Meet the Makers – Lizzi and Mary Bradley of Little Minnow

Meet the Maker - Little Minnow

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This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Lizzi and Mary Bradley, the sister team behind Little Minnow – a line of accessories that are hand screen printed and sewn in Austin, Texas. Welcome, ladies!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as entrepreneurs?

Lizzi and Mary: We both had been working full-time jobs (Mary as a high school teacher and Lizzi as a Graphic Designer) plus working on Little Minnow at night and on the weekends. The holiday season was approaching and we both didn’t feel like we could go through another one not being able to fully devote our time to Little Minnow. So we made the leap and have never looked back!

 

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

Lizzi and Mary: Our business started, well… not as a business. It really started with an idea to make some scarves for  ourselves and our sisters. After sewing up a few, we thought it would be cool to screenprint some of our designs on to them. It was right around the time that Etsy was first gaining a lot of attention, and after listing and quickly selling out, we started exploring craft shows and really building a brand around our scarves. We really had no idea it would grow the way it did. We define ourselves now as a women’s accessories brand, but who knows what the next five years will bring!?

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Lizzi and Mary: We are most known for our screen printed infinity scarves but our twist hair scarves are a close second. Each of our products is handmade from start to finish – the fabric is cut, then printed, heat-set and finally sewn. The last step is packaging and shipping it out the door!

 

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LBC: Where can we find your products?

Lizzi and Mary: We are stocked in stores all across the country. I think the only state we currently don’t have any stores is in Utah. (If any of you reading this are from Utah and own a store – you can be our first!)

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Lizzi and Mary: Our days usually start with a quick look at e-mail (we wish we could be those people who only look at their e-mail once or twice a week, or even once a day – but really, how can you resist?) and going over anything we need to get done that day. Mary spends most of her days handling wholesale/retail orders, managing finances, and making sure production is on track. Lizzi is in charge of a majority of the printing, anything we need designed, and snapping photos for social media.

 

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

Lizzi and Mary: Well, I don’t know if we are the best about giving advice on the topic since we started our business somewhat on a whim, but we’ll give it a go…

1. Do your research. Have a great idea? Awesome! Just make sure it’s not already being done.

2. Make sure you are setting your prices correctly. You might have to ask your finance major friends, or even just someone who is good with numbers… but make sure you are covering your cost of materials, time and overhead. Don’t just set your prices to what your competitors are doing – people are willing to pay more for higher quality items.

3. Don’t be afraid to evolve or make changes a long the way. We were so nervous the first time we had to make changes to our fabric colors. We were convinced there would be a flood of emails from angry people saying “the fabric use to be cream and now its ivory”. The truth is that nobody noticed, and life went on!

 

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

Lizzi and Mary: We are both list makers. Mary takes it a little more seriously, often making lists about making other lists.

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Lizzi and Mary: Our decision to quit our day jobs is pretty high up there. We were fortunate enough that our business was able to support us by then, but it would have been really hard for Little Minnow to grow if we weren’t able to focus completely on it for a few years.

A second decision that really impacted our business was hiring help and teaching our processes to other people. As our business grew, we realized that we couldn’t do it all on our own. Having extra hands has allowed us to focus more on the business and less on the day-to-day production.

 

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

Lizzi and Mary: People often say that you shouldn’t mix family and business. And the truth is, sometimes we fight. It’s just the nature of being sisters and working in close proximity together. But it is often for the best. We get frustrated, we need to vent, and the next day we are always back at it, working hard (and usually with a little more awareness of each other’s needs – although neither of us is good at admitting it.)

Being honest is important in any business relationship. You don’t want to tell your business partner you like their ideas (when you don’t) just because you are afraid of hurting their feelings. You won’t feel good about the outcome or be fully on-board about where the business is going. As sisters, we have been brutally honest (and I mean really brutally) with each other since we were kids. Things haven’t changed. She will still tell me if a pair of pants make my legs look short, and I will tell her if I don’t like her hair. But in business together, we feel entirely comfortable to voice our opinions without hesitation, and even get a little bossy every once in awhile.

