Thursday, November 4, 2010
Choosing mom entrepreneurship can be exhilarating, invigorating and inspiring. But it can also be stressful – after all, getting a business off the ground can be one expensive leap into the unknown. Regardless of whether you start your business for a few hundred dollars or a few hundred-thousand dollars, we imagine that you’re just like us: you’ll want to stretch your money as far as it can go. And, like every business owner, you’ll need help, advice, referrals and bargains. Before you pull out your credit card, think about what value you can derive from your Rolodex.
We’ve found the old adage to be true: ask and you shall receive. We’ve got three tips on how you can implement this motto in your business starting right now.
Pursue networking opportunities
Be in touch with everyone you can if there is the slightest chance they can help you with your new venture. Who can help you with legal advice? Product development? New client referrals? Even if your network can’t help you out now, keep them in mind for down the road. You never know how your contacts might end up helping.
Seek out mentors
There’s a lot we stand to learn when we’re starting out in business for ourselves. The good news is that many people in business have gone through it before us. You just need to find a way to tap into their expertise. A mentor can be anyone whose opinion you trust, but your best bet is someone who works in a similar sector and is ahead of you on the learning curve. Go out there and ask people you admire for their advice – we’ll bet they’ll be flattered you asked.
Ask for better pricing
Whether you run a product or a service-based business, you can ALWAYS ask for better pricing. You’ll either get it or you won’t, but it doesn't hurt to ask! If at first you don’t succeed, you can always ask again down the road. Over time we’ve had our rates reduced on everything from fabric costs to credit card rates – but we had to ask.
You may be doing it all alone right now, but come out of your shell and ask for help. You simply never know what you’ll find.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
If you follow Admiral Road on Facebook you’ll have noticed that this month we are celebrating our 20th Friendiversary. (To be honest, we stole the idea from our trusty office manager Lizz, who had a party for two when she and her bestie celebrated 10 years.) Now that Amy and I have been BFFs for 20 years we think it’s time we raised a glass to our best girlfriendship.
We met in our first year of university – at McGill in Montreal. Amy and I shared a major, a residence and sat on a student council together. Over the course of our first semester we became great friends. And the rest is history…
During the past 20 years we’ve been single, working girls sharing an apartment. We’ve stood up as ‘best woman’ at each other’s weddings. We’ve been there for the birth of each other’s children and for moments of intense grief. In short, we’ve grown up together.
We laugh when people ask us if we’re sisters (occasionally even if we’re twins). Given the 6 inch height difference not to mention being physically dissimilar in nearly every way, it’s a bit odd for people to think we’re related. On the other hand, we’ve been in one long 20 year conversation (no sign of it letting up) – so maybe we’ve come to resemble each other in some less obvious ways.
And, for the past 9 years we’ve been business partners, sharing the highs and lows of mompreneurship. We even recently wrote a book together about our business and other mompreneur ventures. We know that people say not to go into business with your friends – but we can’t imagine having done it any other way. It’s been doing it together that has made it not only sustainable, but also very enjoyable.
So here’s to 20 years, and here’s to 20 more. And here’s wishing you and your BFF all the best on your next friendiversary.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I have a very distinct memory of my first experience with Dora the Explorer. Sitting on the couch with my firstborn daughter after naptime, I flipped on Treehouse tv. As I watched a cursor “mouse over” the screen, a feeling of utter bewilderment washed over me. I couldn’t figure out what computer technology had to do with a cartoon about a Spanish-speaking girl-adverturer. But my daughter was rapt – the video game-like quality of the show didn’t seem to bother her. The technology was seeping into her young, sponge-like brain.
Fast forward about six years later.
I just bought an iPad for my husband. (It’s kind of a long story as to why I purchased him such an extravagant gift…but let’s leave that for another time.) As my husband unpacked his shiny new toy, he was desperate to share it with me, and to show me all of the tricks it could do. Problem is – I didn’t care. I am clearly missing the gene that makes technology something I can easily grasp. Sure – I enjoy a flat screen tv as much as the next girl, but when it comes to being interested in said-technology, I just can’t get my head around it. I’m just grateful when I push the button and my computer actually turns on.
