Friday, November 30, 2007

Good bye, adios, au revoir

Today is my final day with Robeez. And my final blog post. It’s been very rewarding to hear each of your stories and offer insight where I can. I will leave this blog as an archive for future reference that you can come back to as your businesses grow and change over time.

Although this is the end of an era for me and I’m feeling sad, I’m looking forward to a nice, quiet time over the holidays with family and friends. But I guess life with a 15-year-old can only be so quiet!

I wish each of you the best with your businesses and hope that you find the experience as rewarding as I have.

Sandra Wilson

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Using tradeshows to find a sales rep

April is planning to attend her first tradeshow, Magic, this spring. If the event is a success, she wants to find a sales rep to help build distribution. Her question: Do I scout out the LA Mart and other large cities with this type of exposure or is there another way?

To find a sales rep, I have a single word of advice: network. (Well, actually I’ll say a little more!) I recommend using this tradeshow as an opportunity to speak with buyers, exhibitors, and sales reps to find the right person.

  • Store owners – Ask store owners or buyers for the names of sales reps who they have a great relationship with.
  • Exhibitors – Speak with other tradeshow exhibitors for recommendations. They may also be able to fill you in on who not to use.
  • Sales reps – Sometimes sales reps will walk right into your booth interested in selling your product.
  • Trade magazine listings – Many trade magazines have work opportunities posted at the back of the magazine. Look at the publication that is most appropriate for your industry and place an ad.
  • Customers – Something we experienced with Robeez: people who love your product can do a great job of selling it. Many of Robeez early reps were moms and grandmas who loved the shoes and wanted to bring them to their home market.
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Research and forecasting

Angelique is in the idea stage of her baby business. She has an idea for a stroller accessory and would like to determine the scope of sales potential.

When looking at market research, there is always a wide-range of options; from the Cadillac version all the way to build-it-yourself. When starting your company, the expense of such comprehensive research does not equal the return. I would recommend looking at your home market as a starting point. If you’re marketing a stroller accessory, look at the number of stores carrying strollers. What is their approximate volume? How many of your accessory do you feel could be sold for each stroller?

I also recommend speaking directly to store owners or buyers. Get their feedback. Ask them how many they think they could sell in a month. All this research will give you an approximate idea for forecasting.

Another option is to review industry stats. The Juvenile Product Manufacturers’ Association (JPMA) and various trade publications, such as Kids Today, should provide some insight into sales and distribution in the stroller market.add to sk*rt

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Testing the waters

Feedback has been a really important part of Robeez from the beginning so I’m really excited about this post. I received this email from a mom in the testing stage:
How did you find the courage to make a "go" of your product? You wrote that for the first five years, you had very little income. I have so many ideas for baby products but am afraid to fail. I've listed some of the items I've handcrafted on EBay but to no avail. When and how do you determine that your product is just not right and that's it's time to quit?

I commend you for starting here. You’ve got the right idea in mind. And with the advent of the internet, it is easier than ever to get immediate feedback on your creations.

Before jumping into my business with Robeez, I took the shoes I’d created to local retail stores and asked the store owner to carry the product on consignment. I would then go back a week later and discuss feedback with the store owner. This was a great way for me to measure interest in Robeez. And what subsequently gave me to confidence to kick start me into action.

You mention that you have a number of ideas. If this one hasn’t received the response you’re looking for, move onto another possibility.

You may also consider feedback through other sales channels, such as local retailers or consumer shows. By exploring all your opportunities, you will be able to make an informed decision about the reception of your product in the marketplace.add to sk*rt

Learn by doing

Billie is a new mom who is planning to open a children’s store in her neighborhood. She’s working on her business plan, taking an accounting course, and deciding what products to offer. But, she’s never owned a retail business so she’s nervous about starting the endeavor.

First or all, I want to say “good for you!” It definitely sounds like you’re on the right track. (Two big thumbs up for the accounting course; this is extremely important.)

Starting a new business is risky but even riskier is starting a business without experience. You say you’ve never owned a retail store but have you worked in retail? I would recommend getting some work experience in a children’s store. You can use the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the industry.

Not only can learn the basics of retail management but you get insight into margins, sell through, and vendor relationships that would be applicable to your business.

Another possibility is to pursue a mentor in the retail sector. As you’ll see from my last post, I think mentorship is one of the best ways to learn when you’re new to a business.

Best wishes!add to sk*rt

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ready to start selling?

This is a cool idea…folded plastic vases. I received an email from the creator, Jill Stern. She has gotten the vases into a few boutiques but wants to know how to get to mass merchandisers and large floral chains. Supplying the product

First of all, it’s important to figure out if you are able to supply a mass chain. If you get the contract but can’t fulfill the order, you risk losing credibility.

Find a contact

Get on the phone and find out the buyer’s name. Can you make an appointment? Send a sample and information package.

Put on your sales hat

Once you have the contact, sell your product. If you’re not comfortable with sales, finding an independent sales rep can be the best solution. There are many gift and home accessory shows where you can meet buyers face-to-face. (Here’s a great list.)

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Launching a new website

This email comes from a mom who wants to start an online store. Here’s her story: “If you Google ‘starting an online boutique’ you can imagine how much stuff comes up. I have no idea which sites are legit and which isn’t. I really just need some information on where to begin.”

Start at the beginning - What do you want to sell?

Online sales are extremely competitive. Price matching is just a few clicks away. You need to consider how your site will differentiated from the rest of the pack. What is your niche? How will your website service the market in a way no other does. Having a clear vision will keep you on track and allow you to put together a complete business plan.

Get educated - Take a course

Once you have determined what your business will be, a course at a local college can be very beneficial. You will learn the basics of web design and ecommerce and the behind-the-scenes activities such as accounting and purchasing that will be needed to make it all run smoothly. One course may not give you all the answers but it’s a great place to start. And a great place to network!

Good luck getting started.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Robeez case study

Lately, I’ve received a number of emails from moms wanting to know how to get their idea off paper and into production. I can best answer this question by sharing with you what I did.

A couple years ago Industry Canada did a case study on Robeez. This is a very detailed document and contains some valuable information about how I got started. I think it will be useful to many of you that are just getting started. Have a look at the case study.

One of the mom’s emails also asked specifically about patents. She states, “Almost a year ago I had an appointment with a patent lawyer to discuss and idea I had to improve baby bottles. He relayed all the steps I would have to take and the fees I would endure. This of course scared me off. I am thinking of just producing a small lot of bottles and trying to distribute them.”

