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32 Replies Latest reply: May 28, 2008 2:08 PM by ddsteve RSS

Event: From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table

CommunityTeam Novice
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From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table - How to turn a good idea into a fast growing business

Have you ever wanted to take your home based business and turn it into a profitable and growing business?Please join us on May 28, from 1-2PM ET and learn how! Bonnie Marcus will be sharing her story and
lessons learned of how she took her great idea from the kitchen table to the selling table.

Bonnie Marcus is the creator and owner of her own stylish stationery company, Bonnie Marcus Collection. Before launching her business, Marcus worked as a wedding planner in New York City and as the Special Event Coordinator at the prestigious 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. Having also worked for a number of years in the fashion industry for top designers such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Bonnie was able to team up with a number of fashion illustrators who helped make her dream of chic, stylish stationery a reality. Bonnie started by launching a wedding invitation line, Down the Aisle in Style, and a holiday card line, Holiday Style. In addition to the wedding and holiday designs, the line has expanded to 10 collections including a line of invitations and note cards for moms-to-be, Expecting in Style, and a collection of fashionable flip flops launched earlier this year. Bonnie has been recognized as a pioneer for women in business. The Bonnie Marcus Collection can be found in over 1,000 retailers around the world, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Barneys New York and Kate's Paperie. Company website: http://www.bonniemarcus.com/

The SBOC Team will take advance questions from users who want to pose a question to Bonnie. If you have a question, post it here and then check back with the site on May 28 1-2 PM ET or anytime after that for Bonnie's response. You can also pose a question in real time to Bonnie anytime during the event hours. Remember you need to be registered to post a question. So, if you haven't signed up yet, do so now, it's free.
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    simon07 Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    Bonnie - Can you please describe to us the key steps you took to take your home grown product (stylish stationary) and bring it to national stores? Sorry, I know it's a big question and you're on for an hour. But if you could just highlight a few key steps or tips. My wife is into jewelry design, but does it on a local scale so we're very interested in the steps you took and lessons learned.
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      PaperPrincess Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      First, I would like to wish the best of luck to your wife on the success of her jewelry business!

       

      It's wonderful that you are writing in on her behalf, because I believe that the most important step to having a successful business is to have a strong support system. Whether it be a supportive spouse, friends or family members, it is very difficult for someone to start a business without the emotional (& sometimes financial) backing of those around him or her.

       


      I was able to bring my product to the national level, only by first "testing" the product in my community. I determined who my target customer was (brides-to-be), and then conducted a few "focus groups" to get their feedback/input on my product. I also went to a number of local retailers and asked them questions about the price of my product, the packaging, the design, etc. If you make an appointment to meet with a few local store owners, I'm sure they would be more than happy to sit down with you and give you very helpful feedback.

       


      After I determined that my product was designed, packaged, and priced correctly, I took it to a trade show specific to my industry (the National Stationery Show in NYC). Since I did all my "homework" before the show, our product was a huge success at the show, and this is actually where I picked up all the national retail stores that we still have a very successful business with, six years later.

       


      Again, I think if your wife does all her research on a local level and finds that she has a "sellable" product, she should try participating in an industry trade show, if she wants to take the business to the next level.

       


      Best of luck!
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    MetroGal Novice
    Currently Being Moderated
    I checked out your website Bonnie and read that you were actually pregnant when you launched your company. Impressive! How do you seek the perfect balance between work and family? What advice would you give to inspiring female entrepreneurs who also want to do it all?
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      PaperPrincess Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Great question!

      I actually think that there is no "perfect balance" between work and family. The key is to be happy where you are!

       

      I have met many moms who tell me that they "feel guilty" that they are not at home when their children come home from school because they are at work, or "feel guilty" they cannot stay later at the office, because they need to run home at the end of the day.

       

      I have found that if my husband and I are happy with our work/family situation, then our children are happy as well. They are proud of me and my job, and they love going to "mommy's office". I think a positive attitude is what is most important. Again, there is no "perfect" situation - it is whatever you and your family are most comfortable with!

       


      Personally, I find that my most productive work hours are between 9 and 12 at night, after the children have gone to sleep. My staff knows that any emails they have sent to me during the day will be responded to during that time, and they will come to work in the morning and have answers to any questions that they may have. I think that having "set work hours" such as these makes it easier for your family, as well as staff/customers that are dependent on you as well.
      Best of luck!
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    chicgirl Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Bonnie!
    I love your cards and invites! I have been a fan for the last couple of years when I first picked up your holiday cards at Bloomingdales in NYC! Since then I constantly go to your website to see what new arrivals you have to offer. I have a question for you. How easy was it for you to transition from cards to those stylish flip flops you are now offering? Do you find you can combine the two and still be a viable contender in the stationery industry? I ask because I have a small business now and want to try and launch another and am finding it hard to focus and give both the attention they need.
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      PaperPrincess Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

       

       

      Thank you for your continued support of our collection!