 

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LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Lizzi and Mary: We donate to Healing Haiti, an organization that helps to bring clean water to the poor and vulnerable people living in Cite Soleil, the poorest city in Haiti.

 

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

Lizzi and Mary: 1. Our friends who also own small, creative businesses. They are so great when we have questions, need help, or just need to vent. It is such a blessing to have friends who have similar experiences and are willing to share and help out – together it is way more fun, and we’ve all found more success.

2. Our iPhones. They help us stay connected and get work done on the go, or from bed.

3. Square credit card readers – remember when you could only accept cash or had to make a carbon-copy of someone’s card and prayed it was legit? Ancient history.

 

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

Lizzi and Mary: This a very timely question, as we have been having some major discussions about the future and how we see Little Minnow growing. We both agree we want to continue to grow our brand, add more stockists, hire more employees and maybe even start a new line. We both really enjoy the design aspect of our company, so getting to a place where we can be full-time designers with a staff that helps with all of the production would be really awesome!

 

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

Lizzi and Mary: Cereal – it is such a guilty pleasure for both of us!

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Lizzi: When I need to focus, it’s all Banks and Adele.

Mary: I’m not ashamed to admit I love country music.

 

Meet the Maker - Little Minnow

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Lizzi and Mary: Eating candy when working. Sometimes we look at each other (especially when we are feeling stressed) and say “I can keep going, but I’m going to need a sweet treat,” and then someone heads to the gas station for some Hot Tamales and Peanut M&Ms.

 

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

Lizzi: Resizing images for the web and convincing Mary to take pictures of me for social media.

Mary: Typing up wholesale orders and taking pictures of Lizzi for social media.

 

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

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Meet the Makers – Ali and Lauren Borowick of Fatty Sundays

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fattysundays1

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re going behind the scenes with sister duo Ali and Lauren Borowick, co-founders of the contemporary gourmet food brand Fatty Sundays – a line of deliciously decadent (and incredibly fun) chocolate covered pretzels. Yes, please… Welcome, Ali and Lauren!

 

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

Ali + Lauren: Our Mom’s chocolate covered pretzels were the original inspiration behind Fatty Sundays. Before we got started, I was working as a graphic designer for Equinox, and my sister Lauren was supposed to work for Ernst & Young as an accountant. We couldn’t shake our idea of re-inventing  and modernizing chocolate covered pretzels. The challenge and thrill of starting a business from scratch (with no culinary background!) and sharing our crazy pretzel idea with the world was what pushed us to take the leap as entrepreneurs.

 

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

Ali + Lauren: A sister-run, family business selling modern-day chocolate covered pretzels. The go-to company for sweet + salty indulgences for all occasions.

 

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Photo Credit: Munchery

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Ali + Lauren: Fatty Sundays makes gourmet, fun-flavored chocolate covered pretzels. We’re re-inventing and modernizing everyone’s favorite sweet + salty treat with unique flavors and eye-catching packaging.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Ali + Lauren: Online at www.fattysundays.com and at gourmet retailers like Dean & DeLuca, The Plaza Todd English Food Hall, Foragers, and Handsome Dan’s, to name a few! For all of the New Yorkers reading this, we’re also at the iconic Union Square Holiday Market from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It will be our 5th year there, come visit us, rain or shine!

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Ali + Lauren: We subway, walk or bike to our offices in Brooklyn. We usually eat breakfast at our desks and scan a bunch of emails while talking about a few things that have priority for the day. After that, Spotify gets turned on! Lauren leads production, so we’ll typically discuss the schedule for the day and any other important orders coming in. The rest of the day is werk, werk, werk, werk, werk! On any given day, we’re working on a wide variety of projects, sales initiatives, social content, marketing campaigns, packaging projects, etc…As a small biz, we wear lots of hats! Lunch time comes and goes, and before we know it, the day is over (some nights later than we’d like!) Of course, we can’t forget snack time somewhere in there – we always have broken chocolate covered pretzels laying around (“rejects,” as we lovingly call them!)