We had that iPad in the house for about 48 hours before my kids got their hands on it. My husband hasn’t touched it since – except for the purpose of downloading apps for the kids. My kids are not big on tv – but after school now, my kids can regularly be found with that iPad in hand. My seven-year-old is playing math games and my five-year-old is designing clothing. Heck – the other day my TWO-YEAR-OLD hollered, “It’s my turn to use the iPad!”
All three of them know how to use this piece of equipment. It’s like they were born with the chip and they have this implicit knowledge that technology can help them. It's the “Dora-fication” of our children.
Now if only they could teach me how to program the VCR.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
In our virtual community, just about everyone we knew was heading off to Blogher in New York City last month. It was all over Twitter, Facebook, and everyone blogged about it. So, we felt a bit strange planning our assault on the Big Apple for the week after BlogHer. We were headed to the New York International Gift Fair, showing our blankets to buyers and media. Of course we also managed to squeeze in a little fun while we were there. (What's that they say about all work and no play making for tired, cranky mompreneurs?) So, in the spirit of all the post-BlogHer blogs - here's our roundup of NYC 2010.
The drive: pulling out of Amy's driveway at 4:15 a.m. - not the most fun. However, emerging out of the Lincoln Tunnel at 1:30 p.m. - priceless.
The hotel: Sheraton at 7th and 53rd. Great hotel - our best in NY so far. Amazingly helpful staff, clean spacious room and steps to 5th Avenue shopping, Times Square and the Park (where Amy makes sure to run every time she's in town).
The show: Wow. Picture about 11 football fields of everything under the sun. Huge and totally overwhelming. Our little corner of it, the Baby & Kids section was perfect. A great collection of kids stuff and the buyers seems to love having an edited collection of products - even if it was in the far corner of the show. We met great stores and media and I even got a bit starstruck when I met a media personality whose career I'd been following for years.
The food: What's the point in heading to a world class city if you're not going to eat like you mean it? We hit Otto - Mario Batali's pizza joint for a great night out with our friends Amit and Obsidian from 3 Sprouts. We also squeezed in a budget conscious prix fixe at Daniel Bouloud's DB Bistro Moderne. And a delicious burger at 5 Napkin Burger with our pal Anne-Sophie from Lumiere. Yum, Yum and Yum.
To combat the effects of the food: We dragged our butts out of bed early for some classes at Physique 57. This is the pilates/yoga/strength regime that gave Kelly Ripa that outrageous body. Our 3 classes didn't Ripa-ify us exactly, but it did leave us with sore behinds and big smiles.
The shopping: 5th Avenue for the experience of it. (Why is the Gap so much better in New York?) Soho for Uniqlo, Top Shop and more. There's never, ever enough time for the shopping.
One of the best things about being in business for ourselves is getting to leave the kids behind for some grown up time to get some work done and have fun with the BFF in the big city. We've been back a few weeks now, but I'll admit it - I'm still in a New York state of mind.
The question for would-be entrepreneurs is, how do you know if your idea is a good one? There are lots of ways to think about the viability of a business opportunity, but SWOT analysis is one of our favourites. SWOT is a handy tool that will help you analyze your business idea.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. When you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your business concept, you look at what’s going on inside your company, while identifying opportunities and threats provides a framework to look at what is going on outside your company. Thinking about all four aspects of your business together will help you to create a strategy that matches your abilities with the realities of the outside business world.
Strengths: These are things that you and your company are better at than your competition. Examples include having a unique product, a great store location, or first-rate marketing skills.
Weaknesses: These are things that you and your company are not as good at in comparison to your competition. Examples include having high operating costs, a ho-hum product, or product quality issues.
Opportunities: These are conditions in the market that are good for your company. Examples include demand for your product in new markets, changes in customer’s buying patterns, or the demise of a competitor.
Threats: These are conditions in the market that are not good for your company. Examples include the emergence of a new competitor, a recession that impacts customers’ willingness to spend money, or changes in market trends.
Once you have identified your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, you can develop a strategy by thinking about the following questions:
- Which strengths will be most valuable in allowing me to keep the competition at bay?
