When did you open Madeline's Box?
When I was pregnant with my second baby, Ezra, in 2014. Madeline's Box is named after my oldest daughter, Madeline.
What inspired you to open a business?
At the time, I was trying to find a pacifier clip for my baby that wasn't tacky or bulky. I couldn't find anything that wasn't tacky or bulky, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I purchased some materials and made my baby's first pacifier clip by braiding leather and attaching it to a clip. It was so cute and my friends gave me the confidence to go on a whim to sell them. Also, my husband was in medical school and I was hoping to make a little extra income to help with bills! By nature, I am a creative spirit with lots of drive. I come from a family of entrepreneurs so it's in my blood.
Where did you study business?
The internet! I graduated college in Elementary Education and then had my first baby, Madeline. I never had any schooling in business. That's the beauty of the internet... you can learn anything if you work hard enough and are dedicated enough! After my kids went to bed at night, I spent hours and hours reading articles and putting them into practice. I also knew I had a unique, stylish product that would be popular with other mamas! It has been a learning experience for sure. Lots of trial and error. But it has been so much fun!
How did you afford to open a business if your husband was in medical school?
I had this idea to make braided pacifier clips. I believed in it so much, I didn't even think about numbers or even what the next day would bring. I went out on a whim and opened an Etsy account and listed a few different colors there. I told a few friends about it and word just spread! I borrowed a couple hundred dollars from my dad, not sure if I'd be able to pay him back or not. I paid him back within a few weeks after opening and I haven't borrowed a dime since. I'm so thankful he believed in me! I've since created my own Website and we are also found on Nordstrom & Amazon.
How to you balance time with family and your business?
I have 3 kids and this business is definitely my 4th child. However, I always try my absolute best to put my children and husband first before anything else. It's been 5 years and I still don't have this figured out, but I try everyday! Now that Madeline & Ezra are in school, I try to get as much work as I can in the morning during Asher's nap time. I also get some work done in the evening when they've gone to bed. The beauty of running an online business is I can do everything from home. I also make sure I make time for myself that isn't business related because that's important too!
How did you grow your business?
Once I launched my first pacifier clips on Etsy, I told my friends about it. They told their friends and word spread! Another thing that helped me tremendously was opening an instagram account for my business. I collaborated with other like-minded baby businesses and participated in giveaways a few times a week and I saw my business grow and grow from there. What a blessing social media has been!
But how do you make your pacifier clips and products, ship them off to customers, answer e-mails? All those things?
When I decided to open this business, I was 6 months pregnant with Ezra. I'm not really sure what I was thinking... I don't think I was thinking at all. But I do remember saying a prayer asking if I should go this route and I got a very clear answer that YES, I should! And I'm so glad I did! The first year, I remember staying up until 2 am just about every night. I would braid pacifier clips as the orders came in each day. Then I would print off shipping labels and package them to send off to my customers. All from my home! When I was almost 9 months pregnant, I had been open only a few months, and I slipped and fell on the ice. ( We lived in Pennsylvania at the time for medical school and it was a very icy winter.) I broke my wrist and wasn't able to make pacifier clips! ( Long story short, I went to the hospital and baby Ezra was safe and sound, thank goodness.) He was born about a week later, but I remember teaching my mom how to make the pacifier clips and then my husband would package and ship them off. I'm so thankful for them! I kept my business open with a broken wrist and a newborn baby! Not sure if that was the smartest thing to do, but I did it and it worked out.
Fast forward 4 years and I now have a team of mamas who make our products! We then send them to our fulfillment center in Utah and their team ships them to our customers everyday M-F. I have an awesome gal (who used to ship our orders before we moved to a bigger fulfillment center), who know answers our e-mails and takes care of customer service. Without these amazing people, Madeline's Box would not be what it is! I'm so glad I have been able to have others help with those things so I can focus on the creative side of the business.
What's been a trial while on this journey?
I think it's easy to compare yourself with others, especially if most of your business is done on social media. It's easy to wonder why brands might not collaborate with you or turn you down. It's so easy to get caught up in that and get down on yourself. It's easy to second guess the brand you've built and think that others are doing a much better job. After 5 years of this, it still can be hard sometimes, but mostly I don't let that stuff get to me. I try to set goals and focus on achieving those. When someone turns us down, I continue pushing forward. I try to remind myself why I started this business in the first place and what our brand stands for: style & quality. I remember sending an e-mail to Nordstrom the first few years I was in business. FINALLY, the buyer got back to me and we are now on their website and select stores around the country. I've learned when I get knocked down, I dust off my knees and get right back up! It's all apart of the journey.
Do you have any advise for someone who might want to start a business someday?
Go for it! Don't think too much about it or it won't happen. If you have a unique idea, don't set it on a shelf and say you'll come back to it later. Cobwebs will collect and it most likely won't happen. It's good to be nervous... this means you're doing something right. It's good to step outside your comfort zone and try something new! Running a business is all about trial and error. I've had many, many ideas throughout these 5 years that have failed or didn't do as well as I thought they'd do... so I'd go back to the drawing board. It's like riding on a wild rollercoaster. But it's been a fun adventure and a blessing for our family. For someone with a creative mind and a drive like myself... I'd say go for it and then don't look back!