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.

add to sk*rt


Anonymous said...

I can utterly, completely identify with this mom.

I have a sketchbook full of bedding ideas. I am not a designer, nor a sewer, but my ideas are nothing like I've ever seen on the market. I'm not even sure if they are doable. It doesn't matter. Whenever I see a pattern or colour combination I like, I pull out my sketchbook and write it down. My daughter has contributed her ideas too.

But I know I'm not quite ready to take that next step -- I think your heart will tell you if you're ready. I'm just launching a copywriting business, and want to see where this will take me. I'm starting with something I know (writing and marketing), and if it works for me, I may venture into a manufacturing business.

I recommend reading everything you can get your hands on (the libraries aren't bad, especially the reference sections where the more recent - and expensive - books are kept).

I would also approach the faculty at design schools (e.g. University College of the Fraser Valley), and contact industry associations.

Ask your friends if they know people working in related industries. For example, one of my friend's friends is a designer for a local clothing chain. I could talk to her (when I take that next step) because she is in textiles, but not competing in home furnishings.

You'll find the more people you talk to, the more it will lead you in the direction you want to head. Someone always seems to know someone and you'll find the right people eventually.

Irene said...

Ideas are hard to get off the drawing board and onto the market.

I have found a great resource in www.fashion-incubator.com (sorry, not sure how to hyper-link in a comment). Kathleen Fasanella, the site creator, is a great supporter of sewn product/design entrepreneurs, and I can wholeheartedly recommend her book. (No, I get no kickback from her, I just think she has taught me so much, I want to share!).

CanadianMompreneur said...

I agree with Sandra and also would encourage Rebecca find other mompreneurs and ask questions. Many of them have real-life experience that you don't find in any business-class or business-books. Not all of them will share, but many would. Moms helping other moms and generally they have more compassion for eachother than any other business people.
I share with other mompreneurs where to source fabrics or find supplier, other mompreneurs share info with me as well.Just don't be afraid - ask.

Anonymous said...

As a mom, seamstress and entrepreneur myself I have to agree. I'd also like to add that if you approach a designer or seamstress to create a prototype, be sure and ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement so your idea won't be shared with others or stolen and brought to market by someone else. Any legitimate company should be willing to sign such an agreement.

I have worked as a consultant, pattern maker and have created prototypes for women with ideas they wanted to take to market but did not know how to sew and knew nothing about fabric or where to get it. Be prepared to pay a consultant or prototype maker for their time and materials. A promise to give them money when your company makes it big is just plain insulting and unprofessional.