July 15, 2011

Introducing LEXIE LANE - creator of VoiceBoks!

Am I a SAHM?  -  Yes, I definitely am.  When I was single, I used to look down at mothers who stayed home and thought, "Wow, they must have it really good.  I'm never going to be that way.  I'm never going to depend on a man to take care of me."  Low and behold, everyone who said I would not feel that way once I had my own family, was right. 

Tell us about you (mini-bio!) - Ok, the fast, shortened version: I came to the U.S. to meet my biological parents when I was 6 years old.  At age 18, I fought as a teenager with my parents for the last time, and then waited until they left to go to the store so that I can pack my things into my car and drive away. 
I struggled to go to school and make rent, pay for my car, and live.  So I quit school.  I worked at a restaurant for 3 years, before I met someone who introduced me to someone else, who trained me to be his work slave.  What I mean by this is that I worked for free for about a year so that I can learn everything I possibly could about the mortgage and real estate business.  Actually, I take that back.  I made about $300 a month. 
A year later, I was hired by a Vietnamese lady who too advantage of me even worse than the first guy did.  I worked for $1200 a month, but was in the office at least 11 to 12 hours per day.  However, I made the most of it and learned even more tricks. 
At age 22, I married a man who cheated on me and was convicted of raping an unconscious woman. 
At age 24, I was divorced for the first time. However, I had a better job that paid me 4 times the amount I was getting paid by the Vietnamese lady.
At age 25, I got an even better job.  Then went back to school.
At age 26, I got an even better job, working for an investor who gave me a sweet corporate experience.  I had the opportunity to work at some of the best mortgage companies all over the U.S.  Every Sunday morning, I flew off to a different state, where I would audit a company's files until Friday (or whenever the due date was).  Friday evenings, I usually flew back home so that I could spend time with anyone who was in my life at all. 
At age 28, I met the now "love of my life" through an unbelievable (yes, it really was) love story.  And now I live happily ever after.
At age 31, I decided to stop work altogether in preparation for motherhood. 
Now at age 32, I sit home and ponder on all the things I could possibly do to help someone else.  So I continue with voiceBoks.

How did you find yourself getting started with your business/venture? - I started a blog about pregnancy as soon as I found out I was pregnant.  I wrote in it almost every day.  I thought I would help the world out by talking about pregnancy.  Little did I know that there are already millions of blogs out there with the same idea.
After I gave birth, I decided to do some jumping around on blogs and various other sites. After doing some major blog hopping, I started to notice patterns.  There were some very interesting sites and blogs and some that were filled with junk.  I also noticed the business with the "follow me and follow you" transactions. 
Of course I signed up for the big community sites, which I was initially very excited about.  These communities had thousands of followers with what seemed to be very friendly moms.  Little did I know that they weren't that friendly at all and they just really wanted me to support their site(s). 
That's when I decided, I was going to create a community where moms really connected and cared about each other's work and information.  After all, isn't it a much better feeling when you know that your work isn't just being thrown out there for people to see, but really don't care about?  I mean, when you write a post, do you wonder if the person who's read it actually care about it or are they just trying to gain another "follow" from you and not ever return once they do?  Well, voiceBoks is my attempt to create a community where moms can connect and really engage in activities that help drive traffic to their site(s) without the mess. 

Do you still keep up with your original blog? - I have not had any time to do so, but would really love some time because I quite miss it.  It was very therapeutic for me to write down my thoughts.  Actually, I think it helped me get through depression and post-partum. Now I just have to find time to squeeze that in with some exercise!

The name voiceBoks - where did it come from? - Well, to tell you honestly, I meant to start a different social network about 2 years ago.  It was going to be something that involved messaging through voice.  Didn't quite come to fruition. Since I already had the name and wanted something completely "out there," I thought, "why not?" It would stand out and people would definitely wonder what it is.

How did you go about seeking your information? - EXTREME blog hopping.                                

When you work on the website, is this all self taught or do you have someone that helps you with it? - I took Computer Science in college.  However, I still ended up in the mortgage industry.  After the crash, I decided to do something I really love, which is math, coding, computers, and websites.  I do like to try to solve everything myself.  However, sometimes I do run into issues that are out of my "scope of knowledge" and just can't afford to spend hours trying to figure something out that I know would take me ages to figure out.  So from time to time, I would either ask for help or hire someone to do little jobs here and there.

Do you have a mentor?  Would you consider mentoring someone who wanted to start a similar business? - no and yes

What mistakes did you endure to figure out the right path? - I was very trusting.  Little did I know that even through the mommy  world, there are a lot of shady and dishonest "parents" out there.

Moments of brilliance? - Progress and proven results through the site and through members' testimonies.
Advice to others that are considering an online business? - Yes, please make sure you download a copy of my online traffic manual once it comes out.

