Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Yum Yum You! A Shoestring Story about All Natural Beauty

Eight years ago I had a great idea and 3 years ago I decided to “make it happen.” It was New Year’s Day 2006 and I woke up with a sucky attitude. I was pissed! I had to fire 2 employees from my small mortgage/real estate company and since I only had 2 employees that meant my workload was about to shoot through the roof. But hell, I had to pull double and triple duty anyway with these two hanging around the office. It was like that’s all they did was hang around. My “assistant” cried daily about her husband or her kids. Someone was always sick and needed her to stay home or leave early. My other employee was a great producer. She brought in $10,000 or more per month in revenue. Only problem was she had sex with all of her clients. Male and female. I could no longer be associated with her if I wanted to be taken seriously in my business. The real estate and mortgage business was just too rocky and turnover was too high. I needed multiple ways of earning money in case this real estate thing didn’t continue to sustain my lifestyle. So I decided to do everything I EVER wanted to do, business wise. I had to start somewhere and it had to be something that I was already familiar with, something I would enjoy. When I was 16 I received my Master Cosmetology license and although I hadn’t used it in years I always kept it current and in good standing, just in case. Now was the time to dust that puppy off and implement the business idea that had been cooking in me since 1997!

My original idea was an online business that would be a unique online gift retailer. We’d specialize in custom gift boxes that allow gift givers to plan and coordinate an entire day tailored to their loved ones likes and lifestyle, right down to bath & bed time. All of the items necessary (including gift certificates and gift cards redeemable on our website or directly through the 3rd party merchant) will arrive to the gift recipient in a beautiful, fun box complete with greeting cards and bath and body products to complete the perfect day. This was a services for folks who wanted to send their friends and family original gifts that would consist of planning an entire “day”. During the planning process I realized I was not a website builder. So I searched for an inexpensive service that I could pay by the month or some other arrangement that would work for my budget.

I contracted with a company who said they’d build my site for $150 upfront and $90 per month. This was to include all of the SEO and the shopping cart etc. The $150 was a one time fee. The $90 fee would be debited from my account once the final website was approved by me and uploaded to the web. I paid the initial fee and setup with the merchant services company to have payments go directly to my bank account. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the finished website. 3 weeks later I got a phone call saying the developer was “under the weather” and he’d be returning to the office on “Tuesday”. Sure enough that following Tuesday I got a weak mock website, which I promptly said NO to. For the next month me and the developer argued over fonts, logo placement and all the things that SHOULD be my final decision. Then the guy quits. He quits his job.

The day before my son had gone to the bank to withdraw some money from my account and mistakenly left my ATM card in the ATM machine. I had the card reported lost I asked the bank to issue a new card. I then called the company to update my billing information and they said “Oh, we were going to contact you about that. We tried to bill you today! Your card was declined.” I told the guy that I thought I wasn’t going to be billed until the final product was ready to be rolled out. He laughed and said, “Oh, NOOOOO! Did you really think we would wait to charge your account?” I said, “Since that’s what you told me, that’s what I thought.” He said oh no, we tried to collect for the past 3 months.” Since I was on unemployment this would have been tragic. I had no intention of giving them $270 at one time without having earned a penny. My stipend was only $320 per week and I still needed gas to look for jobs and go on interviews, plus food and rent money. I talked the company into returning my initial $150 dollars and we dissolved our business with one another.

This was decision making time. I was at a point where I had to make this business simpler. I’d planned to include bath and body products in the gift box so I thought, I’ll start with JUST the bath products. But they had to be special. It had to solve a problem to be successful. How about NATURAL, GREEN bath and body products? And so it was!

This would be a major transition because I also realized I had to build the site myself. I was so mad that I’d wasted nearly 3 months trying to get a “professional” website created that I taught myself HTML in a week and created my own website. Then I learned Dreamweaver to make it more professional and clean looking. Only thing is, now every time I think I have the perfect website, I have to change it to make it better. That’s the nature of an e-business though. Internet surfers have short attention spans. If you want people to keep coming back you got to give them something to keep coming back for.

Date officially launched? In my head I started my business -January 1, 2006 but in the secretary of state records- March 30, 2008 is the official date.

Sometime in March of 2008 I went online and downloaded free soap making tutorials. I ordered free samples of product packaging, raw materials and essential oils so I could experiment. This was one of the best things about starting this business. I could try out all these new fragrances and send them to my friends and family to try. And they loved it too. They gave me free, honest feedback. I saw it as informal market research. I even sponsored a couple of major events across the country. I’d give the cast of certain theatre productions my gift boxes containing the products, send them a Facebook or MySpace friend request and ask their opinion. Suddenly I had celebrity testimonials!

Then I found a website where you can showcase your products or services to manufacturers representatives to see if they’re interested in selling your products. If they are, they contact you, you interview them and they begin selling your stuff to stores completely on commission.

So within the first year I had

-an actual product
-a website
-celebrity testimonials
-representatives selling my line to mom & pop shops

So why am I still in the red? Well, if I’m going to expand then my business has to be bigger than me. In order for that to happen I need professional manufacturing and marketing. This is the stage I’m at right now. I’m not the rabbit, I’m the turtle and I’m ok with that. The hardest part was to start and I don’t believe people ever fail. They just stop trying. The next challenge is to stay committed and I am. It’s been a long road but it’s been one hell of an education. One thing I’ve learned is- don’t try to do it all yourself but don’t expect others to share your enthusiasm about your venture. I learned that everybody doesn’t spend 16 hours a day working. It takes time to find good business relationships but when you do…. they’re PRICELESS! Don’t be afraid t0 ask for help either. I happen to go a local college and spoke with a professor in the entrepreneurship program. It was supposed to just be a casual conversation but we ended up talking about Yum Yum You! and he gave me some great advice that I plan to implement and I know it’ll propel Yum Yum You! to the next level.

Prior to starting all of this I wish someone had told me these things:

  1. Don’t tell people you’re the “owner of the company” they’ll want a “hookup” I always tell people I’m executive VP of sales. This way they don’t feel I have the “power” to give them freebies.
  2. Everybody (including friends and family) who says they want to help doesn’t REALLY want to help. Mostly they want to help themselves. It’s seldom altruistic. Find out what people’s true motivations are so you can decide if a relationship with them is worth your time and effort.
  3. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Engaging other people who have the power to further you is important and should be welcomed. Even if you’re terrible at it, you may find that your sincerity and down to earth approach is what makes someone want to help you. AND! don’t be afraid to reject. Get used to using the word “NO”
  4. Decide what you’re NOT going to do. People who see potential in your business will come to you with all types of “business ideas” that they want you to bank roll or support in some manner. STICK TO YOUR NICHE. And finally
  5. Have an exit strategy. How will you get out? Will you sell your business? Will your kids take over the operation or will it die with you?

Richelle Moore

Executive VP-SalesYum Yum You!,Inc. Wholesale Retail (under construction)
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