Friday, May 18, 2012

No more teachers, no more books...

I cannot believe today is the last day of school for the kiddos in my district. It's been a wonderful year. I'm so proud of my Kindergardener and am excited to spend the summer with her (without having to set an alarm!)

For working moms summer can also be a logistical nightmare. Camps?  Play dates?  Activities to keep them stimulated?  Television as a babysitter?

Although I have a few camps on tap and a family trip to the beach planned;  that only accounts for 3 weeks of structure out of roughly 13 weeks of summer.  What to do? What to do....

With a full client load and some exciting projects on the horizon for SleeveShirt I have come to only one conclusion in order to meet my time management challenges during the summer months:  Set my alarm.  Monday is going to be rough, but since I'm an early-bird kinda gal, it only makes sense to wake up before the rest of the house begins stirring and utilize my most focused hours to their fullest.

I'll welcome any tweets of encouragement during the 6-7am hour @MamaSleeveShirt   Let me know if you're up and chirping as early as this early bird.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spotlight Entrepreneur: Candy Tolentino of Marry Me Already

   Over the past month I've been getting to know Candy Tolentino- another fabulous, independent, serial entrepreneur.  In our Spotlight she shares her journey as an self-made business woman and inspires others- including her sister-in-law to reach for self-employment success!  Read our interview to find out what important information landed on the cutting room floor of a Reality TV show, and what one piece of technology she would be lost without! Candy is revolutionizing two industries: on-line dating and healthy desserts.  How sweet it is!

   1.    What made you decide to take the plunge into self-employment?

Good question. I always wanted to work for myself, set my own hours, march to the beat of my own drum, and do something I was passionate about versus working to fulfill someone else’s dream. I guess I also was born with no a rational fear of inconsistency, the unknown, or of not having a steady paycheck, guaranteed benefits, or some semblance of stability and normalcy!

   2.    What is the biggest challenge that you face as an entrepreneur?

Hmmm, there are many. It’s hard to pinpoint a single “super-challenge”! How about I settle for naming a top two? Number one would be reaching your audience. Advertising and marketing can be extremely expensive, yet, if you have the world’s greatest product but no one knows about you, you’re dead in the water. Finding that perfect balance between spending in regards to advertising as well as maximizing repeat business and the ever-golden “word of mouth” is always a challenge worth mastering. Working within a niche industry helps with this I feel (because our product was so niche with our first business, the healthy desserts, word of mouth spread very quickly. With an online business such as, it is a bit more challenging because you’re competing with the entire web in a very saturated marketplace. Once again, offering a very specified and niche product however, has helped). Challenge number two is growing too quickly or having more orders/fulfillments than what your capital can support. Obtaining outside funding in this market for any venture, should you choose to go that route, can be extremely difficult and tricky. Luckily for us, up until recently, both ventures have been entirely self-funded. The downside of that is that you’re risking your whole nest egg on the growth of your product, and you’re also inherently limited in terms of how fast you can grow if you’re not able to instantly reinvest profits into future expansion.

3.     If you had to give a piece of advice to a girlfriend that was thinking about starting her own small business, what would that be?

Go for it! If you can solve a problem, you can become a very successful entrepreneur! All great success stories came from one individual’s ability to identify and find a solution to a problem. Couple this with something you’re passionate about, and you’d be unstoppable. As an example, I was talking to my sister in law recently about this very thing. She’s brilliant at all things “craft-inspired”, and she has the innate gift to beautify furniture, stationery, wall treatments, room d├ęcor, etc. for pennies on the dollar! This is her passion and she is amazing at it. I am encouraging her to turn this passion into a business because she has the ability to follow her bliss and solve a genuine problem other women encounter on a daily basis. I.e., women LOVE frilly, beautiful, unique things, but often have a hard time finding unique, beautiful QUALITY items at an affordable price. Solution: my sister in law can make incredible pieces inexpensively, and/or she can teach others how to do the same, therefore this could be a thriving business for her! Look at Martha Stewart. She employs unique creativity in turning everyday, mundane things into extraordinary, memorable must-haves, at an affordable, accessible price! Problem-solving through applying one’s passions can truly translate into a multi-billion dollar industry, just as it has for Ms. Stewart. Shoes too tight? You could come up with a solution to keep tight shoes from rubbing your feet. Love to cook? Food spoiling too quickly? You could come up with an item to help food stay fresh, or flavors stay true, and you’ve got a million dollar idea on your hands. The possibilities are endless. Any problem you see in your daily life is most likely a problem felt by countless others. This can be a goldmine when coupled with something you’re passionate about, plus  add a can-do attitude, a tireless commitment and the ability to work your tail off and you’ll be well on your way!

