Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mompreneur "wannabe"

I received an email today from a sweet lady by the name of Kristina, who referred to herself as a "mompreneur wannabe". I chuckled to myself as I read her email, knowing that we all start at the "wannabe" stage at some point, but today, Kristina, I am giving you a new title..."mompreneur in-the-making"! I completely understand where she is coming from and her fun sense of humor, but I don't warmly recall the feeling of being a "wannabe" in the beginning. None of us really like being the freshman, especially coming into an industry that can be a bit old-school. I recall early on, getting unsolicited advice from "experts" in the industry, and darn it, if they weren't wrong on almost every piece of advice I decided to follow!! I specifically recall a Buyer reviewing my first sample line giving me all of her input on what people would buy, what they would "hate", and what would be my best sellers. The fabric that I was considering cancelling from the line, of course, she said would be the number #1. It become a joke in the "office" when that was the absolute worst selling fabric print from the first season! It was then that I vowed to followed my gut, to run this company using my best sense of right and my gut creativity.

This is much easier said than done, not only when you are the "freshman", but even three years in. People often told me that doing business this way won't work in this traditional world of apparel sales. DON'T LISTEN!! Do your research, be sure you have something to base your decisions on, then stick to what you know is right. Sometimes you'll succeed, sometimes you'll fall on your face, but you'll know that you followed your heart and weren't swayed by others.

Ok, so back to Kristina...she was asking what my suggestion would be to her. She is trying to get her children's clothing item off the ground, and is in the start-up phase. Her question, specifically, which comes first, the orders or the production? This is a very good question and one that has conflicting arguments for both sides. Obviously to a financial benefit, it is always great to have orders before you have the commitment of cash out of your pocket. On the other hand, I can't imagine having gone to Vegas when I launched RuffleButts without a production currently in place to fill the orders that were coming in. I'm honestly not sure how most companies do it, but from what I understand, many companies take orders for the season coming prior to placing their production orders. We don't do it this way. We almost always have stock for our customers and ship immediately, unless of course something is a huge seller and we sell out faster than we can produce. This is a risky situation for a company, but for us, it works.

I don't want to tell you to take the leap, but being completely transparent, that is exactly what I did. Kristina wrote in her email, "I'm wondering if this is risky, getting orders when I don't have product in stock, but to order all the product will probably cost around $*****, and what if nobody buys/likes it?" For me, this is exactly what I did. I dug deep, did a ton of research, a lot of prayer, got a lot of feedback from friends and family, and placed my first production order without a single customer order. Talk about some serious motivation...your family savings in little ruffled form, I knew that I had no choice but to sell it, to make it work. For me, this option paid off.

Kristina also wrote, "Any suggestions you have about starting your own business, I would greatly appreciate. It is very hard to get people to help you, everyones trying to protect their "sources"." Yes, in the beginning I found this super frustrating, but now three years in, I somewhat understand why. In this business, you must stay ahead. People will copy your products, even your business, as soon as they see that it is leading to success. Not everybody works in the most ethical of manners, so those of us that have paid the dues, cried the tears, put in the time, are hesitant to share our sources. With that said, it has always been important to me, from day one, to pay it forward and share as much as I possibly can...hence this blog!

I don't have the big answer, but I will tell you that in the beginning, you have a very life-changing decision to make. You can start small, making a few pieces here and there, trying to get orders to sell them...consider this the "mompreneur in-the-making". The other option, go for it, dive in, commit everything, and start out day one as an official "mompreneur". Don't worry, with this roller coaster of a ride, you will certainly earn the title! I don't think one is better than the other. It purely depends on what you are setting out to accomplish.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful

Wow, where to begin! Blogs are kind of funny in the fact that they are just slightly like a reality show...as a reader, you almost feel as if you know the person. You have watched them through the ups and downs, successes and failures, wins and losses. The RuffleBlog has been a bit like this for me. I often just write away, thinking to myself that no one really reads these rambles, but on occasion I realize that I tell you guys more than I tell my closest friends...somehow it is just easier to type away.

So, for the most part you already know how thankful I am, not just in the simple sense, but truly grateful for the life God has given me. I am human, so yes, sometimes I forget to treasure each and every moment, but it is days like today, when I am surrounded by family, that I get to take it all in. Here are just a few on my list:

1) My family - since Mark and I work together and spend, literally, almost 24 hours a day in the same space, I guess you could say that our relationship is a bit out of the ordinary. As you can imagine with that scenario, sure there are moments I want to send him some place far away for the day, or even the week, but for the most part, I can't believe how lucky I am that we found each other. We had a crazy start (long story), but to have found someone who supports by stubbornness and entrepreneurial workaholic mind, that was one in a million! The fact that we get to share our journey, in life, with family, and in business, is such an enormous blessing. On top of that, we have family and friends that fill our life full of love. And of course Aubrey...I honestly did not know that you could feel this way about another human being. She is the light of my life and just a little miracle.

