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39 Replies Latest reply: Oct 22, 2008 3:01 PM by SBC Team RSS

Event: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz

SBC Team Master
Currently Being Moderated
Founded in 2003 by Lela Barker, Bella Lucce, http://www.bellalucce.com, was conceived from her frustrating search for sumptuous, natural beauty products. A wide gulf existed between "natural" products and "luxurious." Barker sought to infuse her natural formulas with delicious decadence, resulting in products that effectively bridged the gap between the two industries. The result is a collection of innovative bath and body products that marry exotic ingredients gathered from around the world with pure, naturally-focused formulas.

About Lela:

With no formal business training and less than $500 in start-up capital, Lela Barker commandeered nearly every inch of her 800 square foot house for the research and development of her naturally focused skincare line. Six months later, in the fall of 2003, the first 18 products made their debut. Lela was home with her children...and she was definitely working. Lela now has 8 full time employees and her luxury products can be found in spas and wellness centers from LA to as far as Dubai. Learn how she grew her business.

The SBOC Team is taking questions in advance from members who want to ask Lela about her journey from a home based business to an international phenomenon. Ask her how she:

 

 


  • Factored philanthropy into her small business
  • Marketed on the cheap
  • Secured international distributors
  • Networked
  • Bootstrapped her business

Post your question here and then check back on October 22 at 2:00PM EST for Lela's response. You can also pose a question to Lela anytime during the event.
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    puzzleman Apprentice
    Currently Being Moderated
    Lela, How did you get your product to market? At first,did you do wholesale or retail or both? How did you meet the people to get your products into the bigger stores?

    Definitely interested in the "Marketing on the cheap"

    Thank you, Jim
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi Puzzelman,

       


      Thanks for your question! From the inception of my company until today, we have chosen to both retail direct to the public and wholesale to the industry. I'd like to tell you that was a stroke of genius, but- in reality- it was more of a necessity. As a fledgling young business, I would gladly take a check from just about anyone as long as it was made out in my name. As the company has grown, we have certainly evolved and become more specific with regards to our client base. While we still retail to the public, wholesale opportunities now generate 90% of our revenues and we have become increasingly more selective with regards to whom we select as wholesale partners. We don't work with gift basket companies, domestic distributors, most online boutiques and any mass market chains. Like everyone, we certainly endure our fair share of "slow" days when I am tempted to once again take on customers who offer immediate cash flow but might not be in line with our vision. Those days are a challenge, but I am confident that I am not just selling product, but building a brand and I believe our selectiveness has served us well.

       


      With regard to getting product to market, I took about 9 months to fully develop the original line. As my introduction mentioned, the initial launch was 18 products. The development process involved lots of trial, error and testing of various formulations, market research, ingredient sourcing, packaging compatibility and graphic design, web development, product photography, etc. It was an exhaustive process, but offered a great deal of creativity and I thoroughly enjoyed building the line from the ground up.
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    caffeinated Apprentice
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Lela,

    How did you land on the name "Bella Lucce" as your company name?

    -caffeinated
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Hi caffeinated,

       

      Bella Luccè loosely translates to "Beautiful Glow" in Italian. I love the word "glow" (it emits radiance, warm and wellbeing to me) and wanted to incorporate the word into my company name somehow. Unfortunately, around that same time, Jennifer Lopez was just launching her fragrance under the name "Glow" and I knew well enough to stay far away from that trademarking challenge. However, I took Italian in college and it's always been my favorite language. I also knew that Bella Luccè would focus on sourcing ingredients globally, so I thought a foreign name could help communicate that message. In spite of a few obstacle we faced on our path to federal registration, I am thrilled with the name...it resonates with consumers and conveys the image I have always wanted to project. I hope you like it!

      Also, as a fair warning to anyone reading- I have a "W" key on my laptop with a sudden deathwish. If you read an answer and it makes absolutely no sense, it's likely because I am missing w's here and there. Bear with me!
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    haywire67 Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Lela,

    What was your course of action for securing international distributors?

    Thanks!

    haywire67
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hiya Haywire,

       


      I have been unusually fortunate in this regard. My international distributors have all found me, largely through the internet. I have always stressed the importance of a sharp website, well optimized with search engines, that has professional-looking product photos and an effective message. Our website is the greatest tool I have in my arsenal and it has continually attracted clientele through the years, both wholesale, retail and international distributors.