First of all, this is what patent lawyers do. It may have scared you off but at least now you have a complete understanding of what is involved. Second, manufacturing a prototype or small production run may just be the place to start. This allows you to do some market research. Talk to moms who will give you honest feedback. Talk to store owners who you would like to carry your product and see if they feel it is a viable business idea. Armed with their feedback, you can make an educated decision about whether to take the chance and move forward with your business.

Thanks to Rochelle, Jennifer & Karen for their questions.add to sk*rt

The power of mentoring

I love reading emails from moms who have loved Robeez from the start! Thank you to Karen from Toronto for her recent email. Here’s a quick run down on Karen’s business: She has worked out the start of her business plan but needs to find someone with expertise in injection-molded plastics. In short, she’s looking for a mentor.

Benefits of a mentor for me

As a new entrepreneur, having a mentor can be extremely beneficial. I had a mentor from the very early days of Robeez. Now, I spend a few hours each month mentoring new entrepreneurs to pass on what I’ve learned.

  • Been there, done that – A mentor can be great to discuss long-term business plans. They have the experience of their successes and challenges and can help guide you in the right direction so that you don’t have to learn everything from scratch.
  • “Am I crazy?” – Sometimes you just need some feedback. You have a new opportunity that initially sounds like a winner but you can see potential for disaster. A mentor can be that person that you call just to bounce ideas off of and ask, “Am I crazy?”
  • Staying on track – With a new business, it’s easy to get very wrapped up in the day-to-day details. But it’s important to take the time to focus on what’s driving your business’ growth, which in the early days is revenue. A mentor can help keep you accountable.

What to look for in a mentor

  • It’s important to find someone that you are comfortable talking with. Your personalities need to click for the relationship to be successful.
  • For most mompreneurs, the best mentor will have a broad range of experience in business, entrepreneurship, and success balancing work and life.
  • Your mentor doesn’t necessarily need to have a background in your industry. Most business concepts can be carried over from industry to industry. However if you can find a mentor who has grown a business similar to yours, all the better!
  • You need someone who won’t let you off easy. If your mentor always thinks everything is “great”, they could be doing you a disservice. By challenging ideas or decisions where appropriate, a good mentor can help you think outside the box.

How to find a mentor

  • First and foremost, just ask. You’d be surprised how willing business people are to share their experiences. I don’t believe in sitting at the sidelines. If you really want to work with someone specific, make a phone call and ASK!
  • Look into mentorship matching programs. I work with the FWE (Forum for Women Entrepreneurs) where I have been matched with the founders of a children’s apparel company. The FWE works specifically in the Vancouver area but there are local business groups in each region with entrepreneurship programs. Google “mentoring” and you find thousands of results.
  • Check with local government agencies. The Government of Canada site has a great network of information, articles, and resources for business. Here’s a specific article on resources for finding a mentor.
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

This mom is calling it a day (for now)

Many of you who know me, know that this past year since the sale of Robeez has been bittersweet. When Stride Rite purchased Robeez, I agreed to stay on for a year to see everyone through the transition. And now 15 months later, my time with Robeez is coming to a close. I’m looking forward to a break, to spend time with my husband and son and family and friends. But I’m torn because Robeez is what I have known for the past thirteen years and it is very difficult to say goodbye.

As I wind down my time at Robeez, I will also wind down my blog. For those of you who have been waiting to ask questions, now is the time. I will accept questions until Monday, November 19 and then post all remaining answers before the end of the month. Write to

Thank you to everyone who has regularly read my blog. Over the next few months, I will take time to relax and explore new possibilities.add to sk*rt

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Disclosing your big idea

I received an email from a mom who attended my presentation at the Indigo Entrepreneurship Series. Angelique had the following questions:

  1. You talked a lot about getting help from other people (i.e. your pricing strategy). How do you get that help without the fear that someone is going to “steal” your idea?
  2. I’ve seen Robeez knockoffs in the marketplace. Did you consider a patent for your product?

I’ve met some entrepreneurs who were really concerned about their idea being stolen and others who want to tell everyone they meet. I have to say that I fell in the latter of these two camps. I’ve always wanted to see the best in people. When it came time to share my business idea with mentors, I gave all the details. However this also reflected the nature of my product. Apparel products are not eligible for patents. If you are very concerned about this, you could have contacts sign a non-disclosure agreement. I have signed a number of NDA’s when mentoring entrepreneurs. A non-disclosure agreement can be drafted by your lawyer.

And to answer your second question: yes, I did consider a patent however apparel products cannot be patented so I was out of luck.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Make the call or do the show?

A received a message from Leah, who attended my presentation at Indigo’s Entrepreneur Series. (She even made a sudden detour on the subway to attend at the last minute! Thank you, Leah!) With a mompreneur friend, Leah has started a line of infant and toddler clothing named Belly Babies. She says, “Happily, the response so far has been great and we are interested at this point in trying out a tradeshow. Can you recommend a good trade show, particularly in Toronto or Ontario? Would you say that this route is the best way to get into retailer stores, or would you advise cold calling?"

There are a few considerations on both sides to weigh before making this decision.

  1. Tradeshows will expose you to dozens, if not hundreds, of potential buyers. A great opportunity to make a number of sales in a short period of time.
  2. Tradeshows will put you right next door to dozens of potential competitors. Buyers are often busy and rushed and it can be difficult to keep their attention.
  3. Tradeshows can have a high price tag with money going to booth space, displays and furniture, electrical, printed materials, and more, not to mention the time and effort involved in preparing for a tradeshow.
  4. Calling on accounts gives you a quiet opportunity to discuss your product one-on-one. This can be a time-consuming process. I recommend that you start with the retailers in your local area. Speaking one-on-one with retail buyers can be a great learning experience and something you may want to do before jumping into an expensive tradeshow.

Whichever you choose, and your answer may be both, be prepared. Have your pitch, product samples, price list, and order form ready to make the sale.

The tradeshows that I have had the best experiences with in Ontario are the CGTA and the Toronto International Gift Fair.

Happy selling!

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When to use a distributor

In May, Diane Sam launched a new product MoBoleez, a breastfeeding hat. The hats are selling really well and have taken off much faster than she anticipated. But she is now getting inquiries from Japan, Singapore, Kuwait, and New Zealand from distributors wanting to represent her product line. Her question: What do I need to look for in a distributor? Am I better off just selling them through “head office,” or should I try and get distributors? If I do, how do I protect my brand, and make sure they are representing our company well? A couple of them seem like good opportunities, but what do I need to know about them before proceeding?