- Which weaknesses will hold me back, and what can I do to reverse them?
- What opportunities do I have the skills to successfully pursue?
- What threats am I most vulnerable to, and how can I develop strengths to defend against them?
Read more of Amy and Danielle's columns on Sweetmama.ca
Thursday, August 5, 2010
While this informal system works for us, there are many entrepreneurs who swear by using a business coach to help them strategize and address business issues. Hiring a business coach means entering into a formal mentoring relationship where you pay an expert for her time and expertise. The question is, is it worth it?
Here’s what a business coach can do for you:
- View your business through a filter of experience and objectivity.
- Ask you questions that will help you see the issues in your business more clearly.
- Help you make tough decisions and develop an action plan.
- An outlet for discussing your business.
- Can be someone to whom you are accountable for getting things done.
That being said, there are a few things they can't do for you. A business coach can’t hold your hand every second. While they can help you figure out what to do, they can’t do it for you. They won’t be responsible if it doesn’t work out. Compare it to hiring a personal trainer. Using their expertise, a personal trainer will create a plan that addresses your particular fitness goals. They will work out with you regularly and they’ll answer questions and provide encouragement. But they're not going to get on the treadmill for you. And they can’t control what you eat or how often you work out. The same goes for a business coach – ultimately the results are up to you.
Another consideration is the cost. Business coaching isn’t cheap. You can sometimes get packages of sessions, or work with an online coach via email or phone, either individually or in a group setting. A one-on-one session can run you $100 to $200 per hour (sometimes more). It’s definitely pricey, especially for a small business, but if it helps you achieve real results quickly, it just may be worth it.
If business coaching sounds like it’s for you, your best bet is to ask around and get a recommendation from a friend or colleague. If that doesn’t turn up anything, you can try the International Coaching Federation or findacoach.com.
Finally, not all business coaches are created equal. Just as you’d want to hire a personal trainer who was in great shape, with years of experience and lots of satisfied clients, you’ll want to be sure that your business coach is the real deal. Ask lots of questions and, if you can, speak to former clients before making the investment.
Do you have any experiences with business coaching? We’d love to hear about them.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Have you ordered your new Bloom blanket yet? The newest addition to the collection is girl, fun, and bold.
How to save: Use coupon code ARDSUMMER10 by August 1st to save $5.00 off your order total.
But wait! There's more: Go to our Facebook page and "Like" us (formerly become a Fan). Once you've done that you'll have access to an even bigger coupon.
We've got piles of other great things happening in the coming months so stay tuned and stay cozy.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
While on a different scale, businesses also have complex problems that require thought and planning. When you own your own business, planning is essential. As a business owner, it’s very easy to drift off-course, reacting to daily business life without thinking about the bigger picture.
We are strong believers in writing a business plan. (Never did one? Take the time now – there are lots of resources online to help you get started, like this one from Ernst & Young.) However, there’s a big difference between a business plan and business planning. Although it's an invaluable exercise, your business plan pretty much becomes obsolete the minute you finish it – targets move, goals change, realities set in. This is where business planning comes in. The only way you’ll keep your business plan alive is with ongoing planning.
At Admiral Road, we didn’t hit our stride right away. There was so much we had to learn just to get a blanket out the door – how to make one, how to ship one, where to find our customers. And while we had spent the time on a comprehensive business plan out of the gate, regular ongoing planning definitely took a back seat. Then, about two years in, we had what we called the G2 Summit. (That would be the two of us!) We sat down and talked about our priorities for the business and began to look at our business in a new way. We made a plan for the coming 12 months and then executed it. A year later, we had another G2 Summit and made a new to-do list for the year ahead. Annual planning was a huge change for us. It helped us clarify our goals, which meant we were better prepared for whatever came our way.
Down the road, we moved to monthly plans and weekly check-ins. We set goals. We assign responsibility. And we move forward. Don’t have a partner? Have a G1 Summit. It helps you learn about your business, how the various parts work together, and how it might evolve.
