Meet the Maker: Ellen Schaeffer of Persistent Sisters

Ellen of Persistent Sisters

The U.S. has been in a frenzy lately, with women’s issues at the forefront of our minds (and on the tips of our tongues). We couldn’t think of a more fitting time to introduce you to Ellen Schaeffer of Persistent Sisters, a line of women’s history trading cards and gifts that celebrate trailblazing women and provide inspiration, motivation and education for girls of all ages. Now that sounds like something we can all agree on. Take it away, Ellen!

 

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Ellen Schaeffer of Persistent Sisters

 

LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?

Ellen: My background is in non-profit community arts development. I wasn’t really thinking in terms of entrepreneurship, but instead about how to develop a network of sharing around the topic of women’s history.

After the 2016 election I had a strong desire for my then 11 year old daughter to have a deeper understanding of how long and hard women have been fighting for equality in all fields, including the political. My son collected baseball cards and consequently developed an impressive knowledge of athletes, and a network of similarly interested friends around the country.

Trading cards seemed like the perfect medium to spread the word about trailblazing women throughout history. But I had never developed a product before. After creating the initial set of cards, I had so many women saying to me, “We need this!” I decided to go all in, and launched a Kickstarter campaign in the fall of 2017. I then found myself knee-deep in packaging, pricing, shipping and, of course, hours and hours of research. I drew a lot of energy from the enthusiasm of the Kickstarter backers that took the leap with me.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Ellen: Persistent Sisters is an ever-expanding line of women’s history trading cards so that girls can see who they can be.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Ellen: Online at www.persistentsisters.com, on Amazon, and in many fantastic museum stores and several boutiques around the county.

 

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LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Ellen: Simply as a needed and accessible resource to empower and inspire both women and older girls, and something to be collected and shared between mothers (aunts, grandmothers, etc.) and daughters. Pocket-sized sheroes!

 

LBC: Walk us through a typical workday.

Ellen: Recently I went back to work full time in the non-profit world, and my typical workday with Persistent Sisters is now very early mornings and late evenings and the weekends. It can be a challenge to find balance.

I have some fantastic graphic designers that I work with, and have brought in other illustrators for a few sets of cards. However, the day-to-day is just me. You might find me researching, running numbers, checking inventory, packaging, illustrating…all the things. Sadly there are many days when I feel like I am so enmeshed in the minutia that I lose sight of the big picture, and don’t take enough time to spread the word about Persistent Sisters. I’m always striving to find ways to manage my time more effectively.

 

LBC: What are 3 things entrepreneurs should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Ellen: Everything BUT the creative. Learn what the tax implications are for an inventory based business. Choose and be very familiar with your accounting system (or find someone to do it for you). And find a way to absolutely love spreadsheets! Literally every penny counts. My life would have been a lot easier if I had taken the time to develop some systems before I was elbow deep in product development.

 

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LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Ellen: I try to think about why I started the business. I pick up a few Persistent Sisters trading cards and reflect on women that have helped changed the world, often facing tremendous obstacles, without support, and on their own. A couple weeks ago, my daughter and two of her friends each submitted papers for National History Day about women’s history, inspired by the Persistent cards. This is what keeps me going on the hardest days, reflecting on the impact the cards can have on young women. The future is female!

 

LBC: Tell us about the best business decision you’ve made to date.

Ellen: I joined the Museum Store Association early on, and found an amazingly supportive group of both vendors and store buyers that were willing to answer my many questions along the way. For anyone with a product that fits in the museum store market, the Museum Store Association is a small investment with big returns. (side note from Lela: I whole-heartedly agree!)

 

LBC: Please share one misstep or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back or overcome it?

Ellen: Oh, so many to choose from! In my first Kickstarter campaign, I wasn’t careful enough when I calculated shipping and went way over budget. I made it work, and am careful not to repeat the same mistake.

 

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LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Ellen: Microsoft OneNote keeps me organized. And the library! I try to include lesser-known women, and sometimes that takes a little digging. Lastly, I would say my daughter and her access to other middle-school aged girls. They’re my ad hoc focus group and their feedback has been invaluable.

 

LBC: Imagine that we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Ellen: My dream has always been for the Persistent Sisters trading cards to spark a little network of girls sharing their own dreams and visions for their future. Recently I started including blank make-it-yourself trading cards, encouraging people to share those on social media and maybe trading them with each other. There are so many more trading cards to make, but I’d also love to find ways to build and engage a community.