I also had a number of distributors contact me in the early years of Robeez. And often they seemed like a really good opportunity until we got into all the details. Overseas opportunities can be logistical nightmares. From quotas to customs to local legislation, working with an overseas distributor has the potential to suck up a lot of your time.

My advice: focus your energies on North America. If sales are picking up in Western Canada then look at distributing in the east. If sales in Canada are humming, take a look at the US market. There are loads of opportunities for distribution in both countries. And by focusing your energies on markets close-to-home, you avoid diluting your efforts worldwide.

When you do have extra capacity, you can spend time carefully researching the correct distributor for your product. You want to know how they will represent your brand, where it will be distributed, how it will be priced, and the level of service they will provide. All these elements must be in line with what MoBoleez is all about. If you do decide to work with a distributor, I recommend having a candid conversation with other brands they represent.

Congratulations on your new business!add to sk*rt

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hiring your first reps

You have developed a great product. Now how do you get it into the hands of consumers? I believe your distribution strategy can make or break a company’s success. Familiar with Robeez early sales model, Sharon sent me this email:

I am really intrigued by the model of your early sales force – that is moms and grandmas who were enthusiastic to introduce Robeez to their local markets. I am finding myself now in the position to look for a sales rep for our products. I have talked to sales reps that represent many lines, and I'm also talking to a mom who is very enthusiastic, and in a good position to introduce our products to Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

When you hired your "mom sales reps", did you pay them the same commission as multi-line sales reps (I think it's 10-15%)? Since they represent only your line, are they considered your employee or self-employed? Did you cover any expenses, such as travel, business cards, samples, etc? Were they allowed exclusivity in their areas, and if so, what conditions did they have to meet, such as sales volumes, or number of stores? And at what point do you terminate a sales rep - aside from obvious reasons such as non-performance, what happens if their market becomes saturated and they can no longer achieve their sales goals? If I had someone work hard for me for, say 5 years and helped me get to where I wanted, but now there's no new stores I wish to be in and sales volumes are at a plateau, and they don't want to leave, I don't know if I could have the heart to let someone go! Did you restructure their position within the company?

It looks like this model of sales reps worked for you when you were getting established. What were the drawbacks of this model, and what would your advice be for anyone wishing to follow?

The benefits of hiring moms to represent your baby products are obvious. They can speak genuinely about the benefits of your product from first-hand experience. The benefits of hiring established sales reps are their experience and existing contacts with retailers. Finding someone with both can be difficult. From my experience, I found moms to be the better route. Although they may not have sales experience, they make up for a lot just with enthusiasm. Multi-line reps often have a large number of products and are not able to focus a great deal of their energies on developing distribution. Here’s how we built our sales team at Robeez:

  • Commission – At Robeez, all reps earned the same commission, whether mom or multi-line.
  • Employment – Reps were self-employed, rather than hired employees.
    Expenses – Reps covered their own expenses associated with selling Robeez, however samples, print materials, and business cards were provided.
  • Exclusivity – When my first rep started with Robeez, her territory was “unofficially” North America. As time went on, we needed more reps to service the number of accounts and territories were broken down. The territory size then needed to be manageable and financially viable for the rep.
  • Termination – Along the way, I did have to let reps go who were not performing. One misconception I want to clarify: just because a territory is saturated with retail accounts, does not mean that the rep is no longer useful. Good reps call on accounts regularly to present new collections, merchandise displays, and suggest tips or tools for increasing sales in-store. They have a relationship with the store that goes well beyond getting the first order.

My advice for you as you hire your first sales rep: don’t rush. Take your time to find the right person for your line. I believe that when you meet the right person, everything will just click. Happy hiring!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Manufacturing: Do-it-yourself vs. outsourcing

Tracey sent this question recently:

Why did you decide to hire seamstresses and manufacture Robeez yourself rather than look for a shoe/leather apparel manufacturer and have them made?

Good question! When I first started Robeez, the reason I decided to coordinate manufacturing myself was to save money. There were initial start-up costs and higher price per item associated with manufacturing companies. I knew that in order to make my home business profitable, I needed to operate on a lean budget. So I purchased a leather cutting machine and cut the leather pieces in my garage. I then compiled all the notions needed to make a pair of Robeez and sent the items to home-based seamstresses. I received the sewn shoes and I would then flip the shoes, clip the threads, and package them in bags. This process was certainly labour intensive but it was far more cost-effective.

As time went on, we chose to keep the Robeez manufacturing operation in Vancouver. There were a number of reasons that guided this decision: 1) Quality. In-house production means we can keep tabs on the quality of the product distributed. 2) Turnaround time. Shoes can quickly be produced as needs, within a matter of days if necessary. 3) Lead time. When production is outsourced there are often long leads times between order and delivery.4) New designs can be introduced to the market with very short lead times.

Tracey also had a few more questions: Also, did you have to patent the design? I am being told that patenting a design in the fashion business is not possible. Nor will a NDA hold water when looking for a manufacturer and presenting them with samples. Was this your experience? I received the same advice when I explored the subject with a patent lawyer.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thanks for coming!

Thank you to everyone who attended the Indigo Entrepreneur Series. I had a chance to chat with a number of different women and hear their stories too. Since the event, I have received some great feedback and a number of questions. I will get to these questions posted as soon as possible.

In addition to the speaker series, Indigo asked me to share my favorite books on entrepreneurship. These are “Sandra’s Picks”:

  • Good to Great, Jim Collins
  • Pour Your Heart Into It, Howard Schultz
  • Let My People Go Surfing, Yvon Chouinard

There are still a few more speakers in the series. All interviews take place at Indigo Manulife Center at 7:30 pm. There are more details available on Indigo’s website.

