Cary, North Carolina is a great place for families for a multitude of reasons: the weather, family activities, education opportunities, business economy. But Cary is also a great place for Moms who have the passion to own their own business. Why? Because of the amazing opportunities, resources and support system right here within easy reach. How do I know? Because I am a Cary Mom who started my own successful online family apparel boutique.
I sought out and took advantage of all the resources that our area has to offer. I am proud to say that Footsteps Clothing (FootstepsClothing dot com) is profitable after just the first year and currently tripling sales in our second year. We have exploded from just a few products to hundreds, creating our own designs and even trademarking our Love Your Family brand. Our customers are all over the United States and international, but we started right here in Cary.
If you are Mom here in Cary who is interested in starting their own business, I am thrilled to share with CaryMoms.com some tips on starting a business and the local resources (most of them free or reasonably priced) that we utilized in getting started and continue to use. While this article is geared towards moms owning online businesses, many of the concepts can be transferred to other types of businesses. These are real examples, real places and real people right here, willing and ready to help. You only need two things to get started: an idea and a passion. Everything else you can learn along the way.
Find someone who knows more than you do – When we started Footsteps Clothing, we had no experience in the retail clothing industry or online sales. We just had a glimmer of an idea. We were lucky (and smart) enough to find Jen Gault, another mom business owner in Cary, who did know the industry and had done it successfully already. Jen now owns her own consulting business at Pure-Ecommerce dot com and she helps other moms get started. She provided us with a plan to get going and at very reasonable rates. We still consult with her for a variety of issues that come up as our business grows!
Tap as many FREE resources that you can find – New business owners are a thrifty bunch – we have to be. Living in Cary, we have access to all sorts of resources – people and organizations existing for new business owners to utilize them. Here are some free business resources that we find invaluable. This is not a comprehensive list of all free resources in the area – these are the ones we used and can attest to. There are many others and I encourage you to seek out take advantage of any and every free resource in your industry:
Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) – Located in Raleigh, this office offers an extensive list of services, everything from researching your business idea to business planning and operations issues. Meet with a Business Counselor and discuss your business with them. This was a very first step.
SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business” – a nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide. You can apply for a personal mentor (no charge) who has extensive experience in your industry. We were assigned to a fantastic gentleman who advised us on everything from pricing our product to manufacturing our own designs. You can communicate with our mentor via email so its easy and can be accessed anytime.
WAHM Zone provides resources for home businesses, work from home jobs, with support, advice and resources for work-at-home moms. This is a great place to look through if you have a specific issue or question.
Trade and barter (instead of paying cash) for as many services as you can – This will help keep your cashflow flowing. If you know someone who has knowledge or skills that you need, try offering them something you can do in payment. You will be surprised how many people will respond to this. I am a writer and I trade writing services for many different needs that we have and can’t fulfill ourselves.
Use your own contacts, don’t be shy – One of great things I have found about living in Cary is the encouragement from others. When you discuss your business with others, they will want you to succeed, they will support you, they will give you ideas, they will root for you from the sidelines. Even casual acquaintances are usually genuinely supportive (and often admiring) of someone with the courage to start their own business. You have friends, neighbors, husbands, co-workers, playgroup contacts here in Cary who possess various skills to tap into. My business partner has an unbelievable social network and every time we have a certain need arise (everything from modeling our clothes to website design), she can uncover someone within her circle that can help us.
Learn what you can, pay for what you can’t – You can’t do and know everything, although I have tried! As a new business owner, you pretty much wear every hat in your business. But in reality, no one can do everything well. Know what you can do and do it. Learn what you need to know if you can and it makes sense to spend the time. When we started out we didn’t have any clue about SEO (we later discovered this acronym stood for search engine optimization). This was something I felt I could learn (with help and guidance). Type in ‘mother daughter clothing’ to the Google search engine – Footsteps Clothing is the #1 search result. This is a free search result, not a paid advertisement. You can learn more than you think. If it doesn’t make sense to invest in learning a skill, find someone who can fill that need for you: take on a partner in your business, pay for this service, ask your social circle for anyone who might have this expertise.
I like to think of Cary as having all the resources of a big city with the friendliness and support of a small town. If you are mom hoping to start your own business, you aren’t alone and we are rooting for you!