 

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

Ali + Lauren: 1) Is there anything else like your product out there?

2) Do you stay up at night thinking about the idea?

3) What’s your Plan B?

 

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

Ali + Lauren: We remind ourselves that we’re making and selling chocolate covered pretzels, and that our ultimate goal is to make people happy with a delicious sweet + salty treat!

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Ali + Lauren: • Taking the leap to start Fatty Sundays.

• Building out our own production and office space.

• Ultimately trusting our gut in everything we do.

• Taking Pina Colada pretzels off of the flavor list!

• Talking to a variety of mentors along the way for advice.

 

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

Ali + Lauren: Mistakes?! We don’t make mistakes… just kidding! In the bigger picture, one of the biggest challenges for us was figuring out how to make it ALL happen. When we started Fatty Sundays, we were literally making every pretzel while simultaneously mopping the floors, designing all marketing materials, and reconciling our bank account, among many other things! As we’ve grown, we’ve overcome that feeling of having to “do it all” by learning to prioritize and focus on what we are good at, and what we want to be doing. We’ve made it a point to find the best people to outsource certain things to. It’s no easy task, but something that we’re continuously working on as a growing business!

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Ali + Lauren: For the month of October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) we sell hot pink pretzels and donate a portion of sales to Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This is a cause near and dear to our hearts, and we do this to honor our Aunt Laurel, who passed away from breast cancer two years ago.

 

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

Ali + Lauren: 1) Google Docs and Dropbox.

2) Our big wall calendar to see what’s ahead.

3) Quickbooks.

4) Our team! …That’s more than three, but this list could go on and on!

 

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

Ali + Lauren: In everyone’s pantry and all gourmet shops in the USA and Canada. We also hope to expand to England and Japan. We’d love to do more pop-up markets (like we do in New York City at the Union Square Holiday Market) in different cities.

 

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

Ali + Lauren: Chocolate anything!

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Ali + Lauren: Mostly pop music, sprinkled with some moody Kings of Leon and Billy Joel oldies. We’re also newly obsessed with listening to podcasts in the kitchen!

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Ali + Lauren: Dipping a Fatty Sundays pretzel into a jar of peanut butter.

 

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

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Meet the Maker – Luke and Abby Hatteberg of Wayfaren

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Luke and Abby Hatteberg of the beautiful up-and-coming brand Wayfaren. We had the pleasure of meeting this husband and wife team via their membership in our Wholesale Matchmaker program, and have completely fallen in love with the beautiful aesthetics of their product line. We’re thrilled to go behind-the-scenes with them today to learn a bit more about how they tick. Welcome, Luke and Abby!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as entrepreneurs?

Luke + Abby: We feel pretty lucky, because it seems that entrepreneurship found us. Wayfaren started as a creative outlet spurred on by our love for travel. Slowly over the next four years, the business kept growing and expanding more than we had ever anticipated. So thankfully the “leap” wasn’t too scary, each move seemed like the next practical step in our journey. The dream of what Wayfaren could become compelled us to eventually take the dive into self-employment. Also, knowing we would have the opportunity to hopefully raise a family around the creativity, strength, and independence of the entrepreneur world was very appealing.

 

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

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

Luke + Abby: A niche business specializing in high quality, travel-inspired goods, meant to inspire a life of adventure.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Luke + Abby: Currently on our website www.wayfaren.com, as well as Etsy. We are excited to recently be entering into the world of wholesale! So hopefully, you will find our products in retailers across the world soon!

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Luke + Abby: Our products are handcrafted and travel-inspired. Our collections are thoughtfully designed and carefully crafted for the modern traveler, for reminiscing on your greatest adventures and dreaming up new ones everyday.