  • September 26 – Jim Pattison
  • September 27 – Gerry Schwartz
  • October 9 – Peter Munk
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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Indigo's Entrepreneur Series

I know it’s short notice but this may be of interest to anyone living in Toronto. On Thursday, I will be speaking at Indigo’s Entrepreneur Series. The series is hosted by Indigo founder, Heather Reisman. Heather will discuss entrepreneurship with me and a series of Canadian entrepreneurs including Ted Rogers, Robert Lantos, Seymour Schulich, Jim Pattison, Gerry Schwartz, and Peter Munk. Here are the details for my date:

Date & Time: September 20th, 7:30pm

Location: Indigo Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON

Event format: Q&A with Heather followed by a short Q&A with the audience

The event is open to the public. If you’re able to come, please stop by and introduce yourself.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Characteristics of a mompreneur

I recently received an email from Rebecca, a new mom and aspiring entrepreneur. She has been interested in starting her own business for sometime now. Becoming a mom made everything click. She has a great business idea but is feeling afraid and insecure about taking the first step.

Here’s an excerpt from her email:
It is all so confusing. Apart from the initial fear and insecurities that scare you, it is the bigger picture, like this, that puts a damper on your ideas. "No materials; can't sew. Can't start a business then." The idea is then swept under the rug, and off I go making dinner. Until I get that feeling again, not to drop it.

I believe deep down, that I have a winner here. Something big and I have no idea where to begin or who to trust to share some of this information with to help me get in the right direction.

I think this a good time to reflect on what I think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. I know there are loads of moms who have a great idea but don’t know where to start. And I also know that it’s not just the practical “how-to’s” but the larger issues like confidence and fear of failure. Here are the traits that I believe can make a difference.

  • Optimistic – If you’re going to be successful, you need to believe you will be successful. An optimistic outlook will carry you through the ups – and downs – of life as an entrepreneur.
  • Charismatic – You don’t have to be the most outgoing person in the world to be an entrepreneur. But when I meet someone who lights up when they speak about their company, I know they have what it takes to sell the idea.
  • Resourceful – I believe learning is an ongoing process whether you are just starting your business or have been established for a decade. Market conditions will change, industry best practices will change. To keep up you need to find people in the know and ask questions.
  • Thick-skinned – You have to prepare yourself for the fact that not everyone will love your idea. More often than not, Robeez have been well-received but I also got a lot of “no’s” along the way.
  • Self-motivated – There will always be some tasks in your business which you prefer to do and others that you would rather pass on. There’s a lot of discipline involved in running your business.

Rebecca also had questions about manufacturing so I will cover these specifics here.

I also do not sew (never have). The idea I have in mind is not something I would necessarily be working with in my home. I would need someone else to be creating my vision. Who are these people and do they supply the materials? How does one find fabrics made of Lycra and cotton?

I can suggest a few potential solutions. The first would be to hand your idea to a product design and development company. They specialize in taking your idea and developing it for the marketplace. This is probably the best option if you are not necessarily interested in running a company. A Google or yellow pages search would be a good place to start.

If you want to be a little more hands-on, another approach is to hire a designer. A designer can take your idea and create a pattern. Using the pattern, they will develop a prototype and make adjustments from there. To find some with these skills, you could look for a local seamstress in the yellow pages.

For fabric suppliers, you’ll need to find a fabric wholesaler. They will be able to offer you a better price than local retail shops but you will likely need to purchase a certain volume to qualify. You could search online to find the best option or seek out a company using a fabric you like and find out who supplies their materials.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hire staff or add a partner

This post is for all the mompreneurs who are expanding faster than they know what do! Nicole of Westcoast Baby writes: As our business has been rapidly expanding, we need to hire staff to help out. I was wondering if you brought on family or friends as employees and how you feel about this.

Hiring family or friends can be a double-edged sword. On the plus side, you know them. You know their strengths, have a clear understanding of their skill set, and enter with a level of trust established. But on the flip side, what if they perform poorly on the job? It can be more difficult to approach your sister or best friend than it is someone you don’t have a lengthy history with. And if things don’t go well this could damage your relationship long-term.

I can tell you that I have had a positive experience regarding the involvement of family at Robeez. In 1999, my brother joined the company as one of my business partners. Later, my husband joined Robeez as a sales rep.

When hiring your first employee(s), you need to consider the skill set you require. Right now, you are probably doing a little bit of everything from developing your website to packaging boxes. Do need to hire someone that packs and ships orders so you can focus on business planning? Or do you need some help with marketing? Perhaps a freelancer would be more appropriate than an employee. Take a look at your budget and your own strengths to determine what will work best.

Beyond the skills your new employee brings to the table, their personality will also have a impact on your company. The most important thing I can say about hiring employees: take the time to find the best fit. In a fast, growing entrepreneurial company, everyone needs to be a team player. Look for someone who isn’t afraid to jump into a wide variety of projects. Early on, I had an employee who was hired for marketing and customer service but if it was a busy day in packaging and we needed to get orders out, she was back there stuffing shoes and taping boxes.

From my experience, these are the key areas to focus on when hiring your first employees are communication and values. What values are important to them? They should be similar to your own. How do they treat coworkers? How do you expect them to treat customers? It’s important that whoever you hire, they need to complement you and your partner’s personalities.

And the second half of Nicole’s comment: You had mentioned that you brought on your brother and a third party to help with Robeez growth, was this complicated? We are currently a partnership but are interested in taking on a silent third party? Any advice?

I believe you need to equate adding a partner to your business to getting married. It is essential that you have the same vision for the future. Don’t enter into an agreement lightly. Be sure to involve legal counsel and draft a shareholders agreement to ensure everyone’s interests are protected.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Crafty advice

The following question comes from Joanne, co-founder of Krafty Kidz Creations, a collection of handmade children’s craft kits. Here’s her situation:

We just started in April this year, testing the waters to see what response we would get. The response has been huge and now I'm very intimidated. We too, don't have a lot of money and resources to get our business running at a higher capacity.

I have heard there are grants for women entrepreneurs but I can't find any information on them, except from sites that want a $400 registration fee to provide the information. Do you know what grants there are or where I can find the information without paying a fee?

I’m sorry to say I haven’t heard of any grant programs. I came across this thread on the subject.

I think you are going to need to look for other avenues of financing. I know this can be intimidating at first, so I encourage you to carefully consider where you want your business to go. I’ve mentioned them before: Women’s Enterprise Centre has a fantastic set of resources for women entrepreneurs.

And her question continues below:
Also, to date we haven't been purchasing our supplies from a wholesaler but from local discount stores instead. We don't have the volume to purchase from wholesalers. We have been told there is a minimum purchase of $500-$1500 depending on the wholesaler. Do you know of a way around this minimum volume?