Running a business is definitely a trip – and we all know that trips are a lot more fun when you’ve got a road map. All you need to do is follow it.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Congratulations to lucky #25 – Nadine who commented on our Facebook page. Her nephew, Jonah has won a green sheep blanket.
There could be only one winner, but we think that all the kids we heard about deserve a blanket. We’ll be sending everyone who entered a very special coupon. Check your inbox shortly.
Thanks to everyone for entering.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Back by popular demand, the green sheep! (the sheep's white actually, but on a lovely celery-green coloured blanket)
To celebrate, we're giving one away to one of our lucky readers.
To enter, leave a comment below telling us the name of a little one you think deserves this cozy blanket and why.
Want an extra chance to win? Comment on our Facebook page, or tweet this.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Myth #1: Mom entrepreneurs get to spend lots of time with their kids.
Well, technically speaking this isn’t necessarily a myth. We do spend lots more time with our kids than we would if we worked for someone else. After all, that’s the whole point, right? We work carpool-to-carpool, and we wouldn’t trade that for the world.
The myth is about the quality of time we spend with our kids. Being a mom entrepreneur means that you always have something to do. So, even while you’ve scheduled “kid time,” it can be awfully hard to tune out the endless business to-do list running in the back of your mind. For example, we’re around with our kids after school – but we’re checking our BlackBerry and taking calls – and that’s on a good day. If there’s a business crisis, then all bets are off with respect to mommyhood. We may be sitting at the table with our kids for an after school snack – but so is our laptop.
And it can be hard for the kids to understand how it is that we’re home, but not available to them in the way they’d like us to be. We are not available to play Candyland again (mixed blessing on that one) and we may be only half listening to the endless discussion about Obi Wan and his cunning use of the Force. On the other hand, we are around to kiss a boo-boo better, to negotiate sibling scraps, and to listen when things didn’t go well at school. At the end of the day, we hope that they remember those things more than they remember the laptop and the phone calls.
We think that mom entrepreneurship is about having the things you want most. Sometimes we’re a little envious of the nine to five moms who can leave work behind, and also of the stay-at-home moms who are truly focused on their kids. For us and our families though, and maybe for you and yours, the balance generally works and we can’t think of an arrangement that would work better.
Read more of Amy and Danielle's business tips on Sweet Mama's "Ask an Expert"
Thursday, May 27, 2010
About a year ago I started spinning. Exercise class, that is – not going around in circles. (Sometimes I DO feel like I’m just going around in circles, but that might be a discussion for another time.) I’d always been terrified of spinning. I’d see those people emerging from their spin classes – drenched and wilted – and I thought, “That is not for me.” Well, I got over myself and came to love it. I did a spin class this morning in fact – a one hour class – and I felt so happily selfish. I was so aware of the fact that I was in that hot and sweaty room and I the only person I was there for was me.
When the topic of “me time” arises among moms, there is no shortage of eye-rolling. Whether we work inside the home, outside the home, or are trying to juggle a little bit of both, “me time” is in ridiculously short supply.
A few weeks ago my husband was at work – on a Saturday. I was home alone with my brood and felt caught in a seemingly unending cycle that looked something like this: Make breakfast, feed kids, clean up, break up squabbles, feed kids a snack, take kids to swim lessons, make lunch, feed the kids, clean up... I could actually feel myself rearing these people. No coffee break for mom that day.
That’s all fine and good – but I also know how much and need and crave “me time.”
But a good thing happened to me recently: My baby turned two. Now, I know, I’ve still got a lot of heavy-lifting years in front of me. But I also, gratefully, feel like our little family is making progress too. The two big girls are getting much better at amusing each other. The baby is becoming better at doing things on her own.
And me – I’m loving the dawn of a little more “me time.” I loved spin class this morning about as much as my baby – pictured above – enjoyed her 2nd birthday cake.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Be kinder than necessary,
for everyone that you meet is fighting some kind of battle.......
These were the words at the bottom of an e-mail I received recently. It was a mass e-mail from someone at school about an upcoming meeting – and at the end was a message as a part of the sender’s automatic signature. These were the two lines that jumped off the page at me.
