What an Entrepreneurial Family Looks Like

It started off with me owning my own business.  It’s not a unique business or completely new; people have been using soap for thousands of years.  I do, however, have my own special niche that is unique in the industry.  My daughters and husband are willing and (sometimes) enthusiastic helpers, because they know the advantages of my business being successful.

Then last summer, my older daughter began to run her own small mowing business.  The goal at the time was to earn money to go on mission trips, but then she discovered that she really likes having money of her own.  Her business grew a little this year with the incarceration of her primary competition.  Hey, gotta seize the opportunities as they come.

Then it happened.  After six months of “any day now” and corporate postponements, my husband got laid off as part of a corporate takeover and decided to launch his own business, a dream he’s harbored for at least twenty years.  His former boss told him that he’ll be working harder the first six months than he has ever before, and his chemical supplier said that after the first one hundred customers, it gets easier.  (He seems to be getting closer to that mark every day.)

Peter is doing what I call the “entrepreneur hustle.”  The day after receiving his last paycheck – this happened to be a Saturday – he was busting butt building up his customer base.  He’ll work for several hours taking care of his customers’ lawns, then come home and make phone calls and do computer work.  My daughter went out with estimate sheets as she was working on her customer base.  I go into shops and make contacts with people via email with whom I want to have a working relationship.  Being an entrepreneur is all about doing the hustle.  (Not to be confused with hustling customers, which is a bad practice.)

I’ve gotta insert a quote by Dave Ramsey here:

“If you work like no one else now, then later you can work like no one else.”

What does that mean?  Most people are happy getting by working a 9-5, Monday-Friday job.  They make enough to pay their bills, tend to their families, save a little for vacation, hopefully put away for retirement.  They are content biding their time, ticking off the minutes until retirement, complacently working as a cog in a larger wheel.  Then there are the entrepreneurs.  These are the ones who have a dream and a passion; they happily put in at least 60 hours a week to pursue their passion, and they reap the benefits from it.  That means that they can set aside even more for their retirement nest egg and retire early, enjoying life while others are down in the coal mines of corporate America.

One day not long ago, my daughter was heading over to a neighbor’s lawn to mow.  Peter was working in the office, and I was thinking a quick nap would be nice; after all, my work wasn’t going anywhere.  I discovered that it doesn’t work that way anymore.  Having this many entrepreneurs in the household has a peer pressure-type of motivation on each of us.  With all this hustle going on, we each know that we’re not the only person working.

We also help each other.  Peter has done a lot of legwork for my business.  He’s made initial contacts with potential customers, he’s picked up oils for me, and he’s helped with manufacturing.  Both of my daughters have helped wrap soaps and have helped make them.  They often accompany me on deliveries and customer visits.  My younger daughter and husband help the older daughter with her lawns when she needs a break.  And we’re all helping Peter with his new business venture.

I spent part of Sunday night hand-addressing envelopes. The curse of having the best penmanship in the family.
I spent part of Sunday night hand-addressing envelopes. The curse of having the best penmanship in the family.

This was how I spent Sunday night.  I had a stack of envelopes that I’d told Peter I’d address for him.  I sat in the living room at my parents’ house (we’d gone up for a funeral) while they watched a Chuck Norris series from the early 90s, and Dad and I ruthlessly critiqued the commercials, all aimed at the elderly and gullible.  I’d discovered that the handwritten note goes a long way towards making customers feel special.  Peter had over 60 letters in this stack alone, and no way were we handwriting that many letters!  This is time-sensitive, though we did personalize the mail merge, and one of my former soccer families got a personal greeting at the bottom of their letter.  Each was hand-signed, as well.

Whether or not they’re all working on the same business, the entrepreneurial family shares some characteristics.

  1. Entrepreneurial families help each other out.  People go into business to make money, and usually that money is to help the family in some way, which creates a common goal.  Helping each other is a way to ensure that everyone meets his/her goals.
  2. Entrepreneurial families encourage each other.  “Ohhh…  That soap is gorgeous!”  “Her lawn looks good!”  “You’ve got this!”  And one I texted today:  “Yea!  But this is getting so commonplace now :D,” upon learning that Peter had sold another account.  Frequent encouragement keeps each other energized and confident about the next step.
  3. Entrepreneurial families motivate each other.  “What do you mean you’re going to sleep for two hours this afternoon?  Get your butt up and get working!”  “Hey…  I need to use the desktop this afternoon.  Why don’t you go ahead and get your computer work done while I’m in the workshop?”  When you’ve been working all week on a new business and the weekend rolls around, the last thing you want to do is work more, no matter what the work load looks like.  Motivating each other helps keep the work flow going and ensures they meet each next small or large goal.

I never dreamed we’d have so many entrepreneurs in one family!  It’s an adjustment for sure, but we’re all feeling calmer, more confident, and way more excited about what lies ahead.


