Rank #1: 141: Building a Successful Online Side Hustle in Less than a Year... with Less than $300 to Start! with Hannah Hageman
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 MomentPress 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!
Hannah wants to encourage any new mom pursuing business, and invites you to contact her either in our Facebook group or via email.
Feb 06 2017
Rank #2: 128: The Most Epic Business Coaching Session Ever! with Crystal Paine
A few weeks ago, we sat down with Crystal Paine, author of the book, Money Making Mom, and founder of the site, MoneySavingMom.com. Crystal has run a successful online business for 10 years, and she has so much wisdom to share! She hopped on Blab with us and allowed our audience to ask her anything!
The Result? The Most Epic Business Coaching Session Ever! Crystal gave incredible advice on what to do when you don't feel legit as a work-at-home mom, how to overcome low site traffic, and how to generate more income when you make handmade items.
Her responses were so incredible that we took several of them and made them into separate blog posts full of great tips.Check out the related blog posts here:
There were a few technical issues with the Blab, but you can listen to a streamlined, edited version of it in podcast format below.
To watch the entire Blab in video format, press play on the video below. (Note: the video starts partway through the first question - sorry for our technical issues!)
Jan 05 2016
Rank #3: 171: 7-Figure Online Store in Under a Year Using Facebook Ads
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 Link40:20 - 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/facebookadscheatsheetKeep In Touch With Jamie
Sep 12 2017
Rank #4: 118: Marketing an Etsy Shop with Julie Fuller of Tokyo Blossom Boutique
Julie recently re-branded her shop, and now it's filled with fun, vibrant, colorful knitwear and accessories. She's truly set herself apart in the knitwear space, and we can't wait to see how she grows.Topics Discussed on our Etsy Strategy Blab
- Branding. This Fall, Julie re-branded her shop with a palette of 6 bold, beautiful colors. Now her shop looks and feels cohesive and has a fun feel to it. The best part about re-considering her products and re-branding? Julie now feels so proud of her shop! She's excited to tell everyone she knows about it, and even her friends and family now call it her business - not just her cute little shop.
- Tip: Make products you're truly proud of - this is half the battle when it comes to marketing yourself and making sales.
- Etsy Promoted Listings. Promoted listings can be a great strategy for getting found as a new shop. Some tips to remember: If you're able to get clicks, favorites, and sales on a promoted listing, that extra SEO bump absolutely transfers over into that listing even when it's not promoted. You will see an improvement in your search engine rankings if your promoted listing does well.
- Promoted Listings Tip 2: Etsy seems to favor the more expensive listings - giving them more views and exposure overall. The theory: Etsy stands to make a lot more off of each sale when a more expensive item is sold. So consider choosing your most expensive listings to promote.
- Promoted Listings Tip 3: If you have an item that is performing well as a promoted listing, you can often bid a super low amount (3 cents per click) and Etsy will continue to promote that listing. Again, if they know your listing will sell much better than someone else's, they have no problem taking your 3 cents per click because they will still make a better profit overall.
- Promoted Listings Set-up: You can choose your maximum budget per day, and choose as low as $1.00 per day. Then, you get to decide which listings you'll promote. My recommendation is to promote just a few listings at a time so you can monitor what's working as well as push a few listings to the top of search results versus spreading yourself too thin. Then, you decide how much you're willing to pay per click for that listing. You can go with Etsy's recommendation (auto-bid) or you can choose your own bid amount - and that can be either higher or lower than Etsy's recommendation. One caveat: if you set a high bid and a low budget amount, you may run out of your budget early in the day and miss "prime-time" for buyers.
- Promoted Listings Tip 4: My benchmark for a successful promoted listing: getting at least 1 click for every 50 impressions of a promoted listings. But if your listing only gets 1 click per every 200 impressions, then that product photo may need some work - you're not generating enough interest in that product.
- Promoted Listings Tip 5: Promoted Listings is a great way to test which search terms are most effective for reaching your ideal customer. Etsy will show you which of your terms have high click-through rates.
- Promoted Listings Tip 6: You still have to be diligent with your titles, description, and tags
- Crochet vs. Knit: In Julie's experience, tagging your items as "crocheted" often attracts other crocheters looking for new ideas versus a customer whose ready to buy. Julie finds that tagging her items as hand-knit is a much better choice for attracting her ideal customer.
