When Starting Small Means BIG Success

Aspiring entrepreneurs are under the impression they need large lines of credit,  and when they hit obstacles, they frequently keep pouring more money towards the same mistakes rather than having to find creative solutions. It’s my firm belief that this keeps them from ever developing their problem solving muscles.

As a successful serial entrepreneur, I know first hand that starting on a shoestring and  having no back-up capital is the best way to grow a profitable business.

The first business I started at 23 happened almost on a dare. I had no idea what I was doing until I did it  I had planned to start a creative arts program for pre-schoolers and was working to save start-up money. My father had a furniture and appliance business and needed help with advertising. When I realized how much commission an ad agency takes, I walked into my dad’s office and said, “If we start an in-house agency, we can save  (a figure equal to 15%) a year”. Coincidently, the figure was more than double my salary.  He looked at me and without blinking said, “so do it.” I knew that translated to “YOU figure out how to do it on ON YOUR OWN.” He did NOT offer to loan me money and I didn’t ask . I’m convinced that’s why I’ve been successful. He gave me the gift of faith in my ability to be a creative problem solver.

So often new entrepreneurs get caught up in lawyers, accountants and business plans. Yes, you will need them eventually but rather than spend on high paid professionals right off the bat, start out simply as a sole proprietor and once you see you are making money, you can hire someone to count and tax-shelter that money.

AND You won’t need a formal business plan if you aren’t going to apply for a loan.

When my husband and I decided to start our own furniture business, we didn’t have the money to set up a brick and mortar store so we sold our little house and took the very tiny equity-$12,000, purchased one truckload of furniture, rented a hotel banquet room and started a pop-up business that we eventually grew to 17 retail stores grossing 25 million-without ever borrowing a dime. At first, we were literally living out of hotel rooms and a van with a toddler. It was a huge risk so we had no choice but to succeed. Having made the decision not to borrow money, we had to be creative because there was nothing to fall back on. We made some mistakes in the beginning and if we’d had a lot of capital, we may have blown it before we learned some valuable lessons. Instead, we became resourceful and innovative problem solvers.

In 2000, I fell in love with a small seaside tourist town on the central coast. I felt pulled to leave Southern California and get back to art and this seemed like a perfect location for an art gallery. Having no idea how I was going to do it, I signed a lease on a retail space in October with a commitment to open Thanksgiving weekend. Then my son and I headed to the lumber yard for plywood to build display pedestals. My only experience with the art business was selling my work at craft fairs when I was very young, so I spent the next few weeks going to Open Studios, chatting with artists and trying to figure out what sells. Because I don’t believe in putting a lot of money into start-ups, I talked about 50 artists and craftsmen into working on a consignment basis.  I ran the gallery alone 7 days a week for the first several months until the business could afford the first employee. Some of the merchandise I started with turned out to be wrong for the clientele but because it was on consignment, I didn’t lose money. I simply returned it to the artists, grateful I hadn’t invested start-up capital and considered the lesson a blessing. Once there was good cash flow, I began attending trade shows and purchasing contemporary crafts wholesale but I never bought more merchandise than I knew I could pay for within 30 days.

Within the first couple of years, the business had outgrown the first location, I had a great team of loyal employees, an enviable income and a strong following with locals and tourists.
When it was time to move on, I sold the business for a very nice six figure profit.

If you’re ready to start a business and the only thing stopping you is start-up funds, hold that big vision but look for creative ways to start small and grow. I’ll show you how to start with little or no cash outlay in this e-guide “How to Start a Pop-up Shop without a Bankroll.”

Is lack of start-up money holding you back from launching your dream business?

It doesn’t have to. More businesses than you know are started with no initial investment. In fact, many well-known successful business were started in someone’s basement or garage. Think “Geek Squad”, started by Robert Stephens at his kitchen  table and later sold to Best Buy for millions.

If anyone suggests you borrow money from family or friends, ignore them. If someone loans you start-up money, they are likely to be worried about recouping it and could get more involved in your new venture than you want them to. You are starting a business because you want to be in control of your own life and having to answer to your lender could end up feeling like you still have a boss.

Especially with the internet and social media, even businesses that are not web-based can be started with little or no money. One of the biggest expenses for a new business used to be advertising and now so much can be done for free.

If you think about it, it’s not really money you need. It’s what money can buy and believe it or not, you can actually get a lot of those things for free in trade or partnership. If your business is service oriented, you may be able to Continue reading

How to keep the income flowing during the summer months.

