“The main thing is to do something that completely intrigues you—and that is genuinely interesting. If it’s not, what’s the point?”
Thanks for joining us today, Addie. I hear you just launched a new business venture? Tell us what it’s all about.
Thanks for having me, Angela. Yes, this spring, I launched ScriptCharms, LLC along with my partner—my mom. Scripture + Charms = ScriptCharms, which are personalized Bible verse bracelets, necklaces and accessories, offering peace, joy, hope, and encouragement throughout the day. They are sold online at ScriptCharms.com, and on our Etsy store, as well as in a few boutiques.
What inspired you to start this business?
About a year-and-a-half ago, I was reading an article about several mothers and daughters (mostly teens and younger), who started businesses of creating and selling products, and were doing quite well. I thought, “I want to do that!” I started brainstorming and sketching, and a few weeks later, I had remembered that my mom had created some beautiful bracelets for her friends that featured witty sayings and quotes. I thought it would be even more meaningful to use Bible verses on the charms.
We did a lot of research, received lots of product samples, and tested numerous adhesive options until we finally found the best solution. It took about a year to launch our business.
I think there are a lot of designers who would love to start their own business, but they don’t know where to start. Any advice?
Designers are creative and innovative problem solvers—which are all traits of the very best entrepreneurs—so that’s why I think designers have the ability to do well in business. Here are a few tidbits of advice:
- The main thing is to do something that completely intrigues you—and that is genuinely interesting. If it’s not, what’s the point?
- If your product or service solves a problem, there’s good chance that there will be a market. Position yourself as a problem solver. Designers are creative. Do your research, and make sure you’re not just duplicating something that’s already available.
- Be sure to define your market (or niche), and focus on those people—trying to be all to everyone will burn you out fast. For ScriptCharms, we focus on Christian women, ages 24 – 60.
- Align yourself with people that have “been-there, done-that”—seasoned business owners that can be mentors. I know the Green Bay SCORE chapter offers free business mentoring. Read books by entrepreneurs (“Mommy Millionaire” by Kim Lavine is one of my favorites), articles on entrepreneur.com and other business websites, and really immerse yourself in learning. You will also want to have friends/family/spouse that can offer encouragement.
- Starting a business can be a lot of fun, but can also be all-consuming if you’re not careful. Make sure you have support from your family, and define what is an acceptable work/life balance.
- Know that starting a business is a big investment—in both time and money. I’ve read that you need to have a least $20k in cash or you’ll fail, but this isn’t true with all businesses—there are so many ways to start on a shoestring budget. Some businesses find funding through Kickstarter.com for their creative projects. As a designer, you’ll be able to save A LOT in initial marketing costs. I was able to create our logo, website, packaging, ads, product photos, and other marketing materials—which really helped keep startup costs low.
- As for time (see #5). I’ve heard a successful businessman say that you must to be willing to invest 5 years into a business. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to do this?”
Several of my clients are new business owners, so I could probably go on and on with advice, but I’ll stop.
And what are the biggest benefits of starting ScriptCharms?
It’s been a lot of fun working with my mom. She’s probably the most talented person I know.
Another one of the biggest benefits is hearing how our products have been so meaningful to the recipient. I’ve received notes from customers telling me how much their friend with cancer, or sister who lost a child, appreciated their gift. It’s wonderful to know that something I helped make was able to be a source of encouragement to them.
There are a lot of things to consider when developing an e-commerce website: security, user experience, shopping carts, payment gateways… etc. What kind of tools did you use to streamline the development process of your online store? Does a person have to specialize in web coding to do that?
Yes, I did quite a bit of research to chose an e-commerce solution that would make our store easy to update, process orders, provide SEO, and a great user experience. The solution we chose has templates that are customizable, so knowledge of HTML was beneficial, but not absolutely necessary. I worked with my web developer to create a custom home page. We did need to find a payment gateway solution, and purchase an SSL certificate for security.
But I have to say, the solution that’s really working unbelievably well for us is Etsy. Etsy is a marketplace where people around the world connect to buy and sell unique goods. We created a store, which doesn’t require any web experience—it’s almost insanely simple. The listing fees are very low, and you don’t need merchant or PayPal accounts. It’s wonderful. (Actually, if you want to open a store, please use this link so I’ll earn free listings! http://etsy.me/1bxHG7H)
Being the owner of a business requires you to think with both sides of your brain, both the analytical and the creative. Any comments on how to balance the two?
Balance? I don’t know, they’ve always seemed to just balance themselves! I’ve taken those “brain tests” before to see if I was left- or right-brained, and my results were like 51%/49%. I don’t know if that’s normal, but I love it that I can have fun both working in Quickbooks or designing with Adobe. Having this balance is probably what has helped me with managing my business.
What kind of life experiences or schooling do you think has primed you to succeed in your business ventures?
When I was young, I used to take my parents’ spices and canned goods, and set up a store in my closet. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. My mom also owned a Christmas shop when I was a teenager, and I got to go on buying trips with her, and experience the back-end. I’ve also learned a lot about sales and marketing working with a direct-selling company. Life experiences like those have been invaluable. My first job after college graduation—working as a designer with an in-house marketing team—helped me gain confidence working with clients, and also made me realize that it’s much better to align yourself with talented people that are smarter than you, than to try to go it on your own. A year ago, I hired a business coach to mentor me with my marketing communications firm, Strawberry Fields Design, Inc. Getting one-on-one advice from someone who’s been-there-done-that was one of my best investments.
You sound like an extremely busy person. How do you juggle it all?
Yeah, I try not to use the word “busy.” I’m definitely blessed. Growing up, I had dreams of being a teacher, being an artist, and owning my own business. I also wanted to be married and have kids. So, I guess I never wanted to do just one thing. It’s really neat how all of those childhood dreams and goals have come to fruition—I have a wonderful, supportive husband and two kids, own Strawberry Fields Design, Inc., and now ScriptCharms with my mom, and teach design at UW-Green Bay. It’s not something I’ve done on my own, though, I give God all the glory for His many blessings.
As for balance, it’s hard for me to say, “no,”—but essential. I’ve found that you can either do lots of things somewhat OK, or focus and do a few things very well. I’ve also become better at delegating, and relying on employees and partners.
What’s the number one piece of advice you would want to share with other entrepreneurs?
You’ll never know unless you try. Create a plan, and DO IT! You don’t want to have regrets.
Join us next month at the Addys!