Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays

I recently wrote a great article on resilience which will be published 12/26. It speaks about resilience being an over-used Corporate term, however our need for it as small business owners is undeniable!

How will you rest, re-energize and rejuvenate over this holiday season?  I'll be sure to share my article with lots of tips in case you need them.

I wish you joy, peace and success in 2012!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Spotlight Entrepreneur: Kristen Ford-Stevens of Cute Beltz

In our final Spotlight of 2011 we're happy to introduce you to Kristen Ford-Stevens, CEO and Founder of Cute Beltz.  We were thrilled to discover Cute Beltz leading up to our daughter starting Kindergarten.  Our school district mandates a uniform for elementary and middle school children and if your pants have belt loops, you must wear a belt! The Preppy-Girl Belt with a velcro closure was the perfect solution for our 5 year old.  Be sure and check out the Cute Beltz website for holiday specials this December!

Tell us a little about how Cute Beltz was born.
This is how it all started, “Mommy, my pants keep falling down!” It was a statement my toddler echoed many times, it was from those words after countless hours trying to remedy the problem that “Cute Beltz™,” a line of belts for children 6 months to 6 years of age was founded and thriving online in a matter of months.

I became very frustrated that the major outlets weren’t offering belts for toddlers.  So, I decided to research the toddler belt industry and found that there was no major competitor.  From that day forward, I put together a 3 year business plan to execute which has brought me to this point,  Now, we are planning for the next 3, very exciting!!

What are your top-selling products?
We have been very fortunate that one of our first belts introduced, Pink Flower Power Girls Belt is and has been our top seller for the last 3 years.  Also, our Nautical Boys Belt is currently our top seller for boys, due to our placement in the July 2011 issue of Parenting magazine.

For the holiday season we will be offering several gift sets which will include two belts for $20.00.  The offer will run from December 5 – 11, 2011.  Leading up to Christmas there will be many surprises along the way, so check in often at

What is your philosophy on customer service?
I am a strong believer in good, quality customer service.  I have always expected and demanded that an establishment have excellent customer service, so I give the same excellence to my customers.

I believe every persons question is valid, so I do my best to answer a request quickly and honestly.  I have found that many have appreciated my follow up thus referring Cute Beltz to their family and friends.

What do you enjoy most about being your own boss?
I enjoy being my own boss because I am working towards something I truly believe in which gives me great motivation to get up every morning with a “let’s go” attitude.  My spirit has always been one of an entrepreneur, so it is a joy to know that I am right where I was intended to be.

How do you juggle being a mom and being an entrepreneur?
I don’t know if I have quite mastered the “mom/entrepreneur” thing, but I work on it daily.  I know that I do make it a point to work while my kids are at school, which gives me about 5 ½ hours to get as much done as possible.  When the kids come home, I spend my time with them because I feel they and I need the time together.  Once the kids are in bed, I usually do a little (sometimes a lot) more work before calling it quits for the night.  My days are long, but I know my dream is being realized.

What is your advice for females who are thinking about starting their own business?
I say go for it!  BUT first do your research.  Many women start a business because they are bored, which happens quite often.  Take the time to research a business and find out if it is a realistic venture.  Do you have the financial resources, is there an immediate need for your product or service, is there a void in the market, etc.?  If you can answer yes, then take the next step and prepare a business plan.  This will be your guide as your business grows.

With all of the social media outlets, join a few and talk to people about what they think.  Locate a few people in the “industry” you want to enter via social media and pick their brain.  You will be surprise, many “industry” people will advise you via twitter and facebook.  Also, talk to your friends and mom groups to see if this would be something they would buy.  

Never be afraid to “toot” your own horn, because if you don’t do it, who will!  So, I say GO FOR IT, you never know, you may have the next GREAT idea. 

Thank you so much for Kristen for sharing her inspirational story.  To learn more about this high quality, handmade in the USA product visit Kristen on Facebook, Twitter or join the Cute Beltz mailing list!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spotlight Entrepreneur: Leslie Josel, Order Out Of Chaos

Hello. My name is Eileen and I love organization.  If it sounds like a confession, it's because it is one.  Yes, the clothes in my closet are arranged in color order.  Yes, I like to strategically stack the dishes "just-so" in the dishwasher.  A clean and organized home is a place where I can relax and focus.  While my idea of a fun Saturday is spending it at The Container Store, I am always looking for additional tools to keep my personal and professional life less chaotic, which is why this month I've selected Leslie Josel of Order Out Of Chaos as our Spotlight Entrepreneur.  If you are a student, entrepreneur, someone who is in the process of relocating, or a person who is challenged with excessive accumulation, you will find value in Leslie's services.

