Let me rephrase that… I LOVE making stuff. Making anything that does not yet exist drives me. I lose sleep thinking about ways to make my ideas and inventions come to life. I know that’s my passion, and talent. It has taken a long time to fully understand and accept that about myself, but it’s one thing I absolutely know about myself. No question, it’s one of my God-given purposes in life. I could build prototypes all day and all night, and I would completely lose track of time.
Which brings me to the topic of self-awareness. Being a business owner and entrepreneur, I have worn many many hats. It is necessary and valuable to serve every role in your company, to a point. You learn what you are really good at, and what you should delegate to someone who is more capable and skilled at other tasks. You have to let go of some responsibilities, and surround yourself with people who are better at those jobs than you. Letting go is really, really hard. Choose people who are better than you at those things, and also passionate about what they do well.
I know what drives me and what energizes me and what makes my soul happy. I will use that to keep moving forward, and never stop the hustle.
After recovering from the painful experience with my first invention, the Speedy Bump (see blog post https://bizbuilderbabe.com/2017/06/12/heres-a-funny-story/) I could not stay away from the invention biz. I actually DID come up with more ideas! Lots were either already invented, or way too difficult for me to build, or just plain silly. But, I had an idea to fulfill a need I desperately needed, I knew there wasn’t anything like it on the market, and also knew that I could totally make it on my own.
I had been struggling with the issue of figuring out a convenient way to have my cell phone on me all day long. I hate carrying purses, and phones get lost in the bottom anyway. Often I don’t have pockets… I spend a lot of my life sporting yoga or fitness pants. I need to have my phone with me and easily accessible in stores, in meetings, in the doctors office, etc. I just wanted something super simple, discreet and hands-free. Also, I thought it would be super great if I could use the phone while it was still in the carrier.
I went to work with lots of fabric ideas, several patterns, many closure options and my beloved sewing machine. I created several prototypes and asked close friends to give them a try, and provide honest feedback. It took many variations and a whole bunch of trips to fabric stores, but I eventually came up with a terrific solution that met all of my needs! I named it the Eye-Pocket. It had one solid material side, and one sheer side. The sheer side allowed for total operation of the phone while still in the carrier. Inside was a small pocket for which to carry credit cards, ID, cash, a car key, the essentials. The long, adjustable strap allowed for over-the-shoulder, cross-body, or wristlet carrying.
Next was the task of securing a contract sewing factory to make a bunch and start selling. I decided to look locally first, so I could be nearby to supervise the operation, support local business, and have the option of contracting a small initial order.
I was very fortunate to find a great company near me in Philadelphia, PA. The owner was very willing to work with me and accept a small order of only 300 pieces to begin. The agreement was that I would supply all materials and have them delivered to the factory, they would create the pattern, cut all pieces and do the sewing. I chose several different fabric materials in a variety of colors, in order test the market & see what would sell well, and what would not be very popular.
I also created my logo and had small metal charms engraved with the logo to be sewn onto the Eye-Pockets for cute branding. I handled all branding and marketing; creating my website, filming videos to post on YouTube, promotional print materials, etc. I was a one-woman-operation.
I pounded the pavement knocking on doors of local boutiques and shops presenting my product and hoping for some sales. I did find several store owners in the area willing to buy my merchandise and sell in their stores. I also set up my own online store to sell directly, in addition to offering my product on sites such as Amazon & Open Sky.
This is a loooong story short, and there is way more to my Eye-Pocket journey. Stay tuned to hear more about where Eye-Pocket has been, where it is today, and how anyone can see their idea come to life.
OK, everyone says follow your passion and the money will come, everything will be great, etc, etc, etc. It SEEMS like it should be really easy to say what you passion is, right? But, in reality, it’s not at all easy. I feel so much pressure to identify what my God-given passion is. Yikes, what if I pick the wrong thing? Do I have to pick just one? Can it change as I get older?
Let’s step back.
Let’s think a bit more logically and look at things from a different perspective.
Some questions to ask:
What do I really enjoy doing in my free time?
What are my hobbies?
Are there any topics or subjects about which people often ask me for advice?
What are the things I can do where time just flies by and I get caught up in what I’m doing?
If others where to describe my strengths & talents, what would they say?
If money were not an issue, what career would I choose?
How can I best serve others?
What are some of the things I like most about myself?
What are some things I would regret not accomplishing if I never tried?
What drives me to succeed?
Don’t try so hard to make it happen and figure out all of the next steps. Think about some activities that might get your brain on another path, which then might lead you to your answers. Definitely read as much as possible. There are tons of wonderful, inspiring books out there to help you do some soul-searching, inspire you, and offer more possibilities you may not have considered. Be on the lookout for classes that might interest you on subjects you would like to know more. Or, maybe even teach a class on a topic you do know lots about and would like to share your knowledge. Start writing in a journal. It can be a diary style of writing, or more of a gratitude journal, anything that gets your thoughts and feelings on paper. Listen to pod casts. There are pod casts available on pretty much any topic; it’s actually pretty remarkable! Pod casts are great because you can listen to them in the car, while exercising, while cleaning the house, whenever. Accomplish two tasks at once!
