The second number (1.8) refers to the F-stop or aperture, which determines how long light is allowed to enter into the photo. This feature also allows the photographer to create fields of focus - photos with a blurred background and focused subject, using a lower F-stop. So for example, the lowest F-stop Johlene’s camera will allow her to use is 1.8.

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!

Flavours and Frosting
Facebook: Flavours & Frosting
Twitter: @FlavoursandFros
Instagram: @johlene_flavoursandfrosting
Pinterest: Johlene Orton

Direct download: Episode2013520Johlene_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Love learning blogging tips from this frugal living blogger. She's worked hard to get where she's at, but she has some great wisdom to share. Awesome Facebook marketing tips too! | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

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
02:07 - Mom On A Mission
04:20 - Many Blogs Fail - What's Laurie's Secret?
05:30 - Why Laurie dislikes "Success Stories"
06:29 - Why Comfort Zones are Bad for Readers
08:09 - Solve a Problem? Build a Business!
09:38 - Can Low Expectations be a Good Thing?
12:00 - Free Ideas for Driving Traffic
14:50 - Does your Business have a Magic Word?
16:33 - An Insane Commitment to Facebook
18:18 - How Laurie Wins with Facebook
20:38 - Scheduling Facebook Content
22:50 - Laurie's Strategy for Repeat Posts
24:25 - Using Facebook Groups
25:10 - The Handiest Facebook Tip We’ve Ever Heard
36:00 - The Obnoxious Girl Personality (and why online business sometimes requires it!)
37:26 - Seeing Mom Make A Difference (Laurie’s Adorable Mom Moment)

Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear from Laurie

Meet 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.

  • Give your page a lot of attention. Laurie says that she ‘babies’ her Facebook page and constantly keeps track of what posts perform well and which ones don't.
  • Join Facebook share groups. You can find Facebook groups related to your niche (or create your own!) and the bloggers inside share each other's posts each week. Everyone's content gets a boost and exposure to new audiences. (Rachel Coley of CandoKiddo also uses this method!)
  • Ask for a share. Occasionally Laurie sends her best posts to other bloggers and ask them for a share. She says that some of them allow you to post to their wall, and each week they'll take a look at the best posts there and share them with their Facebook audience.

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 shares a new Facebook post about every 40-50 mins.
  • She shares content from other people more than her own. It’s another piece of counterintuitive business advice, but it’s working. Laurie has found that Facebook doesn’t like her own content as much as other people’s. So the more Laurie shares content outside of her own site, the more Facebook increases her page reach. By gaining increased reach, Laurie then has the ability to reach more and more people with her own content each week too! (It's a win-win really!)
  • Use Facebook like a curator. Laurie thinks of Facebook as a way to share content that will truly help her readers. She doesn’t see herself as the star of the show, and Facebook seems to like that! In fact, she finds that only about 50% of her posts on Facebook are from her blog.
  • Facebook has changed, but don’t write it off! Yes, Facebook's algorithm means that not everyone will see your posts, but if you can build a sizeable audience on the platform, you will still see sizeable traffic too! And, let's face it, not everyone sees our Instagram posts or our pins either! Making any form of social media work takes commitment and strategy.

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.

  • On the day her blog post goes live, she’ll share it once. (Say, at 2pm.)
  • Then, she’ll share the post in a day or two at a different time. (Say, the next day around dinner - 6pm.)
  • She finds that nighttime, weekend mornings, and once in an afternoon are especially good times.
  • She usually waits 24-48 hours between reposts.
  • If the post does well, she will save the post as one to use again. (Usually in a month or so.)

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:

  • hide
  • unfollow
  • report post
  • save link

 

facebook-save-posts-iphone

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:

  • report
  • save link
  • embed

facebook-save-posts-01

Finding Facebook Saved Links

It’s easy to access these saved links for posting later!

On a Phone:

  • Hit ‘More’ On The Lower Right Corner
  • Scroll Down Until You See The ‘Saved’ Bookmarklet
  • Tap ‘Saved’ And Your Saved Posts Will Appear

On a Desktop:

  • Visit Your Newsfeed
  • On The Left Hand Side Column, Scroll Down Until You See The ‘Saved’ Bookmarklet
  • Click ‘Saved’ And Your Saved Posts Will Appear
  • Under Each Saved Post Is A ‘Share’ Option

face-book-saved-posts-02

 

facebook-share-posts-03

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!

PassionatePennyPincher.com
Twitter: @PPennyPincher
Facebook: Passionate Penny Pincher
Instagram: Passionate Penny Pincher
Pinterest: Passionate Penny Pincher

Direct download: Episode2013420Laurie20Hise_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:15am EDT

This is the cutest interview! Love Jamie's perspective and all the ways she uses in-person old school marketing to reach her target clients. Great online marketing tips too. | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

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
02:50 - Niche Down, Niche Down!
05:27 - Understanding The Horsing Industry
06:24 - Rebranding, Risk Taking, And Diving In
09:22 - Failing Forward, Jamie’s Personal ‘Learning Opportunity’
13:36 - Affiliate Marketing And Authenticity
15:58 - Thinking Like A General Contractor
18:39 - Facebook or Twitter? Depends On Your Goals
21:08 - Send Out Cards, A Brilliant Tip!
25:26 - Social Media Advice For Business Beginners
26:52 - Jamie’s Little Cowboy

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:

  1. Products
  2. Services

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:

  • Get face-to-face. Knowing her marketing dollars were limited, Jamie focused exclusively on getting face-to-face with horse industry businesses.
  • Attend industry events. In the time before she became a mom, she traveled to horse expos in order to make a strong first impression. Dressed to impress, Jamie would visit the different booths and talk to business owners about their needs and her services.
  • Offer to speak and resource share. Jamie offered to speak for free at these events and provided a wealth of free information; a brilliant move!
  • Be gutsy! Jamie’s marketing model was simply to dive in headfirst, getting in front of as many people as possible. She did her best and prayed clients would hire her. And it worked!

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:

  1. Be Consistent
  2. Be Yourself

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!

Site: YellowBarnMedia.com
Facebook: Yellow Barn Media
Twitter: @joyfuljamie
Pinterest: Yellow Barn Media
Instagram: Yellow Barn Media

Direct download: Episode2013320Jamie20Samples_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:12am EDT

Such a great interview! I love Maggie's perspective on how to use social media. I really learned a completely new approach to connecting with my customers on Facebook. Social Media Marketing Tips. Facebook Tips | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

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
03:24 - Without a Goal, What's the Point?
05:10 - More Than A Like
07:34 - 3 Questions to Ask for Perfect Posts
11:40 - Avoid That Tempting Cute Kitten!
14:57 - One and Done!
17:58 - A Brilliant Visual for the Perfect Post!
22:55 - How to Create an Insane Amount of Content in a Tiny Amount of Time
25:05 - Our Secret Weapon
29:50 - An Important Reminder about Facebook Ads
31:35 - Put Yourself in  Their Shoes
34:12 - How Often Should you Post?
41:11 - How to Ride a Trend while Maintaining your Brand

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

  • Is about maintaining a certain persona
  • We're presenting a certain version of ourselves to the world.
  • We collect and curate any and all content that we deem interesting enough to share.

Business Use of Social Media

  • Social media use should be directly tied to business goals
  • Social media use is about revenue generation
  • We generate revenue with social media by first getting more potential customers interested in our product or service.
  • We should have specific measurable goals such as clicks through to our website or email subscriber growth.

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:

  • Ask your customers what types of posts they enjoy.
  • What pages do your customers follow? What do they like about those pages?
  • What are some interests from your ideal client?

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:

  • How to balance staying home with kids and getting work done.
  • How to grow a business with limited time.

