CELEBRATING WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES THIS MOTHER’S DAY
This Mother’s Day, we would like to take the time to recognize some of our tenants that happen to be both small business owners and mothers. We spoke with five businesswomen throughout the country to get their tips and advice on juggling motherhood and a business.
Our small-business panel includes:
Bella Ballerina, located in our Battlefield Shopping Center in Leesburg, Virginia. Owned by Natalie Perkins, Bella Ballerina has three locations and offers ballet, jazz, and tap classes to children aged 18 months through 10 years old, as well as ladies’ fitness classes, birthdays, and special events.
Elements Therapeutic Massage offers massage therapy in a serene and tranquil environment. The franchise brand has 160 locations throughout the country. We spoke with local owner Anita Sheth in our Woodgrove Festival in Woodridge, Illinois. Jewelry by Design, in our Smoketown Station in Woodbridge, Virginia. In operation since 1989, Jewelry by Design offers an extensive range of jewelry products, and provides services like gold buying, appraisals, and jewelry and watch repair. The shop is run by Jenny Caro and her husband, John.
My Sister’s Closet, in Encinitas Marketplace in Encinitas, California. After originally establishing their first location in Phoenix in 1991, Ann and Jenny Siner expanded to Scottsdale, Chandler, and most recently our Encinitas location. My Sister’s Closet is a designer consignment store that offers women’s and men’s clothing, accessories, and home furnishings that can be as much as 90 percent below retail prices.
Sugar Divas Cakery, located in the Sodo Shopping Center in Orlando, Florida. Clare Otto started the custom cakery; she makes custom cakes and cupcakes and hosts cake decorating parties for both adults and kids. Unique to most bakeries, Sugar Divas serves beer, wine, and coffee to patrons as well.
What gave you the idea to start your own business?
Perkins, Bella Ballerina: My dad was a business owner and growing up I always knew I would one day work for myself as well. We were initially going to start a completely different business with extremely high start-up capital. When things didn't work out in that department, I had a moment of realization that this type of business was something that better fit our budget, was an industry I had lots of experience in, and was right up my alley after having my daughter!
Sheth, Elements Massage: One particular day I was feeling very stressed out, and I went for a massage session. I came out feeling 100 times better, and began to have regular massage sessions. I began researching the massage industry, realizing that if massage could make such a difference in me, it could also prove very beneficial to many other people. My research brought me to Elements. I am proud to bring this simple service, which is proven to be beneficial to one’s overall health, to others, at a reasonable and affordable cost.
Caro, Jewelry by Design: I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in jewelry making. My husband was a bench jeweler, and he learned how to repair jewelry. We met, and he got tired of working for other people, so we decided to be crazy and open our own store when we were in our late 20s.
Ann Siner, My Sister’s Closet: We got the idea from a resale store in Texas that had great quality clothing at hugely discounted prices. Jenny: After endlessly searching for the right location, we opened My Sister’s Closet in the heart of Phoenix in 1991. We knew from day one we wanted to offer our consigners a level of service and convenience that other “mom-and-mom” resale stores did not. No appointment would be needed for consigning. You could pick up your money or store credit immediately after your item sold. Even today, that’s not the case with most consignment stores.
Otto, Sugar Divas Cakery: I began a cake decorating hobby when I was 13 years old and always dreamed of owning my own business one day. By age 15 I had taken “sugar craft” classes in England, and was constantly designing new creations in my family’s kitchen. With creativity, determination, and countless pounds of sugar, the idea of Sugar Divas Cakery was born. Our mission is to transform customers’ unique sugar dreams into edible masterpieces, one handcrafted cake at a time.
How does being a mother help you with your business?
Perkins, Bella Ballerina: Understanding what moms are looking for in activities for their kids helps A LOT! Ultimately parents need simple, clear, and concise options that make it easy to say “yes” to a product or service. We build everything we do around the needs and wants of our parents, specifically moms. I think that raising kids and having a strong family is a lot like building a great company culture. You always want to make sure everyone is taken care of both professionally and personally. Making sure they feel supported and have all of the tools for success is a big part of raising kids and fostering long-standing employment relationships.
