The Indie Experience
July 27, 2009
A Publication of The Indie Business Network
ISSN 1530-9630 | Volume 10, Issue 14
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1. Notes and Highlights From dM, the Chief Executive
2. Where's dM?: Seminars and Events With dM
3. Today's Indie Business Radio Show: Women, Career, Family, Success
4. Featured Indie Business Network Member: Alana Rivera :: Etta + Billie :: California
5. Indie and Small Business Resources
6. About dM, the Chief Executive Indie
I hope your week is off to a terrific start!! It's late July, which means school has been out for nearly two months. This partly explains why it's been about that long since my last newsletter. Thanks to all of you who sent me kind notes asking why the Indie Experience was MIA, and wondering if I was well. I assure you that, I'm fine and back in the newsletter saddle for you!
Last week, I introduced myself to a new service called Twitcam, an online interface that allows you to broadcast live video through Twitter. That's me and my assistant, Madeleine, in the photo, giving the service a whirl for the first time.
The overall experience was mixed but positive and I expect to use Twitcam for many things, including today's radio show. To learn more about Twitcam and how you can enjoy today's radio show live through Twitter, click here to read (and watch!) about my Twitcam experiences at my blog.
I am pleased to report that there are now over 3,000 Indies at the Indie Beauty social networking site, and let me tell you, this is no ordinary social networking site. There's no spam, no megaphones about how fabulous someone is and no pop up windows trying to lead you down some garden path. It's just genuine, authentic folks connecting just as if we were all having coffee together. Stop by and meet some like-minded people, check out our new Indie Beauty Boutique, get some leads for ingredients and product supplies and join one of our popular Groups where you'll find people who will inspire and encourage you along your Indie journey.
Featured photo: me and IBN member Kenya Calloway of Jai's Custom Natural Products at last week's Indie Business Revolution: Atlanta. Enjoy the whole photo album, and other fun photos, at the Indie Business Facebook Fan Page!
Indie Business Radio: My guest will be psychologist, author and Professor Diane Halpern on July 27 at 1:00pm EST. Click here for information.
Monthly Indie Beauty Business Roundup: 2:00pm (Indie Business Network members only. Click here for information.)
The Nan Ross Show: I will be a guest on July 30 at 8:00pm EST. Click here for information. Nan says when you click on the link, it will be directed to her show page. About 10 minutes before the show, a large green button saying "start call now" will appear. Once you click on the button, you will be entered into the chat room.
For a quick snapshot of all things Indie, visit the Indie Business Twitter stream at this link.
According to this week's guest, very few women make it to the top of their profession and among those who do, almost half have no children or other care giving responsibilities. Professor Diane Halpern (pictured), a past president of the American Psychological association, Professor of Psychology at Claremont KcKenna College and the co-author of Women At the Top: Powerful Leaders Tell Us How to Combine Work and Family, is my guest on the show today.
If you're like me, this is an important issue. Like many of you reading this, as a wife and mother, I look forward to learning from a pro on today's show. Professor Halpern is not about anecdotes or wishful thinking. She's done the research, interviewed successful career women and she knows what it takes to meet the challenges of work and family, without compromising either. Join me for some tips and discussion that could change the course of your career and your life!
Indie Business Radio airs live every Monday at 1:00pm EST. There are two ways to join the live show:
Listen Only: Click here at 1:00pm EST and follow the instructions to choose your audio player.
Listen and Video: Once you activate your audio player (above), you can join us live on Twitter by visiting my Twitter page at 1:00pm EST and follow the link to join the live broadcast and chat.
Visit the Indie Business Radio Show 2009 Archives to enjoy past shows. You can also subscribe to the show on iTunes by searching on Indie Business Radio.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Alana will be on vacation until August 4 but you can still order her products!
I met Alana Rivera of Etta + Billie for the first time in person a few months ago at the 2009 Conference of Handcrafted Soapmakers where I delivered a talk on how small business owners can use new technologies to expand their sphere of influence. Of course, I already knew her before that because we had connected at Indie Beauty's social networking site and also because Alana joined the Indie Business Network in January of this year.
Alana and I posted for this photo at the conference Renaissance Party sponsored by IBN member Essential Wholesale. She is every bit as warm and friendly as this picture shows, and she was gracious enough to take a few moments to tell me a little about her business. I know you will love Alana as much as I do!
dM: When did you start your business and what is the inspiration for it?
Alana: My love for bath and body products started at the tender age of 13 when my mom used to have to set limits on my allowance so I wouldn't bring home more products. Somehow with all that passion I never really considered creating products or owning a business until a few years ago. It all started when I was trying to find a new hobby for myself and my mom bought me a book on soap making.