There are few options I can recommend here:

  • Shop around – There are likely a number of wholesalers providing craft materials in your region. I recommend contacting a number of different providers to find the products, prices, and financing that will work best for your business.
  • Appeal to their softer side – Sometimes it just takes a little more background for the wholesaler to know you are committed. Talk to them, show your product, and explain your future plans. If they’re smart about customer service and you’re close to the minimum, they’ll get you now as customers before you grow.
  • Find a partner – Network with other small businesses that need similar materials; perhaps a scrap booking company or a preschool. Partnering with another company allows you both to meet the minimums.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Starting off on the right foot

So you have a great business idea. You can see it clearly in your mind. Your gut tells you people are going to love it but you don’t know where to start. This is the point where many would-be entrepreneurs get stalled.

Here’s a recent email from an Arizona mom: I have a great idea for a soft book toy that I would like your advice on. What were your first resources in regards to the business aspect(s) of your product? What books do you recommend for someone like me? I am curious about patent, research, design, marketing, legalities, and understanding the pre-production phase by taking a look at how you achieved this?

Overwhelmed? You’re not alone. When I first started Robeez, I knew I would need to glean all the information I could in order to make the most of my business. In my opinion educating yourself is the best place to start.

  1. Entrepreneurship courses – Whether through a local college, adult education program, or online school, there are a wide range of courses available for entrepreneurs just starting out. I took a local night school course on starting a small business. Following that, I took a six-week course on entrepreneurship. These courses touched on all different components of business from sales and marketing to patents and legal issues. (These courses can be a great networking opportunity too. The instructor of my entrepreneurship course later became one of my Robeez business partners.)
  2. Network – Their products or services likely differ from yours but there are similar learnings when starting a small business, no matter the industry. I recommend two networking avenues that were successful for me: A) Business contacts – I spoke with other vendors at tradeshows, store owners, and suppliers to learn more about the industry and to get ideas for how to manage Robeez. B) Business networking group – This could take place online or in-person. Find a group that meets on a regular basis to share ideas, gain advice, and learn best practices. One of the groups, I’ve mentioned before, FWE, is a great example.
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Monday, August 13, 2007

Building your business’s reputation

In the early days of Robeez, I remember telling people about my home-based business and getting puzzled looks in return. When you first your business, especially a home-based business, you need to build credibility. And this can take time. Here’s an email from a mom facing this challenge:

So this is my dilemma: My husband and I really need some business partners but our business is an at home based business and everyone is so leery of them, thinking they are "pyramid schemes.” Any advice on how to get the word our about the business and have people take a look at it?

My first question would be: why do you feel you need another business partner? Are you looking to share the workload or find financing? If you are looking to share the workload, you may want to consider hiring someone part-time or on a contract basis. Consider your skill set (and your husband’s) to determine where you need help. For example, I had experience in financial management but not in sales. So I hired a sales rep to increase distribution of Robeez.

If you are trying to find financing, you may need to consider other options. See my post “Finding the Money to Get Started” for more on this subject. I added two partners to the Robeez business in 1999, five years after I started. The business had reached a point where I could no longer manage it by myself. (Annual revenues were around $500,000.) I had about two or three full-time employees and a handful of sales reps but I needed to share the leadership responsibilities.

It’s difficult to recommend the best way to build your business without knowing more but here are a few more general tips I’ve learned over the years:

  • Generate referrals through word of mouth – Provide happy customers with a means to refer your business such as a referral bonus or personal thank you.
  • Find a mentor in your industry who can give you support – Find a local expert in your field who can offer their advice or experiences.
  • Join a local networking group for your industry – Talking with people who are having similar experiences often provides clarity. For example, I am a member of FWE, a group for entrepreneurial women.
  • Market yourself – See everyone as a potential customer. Always present yourself in a credible way. Voicemails, emails, anything you’re consumer “touches” is a reflection on your business.

I could write a book of all the tips I have. The more specific the question, the better I can answer it. Keep on writing. And don’t worry if you don’t see your answer posted yet. I take the question in the order they are received and will respond as soon as I can.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

What to do when you’re not the expert

I am not a seamstress either so I can relate to this comment! (I think the last time I took out my sewing machine, was to make the first pairs of Robeez.)

A question from Sophia: I’m looking at clothing created for children, but my problem is that I don’t sew. I’m having a difficult time finding someone that will sew what I’m looking for. Is there anyone you could recommend or at least a direction that I can go?

I faced this same challenge in the early years of Robeez. For the first few years, we followed a cottage industry production model. Here’s how it worked: I cut the leather pieces and prepared the notions. All the pieces were then delivered to a seamstress who worked from home. Seamstresses were paid on a per piece basis. The shoes were then returned to me and I reviewed the shoes and prepared them for packaging.

There are a number of places to find seamstresses:

  • Visit a local drycleaner/alteration store for recommendations
  • Place an ad in a local newspaper
  • Poll friends and family for contacts
  • Contact a local college or design school with a fashion program

This production model worked for a number of years. As time went on, Robeez grew quickly, and we decided to bring production in-house to manage volumes and quality. Today, Robeez has over 200 leather cutters, seamstresses, and quality control coordinators working in our production facility.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Can we build it?

The next post deals with regional vs. overseas manufacturing. Here’s an email I received recently:

We need more baby products with "made in Canada" and "made in USA” labels. My question for Robeez founder: How did you manage not to move offshore? Do you credit your success partly because your product was made in Canada? Did retailers care about it or not? What would you advise to business women who (or wants to) manufacture locally?

It is rare these days to turn over a label and read “made in Canada” or “made in USA.” Overseas manufacturing is definitely a reality in today’s marketplace.

I may sound like your mother but “if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?” My mompreneur advice: don’t assume that because “everyone” is manufacturing offshore that this is the best option for your business, especially when you first start out. For Robeez, we have always maintained production of our shoes and booties in BC. Simply said, local manufacturing fit our business model and contributed to our success. We see a number of benefits to doing things this way:

  • Quick turnaround – ordering products from overseas takes months of lead time to allow for production and shipping
  • Quality control – maintaining a high level of quality is important to our customers
  • Quantity control – minimum order quantities are often required in offshore manufacturing, by sewing shoes here we can make as many or as few as we need, quickly!

I believe you need to look at your business model and the product you want to create.
There are many products that are complex, using materials that require special machinery and fixtures to produce. In these situations, offshore manufacturing is a likely choice. But for simpler products like Robeez, we chose to keep manufacturing local.