Sheth, Elements Massage: Mothers develop a special skill set through time and experience. Since I worked and raised my children at the same time, I became efficient in time management, organization, and learned to always keep the big picture in front of me by constructive decision making. I have been the CEO of my own house for years, so it is only natural that I bring my own life experiences and decisions to being the CEO of my business.
Caro, Jewelry by Design: You learn a lot from having to juggle a child’s schedule and his needs, and then when you have a business you have to learn how to juggle your employee’s needs and their schedules. I think mothers have a bit more insight into what’s really happening emotionally, and even know what a customer might want more than others because you’re more intuitive.
Otto, Sugar Divas Cakery: I actually felt like I had two children at the same exact time because I opened the doors to my business around the same time I found out I was pregnant. It was a little challenging to get the business off the ground and go through pregnancy simultaneously. However, it has been way more challenging having Sophie and running my business six days a week. She comes to work with me every day and she has become quite the celebrity with all my customers. I would have to say that juggling the two has made me the very best multi-tasker I could be. I have definitely learned to have more patience, which I think helps me with day-to-day tasks.
What tools and resources were helpful to you when you were opening your business?
Sheth, Elements Massage: We have a team of professionals at our corporate headquarters who were instrumental in assisting me in developing a business plan, outlining a timeline for the construction phase, and becoming operational. There were some unexpected events which occurred along the way, which is not at all unusual. The important thing to keep in mind is to get to the end result!
Otto, Sugar Divas Cakery: When I decided to go ahead and make this business idea a reality I turned to SCORE Orlando, who were and still are truly amazing. I signed up for all their business seminars and free counseling. They helped me every step of the way and referred me to other wonderful people that helped me. They are so supportive and my biggest cheerleaders and I still meet with them when I need anything at all.
Do you have any tips for other women looking to open their own small business?
Perkins, Bella Ballerina: Yes, GO FOR IT! It may seem like a scary decision to leave your job (not that you have to right away!) or to step away from being a stay at home mom, but it will be completely worth it in the end. It will be harder than you think, it will be stressful, and it will require sacrifice, but with a good plan in place, you can absolutely succeed. Also, understand your concept and take time to really think through how you want your business to look and feel before you start. Poorly-laid plans don't usually pan out to be good businesses. Consider what you are good at, not good at, and in what way you want to be involved in your own business. If you're not good at budgeting and finance, you're likely not to pay attention to these important matters in business and it will be your downfall or the reason you won't like running your business in the future. Instead, hire someone for the tasks that you aren't strong at so that you can focus on the aspects of what can make you successful. Last thing is, build in for the "OH NO!" moments. You're going to have times where you thought something was going to cost you way less than anticipated, times when you thought an employee was going to stay forever and then they left, or times when a plan just didn't pan out and you lost income because of it. Always have a contingency plan!
Sheth, Elements Massage: I would encourage any woman who has a dream in her heart of owning a business to pursue that dream. Do the research, educate yourself, plan and develop, and ask for assistance when you need it! You will be amazed at the resources which will open up for you when you need them!
Caro, Jewelry by Design: My first suggestion is to read The E-Myth, which stands for the entrepreneurial myth. So many people are good at something and want to start their own shop. Many people want to have their own business, but in order to be successful, it’s not just about being a good technician, you also have to be a good marketer, and a good manager. If you don’t do all three, you won’t succeed. Make sure to look honestly at yourself to make sure you are a talented enough person. Once you do go through with it, always keep learning. Keep asking people who are smarter and better than you for help, because things are always changing.
Ann Siner, My Sister’s Closet: The first overnight success usually takes 10 to 15 years. Be patient and be willing to get back up and try again if you get knocked down. Make sure you are creating a business with real needs and services. Don’t create a business because you think it will be fun or it fits your needs.
Otto, Sugar Divas Cakery: I would definitely recommend checking out SCORE for help, resources, and support to any woman thinking of starting a business. I always felt that I would have regrets later in life if I didn’t try and make this happen so I would encourage any woman to chase their passion, fight through the fear, and try their hardest to make it work.
Thank you everyone for taking the time to offer your tips and tricks to aspiring small business owners! Check out the slideshow below for a virtual tour of all these small businesses.
This has been an installment of StoreFront, an interview series with leaders of successful retail businesses. For more interviews, visit the StoreFront page. To learn how you can be featured, email us. We’d love to hear from you.