       


      Having said that, I think there's a solid vetting process to working with international distributors. I'll be speaking on this very subject at the Handmade Soapmakers Guild Conference in May 2009 in palm Springs, CA. But here is the long and short of it:

       


      I think you need to ask essential questions at the very beginning of the relationship. Sometimes we are so flattered to get that attention that our common sense flies right out the window, but we should be checking these folks out, too....it's a two-way street! Ask what other American brands they represent, ask for the contact details of those principals in order to secure a recommendation, ask what their gross sales were for the year proceeding, ask about their sales staff and planned distribution channels. Know that you're going to have to discount over wholesale to work with international distributors...figure out those margins, but make sure you don't erase all of your profit in the process. Good luck!
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    drflower Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hey Lela!

    How did you keep your start up capital so low? When did you ramp up spending?

    ~Regina, fellow IBN member
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi drflower (great to see you here!),

       


      I kept capital low via several means. First, I bought in looooow volume: think ingredients a pound at a time, bottles and jars by the dozen. Generally speaking, I'd get a $1,000 order from one spa or another and whatever supplies I was ordering that week would now get ordered two dozen at a time, then a hundred at a time, etc. It was a very fluid, spontaneous process. I knew ordering materials in volume would get the cost of good sold down, but you can't buy in volume if you don't have the capital, so I just babystepped my way up as I was able.

       


      Also, I bartered and begged as much as I possibly could. Some days that meant scrubbing floors and running errands for my ill aunt, who was a world-renowned photographer, in exchange for her help with product photos. I asked for a b&w laser printer for my birthday during our first year and used it to print my own labels, one at a time. I paid for part of my initia; web development as a barter. I wrote a press release about their product, which eventually got the web developer a nice spread in a nationally known paper. She did web, I wrote well, and we both used what we did best to our advantage.

       


      I also kept expenses lean by working out of my home and doing every last shred of production and customer service work myself. I started this business as a financially challenged (to say the least) single mom of two preschool-aged kids...if I can do it, damn near anyone can. I think the key is to prioritize your spending, slash every non-essential off the list, and get as creative as you can with regards to bartering services you can't provide yourself.
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    SBC Team Master
    Currently Being Moderated
    Lela,

    Thank you for taking the time to participate on the SBOC!

    You have quite the product lineup with beautiful packaging. How has your relationship been with your designer(s)? Do you work with several designers to keep things fresh?

    Best regards,
    The SBOC Team
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      SBOCT Team,

       


      That's a great question and thanks for your warm words with regard to my branding. I have used the same designer almost from the beginning of the company. She is a wonderful friend and comrade and I am so immensely proud to have her as part of our team. While I can see some value in using different designers to keep things "fresh", we don't anticipate branching out anytime soon. By using one designer, I have one "go-to" point for all of our art. She understands our branding, our needs and the art requirements of the printers work with, so there is no learning curve with new projects, which means they're completed more quickly and with less expense.
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    naturaljeanie Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Lela,

    I read that you started with 18 products. Did you find that you had to scale back your product offerings in the beginning to keep up with demand or how did you keep up? How long did you work alone before you had to hire outside help?

    How did you market yourself in the beginning and get your name out there? Your company is huge and you sell all over the world. Did you enventually have to get a business loan?

    You are such an inspiration for beauty business owners and it is really awesome that you are taking the time to give us some insight into how to be successful.

    Regards,
    Jean (fellow Indiebeauty member)
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Naturaljeanie,

       


      I did, indeed, launch with 18 products- 6 fragrances of lotion and soap, our peppermint pedicure collection, a limited facial range and a few body scrubs. That range and number of products was manageable for me and I never scaled it back. After a year of working solo (anywhere from 60-80 hours/week), I hired an elderly lady to help apply labels and do some product finishing work. She worked with me for more than a year until I hired a full-time production manager who allowed me to focus on new product development and customer service. Today, there are 8 full-timers: a few who work in the office and on customer service, two full-time production people, a full-time production assistant who does all the labeling, induction sealing and stocking, and the shipping crew. We still outsource our web design, product photography and graphic design. When you're initially ready to bring on help, examine your daily task list- journal everything you do for a week and how much time each task takes. Then decide which tasks need YOU and which tasks just need doing. In my case, I am the heart of the business, so I need to focus on strategic planning and product development. I don't need to label jars or charge credit cards, but those tasks do need to be accomplished. So I delegate what needs doing, but doesn't need doing by me.