 

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Luke + Abby: Most days are a wild mess of crafting products and order fulfillment, meetings, new project development, and taking care of our customers. Add a heaping dose of coffee and our baby girl spreading a bit of joyful chaos into all aspects of the business, and that sums up a good amount of our typical work days.

 

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

Luke + Abby: Do you see purpose in your pursuit? Do you have the commitment to see the business through in moments you will want to quit? Are you ok with flying by the seat of your pants…usually on a daily basis?

 

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

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

Luke + Abby: Gratitude. When the overwhelm comes – and it does come in strong waves often when you run your own business – we try our best to get perspective. We take a step back and look at how unbelievably rare this gift is- to have built a successful business in four years, be able to support our family with that business, have the opportunity to provide for a few employees, make our own schedule, be our own boss, help inspire people to invest in the experiences that matter…only by grace, gratitude changes everything.

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Luke + Abby: 1. For us, choosing to make conservative, debt-free investments has brought a lot of freedom and confidence. Although we know it won’t always be the case, only making investments we have the cash for has been a game changer for the financial stability of our business. Although it meant we probably grew more slowly than maybe we “should” have, we have no regrets.

2. Rebranding about 2 years into our journey was invaluable. We changed our name, logo, refined our aesthetic, and made the business much more viable long term.

3.Not giving up even in the most heart-wrenching, exhausting, “I can’t do this anymore” moments.

 

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

Abby: I think our biggest obstacle was thinking that we had to do everything ourselves, in combination with thoroughly underestimating the power and joy of strategically collaborating with other artists. In the beginning we tried to DIY everything, which was both isolating, extremely cumbersome, and pretty discouraging at times. Once we began to let go of having to do everything ourselves and began allowing in other brilliant and beautiful creatives who were truly gifted at different aspects of business (i.e., graphic design, brand development, etc.) we were able to focus on the things that we truly loved doing and the things only we could do.

 

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Luke + Abby: There is! We feel very passionately about the fact that only by grace have we been gifted this business, so in grace we MUST give back to others. In 2015, we began partnering with The Her Initiative, an organization bringing clean water and health & hygiene curriculum to communities in need around the world. We have decided to give 10% of our net revenue to The Her Initiative and we are grateful to partner with such a life-saving, life-impacting mission.

 

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

Luke + Abby: Can we say “our team” three times? Really though, our team is the lifeblood of our operation, the resource we truly cannot do without. Although it’s meant that we make less money, we have always erred on the side of not hesitating to bring others into this team. They’ve brought different perspectives and talent, much needed support, and most of all, fun!

 

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

Luke + Abby: In a few years we hope to be known as the source for high quality, travel-inspired goods. We hope to have significantly developed our travel journal and prints lines through our wholesale program, launch a collection of culturally influenced housewares and furniture, and grown our partnership with The Her Initiative. Dreaming big, we’d love to have a brick and mortar storefront to sell our products and support other small businesses, and even host some local woodworking courses.

 

LBC: Which Lucky Break products products or services have you found most helpful?

Luke + Abby: We first discovered Lucky Break Consulting through Periscope and have forever been changed! Lela’s wisdom and business insight from the scopes alone have been invaluable…pure gold. As soon as she introduced Wholesale Matchmaker, I knew it was exactly what we needed. Having very little knowledge and experience with wholesale, this program was the perfect solution to help us bridge this beginning stage. So much stress and anxiety has been relieved with this program!

 

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

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

Abby: He says sushi, I say coffee.

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Luke + Abby: Currently, Seryn. If you don’t know them, you should.

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Luke + Abby: Playing hooky with our baby girl on spontaneous coffee dates and picnics.

 

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

Luke + Abby: P A C K A G I N G

 

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

Luke + Abby: Our business mantra- “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Mary Ritter Beard

 

LBC: If you were given a million dollars, but were not allowed to keep a single penny for yourself, friends or family, how would you spend it or give it away?