My first batch of soap was a disaster. I ended up hand stirring it for about 4 hours never really knowing if I had come to trace yet, finally pouring it into the mold because I couldn't bear to stir it anymore. I didn't have high expectations for that batch but when I finally cut into the bars a few days later I discovered that my soap had turned out alright. I was pretty much hooked after that. My love for making soap naturally evolved into creating and learning about other personal care products. I discovered that many traditional and "natural" products contained a variety of synthetic chemicals some of which were irritating to the skin. At that point, I realized that I wanted to create products that were truly natural, beneficial to the skin and were eco-friendly.
business name I began working with was actually taken by someone else, which caused a lot of trouble for me in the long run.
(Business lesson: research names before you choose one!!) Even though I already
had a logo and branding that I loved I decided to change gears, coming up
with a new name, Etta + Billie (a tribute to my grandmothers), and a new
focus. I officially launched my business in the fall of 2008.
dM: How did your professional background help prepare you for launching your own venture?
Alana: I've had a variety of jobs over the last 10 years, ranging from customer service for a telemarketer (that one is up there with my least favorite jobs of all time), retail sales associate, legal assistant, event planner and a short stint in PR. While I don't feel like any job specifically prepared me to launch my business I know that each job has helped build a variety of skill sets and most importantly helped me realize that I wanted to run my own company.
dM: What are some of the things you did in advance of starting your business that have been helpful?
Alana: After the first business snafu, I made a point to educate myself by attending workshops, classes, joining trade organizations (like the Indie Beauty Network) and reading business books. For me, learning and research helped me feel more comfortable with starting my own business. Education is a great tool but there is nothing that really compares with learning through experience.
The next step for me was starting a business plan and focusing on branding. This was a very important part of the start-up phase for Etta + Billie. I hadn't bothered with a business plan or research in the prior incarnation of my business but I know that both could have saved me a lot of trouble. I was really intimidated by creating a business plan but once I started to work on it, I realized that it doesn't have to be complicated and it's an incredibly useful tool to keep your business focused. I am also a huge believer in the power of a good brand, so I did a lot of work with my best friend a graphic design/branding guru to make sure that I had a strong brand.
dM: What's your niche? What makes your products special?
Alana: My products are geared toward busy eco-conscious women who are looking for chic and easy natural products. I use certified organic ingredients and try to source local ingredients whenever possibly. I am extremely conscious about the environment and the environmental impact of the products I create. All my packaging is either recyclable or reusable. My goal is to make Etta + Billie carbon neutral by next year.
You can see my lovely granddaughter in this photo, posing in front of bunches of freshly harvested lavender.
dM: How do you market your products?
Alana: Currently, my marketing plan relies heavily on word of mouth and social media. I am in the process of reworking my plan and setting new goals for myself to get more exposure for my products. I haven't done any trade or craft shows yet, but plan on attending local shows in the future. My only e-commerce site it on etsy right now. I have considered opening an Artfire shop, but I am not convinced if it fits with my target market. I definitely plan on having my own website, which I am working on this summer.
dM: What is your most popular product and why do your customers tell you they like it?
Alana: Right now, my most popular product is my Lemongrass Poppyseed (pictured) and Lavender soaps. My customers love my products because they smell great and feel great. They also appreciate the eco-minded focus of my business.
dM: What's new and exciting with your business these days?
Alana: I'm really excited about launching more Etta + Billie products this summer. I will be adding scrubs, whipped butters, solid lotion bars and limited edition soaps to my current line of products.
dM: How do you use social media and networking in your business?
Alana: I use Twitter, Facebook and have a blog, but my favorite by far is Twitter. What's funny is I was never really into any of the social media sites until I went to one of dM's "The Media is You" presentations. This helps me realize that social media is an important business tool. I started a blog and got a Twitter account. Social media is a great way for people to see the human side of your business, which I think is extremely important for Indies.
I think more and more people want to buy products from someone they know. Social media gives you the ability to connect with a much larger portion of your target audience. I also think social media is a great resource for sharing and getting information. A few months ago, I was having major trouble adding a feature to my blog, I posted about it on Twitter and within minutes people were helping me and I was able to correct the issue. I have also noticed that most of the Web traffic to my etsy site is directly linked to either Facebook or Twitter.
dM: Who helps your business be successful?
Alana: My boyfriend Shain. From the beginning, he has been
extremely supportive of my desire to start my own business. He is my biggest
cheerleader but at the same time he is not afraid to tell me when something
isn't working. Shain is always willing to help me with anything I need,
whether its packing orders, being the head of IT, cooking dinner or just
giving me a hug when I really need one. He makes me laugh and pushes me into
action when I am getting stuck. I really couldn't have started my business
without his support.