What inspired you to create your business, Order out of Chaos?
My son inspired me to create Order Out of Chaos…literally!  When my son was 5 years old (he is now 13!) he was diagnosed with ADD, Executive Functioning deficiencies and a whole host of learning differences.  As most moms would do, I went into action!  I scoured websites, magazines, and books.  I attended conferences, support groups and seminars to find ways to help untangle his very unorganized world.  I made significant changes to his room, our house and his daily routine and environment.  A therapist friend of mine saw all that I had done and asked me to do this for a few of her clients.  Thus a business was born.  I went back to find ways to further my education on what is now known as Chronic Disorganization.  I have since earned my Chronic Disorganization and Hoarding specialist certifications from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.  In fact, I am the only Hoarding Specialist in Westchester County and Connecticut and I am really proud of that.  I work with families, students and adults with all stages of disorganization from those that have a specific organizing challenge to those that have ADD and hoarding behaviors.

What was your biggest fear when starting your business?
My biggest fear when I started my business was that people would not take me seriously.  People always ask me what motivates me and I always answer fear – that I will be found out.  It sits on my shoulder and propels me forward. Am I good enough? Do I know enough? What about what I do should people take seriously. That has really been my number one fear. 

Professional organizing was not that well known when I first started my business so it had the tendency to be perceived as trendy or extravagant or something truly not necessary.  I spent more time convincing people I was legitimate and explaining what I actually did then I did working in my business in the beginning.  I certainly had not perfected my 30 second elevator speech; mine was more like 30 minutes! I was also very fearful of not succeeding.  I did not intentionally set out to start this business so even though I was confident in my organizing skills, I wasn't very knowledgeable in running a business.  To be truthful, I made up a lot of it as I went along.  I learned a lot on the fly. I guess you can say I still am.  Each day new things and experiences present themselves that need answers. The difference is that at this point in my career and business, I don’t doubt myself anymore.  I know I am good at what I do and I let that come through with all that I work on even if I don’t have the “right” answer.

What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur?
I love being an entrepreneur, more than I ever thought I would.  Most people would say that they love the freedom and flexibility, but the funny thing is that I work harder and longer now than I ever did.  When it is yours you are working 24/7.  It all begins and ends with you. 

What I love the most about being an entrepreneur is how organic the process is.  My business has grown and evolved as I have and I love that it has gone places that I never dreamed it would.  I teach classes, speak at conferences and mentor fellow professional organizers and women in business, am featured on television shows such as “Hoarding: Buried Alive,” and am quoted regularly in newspapers and magazines such as the Washington Post, Westchester Magazine and Real Simple.  I have several employees that now work for me – both professional organizers and administrative personnel.  I opened relocation and downsizing division 5 years ago and hired a former realtor to run that part of my company.  I am expanding the Order Out of Chaos brand as we speak as I have just launched our first product!  The Academic Planner is a time management tool for middle and high schoolers which enables students to plan their weekly workload and to feel more in control of their schedule.  And it just keeps going!

One of the services you offer for businesses is Virtual Organizing.  Can you tell us what that is and why a business could benefit from it?
Virtual organizing is a wonderful way to get organizing services if you are highly motivated to do the work on your own or if your budget doesn't allow for full on organizing services.  We use email, telephone and Skype to work together.  Some clients just need goal setting, an action plan or a body double to get them going. This is a perfect way to get that accomplished.  We also use virtual organizing when we are coaching other start up entrepreneurs. It's a great way to establish intimacy in a coaching environment without being on site.  And it is less expensive than on site organizing sessions.

What is your #1 organizational tip for women who run their business out of their home?
My number one organizational tip for women running businesses out of their homes is to schedule their time and make sure you have a private space to work.  Ok, that is two but both are equally important! Seriously, you really need to schedule your time or make appointments with yourself if you run your business out of your home.  In the early years of my business I made it very clear to my friends and family that even though I was home, I was working.  That meant I wasn't around for lunch or to supervise workmen or even to pick up my kids from school.  Those constant interruptions really ate into my work time.  My kids knew that if my office door was closed that they needed to call me on my office phone to check in.  I used the same justification as my husband who was working in the city.  If they had to call him after school then they needed to do the same for me. This really helped to establish boundaries and to also have everyone take my work time and therefore my business very seriously.   I schedule everything and always use timers as I have a tendency to hyper focus.  But when I a done for the day, I am fully available to my kids, house, whatever.

