Friday, April 13, 2007

Baby Starlet

Meet Deborah Nolan, the designer and owner of Baby Starlet, an online boutique that sells beautiful handmade Moses baskets and other delightful baby accessories.

Launching a Business
“I launched the company in August of 2006, but had the idea of making baby bedding when my younger sister was pregnant with her first baby. I made custom curtains, added design elements to an existing crib set and made custom cushions for her glider for the nursery. I enjoyed so much that I decided to make it into a business.”

“My background is in sewing – I started sewing at 10. I also trained in a workroom setting making custom curtains with my mother. She is a big inspiration for me.”

Juggling Parenthood and Business
“I currently am working on my business full-time while also watching my two girls – who are ages three and one.”

“I balance parenthood and working by being efficient during work hours and I really try and spend quality time my girls during lunch and after dinner. We usually play games after dinner and, when the weather is warm enough, I take them to the park after lunch. It’s hard because I feel like I am being pulled in two different directions. I have found that when I focus during work, I am much more productive. During the times I am with my daughters, I really try to take off my business hat and focus on being an attentive parent.”

Building a Niche Both Online and Offline
I currently sell my products through my own website, Baby Starlet, along with several retailers such as In Style Moms and LA Baby Couture. I also sell my products through brick and mortar locations such as Bel Bambini in West Hollywood and Spanky Lane in Pacific Palisades.

Consigning and Wholesaling Products
“For my brick and mortar stores, I do mostly wholesale but also offer consignment. Consigning is a good way to get into a store as a test run and an inexpensive way for the owner to offer your products. The only trick is to make sure you are consigning with a reputable store, otherwise you may never see any money for the items you sent them to sell. I personally have never encountered this, but was made aware of the situation of one of my brick and mortar stores. You just need to be careful and make sure you get a signed contract.”

“I landed my first wholesale account by setting up a sales appointment and bringing my samples to show the store owner. The actual sales appointment is not that hard for me, but calling to set-up the appointment is hard for me. I always feel like a telemarketer. But, it is a necessary evil.”

Best Marketing
“ The best marketing was through Bust’s Craftacular. One of their producers from iVillage’s Stuff We Love saw my Moses baskets and loved them. She ended up doing a feature on my Audrey Moses basket. I am still getting hits from this feature and it was from a few months ago.”

Generating Press From Blogs to Magazines
“I am currently contacting other blogs to see if they would be interested in doing a review of my products. When I first launched I sent out my Elizabeth Moses basket to Parenting magazine and heard nothing from them. I did not follow-up with them – my bad – so now I contact magazines first and then send out samples. I did send one to Child Magazine – but they did not have an editorial that would work with it – so they sent it back. I guess it’s just as well, as the magazine is closing shop. I have also sent a press release to the local papers when I went out to LA for the Pre-Golden Globes Boom Boom Room and got a write-up in the paper and an interview with the local 24 hour news channel.”

“I also advertise with Indie Fixx which is a great website and resource for indie businesses and shoppers.”

Start Up Challenges
“The most challenging part for me is perseverance – not giving up and just pushing ahead and following my dream. Initially, I did not get any orders, which was very discouraging, but I kept submitting samples to blogs for review and paid for some advertising through Indie Finds. My orders have picked up, not to where I would like them to be, but that have picked up nonetheless.”

“Production will [also] become an issue as business picks up. Do I hire employees or send out the products to a manufacturing facility?”

Motivated By The Entrepreneurial Drive
“I really love being an entrepreneur so every little success I have really helps me to say focused. I also have a mental log of ways to help build my business through branding, so thinking up new ideas also helps me stay excited and enthusiastic about my company.”

Mentors and Inspirations
“My mother is a mentor for me especially when it comes to design questions. She has been sewing for about 30 years and really knows her stuff when it comes to technical questions. She also doesn’t let big jobs intimidate her, she takes everything one step at a time and that helps me stay focused on my day to day duties rather than just looking at the big picture – which can be quite daunting.”

“Other indie businesses inspire me, especially those that have really unique and well-made products. Heather Flottmann of Liliputians NYC is a big inspiration for me. She has the most amazing designs and really works hard to get press for herself.”

Words of Advice-No Regrets, Just Go For It
“If there is something you always wanted to do, go for it. You don’t want to regret it when you are 93 and looking back on your life. It is going to be a lot of work but will be more rewarding than you can imagine. It also helps to surround yourself with positive support from families and friends. Everyone needs a little cheering squad who believe in you because some days you may not even believe in yourself.”
Deborah Nolan


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