Acknowleging Your Inner Entrepreneur/Hustler

In talking to my mother the other day I realized I’ve been a hustler my entire life.

I was a bit shocked to be honest. I mean, who is a hustler at the age of 8? Also, who thinks of themselves as a hustler outside of rap singers?

When I think back to those long ago years of my youth, I remember always trying to win the prizes, usually money, for school fundraisers. I think this was more of my Type-A personality than anything else, but I wanted to sell the most candy bars, and I wanted to sell the most of anything and everything if it could make me stand out from my classmates, or win me something, even if it was garbage.   There was the catalog company that I started working for during my Brooklyn days, where I’d send the catalog to my father’s office and have him help me sell things. If I made tons of sales, I’d win awesome prizes, including money.

I think though the best example of my hustling ways takes place in 1989 when my my brother, mother, cousin, aunt, and grandmother took a trip to the homeland, Honduras. I was seven going on eight and I wanted to get my hands on some lempiras.  My idea, with the assistance of my cousin, was to sell mangoes on the street, outside of the house.  My mother totally let me do this. She didn’t attempt to stop me. She didn’t tell me that in La Ceiba, Honduras, the idea of selling mangoes is ludicrous because almost everyone has a mango tree in their backyard. Nope. She let my cousin and I fill up a bucket of mangoes from the backyard and scream “mangoes for sale!” at the top of our lungs.  A woman bought from us and it turns out she did only because she felt bad for us, so my mother says, but she still bought our bucket and my cousin and I made some fast cash. I don’t remember exactly how much we sold them for, or how much we made, but it was such a sweet, sweet victory.

This gave way to many more ideas as I grew older. When we moved to Cleveland Heights, Ohio, I loved selling things in garage sales and would scour the house looking for old things that we didn’t use any more to sell. I even sold my own jacket once by mistake.  Then there was the summer that I visited my family in Brooklyn, NY and we decided to start a bag business. At the time, my Aunt owned a clothing store for women on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, and for a week, we stood outside of the store, my two cousins, myself, and a cousin of theirs from their Mother’s side selling old stuff they didn’t use or want anymore.  We made a ton of money and split it four ways.  As for that bag business, well, we made a few successful bags from a pattern, but then stopped after that summer. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t take off as we had planned. It might have been the distance – me being in Cleveland Heights and them being in Brooklyn. Who knows, but the seeds were planted at an early age!

As a teenager my father after working as a bus driver and a truck driver for other companies, went out on his own. He started “Stroman Trucking” and off he went, doing trips mostly between Ohio or NYC and Florida. I remember as a teenager sitting at the table with my Mom working on balancing his accounts and paying bills. I even remember voicing my opinion on how and where he could save money as a business owner. I was only 16 or 17 at this point.

I put all of that behind me after graduating college. I went out for a real job, and worked several real jobs as a matter of fact to earn money. In other words, even though I was on someone else’s payroll, I was figuring out ways to keep making money. Which leads me to believe I need to understand what money really means to me, but more importantly, years later, in 2009, when I had my dream to start this stationery business, it didn’t seem too far fetched. In fact, it made sense that I took business courses as an undergrad to get me to this point, or what I like to call full-circle, even though I know the circle is not yet complete.

See, every position I’ve held, whether it was as a receptionist at my first job, or collecting items to sell in a garage sale, or to helping a customer select a table at Pottery Barn, has led me to where I am. Even all of my work as a volunteer has brought me to this point. All of these experiences have shaped my business and personal direction.

When I hear the argument that being an entrepreneur can be taught, I disagree. Sure you can teach some of the key aspects of being an entrepreneur, but my experience has shown me that I’ve been piecing together my entrepreneur spirit since I was 8 years old on a family trip to Honduras.  I believe when you really feel it, well you hustle your way into it, from an early age, whether it starts with a lemonade stand or a garage sale or raising money for a good cause.  My entrepreneurship has been rooted deep in my bones and it is why now, I sit at jobs and realize that I won’t ever really be happy until my business is self-sufficient and making a positive impact.  As I get ready to figure out where exactly I am headed (I just moved into an apartment, so I’m getting settled), I am assessing my thoughts on where my business can go, how much money I want to make, and more importantly, how I want/need to get my business into shape to make these things happen.

It’s easy to fall off the wagon. To question things that we do, or don’t do. But this is why the past is so relevant to me, regardless of what anyone else says, we learn from the past, even if we don’t want to. My past is a reminder of what I have to accept and appreciate because without it, I wouldn’t be where I am, bumps, bruises, and creative ideas.  If you haven’t thanked your inner hustler/entrepreneur, do so now. He/she deserves the recognition and to be released from whatever negative stigma you associate it. It is, truly a good thing.