Circle B would be topics like:

  • How to use social media to build your business.
  • The ins and outs of small business taxes.

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:

  • How to use Pinterest in the most time saving way to build your business.
  • Organizing your business finances in 5 minutes a day

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:

  • Think of as many blog or video titles as you can. (Maggie says shoot for 30.)
  • Choose about 10 or so and schedule out when you want to publish that content. (You could use the Editorial Calendar in our Brilliant Business Planner!)
  • Write an outline for each of the 10 topics.
  • When you have a free afternoon, start typing!
  • If video is more your speed, it only takes a moment to pick a place with good light in your house and set up your smart phone camera.
  • Once your content is ready to go, prep and schedule the posts to go live according to your calendar.
  • Pat yourself on the back, way to go mama!

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?

Maggie mentioned this Facebook post from December 29th sharing our interview with Danielle Arran. This particular post was a straightforward share of our content. Nothing super complex.

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:

  1. Is that posting high frequency worth the effort?
  2. Are you seeing measurable results? (More or less interactions?)

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!

Site: MaggieFrankHsu.com
Pinterest: Maggie Frank-Hsu
Twitter: Maggie_FH
LinkedIn: margaretmaggiefrank

Direct download: Episode2013220Maggie20Frank-Hsu_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:40am EDT

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!

Direct download: Episode2013120TMM20preview_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:25pm EDT

Loved this interview: Digital Versus Print for Artists. Katy has such a unique way of taking her handmade art work and turning it into one-of-a-kind digital designs that she can sell again and again. Great business advice for artists here! | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

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
03:01 - Katy’s Unique Process
06:20 - Hand Drawn Digital Prints
08:30 - Creative, Passive Income
11:40 - Managing Digital Sales
14:35 - Tips for Finding A Local Printer
19:16 - Printing Logistics
21:39 - Use This Tip to Fool-Proof Working with a Printer!
23:38 - Adding New Services
27:30 - Taking A Creative Sabbatical
29:36 - Custom Book Cover Design
32:20 - Who’s Your Competition?
38:14 - “Mommy Did It”- Katy’s Adorable Mom Moment

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.

  • Ask your peers. When Katy was on the hunt for a local printer, she talked to fellow designers in her area who were printing similar products and asked for recommendations. Not only is this a fabulous way to build your network, you’ll be sure to get solid recommendations!
  • Try a college / university printer. Through her networking, Katy found a print shop attached to a local university with a graphic design program. This is a great win as the printers are geared towards graphic design, which means their paper and ink is high quality and they are willing to do small jobs. We love this kind of thinking outside-the-box!
  • Test print quality. Katy suggests sending a smaller job to the print shop first to test the quality. You want to make sure the integrity of your work is preserved. Don’t hesitate to request changes if the final product isn’t to your liking.
  • Ask questions. Katy asked specific questions of her printer before giving them her business. Ask about turnaround time. Ask about the size and expertise of their staff. And, importantly, what happens if the print quality isn’t what you expect.
  • Build relationships. As a loyal customer, Katy has a very strong relationship with her local print shop. Katy’s printer values her, and they’ve made it a point to make sure she’s a satisfied customer. 

Printing Logistics

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.

Katy's Adorable Vintage Train Print Set
Katy's Adorable Vintage Train Print Set

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!

Shop: Little Red Flag
Facebook: Little Red Flag Designs

Direct download: Episode2013020Katy20Campbell_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Love this Mompreneur story! Katie Alarid makes the most adorable, unique baby turban hats, so they really stand out and market themselves. She also uses Instagram to drive traffic to her online boutique. Such a great story and she's doing amazing for a business less than 2 years old. | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

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
06:21 - A Business is Born
08:04 - Getting Into Boutiques
12:00 - Driving Online Traffic
14:48 - Instagram Strategy = Cute Babies
20:40 - Why Starting with Wholesale has Made Katie Successful in Retail
24:43 - Honoring Boutique Owners
28:59 - The How + Why of ReBranding
32:52 - BluTaylor’s Preemie Program
39:07 - Why 'BluTaylor'?
41:06 - Katie's Adorable Mom Moment (Her tiniest business partner!)

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!)

Adorable Baby Turban hat by BluTaylor - a brilliant brand from Mamapreneur Katie Alarid
Seriously, how cute is this?!

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.

  • Post consistently. Consistency is key when it comes to Instagram. Katie tries to share at least three pictures a day. Her tip is that every 6 to 9 posts should display a complete representation of your company. For Blu Taylor that means sharing pictures of their products and preemie program, sharing photos from happy customers, and providing general information about their brand. Katie says it is important to plan out an Instagram strategy.
  • Make connections using Instagram’s ‘Explore’ search. Katie suggests using the ‘Explore’ search on Instagram. Katie would use this feature to find moms who just had a baby girl, liking and complimenting them. Or she reaches out to moms who may be in the NICU, offering to send a preemie hat to their baby for free.
  • Don’t be afraid to recycle posts. Katie doesn’t follow a strict system but, generally, while thumbing through old images if she sees one that garnered a lot of likes she will reuse that image. Katie’s philosophy is that the people who saw her Instagram post at 7pm 2 months ago won’t be the same people who see her post at 8am 3 months from now. Makes sense!
  • List your website in two places. Interestingly, Katie will put the text of her Web address (www.BluTaylor.com) at the bottom of many of her Instagram posts. Her analytics suggest that visitors are leaving the app and manually typing in the Web address into their mobile browsers. What a great idea to have your website in two places, profile and post! Regardless of whether that post link is clickable, people see your web address one more time and it sticks in their memory even more.

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!

I just can't even! Too cute!
I just can't even! Too cute!

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.

Why ‘BluTaylor’?

‘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!

BluTaylor.com
Instagram: @shopblutaylor
Facebook: BluTaylor

Direct download: Episode2012920Katie20Alarid_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

Amazing! Such great advice from 10 year veteran blogger and online business owner, Crystal Paine. Watch her answer business questions live on video - the most epic business coaching session ever! | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

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:

What to do When Blog Traffic is Slow

How to Balance a Business and a Baby ... without going insane!

How to Make Passive Income as a Handmade Artist

How to Make the Most of your Popular Posts

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!)

Direct download: Episode2012820Crystal20Paine20Blab_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:21am EDT

Love this strategy! Affordable Facebook ads with a unique email offer. This Etsy Shop owner is so smart! Email List Building, Marketing for Small Business, Etsy Seller Tips | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Does growing your email list feel like a slow, painful process? It can be especially difficult as a shop owner without a website to call your own. How do you attract those leads? And how do you create a landing page to get them without setting up your own website?

Danielle Arran of the Etsy Shop NarraNest will teach you how to do it with a unique strategy that's increased her email list by 10X in just 2.5 months. Her results are astounding! But they're results that a real Mamapreneur just starting out in business - a woman just like you - was able to attain.

On the Podcast

01:28 - Nesting for Baby, Nesting for Business
03:30 - Danielle's Unique Opt-In Offer
06:05 - How to Use Facebook Ads to Grow your List
10:42 - Facebook Ad Quick Tips
15:52 - Gleam for Giveaways
18:44 - What to do with a Closed Giveaway
21:52 - How to Advertise without Wasting your Money
27:25 - Danielle's Exponential List Growth
30:50 - Danielle Ignores the Gurus - Maybe you Should Too!
53:39 - Danielle's Awesome iPhone Trick
43:10 - A Unique Way to do Market Research
48:17 - How to Help your Customer Try on your Product
54:55 - Juniper the Comedian!

