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.
A network of online and community resources including a blog by Director Deb Flashenberg, a Nanny and Doctor Exchange, and the Ask the Experts column plus more can be found on the Prenatal Yoga Center website. Each month a vendor is selected to be featured at the Prenatal Yoga Center with extensive raffle and discount programs. Belevation was busy last month getting ready for this event, scheduled many months ago, so the anticipation added to this honor!
With fabulous facilities and highly trained instructors in convenient locations in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, the New York Prenatal Center offers an impressive and nurturing support-network for New York based mom-to-be. Check out a review of the center from last September by Dr. Carrie McCulloch, FITiST expert and Mom-to-Be. She supplies a terrific Mom-to-Be Rx: including critical tips on "Speaking Up and Making Friends". Watch the Center's recently posted You Tube video tour and don't forget to ask about Belevation Maternity Supports awesome March 2012 give-aways on the Belevation Support Briefs, and Belly Bands .
As essential part of the development of all of Belevation's maternity support garments has been real life product testing done by moms-to-be. I was on just such a mission yesterday, when I arranged to meet Kacie before her prenatal exam at SEOB/GYN in Presbyterian Hospital in beautiful Matthews, North Carolina.
Earlier in her pregnancy, Kacie purchased our Boyshorts upon the recommendation of SEOB/GYN physician Dr. Salvemini, who used our products during her own pregnancy (I just learned this yesterday). Dr. Sal has also sent many of her patients to Belevation as well. Word of Belevation's prenatal support products was brought to SE OB/GYN by their ultrasound tech Heather, who joined the staff after a stint at my own GYN's office, (where Heather had done our product testing during her first pregnancy).
An added bonus of meeting Kacie in the waiting room of Southeast was that I finally got to say thank you to Dr. Sal and her team. ( I missed seeing Heather unfortunately though, as she had yesterday off.)
With the US government poised to implement new rules requiring drug and medical device companies to disclose payments and gifts to doctors, (a very good new law for consumer protection), I had picked an odd day to shower SE OB/GYN with gifts. It wasn't really much, for full discloser - just some healthy granola bars, herbal teas bags, Decaf Chai from Stash and a musical snowglobe with Belevation photos. A long overdue thank you after several years recommending Belevation to their patients at SE OB/GYN. So glad you love our products!
Thank you Dr. Sal, Heather & Kacie for being Belevation Prenatal Underwear fans!
Last night on Netflix, hubby and I watched the 1991 Australian film, The Efficiency Expert. Set in a small town in 1966, Anthony Hopkins plays efficiency expert Errol Wallace. Charged with closing an under-performing moccasin plant, Hopkins emotionless character has a change of heart after he assists workers at a slot car race.
Along with modern classics like Tommy Boy, The Efficiency Expert falls in a special genre of films about saving small businesses. When actor Chris Farley's father Big Tom dies, Tommy goes on the road with side-kick David Spade trying to help their brake-pad company. With unforgettable scenes like the pair driving with a buck in the back-seat and Tommy setting a fire on a clients desk, the laughs are numerous. In a last minute cliff hanger, Spade and Farley prevail and the factory is saved.
Similar messages replay in other favorites from this genre including 2005 British-made Kinky Boots. After inheriting his families manufacturing business, Charles Price learns that Price & Sons Shoes is failing. While in despair about his many unsuccessful attempts to save the company, a chance encounter with a drag-queen, cabaret singer named Lola, helps Charles take the firm in a new direction.
Then there's Renee Zellweger in the 2009 flick New In Town. Like Hopkins, in The Efficiency Expert, Zellweger thinks she understands business until she is captivated by life in this Minnesota town. While corporate sees the workers of Munck Foods only as numbers, Zellweger finds a way to turn Munck around.
Make a resolution that 2012 will be the year you join the movement supporting local businesses. Shift Your Shopping maps out organizations throughout the US and Canada dedicated to re-energizing our retail and manufacturing economy. American Express got on board publicizing their 2nd annual small business Saturday, the day after Black Friday. Make this a year-round effort & bring back jobs to America. Why not buy some American-made maternity apparel today?
Just in time to ring in the New Year in style, I couldn't wait to preview our Facebook book give-away for February - Preggatinis, Mixology for the Mom-to-Be. Author, Natalie Bovis-Nelsen is a Los Angeles mixologist and is the spokesperson for several household-name spirits and wine companies, including Fre, a division of Sutter Wines. Published in 2009, Bovis-Nelsen's book has definitely made a big hit on the mommy scene, with it's fun cocktails and great photographs.
The recipes center around healthful fresh juices and herbs and are especially great for baby showers. Cleverly organized by trimester, there's something for everyone in this pocket size manual, with a few alcohol cocktails offered to keep things interesting for Dad.
Perfect for those expecting on this New Years Eve, if you still want to enjoy the festive holiday atmosphere and great if you're currently breast feeding too.
Many of Natalie's (aka The Liquid Muse) wonderful recipes can be found on the Fre Wine website. Too late to turn back now, 2012 is definitely right around the corner. So, how about enjoying a Merry Berry Basil Mojito? Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, author of Preggatinis, Mixology for the Mom-to-Be