       


      As I mentioned previously, I think the best way to get your name out there is to design a beautiful website, stock it full of good information and then optimize the hell out of it so the search engines can find it easily. In my experience, obtaining customers via the internet is the most cost-effective way to get them, much more so than via reps or trade shows, which are the more "traditional" means. That's how I got the word out, coupled with self-written press releases. I have never obtained outside funding- no loans, no grants, no investors. It's important to keep in mind that I remarried a year after I launched my business. That as a welcome relief as I was no longer solely responsible for all household expenses, and it allowed me to reinvest most of our revenue back into the business. But outside funding, no.

       

       

      Thanks much for your kind words- they are truly appreciated. I would not consider us "huge", we are still very much a micro business, but we do have the benefit of a great staff and fairly wide distribution.
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    MsCaCo Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Lela,
    With there being so many micro cosmetics manufacturers today, how do you think a new start-up cosmetics company can set itself apart from all the others? How does one research and find that "niche"? How did you find your niche?

    What would be some of your bootstrapping tips? How many products are too many for a 1 person business to launch?

    Thanks in advance for your time.
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hello MsCaCo,

       


      This is a difficult question, but a good one! I think having a niche is important...everyone needs a "point of difference" that sets them apart from the sea of competition, no matter what industry you're in. In my case, I had a great backstory, which was authentic and of interest to retailers and the media. You can't manufacture that, but you can (and should) capitalize on it if you have one. As far as our products go, I knew I wanted to someday travel the world. I studied cultural anthropology and sociology in college and was always fascinated by different cultures, so having products inspired by and raw materials sourced from all corners of the earth was a natural fit for me.

       


      When trying to decide your niche, ponder what you are passionate about, what inspired you and where you want to take your business. It could be a specialty product, an ingredient you add or omit, a special marketing program you offer, a particular method or location of your manufacturing, etc. Virtually anything can be a point of difference, but it's critical that you find one and keep it clearly in focus as you design every other aspect of your business. I can't wait to see what you come up with... good luck!
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged bi
    creamy Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Lela,

    Given the fact that we live in an increasingly regulated world. How did you go about find out cosmetic regulations for your international distributors and clientele. Can you offer any suggestions for locating this information.

    Thanks in advance.
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged bi
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi creamy,

       


      This is one area of the industry that has drastically changed since my business began and I am confident that it will continue to be a dynamic area for years to come. Looking at all of those regulations can be daunting, but I think it's essential to make sure you have accurate information and digest it in manageable pieces. Determine where you might want to sell your products and then analyze that region's specific criteria.

       


      I think it's crucial that you be leery of third-party information posted on the internet. I've heard horror stories of small companies who built their entire product base and distribution strategy on faulty information, which was a tremendous aspect that left them at an unfair disadvantage. If you can afford it (but who can in the beginning?), hire an attorney who specializes in this industry- they are out there and are worth their weight in gold. If that's not in budget, look to government sources and reputable trade organizations who can help. For domestic distribution, the Indie Beauty Network (http://www.indiebeauty.com/) has great information, along with a regular call-in show where labeling and legal experts are featured. Membership fees are very manageable and my initial investment at IBN has paid me back in spades. Industry conferences can also be a great source of information...I previously mentioned the HMSG conference will take place in May 2009 and will feature industry experts speaking on this very subject. You can also go direct to the source at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-lab1.html or pick up Marie Gale's book on the subject: http://www.mariegale.com/cosmetic-labeling-book.html .

       


      When you start to look internationally, I highly recommend several sources:

      • a) Rethink hiring the attorney mentioned in the above paragraph.
      • b) Call the embassies of the countries you're interested in exporting to- they can often be quite helpful.
      • c) Consider membership in trade organizations designed for larger companies. Yes, they have larger price tags, but they very often have databases designed to help their members understand import regulations by country. I am thinking specifically of the IRDB by the Personal Care Products Council. (* http://irdb.personalcarecouncil.org/* ). Yes, it's spendy but you may well need it if you're serious about export.
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    naturaljeanie Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated

    How does one go about finding a distributor for overseas accounts or having their goods sold overseas. What is reasonable persentage for their fees? Or how did you do it. (You mentioned on another site that you have an overseas hotel deal)
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi again Jeanie,

       


      Hopefully some of the information I posted above for Haywire will be helpful to you as well. Bella Luccè has a wonderful Middle Eastern distributor and we've been working with a new Scandinavian distributor for a year with fantastic results. I am in the final stages of negotiations and legalization paperwork with both European and South Korean distributors. Each case presents its own pricing and regulatory challenges, so you have to weigh them individually. We only take on approximately 10% of the international distributors who approach us.