I also find that taking a little road trip or larger vacation puts things in perspective for me. Getting away from the everyday chores and obligations is so important to clear our heads. Just changing your scenery and routine can help to clarify what you truly like to do and how you want to spend your time. Not to mention, traveling somewhere, either new or familiar, exposes us to new experiences, people, cultures and lifestyles. After any kind of get-away I always feel a greater energy to pursue my dreams and passions.
Lastly, trust yourself, and your gut. Your gut NEVER leads you astray. Be honest with yourself and enjoy the process. Oh, and be fearless. What have you got to lose? There are no wrong answers to the passion questions. There may be roadblocks, or setbacks, or changes in course. That’s OK, and useful. Learn from those and believe with all that you have that there are reasons for the challenges, because nothing awesome comes easy. It will be so worth it.
When I had my first child I felt I had to continue working as an art director for a university. It was a great gig, loved the job, great benefits, salary, security, safety. Then I had my second child 17 months later and knew I wanted to be at home with my kids. It was a very scary thought to leave my job. We were used to a 2-income family, could we get by??? The reality was, I knew it was more important for me to be at home with my kids, no matter what that would mean. My husband & I decided to take the leap and have me leave my job. As an art director/graphic designer, I did know that had the potential to build a business from home.. but knew I had a bunch of steps to take to make it a reality.
I had to just take it one step at a time, getting super organized, prioritizing my time and consistently moving forward every day.
You have to be your own cheerleader. Being a mom first does not offer raises, promotions, airfare miles… any of the stuff rewarded to full time career moms. Our reward is our amazing children, who are happy, healthy, connected to us, balanced, successful, contributors to the world. I am by no means implying that as a work outside the home mom these achievements are not possible. I am just saying that these are OUR rewards.
Time Management… you have to be disciplined. MAKE the time you need to succeed. Know your windows, know when you function best. Some of us work best in the morning, some of us are night owls. Carve out the time you need and make it a priority.
Get Help… it’s ok to get a babysitter to help you make time to work. You also will need to surround yourself with people who are great at the things you are not skilled. Do what you do well, hire people who can help you. You might need someone to design your logo and website, or handle your social media. Think about the areas you can handle well, and get some help with the other stuff.
The Up Side:
You are designing your life. You can be there to put the kids on the bus, and be there when they get home – if that’s our choice. You can be there for the school stuff during the day. You are choosing when to be with your family. You create your own hours for what works best for you and your family.
YOU are in control of your destiny. You are working for your future and building the life you want to lead.
You are (hopefully) building a long-term career in a business or industry that you enjoy and for which you feel passion.
You will never regret choosing to stay at home and make that work for your family. Your kids grow up too quickly… enjoy every second, and plan for the future.
Once people find out that I have gotten a few inventions and businesses off the ground lots of them approach me saying, “I’ve had this idea for a long time, it might not be great, but I think it might be, but I have no idea what to do with it.” I love it. It’s my opportunity to serve someone else and use the mountain of knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated along the way to help someone else follow their dream. There have been so many twists and turns in m career, I have to believe the reason is to equip me with tools, ideas and skills to make the path a little smoother, and less painful, for others who have a desire to create the next big idea, or open their dream business.
Being an entrepreneur you have to be your own cheerleader, as well. We will have friends and family for encouragement and the occasional pep talk. But, you have to consistently have the drive, conviction and grit to keep going on a daily basis, especially on the days when you start to have self-doubt – which will happen – a lot. I also hope that I can be that champion for my clients when the going gets tough, and they start to lose steam.
The best part of my job is sharing the logo that captures my clients’ vision, or getting their website up and them seeing for the first time their dream in reality. Or whatever it is that encourages my client to keep going, get excited and know they are on the right path.
Go for it… because if you don’t someone else will. Make that idea, or invention, or business yours. What have you got to lose?
Next, get one of these…
Super Easy Step #1 ~ Start by putting your ideas into an invention or business journal. No one has to see it, it’s for you to get your initial thoughts, plans, sketches, contacts, etc. down on paper and start to make this whole thing real. It will evolve and become a huge resource for you. It will also document your work and ideas along the way, which will prove to be priceless. I still look back at my journals from projects past for reference. It’s easy, and you will know you have started!