Press Play on the Podcast Player below to hear from Danielle

Nesting for Baby, Nesting for Business

When Danielle was in the nesting phase of her pregnancy, she looked everywhere for the perfect items to complete baby Juniper's room. She couldn't find just what she wanted, so she decided to make items instead. She found fabric she really loved and got to work making bedding, blankets, and other items for her baby-to-be.

Danielle knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur someday, and finally her time and talents aligned to make it happen. NarraNest began in January of 2015, and the shop is filled with beautiful, organic bedding, blankets, bibs, and baby-wearing accessories. NarraNest believes in kindness to mama, kindness to the Earth, and supporting the sacred bond between Mama and baby with safe, natural products.

Danielle's Unique Opt-in Offer

The gurus always tell us that we need to give away something really great in order to get people on our email list. Well, Danielle took that advice to the extreme! Instead of giving away a checklist, printable, or guide, Danielle gives away something much better to her subscribers - one of the products from her shop!

Danielle decided that her opt-in incentive would be a giveaway of her own product each month. As long as someone stays subscribed to her list, they'll hear about the new giveaway for the month and have a chance to enter. Her reasoning was that someone who is interested in winning her products may also be interested in buying her products. (Makes sense! I don't have a baby right now so I'm not excited to win Danielle's items, but a new parent absolutely would be, and that's Danielle's target customer.)

Danielle's other reasoning for paying for email subscribers in the form of free products: If you pay to get someone on your email list, that's someone you can build a relationship with over the long term. When you have just the right product to share, they will be there waiting to hear about it and buy. That email subscriber may purchase from you multiple times over the course of your relationship.

How to Use Facebook Ads to Grow your List

When Danielle decided on her giveaway strategy to attract new subscribers, she started by announcing them on her Facebook page and Instagram. Each time, she'd gain about 100 new subscribers. That was nice, but she wanted more.

For her October 2015 Giveaway, Danielle decided to try Facebook ads to make a bigger impact. She was excited to try Facebook ads in particular because you can pinpoint who sees your ads. Danielle knows exactly who her ideal customer is, so she wanted to see if she could reach them with an ad.

How She Got Started:
Danielle created a regular post on her Facebook page with an image and a description telling someone how they could enter the giveaway. Danielle gave away a baby carrier cover from her shop. You can see Danielle's original Facebook post here.

From there, Danielle went into the Facebook Ads Platform and chose that post as the content that she wanted to promote. She chose to target women in the US and Canada between 24-35 years old, and who have an interest in one of the baby carrier brands (for example, Ergo) and were expectant or new parents. For the October giveaway, this was just one great big combined audience of 110,000 people.

In subsequent months, Danielle has broken down this large audience into multiple, smaller audiences to compare how they each stack up to each other in terms of cost and engagement. You can run just one campaign, with the same "ad" (the post that describes the giveaway) but create multiple audiences to target. Then you can directly compare them to each other and home in on the groups that give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Note: Danielle did not just boost her post. She turned that post into an ad. You have to go into the ads platform to have all of the specific targeting options available to you.

Facebook Ad Quick Tips

  • Use a native post as your ad. You can take any old post from your Facebook page, then go into the ads manager and choose that content to be an ad. This can be very effective because that ad looks like a natural post that would show up in someone's Facebook feed. Facebook users may be more likely to engage with that ad content.
  • To help your post spread, you can optimize for engagement. If your goal is to get lots of likes, comments, and shares on your post, you may want to optimize for engagement rather than bid for clicks. Of course Danielle wanted people to click through her post and enter the giveaway, but she also didn't want to pay for every single click. She wanted people to share her post organically and let friends in on the great giveaway. She also wanted to content to show up in others' newsfeeds organically because it was getting a lot of engagement from their friends on Facebook. People did interact with Danielle's post as though it was a native post. She has 495 likes on the post, 144 comments, and 64 shares! And Danielle paid just $65 for this level of engagement.
  • Engage with every comment you get on your ad. Women were commenting on Danielle's post telling her what a neat product she had, asking her if they were eligible to enter, or asking about other colors and product availability. Danielle responded to every single comment. She even responded to the more general comments like "great giveaway!" Why? Because by simply writing back something nice like "thanks! Hope you win!" there's a chance that person may see the post in their feed again, or that because Danielle tagged them, some of their top friends on Facebook would see that activity too. Again, all of those comments and interactions give Danielle even more unpaid reach for her post.
  • Get Razor-Sharp with your Targeting. Danielle didn't just target all new parents with her giveaway. She got really specific and targeted new parents who already expressed an interest in baby carrier brands. She's targeting not just new parents, but parents who are baby carrier users because those are the individuals who will just love her baby carrier cover and would use it in their daily lives. Whatever your business sells, get specific with your targeting to reach customers who have already expressed interest in a very similar product or a tightly related product.
  • Audience Size can be Big or Small. This probably seems like it's not a helpful tip, but hear me out! You do want to get razor-sharp with your targeting, but if you've whittled your ad down to an audience of just 50,000 people or so, you may find that you're paying quite a lot to reach that small number of people. If this is the case, expand your reach a bit and try an audience size of about a million people. Compare your results. Which size and targeting options are getting you the most bang for your buck? There's not one right answer here, but testing and realizing that if you're paying a lot for not-so-great results, audience size may be partly to blame.

Gleam for Giveaways

Danielle knew she wanted several features for the giveaway app she chose. She ultimately went with Gleam for several reasons:

  • Gleam integrates directly with Mailchimp
  • Gleam provides a stand-alone landing page for the giveaway. This is a must for Danielle because she's an Etsy shop owner without her own website. She didn't have a place to embed a landing page.
  • Gleam lets you ask a question of your audience as a bonus-entry option for them. Danielle says this market research is gold!
  • Gleam lets entrants refer their friends to earn extra giveaway entries - this makes the giveaway more likely to spread organically.

Danielle pays $39/month for Gleam.

What to do with a Closed Giveaway

Once a giveaway starts to spread, it's a shame to see people visit the page and simply walk away because the giveaway is now closed. Since Danielle does a new giveaway each month, she can simply point these prospective entrants to the new giveaway entry page and close the loop.

Once a certain giveaway ends, Danielle turns that link into a MailChimp opt-in page. She can customize the opt-in form with a photo of her business, and include information at the top to let people know that even though this giveaway is now closed, they can click on the link and head to the new giveaway. Danielle doesn't lose any referral traffic this way.

How to Advertise without Wasting your Money

Many small business owners are afraid to advertise because they have a limited budget for their business. It's so discouraging to invest in advertising only to feel like you just dumped your money down the drain. But it is possible to advertise wisely and make a profit from your efforts. Danielle recommends starting small, running tests, and only increasing your advertising budget when you start to see results.

Danielle started her October giveaway with just a few dollars of ad spend, but once she saw great results in the form of entries, shares, and engagement on her post, she knew it made sense to invest more. Danielle also saw several sales come in rather quickly after she started her ad, so she took the profits from those sales and reinvested that into more advertising for the giveaway.

In total, Danielle spent $55 on Facebook ads for her October Giveaway. She gained 788 email subscribers as a result. That's insane!! Danielle got email subscribers at just 7 cents per lead. In the internet marketing world a good price per lead is $1-$2. So pennies per lead is quite incredible.

Danielle is making advertising work in her handmade business with small profit margins. It could work for you too, but you'll have to be creative, test constantly, and not get discouraged if your first attempt isn't a smashing success.

Danielle's Exponential List Growth

Danielle's monthly giveaway strategy has paid off in big ways for her business. On October 1, she had 224 email subscribers. Her goal for the year was to hit 500 subscribers. After Danielle blew that goal out of the water with her first paid giveaway, she set a new goal to hit 2,500 subscribers in 2015. At the time of the podcast interview in mid-December, Danielle has already surpassed that goal with 2750 subscribers. She has more than 10X'ed her email list in 2.5 months!