       


      With regard to pricing, essentially, your distributor sells at wholesale. That means you've got to build in a profit margin for them, too. International retail pricing for American brands is typically higher than domestic MSRP, so you do have some wiggle room there. But your distributor will likely have VAT, freight, warehouse and staff costs, etc. so it has to be profitable for them as well. Expect to discount anywhere from 15-50% off wholesale. If you can't afford to do it, then don't. It's a tricky balance, but can be quite profitable if done properly.

       


      We are in the final stages of a Middle Eastern hotel deal. Because of our existing distribution and reputation in the region, we were approached by a well-known hotel chain and asked to create a spa concept for their new properties in the region. That's incredibly exciting and an honor to be asked, but it's a project on a massive scale: 26 custom retail products, 40+ custom backbar products, a slew of treatments, etc. I've been to Jordan and Dubai three times in the last 2 years explicitly for the project (all at my own expense) and spent literally hundreds of hours on product development, ingredient sourcing, graphic design and strategy/pricing proposals. It's a huge task for a small company and a gamble, but I truly believe that these gambles are at the heart of successful businesses. We're in the home stretch and it's all going through, so it almost time to pop corks, but you need the patience of a saint and the ability to see payoffs down the road (rather than in the immediate) in order to play on that type of playing field. Hope that's helpful...
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    ladymiss213 Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated

    Hello,
    I have a list of a few questions that I would like to ask:

    A) How did you know where to start?

     

     


    B) Who were your mentors along the way? What organizations did you join, or workshops did you attend before or after launching your business?

     


    C) Which of those mentor groups do you recommend for those on a small budget?

     


    D) How successful were you in the first 6months of business? First year?

     


    E) Initially, how much time did you spend creating your business with being a stay at home mom?

     


    F) How were you able to secure international distributers?

    G) What piece of advice would you give someone who also wants to start a small business in cosmetics, but is fearful that they may not have enough resources to compete with their competition?

    I am a young wife and mother who is looking forward to having my own cosmetic company. However, I must admit that I am fearful of all that may be ahead of me. I don't know where to start, and often times I feel that I alone in my quest. I am on a very short budget, but living off a big dream!! Any advice is welcomed. Thank you for having this open discussion!!

     

    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi ladymiss! That's quite a list of questions, but I'll do my best to answer:

       

      • a) In short, I didn't know where to start....I just started. You have to prioritize, put one foot in front of the other and just start already. I am still learning the industry- literally every day- but I would still be back in a tiny 800 sq. ft. house wondering how I was going to pay the light bill if I didn't just pick a corner of this project and start attacking it!

      • b) I didn't have the benefit of mentors, though I would have given my right arm to have someone to help guide me. I now spend a decent chunk of my time doing just that, because I personally longed for it so passionately. I did join IBN (see above) fairly early and it has been a huge benefit to me. Also, I attended several Ladies Who Launch (* http://www.ladieswholaunch.com/* ) events that were great for networking and inspiration. Bella Luccè is now a member of various trade organizations (the Organic Trade Association, PETA's Compassionate Consumer program, Cosmetic Executive Women, etc.) and each one offers its own benefits, but many weren't appropriate for me in the beginning.

      • c) Ladies Who Launch, without a doubt. Their regional classes bring omen together to brainstorm, motivate and hold each other accountable.

      • d) At the end of our first six months, I had less than 20 accounts, but we were definitely growing by leaps and bounds each day. At the end of my first year, I had a very part-time assistant who helped with production, closer to 75 accounts and was moving into our first (tiny) production space.

      • e) Um, does every waking moment seem like overkill? Ha...because that's a pretty accurate portrayal. Though I had been casually making products for a few years as a hobby, it was a full-time venture from the moment Bella Luccè as conceived. I made products during the day while the baby napped and my preschooler was at her school. I worked on the search engine optimization and getting the word out each night after they went to bed. I sketched concepts on the park bench while they climbed the jungle gym. I returned calls while they took baths. I squeezed it in whenever I could, but it was not a casual approach and I thankfully had my parents nearby to take the kids on the occasional weekend afternoon hen I felt overwhelmed. I will always be grateful for the support they gave me in those early days.