- Main Traffic Sources: Julie is getting most of her shop traffic through Instagram and Facebook. So she's off to a good start with social media marketing.
- Facebook Parties: Julie designates an hour where she would have a party on her Facebook fan page. Julie then told a few of her friends about the party and asked them to spread the word. She offered everybody who participated a 10% off coupon for her store, but told them that one person would win the grand prize.
- Facebook Party Part 2: Every 5-10 minutes there was a new game on Julie's page that you could participate in. For each question a participant answered, they received "party bucks". The person who received the most party bucks won the grand prize at the end. 30 minutes into the party, many new people were involved because Julie's posts were getting so much interaction that they were showing up in new people's feeds. Julie received a lot of traffic from the party and several sales as well.
- Instagram Loop Giveaways: Julie could consider a loop giveaway on Instagram where she gives away shop credit instead of a finished product. In this way, Julie isn't out the entire cost and labor of a product, but rather, could gain a new customer for her shop along with many new followers.
- What to do about Etsy's purchase limits: Etsy doesn't let you give a straight "gift certificate" to your shop. If you offer a coupon for $25 off in your shop, the customer has to purchase 105% of that price in order for the coupon to work. To get around this, just let the customer know about this rule, and you can refund
- Pinterest Group Boards for Etsy Sellers: We're part of several, and you can check out our account here. Amy Gabriel of GabrielsGoodTidings is also part of several great group boards for Etsy Sellers.
- Etsy Traffic Lab, Etsy's Elite, Pinterest Mini-Mall Viral Board.
- How to track Pinterest sales: Use a special coupon code just for your pins to try to track sales. For example, you can state in your pin description, "use the coupon code PIN10 for 10% off your purchase"
- If ViralTag is too expensive, BoardBooster is another option to automatically schedule listings and pins to great group boards.
- Consider Seasonal Boards: When you're really active on Pinterest and you're a great curator, other pinners start to take notice and follow you. Some ideas for Julie: gift ideas for her, handmade gift ideas, winter fashion, and many other topical boards where Julie's products would make a great fit.
- Use vertical photos on Pinterest. You can take your own vertical photo, upload it, and still link that photo to the listing it corresponds to in your Etsy shop.
- Consider pitching to bloggers to be included in their gift guides. Don't forget to follow up 10 days later. Bloggers are busy and can very easily miss your email! Beth Anne writes a conversational email, compliments the blogger or influencer, and then she always includes a positive, confident note at the end such as: "looking forward to working with you!" or "looking forward to chatting soon!" and this subtly suggests that a partnership is going to happen.
- Guest posting: Julie could use her expertise to drive more traffic to her shop. She could teach on why it's important to use high-quality fibers in knit-wear, or why it's important to support small business, or what her business means to her and her family.
- Landing a guest post on the Etsy blog: Beth Anne reached out to Julie Schneider, the editor in chief of the Etsy blog. She initially messaged Julie with a pitch, but an autoresponder came back that linked to an official form to fill out. The form asked for writing samples, specific pitches, and my experience as an Etsy seller. Beth Anne also tied her pitch into past articles to show that she truly knew the blog content well and knew how best to serve that audience. Be specific with your pitch and don't try to cover too much in any given post. Etsy keeps their blog posts relatively basic and short.
- Email opt-in idea: Create a style guide for customers to show them how to wear bright colors in winter. Julie plans to pair her products with other beautiful fashion items - the same way StitchFix sends outfit inspiration with each fix.
- AllThisWood: this shop is a great resource for sellers who want branding on their items. Their wooden tags are perfect for making it through the wash unscathed and making sure each and every happy customer knows exactly where they found you.
- Influencers: We tried to think of a celebrity who would use Julie's adorable coffee cozy and could provide free advertising for her. Julie thought she could drop off some cozies at a cool, hipster coffee shop that her husband does graphic design for.
- Influencer Idea #2: Consider reaching out to Periscope Influencers. There are many influencers who are super positive and would love to hold a coffee with Julie's positive cozies wrapped around them. Don't just send the cozy, but suggest how you would like them to use it "I'd love to see you using my cozy on Periscope." Set up a profile on Periscope so it's really easy for a scoper to point people back to Julie - and her profile could link right to her shop.