Lets subscribers know that as long as they're subscribed, they're automatically entered in that month's giveaways - or automatically find out - so chance they will keep opening to find out about the next month's giveaway and how to enter.

Danielle has also added more followers on other forms of social media as well - growing Facebook from 234 to 1533 fans, Instagram to 2,000 followers, and another 1,000 new followers on Pinterest.

We were curious about whether these new subscribers stick around or simply unsubscribe when they find out they didn't win. Danielle says they tend to stick around because they know there's a new giveaway coming next month. She hopes that encourages them to open emails from her so they won't miss out.

Danielle's list growth is resulting in sales too. Her last quarter of sales for 2015 is more than her total sales for the 9 months before that. Although this is Danielle's first year and she knows it's the holiday season, it's pretty easy to see that a good portion of her traffic and sales are coming through her email list too.

Danielle Ignores the Gurus - Maybe you Should Too!

Danielle has found that much of the advice that the gurus give on email marketing doesn't work so well for her and her handmade business. Instead, she's developed a system that works for her and keeps her subscribers happy. Below are all the ways Danielle ignores the gurus.

  • Danielle sends just one welcome email. Most gurus suggest sending a long auto-responder series to new subscribers to introduce them to you and your business, give them great advice and content, and build a relationship. But Danielle found that she had a higher unsubscribe rate when she had a 3-part welcome series versus her current system of just one welcome email. It was too much for her subscribers, because she wanted to send them updates every few weeks as well. One email to introduce herself and make a great impression is just right for Danielle.
  • Danielle doesn't teach in her emails. Since Danielle is always creating new products to keep her customers coming back, she doesn't feel the need to educate and inform in her emails. That might work well if a business owner has just one big product to sell, but Danielle's customers don't need to learn how a baby blanket works! They just want to know what's new in the shop or how they can enter the latest giveaway. If they're on her list, they're already sold on the concept that handmade items for baby are great.
  • Danielle doesn't have a consistent email schedule. She sends a new email when... there's something new! Typically Danielle sends a "what's happening in the shop" email about once a month, and her subscribers also get an email about the latest giveaway at the beginning of each month. But she does suggest that if you're struggling to send consistent emails to your list, make a schedule for yourself and stick with it.

A Unique Way to do Market Research

The Gleam Giveaway App has allowed Danielle to do market research in a unique way. Giveaway entrants can earn an extra entry by answering questions! Danielle says that the answers have been so valuable that they're worth the cost of the giveaway alone even if she didn't gain new subscribers from it.

Danielle has asked entrants, "What's the most important thing you're looking for when you're shopping for baby stuff?" Then she takes those answers to go back and refine her Etsy listings so she's using the terms her ideal customers use to find great products. She found that many people use "safety" when it comes to baby items, but because that word is so obvious, Danielle hadn't used that in her listings. Now she does, and the listings where safety is listed now convert into sales more often!

Danielle also asked what other baby brands the entrants like. She can use those answers to go create new custom audiences to target on Facebook.

"What other blogs or websites do you like?" is another question Danielle has asked. Her awesome Mom is currently compiling that list so that Danielle knows exactly where to advertise her products in 2016 or which bloggers to partner with to do giveaways and reviews. So perfect!

Danielle is using her current audience to find more people like them! Danielle highly recommends that you get ultra-specific when it comes to your ideal customer. Create a persona for her: What does she like? Where does she live? What does she read? Create that imaginary person and talk right to them. Market where they hang out online.

Gleam has given Danielle so much more information to fill in her ideal customer profile and narrow down her marketing.

How to Help your Customer Try on your Product

We absolutely love the ad Danielle used for her Baby Carrier Cover Giveaway. She made a four-part photo illustrating how to use the cover so customers could visualize how it would fit into their lives. Essentially, the carrier cover allows you to take your baby carrier, roll it up and snap it into a storage sack that sits around your waist. You can contain your baby carrier better so you don't have straps dangling all over the place.

Step by Step photos help your customer try on your product and visualize it in their lives

Once people see the product in action, they absolutely love it and can see how it solves a problem! But without the step-by-step photos, it just looks like a random piece of material.

Step-by-step photos can be a great strategy for many kinds of businesses. If it's not super obvious how your product works or if you can catch someone's attention and help them to visualize your product in their lives, that's perfect. Danielle knows that on Facebook people scroll quickly. If your post doesn't catch their eye right away they're gone. Make it clear quickly why something is helpful to someone

We decided that step-by-step photos can be a fun interactive way to present all sorts of products. Even something as simple as a t-shirt can seem more fun when you divide it into steps: Step 1 pull T-shirt out of drawer, Step 2 put T-shirt on, Step 3, be awesome. Isn't that more fun?

Danielle says that this process helps your customer to try on the product in their mind. They start mentally taking ownership of that product and putting it into their life. So they're one step closer to owning it.

Danielle's Awesome iPhone Trick

If you find yourself often typing out long phrases or words like your shop website or email address on your phone, you can create shortcuts with text replacement. Just go into your phone's settings, keyboard, and text replacement.

Danielle has set up her phone so that when she types nnetsy her entire shop URL populates. If she types d@g her entire email address populates. What a great trick for busy moms who are always trying to run their businesses on the go!

Juniper the Comedian!

Danielle's little girl is too funny in this story! Tune in to see how she called out her Dad without saying a word!

Find Danielle Online!

Narranest.Etsy.com
Facebook: NarraNest
Instagram: NarraNest

Direct download: Episode2012720Danielle20Arran_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:56am EDT

Such a fun interview with Brit Jennie Brandon. She shared so many great tips on how to use the IF App by If This Then That, and how to make sure you can reach international customers with your site. Great business advice for bloggers and business owners! | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Are you struggling with balancing too many social media platforms? What about monetizing your site to its fullest extent - so there's a chance to earn something from every single visitor? Jennie Brandon, our very first guest from the UK walks us through loads of great tips on how to use the IF app to leverage our presence on social media. She then goes beyond a handy app to teach us all the ways we can make sure our site is ready for an international audience. (The stats she shares are staggering, so you definitely don't want to ignore this huge demographic who could fall in love with your content!)

On the Podcast

01:26 - Jennie's Two Blogs
03:29 - How Learning Creates Opportunity
06:57 - What is the "IF" App?
11:30 - Build Leverage Across Social Media Platforms
14:38 - How to Start Using IFTTT
20:37 - How to Monetize your Site for International Customers
28:52 - Why your Amazon Affiliate Links Aren't Making you Money
35:25 - How to be Inclusive of an International Audience
47:10 - Jennie's Hilarious Mom Moment

Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear Great Tips from our Favorite Brit, Jennie Brandon

Jennie’s Two Blogs

Jennie lives in Cambridge with her husband of 10 years and two small children Sophie and Joe. She has two blogs, The Errant Sock, and Laundry in the Temple. Laundry in the Temple is where Jennie shares how she teaches her children about her faith and The Errant Sock is a lifestyle blog with parenting hacks, books, and lots of recipes. All of Jennie's friends call her the “slow cooker whisperer” so she shares plenty of tips to help out other mums! Running two blogs and being a mum of 2 means that Jennie has limited time to invest in social media and sharing her content.

How Learning Creates Opportunity

When Jennie first reached out to us it was to share a story of how the Brilliant Business Moms podcast had helped her business and landed her a new job. Years ago, Jennie created her first blog where she focused on slow cooker recipes. Later when she tried to get back into blogging as a way of bringing in more income, she found that the blogging world was very different. In order to get caught up quickly she began listening to the podcast and it was Episode 53, Everything Twitter with Kelli Miller, that made the biggest impact on Jennie's blog and life.