As a working mother, how do you balance your business and your family?
That balance question is a tough one.  Do we ever really balance? I think it is more like a seesaw.  Truthfully it was much harder when my kids were younger.  They didn't have a full understanding of what I did so when I was in the car and needed to make a call they weren't that cooperative.  I scheduled my time appropriately and worked a lot after they went to bed.  And I had help.  Particularly when my kids were little – I always had help. 

My kids are 13 and 17 so it is much easier. If they are doing their homework, then I do mine.  If they are at school or activities, then I schedule my appointments.  I actually use my kids a lot in my business.  And that has really helped the balancing act. I employ my 17 year old to do administrative work for me.  She updates my contacts, keeps my data base organized and even helps out on team jobs. My son is my guinea pig.  New products, new apps, even the new student planner was tested on him and his friends first.  The fact that they understand my business definitely helps. When I need to excuse myself for a call or am gone at night working with students they have a firm understanding of exactly what I am doing. I love delegating what I don't like doing and giving it to my kids to do. I'm just not tech savvy and they are very happy to get paid and do it for me.  I would also be really negligent if I didn’t mention my husband. He is amazing. He is hugely busy himself but we truly work as a team. We play to our strengths in terms of what we take care of so there is never any misunderstanding of “he should, you should.”  As long as I know what is on my “to-do” list, then I am good!

In your career as an entrepreneur, have you encountered naysayers and if so, how did you overcome that negativity?
At the beginning, when I was first starting my business I came across naysayers. It was mostly my friends and individuals that didn't understand what I did.  Most either didn't take me seriously or didn't believe that my business was real.  I just couldn't stop to have lunch or play tennis. Or they didn't understand that I had to educate myself or teach a class that would take me away from other activities.  When I started getting publicity or appearing on television or expanding my business, then people sat up a little straighter or listened a little more closely when I spoke. Again, surrounding myself with like minded individuals really helped to take the edge off. Having validation didn't hurt either!

What is your advice for females who are thinking about starting their own business?
Here is my best advice for females starting a business.  Number one, as women we are very lucky.  The amount of groups, meet-ups and clubs focused on women entrepreneurship or women in business is overwhelming.  Use them; surround yourself with like minded individuals who are doing what you are doing.  That connection, that education, that networking is invaluable.  Simply put, women want to help other women.  So seek it out and use it. It will pay itself back in spades.

Second, run your business like a man.  Men don't apologize for what they charge.  Men don't excessively explain. And they never apologize for being successful or smart or important.  When I walk in a room, I believe I belong there, I believe in what I have to offer and believe in the knowledge that I have.  And if I don't then I fake it really well.  Lastly, and this would be for anyone starting a business...follow up!  Crazy I know, but it will make or break your business.  I have been in business for 8 years and I follow up on every lead.  And I also send a personal thank you for every referral.  I can't tell you how many people tell me that I am the only organizer that called them back.  And I would always get the job.  These days I teach a course on the art of following up.  I truly believe in this day and age the personal touch and the establishing connections is what will make or break your business.  Oh, and one more thing.  A wise woman once told me that you can do it all (work, home, family, etc.), just not all at the same time.  I have made those words to live by!

To learn more about Leslie and achieving Order Out Of Chaos, you can reach her here:

Phone:                914.420.6643
Facebook:        Order Out of Chaos fan page
Twitter:              @orderoochaos

Monday, October 17, 2011

2011: In the Home Stretch

It's been a great year for SleeveShirt Consulting. Two years ago this October we launched our consulting business and as they say: Time flies when you're having fun!

One of the highlight this year has been meeting all the amazing entrepreneurs who have shared their stories in our Spotlight Entrepreneur series.

  • Lydia Andrews of Being Well + Living Healthy inspired us to take a holistic approach to our health.
  • Lynda Stenge of Blanche Agency reminded us that "We are only limited by our imagination!"
  • Nadia Gray of Boxing4Fitness explained her love for connecting with her clients and community through her unique fitness program.
  • Shannon Gevero of See Baby Grow inspired us with her solution to a challenge many mothers face. And her product was born!
  • Rochelle Drumm of BabyChix outlined her 5 points of advice for women who are thinking about launching their own business.
  • Antoinette Robinson of After All Is Said And Done by Antoinette reminded us that sometimes you need to tap into the passion you had as a child to know where your Aha! business moment is going to come from!