How do you balance mommyhood and online work? - It is VERY difficult.  As my now 7 month old baby grows, so does his needs.  I have no life, but am working as hard as I can now so that I can be there for him more when he is more aware of mommy's presence.  For now, I work when he's napping, occupied with something, and throughout the night when he's asleep.

Are there any aspects of your business that aren’t covered here that you want to share? - As I am in the process of letting out my secrets, I do not have anything extra to share at the moment.

You've made this amazing community for women (and a few men) to connect.  Is the website heading in the direction that you envisioned or are you brainstorming more every day of ways to add on? - This website is nowhere near completion.  Major changes are still in place.  Yes, it's definitely heading in the direction that I envisioned.  Actually, better than that.  I know the importance of traffic and wish to be able to help as many moms as I could by driving them to their site(s).  At the same time, I wish to be able to continue my relationship with all the wonderful women I've met through this site.  I truly am amazed at how blessed I am with all the new friendships.  I am from the bottom of my heart, so grateful to be a part of all of this.  My goal is to make this site big enough in the next year so that we can all meet in person.  Oh, I would love that so much!  A voiceBoks conference would be fantastic!  

A special THANK YOU to Lexie for taking the time to fill out the survey.  If you like what you've read here and you're not part of this special community, go check out http://www.voiceboks.com/.  You're going to like it there!

July 13, 2011

Interview with Kirsten Cisco of Kirstie's Bowtique!

What is your name?  Kirsten Cisco

What is your company name, website, FB page name, twitter name and anything else you use?Kirsties Bowtique - http://www.kirstiesbowtique.com/ ~ Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/Kirsties_life ~

Kirsties Bowtique Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kirsties-Bowtique/212110875471242

I also blog at The EMT Mommy - http://www.theemtmommy.com/

Are you a SAHM?  Tell us about you (mini-bio!)
I am not a full time SAHM! I work two day's a week as a Unit Secretary and I also volunteer as an EMT for my local ambulance corp. I have three children ages 17, 12 and 10. I live on Long Island and my hear belongs to my best friend who I meet on the ambulance. (He is a Paramedic ) I am in school to become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor. My hobby and small business is creating hair bows & other hair accessories.

How did you find yourself getting started with your business/venture?
A few years ago I started collecting ribbon. I had never ending bins of ribbon. I would use it for my youngest daughter's hair. Just the basic .. I would tie it to her pony tails or pig tails just like my mom did to my hair when I was young. Then I started buying these hair bows from the store and pull them apart to see how they were made. I then soon started trying to make my own. I also would look up how to make certain bows, learn the names and started buying more and more ribbon as well as other materials to make all sorts of different ribbon. People would comment on my youngest daughter's hair and would ask where I bought the bows. Then I decided he why not start to sell them... and from there this is how I started my own hair bow business.

How did you go about seeking your information?I would research a lot. Google is my best friend ! As well as Social networks. My Favorite would be Voiceboks.Com (and no she did not pay me to say it ..lol )

Do you have a mentor?  Would you consider mentoring someone who wanted to start a similar business?
Yes I do have one.. she is a new mentor but she is differently someone I plan to "lean" on to help me get through all this. As far as ME wanting to be one for someone, Not sure to be honest with you. Not that I do not want to help others.. I love helping though I am still trying my self to get my business off the ground and learn the ins and outs I would hate to lead someone else in the wrong direction.

What mistakes did you endure to figure out the right path?PLENTY! Trial and Error is the key! I look at my hair bows I made years ago or even 9 months ago, and I look at my styles now ..and they are so much different, some of them I would even turn to my self and say "What the heck is this?" .. lol

Moments of brilliance?
OH Moments of Brilliance .. when I take apart those cheap hair bows that I find at stores and then create my own with a unique twist to it !

Advice to others that are considering an online business?
Keep working hard at it, business do not happen over night,
I was also told once that most online business take a few years before they start making money!

How do you balance mommyhood and online work?
I try! It's not always easy but I do my best. My kids are older and kind of do their own thing most of the time. Though most of my online work is late at night when they are sleeping.

Are there any aspects of your business that aren’t covered here that you want to share?I am working on thinking "Out side the ribbon" ( name given by my mentor )

What else can you share with us? All my work is more or less custom made. I may not have every color in stock of hair accessories already made. Though if you contact me in regards to a certain design but different color's I would be more then happy to create it for you. Most my orders are custom made to the customers taste.

*Custom Hair Bows, Clips and other unique accessories
**Pet Bows Coming Soon **

Read about an EMT who is also a mommy of three .. her crazy life,
what she goes through and how she handles life in general!

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.

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