Jennie had never been very comfortable with Twitter before listening to the episode, but by the end of the podcast, she felt ready to give it another try. Jennie dug into Twitter and got 600% more views to her blogs by focusing on the platform!

While Jennie still works on growing her blogs, she knew that she needed to take on a traditional job for now to make ends meet for her family. The podcast helped her with that goal too! A local pastor approached Jennie with a job opportunity, and it was her social media knowledge and web design expertise that set her apart from the other candidates! Jennie's new job lets her use her new skills in social media and website development, and it fits around her schedule and life as mum.

What a great example of how learning creates opportunity!

What is the “IF” App?

IFTTT (If This, Then That - now called the IF App) is an app that allows you to connect other apps and websites to each other for completing an array of different tasks.

Each app, program, or website you can connect is called a channel, and you can create "recipes" between the channels.The title really explains it all: If you do something on one channel, then something else will automatically happen on another channel.

There are hundreds of suggested recipes to help you get started, but almost any way of connecting two apps that you can imagine can be created to make your business and personal life more convenient.

The IF app currently has over 250 different channel options, which include Ebay, Etsy, Twitter, Evernote, Fitbit, Spotify, Feedly, Youtube, Trello, Reddit, and they just recently added Pinterest!

 

Here are a few examples of how the app works: Jennie has set up the IF app so that IF she takes a photo on her android phone, that photo is automatically saved to her Google drive. If she tweets something, that tweet is automatically saved to Evernote. If you leave the office, you could even set up a recipe to turn on your heat if you have a smart heater! There are so many possibilities!

Our heads were spinning when we heard that Pinterest was just recently added: You could automatically pin items that you just added to your etsy store, Pin instagram photos to a board, or Tweet every time you add a pin.

Build Leverage Across Social Media Platforms

In running two blogs Jennie really didn’t have time to devote to social media. She also didn’t have time to be creating new content every single day. Jennie uses the IF App as a way of sharing the content of bloggers that she trusts (as well as her own content) to various social media platforms on a regular basis. This happens automatically without the time and effort it would take to go in and manually schedule content. The IF App lets Jennie have a constant stream of valuable content across all of her feeds in a fraction of the time. In this way, her account always looks active and can engage with her followers. She never loses momentum due to a busy week at home.

Below are some recipes that Jennie uses:

  • If she posts to Facebook, that same posts is shared on Twitter. (and vice versa)
  • If Jennie posts to The Errant Sock, that post is shared on the Laundry in the Temple’s feeds.
  • While TwitterFeed lets Jennie automatically share great content from her favorite bloggers, now with the IF App, those posts will automatically be shared on her Facebook page as well.

Overall, even when Jennie is crazy busy at home and has zero time to post on her blog or social media, she still looks perfectly active and keeps her sites top of mind for her followers by automatically curating great content for them.

For Bloggers who Work with Brands:
If a blogger sends out a tweet for Company X, they can auto-save those tweets (or any posts for that matter) to a spreadsheet. In this way, a blogger working on a large campaign with a brand can show them all the content they produced all in one place without having to hunt for it and manually collect it. In addition, if they work with the same brand every year, they'll have plenty of great content ideas ready to go in their spreadsheet.

There are thousands of possible recipe combinations you can use with the IF App, so be creative and don’t be afraid to play around. They also offer many suggestions for inspiration. And the app is just as useful for your personal life as it is for your business.

How to Start Using IFTTT

Jennie gave us some great tips and an outline of how to get started with IFTTT and make it work best for you and your business!

  1. Make a list of which social media platforms you are currently using.
  2. Prioritize the networks where your target audience hangs out most and where you enjoy connecting with them.
  3. Pull out a pen and paper and create an actual visual map of how you want your content to be shared. Which way do you want the information to go? This will help you make sure that you are creating a complete loop and using the channels to their best ability.
  4. Look at the IF App website and the suggested recipes. What are other bloggers using the app for?
  5. Think about what content from others you want to share. Where will that information be coming from? Consider the entire flow of your content and the content of others and how that all works together to build and reflect your brand.
  6. Start creating recipes! This is a very quick process and in less than 10 minutes Jennie created 8 recipes that form the basis of her IF App and social media strategy.

The Downsides to the IF App:

  • Graphics. When you share graphics keep in mind that each platform shares photos in a different size so some of your photos may appear awkward on certain networks.
  • Characters. The IF App does not count characters so make sure you know about what 140 characters looks like so your shares through to Twitter won't all be truncated.
  • Hashtags. When you share a Twitter post to Facebook it will also copy over your hashtags, this may not be an issue for your particular situation but take this into account.
  • Content Repetition. All of the content that you are sharing will be the same across all channels. Again, for Jennie and many bloggers this may not matter but keep this in mind. For most of us, our readers aren't following us or interacting with us on every single channel, so it's not generally an issue, but you'll have to keep your particular audience in mind.
  • Bonus: The IF App does shorten your links for you.

How to Monetize Internationally

Based on the staggering numbers Jennie shared, it may be in your best interest to consider your international readers and to work to serve them better.

The population in the US is 320 million people. The population of other countries with a similar potential audience (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, & South Africa) is 190 million people. So these other readers in English-speaking countries with a similar culture could add 60% more potential readers to your site.

With a few tweaks to your content, your site, and the products you offer, you can monetize their visits to your website.

Monetization Ideas for an International Audience:

  • Google Advertising. Since Google display ads are contextual and based on where someone has already visited online, you can easily monetize any visitor's experience on your site. For example, Jennie may visit a UK store to shop for coats. Then, she visits a US-based blog. That same coat will follow her there via a sidebar ad. If she clicks on that ad, the US website gets the commission for that click, even though both Jennie and the store are in the UK.
  • Printables, E-books, and Downloadable Content. Jennie loves buying digital resources from brands she likes since she won't have to worry about shipping prices and she can begin using the product right away.
  • Online Courses. Jennie took a great blogging course from a US blogger. When the courses are self-paced with no set times attached, they work perfectly.
  • Recorded webinars. Webinars can be tricky with the time difference, but a recorded webinar is a great fit for Jennie. (We recently heard Amy Porterfield mention adding recorded webinars to her launch sequence because she had so many international customers requesting this.)
  • Membership sites. Jennie can interact in the forums on her time and consume the content on her time.
  • Services. There's no reason why a blog designer, marketing consultant, or other service-based business owners couldn't work with clients overseas. They could greatly expand their customer base if they started targeting these audiences - and they might face less competition too!
  • Affiliate Marketing. If you're marketing an internationally-available product, or a digital product, program, or course, you can market to everyone! Jennie has bought an Ultimate Bundle before through an American Blogger.
  • Selling on Etsy. Etsy makes things easy by automatically doing all the currency exchange and tax calculations for international sellers and buyers.

Hopefully this gets you thinking about all the ways you can monetize your site to a wider audience. We all know digital products can be great for business, but if you've delayed creating them thus far, maybe knowing you could attract 60% more potential customers will be just the thing to get you started!

Why Your Amazon Affiliate Links Aren’t Making You Money

Did you know that if someone from the UK clicks on an Amazon affiliate link from your website you do not get a commission? Shoppers in the UK cannot order from Amazon.com; they have to order through AmazonUK. But there is a way to fix this and ensure you're earning a commission from your international readers.

  1. Sign up for each country's affiliate program through Amazon. Get more information from Amazon right here.
  2. Install the Amazon Link Engine Plugin on your Wordpress site. This plugin ensures that each visitor is sent to the relevant Amazon site for them.
  3. Create an account with Genius links. This program ensures that you are getting paid from those other countries’ links. The program is free up to 1,000 clicks/month then $10 per every 10,000 clicks after that.
  4. Build your affiliate link just as you did before, and the intelligent link will send each visitor to the correct Amazon site.

