I'm Arleene Taylor, founder and CEO of Mama & Little, I'm thrilled to be offering this Q&A that has been in the making since our launch in 2014! My 'success story' was featured on Shopify and since then has gained some traction in inspiring people that are on the verge of making the life-changing decision to become an entrepreneur and business-owner. I've received several emails and tons of questions on "how did you do it?" from fellow mompreneurs and even those seeking to sell in other markets, and I figured it would be helpful to have as many helpful answers and advice in one place!
Some of the questions from the Shopify feature are found here along with a Q&A from an upcoming feature in Entrepreneur.com. I hope this is helpful if you're looking into how to get started with your idea!
- What's your story?
After my son was born in July 2013, I soon realized I wasn't going to be able to wear jewelry around him. He was just too quick to pull on my necklace or bracelets and always wanted to stick them in his mouth. At the time there was one company offering teething necklaces but I just couldn't bring myself to wear one. They looked like you were wearing a brightly colored toy, and with all the strain of being a new mom and lack of sleep during that time I really just needed to feel pretty.
I knew that there were other moms who felt the same and recognized an opportunity to design jewelry that was both functional and cute — something that I would want to wear even if I wasn't around my son.
- What milestone are you most proud of?
Each year that our company is running and thriving is a milestone for me! Each year that I get to create new collections, run my business, and be able to raise our son full-time is a major achievement for me. The milestone of being a mother and entrepreneur is the one that I’m most proud of!
- When business has got you down how do you stay positive?
This one is tough because it really varies day-to-day and what else is happening in my life but I would say the sure way to brighten my spirits and up the positivity when I’m feeling down is to read through the amazing comments, feedback, and reviews from our customers! The mom community in social media, specifically Instagram which is where I launched Mama & Little through, is amazing— I can relate anything in my life as a business owner and mom and have the support I need.
- When do you know to say “no” to something?
It can be difficult to turn someone down, to say “no, sorry” but I know to do so when I feel strongly about it, in my gut. I believe following your instinct is crucial in business. There won’t always be a clear, precise sign but your gut lets you know! Also, I ask myself “Will this make me adjust my priorities elsewhere?” If it makes me change my priorities in time spent with my son and family or will cut into the time I dedicate to other important aspects of my family life or business then I take that as an indicator that I should say no.
- How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
When we officially launched our website I mainly used Instagram. I was fortunate to have become friends with a group of women who were also starting their own businesses and we had this amazing community of women supporting us. Plus, Instagram was the perfect place for us. Our jewelry looked awesome in pictures and could be styled with super cute outfits. I was getting pictures back from our first few customers that were adorable. We quickly had all this content that people wanted to share, and they did.
That first year was a shock. Our sales more than doubled every single month. Business had grown so much that my husband was able to join me full time in early 2015. With the two of us, and some help from our families, Mama & Little has continued to grow at an incredible rate. Our jewelry can now be found at over 30 retailers and boutiques, including being offered at Nordstrom.com. Our website continues to be our greatest sales channel. I personally have spent hundreds of hours adjusting photos, taking new ones, rewriting descriptions and blog entries, and just working to convey my passion and excitement. It has paid off for us and continues to do so.
- What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
I would say the best business advice I’ve ever received (from a successful mompreneur) was to keep the focus on MY business and use any negativity that may come my way to work harder! There will inevitably be those people that copy your designs, try to imitate the unique aspect of your brand that sets it apart, rip off your product’s features or look— but they can’t replicate your creativity— the part of your brand that makes it original. It has been my experience to see this happen to my brand but each time it drives me to work harder, continue to create unique designs and products that set us apart. In being the original, you’re setting the standard, you’re the trend-setter! Having people look up to your brand is a great thing, after all— imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.