      • f) See above. :)

      Just start. Really, sometimes you have to calculate your risks, draw up a plan then just close your eyes and leap. Yes, it's overwhelming. Yes, it's scary. And that's why 99% of the population won't do it. But do you really wanna be like them, or do you want to live your dream? If I had to do it all over again, I'd be more specialized. Pick one genre of product and sell the hell out of it. Limiting your product lineup maximizes resources on all fronts: less stock to carry, fewer products to promote, smaller website, fewer photos and labels to pay for, easier to export etc. So specialize, lock in your vision like a laser and then spend every waking moment making it happen.
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    NBeauty Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated

    Hello

    I did you market your business?
    Did you hire a PR?
    How did your online business grow?
    How to you generate funds to keep the business going?

     

    Thank you so much I need so much help!
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi there,

       


      I have yet to hire a PR firm. Initially, I was convinced that's what it was going to take to get us to "the next level" (whatever that was), but I have since discovered that it's a very extraneous luxury- great if you can afford it, fine if you can't. If you have some time and tenacity, you can get yourself in all those glossies for less than 10% of what you'd pay a PR firm.

       


      Take an afternoon and stop by your local bookstore. Grab every magazine you can imagine your products in and look for the editorial contact information. It's usually on a left-hand page in small type, a few pages into each issue. Work up your courage and give them a call. Media people are always on a tight schedule, so practice your schtick before you call- you've got 20 seconds or less, so practice, practice, practice. Go to essence- tell them you make the some fabulous (insert product here) that you'd love to see featured in (insert magazine here) and you'd love to be put in touch with the appropriate editor. More often than not, they'll put you through- once you're on the line, collect the editor's name, contact info (including email and mailing address) and ask for an editorial calendar. This is an issue-by-issue breakdown of their planned stories/themes for the year and is an essential tool in helping you pitch.

       


      Now, write an utterly fabulous press release, tuck in a product or two along with your press kit (yes, you can make these yourself- Google it!) and send it on its way. In an unsolicited pitch, we usually only land 1 in 10. But that's essentially the cost of 20+ products, a few dollars in color printing and whatever it costs to ship...and you have a feature in a national magazine. Much cheaper than a PR firm, much more effective than advertising in those same magazines. After a while, the editors have you on their radar and they come to you. Every time we are approached by any media outlet, I add their contact info to the list...five years in, it's a nice-sized list that yields monthly results at minimal costs, but you have to be diligent and newsworthy and constantly be pitching!

       


      As for funding, I get a payment, pay the bills, take what I need to live, and reinvest the rest. One foot in front of the other and every order builds upon the last!
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    teejlp Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Lela,

    How did you start working with customers/wholesalers overseas? If the customer doesn't have a shipping point, then do you have freight companies or location points for shipping? I think shipping is the most complicated part of working with any customer outside the US. It's great when the customer has a shipping point/freight company they already use, but how did you handle this movement into international clients?
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi Teri,

       


      Great to see you here! I'll do my best to tackle these...

       


      1. See above for some other information regarding overseas accounts that might be helpful. Some of our distributors handle their own freight via freight forwarders and other times we assist- it's their choice really. In all cases, they do have a shipping point as they warehouse our products locally. Most serious distributors have that capability and I unfortunately have no wisdom to offer regarding clients without shipping points as we've never run into that ourselves.

       


      2. As far as I am aware, there is no centralized membership. I think that a membership to the IRDB would be worth its while for you. Thankfully, the entire EU operates under the same regulations, so if you can jump the hurdles for one country, you can jump the hurdles for all. You ill need a European representative and specific labeling. Search "EU Cosmetics Directive" in Google for more information, but that IRDB database would be your best bet. European regulations are far trickier than most and take considerably more effort and resources to satisfy.