Luke + Abby: Anonymously gift it to local families in need- nothing better than secret giving!

 

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

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Meet the Maker – Annika Benitz Chaloff of Married & Bright

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re going behind the scenes with the lovely Annika Benitz Chaloff of handcrafted lingerie brand Married & Bright. Annika, whom I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know in person at the Craftcation conference this past April, is a honey of a woman – and I’m tickled pink to introduce her to you as well. Welcome, Annika!

 

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

Annika: About five years ago, I decided to start my own business because I couldn’t find a career path that I was happy with. Rather than endlessly pursue jobs that dead-ended or made me feel trapped, I started a line of children’s and maternity clothing called Expect. That ill-fated business closed at the end of 2014. I was so heartbroken by what I perceived as a failure, I vowed never to go into business again.

In early 2015, I fell into being a handmade business owner when I made a bralette for myself out of leftover materials from Expect. That bra went “viral” on Instagram. I got so many requests for duplicates that I had to open an Etsy shop to process the orders. Suddenly, I was in business again, and invigorated with fresh passion.

As the success of my new business, Married & Bright, increases, I realize more and more that there is no other career I’d rather have. I am, simply put, unemployable. I really enjoy setting my own hours, being free to travel, and creating my own lifestyle. I’m hoping to become a mother in the next few years and I really like the freedom that entrepreneurship affords me when it comes to time spent working and time spent with family.

 

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

Annika: I wanted to create unique lingerie that is designed by women, for women. I wanted to design and market non-intimidating undies for everyday ladies. From day one, it has been my goal to make women feel more beautiful, confident, and positive about their bodies through what they put on it. I believe that the way you look on the outside has the power to influence how you feel on the inside… and truly lovely, fun lingerie makes every woman feel just a little more pretty.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Annika: I make quirky yet delicately handcrafted lingerie that is designed to make the wearer feel wonderful.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Annika: On my website, marriedandbright.com, and on Etsy at marriedandbright.etsy.com.

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Annika: Every day seems to be different and I’m often flying by the seat of my pants, but usually I split my day into three sections: filling orders, marketing, and product development. I strive to get my orders out within 48 hours of receiving them, and since every bralette and pair of undies is made-to-order, I spend a lot of time at my machine.

I enjoy working late into the evenings, and as a result, I wake up late — around 10am. Usually the first thing in my work day is sewing and packing orders to get them to the post office before it closes at five in the afternoon. Most days I’m at the post office at noon, and I swing by Starbucks on my way back home.

Then I dive into marketing efforts, whether that is developing my Pinterest and Instagram platforms, or working with a blogger on an upcoming feature. It’s hard for me to keep from adding new products to my line because I’m always finding new materials I want to work with, so a few times a month, I sew, photograph, and create new listings.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

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

Annika: 1. Think through why you are going into business. If you are doing it just for fun, then it’s not a business. Sometimes, business isn’t fun, but it can be very rewarding even when the money isn’t flowing. I went into business to be in control of my work schedule, income, and lifestyle.

2. Think strongly about the viability of your product. Do a little research about what kinds of products people want to buy, and see if you can supply that. I think a lot of handmade business owners go into business to try to sell something that they enjoy making without considering if people actually want to purchase and own it. This was the downfall of my pervious business; I was making products I enjoyed sewing, but ones that no one really needed or wanted.

3. Consider how much money you want to put into your business and make a plan. It’s easy to get excited about starting a business, but much harder to be harshly honest with yourself when it’s not going well. It’s important to think of it as a business and not take it personally when it’s not going well. I’m not saying to throw in the towel during a slow season, but to just be careful about sinking a lot of money into something without a plan.