In some industries, business slows down during the summer. If you want to be a self-sustaining, life-long entrepreneur, you’ll need to find other sources of income during your off-season. (This also applies to those of you whose business is warm-weather oriented if you slow down over the winter months. )

The first thing I suggest you look at is what service you can provide your existing customers. Let’s say you have a snow shoveling business. The obvious opportunity would be to offer lawn care or window washing to the same customers in the summer. Do you knit and sell woolen hats? Can you use a lighter material such as linen or cotton and market it to your existing customer list? Or why not call on some shops in areas that get an early freeze and get them to place their September orders now? What if you sell home made soups to a food truck? Can you come up with a chilled treat like gourmet popsicles or fresh smoothies to sell to the same clients?

I had a client who was a ski instructor in the Rockies and was busier than he ever imagined in the winter. I suggested he offer guided hikes and mountain bike tours in the summer months. It went very well.

For those of you down-under, let’s look at an example of a warm weather business that slows down in the winter. If you grow and sell organic vegetables at a farmers market during the summer, you might come up with an amazing salsa, sauce or preserves recipe that you can package in harvest season and then sell the product in the winter at indoor markets or to gourmet shops. You might even do make-and-take parties where you demo making one item and then you can also offer your other products packaged for purchase. Think about collaborating with someone who has a complimentary product or service. For example, if you make an olive tapenade, you might want to partner with a bread baker or cheese maker since your businesses attract the same customers and your products go together.

I’ll be attending a Lavender Festival in July and of course I will be interrogating growers about what they do in the frozen months. I’m guessing the wise ones distill and create lavender products to sell in the winter.

I’ve already heard from readers who purchased the e-guide “Create Your Own Summer Job” that they got some great ideas for additional income during the summer. I started out writing the guide for parents to help their kids create summer income without a job and quickly realized that most of the 50+ ideas in the guide are also appropriate for adults who want to make a part or full time income year round.

If you’ve figured out a creative way to keep your income flowing over the summer months, I’d love if you’d share with readers in the comments below.

Is it hard to ask for money for your services?

If you do any kind of coaching, consulting or service business, you probably have experienced some discomfort around getting paid. If you have trouble asking for money for your services, you’re not alone.

If I added up the number of hours I’ve spent this year doing unpaid work, I am sure it would far outnumber the hours I’ve billed for. And that’s setting a terrible example for the clients I’m advising to charge appropriately for their services.

In the 70s, it felt easy for me. I knew from a fixed, existing model what percentage an advertising agency bills. In the early 80s, doing craft shows, I put a price on my work based on what I saw other artists charging for a comparable custom product. In the home furnishings business, we knew the exact markup formula that gave the customer the best value while still allowing our sales team a generous commission and a comfortable salary for us.
Before I opened my gallery, I studied the different commission/consignment structures and found that the average percentage share was 50/50. (If you have questions around pricing your art or consigning to shops and galleries, there’s a lot of great info on the topic at Craft Biz Blog dot com.)
Even in the massage therapy business, contracting to chiropractors and resort spas, clients were used to paying a fee that was reasonable in the industry.
Easy peazy-no discomfort around charging what the product or service was worth.

When it comes to intellectual service, though, it’s trickier. How do you put a price tag on advice or guidance? Why is it so much harder with something that is intangible? And why do we, as creative coaches, consultants and teachers often find it more uncomfortable to charge friends than strangers? We know that our clients gain so much from our work,  but we tend to either underestimate what we should charge for our services or give away too much for free.

When a paying client tells me I should be charging her more, I know I’m guilty of this too.  I had a discussion about this recently with a friend who cuts hair. She said she charges friends the same as strangers because she’s spending the same time and using the same skills and her overhead is the same whether it’s a walk-in customer or her neighbor.

She asked me if I think my doctor feels awkward charging me for an office visit and I said, “of course not.” In my mind, the difference is she spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars training as a physician. And besides, she can save my life.

My friend put her scissors down, put her hands on her hips and said, “and how many decades have you spent learning and practicing the things you teach people about business?”


Of course our advice is just as valuable.  It may not physically save a life but definitely improves life and saves sanity.

For me, the greatest challenge is when someone refers a client to me and in our initial discussion, the person tells me about recent hardships. She’s called me about coaching. She hasn’t said, “I can’t afford your services” but I hear poverty thinking in her voice, or feel compassion for her situation and immediately realize this is another one that I want to help as an act of kindness. But, and here’s the big BUT, if I continue to work pro-bono, I will become that person who can’t afford to pay for services. So how do we get over this discomfort hurdle and charge what we should for the work we do?

First, we have to change our mindset. We have to recognize the value our work brings to our clients and mostly, we have to remember that if we work for free or undercharge, we won’t have the money to help the people who truly need us. When I charged appropriately for my goods and services, I was able to give generously to causes that mattered and help people who needed it. I was able to create livelihoods for people so that they could earn enough to take care of their families and also share their wealth with those less fortunate.

