Motherhood, The Necessity Of Invention
It all started when we noticed that when our children got together, belongings would always get lost or left behind. There were four of us and so eight years ago, we started Mabel’s Labels. Our goal was to create a cute and durable product that other moms would appreciate.
We were having children and wanted to move away from the traditional workforce to strike a more balanced lifestyle. So we chipped in less than $2500 each and worked long hours in our basement HQ before steadily growing to the point where we could move up, literally.
There have been a few surprises along the way. The power of word of mouth, or more accurately “word of mom” marketing has been a very pleasant surprise. The impact of one mom telling another about products she loves cannot be underestimated. It explains everything from high sales activity in one town and less in a similar town, to how we ended up on the hugely influential Daily Candy website. Most of the biggest milestones of our business can be traced to these mom influencers.
This give and take of information with other mothers is a big part of our business model, which is based on co-operation and knowledge sharing. I love the connection with customers who, like me, are busy with small children. I’d advise other women starting out to use their social capital. Think about those you know who can mentor you and seek their advice, and don’t underestimate online networking.
An early foot-hold in social media gave Mabel’s Labels a competitive edge and has positioned us to identify and respond immediately to market trends. We connect with others through Twitter, Facebook, our blog www.mabelhood.com, plus regular, syndicated columns for several popular websites.
I’d also advise anyone starting out to love what they do. It sounds simple but consumers can sense a fake a mile away. If you don’t love it, don’t do it! Be brave: ignore anyone who says your ideas are crazy because crazy and innovation breed success. Take risks or your business won’t move to the next level. And treat everyone as if they were your boss, from customers to suppliers to employees. Be accountable to them because you won’t get very far alone.
Proving it’s possible to run a highly successful business while balancing family demands is the biggest mark of success to me. We recently won a RBC Woman Entrepreneur Award, which is a huge deal in the corporate community and clear recognition of our business’ success, but if that win had come at the cost of missing out on my kids growing up, it would have been a lot less sweet.
With 12 kids between us (6 of them mine!) my partners and I have really proven success on our own terms is possible. We’ve won a slew of awards and had some high profile endorsements. All of this is wonderful and exciting but knowing we’ve achieved all this ethically, using creative and innovative solutions to whatever challenges have arisen, without sacrificing family life, has been our greatest achievement.
If I were starting over I would maybe sell something that could be kept in stock! We specialize in personalized products, so every single order is custom-made. And because we guarantee shipping within 24 hours of orders being received, production is continuous. Obviously, this would be a lot easier if we had a product sitting on a shelf ready to be shipped.
Having said that, the personalized nature of our business is what defines it, so I’m more than happy to give our customers precisely what they want. I wouldn’t have it any other way, despite the challenges of this level of service.
Breaking into new markets is exciting, as is creating ever more innovative and fabulous products which parents and kids love. The future for Mabel’s Label’s is wide open and the best is yet to come. This story has just begun.