While we all know that kindness and compassion are what makes the world go ‘round, it can be awfully hard to keep it front and centre all the time. I for one, can honestly say that I struggle at times to see beyond the end of my nose – and I suspect I’m not alone in this. After all, it’s pretty easy for us to get caught up in our own worlds – our own insults and injuries, our dysfunctional relationships with people, places and things. What’s a lot harder is to keep in mind that everyone we meet has their own emotional bag of tricks.
So for days I had these two lines of text in my mind, and then life provided the illustration to the story. Driving around the city on errands a few weeks ago I pulled up at a stoplight. I noticed the cute little sports car to my left. I also noticed the driver - a really attractive woman about my age. And then I noticed that she was weeping. She was in the middle of a phone call that was obviously breaking her heart – and she was sobbing with genuine grief. My heart sank. I wanted more than anything to get out of my car and see if I could help this woman. The fact that I was in busy traffic in the nation’s largest city, in addition to the fact that I’m sure the last thing this poor woman wanted was the minivan driver next door banging on her window kept me from doing so.
I’ve thought about that woman a lot of times over the past few weeks and am hoping that a little good karma has come her way. I’ve also tried to keep in mind the personal battles that others are fighting- big and small – as I go through my days. Keeping this firmly in mind will be a battle of my own, but I’ll try.
In the meantime, here’s wishing you a little kindness and a reprieve from your battles today.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
So you’re ready to take the plunge into entrepreneurial waters. What do you do next?
Mom entrepreneurs run all kinds of businesses – from boutiques to book stores. We’ve met mom entrepreneurs who invented products such as bibs, barrettes and baby food. Some mom entrepreneurs start online stores, online newsletters or online communities. The list goes on and on, so how do you decide what business is for you?
While the possibilities are endless, there are ways to determine what business is right for YOU and you alone. In order to figure this out, start by asking yourself the following three questions:
- Can I convert my existing career into a new business? Many mom entrepreneurs draw on their past professional experience to launch themselves into entrepreneurship. Mom entrepreneur Debbi Arnold is one example. Debbi worked in marketing at several companies before striking out on her own. Today she runs her own marketing consultancy and balances work with motherhood. You’ve been putting your skills to good use for somebody else. Perhaps there is a way to parlay your knowledge into your own business.
- Can I join an existing company? There are lots of ways to have your own “business within a business” and many of these are great options for moms. There are direct sales companies like Discovery Toys, companies that offer licensing programs like WeeHands, and franchising opportunities with a company like SupperWorks. Each of these choices involve different commitments, but joining an existing company can let you experience entrepreneurship without the legwork.
- Should I start from scratch? You might already have a great idea for a business. Maybe you want to invent the next Bumbo or Bugaboo. But what if you desperately want to work for yourself but you just don’t know what to do? Don’t worry, we know lots of women just like you, and in the coming months we’ll tackle this very issue: how to get to your big idea. You may not know it today, but don’t’ be surprised if your "aha!" moment is just around the corner.
A final word: The mom entrepreneur companies we’ve mentioned above all appear in our upcoming book (HarperCollins, February 2011). Watch out for their stories. We can’t wait to share them with you.
Monday, May 3, 2010
It’s spring and we’re excited. To celebrate, we’re giving one lucky fan a free baby blanket!
All you have to do to enter is write a Haiku. That’s right, a Haiku – the Japanese lyric verse form with three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables.
Your poem needs to be somehow related to Admiral Road. It can be about blankets or warmth, kids or names, or maybe about one of the animals on our blankets. It can be funny, sweet, odd -- it’s up to you. If you can sell us on it, it counts.
Post your entry as a comment on our Facebook wall.
The contest will run from today until midnight on Sunday, May 9th.
Questions? Send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To get you started, we’ve compiled a few of our own:
Sheep leaps over fence
Child sleeping cosily now
Wrapped in his blanket
So tall and mighty
How I love that soft giraffe
On rust-coloured fleece
Oh, Admiral Road
Your blankets are very soft
And so cuddly too
Cozy, warm blanket
Does not shrink, fade, pill or fray
Throw it in the wash
I love the monkey
Sweet creature looks so happy
No nose or mouth though!