Like many women who want to stay at home with their kids but still want to make a little income, I have explored many different business opportunities. I’ve been successful with direct sales, but I was less successful with my makeup storefront business. I went into it with the best of intentions, tried to do all of the right things, used a business coach and had lots of advice. But the reality was there was a tonne of overhead! I also took a real beating with the location, lack of foot traffic and some overall poor business decisions due to inexperience. However, with every mistake or challenge there is often a great learning or silver lining. For me that was learning the makeup trade! I took that experience and used it to carry on a mobile business and through that I have met literally hundreds of wonderful creative people. I also met my BFF at my store, and she has enriched my life in many ways. She has become my travel buddy, fashionista-twin and best of all, she introduced me to Stella & Dot. So all of these pieces led me to where I am today. Also by chance I came across a very cool Mompreneur on Etsy, who also had a crummy situation lead her to where she is today – the owner of a successful business !
Etsy is a wonderful place for crafters and artisans to sell their products. There are literally thousands of listings. Tonnes of wonderful (and some not-so-wonderful!) things are listed. What I have noticed is that because sooooo many items are listed, getting noticed on Etsy MUST be a difficult task. Unless you have a seriously awesome product or you are a marketing genius.
About 8 months ago, many of my 20-something friends were ‘Liking’ a Facebook page for an Etsy shop called Grace & Lace (update: G&L left Etsy in 2014). I clicked on the link to see what they were all about and I immediately fell in love! Such cute products – boot socks and leg warmers trimmed with lace and buttons that were creative yet simple. The thing though that really drew me in was the imagery – the first picture I saw was of a girl sitting curled up in a chair with a cup of hot chocolate (at least that’s what I imagined!), her legs draped down comfortably. Something about that image made me want to be that girl’s friend…..she looked so comfy, cozy and confident! And cool too. Like the girl-next-door who is stylish but isn’t really aware of it. And that was what made me want to look at the store, buy the boot socks and learn a little more about Grace & Lace. Whether or not they meant to, this little company captured that something-special with that one image – and I really think all of my cool-girl-20-something friends felt the same way!
So I did a little searching because I wanted to know more about Grace & Lace….and the owner, Melissa, started the business rather by chance.
‘I was a brand new mom to a miracle baby girl, when I made my first pair of Lacey Boot Socks late Fall 2011. After wearing them and getting a million compliments, I posted them on my then baby clothing Etsy site…just to see if they’d sell. In a matter of mere days I had orders in quantities that I could not possibly fill on my own. Now, I have a small crew of friends and family, that work out of our of our homes and new studio/ offices to bring our lacey goodness to you! What started as a small “accidental company” is now an “official company” with trademarked designs. The rest has been a business-in-the-making story that is still very much in process.’
And a little further information is on her website….
‘I’ve always been a DIY kinda girl. I grew up with a mom who always made homemade play-dough, birthday cakes and sewed our dance costumes. So I learned to “sew a straight line” very early in age.
In the spring of 2010 I was five months pregnant with a little girl. I was at a routine doctor’s visit when I was suddenly told the devastating news that I would give birth to our daughter within 24 hours and that she wouldn’t survive. I was rushed into emergency surgery to try to save her, and then there I was, laying horizontal in the hospital for the rest of my pregnancy. The days of strict confined bed rest were L O N G. Since I couldn’t even sit up, I just had to do something with my hands! So I started with a vision to crochet this tiny baby girl a blanket. And thus started and spurred my desire to sew sew sew.
I lived in the hospital for two weeks until doctors could no longer stop the labor. Our very tiny but oh-so-perfect baby girl was born. With lungs not yet developed enough to survive on her own, the Lord took her straight to Heaven.
Though heart wrenching and devastating, I truly believe that out of this great tragedy has come my greatest victory.’
Wow, I was just so incredibly inspired when I read this because I too felt that hopeless feeling before in my business and personally (I did not lose a child, but I had a miscarriage many years ago and was completely devastated). I contacted Melissa and asked her if she would be willing to answer a few short questions about her business to inspire other Mompreneurs to follow their heart. Melissa was more than happy to share so following is part of our interview below.
Melissa: Honestly, it’s a combination of everything you just listed. But first of all – God. We are strong believers and really I truly believe that He had this all planned out for me, as it’s been what I prayed for – just never in a million years did I think it would be socks!! Also, I consider myself a pretty good marketer (yay, for actually using my degree)..ha! But it’s also offering a product that’s unique…and like you said.. identifying with the image that creates a desire for the customer to “want that look”…then scaling to keep up with demand.
Scarlett: As a mom of a small kids, how do you tend to your growing business and balance the everyday demands of motherhood?
Melissa: Balance is NOT my strong point. In the early days I found myself always working during naps and after bedtime and before she woke. Now with how large we have grown, I do have baby sitting help for my now 2 under 2 in the mornings for some focused work time. Still sometimes that is not enough as I am often up working late after the kids go to bed.
Scarlett: Did you start by sourcing all of your yarns and products from suppliers locally? How did you scale this once you started growing?
Melissa: Yes, I’d buy out stores of lace trim and buttons ordering as much bulk as I could. I’d drive around to every local store and clear their shelves of all they had – and beg them to order more. I got to a phase where I was ordering so much bulk and then able to get wholesale rates..etc.
Scarlett: How does a Mompreneur get started on Etsy? Did you do outside advertising/marketing?
Melissa: I actually initially started my Etsy as “Sienna’s Closet”, named after my newborn as I was making up some spruced up one-sies for her. I have never paid 1 penny for marketing (outside of Etsy). But I do participate occasionally in blogger reviews/trades.
Scarlett: What part has Social media played in your business? Which platform has proved to be the most successful for you?
Melissa: HUGE with Facebook. It was my only way to “capture” the demand. Everyone was wanting the Lacey Lou and I could not make them fast enough. So I began offering pre-orders on there, causing huge fast growth with my followers. I really just do FB and Instagram (recently). I really wish I had the time to know and learn Twitter.
Scarlett: What has been your biggest hurdle in the business to date and what lesson did you learn from it?
Melissa: Supply and demand. Learning what to remake – what color what volume..etc. These are the decisions you don’t have to deal with in the early days!
Scarlett: 5 years ago, where would you have predicted yourself to be in 5 years?
Melissa: I was in real estate and doing well, but just praying that we would get pregnant (we struggled getting pregnant) and that I would find that “something” that I could do from home. So I could raise my kids, but still have an “outlet” for my business mind/creativity.
Scarlett: Do you have a mentor or someone that has helped you with your growing business?
Melissa: I do. And she has been V I T A L to my success. (She is a fashion designer and one of the largest women’s apparel brands in the southwest). She’s a friend of a friend and we were introduced to her about a month after my business started. She has been invaluable. She has 30+ years in the industry and design. She’s helped me source the best of the best… and just give me great business advice in an industry that I knew nothing about. Not sure where I would be or where this business would be without her wisdom and advice. She’s always a phone call away.
Scarlett: If you could give a word of advice to other Entrepreneurs out there, what would it be?
Melissa: Don’t give up. You never know when that “one idea” will hit. Work hard and believe in yourself.
Wow, thanks Melissa for your insight and taking the time to talk to me about business. I am really super inspired!
And Melissa is insanely busy this upcoming week because……this is HUGE…..she is appearing on SHARK TANK on ABC this coming Friday, November 22nd!!
I don’t know if she received a deal, but I KNOW that the exposure will catapult her business even FURTHER!
You’d better order your Bootsocks for Christmas gifts this week ladies…..I have a feeling that come Friday night, EVERYTHING will be selling out!