- Julie's genius strategy for pricing her products: she weighs her item after she makes it! So in this way, she knows whether it was 3/4th of a skein, etc. and calculates out the exact price of materials that way. Then Julie times herself to know how much her production cost. The other brilliant tip Julie shared? Thicker yarn means that each stitch covers way more space and the labor is far less.
Don't forget to check out Julie's adorable items: Tokyo Blossom on Etsy
Nov 09 2015
Rank #5: 151: Developing and Manufacturing a Product from Start to Finish
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 Iteration9:50 - Finding The Right Designer14:18 - Be An Expert In Your Niche17:54 - Your Minimum Viable Product24:03 - Improving On Your Product26:10 - Finding a Factory31:00 - Ordering Samples33:30 - Taking Presales (with Kickstarter)35:41 - Delivery Dates37:34 - If You’re Having Trouble Finding A Factory44:11 - Clearing Customs52:14 - 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.
Apr 03 2017
Rank #6: 197: How One Mom Used a Facebook Ads Tripwire Funnel to Build Her New Blog Business to 10k/Month in Sales
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.
Sep 04 2019
Rank #7: 115: How to Partner with Influencers on Instagram to Market your Business
Have we told you lately that we're obsessed with Blab? It's true! Blab is a live-streaming video platform that allows for up to four people to chat on video at once. This past week, we Blabbed with Mei Pak of Tiny Hands Jewelry & Creative Hive Co. and Cheri Tracy of Orglamix Cosmetics. Both women have partnered with influencers on Instagram multiple times to grow their following, their email lists, and ultimately gain more loyal customers and sales.
Press play on the podcast player below to hear the (slightly edited) version of the chat we had. Or, if you'd like to see the whole thing uncut, you can play the Blab video player at the bottom of the notes.
Mei Pak is a serial entrepreneur who started Tiny Hands Jewelry, a handmade scented food jewelry business in 2006. She now teaches other creative entrepreneurs about business at Creative Hive Co. Cheri Tracy sells colorful, cruelty-free cosmetics at Orglamix.com.Growing an Instagram Following
Mei confessed that she grew her jewelry business account on Instagram from 0-1000 followers by buying those followers. She doesn't recommend doing this after having done it herself! It helped build up credibility early on but those followers were fake and unengaged. Mei started a second Instagram account for her newer business @creativehiveco For her new account, Mei has collected a list of hashtags that she knows her ideal customer is using. For every 50-70 likes she gives out to potential customers, a small portion will notice her, head to her profile, and if they like what she's doing, they'll follow her. Mei has 3500 Instagram followers for her @creativehiveco account that is only 3 months old! Mei doesn't follow people unless she finds really great stuff from them, but instead she likes and comments on others' photos to get them to take notice.
Cheri has primarily reached out to influencers to grow her Instagram account. She's reached out to accounts with 1500 followers all the way up to 100,000 followers. Cheri's Orglamix account is about to hit 10,000 followers as of October 2015.
Early on, Cheri also pushed her new Instagram account everywhere. She told her email list. She told her fans on Facebook. She connected with bigger names in her industry on Instagram to get noticed.
Pay attention to the time you post and how it performs. Cheri does a morning post, a lunchtime post, and an evening post around 8 PM. Her night-time posts get the most interaction.
Other ideas for growth: Loop Giveaways, or reaching out to accounts that feature handmade sellers.
Beth Anne has grown the @brilliantbizmom account to 2100 followers as of October 2015. She found relevant hashtags in her niche and liked and commented on recent photos. Then she would also find newer accounts interested in blogging or handmade business and like their photos along with following that account. Iconosquare helps her to unfollow the users who aren't following you back. Her current strategy is to post every day and use relevant hashtags in the first comment. (You can post up to 30 hashtags in one comment.)How an Influencer Can Make an Impact
Mei started off with a great example of just how effective a partnership with an influencer can be. She found an influencer on Instagram one day who had a style and fashion sense matched hers perfectly. This woman was a musician on The Voice. Mei found her email address, introduced herself, told her she loved her style, told her about her jewelry, and offered to send some as gifts for her and her friends and family.
The email landed in the singer's publicist's inbox. The publicist relayed the information, and the woman chose several pieces that she really wanted. This woman then took a photo of all the jewelry laid out on the table and tagged her, and within 48 hours Mei had 2,000 new followers on Instagram.