We still have two more insightful women to unveil in November and December and we can't wait for you to meet them!

We've received such great feedback on the series, that we would like to continue it for 2012. Who do you want us to feature?  Do you know an inspiring woman who has overcome adversity to launch a business?  Do you work for a woman-owned small business and does your boss motivate and inspire you?   Are you that woman?  

In December I'll be scheduling interviews, and I look forward to being motivated and inspired all through the next year. We are looking at every industry- just as long as she is self-employed and has a story to tell.

Start sending in those nominations!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When your business cuts it's first tooth

As entrepreneurs, our businesses are our babies.  The business needs to be nurtured.  Needs to be cared for morning, noon and night.  Sometimes you're even woken at 3am with a spark of genius, nerves about an upcoming presentation, or a client who needs you desperately.

This morning I got a phone call from my husband who had just wrapped up an early morning chiropractor appointment.  The recently hired receptionist was obviously still learning the ropes, but openly reprimanded for a mistake in front of my husband.  Can you say 'Uncomfortable!"?

When business grows large enough to hire your first employee, it's kind of like your baby cutting its first tooth.  There's some redness, soreness, general irritation, but in the end, it's an exciting milestone.  Pediatricians and dentists will tell you to start caring for those teeth immediately.  Be gentle, but ensure to brush that itty-bitty white chicklet twice a day and watch it grow strong and be joined by others.

As a parent and a small business owner, communication and patience are keys to success. Correcting improper behavior immediately is a good rule of thumb, but exercising discretion so as not to embarrass your staff in front of clients is just good tact.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Spotlight Entrepreneur: Antoinette Robinson, After All is Said and Done by Antoinette

Many women sit at their desks in Corporate America and daydream about being their own boss. Our spotlight this month focuses on Antoinette Robinson, a full service event planner who broke out of traditional employment to harness her dreams of entrepreneurship.  Antoinette shares some fantastic advice for fellow women business-owners and inspiration for those who haven't quite taken the leap yet.  Be sure to also visit Antoinette's new blog!

Have you always had aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur? 
For as long as I can remember, I've had aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur. I dreamed about it. I spoke of it all the time while working in the corporate world. When I was a child, I would spend time thinking of business ideas. You know the old lemonade stand idea, as well as selling baked goods like cookies and cakes to family and friends. I'd jump at the opportunity to participate in school fund-raising projects. I just loved it.  Even today, I still make a good cake sale every now and then.  LOL!

What is the #1 most common request you receive from couples when planning their wedding?  
As a wedding and event planner, I will tell you that couples have various requests. Some requests are new, unique, fun and things I've never heard of and others are general requests. Each couple is unique and therefore the request can be as well. Some of the general requests and questions that I receive from couples are: Can you assist us with location selection, will you attend the wedding dress fitting, will you assist with mailing of the invites, should the food for the reception be catered, will the ring bearer pillow have the actual wedding rings attached and various other questions related to the event itself and budget. Of course, we make it our goal to fulfill all or as many of the couples requests as possible.     

What would you like for clients to take away from the experience of working with After all Is Said And Done By Antoinette?
I personally would like for each client, no matter what the event, to walk away knowing that we love what we do. They can dream BIG without hesitation because we have a goal of making every one of their dreams come true. At After All Is Said And Done By Antoinette, we are very passionate about satisfying each client that we work with. We want the client to receive exactly what they expected and more. Recently, we did a wedding where several of the guests expressed how much passion went into the event. They stated that they would love to work with After All Is Said And Done By Antoinette for their events not only because they liked our work but also they noticed how passionate the team was about making the event a success. The couple stated that they were extremely satisfied with our work and the outcome of the event. At the end of an event, those words are music to our ears.

What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? 
Wow! I enjoy everything about being an entrepreneur. Don't get me wrong. Being an entrepreneur is hard work but extremely rewarding. As an entrepreneur, I determine the work schedule, the goals and direction of the business. The unlimited income potential, independence, recognition and self-fulfillment are all benefits.  In addition, the freedom in the area of decision-making is a huge plus. I love the fact that you learn something new everyday.
How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated simply by being thankful that I'm doing what I love each day. That alone has been a motivator for me. Each day is a new opportunity to accomplish the mission of the business. One of my personal mantras is : "new day; new opportunity". I am a very spiritual person. My relationship with God helps me face and overcome challenges daily. Other motivating factors are: The internal drive and desire to be successful at what I do to help the business thrive. I view each day as an opportunity to make a difference in a client or someone's life. Finally, my hubby and family are great motivation for me, as well as super support.