       


      3. See above. With respect to the "one thing", that's such a difficult question. My answer may seem silly, but it's truly the essence of any success Bella Luccè has enjoyed: I kept going. There have been days I wanted to pull the covers over my head and hide; there are days I have to leave the office and walk the park or sit in a local Starbucks because I am so overwhelmed; there are days I am so angry or panicked that I have to put myself in time-out and give myself time to process. As I am certain you are aware, owning a business is one of the most exhilarating opportunities a gal will ever have, but it's also one of the scariest. We've battled production challenges, staffing challenges, legal challenges, public perception challenges, financial challenges...you name it. Bella Luccè's biggest challenge? Me. Keeping me focused, keeping me optomstic, ensuring that I guide the ship in the right direction. There's no magic step, or product or organization that's made all the difference in the world. I just got up every day for the last 5 years, despite whatever may have happened the day before, and told myself that I was going to do everything in my power that day to kick tail and take names- for the sake of me, my family and my staff. Not to sound ego-centric but small, women-owned businesses are based heavily on us. We are critical to our success and we are very prone to underestimating the magnitude of us within our business structure. You can't surrender or everything else falls like a house of cards. Take care of you...
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    teejlp Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Lela,

    European labeling requirements: I understand what is needed on the label to meet European standards but is there "one" organization or group's standards or membership required for business in Europe?
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    teejlp Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Lela,

    1. Did you ever hire an outside firm for PR? Or have you always did your PR in-house?

    2. What do you consider the one opportunity/order/appearance that really propelled your business to this level of success? It's never just one thing of course but if you think about something that really got you to the next level? A trade show, a membership in a particular association or certain magazine/tv appearance?
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    Woozle Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Lela, I'm sure this event is a lot of work for you, but I'm so excited to read your answers to some of these questions! I'm wondering how you knew what steps to take to make the transition, in such a short amount of time, from being a one-woman show to where you are today. Do you have mentors or advisors? I'm finding it hard to know what to do to get my business to the next level. I feel like I need a map, but I don't know where to find one!

    Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!
    Daria
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Woozle,

       

      If you find out where they are selling maps, will you please let me in one the secret? LOL

       

      As I mentioned previously, I haven't had any real mentors. What I have had the benefit of is an incredible support network. Just ask Donna Maria of IBN how often I call in a panic/crying jag/uproar asking her opinion. She is such a treasure to this industry and she has worked with hundreds of companies like ours for YEARS and we can all reap the benefit of that. I also have a husband who possess the patience of a saint as is quietly behind all I do and kids who think that what mom does it just cool enough that they don't mind me jetting off here and there for a week or two at a time (provided I bring home presents and make a big family breakfast upon my return). I've got a fabulous mom who reads my blog and clips press articles she sees and sends me the sweetest notes virtually every week, and they usually arrive just about the time I am trying to figure out who to turn my resignation in to. It's critical that you find a support network to help sustain you.

       

      I have also really enjoyed social networking sites as they've been a great way for me to connect both to our customer base and fellow entrepreneurs. I twitter obsessively and it's a great outlet. Additionally, I have idols rather than mentors and I chase them around like a groupie some days. I look at tradeshows and Ladies Who Launch events and see who's slated to speak. Anytime my schedule and wallet allow, I try to get to wherever they are and put my face in front of them. Sometimes I am welcomed more warmly than others, but I have enjoyed the opportunity to correspond and dine with some giants in the industry: top-level executives at Burt's Bees, creators of the Jonathon hair care line, the founder of Aveda, the Dr. Bronner family, etc. You never know if you don't try and I am not afraid to put myself out there...its lead to some verrrrrry interesting cocktail hours and a few wonderful opportunities!
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    atlasrelo Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated

    Hello everyone
    My name is Sindy~ new here ~ very new to all this~ I've had 5 kids (one is terminally ill) so I'm late in life learning the computer~ I'm an old Batch System girl~ lol~ I'm hoping to ask this question correctly and in the right form~

    I'd like to know if you make/design your own labels for your products? and if you do NOT how did you decide when/where to have the labels professionally done? and Do you find professionally done labels present a better front for your products? I'm thinking so, but would love to have imput on this~ I find since I'm computer challenged, I'm very label challenged ~ Imagine that?
    Thanks
    Sindy
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi Sindy,

       


      A warm welcome and best of luck to you! I do have my labels professionally designed and have since the beginning. Find an independent graphic designer who's looking to build their portfolio and you might be surprised at how affordable that can be. I am aware of several beauty companies who manage their own design, but I simply don't possess that skill set and the results are so much sharper when I am not at the helm of that project.

       


      That said, I absolutely believe that professional labels and professional photographs are essential to website success. Consumers are so visual- beauty consumers especially so- and the outside of a beauty product (unfortunately) matters just as much as what's inside the jar. Don't underestimate the power of your branding and find someone who can help guide you...it doesn't have to be expensive!

