Friday, March 30, 2007


Merle O’Brien of OlovesM has perfected the art of combining function, fashion, and eco-friendliness through her line of cool, hip, and sassy bags made from new remnant materials that companies would have discarded to the landfills. Here, Merle talks about her business, from her day-to-day activities, challenges, and inspirations.

Downward Dog Inspiration
“[My inspiration for my ecofriendly business] came to me while on my yoga mat… I was in downward dog [position], and all of a sudden the idea popped into my head. Of course all I could do for the rest of the class was create this line of fun bags in my head- by the time I got out of class and home, I was making prototypes from materials around my house. A few prototypes later- the OlovesM line!”

Products that Transcend Generation
“ I feel everyone is a customer. Kids love them, moms love them, and even men love the new messenger style bag. My customer is eco-conscious, as well as fashion savvy. My clients also are outdoor active people. My mother is also a client, and she is a hip 70-she loves the eco-m and eco jute bags!”

Learning to Delegate
“At this time I do not have employees - but I do have someone who sews for me- I just could not do it all. That can be the hardest part of running your own business- letting go of some of it. I knew I could not do it all, so finding someone to sew my bags was most important. I [also] hope one day to hire a marketing person, since that is such a major part of any business.”

The Art of Selling
“Right now, [I sell through] my OlovesM website, and in two [brick and mortar] stores, Birch Clothing in Minnesota, and Ecology Sports in Wisconsin. I have two stores in Aspen and one store in Chicago that will be carrying [my bags] as well.”

“I got my first [wholesale] account via email. I had searched the internet for stores I felt would be good for my bags, and emailed them- Birch Clothing replied and were very excited to work with me!”

“ I find stores to sell through mostly via searching on the net, as well as friends have told me about stores they like in their areas. Living in Aspen Colorado is great, but trying to start a business is another story. I have to admit, when my friends are all out skiing, hiking, and biking, I am at my home office working hard to find good stores to carry my bags.”

The Power of Guerrila Marketing
“Marketing, so far, has been via my website, emails, and word of mouth. Lots of grassroots guerilla marketing seems to be the best. If I start talking about my bags, people seem to get closer to listen in. I was at the Salt Lake City airport and while in line, I started talking to the person next to me, and then added that I was there for my bags, which went to Sundance, and about 6 people in line started listening… And after about 5 minutes of me talking about the bags, the 6 people chimed in and said how cool they were, and that they would look out for my bags in magazines, and contact me via my website. Oh yes, I hand out business cards everywhere I go.”

“[I generate press] mostly via email. Once again living in Aspen is great for skiing, and the perfect outdoor lifestyle, but it also makes you work extra hard on the net to search out media to cover your products. Making it to Sundance Film fest has been really good, since the press was all over the festival. I have used this in my own press release as well as in my media kit coming out soon. Right now I have done all [press] myself. I have been able to get my bags off to Hollywood, and at the Sundance Film Fest, as well as to the Telluride Fashion show gala.”

Nature, Family, and Friends

“[I am inspired by] my boys. Plus, being outdoors and in the mountains always bring me inspiration. Yoga class has also been a huge inspiration, as this is where I came up with the idea for OlovesM. The name, which is OM- which we chant in yoga, did come to me while driving back from Utah.. I had just been to the Outdoor Retailer Show with a dear friend of mine, and the name popped into my head somewhere between Salt Lake- and Green 6 AM!”

“I love my bags, and what they stand for. Having my boys watch mommy start a business from the ground up and hear them tell their friends-nothing beats that for motivation. Plus, I love what I am doing- and love to learn something new everyday.”

Business Mentors
“ I have a dear friend, Bill, who I have known since I was 16. He is a business owner, and he has really been there to help me- [answering any] business questions and pricing issues, taking me to the Outdoor Retailer Show and letting me sit in while he had meetings with companies so I could see how they do it. Basically, just someone I can count on to be there if I have a question.”

Words of Advice
“Make sure you are doing something you love and care about. Do some research to see what else is out there, and don’t be too caught up in the fact other people might be doing it, as you can try and do it better, or with a different twist. I do think the biggest step to make in starting out, is don’t be afraid to take a step.”
Merle O'Brien

Monday, March 26, 2007

Business Expos, Craft Congress, Shows

Made in Clay: Annual benefit featuring pieces by 40 ceramic artists. Sales benefit Greenwich House Pottery’s educational and outreach programs for emerging artists, families, and children. Located in New York. March 29-April 28, 2007.

Craft Boston: Craft show featuring 175 artists showcasing limited and one-of-a-kind ceramics, fiber, furnitures, glass, jewelry, wood, metal, mixed media and other pieces. Also features work by emerging artists in leading schools and universities. Located in Boston, MA. March 30-Airl 1, 2007.

National Women in Business Expo: Expo of products for entrepreneurs. Also includes free seminar programs focusing on business development, growth strategies, sales and marketing, motivation, life and work balance, financing and much more. Located in Calgary, Canada. March 31-April 1, 2007

Indie Craft Congress: first-ever gathering of organizers and leaders of indie craft fairs, websites and organizations. Located in Pittsburgh, PA. March 31-April 1, 2007.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rosaries and Jewelry by Laura

Laura Sheppard-Andersen, designer and owner behind Rosaries and Jewelries by Laura, creates, what else? Beautiful rosaries and jewelries in distinctive stles and designs. Meet Laura as she shares her thoughts on starting and maintaining her business:

Turning a Hobby to a Full-Fledged Business
“ I learned how to make rosaries 27 years ago from a booklet that I sent away for. I was looking for something to do with my hands while I was recovering from surgery. It ended up being a love affair with beads and wire that spilled over into jewelry. I still just did it for my friends until my husband died in 2004, and then I needed to do something that would help pay the bills. It just seemed natural to turn my “hobby” into a business and start selling both my rosaries and jewelry.”