I also would be stuck without my wonderful friend (the graphic designer) Molly. We have been friends for years and she has been supportive since the day I told her I wanted to start my own business. She has given me some very very good pep talks over the last few years and is great at giving me a swift kick in the pants when I need it. She is an incredible designer!
While my family is not directly involved in my business but, although that might change in the future. My parents kindly planted about 12 lavender plants for me this year so I can use homegrown herbs in my products. Eventually they want to start growing a bunch of herbs for me. And one day when i have kids i expect and hope that this business will become family run.
dM: What business book can you recommend to us?
Alana: I recently finished Pamela Slim's Escape from Cubicle Nation, which I think is a great resource for people who are just starting out (like me) or people who are feeling a bit stuck. She goes through all the steps of starting your business from discovering what you are good at and what you want to do, to research and marketing, to finally starting your business. She uses great anecdotes and real world examples that help you connect with the information. There are also some "reality check" chapters which I think are invaluable to someone who thinks that running your own business is easy. She packs a lot into the book, but it isn't dry or difficult to read because she is really funny which keeps you attentive. Many times while reading it I found myself chuckling to myself.
dM: What do you think are the best things about being Indie?
Alana: I love that I have the freedom to make choices for my business. I have so many ideas and things that I want to try and there is no one to tell me "no". There is also an amazing feeling you get when you are doing the work that you love, it gets to be a bit addictive.
dM: What has been your biggest business challenge and how did you overcome it?
Alana: Marketing and time management are my biggest challenges right now. Before I started my business I did some research and had a rough marketing plan but once I launched my products I realized that I really need to focus on this area of my business. Right now I am reassessing my marketing plan and researching ways to increase the effectiveness of my marketing efforts. My other big challenge is time management. Like many Indies I work a full time job while trying to run my business. Balancing my business, my day job and my life is a real challenge - I am trying to implement daily schedules and goals to help me work more efficiently.
dM: How did you discover the Indie Business Network and what do you think of it?
Alana: I discovered the Indie Business Network from a Google search a few years ago, while I was doing research on professional organizations. I just joined this year and I am so glad that I did. I love all the information and support that the receive from the Indie Beauty Network.
dM: What are you doing when you're not working in your business?
Alana: When I'm not working on my business I enjoy spending time with my friends and family. I am an avid cook who could easily waste a few hours watching the Food Network or paging through the images on tastespotting.com. I also love to read and bargain hunt for anything from clothes to housewares!!
How to connect with Alana:
Indie Beauty Social
Connect with me and other Indies wherever it's convenient for you:
Indie Beauty Social
Indie Business Blog
Indie Business Facebook Fan Page
Facebook (my personal page)
<-- That's me, speaking at Indie Business Revolution: Washington, DC, last month!
Donna Maria Coles Johnson, the Chief Executive Indie, helps small and independent business combine smart sales and marketing strategies with new media to create relationships and expand their sphere of influence. Through her blog and weekly radio show, dM delivers helpful and entertaining content that inspires, encourages and informs small business owners worldwide. Known for her innovative yet friendly style, dM's expertise has been showcased in Entrepreneur, Global Cosmetics Industry, Working Mother, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, National Public Radio, ABC World News This Morning, WUSA-TV9 (CBS Washington, DC affiliate), Ebony and a host of other regional and national media outlets.
Whether the topic is integrating career and family, leadership, small business ownership or new technologies, dM has a life-changing presentation for you and your audience. Contact dM today at donnamaria @ indiebeautynetwork.com to discover how she can contribute to your unforgettable conference or gathering event.
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See you next week! In the meantime,
Enjoy your life, build your business and have your way!
Editor, The Indie Experience
The Indie Beauty Social Network | www.indiebeauty.com
Copyright (c) 2000 - 2009 by The Indie Business Network (IBN) and Donna Maria. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized distribution or reproduction is prohibited. IBN does not necessarily endorse any product, event or ideology featured in this newsletter or on IBN's website. All information is provided on an "as is" basis and no express or implied warranties are given. Any use of the information contained in this newsletter or on IBN's web site, including recipes, is solely at your own risk. IBN and Donna Maria disclaim any liability in connection with the use of all recipes, products reviewed and other information. Except for sponsorships, this newsletter refuses compensation from companies to feature or mention their names or products. Opinions expressed in any Product Review are personally those of the reviewer and do not represent the views of IBN, Donna Maria (unless she is the reviewer) or any other person or company.