Archives for category: Networking

Ahh, Where did March go? The Woman Entrepreneur series normally runs in the middle of each month, but this month has been quite a doozy. Either way, let me introduce Jen Ford, the March Woman Entrepreneur!

Hi! Please introduce yourself. Tell us your name (as you want it to appear), your company name, how long have you been in business and what is your business.

My name is Jen Ford, and my company name is Murami. I’ve been in business since 2006 making wall-hanging jewelry frames that organize and display jewelry.

How do you define “entrepreneur”?

To me, an entrepreneur is someone who strikes out on their own with a new business. Of course, being a writer, before I answered this I had to check to be sure my own definition matched the dictionary’s, and I noticed that dictionary definitions include an element of risk, which I didn’t think about. I think entrepreneurs tend to worry less about risks – not that they don’t plan for them, but the fact that it’s a risk is a hurdle that they’ve already jumped.

What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

My favorite thing about being an entrepreneur is having complete control of the product and the plan. Unfortunately that’s also the hardest part of it – I’m not perfect and I can’t play every part all the time – salesperson, marketer, crafter, designer, businessperson. The most difficult part of owning a business, for me, has been forcing myself to learn business skills.

What do you do when you feel the weight of being an entrepreneur? Not every day is great, how do you deal with this?

Actually, I usually just give it time. I don’t depend on Murami to earn a living, so when I’m feeling lost I can step back, let my brain work on a problem, and come back with a new outlook.

Do you work a full-time job? If so, what do you do? Does it interfere with your business? How do you balance these?

Yes! I work as an editor and writer for a monthly trade magazine. It definitely interferes with my business, as do all of the other commitments I’ve given my time to. On top of my full-time job and Murami, I also sing in a community choir and am a coach for the cycling team of my local chapter of Team In Training, a distance sport event organization that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

How do you keep yourself focused?

This is tough. I actually apply to craft fairs that happen at regular intervals throughout the year so I’m motivated to make enough frames and try new things regularly.

How do you keep yourself creative?

Fortunately for me, as soon as I am in my workshop and start working, I am in the zone. I can lose hours playing with materials and making frames. That’s the real reason I started Murami, to give myself a creative outlet.

How have you found success? How do you measure it?

Personally, I measure success by satisfaction. I understand you could be satisfied with nothing, and dissatisfied with everything, but accepting my current place and my plans for the future is my measure of success.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

This is a tough question. I’ll start by pointing out that 5 years ago many of the tools that I’m using now for my business – Facebook, Twitter, Etsy – either did not yet exist or were not on my radar. I’ve embraced all of them as they’ve come along and I hope to keep doing the same, especially to get more customers, over the next 5 and 10 years.

As an entrepreneur and business woman how do you view sustainable enterprise? Is this a concern for you now? If not, are you considering it for the future?

If you’re talking about green practices, I do keep it in mind, although I’ve got a system that has worked for years and cost is just as important a factor to me as being green. My goals are to incorporate more green materials as well as more support of my fellow artists.

How do you view money? Do you work to live, or live to work?

Money is important in that it lets me continue to do what I want. I am definitely a “work to live!”

Let’s talk about pricing. How do you price? How do you deal with competitors pricing? How do you respond to requests for discounts/deals? What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs in this area?

I try to follow the formula that most crafters use – cost of materials x 4 – for pricing. As for competitors, there really aren’t many competitors unless you’re talking about huge mass-produced jewelry organizers, and that’s not me, at least not for the foreseeable future. When I’m at shows, I give discounts for multiple purchases. On my website, I build the shipping cost into the cost of the item.

What piece of advice do you want to share with other entrepreneurs or have them take away from your experience?

I try to be a realist when it comes to Murami; it’s always in my mind whenever I’m considering buying supplies or considering some kind of change. I’m pretty conservative and have maintained at least financial breakeven since I started. My advice is try to find as many trusted advisors as you can, really stay on top of your accounting, and keep networking to stay motivated.

Find, like, and follow Murami at www.murami.com, www.facebook.com/MuramiFrames, @MuramiFrames, http://pinterest.com/muramijen/murami-art-craft/ and Murami on Google+!

Isn’t Jen great?! I have to admit that I know Jen personally- we both graduated from the same University in 2002. I also have an original Murami of my own and I love it. Of course when I bought it, I had more jewelry that I didn’t know what to do with than I do now. Jen’s frame seemed like the perfect solution! The price was right, too!  Either way, I love the piece and have what does remain of my jewelry collection on it and I consider it a piece of art. I don’t know how Jen knew what colors to use to custom a piece for me, but it is one of my favorite things. I highly recommend her frames and her service.  Awesome all around!

I wish Jen many many more years of good luck with Murami!  I hope that her interview inspires you to go out, create, and be an entrepreneur.

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Categories Interviews, Networking, Sharing Things I Like, Women Entrepreneurs

Founder Fridays + Inspiring Women

Last Friday evening, I went to a networking event hosted by Women 2.0 called Founder Friday. This was my first time attending one of these events and I am so glad I did!

Before I get into the details of why, I want to dive into how.

In May 2011, I attended a breakfast courtesy of Gotham Media Ventures called Women and the Entrepreneurial Experience.  It was electric! I was just in the beginning stages of really pushing my business button for S2 Stationery and Design and I was hungry for inspiration and powerful women to learn from.  All of the women on the panel were incredibly inspiring, but one of them really stood out-Ellie Cachette of ConsumerBell. I believe I’ve mentioned Ellie before, but at that event we exchanged business cards and we emailed a bit. It was from her that I learned of Women 2.0 and attended Founder Friday last Friday, February 3rd.

