Breathing new life into an old hosiery mill has proven to be “a heck of a retirement project” for Tom and Susan Miles. The couple has transformed the plant in Biscoe into a modern producer of supportive maternity undergarments called Belevation.
Belevation Maternity Underwear has evolved from being a twinkle in our eyes in late 2007, to the status of a savvy preschooler - in 2013. Having worked as a B2B service for the textile industry for many years, we had a lot to learn about the best way to reach 21st century consumers.
It's been a very slow process, but we haven't quit yet. Along the way, I've held several dumb second jobs to help pay the bills, but my low pay and under appreciation in those positions has just driven me harder toward Belevation's business success.
So here it is; my best advice for mompreneurs, women who can envision working incredibly hard, but doing it on your own terms. This list is for you:
1. Make sure someone in your house has a day job so you're not putting all eggs in one basket. The Small Business Administration says most businesses fail in the first 5 years. Know that upfront and protect yourself accordingly.
2. Do as much as possible yourself to keep costs low, then reach out to students who are highly skilled at things like websites, but have lower overheads than pros.
3. Make a website right away and get lots of help with SEO. Word Press content management sites are great since they are easy to self-maintain.
4. Network, network, network. We can’t be an island when it comes to anything.
5. Know the competition and be better in your niche. Evaluate what your niche is.
6. Set up your personal and business Facebook and Twitter accounts separately. Potential clients needn't know who you’re voting for, or if you’re in a bad mood.
7. Even though personal should remain personal, keep friends and family up to date online about your business news. Hopefully they will help spread the word.
8. Use advertising selectively. Ads are really expensive and can bust a budget.
9. Send out press releases to news orgs and try to get free mentions. Give back to the community right away since good deeds are newsworthy, so it’s a win win.
10. Giveaways are king with bloggers – so be prepared to give away products and services often to get free publicity. Well worth it compared to buying print ads.
11. Read a good newspaper like the NYT daily. Savvy biz owners need to stay abreast of what’s happening in the world. Read on a tablet on the treadmill, so you can fit in some exercise. Busy people need to kill two birds with one stone.
12. Enjoy your successes, nothing feels better than knowing you've accomplished something yourself. You'll have the best stories to tell on the school bus stop too.
Last week Belevation traveled to Kentucky, to the ABC Kids Expo, taking our place among the many companies exhibiting for the 1st time. The development of Belevation's maternity support garments is a mom and pop effort, but it was stunning to see the hundreds of mom innovators presenting their creations at ABC. Necessity is the mother of invention and the buck stops with mom, so she's on the front lines in the problem solving department daily. "Mom invented-and mom tested", from Atlanta, GA, was the Highchair Organizer, a cleverly stitched pouch that secures to the back of your child's highchair to hold all of those meal time essentials. Imagine knowing where everything is? Revolutionary!
Across the aisle from Belevation was BG Birthing Gowns by Cindy Lintel, a labor and delivery nurse from New York State. Inspired to make a more feminine version of the dreaded hospital gown, Cindy used her knowledge of the delivery process to create a graceful, versatile alternative for women. What a sweet and knowledgeable lady she is!
During the course of the four days at the KY Expo Center, Belevation bonded with our other neighbor Kemi, the designer of a new line of diaper bags inspired by African textiles, called House of Botori, based in Maryland. Kemi discovered that "although functional", existing baby products "always seemed to lack individuality." House of Botori is her response to that quest, as it honors her Nigerian heritage. Judging from the visitors at ABC, Kemi's colorful diaper bags will take their place among the most coveted baby shower gifts.
Then there was Dr. Jane of Tortle, mother of 4, who makes adorable baby hats in the most fashionable colors, but in her role as a neonatal pediatrician she educates parents about Flat Head Syndrome.
Positional Plagiocephaly, will effect "a staggering 40% of babies before age six months. Beyond the cosmetic issues, there can be trouble with binocular vision and long-term developmental issues."
According to Dr. Jane: "Positional plagiocephaly increased 600% in the last 20 yrs. due to 2 changes:" "1) In 1992 The American Academy of Pediatrics began its “Back to Sleep” program to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome .(Incidence of SIDS have plummeted by almost 40%.)" "2) Infants are being placed in reclining carrying devices more than ever. Families on the go keep their babies in carriers, car seats, and swings for an extended time—frequently up to 20 hours per day."
Explore the Tortle site and google Plagiocephaly. Boy, this sure makes a case for more baby wearing; slings etc ... in your child's early months. Four amazing innovative mothers, each clearly with a lot to share for the benefit of others. If you want to fix a problem, definitely go ask a mom!
With Social Media all the rage, acronyms are everywhere. Even though these abbreviations are standard fair in our busy lives, there will always be a need for self-expression without short-cuts. BFF, best friends forever are those special kind of people who are willing to go the extra mile for you and listen to your long version. Since manufacturing apparel in the US isn't the easiest thing to do these days, LOL!, finding faithful friends who can offer Belevation encouragement has been so important! Today I'd like to highlight two special Belevation Maternity Support BFF.
When repeat customer Jessica wrote asking if we had a Mothers Day sale coming up, I gave her a preview code for our new X-Large Boyshort. Since I hadn't publicized the discount elsewhere, imagine my surprise as orders came in using the Mothers Day coupon. It turned out that Jessica was so happy with her Belevation products that she took time to share information about us on popular Mom sites. And a few days later when some of the posts were removed, Jessica went to bat for us yet again with a site moderator, insisting her Belevation posts be reinstated.
Orders were picking up as Jessica's Belevation message went viral and I finally figured what was going on. When I caught up with her, Jessica explained that she was "all about small business", since she came from a manufacturing background herself. You can see the beautiful line of solid cherry 18th century furniture that her family has designed and manufactured domestically for 80 years at Statton.com Jessica also designs a line of twig lettering, perfect to grace your nursery walls. View it on her gorgeous, newly created online Etsy store, called The Original Twig.
Another wonderful Belevation friend that I can't forget to mention is Michele from Atlanta, GA. Like Jessica, Michele definitely deserves a big shout out for the support she has offered. On all those lonely days sitting in front of the computer, when it seems nobody in the world is paying attention, Michele has been there "liking" everything on our Facebook page from our Belevation trivia, to the endless articles I re-post about pregnancy and parenting. A big thank you to Michele and Jessica for being among Belevation's BFF. We couldn't do it without you, nor would we ever want to!