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It’s a Launch! Introducing the Women Entrepreneur Series and an Underground Crafter

Readers, I have an announcement and an introduction! This is huge!

Several weeks ago, I attended a wonderful conference on women entrepreneurs. As I sat in the audience listening to all these women, I was inspired to start sharing the story of other women. Women who craft, run viable businesses, and/or are entrepreneurs.  My thinking is if these women inspire me, why not let them inspire you, too?

So…{Horns please…}

With this posting, S2 Stationery and Design’s blog is officially announcing a monthly Women Entrepreneurs Series.

That’s it! The goal of the series is yes, to inspire, but also to give you a bit of a window into the world of women making a go of their dreams and desires. I am fortunate enough to have women that I work with in The {NewNew} who have so kindly signed up to be part of this series. I’m excited not just to share their stories, but to also hear your stories!

Something I’ve learned, especially from women, is that when we open ourselves up enough to share these stories, we learn much more about our selves and our abilities.  We also gain ideas, foster a sense of community and develop friendships.  So speak up and share your story, even if it’s not on this blog. You never know who and what you’ll inspire!

If you are a woman entrepreneur who has a fascinating story, please send me a note and we’ll get started on focusing on you, your dream, your business and your story. As my friend and co-worker enjoys telling me, “everyone has a story.” She’s absolutely correct!

With that said, let me introduce you to the wonderful Marie Segares, Proprietress of Underground Crafter.  You should also check out her etsy shop to learn more about her handmade wares.

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1. 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 Marie Segares and I’m the proprietress of Underground Crafter.  My business officially launched in January, 2008.  I am a needlecrafts entrepreneur focusing on crochet and knitting.  I teach private and group lessons, design patterns for publication, and also sell my finished pieces.

Little D Ami Group Shot

2. How do you define “entrepreneur”?

In the most generic sense, people use entrepreneur to describe any small business owner.  I define an entrepreneur as someone who is flexible and creative, willing to take risks, and willing to assume responsibility for the success or failure of their own decisions and efforts.  There are many entrepreneurial people who aren’t business owners just as there are many small business owners who don’t seem to be entrepreneurs.

3. When did you first think you could be an entrepreneur?

To be honest, I always dreaded the idea of having my own business.  My mom’s family is very entrepreneurial and so I grew up seeing the dark realities of running a small business.  While most of my friends always had that dreamy idea of “I want to be my own boss,” I understood that entrepreneurs work way more hours than most people who are employed by others, are accountable to many customers (internal and external) rather than to one boss, and take a lot of financial risk.  Nonetheless, a few years ago, my creativity was bursting at the seams and I wanted to set up my business legitimately and professionally, so I established Underground Crafter.

4. Did you have an “ah ha” moment? What was it?

I didn’t have any one “ah ha” moment.  Basically, over time I realized that if I didn’t start establishing my own business, I would never be free to leave my full-time career.  Right now, my business is part-time while I work full-time, but I realized that if I didn’t take the leap into at least part-time business ownership, I would never do it.  I hope to slowly expand my business until it is able to become “my real job.”

5. What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

I am a big fan of intellectual and creative freedom, so that is my favorite thing.  I also like that I can trace the success or failure of my business directly back to me – it isn’t tied up in any one else’s drama.

6. What is your least favorite thing?

My least favorite thing is not having the time to devote to my business to expand it.  It is really tough when you have a business part-time.  On the one hand, I enjoy the benefits of being employed by someone else full-time (e.g., health insurance, a regular paycheck) but on the other hand, I devote a lot of energies to my full-time work that could be used to build my own business.

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

I have a great partner, family, and friends that I turn to when I’m overwhelmed or when something doesn’t go the way I planned.  I also tend to be more creative in those times, which can end up helping out my business.

8. Walk us through a typical day/week. Do you have a schedule on how you choose to focus on creating or the business side of things?

I usually spend some time each day in front of my computer.  This might be writing a blog post, updating my website, writing a letter for a design sample to submit to a magazine, or creating a new handout for a class.  I also keep track of deadlines and longer term projects with Google docs.

I usually update my bookkeeping and files monthly.  Until then, I leave everything in one big “to be filed” folder.  I do pay the bills as they come in because I’m worried I’ll forget and miss a due date :).