Now for the second part of the question: Did retailers care about it or not? In Canada, there are a number of boutiques that cater specifically to locally made goods. To these retailers, our made in Canada label is extremely important. But for the vast majority of retailers, the label influences rather than drives purchase decisions.

I can say that I am extremely proud to know that Robeez provides local jobs and contributes to the BC economy. There are currently over 300 people employed at our head office in Burnaby.

So the moral of today’s message? Should mompreneurs manufacture their wares overseas? It depends. Carefully look at your budget. Consider the product you are making. Consider who will sell your product. What is their order cycle? Do they order six months in advance or place an order and expect delivery next week? All these factors will impact your ultimate decision.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Finding the money to get started

The first response after my return from vacation; it feels good to be back. The next message comes from Deborah who is in the process of manufacturing her baby product and has even recently received an iparentingmedia award. (Congratulations!) Her question:

I was wondering how one goes about finding investors. Do you need to have a well-established company before an investor will even take a chance?

When I started Robeez, my start up costs were minimal. Some leather, sewing notions, a fax machine, and I was pretty much set. I used personal finances and a business line of credit to get started. As Robeez grew, we used the profits to finance the business. While this was appropriate to my business, I know many other entrepreneurs face much larger costs to get the ball rolling.

So while I may not be an expert in the area of investment, I know of a great resource for financing a new business. Women’s Enterprise Center has a document summarizing financing options. Which one will work for your business will require some research but hopefully this will give you some ideas.

Whatever solution you find for financing your business you will need to start with a clearly defined business plan. I can’t emphasize the importance of planning enough. Starting with a solid plan allows you clearly define your business goals from day one. There are a wide variety of free samples available on the internet. Get started!add to sk*rt

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Back From Safari

Robert, Jim, and I have returned from Africa. It was so refreshing to spend time together as a family. No phones, no computers, no television, no video games. Just nature; it was amazing! One of the camps we visited in Botswana was just paces away from a watering hole. I watched my teenage son sit for hours and watch animals. The warthogs, wildebeests, giraffes, and impalas that visited midday kept his attention the way video games usually do. The off-season was the perfect time to visit. Much quieter, fewer people, lots of time together as a family.

But now back to work. I’m up and running again with the blog. Please send in your question and I’m happy to answer them. A few of you wrote while I was away. I will post responses to those questions over the next couple weeks.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Helping mompreneurs do their homework

Sandra is a big believer in learning; ask questions, do your research, know your subject in and out. If you’ve stumbled across this blog, it’s likely that you’re already on the right track. While Sandra is away on vacation and unavailable to answer specific questions, I want to help make research a little easier, so I’ve pulled together some of our favourite online resources for mompreneurs.

Websites that cover various subjects of interest to mompreneurs:
Women Entrepreneur – This website is part of Entrepreneur Magazine group. It includes articles about everything from compensating your sales reps to selecting the right tradeshow.
Empower Women Now – This blog covers topics that very current; everything is clearly and thoroughly explained.
Mompreneur Center – Another great source from Entrepreneur Magazine. This section focuses specifically on topics for entrepreneurial moms.

Websites with information for entrepreneurs specific to your region:

If you have a favourite mompreneur resource to share, please write a comment.
Kellyadd to sk*rt

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Some interesting reads for mompreneurs

I have some very big shoes to fill while Sandra is away on vacation. While I’m not going to dispense advice myself, I thought it would be helpful to reference some previous articles published about Robeez and Sandra. Each article addresses Sandra’s experiences from a different perspective and provides insight for inquiring mompreneurs.

Q & A – Sandra Wilson, Visionary behind Robeez, published in The Mompreneur, June 2007
By Kathryn Bechthold

An empire built on heart and sole, published in Women’s Post, May 2006
By Gracey Hitchcock

The Mother Corp.: Meet Five Mompreneurs, published in Today’s Parent, March 2006
By Astrid Van Den Broek

Happy Reading!
Kellyadd to sk*rt

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The SavvyMom Mompreneur™ of the Year Award

Here’s a great opportunity for all Canadian mompreneurs! SavvyMom has launched a national awards program to celebrate the great ideas and innovative solutions developed by savvy Canadian moms. You can nominate yourself or a friend, or vote for your favourite mompreneur.

The contest, which will run throughout the summer, is designed to find Canada’s top Mompreneur™, who will be rewarded this fall with an $18,000 prize package of cash, business services and office equipment designed to help take her business to the next level.

You can learn more about the award through the Mompreneur™ of the Year Award website.

Posted by Kellyadd to sk*rt

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Wilson’s Family Vacation

For the next three weeks, I am trading my cel phone, BlackBerry, and blog in exchange for a safari hat and a few glasses of tasty South African wine. I am headed to Africa for a long-awaited vacation with my husband and son. While there, we will visit the Cape Town area of South Africa and then off to Botswana on safari.

But don’t worry; while I am away “Motherly Advice” will continue to run. Kelly from Robeez’ communications team will be at your service to coordinate answers to some of your questions courtesy of the other experts at Robeez and will save the rest for my mid-July return.

Vacation makes me think about balance. While I’m away, I encourage you to think of a way you can incorporate a little “me” time into your week. It may not be a vacation but even five quiet minutes to sit and drink your coffee at the beginning of your day can make all the difference in a hectic life. I think it is so important to find balance in your life as a mom and an entrepreneur. In the early days of Robeez, I would escape by going for a run with friends. I got an hour filled with conversation and endorphins, and an hour without a phone call or a shout for “MOMMM-MMMYYY.”

Enjoy the start of summer. Look for my next post in mid July.add to sk*rt

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The World of Web

The latest question comes from Nicole Garza, founder of Mally Bibs. Nicole’s home-based business now serves a few hundred retail stores in North America and online customers through her website.

What are some key things you can do to increase your website traffic and more specifically, increase web sales? I would sure love to increase our online sales from a few orders a day to a few dozen!

