July 11, 2011

Interview with Rebecca Rabson of Smart Seat Chair Protectors!

What is your name?

Rebecca Rabson.

What is your company name, website, FB page name, twitter name and anything else you use?
SmartSeat Chair Protectors by pb&j Discoveries.  Our website is http://www.smartseatdiningchaircovers.com/.  FB: http://www.facebook.com/seatcover.  We are on twitter, @smartseatcover.

Are you a SAHM?  Tell us about you (mini-bio!)
I am a full-time stay-at-home mother, as well as a work-at-home mom.  I started SmartSeat Chair Protectors by pb&j Discoveries last summer.  Prior to that, I'd been home full-time with my boys.  Though I work from the house, I do my best to squeeze work in when the kids are otherwise occupied with school or camp.  When they are around, I really to to put work aside.  I've been married to my husband for 11 years.  He is not only my best friend.  He's also my business partner!

How did you find yourself getting started with your business/venture?
Several years ago, we purchased our first, nice dining room set.  I loved my new upholstered chairs, but didn't want my boys (who were ages 4 and 6 at the time) to ruin them.  I looked for an attractive, waterproof seat cover but couldn't find anything on the market that I liked.  I didn't want to use a vinyl seat cover.  My boys refused to sit on them and, let's face it, they look horrible.  I also didn't want to use a full slipcover.  I loved the look of my chairs and didn't want to cover them in extra fabric. Plus, slipcovers aren't waterproof.  Left with no real choices, I decided to create my own cover that would protect my chairs from stains and spills, yet still be soft and comfortable to sit on. 

How did you go about seeking your information?
The internet is an amazing resource.  I used it in the beginning to locate our manufacturer.  I also relied on the generosity of other business women, such as Jill Cartwright from GoGaGa and Sari Crevin at BooginHead.  They were amazing sources of information and cheerleaders as I moved ahead with my product. 

Do you have a mentor?  Would you consider mentoring someone who wanted to start a similar business?
I guess I answered this a bit in the question above.  I haven't hesitated to reach out to other women through email and telephone calls.  I've found that almost everyone is happy to answer questions and provide information.  And I would love to be in a position to pay it forward one day. 

How did you come up with the name for your company? (I love pb&j discoveries, btw!)
I'm so glad that you like the name!  We tried really hard to come up with something that we liked and that also had some meaning, but everything that we brainstormed was already in use somewhere.  So we finally decided to use our initials -- Peggy (our third partner's wife), Becky (me), Jeremy (my husband and business partner) and Daryl (that's the D in Discoveries and our third partner).  We thought that pb&j was easy to remember and kind of catchy, so it stuck.

What mistakes did you endure to figure out the right path?
While I'm not sure that running my own business is ultimately the right path for me, I'm certainly enjoying the view along the way.  Prior to SmartSeat Chair Protectors by pb&j Discoveries, I worked as a lawyer for several years.  I'm not sure that I would categorize becoming a lawyer as a "mistake", but I certainly did not enjoy the work as much as I enjoy running my own company.  The freedom and flexibility of being the boss can't be beat, particularly when you have kids.
In terms of my business, I think it's safe to say that the road to success is never smooth.  We're certainly hit some potholes along the way.  For example, we've had some issues with keeping up inventory.  Two of our most popular colors are custom and require several months to arrive.  On several occasions, we failed to anticipate how quickly sales would grow and found ourselves very close to sold out.  But we are getting better at predicting our needs and, luckily, nothing has completely derailed yet!

How involved is your family (husband and kids) in the business?
My husband is very involved, as he is also one of my business partners.  He helped to build our website.  He's also the one who closes the books at the end of every month.  While I love my husband, my kids are really my best employees.  They were my stain-testing team when we were looking for fabrics to use.  They had a blast smearing fabrics with lots of different difficult-to-remove food items.  They also help me with my daily runs to the post office!

Moments of brilliance?
I"m not sure that I've had any real moments of brillance, just the determination and follow through to take an idea from concept to fruition.  I know lots of people who have ideas for products, but they haven't taken the steps necessary to turn their ideas into reality.  I made that leap and am so happy that I did.

Advice to others that are considering an online business?SEO, SEO, SEO!  I think that it is key to get on the first page of the search engine results.  If no one can find your site, you can't sell your product.  We are constantly working on improving our search result rankings.  And making sure that your site is clean and direct.  No one wants to have to click around to find out what you are selling.

For those that are unfamiliar, could you explain SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization and it refers to the way that Google and other search engines rank your website.  Key words play a large role in SEO.  I do my best to make sure that our web content contains our key search terms (such as seat cover and waterproof seat cover).  But in-bound links are key.  Most of what I do during my work day is connect with other websites (either through reviews, business listings, interviews, etc) in an effort to get in-bound links to my site.

How do you balance mommyhood and online work?It's not easy, but I do my best.  I try to work while the boys are in school or at camp, or after they go to bed at night.  But in a customer-driven business, there are sometimes issues that require my attention when the kids are around.  I'm fortunate that most people rely on email communications.  You can't hear the kids screaming in the background in an email!

Are there any aspects of your business that aren’t covered here that you want to share?
We currently are working on our retail packaging.  I would love to see my product in retail stores at some point.

What else can you share with us?
Just a very big thank you for the opportunity to spread the word about my product.


Shannon Milholland said...

So excited to see your interview with a fellow Voiceboks member! Would love for you to interview me sometime about my involvement with www.southernwritersmagazine.com. Looking forward to connecting with you again on VoiceBoks!

Nekky said...

All these interviews are great inspirations. You are doing a good job. Visiting from vB.

Jenn said...

Wow... what a really neat site! Yours is the first blog I've seen that's doing regular interviews with businesswomen. What a great idea!

I'm stopping by from members to remember on voiceBoks! I love your idea... I will stop back again and see how your site is coming along!

Have a wonderful week!

Smiles, Jenn

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