 

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

Annika: When I used to get overwhelmed as a kid, my mom used to say, “Just do it bird by bird.” I return to that phrase often when I’m feeling like there are just too many tasks in front of me. I make a list and I break the steps down to super small actions. I think of what needs to be done today and what I can leave for tomorrow. Sometimes it’s as simple as cleaning up my studio so that I have room to cut long reams of fabric, and then laying the fabric out to get cut. Bird by bird.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Annika: Education. Period. When I was running Expect, I refused to spend money on anything besides materials. I’d say that’s the number one reason that business failed. I had no idea what I was doing. When I fell back into business, I decided to educate myself as much as possible about anything related to my field. That included brushing up on sewing skills, and taking online classes about marketing, finance, social media, and graphic design. Paying other people to share their genius with me has been worth it tenfold because of the heartache and frustration it has saved me.

 

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

Annika: Something hard I face almost every day is people writing to me complaining that they don’t think the products I make are for them. It can be really hard knowing that there is an underserved community that I could be selling to, and feeling like I can’t help them. Specifically, women with larger chests feel disappointed that my bralettes aren’t made to support them. I had to realize that, first of all, I can’t serve everyone. No business can. I had to be okay — at least for the time being — with turning away potential customers because my designs aren’t meant for them. Secondly, I had to strongly consider if I wanted to onboard these potential buyers and how I would do it. Since making underwire bra is a complicated, math-heavy (and I’m good at math!) project, I’ve decided to make a long term plan to literally support these women… just not today.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Annika: I’m not sure if there is even a word for this cause, but my current passion is making women feel good about themselves no matter what men think about them. My best friend, Jessica, founded I Dress for Me, which is a movement that sums up my feelings about fashion. Wear what you wanna wear and don’t worry about what your husband, boyfriend, or strangers on the street think about you. Wear a wild outfit, or a short skirt, and forget about what others think. Your sartorial choices are not an invite for judgement, conversation, harassment, or assault. You can check out the movement on Instagram at @idressforme.

 

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

Annika: 1. It might be harsh to call this a tool, but my “biz besties” are a great resource and enormous comfort to me. Having a group of fellow small business owners to bounce ideas off of, or just whine to, has been wonderfully helpful.

2. This may be surprising, but Etsy has been an amazing tool for growing my business, and I don’t plan on doing away with it! Etsy is like one of my employees. She brings in traffic, advertises for me, and streamlines my customer onboarding process. I can’t fire someone who only takes a 3.5% commission!

3. Since I run my business out of my home, having a whole room designated just to Married & Bright has been a really lovely luxury that I hope I never have to do without. Being able to lock the door and get work done without interruption allows me to be as productive as a work-from-homer could possibly be. And being able to shut myself out of the room when the day is done lets me dedicate valuable time to my husband and dog at the end of the day.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

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

Annika: Designing and making my own products is something I hope to never have to stop doing, so as I grow my business, I’m hoping to outsource tasks like marketing, finance, social media, packing and shipping, and sourcing materials. I’d love to have a small team. My loftier, more long-term goal is to one day open a brick and mortar boutique where I can interact with my team and customers daily.

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Annika: 90s pop and musicals. I can’t get enough of those five-part boy band harmonies, and those get-out-of-your-seat-and-do-a-solo kick line tunes!

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Annika: Snarfing down Trader Joe’s Belgium Chocolate pudding straight out of the container while standing in front of the open fridge. If there is another way to eat that stuff, I haven’t discovered it yet.

 

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

Annika: I would seriously love to get someone to do my bookkeeping. I’m decent at math, but something about looking at money numbers makes me queasy, even on a good month! To not have to crunch those numbers once a month would be so so dreamy.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

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

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Meet the Maker – Megan Eckman of Studio MME

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know the amazingly talented Megan Eckman, who produces a line of DIY embroidery kits using her own designs out of Vancouver, Washington. Welcome, Megan!