I do some of my crocheting or knitting on the commute each day, and then at home while I’m watching t.v.  I work on larger projects during weekends.  In between deadlines, I work on my long term projects.  For example, this fall, I’ll be teaching at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival and next spring at the All Things Fiber Camp, so I have to make samples, projects, and handouts in advance.  I’m also planning to launch some self-published patterns on Etsy and Ravelry later this year, so I’m finishing up writing the patterns and then will be testing them this summer.  All of this requires a lot of pre-planning so it is important for me to stay organized.

9. 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 a more than full-time job and also another part-time job.  In one way, it interferes with my business but in another way, my other work provides me with the financial flexibility to work on projects which might not pay off until months down the line.  Sadly, I mostly balance these at the expense of my own sleeping!  But this year, I have been more active in taking care of myself.  I started going to the Y with a friend and have enrolled in some creative classes to give me a spark.

10. How do you keep yourself focused?

I tend to make lists.  I keep a physical calendar and also track deadlines on a Google docs spreadsheet.

11. How do you keep yourself creative?

As I mentioned, I’ve been taking classes this year.  I also find that teaching a craft keeps you creative, since you must always stay on top of different trends and learn new skills so you can teach these to your students.  I also read a lot of crochet and knitting books and blogs (and quilting blogs too).

12. Who is your business hero and why?

My mom is my business and personal hero.  She took a big risk when I was in high school by launching her own business and has really found success.  She is constantly reinventing her business while keeping true to her core values so she has been able to get through many economic ups and downs.  And, of course, she did this while also being a mom, cooking real dinners, and keeping on top of me and my sister to be successful in our own lives.

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

I am still a long way from calling my business a success though I have met many of the goals I set for myself when I started (for example, I’ve taught over 100 beginners to crochet – not too shabby for a part-time business focused on small class sizes!).  This year, I’ve set some public, professional goals on my blog.  I’ve kept these process oriented and about me developing as a crafts professional because I prefer to keep the business and financial details private.  But I have ideas about the monetization of meeting these goals in terms of increasing the success of my business.

In the last six months, as I’ve started to think more seriously about the future of my business, I’ve also shifted focus from making and selling finished objects to self-publishing more of my patterns.  (This is why my Etsy shop doesn’t have much in the way of finished items for sale right now – I’m in the process of preparing my patterns to sell in the fall.)

14. What does your business offer the world that is unique?

Obviously, I’m not the only crochet designer or crochet/knit teacher in the world or even in New York.  As a teacher, I have a tremendous amount of patience (shockingly, since I’m fairly impatient in the rest of my life!) so I work well with beginners.  I also have a great love of the crafts and want to share that with other people.

Teal Multi hexagon Scrubbies

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

In 5 years, I’d like to have at least one crochet book published.  In 10 years, I’d like to be working full-time in the needlearts industry.

16. 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?

I think being responsible for our own impact on the planet is critical to the future existence of our race (meaning, humans) on the Earth.  We can continue not to worry about the environment and that’s ok – the Earth will endure as will many other creatures, but we will have made the planet inhospitable for ourselves.  I’m not currently a sustainable enterprise, but I do consider the environmental impact of everything I do and try to balance it with other factors, such as cost and customer preferences.  I have been moving towards using mostly natural fibers in the past year, but I don’t think it is ok to just throw out synthetic yarns that I already have.  I put those to use making samples and kits for my beginner classes.

17. How do you view money? Do you work to live, or live to work (If this is too personal, you don’t have to answer. I’m more curious if view it as a MUST, or if it’s okay to have less as long as your happy. That kind of thing.)

Living in New York makes you view money differently than in many other places.  I’m a native New Yorker and have seen the City go from a place that tourists feared to a place where long-time residents are financially forced out so that people from other parts of the country can live their dream of spending a few years in the Big Apple.  In this context, money is something I need everyday or I’m in danger of being homeless, hungry, etc.  On the other hand, my full-time work is in the non-profit sector and my business is in an area not known for huge profits.  So I think the answer is that I value money but I don’t value great wealth.

18. 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?

For my teaching, I have a set rate for private lessons and I really don’t budge on that.  I’m not too concerned about the fact that other teachers charge less – I think the experience of taking a class with me and all of the preparation and follow up support I provide make it worth the extra dollars!

When I teach through a venue, I am willing to get a lower rate if they are active in promoting the class since that saves me time (and therefore, money).

I have used many different methods for pricing my finished pieces, but ultimately, I don’t earn as much by selling my finished work, which is why I’m refocusing my efforts towards selling my patterns.  I will always have some finished objects to sell (such as samples of my patterns), but I won’t be creating a lot of new things just to sell as I did in the past.

I think pricing is pretty personal, because only you can judge how much profit you feel comfortable making.  But making a profit is key!  New entrepreneurs should take a look at all the various pricing tips available online (and there are many!) and come away with a formula that makes sense for them.