Note: Amazon says that if over 10% of your traffic is from other Amazon countries, this process should be worth it for you - particularly if you get a large volume of traffic to your site, or you already do well by being an Amazon affiliate.

How to Be Inclusive of an International Audience

One of the best parts of having our first podcast guest from the UK is that Jennie was happy to share many ways that US bloggers and business owners can be more inclusive of international readers. Below are some simple ideas to cross different cultures with your brand.

  • Be more inclusive in your language. For example, instead of saying “since next week is Thanksgiving” you could say “here in the US, we have Thanksgiving”.
  • Show awareness that things happen at different times overseas. For example, in the UK back to school time is later in the year and summer vacation doesn’t start until late July.
  • Not all trends go at the same speed in all countries. In the UK, online shopping has been a normal part of life for many years. Since they are a small country their postal service is very efficient and it is convenient to shop online and has been for over a decade!
  • Don't use brand names, but describe the products as other countries often have different brands. For example, in a recipe instead of saying “can of Rotel”, say “can of diced tomatoes with chilies”. In the UK, Scotch tape is actually referred to as cello tape.
  • Don't say "a package" or some other generic term. Use specific measurements to an international audience can still follow the recipe accurately.

Jennie sent over some other notes and thoughts, and I really liked what she had to say here to sum things up:

Be aware that we may have some different challenges and concerns. e.g. Brits have less disposable income and live in smaller houses because land is very precious here. We drive less because fuel is very expensive and driving is more stressful. Over half of us don't have a dryer for laundry, often because we don't have the space. We're also increasingly environmentally friendly and a post that suggests waste may hit a nerve.

But please don't feel sorry for us! We wonder how you manage without universal healthcare, how you cope with tornadoes and blizzards, how you manage with so little annual leave (we typically get at least 4 weeks, not 2 plus 8 national holidays) and how you can consider anything over 2 hours not being a really long drive!

(That last line really made me chuckle as Holden and I used to drive from South Carolina to Pittsburgh for an 11-hour day, and I didn't think that was "too long of a drive" :) It's so fun learning about other cultures!

jennie-brandon-uk-blogger-if-app-family
Jennie with her adorable family.

Jennie's Hilarious Mum Moment

Jennie's daughter Sophie's spirit of determination is so adorable in this story! You'll have to listen to the podcast to hear all about it!

Find Jennie Online

LaundryintheTemple.com
TheErrantSock.com

Direct download: Episode2012620Jennie20Brandon20final202.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:18am EDT

What a great interview! Cindy Funk has made over 6,000 sales on Etsy in a super unique vintage niche. She's always testing and tweaking, so it was great to hear what she's doing with promoted listings, and how she keeps her customers coming back. How to get sales on Etsy. Vintage Etsy Seller Advice. | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Have you ever wondered what the magic formula is for making it big on Etsy? Here's the thing: that magic formula involves a lot of working pieces all combining together to make for excellent products, incredible customer service, and a business that succeeds. Cindy Funk has been selling adorable vintage tea towels on Etsy for several years, and with over 6,000 sales, she knows a thing or two about that magic formula.

Learn from Cindy and discover all the pieces you can bring together to create your own magic formula for success. You got this!

On the Podcast:

01:11 - What Martha Stewart and Cindy Funk have in Common

05:09 - Where Can You Find Mint Condition Vintage Items?

08:38 - Why Cindy Doesn't Cast a Wide Net

10:48 - Cindy's Fascinating Customers

13:45 - Why Cindy's Branding is "Anti-Etsy"

18:00 - Etsy SEO + Promoted Listings

26:08 - Inventory Management

28:11 - If I Could Turn Back Tiiiiiiime!

35:23 - Cindy's Wins

39:05 - 3 Tips for Making it on Etsy Long-Term

40:39 - We're Here, We're... a Little Different! And We're Not Going Anywhere!

43:00 - Cindy's Hilarious Mom Moment

What Martha Stewart and Cindy Funk have in Common

Cindy's business began as a long-time hobby first. She has been collecting vintage linens for years since her father passed away. She became interested in them because of the nostalgia and memories they carried. After collecting so many, she realized that her home was being taken over by linens ,and something needed to change! Cindy started looking for ways to sell her linens. At first, she signed up for a booth in an antiques mall, but the mall closed down before she was able to sell anything.

So what do Martha Stewart and Cindy Funk have in common? They both love Etsy! And they both discovered it around the same time! Not long after her antiques mall attempt, Cindy was watching an episode of Martha Stewart and saw one of the founders of Etsy being interviewed. After learning that Etsy sold vintage items in addition to handmade, she signed up in 2009 and began listing her first items in 2010. It didn’t take long for Cindy to realize that Etsy was a great platform for her vintage tea towels! They started selling pretty quickly on the site. In 2011 Cindy set a goal to sell 100 items, that year. Instead, she sold 1000 items! From that point on, she started looking at her Etsy shop as a real business.

Where Can You Find Mint Condition Vintage Items?

It turns out... all over the place! Cindy hunts far and wide for just the right vintage linens to add to her shop. Since she focuses on items that are in mint condition, it can be quite tricky for her to keep her shop inventory at the 250-item level that she prefers.

Here's a list of all the places Cindy has found Vintage Linens:

  • Garage sales
  • Yard Sales
  • Church Sales
  • Antique Fairs
  • Flea Markets
  • Church Sales
  • Antique Malls
  • Thrift Shops
  • Estate Sales
  • E-bay
  • Online Stores
  • Her Mailman! (He's very interested in antiques but not linens, so when he runs across them in his hunts, he saves them for Cindy.)

Cindy dedicates one day a week to scouting vintage items. She picks one town that's within driving distance to her home in Central Illionois and goes shopping! There's a flea market once a month about an hour away, so she tries to attend that on a regular basis. And she also hunts online.

Cindy has great relationships with several antique dealers. They have her card and give her a call when something of interest comes in. As an experienced seller who likes to keep her inventory high, it's in their advantage to call someone who may make a large purchase all at once.

Why Cindy Doesn't Cast a Wide Net

Once upon a time, Cindy thought she could grow her business by offering a wider variety of items. She branched out to vintage collectibles and spent about 6 months buying up inventory. She had 500 items in her shop! Cindy thought that new customers would find those collectibles, head to her shop, and buy other items while they were there. That didn't really happen! They just bought their one collectible item and left. Cindy also felt overwhelmed and her office space was taken over by collectibles. She has slowly sold off those items and focused on vintage linens and becoming well-known in that niche.

Cindy is seen as an expert when it comes to vintage tea towels. Other sellers and collectors turn to her for advice. She recommends that all Etsy sellers try tospecialize in something specific. By focusing on one main item, Cindy is able to better help her customers with her knowledge and experience. In addition, Cindy has a large base of repeat customers. She's developed great friendships over the years because she and her customers share the same interest and passions - they love vintage tea towels!

(Want to establish yourself as an expert in your field? See our tips right here.)

Cindy's Fascinating Customers

With such a specific niche, Cindy has had quite a lot of interesting customers through the years! She's sold to celebrities, museums, and prop masters for movies!

Cindy says the prop masters always crack her up, because they need their items yesterday! Recently, a prop master purchased a vintage paper tablecloth from her for $6 but paid $60 to have it shipped overnight to Canada!

Her products have even been purchased for a movie that starred Ben Affleck, but Cindy hasn't watched the movie yet to see if her items appeared in the set. And she's almost positive that one of her vintage tablecloths was featured in "The Help" but she can't be sure since the purchaser didn't mention anything at the time.