Since starting Robeez, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is recognizing my own strengths and shortfalls. I think it’s important to recognize when you need help and to actually ask for it. Prior to starting Robeez, my work experience was in financial management. I knew all about debits and credits but when it came to search engine optimization and cookies, I knew I needed help. So for today’s question, I am taking my own advice and calling on someone who knows a lot more about the web than I do. Today’s “motherly advice” comes from another mom on the Robeez team, Lori, our Ecommerce Manager. Here are Lori’s tips for increasing website traffic and online sales:

  1. Pay Per Click programs – adopting pay per click programs from search engines such as Google can be costly but extremely effective at driving traffic to your website.
  2. Search engine optimization – make it easier for search engines to find your site. One quick(ish) thing you can do to add visibility is to create individual product pages. These should include titles with your product name and copy that includes “key words” and features.
  3. Linking strategies – ranking in search engines is determined by a number of factors. One of the many things search engines look at to rank websites is the number of qualified links to a website. The more websites that link to you, the higher you are ranked. (An interesting note: reciprocal links are less valuable.)
  4. Ecommerce basics – reading up on ecommerce basics on websites such as Internet Retailer and Website Magazine can help keep you up-to-date on the latest tips and tricks in the world of online sales.

Lori’s input makes me think of a secondary topic: hiring. As Robeez grew, I knew that I needed help to take it to the next level. When hiring your first (and subsequent) employees, I recommend someone with a complementary skill set. If selling is not your strong point, hiring an employee who is equally shy is not going to help you. While skills are important, it’s also extremely important to look for someone with values and personality that work well with yours. Without realizing it is happening, by hiring employees you are forming the company’s corporate culture. Find talented people who are passionate about your product and your company. I attribute much of the success Robeez has achieved to the amazing people who helped along the way.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Naming Your Price

These questions were submitted by Estella on the “My Reason for Blogging” post.

Price is an important decision; I remember going over this again and again when I started Robeez. Here are some recommendations for a mom who is just starting her business.

I am trying to figure out how to price a product for retail. Is there a formula?

I know of two simple ways to price your product.

  1. Market-based pricing
  2. Cost-based pricing

In market-based pricing, research the retail marketplace and your target consumer. Using this information, select a retail price that reflects the positioning of your brand and what consumers will pay for the product. Factor in your costs to ensure you have a reasonable margin. As a rule of thumb, apparel retailers will typically double the wholesale price to determine the retail price. (This is referred to as keystone pricing.)

In cost-based pricing, compile your costs and add the amount of margin you need to make on the product and this establishes your wholesale cost. As I mentioned above, the retailer will typically double the wholesale cost to set their retail price.

I am getting my product produced in China and with the Canadian dollar being strong right now, it's great, but what happens when the dollar gets weak again and the cost goes up to produce?

I recommend factoring fluctuations in the dollar into your cost calculations. By assuming that you are paying for the goods with a lower value Canadian dollar, you cover yourself when the market changes.

Right now, I have the actual cost for a small run to test the market. I've taken the amount ($6), doubled it ($12 = $6 to produce & $6 profit) and when it goes to retail, do I suggest $24 to stores?

Your cost calculations are quite typical for the baby industry. You can provide retailers with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (or MSRP for short); however you cannot enforce the price. For more information about pricing, I recommend you review guidelines for the country you will be selling in. For Canadian regulations, I recommend reviewing the Competition Bureau’s website.

Also, how do I handle cost of Point of Purchase displays? Does the retail store purchase that from me separately or add that to the total cost of manufacturing to determine the unit cost?

This will vary, depending on your business. Some companies provide displays free-of-charge, others require partial payment, and others still will pass along the full cost of the display to the retail store. However, since you are starting a new business, I would recommend building the cost of POP displays into your wholesale price. Offering branded displays can ensure retailers merchandise your product in an effective manner and helps increase sell-through. Consider the size of your display and the type of store your product will be sold in. These factors will greatly impact the scale and budget for your POP display. Ideally, I would recommend working with retailers to develop a display that will suit a variety of needs.

Good luck with your product launch!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Needs To Happen Before You Start Selling

This question was posed by hailey’s mom through a comment on my “Getting Your Name Out There” post.

Did you wait to 1) register your trademark 2) design graphics, print materials, packaging, etc. before you approached any retail opportunities?

What needs to happen before launching your business can vary vastly by business and owner. When opening businesses, I’ve seen entrepreneurs take one of two approaches to start-up costs: The Minimalist or The Big Spender. I’d like to think I was somewhere in the middle but honestly I was more of a minimalist. I was a new mom without a job and I wanted to make sure Robeez would produce sales before I invested more money. Here’s a look at the approach I took:

My first priority was to measure market response to Robeez so I did not register the trademark immediately. Once I had been in business for close to a year, sales were growing and I knew that it was long past the time when I should have registered the trademark. In hindsight, I would recommend registering your trademark early on. You can learn more about trademarks through a local small business or entrepreneur resource center. The web is also a good place to research trademarks.

The Vancouver Gift Show was really my first public showing of Robeez. To prepare for this show, I needed to have packaging to display the shoes. I worked with a freelance artist to design my packaging. Then, I approached a local print shop that catered to low volume print runs. My stepmother even made a “Robeez” quilt to use as signage. You can see my minimalist approach in the photo . This was my booth at the Vancouver Gift Show.

Would you be able to recommend some good sources for non-toxic leather?
When you are starting out, you need to find a supplier who offers a good price on small volumes of leather. I recommend checking your local yellow pages for a distributor; that’s how I found the original supplier for Robeez. (As time went on and production increased, our sourcing team found international distributors who specialize in higher volumes.) Select a supplier who will ensure the health and safety of their leathers through testing and documentation. For example, Robeez requires tests for heavy metals and harmful substances to ensure our leather is absolutely safe and non-toxic for babies, and we regularly audit our suppliers with random sampling.add to sk*rt

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Expanding Your Sales Team

The next question comes from Nicole Vaslot, co-owner of Westcoast baby, a collection of infant and children’s apparel and accessories.

How can we figure out how much we need to have in stock before we hire US sales reps to sell our product?

1. Use Current Experience to Identify Trends
For Canadian companies, the US market can look like a goldmine of untapped potential. And it is. So I recommend that you pursue this market but be sure to take the learnings you have gained in the Canadian market and apply them to the hiring of US sales reps. Review the success of your Canadian reps, how many accounts they opened in their first six months; the average order size for each account; the reorder pattern for each account. This data should give you an idea of the volume you can expect when you take on a new sales rep, whether they are located in Canada or the USA.

2. Find the Right Rep for Your Brand
Finding the right sales rep can be challenging. Many apparel reps carry a number of brands putting only a small portion of their energies into promoting your collection. Rather than pursue multi-line distributors, Robeez had more luck with “sales-moms”. Moms, with some selling experience, who love the Robeez brand and were keen to introduce it in their area.