       


      If you are planning on starting another business or introducing another product line to your current collection, I recommend not "starting from scratch" . . .

       


      Our new flip flop collection has been an extremely successful extension of our stationery line because we are working with our same target customer as we have been working with for the past six years - brides and moms-to-be. We know this customer well and we know what they like. We also know the price point that they are looking for and the retailers where they shop, so it was truly an easy transition.

       

      Again, my recommendation is to do your homework and know your target customer. Also, don't forget your core business when working on your new product line.

       


      Best of luck!
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    CommunityTeam Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    We are collecting questions for Bonnie right now! Submit your questions today, if you're unable to join us live tomorrow at 1PM - 2PM ET.
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    starfish Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Bonnie,

    You seem to have developed a wide variety of great cards which appeal to a broad range of people. How do you come up with new ideas for products? What are the steps which you follow to go from idea to finished product? Thanks for your comments.

    Starfish
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      PaperPrincess Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Although I am in the "paper business" I have a strong background in fashion, and it is important for me to always try to stay on top of the trends. I attended the fashion shows this year in New York City, I read all the magazines that my target customer would read (wedding magazines for the brides-to-be, parenting magazines for the moms-to-be), as well as my own trade magazines. It is definitely important to keep up on all the trends within your industry when formulating ideas for new products.
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    Jrfyahoo Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated

    Hi Bonnie-

    What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of owning a small business? What keeps you motivated?
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      PaperPrincess Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Some advantages of owning a small business are:

      • You are in control.
      • You make your own hours.
      • You are your own boss.
      • You are able to see your own ideas & dreams come to life.
      • The sky is the limit to how much you could do and achieve!

      It is truly ironic that some of the disadvantages of owning a small business are actually the same as the advantages . . .

      • You make your own hours. / You are your own boss. - Although these sound like major perks for a business owner, they are actually the downfall of many entrepreneurs who attempt to start their own business. Although you don't really have a "boss" and you do have the flexibility of making your own hours, it is important that you have set hours and you stick to those hours everyday. Believe me, it is very tempting on a beautiful summer day to want to go to the beach or the park, but if you are truly serious about owning a business, you need to remember that you are "at work" and there is always going to be another sunny day. When you have your own business, it is very easy to be tempted by beautiful days, friends going to lunch, even sales at the mall, but you have to remember that when you are at work, you are at work.

      If you are disciplined, you will find that all your hard work will soon pay off!
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    Subway_Gal Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Bonnie! I became aware of your cool stationery products a couple of years ago, and LOVE them! It's great to see you here on the Bank of America forum!
    I also have a product based business, and wonder what you do to help project the inventory you will need.
    Thanks!
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      PaperPrincess Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      I am so glad you enjoy our products!

       

      Inventory is an issue that haunts many small business owners.

       

      In my industry, I bring our new designs to our annual trade show, the National Stationery Show in NYC. I bring samples only to the show. I will never produce product until I know that it is going to sell. From the orders I take at the show, I am able to have an accurate projection of how much product to produce. Most of my products are made locally, so our turn-around time to fulfill orders is still very fast.

       

      There is never a right answer to projecting inventory. Of course, you have to look at past numbers of other products and make projections as to how many you will sell. My suggestion is to be conservative on quantities when producing new products. It always is better to tell customers that your new product was a "hot seller" and is temporarily out of stock, than ending up with a warehouse of goods that doesn't move.

      Best of luck to you!
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    chicgirl3 Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    I have a small business too. How were you able to contact outside printers and fulfillment houses to distribute your cards? What qualities do you look at in an outside service to know you are going to get the right one for you?
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      PaperPrincess Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      I think that building a relationship with local printers and a fulfillment house is extremely important. I started off working with a number of local printers and gave them test jobs to handle and a few limited orders to distribute. Since we are a "green" company it was important that the printers we work with use high quality, recycled paper. I also try to "hand hold" the printers and fulfillment companies when we first work with them. It is important that they are aware of our high standards as a company, and I have found that putting in the extra time initially will go a long way in terms of the product and service that they will provide.

       


      Timing is also a major factor when choosing a printer and fulfillment house. You have to make sure that whichever you choose would be able to produce and distribute product in a timely fashion. Test some out until you feel comfortable working with one or two.

       

      Good luck with your business!
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    FCPainter Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    Bonnie - What is your advice on how to leverage 'celebrity' customers and contacts. For example, we have painted the houses of some really famous people through the years. However, our strategy has not been to promote that we have done their homes and they have not been a strong source of referrals. What are your lessons learned on how best to leverage celebrtiy customers and contacts?
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      PaperPrincess Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

       

       

      Congratulations on the success of your business!
      It is truly amazing the impact that celebrity customers have on prospective clients.
      We have had a number of celebrities purchase our products, and we always try to get their permission to use their name in the future. Usually they will have no problem with us using their name, etc. but of course, a little gift for the celebrity, as well as for their publicist or agent never hurts!
      Best of luck with your successful business.
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    SJCarpentry Novice
    Currently Being Moderated
    My wife has a home-based business making ornaments and figurines out of bread dough. So far, it's only making $10K-$20K a year. However, now that our boys are 2 and 4 years old, I think she's ready to take it to the next level. Her biggest challenges so far have been finding ways to sell through retailers, rather than just selling at craft fairs and events. Can you give some advice on how to take your home based business to the next level. I suspect her biggest issue is making the decision to want it to be bigger and then finding the extra time to do it.
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      PaperPrincess Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Again, it's wonderful to hear from another supportive husband. Congratulations on your wife's success!

       

      It sounds like your wife has a unique product, which will help her to stand out from competitors and help her to take the business to the next level.

       

      I think she should use that as the key ingredient when pitching to retail stores. Perhaps she could try to get some local press about being a working mother and her unique product line. Once she has the press in hand, it will help her when approaching retailers to buy her product - local retailers may even find out about her and contact her directly!

       


      I would also suggest going to a national trade show to check out the competition in the market. It is always helpful to do your homework!

       


      I have two young boys as well (and #3 on the way) so I know what a challenge, and how fun, balancing work and family can be!

       

      Best of luck!
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    mominbiz Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated

    My question is on financing - how did you finance your business initially (personal funds, home equity, bank loan, loan from friends and family) and what is your advice to other home based businesses looking to grow. I offer travel services out of my home and would love to borrow money to advertise more and grow my business, but my husband is old fashioned and advises that my business needs to grow out of the proceeds it brings in. Any tips on what you did well and what you could have done better?
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      PaperPrincess Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

       

      Bank of America has a wonderful selection of tools to help small businesses. I would suggest researching the options that they offer, or visiting your local bank to discuss your business arrangements with them. My account executive at my local Bank of America actually helped me to set up my business and my first bank account six years ago, and she is still the person I turn to if I have any questions!

       

      It is amazing the support and guidance that I personally have gotten from them. Try to find someone locally who is willing to learn about your business and help you grow.

       

      Best of luck.
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    SBC Team Master
    Currently Being Moderated
    Community Members,

    Please join us in welcoming Bonnie Marcus to your Small Business Online Community. Bonnie is here to answer questions on how to turn her a home based stationary company into a profitable and growing business. Today, Bonnie will be using the screen name PaperPrincess.

     

    To all Community Members
    If you have questions for Bonnie, post it here by simply hitting reply and then refresh your browsers often to view Bonnie responses. Bonnie will try to answer as many of your questions as possible.
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      karenk Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Hi Bonnie...

      I think your invitations are extremely stylish and hip. The designs are fun and are a great way of announcing or inviting family and friends to a happy occassion. After reviewing all your various collections, I can't wait to have my next party. Your invitations have a vibe and energy to them. Can't wait for the next collection to come out! Do you have any plans to expand into other forms of merchandise with your designs besides the flip flops which are great fun on your feet! Maybe gloves or mittens for winter! Best of continued success. KarenK
      • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
        PaperPrincess Newbie
        Currently Being Moderated

         

        Thanks for your wonderful feedback Karen!

         

        We are in the process of adding a number of fabulous tote bags to our collection - look out for them in the stores in the fall!

         

        Also, we have been working on a few licensing agreements and our popular designs should be available on paper plates and other party related products in the near future.

         

         

        Of course, mittens are a wonderful idea as well!
        I will definitely take it into consideration in the future.

         

        Thanks again for your feedback!
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      ddsteve Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Bonnie,

      I was browsing your website and noticed that you are now offering flip flops. What motivated you to move away from your core stationary business and branch out into Flip Flops? Do you find that your current stationary resellers are experimenting with the new item because its your brand or has the new item opened up new retail outlets for you?
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    lucygnyc Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated

    Hi Bonnie, How has participating in trade shows helped your business grow? Also, side note: I absolutely love your products and so do all my friends:-)
    • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
      PaperPrincess Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Thank you for your feedback. I'm so glad you like our products!

       

      Trade shows have actually helped our growth tremendously. The first year we were in business, we had a booth at the National Stationery Show in New York City, and we picked up over 200 new customers, including many national chains!

       

      Trade shows are a fabulous way to meet and network with people in your industry.

       

      I would highly recommend walking a trade show, before actually investing in having a booth, to make sure it is an appropriate venue for your company.
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    SBC Team Master
    Currently Being Moderated

    Community, keep those questions coming. We love the submissions so far!

    And don't forget to refresh your browsers to get the latest posts.
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    CommunityTeam Novice
    Currently Being Moderated
    Keep those questions for Bonnie coming! She's live on the site right now! Simply login and hit reply to post your question.
  • Re: Event: May 28 -From the Kitchen Table to the Selling Table
    CommunityTeam Novice
    Currently Being Moderated
    Bonnie, We know your products are sold at major retailers and you have a fabulous website, how do most of your customers find your products? Online or in the store?

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