Cindy has one celebrity customer who has reordered from her 3 times, but she's too respectful of that person to fill us in on who it is!

Finally, Cindy's items can be found in museums. Sarah brought up a great point: Cindy clearly has an excellent product if museums are coming to her for items to feature in their displays!

(Now I'm off to see what old-school movies Ben Affleck has starred in - in the past 5 years!)

Why Cindy's Branding is "Anti-Etsy"

The general vibe on Etsy tends to be clean, bright, simple designs, with plenty of white space in photos to give a sense of calm. Cindy's branding is staunchly "Anti-Etsy" as she calls it! Her quirky, fun vintage tea towels just don't lend themselves to this vibe. Her shop is full of colors, patterns, and scenes, and this works for her. All of the pieces in her shop help support the main theme of the products which are (just like her tagline says) vintage with graphic appeal.

The Close-Up:

Unlike many Etsy sellers, Cindy has opted to do something different with her cover photo. Instead of using an image of the entire product, she starts with a close-up of the linen so you can see the details and quality of the item. This allows her customers to see exactly what they will be getting and to fall in love with the patterns and scenes found on her items.

As with all aspects of her Etsy shop, Cindy experiments with her photography. She found that if she zoomed out to show the whole linen, it was harder to see the graphics that are truly the cornerstone of each item. A zoomed out photo just looks like any other piece of cloth.

The Routine:

Cindy doesn't have a designated photography day each week. Instead, she tries to list 3-5 items, 4-5 days out of every week. She takes photos of just those items, edits them, uploads them to Etsy and fills out her listing. When she's done, Cindy has created several new listings from start to finish. Cindy says she loves to time-block so she sets aside time each day for capturing and creating her new listings. (We love time-blocking too!)

Etsy SEO + Promoted Listings

Cindy uses several tactics to help her items get found more often on Etsy:

  • Constantly list new items. Cindy lists several new items most days of the week.
  • Renew listings. On days when Cindy doesn't have a new item to list, she renews several listings.
  • Improve both recency and relevancy. By always having very recently listed items in her shop, Cindy not only shows up more in the "recency" search feature on Etsy, but recency is also factor that helps determine a listing's position within relevancy search on Etsy. (Relevancy is currently the default search setting - so Etsy will show the items that have the best chance of being exactly what the searcher is looking for.) What this means in simplified terms: If two listings have the same keywords in them, the more recently listed item will rank higher on Etsy search. (Note: this is a very simplified view of things for the sake of teaching!)
  • Check keyword stats. Cindy checks her stats often to see which keywords bring her the most traffic.
  • Tweak constantly. Cindy uses her stats knowledge to constantly tweak keywords in her tags and titles.
  • Experiment often. Cindy experiments with other details in her listings - such as placing items in different categories or testing out different photos.
  • Use promoted listings. Cindy started testing promoted listings a few months ago, and she's found them really helpful. They show her which keywords people respond to most often, and she gets more views and favorites in her shop.
  • Cindy's promoted listing strategy: She sets her max daily budget high, her bids mostly on "auto", only chooses a handful of listings to promote at a time, and ups her bid for her most expensive items where her cost per customer acquisition can be higher.

Quick Tips on Promoted Listings from Beth Anne

There are several factors that determine how well your promoted listing will do:

1.) Competition from other listings. If there's way too much competition, your items may not get shown very often, and that means they won't get clicks or sales. You can up your bid to counteract this competition, but at a certain point that bid per click just becomes way too expensive to be profitable in the long run. If you find this happening to your promoted listing, move on and promote something else!

In Cindy's case, she has a niche product that likely faces little competition. This is great for her! She can promote away without having to bid an extremely high amount per click.

2.) Your listing's profitability to Etsy. If you're selling a more expensive item, chances are good that Etsy will choose to show your item over other promoted items in your niche. They stand to make a larger commission when your item sells. (Etsy cares just as much about making as you do!) But the price of your item isn't the only thing that determines how profitable it will be for Etsy. It has to sell to be profitable! So if your conversion rate is high (the number of sales divided by the number of clicks) Etsy will likely show your item more often. They know your item sells well, so they'll keep on showing it. (You should also know that conversion rate matters a great deal for getting found in unpaid Etsy search as well. If your item doesn't sell well, Etsy will push it to the back.)

For reference: A typical conversion rate for an online store is 2%, or 2 sales per every 100 visitors/clicks to the shop. A great conversion rate is about 5%. A conversion rate that could use improvement is 1% or lower.

I generally aim for a 1% conversion rate if I'm doing paid advertising. And in our case, that means I can afford to pay 10 cents per click, or $10 total to acquire a customer for our Brilliant Business Planner. That keeps us profitable. So if I find that I'm bidding way more than 10 cents per click in promoted listings, unless my conversion rate skyrockets, I'd better lower that bid or find a new listing to promote!

For reference, our planner listing conversion rates vary greatly depending on the keywords we use to attract customers. We get anywhere from 0% to 5% conversion rates on our promoted listings. (Yeah... that 5% conversion rate... you better believe I'll be promoting that til I'm blue in the face!)

Inventory Management

With over 200 items for sale in her shop, Cindy has to keep her inventory very well organized. She's had bad experiences in the past when this wasn't the case. Then, an order is placed and she's scrambling and panicked - "where did that towel go?!"

Now, Cindy uses plastic containers with drawers to keep everything sorted and folded. She separates her items by type - tea towels, table cloths, and plastic tablecloths. Then Cindy stores her collectibles in wooden cubbies. She says that even when her workspace isn't neat, her inventory always is!

If I Could Turn Back Tiiiiime!

One of the best things about talking with a seasoned Etsy seller is learning what she'd do differently if she could do it all again. Cindy would love to pull a "Cher" and do these things differently if she could turn back time.

  • Build an email list. Collect the email addresses of your customers right from the get-go. Build those relationships by sending out emails on a regular basis. Your email list is the perfect place to let your die-hard fans know about new additions to the shop, sales, and great tips or content in your niche. (Learn more about email marketing here.)
  • Put your email sign-up link everywhere. Cindy now has a link to her email list sign-up on her About Page, Profile Page, her Thank you Note after a sale on Etsy, and anywhere else she can think to put it! Even though those are dead links, she is slowly but surely collecting email addresses because people who are interested in what you have to offer don't mind copying and pasting that link. (See our episode with Sarah Gilcher for more proof on that one!)
  • Create your own website. Cindy just now reserved her domain name and plans to have a "home base" soon. Even if you don't plan to sell on your own site, it's a great place to put your email sign-up form and let others know a little more about you. Having a home base online is always a good idea!
  • Put yourself out there and get your products featured. Cindy plans to do more active promoting of her shop this year. She'll write guest posts and submit her items for product features on large sites. Again, you don't have to have your own site to make guest posting or promoting work for you. Link to an email opt-in form or your Etsy shop. Don't let anything hold you back from marketing your business.

Cindy’s Wins

Cindy has done so many things right when it comes to growing her Etsy shop. Below are a few of her wins!

  • Sell High-quality products. Cindy offers the best possible product that she can find.
  • Provide Excellent communication. Cindy writes a thank you note to everyone who makes a purchase from her. She lets them know how much she appreciates their purchase, that she'll be shipping their item soon, and she hopes they'll come back to visit her shop again!
  • Stay in touch with customers. Cindy has some customers who are looking for particular items, and she makes a point to reach out to them when she finds what they're looking for.
  • Ship quickly. Cindy is neurotic about shipping, and almost always ships each order the very next day.
  • Use Coupon codes. Cindy includes a coupon code with each purchase, and she's had many repeat customers who use this code.
  • Participate in Teams. Cindy is a member of about 20 teams on Etsy. Members can trade tips, advice, and offer encouragement to each other.
  • Learn as much about SEO as you can. Cindy is always testing and tweaking! We are too.