What is your advice for females who are thinking about starting their own business? 
Go for it! Don't let fear hold you back. Make sure that you have a drive to be an entrepreneur. It's not all glitz and glamour but if you have drive that's a start. You also need a business plan, financial stability and resources. Self-motivation, leadership skills, people skills, knowledge/experience in your industry, problem solving and decision-making skills are among the other skills that are helpful in making your transition to entrepreneurship.  Make it a priority to learn to balance work and family life. If you work from home, it can be difficult to separate what I call "CEO time" and mommy/wife time.  Set work hours for yourself. If you are like me and enjoy what you do, you may work, work and work unless you set specific work hours. Create a separate workspace in your home if possible. It helps the family know that when mommy/wife is in that space, it is still "CEO time". Finally, don't give up. Do what it takes to become the entrepreneur that you'd like to be.

I wish all existing and future female entrepreneurs the best on their journey of fulfilling their entrepreneurial goals. 

If you have a special event coming up, Antoinette recommends hiring a planner as soon as your date is set.  Don't hesitate, reach out to After All Is Said and Done by Antoinette today!

Twitter: @AfterAllIsDone

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wedding Buzz

Recently I've had the pleasure of getting to know Antoinette Robinson of After All Is Said And Done By Antoinette.  Antoinette has agreed to participate in our Spotlight Entrepreneur series, so I don't want to give away too much about her before her feature!

What I would like to share today is a great piece that we worked on together. As a wedding and event planner, Antoinette was a great resource for an article published in Vows Magazine, a bimonthly publication for the bridal industry. For over 20 years Vows has provided the information bridal consultants need to deliver top quality products while creating memorable customer service for brides and grooms.  We are honored that they used so much of the information Antoinette provided in their latest edition.

What great buzz for a growing woman-owned business!

Please check out the great tips Antoinette provided to bridal salon owners on how best to service brides!  We think she is spot-on!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's 3am, do you know where your wife is?

At 3:00 a.m. I turn into a Pulitzer Prize winning author.  In the quiet of the pre-dawn hour I can weave layered themes of written word from the comfort of my bed.  The work is genius I tell you.  The only problem? I don’t remember a damn thing in the morning. 

I started leaving a notebook and pen by my bedside so that the next time inspiration struck I would be ready.  Inspiration strikes! Oh shoot… I really should have chosen a simple notebook and not one that has a Velcro closure.  The distinct ripping sound will surely wake my husband who is a notoriously light sleeper.  No problem- I’ve committed my thoughts to memory so I’ll skip the attempt to write them down tonight.

Next morning: Remember anything? Not so much.

Inspiration: Take 2.  Awake and have fabulous thoughts ready to scribe.  This time I’m prepared. Velcro is already opened and tucked neatly so that I have easy and quiet access to the page.  I’m all ready… but then I felt guilty. Do I turn on the light? I’ve got it!  I’ll scribble the main themes down in the pitch dark and expand on it when there is daylight. 

Next morning: Can you imagine what your handwriting looks like when you’ve written in the dark?  My penmanship has taken a nose dive over the years.  I guess it’s from all that typing.  Cursive writing isn’t even taught in elementary school anymore.  They start kids on computers in Kindergarten and away they go.  Makes me want to buy pen and ink sets for all my nieces and nephews and start teaching a class on Old English calligraphy.

I’m starting to think that sleep is getting in the way of my productivity.  My next plan of attack is to get up, go downstairs, brew coffee and write until my carpel tunnel kicks in. Who needs sleep anyway?

writers' week

Friday, September 9, 2011

A lesson learned from 9/11

I spent a lot of time this weekend reminiscing about the events of 9/11.  We lived in Arlington, VA at the time- just a few miles from the Pentagon.  In fact, when we tried to go home that day, police had barricaded the street that led to our apartment because we were within such close proximity.

Soon we were able to return home and huddle around the television wondering what would happen next. Would life ever be the same?

One year later, on the first anniversary of the events I took the day off of work.  I remember walking through the neighborhood with our dog- another crisp, cloudless day just as it had been a year earlier.  My mind was clear and yet my actions were anything but.  After some soul searching I decided on a bold move: I quit my job.  I'm not sure who it shocked more. My husband? My boss? Me?