I’m feeling inspired with the start of summer, and maybe a little more time on my hands, to get going on some new projects, complete some old ones and ignite some ideas. I just wanted to share a little invention and innovation quote…
In middle school I really enjoyed shop class. I loved working with wood, in particular. I made a beautiful bowl using the lathe and enjoyed every bit of the process. Fast forward to about a year ago. I was inspired to get my hands dirty and work with wood again. I decided to build a coffee table using salvaged historic home doors. Fortunately, I live in an area chock full of old stuff pulled out of barns, homes, you name it. I bought a couple of wonderful, dirty, weathered doors and went to work in my garage. I pretty much had NO knowledge of how to transform these doors into a beautiful, functional coffee table, but I dove in. After quite a bit of trial and error, lots of mistakes, a whole bunch of mess, I had a great table! Yay!
It was soooo satisfying and fun and creative… I was quickly thinking about my next carpentry project.
It was soooo satisfying and fun and creative… I was quickly thinking about my next carpentry project.
I began brainstorming what other wood could I salvage to create my next design. No further did I need to look but outside my kitchen window. On the back of our property stood the kids wood swing set that only a few years ago, it seems, my husband and a friend spent the night building for our kids. Sadly, it was now neglected and my husband was bothering me to remove it from the yard. I just couldn’t part with it. It occurred to me, there was a huge pile of wood that of which I just couldn’t part. Could I re-purpose it for my next furniture project? I went out there and started strategically removing pieces of wood that I felt had potential. I’m pretty darn sure my neighbors thought I was a bit crazy, out there suited in goggles, work boots, cammo pants and a power saw. BUT, I salvaged some great stuff and went to work creating a design for another coffee table. I used only the wood from the swing set, some basic supplies (nails, stain, varnish, etc) and some metal plumbing supplies. The design took a little engineering and creativity, but the pieces I salvaged really worked out well. I prettied up the steel plumbing pipes with some black paint and embellished them with gold accents. I love, love, love the table I created. Not only do I love the design & look of the table, but also, now I can keep a piece of my children’s’ childhood in my house forever!
I have been entrepreneurial as long as I can remember. Right out of college I started drumming up business to build my freelance graphic design firm. I had NO idea what I was doing, but actually was pretty darn successful! But, back then I had no idea I was also an inventor.
Fast forward to February 2007. Oprah teamed up with QVC and launched her search for the next big idea. I happened to see that show introducing the campaign and decided right then & there that I would enter. I didn’t have a product, or even and IDEA at that point, but for some reason I knew I would enter. I vividly remember sitting in my home office, with 3 little kids running and crawling around, asking myself, “what need do I have for a solution that isn’t out there?” Within a few hours I came up with something.
I wanted a hair styling product that would give my hair lift at my crown. Something to create fullness, that was easy to use, and undetectable. I hated teasing, and hated using yucky, sticky products. So I went to work building many prototypes of a simple, small hair accessory that would achieve this goal.
LONG story short… I created a great product, the Speedy Bump (I still love the name). I submitted to Oprah’s contest. And waited. I got a call shortly into the contest period from QVC asking for some samples so they could test my invention. OMG!!! I followed their instructions, provided samples, and waited again. I can’t remember the exact date they would be contacting winners, but I certainly remember how I felt that day. I was a bundle of anxiety, I didn’t know what to do with myself. And the phone rang… it was a rep from QVC. Basically, they said that I didn’t win Oprah’s contest, BUT, we are still interested in your product and will be in touch. I soooo thought I was going to Chicago to be on Oprah and share my idea.. so I was sad. But, I needed to change my perspective and realize that QVC liked my idea, and that’s a pretty big deal!
Ultimately QVC passed because I was so early in on my product, I only had a great prototype, I didn’t have manufacturing, proven sales, etc. But I was determined to move forward because I knew I was onto something.
I started researching manufacturing, learning how to get it made on my own, testing it further, and looking into the infomercial world. Through tenacity and dedication I got in touch with one of the first major infomercial gurus in the world (think Ginsu Knives). I found his contact info, reached out, and he actually called me! What??? We had a couple of conversations about my product, then he had me talk to someone else in his organization, talked to his legal department, etc. Then there were crickets. OK, fine, I’m moving forward without them.
I continued working on everything; manufacturing, promotion, marketing. I got a call from my sister-in-law several months later asking me if I had gotten my product on TV because she just saw a commercial for something just like my idea. WHAT??? A very similar product was suddenly everywhere… As Seen On TV, every drug store, you name it. I did as much research as I could on that product, and feel that it did lead back to that infomercial guru from months past. What could I do? I’m a little guy, I didn’t have the resources to stick up for myself. It was terribly painful and heartbreaking. But, here’s a few takeaways:
I HAD A GREAT IDEA!
Protect yourself… talk to a lawyer before you share your great idea with anyone.
I learned soooo much. Mainly, I had a great idea, I will have more, and I can help others with their great ideas to make their teams come true.