Mei wants to note that these followers are completely different from paid followers. These are people who saw the photo of her products, genuinely liked them, and took the time to check Mei and her business out and choose to follow her. These are potential customers for Mei that she can build a relationship with.How to Reach Out to Influencers
Cheri sends a direct message on Instagram to an influencer she wants to work with, and about 8 times out of 10, she receives a positive response back.
Whether the influencer wants free product, a gift card, or cash depends on the person and the size of their account.Details to Consider
Use specific hashtags when working with an influencer (to draw in more viewers to the post) and specify the amount of time the post is going to stay up. Cheri thought her sponsored posts would stay up indefinitely, but then a larger influencer told her it would be $100 for 5 hours. So you have to specify whether the post will be up permanently or for a certain time-frame. Once a post is deleted, the hashtags and its ability to be found all disappear.Do you ever send a cold package to Influencers?
Mei has heard of a brand who makes high-end chocolates. If they truly believe the person they're planning to send something to will love their products, and they can't get in touch with them via email or social media, they will go ahead and send out a blind product and that has worked for them.
For Mei, however, she always sends a pitch first to ask for their permission, and then they get to decide which of Mei's pieces they would like the best. Mei says of sending cold packages, "don't be afraid to do that with people who you think will fall in love with your stuff."
Mei is dying to get in touch with Ree Drummond of the Pioneer Woman. We all had ideas for sending the perfect care package to her!What should you say when you pitch an Influencer?
Cheri keeps her pitches really short and sweet, 3-5 sentences, and includes her email address if they'd prefer to get back to her that way versus Instagram direct messages.
Cheri will always find a connection or compliment she can give where she mentions a blog post she loved or an Instagram post she connected with. This lets them know she's a real person and genuinely likes what they do.
Focus on what you can do for them and their customer base and not what they can do for you. For example, Cheri can focus on someone who is an advocate for cruelty-free products.
Mei had several tips to share too:
Don't make the pitch feel like a favor. Make it all about them.
Don't be formal with your greeting. Don't say Hi Ms. So-and-so. That feels spammy. Call the influencer by their first name.
Mei keeps her pitches at 10 lines max.
Don't just read their latest blog post. You have to do your research. They will sniff you out if all you did was read the first post.
Mei also recommends including a P.S. note at the bottom of your emails, because people tend to read and pay attention to that P.S. note!
Mei reached out to an editor of Girl's Life magazine, and that editor had mentioned a band she liked. Mei was able to include a P.S. that she loved this band too and went to college with them!Do Instagram Direct Messages Work?
Does an Influencer have to be following you in order to see your messages? No. You can direct message any account that you personally follow.
Whatever you would say in an email, Cheri sends in a direct message. She gets responses almost immediately for many of her pitches.
Cheri sent a message to Sue B. Zimmerman (the Instagram Expert) the other week and she received a response back within 5 minutes!
Most influencers get back to Cheri within 24 hours, and about 8 out of 10 pitches get back to her with a response. Cheri believes this response rate is much higher than if she were to email them. People who are on Instagram are really active and they're on there all the time. And direct messaging is still under-utilized so it's a quick win right now.
Note: If someone isn't following you on Instagram, your message will show up as a notification at the top of their inbox. The person receiving the message can click the notification and choose to allow messages from that person or not allow. So as long as they allow the message to come through, you're good! And either way, they should see that notification right at the top of their inbox.How to Identify Influencers to Work with
Mei looks for as large a following as possible, but she also looks for great engagement. Her general rule of thumb is to have 5% or more engagement on each posts. For example, an account with 1,000 followers should have 50-100 likes or comments with each post.
If you have a list of hashtags that you know your customers are using, you can see the top 9 most popular posts for that hashtag. Chances are one of the top 9 photos was posted by an Influencer in your niche.
Finding the right Influencers involves some elbow grease. As you explore Instagram and interact, you'll run across Influencers and you can write them down and keep track of them on a spreadsheet.
Cheri also looks for accounts that have high engagement. She searches for relevant hashtags as well and keeps a running list of her favorites.How to Weigh Follower Counts versus Engagement
Although 5% engagement might be hard to find, it tends to be way more worth it for Mei to find those accounts to work with versus just finding the biggest possible account.