It's very unlike me to make such a drastic change without a plan in place.  I had no idea what I was going to do- I just knew that where I was, and what I was doing was not right.  I needed to live.  I needed to wake up and want to go to work. I didn't just want to collect a paycheck, wait for my 401k to vest and bide time until the next round of bonuses.  I wanted to take control of my future in honor of all of those who were robbed of theirs.
Twin Towers under construction, John J. Harvey fireboat: Alban Schlesier, Chief Engineer

I am a big proponent for planning, but in this instance, impulse is what made the most sense for me. Years later I look back and realize my bold move was the best decision I could have made.  My career propelled to levels I never knew it could.

10 years post- 9/11, my thoughts are best summed up by this quote " are not the product of your circumstances.  You are a composite of all the things you believe, and all the places you believe you can go.  Your past does not define you.  You can step out of your history and create a new day for yourself.  Even if the entire culture is saying, "You can't."  Even if every single possible bad thing that can happen to you does.  You can keep going forward."

The John J. Harvey is a fireboat formerly of the New York City Fire Department in New York City, famed for returning to service following theSeptember 11, 2001 attacks.[1][2]

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Spotlight Entrepreneur: Rochelle Drumm, babychix

We’re thrilled to Spotlight Rochelle Drumm as September’s Spotlight Entrepreneur. Rochelle left a successful corporate career in the fashion industry to launch her own business. Inspired by her niece and nephew and determined to make ONE CHANGE AT A TIME in the lives of children, babychix® was hatched. 

If you are a reality-TV junkie like me, you may have already seen one of her products swaddled around baby Bryn in an episode of Bethenny Getting Married?.

Rochelle's challenges are familiar to other woman-owned small businesses. Its how Rochelle chooses to harness her fear and persevere that makes her and her business unique.

Tell us about the babychix brand and how you were inspired to start your company.
I always wanted five children but I struggled with infertility. I began forming babychix after spending time at my mom’s house. For as long as I can remember, she would always make these flannel and paraffin wax diapers for baby showers. I took one home with me and began researching if there was anything like it on the market. I came to realize that there was not a ceramic diaper. I found booties, strollers, blocks, etc., but not a diaper shape. After years of working with a variety of prototypes, different materials and manufacturers, I finalized the samples and went into production.

Not only do we offer the signature ceramic diapers, but we now are able to personalize them with the babys’ names, initials, phrase and even the company logo. As we have expanded our product categories, we remain true to creating unique products such as our babyopoly blanket and humorous onesies
. My goal is to become a multi-product company, brand name, baby shower favorite and make ONE CHANGE AT A TIME in the lives of children.

What was your biggest fear in leaving Corporate America and how did you overcome it? Leaving behind a secure career, steady paycheck and making the decision to take the risk and leap of faith to follow my passions. But once I really started to believe in myself and put everything I had in to babychix, the fear went away and the excitement and energy just kept building. Doors continued to open.

For many entrepreneurs, there aren't enough hours in the day to focus on their business; however BabyChix also spends time on charitable giving. How do you do it all?
For me, this is the most important journey in my and life and if it takes me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to build babychix and continue to give to others, then that is what I will do.

The most important part of starting this company was to stay true to my personal mission to give back and help others. Lending a helping hand, donating to causes and participating in charitable organizations such as Celebrate the Military Child is a gift.

I’ve been very blessed in many ways and to see a child without even the basics for survival is far too hard for me to sit back and do nothing. I have come to realize that it takes very little to make a difference and very little bit adds up.

What is your advice for women who are thinking about starting their own business?
1. Do your homework, understand your market, who is your customer, understand the demographics for your product and research your competition.
2. Put together a timeline so you are aware of how you are progressing and be aware of any setbacks which could cost you more money.
3. Hire an intellectual property attorney. Why?
a. You want to make sure that your company name is available before you begin selling your products.
b. Once you have the green light, file for the trademark so you have
the rights and intent to use so you can proceed with your business.

c. Consider a design patent if you cannot afford a patent. Your attorney will be able to determine which is best or if required, based on the product.
d. If working with outside manufactures, do not discuss any details until they sign a Non-disclosure agreement. If they will not sign you need to find another resource. Protect your business first.
4.When working with any manufacturer, I highly suggest you ask for references. If they can’t produce your product and ship on time, you are already out of business before you’re out of the gate.
5.Have a clear vision as to how you want to get your product out into the market. Whether it be sales reps, e-commerce, showrooms etc., depending on your strategy you will want to make sure you have the tools they need to be successful.

I’ve consulted for other startup businesses and the biggest tip I can share with entrepreneurs is to always stay true to your vision. Not everyone will like your product, get used to the words “it’s not right for our business,” and keep going. It takes one person to change the dynamics of your company.