4.    What small business resources can you not live without?

Google! I use it everyday, in a 1,000 different ways. Google connects me with the global marketplace, helps me stay on top of trends within my industry, helps provide me with visual inspiration (via Google’s image search, or even video searches), and helps me to locate new vendors overseas as well as in my own backyard. It’s so basic, but it’s an absolutely invaluable resource for my team and me!

5.    Tell us about MarryMeAlready- how did you come up with the concept? is a new concept in online dating- a community that has been designed only for serious-relationship or marriage- minded individuals to easily identify and meet each other! Our users take a Sincerity Pledge certifying that they are looking for something serious, otherwise they can be banned from the site. A few other key points really set us apart like the ability to choose your own matches, the fact that the site is currently 100% free, the fact that we have a very personal relationship with our members, and even hand-select members to feature and whose stories and videos to share site-wide. We also have a Charitable Spotlight that we’re very proud of where we feature a different non-profit or charity each month, and once we convert to a paid site, we’ve pledged to donate 5% of all profits to charity each month as well. was partly inspired by my own journey to find love. Despite being an active, happy, robust, well-healed single, I found discerning who was really looking for something serious, vs. a casual date or a one night stand, to be pretty difficult when it came to online dating. Once I hit my 30’s and decided I actually wanted to be married, I especially didn’t want to waste time with someone who was not on an equal wavelength. Luckily for me, I found more than what I considered to be the total package (my sweet husband), by happenstance. However the entrepreneur in me identified a problem, and also identified a passion of mine. I LOVE setting people up and I HATE seeing many singles such as my former self-go through so many changes in order to find the ONE! Everyday I hear comments like “it’s incredibly hard to find someone who’s ready to settle down, and who looks and conducts himself like someone you’d WANT to settle down with! Hence, the hubby and I created this community together in hopes of bringing singles one step closer with other singles who are ready to take the big plunge, just haven’t found the one!

6.    You toured the world with Richard Branson on the Fox television show The Billionaire; Branson's Quest for the Best. What did reality TV exposure do for your business?

None! I actually signed up for this crazy whirlwind experience in part to get publicity for my business, but the name was never mentioned. I was just known as “that raw food girl”. Oh well, I still got to learn from one of the greatest entrepreneurial minds, and saw fantastic places all over the world that had a profound impact on me. I was extremely thankful for the experience.

7.    You are what we like to call a serial-entrepreneur- besides MarryMeAlready you also run another business in an entirely different industry- tell us about it.

Yes, my first “baby” is a company called Earth Cafe Living Foods ( It’s a healthy dessert company. We make hand-made, dairy and gluten free living desserts that don’t TASTE like they’re free of dairy, refined sugar, and all of the bad stuff that is typically found in conventional desserts. This too was born out of me confronting a problem from my own life! (I had a very spoiled palate and loved to indulge, but was having health problems and didn’t want to eat rich foods at the risk of my own health!) I had eaten many “health foods” though that tasted like cardboard, so the thought of adopting a diet of solely healthy foods literally, brought me to tears! However my body was taking a beating as a result of my un-healthy choices. No more. With Earth Cafe, we figured out how to make amazing desserts that are chock full of healthy ingredients that actually the heart, the immune system and the waistline, all while coming in a package that makes you feel as though you’re savoring a guilty indulgence. This little engine has grown to be the largest company of its kind and is the first refrigerated raw food product to be distributed coast to coast! Exciting times, and to think, had I never had the problem of troubled digestion and poor health, I never would have happened upon the solution, that is my business venture and my passion. Here’s to yours, as well. J