       


      Good luck with your business and squeeze those babies. Moms of ill-children are superheroes...take care.
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    sweetaroma Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hello Lela,

    Thank you in advanced for sharing your knowldge

    my two important questions are how did you
    • Factored philanthropy into your business from the start, I have been asking lot of questions to do this as I am starting a new consulting business.

    • Marketting on the cheap, or networking , finding a PR and delivering a right material to PR,, did you hire someone to do all this or you have put together your self .
    Thank you again, I look forward to listening you views and comments.

    Sincerely,
    Sweetie D

     

    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hello sweetaroma,

       


      We have been involved in philanthropy since the very beginning and it's a pillar of what we do. As a small business, I often feel overwhelmed with requests from local schools, national charities, and community groups who'd like both financial and/or product donations. While I empathize, I have found that planning each year's giving in the 4th quarter of the year preceding is the best use of our funds and time. I find causes that resonate with me, both domestically and internationally, and plan our giving accordingly. With that method, I am able to unify our resources for the greater good and not be distracted by near-constant inquiries.

       


      I do promote our professional giving, though not my personal, and I believe that doing so brings both awareness to the cause, as well as creates increased brand awareness for Bella Luccè. One of our most successful charitable programs is through Women For Women (http://www.womenforwomen.org/). I sponsor one woman in a war-torn region for every full-time Bella Luccè employee. It's an amazing program and we sponsor women from Congo, Afghanistan, Bosnia, etc. Those funds pay for food, housing and education costs and we are able to correspond with the women themselves. That creates a sense of responsibility among my staff, rather than them just knowing that I cut a check to somebody somewhere last month. It builds personal relationships and we can tangibly assess some of the good we're doing.

       


      In regards to marketing/pr on the cheap, I think I might have answered that particular query through some of the others at this event. If you need any followup, just ask and I'll be more than happy to elaborate on any particular aspect/strategies.
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    bamboo2 Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Lela! Thank you for sharing your time with us today! My question is, What initial steps did you take to become FDA compliant? Did you buy the Good Manuf. Practice Book first? OR if once registered with the FDA, do they send you the GMP book? Not sure how to begin or what to do to start "becoming" officially compliant....Thank you!
    • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
      LelaBarker Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi there Bamboo2,

       


      GMP is a tricky beast, isn't she? In all honesty, I was compliant first, then registered through the VCRP program. I was worried that I'd put myself on their radar screen and an inspector would come knocking before I was ready- hence the hesitancy. However, having been thru the process and seeing how innocuous it is, I now encourage small business to get registered sooner rather than later. To date, I have not received any materials form the FDA designed to help with compliance.

       


      I will tell you this: being cGMP compliant is not an easy task for small companies. I suggest working on serious quality-control issues first: track incoming materials closely, perform microbial assays on outgoing batches, batch number each product, etc. Some of the suggestions aren't realistic for people manufacturing within a home environment...but do all that you can. And- whatever you do- be insured to the nine's. From my recent chats with industry leaders and trade groups and my time spent lobbying in Washington in August, I am of the impression that a lot of these suggestions will soon become mandatory, not voluntary...even for small businesses. Getting compliant now rather than later will put you one step ahead of the rest!
  • Re: Event October 22: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    SBC Team Master
    Currently Being Moderated
    Lela,

    Thanks so much for participating today!

    Shall we get started?

    Take it away Lela!
  • Re: Live event: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    SBC Team Master
    Currently Being Moderated
    Community,

    Remember to refresh your browsers often to see Lela's latest response.

    Thanks,
    The SBOC Team

    Edited by: SBOCTeam on Oct 22, 2008
  • Re: Live event: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    jwilliams Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated

    Hi Lela,

    Its great to see you are doing well. We have relocated to North Carolina and I have been looking for a quality printer in the southern region. Do you have any suggestions, we are rebranding and need labels and collateral materials printed.

    Jaime
  • Re: Live event: Turning a hobby into a full-fledged biz
    SBC Team Master
    Currently Being Moderated
    Lela,

    On behalf of the SBOC Team and the members of the Small Business Online Community, we wanted to say we truly appreciated your time today and your professional responses to user questions.

     

    Community members, while our session with Lela has now concluded, please feel free to discuss today's session and the questions answered. Again, if you'd like more information about Lela and Bella Lucce, visit:

    http://www.bellalucce.com

     

    http://twitter.com/bellalucce

     

    http://bellalucce.com/thebuzz

    Thanks again,
    The SBOC Team

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