2) RuffleButts - I could go on and on here. First, I feel so blessed that God gave me my "this way" sign so early in life. I feel so incredibly blessed to do what I do, every single day. I love my job, my work-family, my customers, I just love RuffleButts! I know that I am in my right place, and that is such an incredible feeling of peace. I am grateful that RuffleButts has found enough success to spread the joy to others. I am grateful that God has given me the strength to endure the craziness that comes with starting and running a business. And I am so grateful for the support that we have received along the way. Our customers are beyond awesome!

3) Health - I do not take this for granted. As Layla Grace is still in our prayers every day, I am eternally grateful for the health of me and my family. I know this is a gift, and I do not forget this.

I hope you all had a fabulously special Thanksgiving day!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bum day

Have you ever noticed as women, that we aren't allowed to have a bum day. This is not that others don't allow it, but we are too hard on ourselves to actually admit a plain old yucky day. Rough morning, husband pushing your buttons, kids making you crazy?? Yes, but we put on a happy face and answer with "I'm doing great!". Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying we should all pout around when things get tough, but I do think we should be allowed to wallow in a bum day every now and then. Well, today is my day! My life is good, I love my job, but today is just my day. I kinda want to curl up and watch recorded Oprah all day. I want to get in my car and drive back to Kentucky (my home state), and have my mom be a momma for the day. I want warm soup, a pedicure, and to lay on the couch. Oh, I know, I sound so spoiled...don't read me wrong here, I'm not actually doing any of those things, but a girl can dream, right?!

So, today, if it is your day or not, I am here to tell you that we are not perfect, and today, I am not pretending to be. I'm not the CEO mom who has it all together. I'm not wonder woman, the strong leader, the super mom, the creative designer...I'm just a regular gal, a little worn down, having a little bit of a bum day.

I will tell you this though...I know how lucky I am, when I am feeling just a little down, all I have to do it go to our RuffleButts facebook page. We have the BEST customers in the world and they bring me so much joy!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Manufacturing challenges

Have you ever noticed in life, how when one door closes (and feels like it is slamming you shut on the outside), that somehow one almost always opens? Now, three plus years in dealing with issue after issue in manufacturing, I am just now starting to get a handle on things. No, this is not the first time I have said this, and I am definitely still not completely there, but it has truly taken me this long to START to get a handle on things. Manufacturing is by far the most challenging aspect of running this business. It affects everything. And, it is the one factor that I can't directly do myself. If we have issues in the office or someone else let's me down, often I will just work longer and harder to get the job done. Manufacturing is different because it is MUCH too much for me to do. We need long-term partners that I can count on. Seems simple, right? Somehow, so many of them have let me down in so many ways.

Yesterday, I was about at my end. I found out that yet another item from our fall line has issues. Yes, I will admit that my standards are high, but my customers deserve this. So, we are facing yet another delay on one of our items. At least our factory understands my standards and is willing to remake garments that do not meet them, but all of this takes more time. I don't have any more time to give!!! Why, oh why, can't a factory just deliver our products on time??

Then, today I realized that yet again, I left my faith somewhere in the dust. Amber get yourself together! Remember, sometimes God's plan is not easy...if we didn't face challenges with one manufacturer, we may not have ever found the right manufacturer. I am a very forgiving and sometimes an easily taken advantage of kind of person. I want to give everyone a 2nd, 3rd and sometimes 4th chance. This is a BIG mistake in business, especially in manufacturing. If they do it more than once, they will do it again. Don't get me wrong, I think everyone deserves a 2nd chance, but that's it. Habits are habits and evidence to me that things will only get worse down the road.

So, today was a nice reminder that often when one door closes, there is another just waiting to be opened. Sometimes change is part of the journey, part of progress. And, delays are disappointing, mostly because I always hate to let down our customers, but sometimes they are needed as part of that progress.