Making the Change, pt. 3

You can read the first part of this saga here, and the second part here.

I was sitting at the beach, and I’d lucked out on a bench swing overlooking the ocean.  The air was nippy (it was April), the water was a beautiful greenish blue, the sky was a crystal clear gradient blue, and the wind whispered through the sea oats on the dunes.  I closed my eyes and allowed my other senses to study my environment.  My mind went back to countless beach days – warm beach, friendly kids for the girls to play with, sand in the bathing suit (hey, it happens), sunscreen.  And there it was.  I would make soaps that capture by scent my memories and associations of various North Carolina beaches, and this would be my niche.

I already had been making one soap, Crystal Coast Morning, that was inspired by wonderful memories of waking up at Emerald Isle in the late autumn (think early December) when the air is clean and brisk and the beach is silent but for the waves and breezes.  Kure Beach is kissed with a bit of sunscreen and a little sand.  Outer Banks is wild and primitive – sudden storms, cedar-sided houses, the ghosts of pirates.  And Ocean Isle has a hint of fruity drink (with an umbrella, of course) served ocean-side.

These four soaps form the heart of my new niche.  A surprise gift of 5 pounds of Bolivian pink sand were the inspiration behind a new type of salt scrub, also in these fabulous scents (though, being a “man scent,” Outer Banks isn’t yet available in salt scrub).  You know how your skin feels after you’ve been at the beach?  That fine layer of sand exfoliates your skin as you wash it off.  Then you wash off all the sunscreen and salt, slathering on the lotion afterwards, and you feel sun-kissed, moisturized, and completely luxurious.  That’s what Bolivian Pink Sea Salt Scrub does for your skin.

From my niche came my conception of my ideal customer.  It was the oddest thing.  I was transferring soaps from table to rack late one night before bed, and I started talking to her in my mind.  In a flash, my ideal customer came to me, and I knew everything about her.  Experts put out worksheets to help businesses identify their ideal customer, but I kept getting stuck when I’d do them.  Apparently, though, at 11:00 while I’m doing mindless tasks, I can come up with lots.

Anyway, moving on…  (I just get really excited about my new products, if you couldn’t tell!)  We’re moving forward on this rebrand, right?  I had the blessing of 1 1/2 weeks without the girls to make products, take pictures, talk to my web developer.  Things were looking good!  I would take a few pictures a day as soaps cured and were close to being ready for sale.  My web developer and I worked hard, troubleshooting and setting things in place.  The launch date was 1 June, and I was trusting him to be working his coding magic behind the scenes while I dealt with the front-end and administrative tasks.

Then another one of those screeching halts came at the end of May.  My husband and I both lost two people close to us – his mentor/friend and my grandmother.  My work time was then pushed into traveling, and I pushed the launch for the following Monday, giving us the weekend for final tweaks and adjustments.  I wasn’t hearing anything much from my developer, so I took deep breaths and trusted that all was going fine on his end.  Then Monday comes.  And Monday goes.  No website, and nothing at all from my developer.  It’s like he’d dropped off the face of the earth.  Panic ensued.  If this site was going to be ready for the grand new business launch, I was (a) going to have to build it myself, or (b) pay someone big bucks to build it for me.  I knew I couldn’t afford option B, so A it was.

I started with my shopping cart, a trusted one that I’d used for years with my old site.  I was familiar with the admin, was pretty comfortable navigating the cpanel, and I was ready to roll.  The first problem hits.  No big.  I go to the support forums, find the solution, fix the problem, roll on.  The next problem crops up.  Same thing.  By the third problem, I had figured out I was in over my head and started exploring other shopping carts.  Getting started and through the first three problems took me…  probably about 20 hours to deal with, and I hadn’t gotten very far at all.  I found a new shopping cart, scrapped those twenty hours’ worth of work, installed the new cart, and after about another six hours’ work, had a rough but working website.  Score one for the not-developer!

Several more hours, messages between the shop’s developer and me, even more hours, and the site was done and ready to launch a little over a week later.  Given that website development really isn’t my forte’ at all, I really have to be proud of the fact that the launch was only delayed by two weeks, and for the most part, I built my site by myself (though again, with valuable help from the template developer’s team and my own friend Bobby).  My web developer is still MIA.

Even while all that was going on, I ordered note cards, postcards, and business cards.  I invested time in sending personal notes to some of my customers.  I set up email addresses…  And to my surprise, last Monday, one of my customers who received one of those notes talked about it in her own blog.  You can read about that here.

So, that was pretty much my rebrand, start to present.  There’s so much minutiae to doing this – opening new accounts, changing account information on websites, making it official with the state – but that’s boring stuff.  However, if you’re rebranding or launching your first new brand (the steps are quite similar), be sure to include these tedious but necessary tasks on your task list so you don’t forget them.

If you have questions about rebranding I didn’t address, please leave them in the comments below.