 

LBC: How have your interactions with Lucky Break influenced your business?

Ellen: Lucky Break provided me with some invaluable resources. I learned so much, from product descriptions to pricing strategies to line sheets. And I know there’s a lot more that I haven’t tapped into.

 

LBC: What benefits have you seen from taking classes, working with a mentor, and/or building community around your business?

Ellen: There has only been an upside. Finding resources for all of the aspects of the business where I lack knowledge allows me to stay focused in the areas that I feel more comfortable. Additionally, objective feedback is so important. Because I am primarily a one-woman show, I have sought out workshops and other learning events that allow me the opportunity to hear what others think.”

 

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Thank you, Ellen, for sharing your talent with us. We absolutely love what you’re doing with Persistent Sisters, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

 

Meet the Maker: Cindy Collins of Euphoric Herbals

Euphoric Herbals

If you haven’t heard of Euphoric Herbals then I am thrilled to introduce you. When I think of female entrepreneurs who are decidedly ambitious and willing to throw almost anything at the wall to see if it sticks, Cindy’s name is one of the first that pops into my head. Pair that ambition and willingness to innovate with a good business intuition and a solid work ethic and you’ll see why Cindy’s company is on the move!
World, meet Cindy Collins.  And buckle up, because this lady is going somewhere!

 

Cindy Collins of Euphoric Herbals

 

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LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?

Cindy: I’ve always enjoyed the process of creating and building things. It was after I got out of the military that I knew the only way I would have the autonomy I craved was going to come about through my own business. However, I never thought the products I created as a hobby would turn into a business, let alone at this capacity.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Cindy: At Euphoric Herbals, we create meaningful products for women and their families. Most of our products either were developed due to a personal need I had or my former doula clients had.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Cindy: You can find them on our website and our growing list of retailers.

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Cindy: To be honest, when I first started I had no vision or thought about how my business would be defined. I was simply trying to fulfill a creative outlet while raising babies. My vision came later as my business grew, my team members grew and I grew along with it.

 

LBC: Walk us through a typical workday

Cindy: After I get my 3 boys off to school, I usually check email for any urgent issues that need to be addressed. My workdays are a bit different now than they were a few months ago that we recently opened the first herbal apothecary in our state. I bounce back and forth as needed between our manufacturing warehouse and the store to make sure the staff has what they need to complete their daily tasks. I personally attend meetings or schedule meetings, do administrative work, marketing, make sure supplies & materials are ordered and respond to a lot of emails.

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LBC: What are 3 things entrepreneurs should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Cindy: 1.) That they have tested the market to see if there is a demand for their product/service. 2.) Would you create this product or offer this service even if you didn’t get paid because facts are you will have to work a few years without pay typically investing any profits back into your business before you collect a paycheck or salary. 3.) Can this be scaled beyond yourself? At some point, you might actually need to hire help either employees and/or contractors and possibly outsource areas of your business to continue to scale. By doing everything in your business, you limit growth and opportunity for yourself and others.

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Cindy: Remembering how much I’ve overcome to get to this moment. Sometimes you have to focus on just the immediate and urgent essential tasks that must get done today, or if not there will be negative consequences as a result.

 

LBC: Tell us about the best business decision you’ve made to date.

Cindy: Building a team. I’ve learned to work with a contract manufacturer, consultants, freelancers and have employees on my staff. It has forced me into a position of leadership and influence I never imagined. Having people on this journey with me makes all the difference.

 

LBC: Please share one misstep or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back or overcome it?

Cindy: In 2017, we had a delay in our contract manufacturing of some of our best selling products that we use to make by hand. Our revenue dropped in half for about 3 months. We lost an estimated $60,000 in sales, seriously. I learned to run a business feast or famine. I learned how important it is to plan and project inventory and production of product, especially before you start offering wholesale. I learned that it’s always good to have back-up partners and vendors to work with. For a few weeks, while we waited on our product from our contract manufacturer we resorted to basics and temporarily made the product again by hand to get orders out to retain customers.

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Cindy: 

1. CraftyBase. It helped me nail down my COG, profit % and my overhead. It’s helps us track our production, materials and inventory.