I'm learning and growing, also part of the journey. It never stops.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Getting into stores

In response to this blog, I receive numerous emails from other entrepreneurs looking for input and/or guidance regarding specific situations. I would say that manufacturing seems to be the biggest challenge across the board, but once you finally have something made, the next most popular question is how to get it into stores. Yes, this is the million dollar question! Over the past few years our company has grown organically, but I have often thought, it sure would be nice if all of the stores that are just now learning about us had heard of our brand even just a year earlier! They often feel the same way, once they find that our products are typically a pretty consistent seller for them. So, how do you get your products into stores?

1. Word of mouth
Yes, the is obviously the easiest and least time-consuming, but is the non-aggresive approach of letting stores learn about your products through other avenues. I always love to hear that a store is applying to carry our products after numerous customers have requested that they carry our brand! This obviously shows us that we are on the right track, but it also shows me that we have not done a great job of letting these stores know that we exist.

2. Advertising
This is obviously the most expensive form of spreading the word. The great thing is that it most often pays for itself in the long-run, but in the start-up phase, we all know that cash is not always the easiest thing to come by.

3. Editorial
This is definitely my recommendation for those of you in the beginning phases. Truly it is wonderful at any stage, but the great thing about editorial is that it doesn't cost a thing. Okay, maybe a sample or two, but that is certainly well worth it! Editorial was a large factor in our initial growth. We were very fortunate to receive buzz from some fabulous publications that really helped to earn us credibility as we were gaining momentum. My advice here...you don't get what you don't ask for you. Get out there, you have nothing to lose!

4. Selling directly to stores
This can be a bit discouraging at first, but if you have proof and therefore confidence that your products will sell, that will relay to your wholesale customers. Don't waste their time, know who they are and why your products are a good fit. Also know that you will receive more "I don't have time" than "sure, let's take a look at that", but for every "sure" your brand is building and the ratio works itself out as stores realize that there really is something in it for them. Put yourself in their shoes...there are truly a ton of great products out there, but there are also quite a few that aren't so great. They need to know that this is going to help their business.

When selling to stores, what do you need (this was a question that I just received this week, specifically inquiring about the items below)? Hope this is helpful Kristi!
1. Brochures / line sheets
We started out with basic line sheets, but have found them to be a bit old school in some ways. Obviously they are neccessary, but my advice is to keep them simple. Let stores know what you are offering and at what price. We now use a simple brochure for our basic products to convey the line in general and then we assist them in selecting the items best for their store.
2. Swatches / samples
If you are meeting with a store in-person, they will likely want to see some samples and swatches. They are just like any shopper, and if possible, would like to see what they are purchasing. I wouldn't advise taking in your entire apparel line on the first appointment, but be prepared to give them a good feel for your product. This is also where websites can be super helpful. If you have great lifestyle pictures on your website, this can often eliminate the need for samples, saving everyone the hassle.
3. Sales order form
Yes, once they give you their order, you will need to write it on something (unless you have an online ordering system). Honestly, I ordered a ton of carbon copies of a RuffleButts order form when we first started, and I still have them sitting in our office today. We RARELY use these since most of our ordering is through our website, but you better have something that looks professional to take orders in the beginning. Here is a link to a sale order that I found online. It is pretty basic, but a good guideline for getting started.

So, this is all just my personal opinion, but I hope it helps =)

Monday, September 27, 2010

My little RuffleButt


It is not often I talk about my little RuffleButt here on the RuffleBlog, but today, I had a little revelation. I started RuffleButts with the intention of doing a handful of things, one of which was making people smile. Seems simple, and almost a little corny, right? Well, after living the fast-paced life of million dollar real estate in Dallas, I was ready to sell to moms instead of millionaires. Ok, maybe a few millionaire moms included, but to people who just wanted to dote on their baby girls and enjoy life. It is so fun to see people repeat our brand name, or just to see their reactions to our little ruffles...9.9 times out of 10 it is a big grin, a HUGE reward for what I do every day.

I started RuffleButts before I was a mom myself. I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but God decided his plan was a little later than I had anticipated. I put everything I had into this business and it really became my baby pre-baby. It gave me such joy, such reward, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

Then came my Aubrey! I had no idea what these little people do to your life. So, this morning as Aubrey and I stood in the kitchen ready to head out the door to school, I looked at her and that great big grin and realized that I now get to do two things that are all about the smiles...share RuffleButts and be a mom. Life doesn't get much better!

Ok, I'm certainly not pretending that I don't struggle like every other woman in this world...that I wasn't in a battle of the wills with my toddler just last night. Yes, she is a strong-willed little lady, and absolutely HATES brushing her teeth! Yes, I am like every other mom, but it is smiles like these that remind me how blessed I truly am!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Acorn

I came across a quote by Ralph Emerson. "The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn". How true is this?