How do you stay motivated?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there are days where I just want to throw my hands in the air or just cry. This is the hardest thing that I have ever tackled but yet, the most rewarding. So many things keep me motivated but it’s my drive, my family and friends cheering me on and most important, I have met so many wonderful men and women a long the way. As a business owner, it is important to offer outstanding customer service which is why I hard to talk with our customers, retail partners/buyers, write a personal note and if I can help others I do. I get all fired up and charged when I can help a vendor, a client or women who are seeking a business. There is not a better feeling for me than watching other people become successful in their own endeavors. It keeps me balanced, focused and motivated. It’s who you know, not what you know.

The babychix brand is growing, product lines are expanding and distribution is steadily increasing. babychix can be found on and CSN (which is changing to and will soon be available on and

To contact Rochelle or learn more about babychix, visit them here:

Twitter – @babychix_

Email – or

877.367.4608 | toll free

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When it rains, it pours

Doesn't it always seem like that when it rains, it pours?

Sometimes the rain can feel like a hurricane.  Like just when you get a family member on the road to recovery, another one falls ill.  Do you ever wonder where you will find the strength to tackle all of the challenges life throws your way?

My wish for you dear readers is that when the rain produces a flood that you find your most colorful pair of wellies and go stomp in the puddles.  Unleash your inner child.  Get wet.  Take a deep breath and know that after the rain, the sun will shine again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Spotlight Entrepreneur: Shannon Gevero of See Baby Grow LLC

You know you've done it. You've flipped through an old photo album and wondered, "What year was that?" or "How old was our baby in that picture?"  Shannon Gevero turned her similar challenge into an AHA! moment which launched See Baby Grow.  Beautifully packaged products with a modern take on building a child's story from birth, See Baby Grow is a business growing before Shannon's eyes.

What was your inspiration for starting See Baby Grow? 
It was difficult living out of state from close friends and family when I gave birth to my son.  I wanted my loved ones to be able to see Ryan’s growth throughout the months, so I created signs that read, “I am ‘x’ months old!” and snapped away.  My friends and family looked forward to finding these pics in their inbox on a monthly basis.  This monthly tradition continued throughout his first year of life, as I was blown away at how fast time really does fly.  As he became more mobile, his photo shoots were becoming a bit of a challenge for us.  I knew that there had to be an easier way for parents to document these extraordinary monthly milestones.  Soon after, See Baby Grow, LLC was born.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?
We have just begun to work with some online retailers, which has been very exciting for us.  I hope that we will soon be in brick and mortar stores both on a national and international level.

What is your biggest daily challenge?  
At times it is difficult to manage my schedule and balance family life.  Like most other working moms, by the end of the day, I am exhausted.  Sometimes, I wish there were a few more hours in the day to get everything done. 

What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? 
I enjoy many aspects of being an entrepreneur.  Primarily, I love being my own boss and calling the shots throughout the day.  I also love the flexibility that comes along with being in charge of the business.  It’s very empowering!

How do you stay motivated? 
It’s easy to stay motivated when you LOVE what you are doing and believe in your product. 

 What is your advice for women who are thinking about starting their own business? 
  • Have a plan and be realistic about it. 
  • Believe in what you are doing and ignore any negativity from others. 
  • Stay focused on your dream and good things will follow.
To learn more about Shannon's business or to purchase products from See Baby Grow, please visit


    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Coupons, Discounts and Freebies; What you need to know when cutting your customers a deal

    I love a deal. With inspiration from TLCs Extreme Couponing show I've ramped up my discount hunting, hijacked my husbands old baseball card binder and replaced rookie cards with sleeves and sleeves (and sleeves) of coupons.

    Since I have a child about to enter Kindergarten my name must have been added to a list that caters to moms with school-aged children. In my mailbox I received what seemed too good to be true: a gift card equaling $20 CASH to Sports Authority.  The card had qualifying dates and could not be used towards clearance items.  After reading all the fine print I realized I was about to go shopping!

    Critics of extreme couponing will say that folks get sucked into the frenzy of saving money and start to purchase things that they don't even need. For example, on one episode I saw a woman walk out of the store with a grocery cart full of FREE pet food after utilizing her coupons (she didn't have any pets).  Yes, this is extreme.  Is it wasteful?  Well, lucky for a local pet shelter, the extreme couponer in mention donated the goods.