2. Gusto. It takes care of payroll, taxes, and reporting new hires.

3. Deputy for employee scheduling & time clock. I create schedules eight weeks in advance for almost 10 employees in two locations.

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LBC: Imagine that we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Cindy: This could get very long because I visualize this often, however, I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible. Very soon I won’t be the only full-time employee. I foresee building a team with department leads, scaling manufacturing locally in a larger warehouse and buying and importing botanicals direct from farms. Developing wholesale and distribution relationships domestically and internationally for our product collection. In regards to our herbal apothecary, opening multiple locations in key cities (I have some in mind already of course).

 

LBC: How have your interactions with Lucky Break influenced your business?

Cindy: I learned a lot about good manufacturing practices, GMP, and how to implement them in my business. It came at the right time as we were preparing to move into a new warehouse, it really helped me up the bar for team members and myself. I’ve also learned loads about wholesale though Wholesale Matchmaker and simply watching a lot of Lela’s live videos. I can’t recommend Lucky Break enough to someone just starting out!

 

LBC: What benefits have you seen from taking classes, working with a mentor, and/or building community around your business?

Cindy: Being apart of online/offline classes & workshops has helped me grow as a business owner. Getting out my local community has allowed great opportunities to meet new people to learn from as well as encourage other business owners. Additionally, opening our first retail store has provided a great platform to translate an online store offline into the community, which can be quite challenging. It has afforded me the privilege to interact face-to-face with customers regularly and truly learns what it means to fall in love with your customers and not your product.

 

LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you loathe doing, what would it be?

Cindy: Cleaning, all day long.

 

LBC: Have you ever held an odd job or one you weren’t particularly fond of?

Cindy: Being in the military. I’m way too much of a free-spirit and rule breaker.

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Cindy: 60’s & 70’s folk

 

Thank you, Cindy, for sharing your talent with us. We absolutely love what you’re doing with Euphoric Herbals, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

 

Lucky Break May 2019 Calendar

May 2019

The May 2019 Calendar is here. April has been a challenging month as we get the site ready for re-launch, but kittens, we are in the home stretch!

 May 2019 Calendar

 

We have our monthly call with our LBU Coaching Community on the 14th.

 

I am so excited to teach a free photo styling workshop on Facebook Live for the 16th. So be sure to mark your calendars and get your questions ready!  Anything you ever wanted to know about how to prep for a product photoshoot will be spilled in this free 1-hour session.

 

We launched our Mastermind Think Tank Group last month. We host monthly group calls for this closed group of serious entrepreneurs.  No topic is off the table. I roll up my sleeves and get in the trenches with you!

 

And we will be closed on Monday, May 28th to observe to gather ourselves, harness our chi, and celebrate the summer! (translation: lots of wine, nachos, and sunning on patios)

 

There is an insane amount of new things happening, so make sure you are following along on all we have cooking this March via our mailing list as well as on Instagram! @lelabarker and @luckybreakconsulting

 

DOWNLOAD THE MAY CALENDAR

 

May 2019

 

Meet the Maker >> Carina Lawson of Ponderlily

Featured Image - Ponderlily

I’m excited to share another installment of our ongoing “Meet the Maker” series, featuring Carina Lawson fo Ponderlily.  For this ongoing series,  leading business owners share morsels of wisdom and give us a peek behind their brands. Carina is especially lovely and she makes some of the most beautiful planners on earth, so I’m eager for you to meet her!

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Meet Carina Lawson of Ponderlily

 

LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?

Carina: As a motivated woman with big dreams, a blossoming career as a business analyst, and a family who I love more than anything, I found myself being pulled in all directions. I was caught in a never-ending cycle of being busy, successful, and exhausted. I wanted a planner that was made sustainably, helped me create a sustainable schedule, and that was also stylish. I’ve always wanted to create a product that helped women with their life-balance and something that fulfilled my creative side, too. After managing other people’s organizations for many years I thought that with my passion for stationery and sustainability combined with my experience in operations management gave me a wonderful opportunity to start my own business.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Carina: I help women with full lives make smarter, meaningful decisions about how they spend their time. I use ethically sourced materials to make planners and diaries that bring attention to routines and rhythms that bring intention – to even the busiest days.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Carina: You can find our products in our online store and in select retailers in the Middle East and England.