So now on to the why.

One of my best friends came into town last Friday. I asked her if she’d like to attend the event with me, realizing that if she said no, I would not attend the event. Luckily for me, she said yes and we both registered.

Now, I’ve never been a big fan of networking. As a matter of fact, I’ve gotten better at networking thanks to my co-worker of old, Mark. I used to attend events with him for work and he would always tell me, “Sara, you have at least one thing in common with everyone in this room. The trick is to find that one thing.”  He is absolutely right, but that still didn’t stop me from sizing people up and deciding that I had absolutely no interest in talking to people in business suits at networking events. I can’t believe I just admitted that!

And then something happened. Something bigI had to start networking for myself.

In the process of networking for S2 Stationery and Design, I realized that the reason I hated networking as much as I used to was because I lacked passion for my 9-to-5 gig. Think about itif you’ve ever been in my shoes, you’ll know exactly where I’m coming fromwhen you feel unprepared or lacking in some way regarding your purpose, you tend to not enjoy networking.  Many a time, I’ve been sent to network for the 9-to-5 and have felt knowledgeable and unprepared; making any desire to talk about my position and responsibilities nonexistent and most importantly creating a mute of Sara.

A mute, I am not. I’m sure you, reader, know that I am not mute. In fact, I’m the polar opposite. It has only been in the last three years that I’ve learned to appreciate silence and listening to other people more than talking. Needless to say the whole wall flower look was not my style at all.

Which is why this past Friday, while my friend and I took seats and chatted, I made it a point to introduce myself to people who sat next to us, or walked past us. I know what it feels like to attend a networking event alone and not sure who to strike up a conversation with first.  My friend and I ended up spending most of the evening talking to Alex, a great woman who happened to sit next to us at the very beginning.  As a matter of fact, the photographer, who took all the photos I’ve used in this posting and is AMAZING, asked to take our photo because we had spent the entire night chatting.

I would like to think that my improved attitude is what led me to network so well that evening, but I also think that luck was on my side. Within seconds of talking to Alex, a woman who overheard me talking about starting a stationery company, Tracy came up to me and told me she is a designer and she started a wedding website called WeddingInviteLove which is a directory of wedding invitation vendors. In her own words, “she started WeddingLovely and released the first product, WeddingInviteLove, in January 2011 to help couples looking for custom designs to find their perfect designer.”  Needless to say it was destined that we met! She even said, “I think this was a fortuitous meeting because I’m here this week trying to raise funds and I’m heading back to California and just happened to be able to attend this event.”  I’d say the stars aligned in that moment.

Since last Friday, I’ve reached out to Tracy and am considering my options for being a vendor listed on WeddingInviteLove. I’m debating the free or pay-per-month options and I may need to retake some photos to include on the site, but well, I’m moving and glad to have made the connection!

Later that evening, the photographer, Stephanie Haller came up to me and told me she heard I make stationery and that we should talk. At the time, I thought, great, a photographer contact, awesome! But over the weekend, I went to her website and took a look at her website and fell in love. Her photography is awesome. If I ever get married, I’m hiring her. As a matter of fact, I’m hiring her to take pictures of everything!  I contacted her today, after seeing the photos she took from the event (and that I’ve shared in this post), about taking photos of my wedding invitation designs and of professional photos of me.   The photo of me listening to the speakers is possibly my favorite of them all (see below).

The speakers that night were all inspirational and some were better than others. In four minutes they had to each talk about their business and raising funding. While I am yet to reach the “funding” arena,  it was great to hear how all these women had reached their goals.  One woman talked about persistence and optimism, two things that I am a fan of. Another woman, talked about making stuff up even when you don’t know the answers. Her exact phrasing was along the lines of, don’t ever look like you don’t know, just make it up and act like you do. We may have been laughing at her statement in the photo above.  Lastly, we heard from Amanda Steinberg from DailyWorth. While I didn’t find her presentation as inspiring, it was incredible to be feet away from an incredible entrepreneur who really showed off her worth. She focused more on being able to approach investors in a confident and purposeful manner, where as the other ladies instead focused on their experiences and what they’ve learned from them. All in all, they were worth my 16 minutes of listening.

I’m looking forward to future events with Women 2.0. I am also looking forward to more networking opportunities. I have found in this small business sea,  as I captain my ship, entrepreneur,  that what I value the most are the connections I make and the relationships I foster. Women 2.0 is definitely helping me and I’m glad to be a part of such a great group of strong and decisive women rocking the socks off the business world.

I did not mean to wave the feminist flag of “I am woman here me roar” here, but I do think it is important that women stick together and genuinely learn from each other. If we all approached relationships and life in this way, we’d really rule the world in ways more than we already do.

I highly encourage everyone to sign up for Women 2.0.

I also highly suggest you check out Stephanie Haller Photography-woman has got skills(!) and there are many more photos of the event to see along with some gorgeous weddings.

Some other favorites: If you’re a bride, check out WeddingInviteLove

If you’re a woman who rides your bicycle, check out Nona Varando’s Performance Fashion. I met her at this event and she wore this stunning jacket top that she made and was once part of her collection. I don’t like to bike, but I would consider splurging on one of her pieces and wearing it always!

Ah, and there is Alexandra, the young woman we talked to most of the night. She’s great and she wants to help women navigate their world and the real world more balanced. She has some great ideas and a blog full of food that makes my mouth water. Check her out!

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Categories About Me, Business, Communication, Networking, Sharing Things I Like, Women Entrepreneurs
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