Products That Transcend Generation
“I get requests for rosaries for babies and requests for jewelry from grandmothers and everyone in between. I think that’s what I like about it the most. I always am surprised at what people want me to design for them.”

Inspired by Color and Shapes
“My late husband was an artist in oils and I learned a lot about color, form and design from him. I’ve been able to apply that to my business, especially in jewelry design … Watching my husband paint and seeing how he used color and form are always on my mind. Whether it’s matching particular colors for a stunning rosary, or different shapes and colors for a piece of jewelry, the process of putting things together and watching a design fall into shape never ceases to amaze me!”

Perfect Barter
“I am my only employee, but my roommate does help out at shows. I make jewelry for her or her family for her help. It works out for both of us.”

In the Business of Creating… and Selling
“The hardest part of this business has been and probably always will be for me the selling part. I love to create and design, I don’t so much love to have to sell it.”

“I try to find stores that my items would fit into. One of the ones I sell at is a Catholic Book store so my rosaries work well there, another one sells more of my jewelry because they are more of a gift store.”

Adapting to Fashion and Religion
“The fashion industry gives me somewhat of an idea, but I like to make my designs timeless so people can wear them for many years to come. Also, the liturgical year dictates what types or colors of rosaries I make at certain times of the year. I also make a couple of prototypes of jewelry and run them by some of my friends for input.”

“One of my greatest mentors has been Debbie of, a rosary supply online store. She has been there the whole way with me since I started selling and helping me learn the next step of the business as I go along. She’s helped me to stay sane many, many times!”

Motivated to Create
“I truly love what I do. I get a lot of satisfaction making beautiful rosaries that I know will enrich the lives of those who use them. I get a different kind of satisfaction of seeing a special design of a piece of jewelry finally become a concrete item when I’m finished with it. I enjoy the whole process from beginning to end.”

Words of Advice

“Use the best materials you can afford, make your product the best it can be, charge enough to cover your expenses and give it time! I’m still waiting for the “overnight success” and while I know it’s slowly building, the best advice I got when I was starting out is to not expect things to take off right away. A good rule of thumb I think, is that it’ll probably take three years to get steady traffic and sales from your web site. And that’s if you work at it.”

Laura Sheppard-Andersen
Rosaries and Jewelry by Laura

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Coaching Session, BlogHer, ChillCraft

What Causes a Woman To Succeed?: A one-hour presentation in which a professional success coach will lead a group coaching session on the root causes of success. Event sponsored by Downtown Women’s Club. Located in Boston, MA. March 21, 12:30 -1:30 pm.

ChillCraft: Craft fair combining local artisan crafts and chili! For $5, you can get all you can eat drinks and beverages, in addition to shopping for equally delectable goodies. Located in St. Louis, MO. March 24, 2007, 11 am to 1 pm.

BlogHer Business 2007: Two-day conference especially designed for entrepreneurs, business owners, media houses and others who are interested in issues and topics on blogging. Features experts tackling issues such as how to keep out of trouble while blogging, how to cultivate creative blog content, and how to make money blogging. Located in New York. March 22-23, 2007.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Batteries Not Required

Batteries Not Required is a one-woman operation that started when owner Megan Risley designed a product that would be safe for children, educational in nature and not media nor electricity based, would have no assembly nor pieces to lose and is completely portable. Here Megan talks about starting out and stepping up her business:

In the Play Business
“I own and operate Batteries Not Required. I make interactive play quilts for children. I've been in business for two years. I own a website and sell from that as well as from local craft fairs.”

“My typical customer is female, [who] is a parent of a young child. My second largest demographic are older folks- typically grandparents. 85% of people who purchase my quilts buy them as gifts.”

Between Consulting and Quilting
“ [I work on my business] part time. I have a full time job as a consultant. Thankfully, I work from home and can work between 25-40 hours a week, so I can spend the rest of the time on Batteries.”

“I usually do “Batteries stuff” in the early morning when I get up, for about an hour- all computer related. I may sew and work on the quilts after 5 pm for an hour or two.”

Financing A StartUp
“[I financed my business] from my own pocket. Luckily this wasn't something that needed a lot of money to start up- I just made a few quilts and sold them and moved on from there. I keep all of my business related receipts and use Excel to track income and expenses.”

“I didn't experience many challenges in starting because my idea (the quilts) was relatively low-risk.”

The Power of Forums
“I do a lot of online marketing, joining forums, posting where I can. Posting in forums that cater to my particular market has been the best. I also took some time and contacted local papers and had a few articles done, that was helpful.”

Selling Avenues
“[I sell my products] on my website, (currently under an update), on etsy, (along with other handmade things like purses and bags) and at local craft fairs.”

“I've learned to only do [craft] shows that are established and that have run for at least a few years. It's a give and take on shows and has taken time to learn what demographic would respond best. I have about 5-6 shows I now do every year.”

Megan Risley

Monday, March 5, 2007

Business Building Events, Kernspiracy

Business Legs Overnighter: 24-hour Business Building Event sponsored by Ladies Who Launch and Business Legs Seminars on authorship, marketing, and self-promotion. Located in San Francisco, CA. March 9-10, 2007.

KERNSPIRACY: This is a peer support project and community for designers and creative professionals. Available for full-time freelance designers or those working in boutique agencies. March 7, 2007, 7:30-9:3m pm. Located in Los Angeles, CA.

Little Monster Market: Monthly handmade craft show for babies, toddlers, children, and new mommies. March 5, 2007, 10 am-3 pm. Located in Hollywood, CA.