What about you? Do you struggle with putting a monetary value on the work you do in the world?

7 Things Parents Can do to Ensure Their Kids Don’t Get out of College with More Loans Than Income

It’s Spring and millions of young people are completing their final semester of college. Some, like computer engineers and nurses, may have already been recruited and accepted offers with sign-on bonuses. Most, however, are putting out feelers, polishing resumes and sending online applications. Sadly, many of them will be working in jobs they view as below their education level or unrelated to their areas of interest.

It saddens me to think of these young people facing years of debt and disappointment when they realize that they were ill-advised by well-meaning  high school guidance counselors. Convinced that a 4-year degree is the ticket to a high-paying job, many chose “business” or “communications” as a major by default, figuring they can always work their way up in corporate management. But there are more college grads than appropriate job vacancies and if they are able to secure entry level positions, there are no guarantees that they will either rise in the company or have a job a few years on. Most important-will they be happy in those jobs? What about the kids who actually major in something they love like the arts or literature? How can you as a parent prepare them to find work that will pay the bills?

I’m not suggesting parents or counselors discourage college or insist their kids choose “marketable majors” but there are steps parents can take to help their kids prepare for the world they will likely face when they graduate. Continue reading

How do you make sure your creative business ideas are accessible when you need to generate income?

As a creative entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur, you probably have a zillion ideas that pop into your head when you’re busy working on something else. Then, when you find yourself needing extra cash for something like an emergency auto or home repair, vacation or anything else that requires more than your current income, you can’t recall the details of those brilliant ideas.
The best way to make sure those great ideas aren’t fleeting is to keep an Idea File. It can be as simple as a file folder with scraps of paper or a more complex digital file. Here are some tips for making sure those ideas are available when you need some inspiration or extra cash:

Always keep a pen and notepad or index cards in your car, your pocket or your purse. If you have that lightbulb moment while driving, pull over when you can and jot it down. Then, get into the habit of taking those notes inside and putting them in ONE specific place when you get to your home or office.

If you do use index cards, you can have a recipe-box file that you keep all those little cards in, filed under specific categories. Or, if you tend to clip articles and images out of newspaper or magazines, an easy alternative to a file folder is one of the old fashion photo albums with the cellophane pages that you peel back and stick down. Just pop in any clippings you’ve gathered at the end of each day.

Because I often get inspiration while driving, I speak into the recording app on my iphone. When I stop, I send it to myself as a message and later file it in my digital “Notes” doc Idea File. If you’re not a Mac User, you can create a simple Word Doc file and do the same.

If many of your ideas are visual, you might want to create different Pinterest boards for each idea category and organize your images that way.

Some people like to use a program like Evernote to keep ideas organized.

The main thing is to keep your ideas in one place that you can access easily without hunting through piles. If nothing else, keep a manilla envelope labeled “Genius” on your desk and gather any stray notes regularly daily or weekly.

If you have difficulty figuring out how to turn your creative ideas into income or you are long on passion but short on ideas, here’s how I can help you. Spring Idea Generation Special

How to help your child create their OWN summer job doing what they love.

I overheard a woman say that her son needs to get a job because he has expensive hobbies. (this mom is an entrepreneur-ouch). I suggested that instead of getting a job to pay for his hobbies, she help him start a business. What could be better motivation for a child to tone his entrepreneurial muscles?

Some of the other parents were talking about teaching their children to read a balance sheet. Unless your child loves numbers, I think that’s a good way to make business feel like a big scary thing-not the best place to begin to teach your kids about making a living without a job. First,  teach them how to MAKE the money.

Sure they can do the usual kid jobs: babysitting, lawn mowing or selling lemonade but if that’s not their thing, guiding them to do something they don’t enjoy to earn money for a hobby they love is just priming them to turn into adults who pursue an uninspiring career in order to earn the money to take a ski vacation or trip to the beach once a year.

If we want our kids to grow into passionate, enthusiastic adults, why not show them now that they can turn that expensive hobby into their first profit center.
Here’s an example of how you can help your child create her own business from her hobby. If your child loves Continue reading

The biggest barriers to freedom: what’s really keeping you stuck?

A lot of people view freedom in the free-range career sense as being a suitcase entrepreneur or working from your mobile office but freedom comes in many forms and changes over time.

If you want to break free of the chains that keep you stuck in a career or relationship that isn’t working for you, check yourself on these common barriers:

Don’t borrow start-up funds or become emotionally indebted. In business and in life, I think the biggest barrier to freedom comes in the form of debt. If you’re carrying a huge business loan, your practical self tells you that you are stuck. When I watch people keep drawing on a line of credit to throw more money at something that’s not working, I see someone who is chaining themselves down. You can also be tied down because of what I call debt-guilt. You stay in a job or a relationship because you believe you owe your boss or your spouse or your parent. So you don’t feel the freedom to move on because of this guilt. You’ve convinced yourself you’re trapped.