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Carina: As a luxury stationery brand for people with full lives seeking to create more space for intentional living.

 

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LBC: Walk us through a typical workday.

Carina: I take my children to school, head to the library to work on Ponderlily for a couple of hours. I then go into my 9-5 job, while my family runs the day-to-day operations. I pick up my children from school during my lunch break, give them a snuggle and catch up on their day. I head back to work until 5. This is all possible because thankfully, my family runs the day-to-day operations at Ponderlily while I’m at work and my work/kids’ school/home is only 10 min from each other! Once my children are in bed, I continue to work on my business for a couple of hours. I don’t work on Fridays. During the high stationery season, I take time off work to dedicate myself 100% to Ponderlily.

 

LBC: What are 3 things entrepreneurs should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Carina: 1. Validate your idea –  do a lot of research with what you consider your ideal clients. Send them questionnaires, have them look through your prototypes, and get their feedback. We have to put the customer at the center of this process.

2. Consider your finances – your business finances should start and stay separate from your personal finances. And pay yourself a salary from the minute you make your first sale. I think it makes things a lot more real when it comes to making decisions about your business.

3. Find your tribe – find the people who’ve been there, who’ll cheer you on when you’re doing all the things and hit a major milestone in your business. Your friends and family may not get what you do so it’s important that you surround yourself with entrepreneur friends to cheer you along and provide you with advice when needed.

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Carina: The vision I created for my business. I remember why I started and who it’s for: I can only serve my customers from a place of calm and not chaos. I recognize that if I’m operating from a place of overwhelm, I won’t be able to make the best decisions for myself or my business so I take breaks, take deep breaths, and take a good walk to put things back into perspective!

 

LBC: Tell us about the best business decision you’ve made to date.

Carina: Working with an experienced branding agency to help us with our branding. I knew we needed to have a strong visual presence and working with Aeolidia has been one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made.

 

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LBC: Please share one misstep or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back or overcome it?

Carina: I didn’t look into a contract as closely as I’ve been trained to do – I let my entrepreneurial passion get the best of my trained business analyst brain and I made a huge oversight: I didn’t question why there wasn’t a deliverable schedule in the contract. Production for our first batch of planners was delayed and this mistake cost me dearly. However, I learned a lot from this experience: approach my business like a business, bring people on who’ll be active partners and not talk down to me because I don’t have experience in the industry, and trust my instincts – if something doesn’t sit well or doesn’t seem right…it probably isn’t.

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Carina: Asana, G-Suite, and One Note.

 

LBC: Imagine that we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Carina: You’d probably see our company in more high-end department stores.

 

LBC: How have your interactions with Lucky Break influenced your business?

Carina: Phenomenal! The team is incredibly professional, Lela knows her stuff and genuinely wants to help your business flourish – every question gets answered and we wouldn’t have a wholesale program without Lucky Break.

 

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LBC: What benefits have you seen from taking classes, working with a mentor, and/or building community around your business?

Carina: I learned everything I know about the stationery business from classes I’ve taken online. I’ve also had mentorship sessions, especially related to production. I’m very grateful to a growing online community in creative groups I’m a part of who share their knowledge when I have questions.

 

LBC: What’s one thing you would eat if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?

Carina: Sushi.

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Carina: Popcorn!

 

LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you loathe doing, what would it be?

Carina: I really don’t like my own cooking. My repertoire in the kitchen has become quite boring and working 9-5 AND running a business on the side makes me tired…and hungry. I’m not gonna lie but I often visit my parents and my in-laws at meal times on weekends (and with Tupperware in hand) just so I can bring their food back home.

 

 

Thank you, Carina, for sharing your talent with us. We absolutely love what you’re doing with Ponderlily, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

 

Meet the Maker >> Fotini Tikkou of Fotini Tikkou Illustrations

Fotini Tikkou

I’m excited to share another installment of our ongoing “Meet the Maker” series, featuring Fotini Tikkou. If you are new here, our Meet the Maker series celebrates some of our favorite leading business wisdom and a peek behind some of our favorite brands.

 

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Meet Fotini Tikkou of Fotini Tikkou Illustrations

 

LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?