That’s how I found Sabrina back in 1996. She was a new mom and had received a pair of Robeez as a baby shower gift from a Canadian friend. When her daughter outgrew the first pair, she looked Robeez up online and called to order. We got to chatting and shortly after she started approaching boutiques in the San Francisco area to carry Robeez. That was our entry to the US market. As time went on, we found more moms and grandmas with similar stories. This was the early basis for our sales force.

3. Add New Territories
My suggestion from experience: start with one region at a time. By entering one region at a time, you can stay on top of demand and production of your products. If you hire a number of reps at one time, you may put yourself in the sticky situation of not being able to fulfill orders. The “one-at-a-time” strategy also allows you to identify a pattern for growth I mentioned above. We found that each new territory we added followed a similar pattern in its growth rate. We could learn from the pattern and it helped us forecast for the next territory.

You should know fairly quickly if the sales rep you hire is going to bring you the level of business you are hoping for. If you have not seen results within three to six months, it may be time to look for a replacement.

4. Set Measurable Targets
To continue to stay on top of demand, get your reps to set targets for new accounts and sales each month. This will help predict production quantities and revenue targets.

5. Position Your Brand Carefully
My final words of advice: ensure that your reps approach the “right” types of stores for your product. Especially in a new territory, this ensures consistency in the quality and perception of your brand.

Happy Selling!add to sk*rt

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Challenges of Being a Mompreneur

This question was posed by mom of two, Sharon Chai, founder of Bamboobino, a unique line of children's robes and accessories made from soft bamboo fabric.

What were your personal and professional challenges when you were a new mom and trying to establish Robeez? And how did you deal with them, or make them work for you?

Challenge One: Time Management
It’s one o’clock on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. Robert is four-years-old and races around our cul-de-sac on his bicycle with his friends. I sit curbside with a group of moms chatting about the latest adventures in motherhood. As they sit holding cups of coffee, I work through a bag of Robeez shoes. I’m checking the shoes for quality, clipping threads, and prepping the shoes for the packaging bonanza that will take place later tonight. This was how I spent many afternoons in the early days of Robeez. Glamorous? No. Necessary? Yes.

I tell this story not to scare but one of the major realities for moms working from home is time-management. This was one of the ways I fit business in. My time management strategy evolved as Robert got older.

  • Infant – I would work while he napped in the afternoon and slept in the evening. Sometimes I took Robert with me on sales calls which often helped make the sale because buyers could see Robeez in action!
  • Toddler – I put Robert in daycare two days a week. This allowed him to spend time socializing with other children and gave me the opportunity to get the bulk of my work done, uninterrupted.
  • Preschool - I snagged a few hours midday while he learned “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and played in the sandbox. On extra busy days, I would call my in-laws to swing by for a little grandparent playtime.
  • School Age – I waited until Robert entered elementary school full-time before moving the business outside our home.

The gist? I fit business in when I could.

Challenge Two: Finances
One of the first things you give up as an entrepreneur is a regular pay cheque. This can be tough, especially when you have babies, mortgages, student loan payments, property taxes… the list goes on and on.

To manage life with a single income and a new business, we needed to apply a bit of creativity. For example, for a number of years we hosted international students in our home to help cover the mortgage.

With my business, I was careful to watch cash flow. It was simple: for Robeez to survive, it needed regular income. I set monthly revenue goals and made sales calls until I had reached them. Most of the profits were reinvested in growing Robeez. Another key: stay on top of receivables and inventory levels; they can be the death of any business. Whenever possible, have customers pay by credit card rather than offering credit terms.

Becoming an entrepreneur is hard, risky work, and it can take time to reap the rewards. This can be difficult, if not impossible to accept at times. It’s likely that you will never have a predictable pay day again. Some people are more naturally accepting of this, others will struggle with it every day. Consider this heavily before starting your business.

Challenge Three: Confidence
One morning, as I dropped Robert at preschool, I got chatting with another mom. We talked about our boys, summer vacation plans, and eventually got on to the subject of work. I excitedly told her about Robeez – the shoes, the business in my basement, leaving my career. As I spoke, my enthusiasm quickly turned to embarrassment as the mother looked at me like I was crazy. She was clearly very skeptical about my career choice. She was not the first or the last to look at me this way.

Starting a business takes guts. There will be people, like this mom, who think you are crazy. While I encourage you to listen to feedback, I also encourage you to follow your instincts. Be confident that what you are doing is right; for you, for your business, and for your family. I persevered with Robeez and look at what it became.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Getting Your Name Out There

The very first question on my blog is from Kelley Scarsbrook, founder of the Stay At Home Mother, a company which provides inspirational workshops and consulting services for moms. I spoke at one of Kelley’s workshops in January 2007. (

What did you do to get the Robeez name out there in the marketplace when you were just getting started?

Because I was introducing a new product, the first thing I did was focus on distribution. I approached a number of local consignment shops who agreed to sell Robeez and provide me with customer feedback on the product. The response was very positive so I started to approach local children’s boutiques to sell Robeez. And I decided to attend a local tradeshow. This was a great opportunity to speak to a number of retail buyers in one location.

Because I live in Vancouver, starting with boutiques in my area was the easiest place to begin. But as time went by I knew that if I wanted my business to grow, I would need to look for ways to distribute in other areas. That’s when Liz walked into my life. I met Liz at a tradeshow in 1995. She was a new grandmother and former real estate agent. She loved Robeez. And I knew that her sales expertise would allow me to focus on production, customer service, packaging, and shipping. She agreed to take on the line and Liz became my first sales rep. She called on accounts across Canada and established distribution across the country. Liz’s passion for the product formed the basis for many of Robeez’ early sales reps – moms and grandmas who loved the shoes and wanted to introduce them in their local markets.

I answered this question from a product perspective because this is where my experience lies. If you have some tips to share from a service perspective, it would be great to post them in the comments.add to sk*rt

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My reason for blogging

Over the past few years, I have been approached by moms and dads with great business ideas. They just don’t know where or how to start. When I first started Robeez in 1994, I was in the same boat. Along the way, I asked lots of questions, guessed at a few of the answers, and learned a lot from my mistakes. Now, I want to help others in similar situations. That’s why I have started this blog. Many of the questions I am asked overlap so a blog is the perfect forum to post answers for all to see. Send me your questions and I’ll see if I can help!

I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this blog, you are familiar with the Robeez story. But just in case, you can learn more about me here.

Look for my first advice post in the next few days.
Sandraadd to sk*rt