 

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

Megan: My initial leap was more of a shove. In order to pursue dual degrees in art and creative writing, my mother required I start a business before I graduated. I set up Studio MME in my senior year and I sold prints of my illustrations.

After I graduated, I moved to Silicon Valley and had to get a part-time job at Borders to pay rent. Eight months later, Borders filed bankruptcy and I danced out their doors determined to take Studio MME full-time and never work for anyone else again.

For the next year, I struggled trying to sell my prints. Then one night I stitched one of my illustrations onto scrap fabric and shared it on Facebook. The next day, I had tons of people asking if there was a pattern they could sew. With a terrifying leap, I switched over my business to that of embroidery kits and ever since it’s been a crazy ride upwards.

 

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

Megan: I wanted Studio MME to be an alternative to the 1950s patterns still sold in craft stores and the punk offerings of Sublime Stitch. I wanted to be defined by my whimsical illustrations that I converted into embroidery patterns. I knew the way I created my designs wouldn’t make them extremely popular with those who were Master Embroiderers (yes, that is a real title you can earn) or those who loved the traditional Day of the Week patterns. Instead, I wanted to give people not yet into embroidery a new way to relax after work and feel creative.

 

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Megan: I create approachable embroidery for modern stitchers. I flunked my grandmother’s lessons so there are no fancy stitches in my work. I believe that crafting should be fun, not frustrating, so each kit is designed to be finished while relaxing in just a few hours. Sometimes I test the designs by having a beer while I sew. If it turns out looking fine, then I know it’s a good pattern. I’m all about initiating new people into this craft in the least intimidating way possible.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Megan: You can find Studio MME kits online at http://www.studiomme.com and http://www.etsy.com/studiomme. In person, you can find them in 70 shops across the country. I have a full list of my retailers here. Also, in just a few months, you’ll be able to find my work through DMC’s CommonThread line!

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Megan: Each day of the week has specific tasks. Mondays are admin days so all outstanding issues are handled, product copy is tweaked, etc. Tuesdays are photo shoot days. Wednesdays are play days, where I draw new designs and sew. Thursdays are wholesale days, where I find new shops, check in with existing shops, and hunt down those who haven’t responded to my pitches. Fridays are media days where I find and pitch blogs and magazines. Saturdays are another play day and then Sunday is OFF.

I’m up at 6am every day and amuse the cat for a bit. Then I work out and have breakfast. The ‘work’ doesn’t start until 10am. I work from10am to noon each day and then cook the ‘big meal’ with my husband/business partner. We’re back at work from 2pm to 6pm. After a short break for supper, we are back at it until 9pm. Everything gets shut down at 9pm no matter what. Then I read a book, watch a movie, paint, or just amuse the cat some more.

 

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

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

Megan: 1. Will your product be profitable? I get new ideas all the time, but over half of them never make it past the initial burst of excitement because they don’t pass the profitability test. If I can’t make a profit from it, I’m not going to invest the time and money to make it. Be sure you run the numbers before you start buying supplies or website URLs.

2. How long do you/can you make things yourself? I’m the proverbial gym teacher: Those who can’t craft, make kits. I outsource much of my sewing now to my super fans who stitch up shop displays for me or test out new patterns. It’s important to consider how much you LOVE doing something yourself with your hands and how long you can physically do it without injury. By letting those who truly love to sew (and who are much better at it than I am) do that task for me, it allows me to grow my business more than if I did everything myself. Build an ‘escape route’ into your business plan that allows you to hand off certain physical tasks when you reach key milestones.

3. File correctly. I know this is really unglamorous, but filing your business correctly both legally and financially makes a huge difference. Not only do you perceive it as a business with a capital B, but you don’t get bit in the butt later by back-taxes or fines from your city and state.

 

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

Megan: I get overwhelmed frequently because I have some anxiety issues. When I start to feel panicky, I go for a long walk. I live just a block from Fort Vancouver, the end of the Oregon Trail, and I wander around the barracks and parade grounds till I realize how lucky I am to be able to do that any time I like. If that isn’t enough, I go to the place where I board my cat on vacations and pet the cats there for an hour. Free therapy is sometimes the best therapy.