Connect with Candy and tell her SleeveShirt Consulting sent you!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spotlight Entrepreneur: Monica Wreede of Connectz

Monica Wreede
This month I'm pleased to introduce Monica Wreede of Connectz!  Monica is an accessory designer who was inspired to launch her business after her daughter was born.  Learn about some fantastic resources that Monica can't live without, her experience with the patent-process, and business advice she would give her own girlfriend!  As a special treat Monica has also shared a coupon code.  Use "Connectz" for a 15% discount at checkout!  

What made you decide to take the plunge into self-employment?
When my daughter was born nearly 8 years ago, Inspiration to design fell into my lap. I wanted all of those cute, fluffly and pretty things for her but knew I couldn't afford to pay for them. That is when I started creating my very own lines of accessories for her. My intentions were to just make it a little hobby while staying at home and of course to gussy up my daughter. I then was getting tons of compliments on my daughter's accessories while we were out and about and that was my ah ha moment. Now I can stay home and make a little extra money on the side while being a stay at home mom. After a few years I got pregnant with my youngest son. I took a break for a little while and got back into designing. From there I wanted to offer more than just accessories. I eventually taught myself how to sew and starting my own children's clothing lines called The Boutique Kids

Along the way, I stumbled into designing flip flops with my accessories attached. I knew there had to be a better & easier way of attaching accessories. That is when I designed & filed a patent on my new design. That is when  Accessory Connectz was born.

 What is the biggest challenge that you face as an entrepreneur?
I would say my biggest challenge of being an entrepreneur would be trying to balance my daily life with 3 kids, time, a house to maintain, and funding. Funding has been one of the major challenges in starting my business. When you put money in that you really didn't have in the first place it becomes rather challenging to find more funds to put back into the business to make it grow the way you want it to.

If you had to give a piece of advice to a girlfriend that was thinking about starting her own small business, what would that be?
If one of my girlfriends were to start their own business, I would of course support her in any way possible. I would also warn her of the challenges, time it involves & mostly funding to get it off of the ground. It takes a very dedicated & hard working person to succeed in this line of business. Especially stay at home moms.

What small business resources can you not live without?
I have had great support from my local college. They have mentored me through situations and given me great advice for my next steps in business. I am also a member of Mompact. A very talented group of savvy women entrepreneurs who are facing the same challenges as me. We share resources and support each other the best way that we can. They have helped me tremendously throughout my journey. 

Recently you stumbled upon a unique design that you filed a patent on.  What did you learn from the patent process?
The patent process is quite scary. I had no idea where to begin. I contacted local attorneys around my area and we did not have any that handle patents. I was referred to my current patent attorney and started the whole process. It's not like you can just say "hey" I need a patent. There are countless hours researching for anything close to your invention, attorney fees, claims, professional drawing fees, and filing fees. The scary thing is, after all of that hard work and money spent you are still not guaranteed a patent from the Patent Office. It's a nail biter. 

You design both children’s clothing and accessories- what makes designing for children different than designing for adults?
I can say that children's clothing & accessories have been my niche ever since my daughter arrived. She is the one who has mainly inspired my designs. I love designing unique & frilly things for girls and I even have a little boys line of products. Although I have designed for women many times, children's design is mostly where my inspiration & passion is. Over all, I just love to design!

This just in!  The Dallas Market Center announced the finalists of The Next Big Thing, a national product search contest – and Accessory Connectz made it to the final 3!  If you have a chance, visit this link,  please cast your vote to help Monica win a prize package worth more than $12,500 including a $2,500 cash prize, exhibit space at the January 2013 Dallas Total Home & Gift Market, a profile in one of Dallas Market Center’s award-winning custom publications, consultations from leading industry experts regarding branding, public relations, visual merchandising and much more.

Ready to use that coupon code? Visit Monica's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter!