Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Three For Three

THREE FOR THREE!

Karen Facey

I am in the unique and hectic position of having three (yes three!) companies in launch mode. They are G’Day Café pavlovas (www.gdaypavlovas.com), Henny Penny Soaps (www.hennypennysoaps.com), and Find My Treasures (www.findmytreasures.com). And for “fun” I’m completing my final six credits this Fall for my Master degree in management and administrative science!

I conceived of Find My Treasures first. In the fall of 2010 I was searching for a plum colored semi-formal dress for my then ten year old daughter. Unfortunately I knew she would probably only wear the dress once (you’re lucky if you can get her out of pajama pants and t-shirts, she’s the quintessential sports-girl and growing like a weed)! I’m frugal and really dislike wasting money, so I love hunting for hidden treasures at thrift and consignment stores, flea markets, tag sales, etc. Thus I developed the idea for an online mall catering to resellers so they can list everything in their store or just a few key pieces, for one monthly fee. Additionally the site is going to provide listings for appraisers, furniture restorers, tailors/seamstresses and other services that buyers of a vintage item could need. Many States feature wine trails through their tourism departments. Find My Treasures will be the online antiques trail, the treasure map, for antiques dealers, consignors and others with vintage or unique items so that tourists can log online and virtually map their travel route to visit these stores in person. For buyers, the site will offer a way to efficiently shop, locate and purchase the perfect item from the comfort of their living room couch, or to plan a driving trip perusing all of the gems tucked away in city centers and along rural roads.

THREE FOR THREE!The other two businesses developed simultaneously. In March my children finally convinced me to let them keep chickens. We started with six hens, and soon ended up with twelve – two of who as they matured surprised us as roosters. I highly recommend not building a chicken coop beneath your bedroom window… my alarm clock is for sale, for cheap! The one rooster isn’t bad as he gets up around 6am. The other provides the free concierge service of a daily 4am wakeup call, you’ll recall directly below my bedroom window! I’m too much of an animal lover to serve Kona for dinner but I think we’ll be re-homing him in the near future. Anyway, we had plenty of eggs. My entrepreneurial children hadn’t yet developed neighborhood egg accounts and the fridge was overflowing with egg cartons, and my favorite to juggle and catch when trying to take something out of the fridge – loose eggs. Getting children to put the eggs into cartons apparently works as well as getting them to pick up after themselves or to clean their rooms! Overrun with eggs we all tired of omelets and quiche. We simply had more eggs than we could eat. I began searching for non-food recipes for eggs. I already enjoyed making homemade, natural soaps. So I tried adding eggs. It worked! The soap was better than just my normal plant oil versions. I gave egg soap to my neighbors to try and they raved about the soap’s richness and quality. Henny Penny Soaps was born, after all there’s only so much soap a family of four needs and I had proven demand from my small test/focus group.

I am British American. Born in the US to British parents who are now naturalized citizens, I hold dual citizenship US/UK and was raised on British traditions and foods. I was also raised on Australian foods. In the 1960s half of my family emigrated from England to Australia. My Dad took a job offer in the US and moved there right after marrying my Mum. The other half of the family stayed in England. At three I visited Australia for the first time. My grandmother (Nanna) had dessert waiting. A pavlova! Pavlova is a traditional Australian or New Zealand meringue dish named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Pavlovas (pavs) are gluten and lactose free, ovo-lactase vegetarian, and kosher. The meringue base is then traditionally topped with fresh cream and fruits or berries. Though really the topping options are endless and limited only by one’s creativity, and the meringues are quite good on their own! After helping Nanna make pavlovas whenever we visited Australia, as an adult I began making them for my family and friends. I have made them for years and after having too many eggs I hit upon the idea of introducing pavlovas to the US one grocer, bakery and restaurant at a time. G’Day Café was born. Made with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors G’Day Café pavlovas are made with egg whites from free range eggs, just waiting for one’s finishing touches. Since I usually use only the egg yolk in the soaps the two businesses operate synergistically and result in no wasted eggs.

My days are crazy! I work full time as a Fire Marshal for a CT municipality. I work full time on my businesses evenings and weekends doing the scheduling dance with my husband for getting our kids to practices, music class, over to their friends and the like. I have no loans and no debt for any of the businesses, and a very patient and supportive husband. I think I epitomize the term “shoestring!” It might take me longer to grow and there are days when I am overwhelmed and exhausted, but I’m proud of doing this on my own and of not risking my family’s financial security by taking on loans.

Henny Penny Soaps and G’Day Café are 100% launched and we’re securing more and more retail accounts for our products daily. Find My Treasures has hit snag after frustrating snag. Along with being frugal I am a control freak. Web design is outside of my abilities so I’m forced to rely on others and to be at their mercy. That means other people’s timelines, other people’s definitions of “expedience,” and other people’s fees. I’m on my third web designer, whom I located through ODesk and I couldn’t be more pleased with the timeliness, quality and rates for my new and final web designer! The end is in sight and Find My Treasures will launch in October 2011, just in time for the holiday buying season. What I thought would take me four weeks has instead taken me nearly a year.

My only help is my ODesk independent contractor web designer. I am looking to hire independent contractor, 100% commission salespeople to promote and market Henny Penny Soaps and G’Day Café pavlovas. That should exponentially increase both G’Day Café’s and Henny Penny Soaps’ growth. So if you have any Tristate area recommendations for proven salespeople please send me an email! My husband is a firefighter and paramedic. He makes a better salesperson than he gives himself credit but it’s not his forte. Please help me give him a break! A friend will be my business partner with Find My Treasures. I’m surprised by how difficult it is to find people willing to do sales. I’ve had plenty of offers for administrative assistance but as I have a zero dollar line item I am the administrative help, and the CEO, and the manufacturer, and well… the everything! These are after all shoestring ventures!

I love social media. Facebook is vital to me as it allows me to reach my friends, set up pages for my business, and for others to promote me by sharing my posts. In essence Facebook is free multi level marketing! I need to use my Twitter and Linked In accounts more, sadly there are only so many hours in the day and the weeks race on by. At the moment my advertising budget is zero, so I rely on free mediums to promote my businesses, such as joining HARO and responding to their media posts. In coming weeks I hope local CT media will feature the businesses also. I have a blog too. I enjoy writing and I have an interesting background. So even though blogging takes time I do find it relaxing to write a post every few days and personalize an otherwise impersonal product. Our chickens are pets to us, and a part of our family so we invite our customers and fans in to our blog-based-home to get to know us a bit better and to share in our triumphs. I’ve got some You Tube ideas too so that will be forthcoming.

My biggest challenges have been frustrations with the web design process for Find My Treasures, and locating an approved and reasonably priced commercial kitchen to use a few hours per week to make the pavlovas. Finding a kitchen took me four excruciatingly long months! (Did I mention I’m a go-getter and can be impatient)? I make the soaps at home so as long as my family doesn’t mind the mess and racks of curing soaps around the house I’m ok! A coworker recommended that I contact her church and they have offered me a very affordable monthly fee to use their kitchen as much as I need to. I know if I grow much larger that I will be either building a licensed commercial kitchen in my home or renting space to fit out to my specifications. I must comment that GoDaddy’s website templates were easy to set up, low cost, and perfect for Henny Penny Soaps and G’Day Café. The online mall platform is too complex for GoDaddy’s basic website design templates.

I am opinionated and a non-stop worker. I have no end of ideas and good business sensibility. I’m also energetic, kind, fair minded, principled, and very much believe in paying things forward. I worry more about treating my employees fairly, than I do about overburdening myself. (I am a manager in my Fire Marshal career). Ironically some of my “negative” traits; stubbornness, impatience, a bull dog tenacity, refusing to accept “no” and “can’t” have been the very strengths that have gotten me through the frustrations of hiring and firing web designers, dealing with delays, and locating a kitchen.

THREE FOR THREE!Despite it being unnatural to me to do so, one of the wisest things I do is telling everyone I can about my products and businesses. This has opened countless opportunities for me and led me to realize I have some of the best friends and supporters – many of whom I have met solely through my three business endeavors but who believe in me, my products and are championing my businesses and promoting my products. There is no better sales pitch than a direct recommendation. I cannot wait to see what the future holds! My first year goal is $150,000 in sales and the financial security to focus full time on the businesses, two to three years out I hope to be at $750,000 to $1,000,000 combined gross sales between the three businesses with a handful of employees to produce products, and assist with sales and account management.

I mentioned about paying things forward. While long term, like many altruistic business owners I hope to be in the position to support charities, but while important that is not how I’m defining “paying things forward” for this article. From a brand promotion and marketing firm known for their national accounts designing my FDA compliant labels on a true shoestring budget, to a small-town grocer taking a chance on two new products and becoming an unofficial mentor, to a real estate investor offering free rent and then putting me in direct contact with his close friend also the owner of a large regional grocer and hand delivering my products along with his personal recommendation and then putting me in contact with one of his other tenants who is also a food-entrepreneur, to my coworkers who are requesting stores to carry pavlovas and Henny Penny soaps, to a friend who is personal friends with the CEO of a mega national retailer and got my products before him, I am awed, humbled and eternally grateful for their assistance. And then there’s the food entrepreneur who I have only met over the phone, no less when he was on vacation! His landlord (the real estate investor) requested that he call me regarding my dream – I still had no commercial kitchen available at the time. Mike called me, (from vacation), and in a one-hour conversation I gleaned incalculable insight into the wholesale grocery vendor industry. He was right, some of what he said I did not fully understand. Two months later, and with a growing business, I do. I’ll be calling him again in the next couple of weeks. I’ve grown to the point that I need some more advice from someone more seasoned but who started in my shoes. Mike has helped lots of food entrepreneurs get their start, volunteering to spend countless hours with them, to meet them at stores to do reconnaissance on packaging/labeling/pricing, etc. I can only hope that I will soon be able to pay all these individuals’ combined kindness and support forward to other start up businesses.

It’s perhaps cliché, but I firmly believe that our country’s economic health depends on small businesses and entrepreneurial spirit. I don’t however endorse starting three businesses simultaneously! Fate has a funny sense of humor and timing in this case resulted in the three for three deal.

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