Cheri agrees that she tends to get better results with smaller accounts because they tend to be more engaged.
In addition, larger accounts often require a cash payment of $250 or more, versus a smaller account who may accept a free product or a gift card.
When Cheri first started working with influencers she would provide the photos or they'd take one off of her website, but she's seen way better results with lifestyle shots - even if the influencer just shares the package they received. Natural shots right from the influencer perform much better than a generic photo from your site.
Mei says it's not impossible for influencers to use photos from your website. A lot of larger influencers charge more if you use their photo and less if they take their own photo (they got a free product from you.)How much does it cost to work with an Influencer?
Cheri says that larger accounts look for a cash incentive. She's found prices anywhere from $10 up to $5,000 for a post that would stay up for 5 hours. (That account had about 300,000 followers at the time!)
Cheri always starts by offering free product of the influencer's choice, then she'll offer a $50 or $100 gift card. But many influencers just want cash. Cheri has found prices to be about $50-100 per 50,000 followers.
If a private account has representation, they may have rates posted. But Cheri has found that everything is negotiable.
Mei also stressed the importance of negotiating: "Just because we're women doesn't mean we have to always play by the rules," she says.
Mei always chooses to send free product first. Next, she chooses to pay for features where it's anywhere from $40 to $200 with discounts for multiple features, and extra fees to also do a giveaway or keep the post up forever. At $300 you're normally getting a "package" of posts and benefits.
Another option: Working with feature accounts. These are accounts on Instagram that only post photos from other people's accounts within a very specific niche (such as planners, handmade items, skateboarding, you name it!). You don't know who they are or where they're located, but some of them get great engagement with their followers within their niche.Tips for Streamlining on Instagram
Mei hired a Virtual Assistant who re-posts much of Mei's old content on Instagram. This system works because Mei's time is limited, but her engagement has gone down a bit as a result. She used to get over 1,000 likes with just 10,000 followers because she was posting fresh content and it was posted by her - the maker. Mei now gets 600-900 likes on a photo, and her account has over 20,000 followers. Mei tends to push posts from Facebook over to Instagram.
Hiring a virtual assistant for her main business Instagram account also has another added benefit: Mei gets to avoid the drama that can happen there. (Apparently heated words were exchanged over a bacon necklace...made with clay, not real bacon.)
Cheri pushes posts from Instagram over to Facebook to populate her page more often. Facebook and Instagram work well together because you can use a square photo on each so you don't have to edit and re-size.
In general, both ladies (along with us!) found that the followers they have on Instagram aren't usually the same people who follow them on Facebook. You're reaching a new audience when you grow on Instagram.How to Track Sales from Instagram
Cheri uses a bit.ly link in her profile that is linked to a landing page on her site. Her goal with Instagram is not necessarily to get direct sales but to gain email subscribers. Cheri knows the lifetime value of a subscriber so she can track how well sponsored campaigns are working based on how many new subscribers she may get on a certain day when a campaign is live.
Cheri also recommends doing a featured post in combination with a giveaway because your engagement will be much higher. In addition, you can offer a custom discount code to that community and this will allow you to track the success of that feature based on how many customers use that code.
Mei recently moved over to Shopify, but before that she used a self-hosted e-commerce platform. She asked each customer how they found out about her. The majority of her customers came from Facebook, with Instagram coming in at a close second. So even though Mei couldn't directly track Instagram sales she could easily tell that many of her customers were coming from the platform.
Mei reminded us that there are many marketing strategies that you can't directly track - for example, giving out business cards at a craft show or a friend telling another friend about your shop.
There's another barrier to marketing on Instagram - you only have one clickable link which is in your profile. However, Mei says you can counter this resistance by selling directly on the platform. You can ask followers to comment with their Paypal email address to purchase an item and be invoiced via Paypal. Beth Newitt has successfully done this as well.
Spreesy.com allows you to bring your entire shop over to your Instagram profile, and you can do this on Facebook as well. It counters the barrier of only having one link to click on.
Link your Spreesy account to Instagram or Facebook and when someone comments with their paypal email address to purchase the product, you don't have to manually send them an invoice, spreesy just automatically sends the invoice to them and tells them how to check out. You're meeting people where they're already hanging out and not forcing them to leave a social media platform.