Get Clear About Your Stuff: I also see a lot of people who become slaves to their possessions. They want to downsize or relocate to a different city but believe they can’t because they have to deal with all their stuff. I’m not saying having a lot of material possessions is a bad thing. It’s only a ` negative if it’s controlling you. Freedom doesn’t have to mean dumping your worldly possessions. It can mean giving yourself permission to CHOOSE to nest and enjoy your collections. The key here is CHOICE.
Don’t keep your ideas, methods, programs a tightly held secret. Stop worrying about copycats. You need to share and teach other people what you know in order to grow your business and gain freedom. Yes, someone you train to help you could copy and try to compete with you but they aren’t you and if you came up with one brilliant idea, there are lots more inside of you. Talk about your big ideas because you may just get the word out to someone who can help you soar.

Give yourself permission to take educated risks. You’re not going to go hike the Appalachian Trail without water and a map but you don’t have to wait until you’ve read every single book ever written about it. Yes, you could fall and get injured but what’s more frightening? A broken ankle or regret at the end of your life because you didn’t at least try to do your dream?
Learn to delegate. Let go of the idea that you are the only one who can do your thing the right way. If you don’t assign tasks to your children, spouse or housemate because they may not do it exactly as you would, you’re losing freedom. Likewise, if you don’t delegate the parts of your business that are not your strength, you’re taking up time that could be spent expanding your area of genius. Get out of your own way by getting rid of tasks that drain you.
Make yourself dispensable. Years ago, when I started doing bodywork, my earnings were completely dependent on my being present. When I fell and broke my hand, I had no income for nine weeks. That was the last time I ever had a business that I couldn’t scale to earn whether I was there or not. If the only way you can make money is by being present and putting in personal hours for dollars, you are losing freedom. Create a part of your business that can function without you.

Be open to collaborate. Find those who have strengths you lack and partner on projects with them.
On the flip side, avoid long-term partnerships without collaborating on several projects with the person first. A dysfunctional partnership can keep you both stuck.

Give yourself permission to change course or to begin again. Let go of others’ expectations of you. My friend Marianne Cantwell of Free-range Humans says   the word “should” is “the anti -freedom.”
Just because your family, friends or fans see you a certain way doesn’t mean you have to always be that way. Freedom means allowing yourself to grow and change and do the unexpected.

Need help Funding Your Freedom Lifestyle? See how I can help HERE 




Are you treating your craft business like a hobby? Where are you purchasing supplies?

Are you still buying your supplies at Michaels, Hobby Lobby or JoAnn Fabrics?  If you’re just starting out, of course you need to figure out what sells best before you invest in large bolts of fabric, quantities of yarn, gemstones or glass.

If you’re going to make a sustainable living selling crafts, you have to make some items that aren’t one-offs. You need to have a bread and butter line that you can produce with fast turnaround even if your pieces are made-to-order.

Let’s say you make baby onesies, for example. You find five yards of adorable fabric on closeout at JoAnn’s and it’s a hit. You sell a ton of that item and people are favoriting it and coming back to your site to purchase but YOU CAN’T GET ANYMORE of that fabric. Yikes!

We live in an instant gratification world. Customers want everything now. If a customer is searching on Etsy for amethyst earrings and you run out of the beads to make your best-selling amethyst earrings, they are going to go to the shop with a similar product that can ship in a couple of days. And you’ve lost them. Probably for good.

So how do you make sure you can always deliver your best selling products AND put a good profit margin on your handmade crafts? If you’re a professional and you’re going to make a living selling crafts, you find a reliable supplier and purchase your materials in bulk. Now you’re probably thinking, “OK, so I’ll Google ‘fabrics wholesale’.” but that’s definitely not the way to find the best suppliers.

Here’s a tip: trade shows. Google “trade shows” + your industry. Of course, if there’s a trade show near you, by all means go to a trade show. You’ll learn a lot and be inspired but you don’t have to do that anymore to find suppliers. Simply go to your industry’s trade shows websites and study the exhibitor list. Then call the rep or distributor for the products you need and that’s how you’ll get the best price. Also, the rep should let you know if they’ll be closing out a particular item. If you can purchase a large enough quantity to keep you stocked through the season, great. Otherwise, select materials that they will be able to continue supplying.

You can also fnd a huge list of trade shows for the maker industry in the Beyond Etsy E-course. 

The most successful Etsy sellers I know have a line of at least a dozen products that they can replicate again and again and ship quickly.

If you plan to make a full-time living selling crafts professionally, it’s time to buy your materials like a professional.