Fotini: Being able to make a living from what I love (creating art) was always a dream of mine. Things just happened on their own really. I started sharing my work online and people’s response was really overwhelming. That’s when I realized that people would pay to have my work in their homes so I just grabbed the opportunity and worked hard to build my online shop.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Fotini: I would say my work is colourful, optimistic, and straightforward. Diversity and inclusion are recurring subjects in my work, too.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Fotini: I sell my work online through my online shop. There’s also a selection of my prints and stationery in different shops in Europe and the US.

 

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LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Fotini: I didn’t know much about starting a small business so I had to do a lot of research and there was also some trial and error. My vision for my business though was quite close to the way it’s functioning today. I wanted my shop to be friendly to my customers with a personal touch. I wanted it to give me a significant amount of income without tying me down too much so that I would have the freedom to work only on projects I really loved doing.

 

LBC: Walk us through a typical workday.

Fotini: Everyday is different. I’m afraid I’m not that good at keeping a strict schedule – having a toddler doesn’t help much either. I have always been a night owl so during the evening is when I’m most productive. I’ve always liked the serenity that comes with working late at night when the rest of the world is sleeping. There’s much less distraction then. Usually, I do admin work in the morning together with handling my social media or answering emails.

After I pick up my daughter from daycare at around 15:30 I spend the rest of the day with her til she goes to bed at around 21:00. After that, I will usually sit down and work on my projects at home. I also have my own studio close by where I work on my pottery and on packing my e-shop orders. So some days I work from my studio and others from my home. Practically I would say that even though my schedule is not fixed I end up working pretty much all day except when I’m with my daughter. Luckily I happen to have a very supportive partner who always has my back when things get too demanding with work.

 

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LBC: What are 3 things entrepreneurs should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Fotini: I think they should think about the ‘Who,” the “What” and the “How” principle. “Who” meaning who they are and who their audience is; knowing who will buy your work is important to help you choose the right products for your shop. “What” meaning their identity, how they would like to be defined as a business. That would make people relate to it much easier. And last but not least “How” meaning what methods they are going to implement to attract possible clients and how their whole business will function. All in all my advice would be to plan and organize your business as much as possible before you launch it. There’s going to be a lot of details that you will have to re-adjust but having a good plan beforehand will help a lot.

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Fotini: That is something that happens quite often lately. Juggling all the different aspects of being a freelance illustrator and a small business owner can be quite overwhelming. When I feel that I’m about to burn out I try to shut down a bit. Get off social media, slow down my production, say no to projects and take some time off without doing anything business related. It’s not always possible but even a day or two off can really help.

 

LBC: Tell us about the best business decision you’ve made to date.

Fotini: I think opening my online shop was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

 

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LBC: Please share one misstep or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back or overcome it?

Fotini: When I started out, I obviously had no idea how exactly to do things. There’s always a learning curve with everything. I remember calculating shipping costs gave me a bit of a headache. Dealing with the post was tricky and as I offered a tracking and a non-tracking option at first there were some incidents with lost or damaged packages. Even though I made clear in my e-shop that I would not be held responsible for damages by third parties, I did have to reimburse customers and make up for the damage. I solved this by offering only a tracking option for more peace of mind and also by reinforcing my packaging, especially for longer destinations.

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Fotini: The only thing that I cannot imagine doing my business without is Instagram. That is my number one business tool. Without Instagram, my business would definitely be very different. I’m not even sure my e-shop would exist. Instagram gave me immense visibility which translated into a big buying audience. 98% of my customers come straight from my Instagram account and that is where I do all my marketing and promotion of new products. Without consolidating a significant audience that would be willing to buy your work, launching a shop would be a quite risky move.

 

LBC: Imagine that we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Fotini: Hmm…that’s a tough one cause these days so many things happen unexpectedly. It’s hard to predict the future. Obviously, I would love for my business to do as well or even better than how it’s doing today even though that’s a bit of an intimidating thought for me as having a small business is only part of what I do for a living. I need to be able to work on the rest of my projects as well as creating art.

 

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LBC: What’s one thing you would eat if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?

Fotini: Seafood

 

LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?

Fotini: “Don’t wait for a miracle to happen, make it happen” – I don’t know who said that.

 

LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you loathe doing, what would it be?

Fotini: Shopping for clothes.

 

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Thank you, Fotini, for sharing your talent with us. We absolutely love what you’re doing with Fotini Tikkou Illustrations, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!