3 Tips for Making it on Etsy Long-Term

  1. Your shop is a work in progress. You're never "done". There is always more to test, tweak, and of course, new changes from Etsy to figure out.
  2. Be persistent. Every business has its ups and downs. Cindy remembers weeks where she had zero sales, and she wondered if she'd dropped off the face of the planet! But she kept with it and the sales always come back. There are busy seasons and slow seasons. This is the beast that is retail.
  3. Learn as much as you can. Cindy never stops learning about business or selling on Etsy. She enjoys listening to podcasts like ours for what she calls "little golden nuggets". Whether an episode directly relates to selling on Etsy or not, there's always a business nugget to find. (We agree! And we're always learning from others too!)

We're Here! We're... a little Different! And We're Not Going Anywhere!

Etsy is known for being a handmade marketplace and Cindy has found that sometimes the vintage sellers get ignored. For example, when Etsy went public, there was no mention of the vintage and supplies side of things the marketplace. The press tends to describe Etsy simply as "a handmade marketplace" so many vintage lovers don't even know they can go there to find great treasures.

To combat this focus, Cindy wants vintage Etsy sellers to support each other, and she makes an effort to help promote others in her field. As these vintage shops and sellers work together, the community can grow and create more of a voice for vintage sellers on Etsy.

Cindy also lets Etsy know how much she appreciates it when she sees them feature a Vintage item in their finds. Essentially, she keeps letting them know that "she's here!" and not to forget about this wonderful side of Etsy.

Cindy's Hilarious Mom Moment

You'll have to tune in to hear about "The Great Cheese Incident." Too funny!

Find Cindy Online!

Shop: NeatoKeen.Etsy.com (Check it out! Her items are adorable and so unique!)
Facebook: Neatokeen.etsy
Instagram: Neatokeen2

What a great interview! Cindy Funk has made over 6,000 sales on Etsy in a super unique vintage niche. She's always testing and tweaking, so it was great to hear what she's doing with promoted listings, and how she keeps her customers coming back. How to get sales on Etsy. Vintage Etsy Seller Advice. | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Have you ever wondered what the magic formula is for making it big on Etsy? Here's the thing: that magic formula involves a lot of working pieces all combining together to make for excellent products, incredible customer service, and a business that succeeds. Cindy Funk has been selling adorable vintage tea towels on Etsy for several years, and with over 6,000 sales, she knows a thing or two about that magic formula.

Learn from Cindy and discover all the pieces you can bring together to create your own magic formula for success. You got this!

On the Podcast:

01:11 - What Martha Stewart and Cindy Funk have in Common

05:09 - Where Can You Find Mint Condition Vintage Items?

08:38 - Why Cindy Doesn't Cast a Wide Net

10:48 - Cindy's Fascinating Customers

13:45 - Why Cindy's Branding is "Anti-Etsy"

18:00 - Etsy SEO + Promoted Listings

26:08 - Inventory Management

28:11 - If I Could Turn Back Tiiiiiiime!

35:23 - Cindy's Wins

39:05 - 3 Tips for Making it on Etsy Long-Term

40:39 - We're Here, We're... a Little Different! And We're Not Going Anywhere!

43:00 - Cindy's Hilarious Mom Moment

What Martha Stewart and Cindy Funk have in Common

Cindy's business began as a long-time hobby first. She has been collecting vintage linens for years since her father passed away. She became interested in them because of the nostalgia and memories they carried. After collecting so many, she realized that her home was being taken over by linens ,and something needed to change! Cindy started looking for ways to sell her linens. At first, she signed up for a booth in an antiques mall, but the mall closed down before she was able to sell anything.

So what do Martha Stewart and Cindy Funk have in common? They both love Etsy! And they both discovered it around the same time! Not long after her antiques mall attempt, Cindy was watching an episode of Martha Stewart and saw one of the founders of Etsy being interviewed. After learning that Etsy sold vintage items in addition to handmade, she signed up in 2009 and began listing her first items in 2010. It didn’t take long for Cindy to realize that Etsy was a great platform for her vintage tea towels! They started selling pretty quickly on the site. In 2011 Cindy set a goal to sell 100 items, that year. Instead, she sold 1000 items! From that point on, she started looking at her Etsy shop as a real business.

Where Can You Find Mint Condition Vintage Items?

It turns out... all over the place! Cindy hunts far and wide for just the right vintage linens to add to her shop. Since she focuses on items that are in mint condition, it can be quite tricky for her to keep her shop inventory at the 250-item level that she prefers.

Here's a list of all the places Cindy has found Vintage Linens:

  • Garage sales
  • Yard Sales
  • Church Sales
  • Antique Fairs
  • Flea Markets
  • Church Sales
  • Antique Malls
  • Thrift Shops
  • Estate Sales
  • E-bay
  • Online Stores
  • Her Mailman! (He's very interested in antiques but not linens, so when he runs across them in his hunts, he saves them for Cindy.)

Cindy dedicates one day a week to scouting vintage items. She picks one town that's within driving distance to her home in Central Illionois and goes shopping! There's a flea market once a month about an hour away, so she tries to attend that on a regular basis. And she also hunts online.

Cindy has great relationships with several antique dealers. They have her card and give her a call when something of interest comes in. As an experienced seller who likes to keep her inventory high, it's in their advantage to call someone who may make a large purchase all at once.

Why Cindy Doesn't Cast a Wide Net

Once upon a time, Cindy thought she could grow her business by offering a wider variety of items. She branched out to vintage collectibles and spent about 6 months buying up inventory. She had 500 items in her shop! Cindy thought that new customers would find those collectibles, head to her shop, and buy other items while they were there. That didn't really happen! They just bought their one collectible item and left. Cindy also felt overwhelmed and her office space was taken over by collectibles. She has slowly sold off those items and focused on vintage linens and becoming well-known in that niche.

Cindy is seen as an expert when it comes to vintage tea towels. Other sellers and collectors turn to her for advice. She recommends that all Etsy sellers try tospecialize in something specific. By focusing on one main item, Cindy is able to better help her customers with her knowledge and experience. In addition, Cindy has a large base of repeat customers. She's developed great friendships over the years because she and her customers share the same interest and passions - they love vintage tea towels!

(Want to establish yourself as an expert in your field? See our tips right here.)

Cindy's Fascinating Customers

With such a specific niche, Cindy has had quite a lot of interesting customers through the years! She's sold to celebrities, museums, and prop masters for movies!

Cindy says the prop masters always crack her up, because they need their items yesterday! Recently, a prop master purchased a vintage paper tablecloth from her for $6 but paid $60 to have it shipped overnight to Canada!

Her products have even been purchased for a movie that starred Ben Affleck, but Cindy hasn't watched the movie yet to see if her items appeared in the set. And she's almost positive that one of her vintage tablecloths was featured in "The Help" but she can't be sure since the purchaser didn't mention anything at the time.

Cindy has one celebrity customer who has reordered from her 3 times, but she's too respectful of that person to fill us in on who it is!

Finally, Cindy's items can be found in museums. Sarah brought up a great point: Cindy clearly has an excellent product if museums are coming to her for items to feature in their displays!

(Now I'm off to see what old-school movies Ben Affleck has starred in - in the past 5 years!)

Why Cindy's Branding is "Anti-Etsy"

The general vibe on Etsy tends to be clean, bright, simple designs, with plenty of white space in photos to give a sense of calm. Cindy's branding is staunchly "Anti-Etsy" as she calls it! Her quirk