 

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Megan: 1. I hired my husband. In 2015, I took on my husband as a contractor. He has an MFA in photography so I set him to work shooting EVERYTHING. Instagram pictures, product shots, magazine shots, head shots, lifestyle shots, etc. You name it, he photographed it. With his new photos, we doubled our income that year. I had no idea professional photos could make that much of a difference.

2. I started selling just parts of my kits. I had lots of customers tell me they loved my kits but they already had so many supplies that all they needed was the fabric. We added pre-printed fabric to our product line and now we make about a quarter of our sales from that simple product. We’re now going to start up a club for our super fans where each month the fabric arrives at their door, ready for them to sew. Sometimes giving the people what they ask for pays off.

3. I cold-email shops like nobody’s business. Every three months I cold-email between 100 and 200 shops to pitch my kit line. I used to worry that I was being annoying or pushy. Now I know that they love seeing new work that they don’t have to go out and find for themselves. I always do the research to ensure I’d be a good fit first.

I’ve also learned that just because you don’t hear back doesn’t mean they don’t want your stuff. It just means they’re busy or it’s not the right time. I cold-emailed a ‘dream’ shop for 2 years before they emailed and said, ‘We’ve been in love with your stuff for years and now we’re finally ready to carry it!’

 

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

Megan: Last October, my oval embroidery hoops suddenly stopped being available. All shipments from Thailand were halted and no one, I mean NO ONE, could get their hands on more. So, two months till Christmas, there I was, completely changing more than half of my product line to take a circle hoop instead of an oval one. I had to re-sew every piece, photograph it, make new kit papers, tweak the designs, and explain the change to all of my shops (who had just placed their holiday orders). I don’t know how I did it, but I got all 26 designs changed over without a hiccup or delay in shipping.

I’ve learned now to do more research into my supplies and have a ‘battle plan’ in the event that something gets discontinued, held up in a port strike (which has also happened), or jumps significantly in price.

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Megan: I hope next year to contribute to the World Wildlife Fund, since so many of my kits feature animals.

 

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

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

Megan: 1) Adobe Creative Cloud – My partner and I can share everything instantly between our computers.

2) Dropbox – I love being able to go on vacation knowing I can send out line sheets, update Instagram, and give blogs the images they want without having to lug my laptop around.

) Trello – Not only does this project manager allow my partner and me to divide things up by day, week, month, and quarter, but it has saved me a veritable fortune on Post-It Notes. If you’re a visual person like me, you’ll love this free resource.

 

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

Megan: You would see Studio MME kits sold in every state in the US, as well as in Waldorf schools to teach life skills to kids. Studio MME would have a team of employees, including a packer and a wholesale manager, allowing me to simply be in charge of design. And me? Well, my husband and I plan to roam around the country in a van with our cat for several months each year, being inspired by our surroundings.

 

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

Megan: Korean rice bowls.

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Megan: This is embarrassing, but my playlist is full of musicals. When my partner isn’t in the studio, I sing along while I work.

 

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Megan: On Sundays, I lie in bed for two hours and just do crossword puzzles.

 

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

Megan: Pack my kits. I’m looking at hiring seasonal help this year because packing kits from sun up till sun down for two months straight is no way to enjoy the holiday season.

 

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

Megan: “Nothing is impossible, just highly improbable.” ~ Douglas Adams

 

LBC: If you were given a million dollars, but were not allowed to keep a single penny for yourself, friends or family, how would you spend it or give it away?

Megan: I feel like I’m channeling Bob Barker now, but I would give the money to the Humane Society so that it could pay to trap and spay/neuter as many stray animals as it could. It breaks my heart knowing so many have to rough it outside without a lap to sleep/drool in.

 

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

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!