Start ’em young!
I have always had a penchant for business. It started when I was seven or eight years old and I was sent into the store with $10 to buy Christmas gifts for my family. While perusing the stationary aisle (because who doesn’t love paper products?) I spotted, for the first time in my young life, blank round Avery labels. Choirs of angels sang and the wheels in my tiny brain immediately began churning. My Grandma Dorothy loved to give me small gifts and trinkets and one of the most recent offerings had been a set of Hello Kitty rubber stamps. I could make stickers! The excitement started to well within me as I realized…I could SELL stickers. I purchased a box of chocolate covered cherries for my father, a refrigerator magnet for my mother, something insignificant (and likely nearly free) for my brother, and spent the other half of my cash on labels. I got in big trouble from my Mom, but I started “manufacturing” stickers that very night…and the rest, as they say, is history.
I got the bug!
My sticker business sadly never paid for the cost of supplies. Later, my best friend Cheryl and I took to copying the Ghostbusters logo off of the cover of a folder or notebook we had—don’t you dare do the math on that!! We colored our Ghostbuster dude and matted it on red or black construction paper and sold them at school with a stick pin for a nickel apiece. We made a quarter each, or thereabouts on that venture. From then on though, every business idea would get jotted down, dreamt about, plotted over. I definitely had the business bug.
As a newlywed, my husband (now ex) and I attended numerous business conventions. I was always intrigued by the concept of making money in my own business. We checked out an at-home screen printing business, invested in a print voucher venture, and signed up with Primerica and sold life insurance for a while. Eventually I stumbled on Home Interiors and Gifts and started my first “real” business.
Finding Business Success.
My Home Interiors business was very successful. I lead the leaderboards in my local group and met every challenge my up-line director threw at me. My favorite were “Beat Your Manager” contests. She had been doing this business forever, had a huge following, an amazing home that was a decorator’s showplace, and I beat her! It was fun. There was always a sales incentive and a prize to achieve. I am sad to admit that I still have every one of those prizes. By setting up at craft and vendor shows on the weekend, I was able to get bookings for in home parties and soon was doing 2-3 parties a week in addition to working full time doing accounting for a Fortune 500 company. When I was pregnant with my son, we bought a house and a big chunk of the money we put down came directly from my business. At that point I was making as much from Home Interiors as I was from my full time job. We decided that after my maternity leave that I wouldn’t go back to work. It was a great feeling to stay home with my new baby, and work a business that I loved. But something changes when you go from a side business (we call it side-hustle) to making that your full time thing. You get a little hungrier, a little more desperate. When I suddenly “needed” bookings, they didn’t come as easily. Some of my repeat hostesses had completely decorated their homes and no longer saw the benefit in the free items they could earn by having further parties. My business started to dry up and that was really scary.
A change is in the wind.
At the same time, I was seeing more and more competition at the vendor events that I had been doing. At one, there was another Home Interior representative allowed in and she was set up right down the aisle from me. We split the sales that day, and I was furious. I loved doing craft shows and craved the sense of community that I found there but I wanted to do something else…something that would make me unique and that others weren’t able to readily copy. I decided that the smartest product choice would be to make the thing or things that I most often purchased at these shows. I loved smelly things so I decided on soaps and candles. And Little Ruby was born.
Riding the roller coaster of business…success?
Over the past 16 years, my business has grown, has evolved, has flat-lined, has been resuscitated, and has spent long periods on life support (blip….blip….blip). The economy went from a-mazing, to abysmal, to “meh”. For many years while my kids were young, Little Ruby, even under poor financial management by yours truly, made good money and played a very large part in supporting my family. I came up at the top of all the major search engines, was featured on a couple of radio shows when soy candles were first starting to gain popularity, had customers who would show up at my shows to buy cases of product at a time, and had so many repeat buyers I knew many of them by name. It was so much fun! While trying to save my marriage, I closed my hugely successful website and planned to say good-bye to Little Ruby forever. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and in hindsight, also the most stupid (he left anyway). I have explored other business ventures (direct selling continues to fascinate me) and have “repped” several product lines, mostly for fun and personal discounts. I keep coming back though to my love for “making” things and seeing others enjoy them. I am not sure about the future of Little Ruby. Candles aren’t as popular as they once were, I let my soap customers move on to other brands during my divorce, and…yeah, I just don’t know. There are a lot of things I don’t know. I don’t claim to be the authority. But I am a smart girl and I know I can figure it out. I have my sights set on entrepreneurial success…and a white hot intensity to make it a reality. And maybe you do too? We will talk more about business next week. Until then…