With Spreesy, people can subscribe to any new product that you're adding to your Instagram profile as well so they'll be notified when you come out with new items.Other Resources
Check out Jill from Rustic Cuff's interview where she shared how she sends her products to Influencers for publicity and exposure.
A few Instagram accounts who feature handmade products that might be worth checking out. For many of these accounts, a feature that stays up forever costs just $25.
Cheri Tracy: Orglamix.com
@Orglamix on Instagram
Mei Pak: CreativeHiveCo.com
Oct 27 2015
Rank #8: 181: Bring More Enjoyment to Life Through Boundaries
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.
Dec 11 2017
Rank #9: 119: How to Grow a Printables Shop on Etsy with Sarah Gilcher
On today’s episode we welcome Sarah Gilcher of the very successful Etsy shop, Perennial Planner.Sarah lives in Washington State with her husband and three daughters. She creates printable organizational tools and planners and actually took our ideas and inspiration and brought them to life with her work on the Brilliant Business Planner! Sarah has been such a wonderful part of our Brilliant Business Moms community since it first began. She's kind, brilliant, and crazy talented!On the Podcast
01:28 - Sarah's Top Priorities03:17 - Sarah's Start on Etsy05:37 - Self-Taught Designer07:31 - Finding her Niche11:34 - 3,000 Sales in 1 Year's Work!13:31 - How to Make a PDF Editable15:41 - Building a Lifestyle Business17:18 - How Sarah's Business Helps her Family18:56 - Two Streams of Income27:15 - To Blog or not to Blog?31:44 - 3 Kids + a Successful Shop: How She Does It36:50 - The Power of Video for Business41:56 - Sarah's Terrifying Mom Moment!Sarah's Top Priorities
Sarah is a stay at home mom to three little girls who are 6, 4, and 13 months old. Her husband is a pastorand spends a lot of time learning new languages and training new pastors. Sarah's main priorities are as a wife, mom, and helper in so many ways to her husband. She helps with his ministry, and she also has the privilege of helping to bring in an extra income for their family.Sarah's Start on Etsy
Sarah’s journey with Etsy began when she was searching for a specific printable grocery list. When she couldn't find exactly what she wanted, she decided to open up Adobe Illustrator and create one herself! Sarahthen realized that she could make her printable cute and share it with other moms who may be looking for the same thing.
Sarah was excited about helping women with organizational tools that were attractiveand that moms would actually want to use. Another early item in Sarah's shop was a spreadsheet she and her family had used to get themselves out of debt. Clearly, Sarah's organizational sheets were helpful! All she did was make them prettier, and they were ready for Etsy success.Self-Taught Designer
Sarah has a degree in Fine Art, but she's a self-taught graphic designer. In doing projects for her church,friends, and for herself, Sarah slowly learned programs like Adobe Illustrator and In Design over the course of several years. Now she can create beautiful printables and planners like it's nothing! (Seriously - Sarah works fast!)Finding Her Niche
Business was very slow when Sarah was started out with her printables Etsy shop. Since she was pregnantwith her 3rd baby, Sarah became interested in the idea of sewing and selling baby products in a brand new shop. She knew that baby products were a wildly successful niche on Etsy and wanted a piece of that pie. Through this process of trying to build up her second Etsy shop, Sarah spent a lot of time learning how to grow her store.
She listened to podcasts like Brilliant Business Moms and took the advice of other successful Etsy sellers. Sarah then applied the lessons she learned to both Etsy shops and found that her original printable store was seeing lots of growth.
Since product creation is so much more time consuming than selling digital products, and since her digital store was seeing more growth, Sarah ditched the baby shop and focused on her original idea. She rebranded the shop and officially become Perennial Planner. After about a year of focused work, Sarah's shop has surpassed 3000 sales!3,000 Sales in 1 Year's Work
Sarah has attributed a lot of her success to listening to the Brilliant Business Moms podcast! (aww shucks, thanks Sarah!) She found that listening to stories of other successful business owners has been a huge help for her.
Once Sarah started seeing her Etsy shop as a real business, success followed. Sarah shared two great tips that helped her to grow:
- Focus on keywords, titles, and tags for each listing to get found more often via Etsy search.
- Brand product photos so that your online shop looks more cohesive. This gives the customer a similar feeling as if they were stepping inside a physical shop. Set the right tone for your customers.
