Saturday, March 16, 2013

Leading Moms in Businss. Could this be the Year?

I first entered Startup Nation's Leading Moms in Business in 2010. 200 mom owned businesses recieve the distinction of being a winner. I placed 151 if memory serves me. I entered again in 2011 and jumped all the way to 49. I was pretty pleased to be in the top 50. I thought I'd really have a chance so I entered a third year and saw how much stiffer the competition gets the higher you strive to reach. I placed 39.

With soooo much more support and a really compelling case to win I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. I really didn't think I'd even enter this year. But, Startup Nation took notice of my consistency and social media sharing about the contest and asking shamelessly for votes and has interviewed me in the past and again this year asked for my response as to how this annual competition has helped my business. To be honest I can measure the bottom line to see if it has directly helped my business, but I do know it has indirectly helped as it has sharpened my sense for marketing myself and taking the fear out of self promotion that all small business owners need to do to thrive. So, I've entered for the 4th year in a row. Here's my official entry where I make my case as to why I should be considered a Leading Mom in Business. It's a little on the long side, but I wanted to tell my story of what compelled me to go into business for myself in hopes that someone who's reading it will be inspired and think, "Look at all the roadblocks she had to work through. If she can do it, I can do it too." So, I hope it goes without saying, I'd like you to vote for me and vote daily!

Sign4Baby helps parents discover what their baby is thinking through the beauty of baby sign language. In the programs offered we focus on the "how to" effectively teach a baby to sign, what vocabulary to start with, and share important tools which incorporates one of the important tenets of Attachment Parenting, boundary. Before having children I knew I would sign with them, but not because it was the new, hip thing to do, but because my mom is deaf and I wanted my children to be able to communicate with Grandma. When my daughter signed and said a 4 word sentence at 10 months old, I realized I never wondered what she was thinking, as she was constantly signing about her observations and thoughts and curiosities. Thus, the tagline... Discover what your baby is thinking.

Founded in late 2007 shortly after the birth of my second baby. I was to return to my full time job when he was just 2 months old, not taking a bottle and I was battling PPD. My husband made the case that if I were leaving the kids to go to a job that was fulfilling I would not be so miserable because my attention would be on the job instead of thinking about whether my son was taking the bottle in my absense. I doubt my husband thought I was crazy enough to start a business with 2 children under the age of 2, but that's exactly what I did! I share this because I believe that every dark cloud leads to a sunny day.

I started off with a parent focused workshop. Based on popular demand, I expanded to baby & me interactive classes in May 2008. Again by client request, I added the playgroup component later the same year. Then began building a Facebook community in 2009. It was in 2009 that I nearly threw in the towel when challenged by a tough economy and struggling to balance the mom/business hats after welcoming our 3rd baby. There was a hiatus of about 2 months. What happened next surprised me. My existing client base would hear nothing of Sign4Baby closing its doors. Some of my first clients were having their second babies and assembled a class without my having to market it. What started off as one class a week on my schedule quickly became two classes a week and then three and then four by the end of 2010. Moms were becoming familiar with my work and word of mouth referrals were starting to build.

Top 10 Reasons I'm a Leading Mom in Business:

10. Doubled my gross revenue over the previous year with 3 key strategies:
One: Utilizing innovative new technology, Square credit card reader.
Two: Creating a Graduate Perks Card for clients to keep coming back to practice for a best value price.
Three: Increasing the number of Free programs I offer in the community to increase my exposure.

9. Adding the component of Special Events as a way to both celebrate with my students and give back to the community. Our first ever Signing Mrs Claus was a huge success, a sold out event! We raised enough money to afford 7 families a scholarship to take the Sign, Play & Learn class. Plus it was sooooo much fun to play Mrs. Claus!

8. Creating strong, long-term relationships with key sponsors to both add value as a resource and provide benefits for clients. This has proven to be a win-win-win all around. Whether it's samples of our favorite baby food products in class or a surprise gift certificate with early registration for baby sitting - moms enjoy getting a taste of what's available, brands gain exposure that is more tangible than an ad because of the in real life connection, and I am remembered as the resource that brought them together.

7. Started a blog series, Baby Sign Language 101, sharing both tips and anecdotal stories to engage both clients and prospects who want to know more.

6. Following the Golden Rule applies in business and blogging, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I remember to help others first before asking for help.

5. Learning that asking for help is not a bad thing! Somehow BOMs (Businss Owner Moms) get a bad rap for thinking we can do it all and it takes a village in both raising children and running a business. I finally got commited to having house cleaning service on a regular basis because that area was always falling off my plate.

4. Allowing our best clients to be our biggest cheerleaders. I had an idea to have Graduate t-shirts for the babies upon completion of the 12 week course nearly 2 years ago and finally did it and everyone loves them! I just don't think it gets better than having a mom or dad proudly put my branded t-shirt on their child and announce to everyone how awesome their experience has been.

3. Look fear in the eyes and go for it! In school I had a fear of public speaking; sweaty palms, my face would turn bright red, an uncontrollable quiver in my voice, all of it. Yet somehow this passion of knowing I needed to share this beautiful gift of signing with babies pushed me to overcome that obstacle and speak and perform in front of live audiences with as many as 9 classes a week and 18 story times a month - over 50 times a month. If I can do it, anyone can.

2. Finally expanding! ^^^ That above is a pretty busy schedule for ONE person! I've just added our first Signing Story Time Leader and have several responses to the announcement that Sign4Baby is hiring. It is exciting to have the opportunity to not only expand, but give others the chance to shine!

1. Taking it online! Sign4Baby's first webinar is going live in April and by mid April will have online class modules for purchase so anyone near or far can Discover what their baby is thinking. Exciting things are happening!