Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From Idea to Opportunity

When my first son was born it didn’t take me long to realize that  he didn’t come with an instruction manual. Over time I learned some of his baby cries meant “Feed me,” some meant “I’m tired,” and some even meant “Change my diaper.” With practice I became a pro at giving baths and making him giggle. I never really figured out how to keep my clothes from getting dirty when I put him on my shoulder and patted him on the back after a meal.

Then one day I had an idea: What if I created a bib I could wear to keep my clothes clean when burping my baby? A bib for parents…a PIB. I loved the name so I did a little research. Most of the parents I spoke to had their own solutions and they weren’t that interested. That’s when I realized there’s a difference between a good idea and a good opportunity. An idea may sound interesting, but an opportunity needs to make business sense.

I recently heard the story of Brandi, an ordinary mom with four kids. Brandi wanted her children to dress well but she often couldn’t afford to buy them new clothes especially as quickly as they grew out of them. She had an idea that it would be cheaper to make the clothes herself. When she was a little girl her grandmother taught her to make dresses for her Barbie dolls, so she asked her husband for a sewing machine for Mother’s Day.

Brandi set up her new sewing machine in a spare room, ordered some fabric, and started making dresses for her little girls. Her neighbors and family friends loved them and asked if she could make dresses for their children too. To save money, Brandi made a dozen dresses that all looked the same. Then she embroidered them with the initials of each child to make them more personalized. Her dresses were a big hit and she had stumbled into a little business. She wasn’t making much money but she loved doing it so it felt more like a hobby.

She posted some photos of her kids on Facebook and friends in other cities asked if she could make dresses for their children. Other moms in the community were also posting photos on Facebook and their friends started asking where they could buy the dresses. Brandi created a Facebook page to make it easier for people to share photos of their kids in her specially designed clothes. She used the nickname she gave her niece for the name of the Facebook page, Lolly Wolly Doodle.

One day Brandi had some extra fabric, so she made a dress and posted it on Facebook with a comment, “Would anyone like to buy this $15 pink dress with your child’s initials embroidered on it?” Within an hour she had 80 orders. That turned out to be the easy part. Brandi had to figure out how to make 80 dresses. She moved her sewing machine from her spare bedroom to the garage and engaged her kids and even her husband to help. In 2010 her husband lost his job. Brandi decided this was an opportunity to turn a bad situation into a good one. It was time to make this hobby into a real business.

If she opened a retail store she could only reach the 4,000 women with children that lived in her hometown. It would be expensive and she would miss her kids. Instead, she decided to launch on Facebook. Within months her Facebook page had 37,000 fans and today, less than 3 years later, she has over 400,000 fans! Brandi’s business grew so quickly that she had $100,000 in sales the first year and over $500,000 in sales the second year. After hiring all of her relatives, she started employing neighbors and friends, and today over 100 people work at Lolly Wolly Doodle.

Brandi sells around 900 items of children’s clothes every day on Facebook. Her business is now in the millions and is considered the largest e-commerce site on Facebook. This ordinary mom is doing extraordinary things and you can too. Your dreams do come with an instruction manual. On page 37 it says, “Passion is the fabric that dreams are made of.” The time is now so get sewing.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

1 comment:

  1. It really cheers me up to start my own business with a simple idea.