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

My guiding philosophy is to remember that you are in business.  It may be a business that allows you to do things you enjoy more than other types of work, but it isn’t just a hobby.  This extends to many things you do, like keeping good records, pricing, how you promote yourself, how you deal with dissatisfied customers, etc.  I also try and remain flexible, like my mom does, especially as technology changes.

In terms of advice, entrepreneurs should have a good understanding about the use of social media.  It is much cheaper than traditional or even online advertising, BUT if you consider the amount of time you have to invest in staying active online, it may not actually be cheaper.  I think entrepreneurs, especially crafty ones, often forget to value their own time.  If it takes you 15 hours a week to promote your business through your social media outlets, is that cheaper than a weekly ad that costs a few hundred dollars?  Then again, the connection you establish with current and potential customers may be worth the extra investment of time (especially if you lack the cash flow for an ad!).  In other words, understand the cost associated with social media and then decide if and how much time to devote to it for promoting your business.

I also think entrepreneurs need to be assertive about seeking advice and help from others who have found success.  I had a mentor, Mary Nolfi, for two years through the Crochet Guild of America‘s mentoring program who gave me really personalized tips from her experience as a crochet designer.  I’m still learning and I remain open to feedback, which I think is key.

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Reading Marie’s interview gave me goosebumps! At points, I felt like she was describing my current space as an entrepreneur- losing sleep, working a full-time job, wanting more time to focus on the business and create. It’s tough work! It is also reassuring, in a way,  to know that there are many of us out being forces and fighting for what we want and believe in.

I wish Marie the best of success as she pushes forward and I hope that in five or more years she returns to the blog series to update us on her successes, failures, published works and whether or not she moved away from her full-time job.

Until next month, stay inspired!

June Favorites

“My dad’s advice was very helpful: Be good at something. Add value to that. Don’t get distracted.” – Scott Malkin, Forbes Magazine.

This past month, I read a lot. I wish I could say I read more personal interest books, but I did not. Instead, I read both the May 23rd issue of Forbes Magazine and the June issue of Inc. Magazine from cover to cover and a ton of blog postings (see below).  Under the Success category, I discuss the article in Forbes that roped me in: ” Like Father, Like Child: Is Entrepreneurial Success Inherited.” As I continued to read the magazine I became more and more enthralled with families of entrepreneurs and I discovered that my streak comes from my dad. I think. It makes sense. He opened his own trucking company and was successful until he got ill.

I followed that read up with Inc’s June issue which boldly states, “How To Be An Extraordinary Leader.” I recommend that you read the entire issue if you can get your hands on it. If you can’t, you can read the articles online. I highly recommend the cover article:  “Core Values of the Top Small Company Workplaces.”  I know as I start to develop my long-term business plans, the first thing is the core values of S2 Stationery and Design. After all, the values that I’ve kept to myself so far, are the reasons behind me moving in the direction I have followed and continue to follow.

With that, I leave you with the rest of my suggested reads for June.  Enjoy!

YOU:

I really should just have a section that is dedicated to Chris’s articles because I post at least two every month. Here is the first one. He’s talking about his World Domination Summit that I chose NOT to attend because I thought I was going to Japan (oh Universe, how unfair you can be sometimes!), but I’m excited to see how it goes for him and everyone else who attends and maybe I can go next year? We’ll see. Maybe I should schedule it now. Alas, my favorite part is his comment at the end: “Whatever your own venture / adventure is, don’t hold back! Don’t wait until you’re completely certain. It usually works out in the end.” That’s exactly how I feel!
http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/preview-of-world-domination-summit/?awt_l=8ByzZ&awt_m=1fmi.yxmgsnt7W

Now, read Sherry’s take on the event. I love that she wrote her favorite statements down. That’s something I’d do, too. Also, most of them are great. So great, I printed a copy of the article to have in my journal/planner. http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/finding-inspiration-in-others/

EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS ARTICLE! I know I’ve fallen into this trap in my younger days, but not anymore. Now I can accept when I should step out of the trap and I do so happily. I know so many people who could benefit from doing the same thing. http://zenhabits.net/trap/

CREATIVE:

THIS is an argument I’ve heard a lot about in the crafting community. I’ll write a posting about it another day, but for now, I think it’s really important to think about copying and theft of art and what it means for the art world and the artist. http://www.scoutiegirl.com/2011/06/bad-artists-copy-great-artists-steal.html

TRAVEL:

I mentioned Sherry Ott two months ago, I believe, and she’s back on this month’s list thanks to a SPECTACULAR article about your personal tipping point. I read it and completely understood where she was coming from and appreciated her experience and how it will inspire my experience. Good stuff! http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/the-career-break-tipping-point/

SUCCESS:

I finished my Forbes Magazine dated May 23rd and loved it! There is this great article about entrepreneurial success highlighting Ralph Lauren and Dylan Lauren called, “Like Father, Like Child: Is Entrepreneurial Success Inherited,” but then continues in sharing father/son and father/daughter accounts of entrepreneurship. It’s a great read! It also made me wonder about my own entrepreneurship. My Dad started his own company after years of working as a dispatcher for a trucking company and this was years after working as a bus and truck driver. He drove constantly and to the point of unhealthiness, but he did not like working for anyone, listening to anyone’s rules and restrictions, and thrived on being his own boss. Years later, I find myself in the same shoes. So maybe entrepreneurship is genetic after all? Or maybe it’s just learned behavior, but we learn to take and enjoy the risks, from the people who create our foundation, after all. Makes total sense.

I ask for feedback. I rarely ever ask for validation. This is an important article to read if you always feel the need to ask for other’s opinions about things. Yes, it’s a good idea to see how other people can help, but it’s always more important to follow with your own feelings and thoughts. It is your life after all. http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/an-important-thing-no-one-will-tell-you/?awt_l=8ByzZ&awt_m=1bO25YlBksnt7W

I hate having too many choices. Ms. Megan sums it up quite nicely here on what it takes to be a successful sales person and offer choices. http://www.craftmba.com/2011/06/09/the-paradox-of-choice-and-the-powers-of-mind-control/

This article can also fit below in Business Development, but I’ve chosen Success instead, because collaboration is key especially when you’re building yourself and your company.  http://mashable.com/2011/06/23/small-business-collaboration-economy/

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT:

I’m so glad Megan wrote this article! Here I am expanding and creating lines with all of these questions in my mind. I realize I’m a bit different as I’ve never had collections to expand upon before, but it was nice to read that I was headed in the right direction after all. http://www.craftmba.com/2011/06/08/5-questions-to-ask-when-expanding-your-product-line/

This is a long article, but I had a conversation on this topic last night. At the end, I was told by a fellow documentary loving woman, “stay idealistic.” Lets hope I do. I hope you make the right choice for your business, too! http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/build-company-sell/

CRAFTING FUN:

If you’re ever on the market for rubber stamps and what to do with them, check out this list courtesy of Paper Source. Some great ideas here! http://www.paper-source.com/cgi-bin/paper/howto/rubber-stamping-recipes.html

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Very good article about using Twitter, which I recently signed up to use and am loving! http://www.openforum.com/articles/6-ways-to-monitor-your-brand-on-twitter?utm_source=The+Mogul+Mom+Subscribers&utm_campaign=f6ce762634-6_Ways_To_Monitor_Your_Brand_On_Twitter6_20_2011&utm_medium=email

 

Another amazing article from Ms. Tara Gentile from Scoutie Girl about the whys behind using social media. It’s a good read and one I encourage everyone who spends time and effort developing and cultivating a social media presence and plan to look into.  http://www.themogulmom.com/2011/06/why-are-you-using-social-media/?utm_source=The+Mogul+Mom+Subscribers&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=13570fef9d-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN

PASSION:

I most definitely found my passion, when I wasn’t expecting it. Which I think is how things tend to happen, but in the case that you are trying to find it, you may want to read this article. http://zenhabits.net/the-short-but-powerful-guide-to-finding-your-passion/?utm_source=The+Mogul+Mom+Subscribers&utm_campaign=c31e38442d-Cash_In_On_Yo_Passion6_10_2011&utm_medium=email

Not a recent grad, but this article rings true for anyone of any age seeking for their next steps. http://www.openforum.com/articles/for-recent-graduates-many-paths-to-a-career?extlink=sm-openforum-tw

I am putting this under passion because I think what Sherry is getting at is the pros and cons to following your passion and dreams. Yes, there are success stories, but as a good friend told me the other day, it takes a truly special person to really follow your dreams and make things happen. I also add this posting in this section because I really believe that Sherry hits upon areas that sum up how I feel as well. http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/blogging-i-love-it-and-hate-it/

Following the same thread as above, here’s an article about what to do once you’ve found YOUR passion: http://zenhabits.net/passionguide/?utm_source=The+Mogul+Mom+Subscribers&utm_campaign=c31e38442d-Cash_In_On_Yo_Passion6_10_2011&utm_medium=email

That’s all for June. See you in July! Oh and have a happy and safe Independence Day weekend!