A lot of Sarah’s printables are actually editable forms so customers can use them right on their computers.
To Make a PDF Editable:
- Use Adobe Acrobat Pro (this is a part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Subscription).
- Find “tools” on the top menu.
- Select “Forms”, then “Edit”, and “Add New Fields”. This will allow you to create editable fields for your customers built right into your digital products.
- Note: you cannot copy and paste your fields throughout the document to add more than one editable filed. Instead, select “Create Multiple Copies” to speed up the process.
- You will also be able to give fields multiple lines and make them rich text enabled so customers can change the size and fonts of the text.
How cool is that?!Building a Lifestyle Business
Sarah's top priority is her family and her faith. She knew she needed a flexible schedule, and she quickly realized that she didn't want to create and ship physical products day after day.
Creating beautiful and helpful digital products has been the perfect solution for Sarah. The best part? She can create a product once and sell it over and over again... even while she sleeps!How Sarah's Business Helps her Family
Perennial Planner has provided Sarah’s family with more financial freedom. Since she has little to no overhead she is able to bring home more profits, and that money has helped cover the “extras” for her family. Sarah and her family live a Dave Ramsey lifestyle with no debt. Although her husband provides the primary income, her Etsy shop has worked to cover extra expenses and provide more security.Occasionally Sarah does struggle with the idea that she is bringing in extra money and struggles with the mentality, "oh the business will cover that!" versus remembering to be intentional with how she spends and what the family's big goals are.Two Income Streams
Sarah loves doing whatever she can to help busy moms by providing them with the organizational tools they need. Often customers’ needs are slightly different from her product so she offers customization. This is hard to balance with the overall business because custom work in any business can be very time consuming. Sarah counters this struggle with requiring a minimum amount for custom products so that each order is worth the time she puts in.
On top of doing custom orders for her Etsy shop, Sarah enjoys taking on freelance projects. This provides another great stream of income for her business, and it keeps her income balanced and weatherproof during a slow season on Etsy.
In the past, Sarah has done work for local businesses but lately she is getting more referrals from her shop and past customers.
One of Sarah’s biggest freelance jobs so far has been designing the Brilliant Business Planner! She landed this job by seeing a need for her service and reaching out to Sarah and Beth Anne. This is a great lesson for any entrepreneur -- it never hurts to ask. The worst thing that can happen is that someone says no, but on the flip side you could land a great job and a great partnership!
Sarah really enjoys these larger projects and they work out well to balance out the times when her Etsy shop slows down during the year. (We've certainly loved working with Sarah and hope to keep her busy for years to come!)To Blog or Not to Blog?
As with many other Etsy sellers Sarah has struggled with blogging to promote her shop. Blogging takes time and commitment, and it's often too much to add on to an already busy shop!
Recently, Sarah did a post on how to print her products double sided. She plans to focus more on helpful, instructional type videos that will serve her current customers. She can link to these videos within the listing descriptions in her shop.
Videos are a great tool for serving current customers better as well as gaining trust and credibility with new shoppers. Sarah and Beth Anne created a video about how to build a butterfly terrarium and that video has sold more products as well as ranked well on Google for some competitive keyword phrases in their niche! (And isn't Sarah's little girl Lilly adorable?)
Your videos don’t have to be perfect or even posted on your own website, just get them posted to your YouTube channel and out in front of an audience!3 Kids + a Successful Shop: How She Does It
Building a successful business can take a bit time commitment, but Sarah proves that you can do it with just a few hours a week. Sarah only works 10-15 hours each week and balances this time between afternoons (during naptime) and nights (if her husband is working).
A great tip Sarah shared was to encourage independence in smaller children so they can be playing alone and entertained at least for a short time while you do some work. Sarah has been able to achieve her goal of making a part-time income on her own terms with lots of flexibility. Although she tries to continually create new products, she knows that her business was built to allow for flexibility and put her family first. So Sarah doesn't stress if she can't add new products for a while. Her business works for her - not the other way around!
Sometimes when you're working as your own boss it's easy to set crazy deadlines or hours for yourself without realizing it. Step back, know your limits and ask yourself if you and your family are thriving. It can take a long time to learn how you work best but it is so important so you can set up your time and your business for success.The Power of Video for Business
Many online business owners don't realize how powerful video can be for their business. Not only does it let you connect with your audience on a deeper level and teach things that are difficult to convey with words on a screen, but video also makes it easier to rank in Google (as well as get found on YouTube of course!)
The video that Sarah and Beth Anne created on how to build a butterfly terrarium has 967 views! This video has had zero promotion and only one “dead link” included in the listing descriptions in their Etsy shop.
Another surprising video result: Beth Anne found a tutorial video she created for her and Sarah's now-defunct Mommy blog on making cappuccinos at home with a frother. That video has almost 5,000 views on it! Again, this video wasn't promoted in any way, it just sits on their Mommy blog which gets about 10-20 hits per day... so it's essentially dead. The video is getting viewed because it's ranking for keyword phrases on Google and YouTube.
These statistics just show how powerful video can be. You could use video views to send people to an Etsy shop or blog. How can you use video to drive more traffic and sales your way?
If you're nervous about starting out on video, Meredith Marsh, the VidProMom has you covered with these great tips for newbies.Sarah's Terrifying Mom Moment!
Sarah's mom moment is both funny and terrifying!! You'll have to tune in to hear the story!Find Sarah Online!
Watch Sarah's adorable little girls in our planner landing page video! (They're the ones talking about Pinterest strategy!)
Don't forget to join in on our book club for Money Making Mom by Crystal Paine. You can find the schedule here.
Nov 10 2015
Rank #10: 163: Growing a Purposeful Product Business with Brea Albulov
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.Listen Now
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!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Facebook: Hope CarriedNow it's your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!
Jul 10 2017
Rank #11: 137: Big News for Brilliant Business Moms
Mar 03 2016
Rank #12: 166: How to Use Facebook Ads as an Etsy Seller
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!”
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.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!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.
(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!
Aug 10 2017
Rank #13: 154: Creating an Online Course and Learning through Experimenting with Becky Kopitzke
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.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 MomentBecky’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
Apr 24 2017
Rank #14: 134: Do you have to be obnoxious to make it online? Hear what mom blogger Laurie Hise has to say!
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 Laurie02:07 - Mom On A Mission04:20 - Many Blogs Fail - What's Laurie's Secret?05:30 - Why Laurie dislikes "Success Stories"06:29 - Why Comfort Zones are Bad for Readers08:09 - Solve a Problem? Build a Business!09:38 - Can Low Expectations be a Good Thing?12:00 - Free Ideas for Driving Traffic14:50 - Does your Business have a Magic Word?16:33 - An Insane Commitment to Facebook18:18 - How Laurie Wins with Facebook20:38 - Scheduling Facebook Content22:50 - Laurie's Strategy for Repeat Posts24:25 - Using Facebook Groups25:10 - The Handiest Facebook Tip We’ve Ever Heard36:00 - 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
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.
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 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.)
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:
- report post
- save link
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:
- save link
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
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!
Feb 09 2016
Rank #15: 184: How a Single Mom Makes a Full-Time Living with her Shopify Store
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
Apr 03 2019
Rank #16: 164: Can it be DONE??? Mother and businesswoman???
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.
Jul 19 2017
Rank #17: 149: From Backyard Business to 7-Figure Success with Stacy Tuschl
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 EventBuilding 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
Mar 20 2017
Rank #18: 173: An Etsy Shop Owner's Planner Hacks for Productivity
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:
- Meet customers
- Listen to them
- Serve their needs
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.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!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
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!
Oct 16 2017
Rank #19: 179: 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.
*Amazon affiliate link.Stay in Touch With Anne
Site: Modern Mrs. Darcy
Book: Reading People
Nov 27 2017
Rank #20: 160: Using Star Power To Grow Your Business with Sarah Shaw
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 Business10:15 - How Do You Even Get A Celebrity’s Address!?11:36 - Filling Huge Department Store Orders17:20 - Hitting $500,000 in Sales In 2 Years20:05 - Tenacity in Business24:00 - Setting Your Business Revenue Goals28:30 - Getting Your Products in Front of Celebrities37:00 - Leveraging Self-Confidence40:28 - Sarah's Adorable Mommy MomentLaunching 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:
- 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!
- Be clear about why you’re getting your particular product or service to THAT particular celeb.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Follow up with the agent or publicists to ensure that the celebrity has received your product.
- 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.”
- 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.)
- 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!
- 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.
- 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
Jun 12 2017