    I don't usually shop at Sports Authority. Probably only been inside a handful of times.  But to spend free money?  I was in.  My goal was to try to find something useful to me or my family that we needed.  This summer I started working out with a personal trainer and I was graduating up from my 3 & 5 lb weights and needing 8lbs. Great! Now I knew exactly what to spend my cash-card on.  Off to shop...

    Screech!  (that was the sound of my shopping cart slamming to a complete stop).  While Sports Authority did a great job of getting an infrequent customer through their doors, they solidified that I probably won't ever go back.
        Sports Authority 8lb weights                     Target 10lb weights                   
           $    29.99/pair                                     $13.99/pair

    What's wrong with this picture?  For heavier weights in Target I could spend $16 less?  Needless to say, I did not purchase the weights in SA.  I shopped the sale racks and walked out with two T shirts using up $18 out of $20 allotted from my free cash card.  Then I bolted over to Target to purchase my weights.

    A few things to keep in mind when you are looking to offer coupons, discounts, freebies to your customers:

    • Do your research.  Offering discounts to infrequent customers is a sure way to get them through the door, but if the experience isn't stellar once you have them, they aren't going to come back.  And you've just operated at a loss.
    • Know who your customers are.  Not many Kinder-gardeners need major sports equipment at age 5, but I do commend SA for trying to establish us as a repeat customer at an early stage.  
    • Don't give away the farm.  I still can't believe that I received a coupon that was equivalent to $20 in cash.  Yes, it got me through the door, but would I also have gone in for $10 free cash?  Quite possibly.  Should a higher cash-value be reserved for loyal customers?  I'd love to review the strategy behind this direct marketing execution and especially, the redemption results and number of repeat customers it created.
    • Ensure your employees know how to redeem the discount.  My order needed to be run twice because the poor kid didn't know how to process the cash-card.  It also seemed like the manager was going to hand me $2 cash since I didn't spend the full $20 until she did a double take and realized that they don't refund customers on coupons.

    If I had discovered value and great service once I was engaged, would I have beelined back for soccer cleats and shin guards this fall? Maybe...At least after I checked to see if I could get what I needed at Target.

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Spotlight Entrepreneur: Nadia Gray, Boxing4Fitness

    Hoping that all of my US readers enjoyed their 4th of July.  This year was a special one for us. We enjoyed some travel to witness our friends get married, then we continued the celebration when we arrived home to honor my son's first birthday.  Everything about our boy was worth waiting for and we can't believe he's 1.  In the month of July SleeveShirt Consulting looks outside of the US to celebrate a woman entrepreneur that I've come to know and be inspired by.  We hope you enjoy meeting Nadia Gray, the owner and founder of Boxing4Fitness!

    Tell us a little about how Boxing4Fitness was born. After having my daughter 3 years ago I decided it was time to get back into the fitness industry but wasn't totally sure in what direction I was going to go. I started to get a lot of feedback from people saying how much they love the 'boxing' part of their personal training sessions, they felt they wished it were included for longer during the sessions. I too love boxing so went off to get further qualifications to teach adults and children boxing techniques for fitness.

    What are the main goals your clients have when joining Boxing for Fitness?
    My clients are looking to lose weight, gain strength and to feel good about themselves.

    How is Boxing different and/or better than other cardio programs? I don't overload my sessions with the whole 'mixed bag'. Instead of doing bits of cardio, weight training, pilates, yoga, or running etc Boxing 4 fitness is directed 90% of the time on glove technique and pad/bag work. Sprints of cardio circuits are added to help improve fitness and strength. Anyone can do it regardless of age, weight or fitness level.

    What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneurThe excitement of watching my idea grow from the ground up and having people embrace it with open arms. I love being able to connect with others and always looking for ways to improve and cater to the needs of the client/community. Every day is always different and serves up its challenges whilst being so rewarding.

    How do you stay motivated? I absolutely love it when I see my clients achieving what they thought was impossible. To see them go from strength to strength in such a short time, gives me such buzz. Knowing that I am helping them in such a positive and empowering way is what keeps me motivated and wanting to do more. 

    What is your advice for females who are thinking about starting their own business? Always ask other business owners for advice or support and learn from the ones that have paved the path before you. Never be afraid to ask for help and don't expect that everything has to be handled by you. So many people/resources are out there to help you along the way to make life easier. Also never give up, keep moving forward one step at a time.  Join a social network, blog, forums anything else to get your name out which will help you to make some great contacts.

    To get in touch with Nadia Gray, or to learn more about Boxing4Fitness, please visit, email her at or Fan her on Facebook: