During the course of my professional and personal life, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some pretty incredible people – many of them women, of course. One of the most authentic and funny women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing is Katy Mimari, founder and owner of Caden Lane and Nursery Couture. Although Katy has swapped swatches with the likes of Tori Spelling and Ashlee Simpson, she could just as easily be found sipping chardonnay on the patio with her girlfriends. Katy is truly an inspiration to hard working mamas everywhere, and we were lucky enough to score a Q&A session with her this week!
We have a HUGE announcement about the ways Katy will be involved in our upcoming event, Bloom. We’ll share the news live on Facebook at 11 AM today. You won’t want to miss it!
Starting your own online business | Q&A with Mompreneur Katy Mimari
Q:: So, you have three kids and two businesses. How do you find time to get anything done?
A:: I don’t! I’m basically just winging it hoping everything gets “enough” done. And most days it doesn’t, but that’s OK too. I try really hard to focus just on work while I’m in the office, and I spend all of my family time focusing just on my kids. Of course, I’m typing this while on spring break with the kids in Florida, so the reality is, I’m a professional multi-tasker. And I’ve found over the years that procrastinating doesn’t help. Nike had it right all along: Just do it. (Even if it’s only half-done!)
Q:: Are both of your businesses online?
A:: Technically, no. But they both started online, and both absolutely require an online presence with social media, design platforms, and Google. Not having your business online these days is the equivalent of not having your business in the yellow pages 20 years ago. When I started Caden Lane, our crib bedding company, there was a baby or gift store on every corner, and everyone you knew was starting a website. I remember the constant discussion of which was easier. And… LET. ME. TELL. YOU. I have one of each now, and I’m pretty sure neither is easier! Are they polar opposites? Yes. Do they require different types of overhead, hard work, determination, and focus? YES. Are they ever-changing, challenging, and exciting all in their own individual way? Yes, yes, YES! But the reality is that a website gives you the ability to reach a much larger audience than just a local physical location can. And the possibilities are endless! I think e-commerce still has so much room for growth and improvement, and the really exciting part is that it’s yet to be defined!
Q:: How did you start your first website?
A:: I actually first started with two websites! Caden Lane, the company we design and manufacture, used to only be a catalog type of a website with no shopping cart. We had a distribution that was exclusively through retail stores like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and children and gift boutiques. We were designing a lot of celebrity nurseries and needed a website to direct people to when they wanted to re-create the same look. NurseryCouture.com was born in 2007 and was my first true e-commerce website. I remember we had to build the website from scratch. We didn’t have the luxury even 10 years ago of templates or cart platforms. The backend was complicated, and I knew absolutely NOTHING about search engine optimization (SEO) or analytics. Our website grew quickly, and a year later, we were carrying enough inventory to open our first flagship retail store in San Antonio. Nursery Couture is now run completely through our brick and mortar store. The website switched to our branded CadenLane.com in 2009 and no longer depends on wholesale distribution. We’ve really started to focus solely on direct to consumer through our website.
Q:: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever gotten?
A:: My favorite business advice comes from my mother. She always told me, “Figure out what you love doing, and then find a way to make money doing it.” That directly correlates with the best business advice I’ve ever gotten: “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Both statements are so true, and although being an entrepreneur means that you take on full responsibility for your business, employees, and every stressful minute in-between, the real reward is in doing something every day that you have a passion for. Being able to drive to work excited about what adventure lies ahead is motivation enough for me to keep pushing through the craziness.
For all the moms out there looking to start their own online business, I’d tell them with certainty, “You CAN do anything that you set your heart and mind to.”
Q:: Where should a new mompreneur start if they want to open a web business?
A:: There are so many more options now for new online businesses. Depending on what you’re selling, there are multiple platforms that are very simple to use and require little capital or time. Some of the most popular e-commerce platforms are Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento. Each has a long list of pros and cons (trust me, I’ve gone through them all) and a wonderful assortment of pre-designed templates. You just drop in your pictures and text, and voila! Another great resource to sell from is Etsy– especially if it’s a handmade item or something that you want to get in front of an audience quickly to test the popularity of your product or idea. Instagram also seems to be increasing in popularity with their different platforms, but growing your audience through social media can be extremely time consuming and expensive. I believe in doing a little bit of everything.
Q:: What’s the hardest part of running an online business and raising a family?
A:: Having constant access to your work. Working from home can have huge advantages and even bigger disadvantages. When I first started my businesses I ran everything out of my home: customer service, packing, shipping, marketing – I did it all. And I did it at ALL hours of the day. I had a newborn at home, and I found myself working late into the night or at the same time that I was trying to feed the kiddos or do housework, and it was stressing me out. I think working from home is a great way to start. It allows you to keep overhead low and really grow and understand your business. But two years in, I moved into my first office, and I found that it was so much easier for me to keep the two separated. When I was at work, it was radar focus, and when I was at home, it was all about my family.
Q:: What’s the EASIEST part of running an online business and raising a family?
A:: Having constant access to your work. (Yes, I know. That statement literally applies to both.) When your business is just one app away on your phone or one click away on your computer, it sure does make it easy to work from ANYWHERE. And when you’re raising a family, being able to reply to customer service questions, fulfill orders, and add new products to your website all while at soccer practice – that, ladies, is true multitasking.
Q:: What’s the most important part of running an online business?
A:: Customer service and wi-fi. LOL. Because let’s be real; without an internet connection NOTHING is getting done. Honestly, the most important part for us right now is constant growth, and that can mean a lot of things in the online world. Educating yourself about SEO and analytics is a great start. There are so many wonderful resources out there that can help you get started. Google is king and content is queen. And we all know that the queen, ultimately, is running the show. The term content comes in all shapes and sizes, too. In its simplest forms, content is anything that provides information to the consumer to better help them find exactly what they are looking for and feel confident about their purchase and decision. Unfortunately, starting a new online business isn’t as simple as just building the website and adding the product. Like any business, online or not, it’s about customer service, too.
Q:: Any final words of wisdom for moms out there looking to start their own online business?
A:: Don’t listen to anyone that isn’t 100% your cheerleader. One of my favorite things about the children’s industry is that 99% of the most amazing products out there were all invented by MOMS who discovered a need. They filled the hole, made our lives easier, and created a product that didn’t exist. Remember, our kids learn from experience and osmosis. Just kidding. Although, I do think they are little sponges. And I LOVE that I’m teaching all of my kids (especially my daughters) that they can be great parents and have a successful and fulfilling career, too. I may not be managing everything perfectly (far from it, actually). But I’m learning and adjusting as I go and making sure my kiddos get all the love, hugs, and attention that they need while I navigate this crazy life I’ve created for us. Go get em’ girls! Nothing great was ever accomplished without starting it first. What are you WAITING for???