I often think back to that moment when I made the decision to go after my dream. To put everything I had into this business...our savings, my pride, every ounce of my time, and my heart. It was all or nothing. I stood there on the cliff, of course super nervous about that step that was in front of me. I prayed about it, thought about it, and knew that I would never forgive myself if I didn't at least try. But what about failure? I was a business school graduate, and if I learned anything about entrepreneurship, it was that most businesses fail. What I also learned, that most successful entrepreneurs had failed at least once in their lives before they hit the jackpot. Ok, if I fail, I suck it up, learn from it, and move on. So much easier said than done! If I don't fail, well, my life would change forever!!

I have always been a little stubborn...well at least that's what my husband tells me =) So, I could take that stubbornness and turn it into something useful! I was new, naive, and completely in over my head. Bring it on!

That's easy for me to say today, right? Well, I am writing this for you. If you are at that step. If you have thought about your idea for years now. If you know what it is that you want in your life, but are afraid to fail, I am here to give you that little nudge. It doesn't matter if is a business idea or a personal dream. Want to write a book? Or make a life change? See, I've learned over recent years that life goes by really, really fast. But the cool thing about that, when you are steering the ship, it's an awesome ride!! And it's never too late!

Last week, I wrote about an Oprah episode that helped me to find my path. Ever since I started this company, I wanted to find a way to help other women in the way that Oprah and Sara inspired me. I obviously don't have quite the reach of Oprah =) but, this is my attempt at paying that forward. If I could give this gift that I have found to just one of you out there, that would be my true success. I'm not telling you to follow me, or even Sara, but follow your own dream, your own heart. You may feel like a little acorn out here with little impact, but Emerson was right, just one little acorn can create an entire forest.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Spanx for the inspiration

This post was inspired by a phone call I received this morning. I believe there are small moments in your life that truly change everything. Often we are unaware of their impact until months later, sometimes even years later, but they are moments that are ingrained in us forever. Over the years, I have shared many of my moments with you, specifically my "light-bulb moment" in the parking lot. Well, one moment that I don't think I have shared was a simple episode of Oprah. Quite honestly, I can't remember if they were one combined episode or if it was two separate episodes that aired very close together.

I remember vividly the passion in her voice, the excitement that consumed her, the fulfillment that seemed to radiate as she sat there with Oprah sharing her story. I knew that would be me someday. Ok, I REALLY, REALLY hoped that would be me one day! Her name is Sara Blakely, her big idea...SPANX! She went on to tell her story of flying all the way to Dallas to convince Neiman Marcus to sell her products. There was that fire that I longed for. She was young, ambitious and not too terribly different from me. I could do that, I could be that excited...please God, give me my idea!!

Then, it happened again. It was another episode of Oprah, Million Dollar Moms. Well, I was not a mom at that time, but again these women had done it. It was the story of Sherri Schmelzer that stood out to me this time. She had taken a simple idea and made millions. She worked hard, had found her niche and found financial success for her family. What made these women so different from me?? I could do this, I just knew it!!

Literally, it wasn't maybe 2 weeks later that my "light-bulb" moment occurred in that parking lot. Was this God's big flashing arrow sign for me? This way Amber, do it...go for it! It was in March of 2007 that I formed RuffleButts, Inc. Over the years, those moments have come and gone in my memory as I have trudged my own journey, but the phone call this morning reminded me how truly important those moments have turned out to be. I started this blog in hopes of inspiring other women to pursue their dreams, but I realized today that I owe a very large thank you to all three of these women, Sara, Sherri, and of course Oprah. All three of them had a hand in my destiny, little me, just a twenty-something at the time, searching for my own journey. You never really know who you are going to touch, who is begging, praying for their own light-bulb moment. I hope that someday I am able to pay that forward!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Trade shows and events

I am often emailed with specific business questions, and although I would love to answer them all, I sometimes fall a little behind. In attempt to help anyone and everyone finding this type of info helpful, I am going to try to give you my 2 cents here:

For national trade shows...
I am truly not the expert on this one. The only trade show that I have personally attended was KIDShow Las Vegas when I first launched the company in 2007. Ever since, I have been torn on the decision to attend these events. The cost is extremely high when factoring in travel and all of the additional costs on top of the booth. Although, with that said, it is all about ROI. If you write enough sales to cover your cost, it is a no-brainer, especially with re-orders down the road. If you don't write enough sales to cover the cost, is the exposure worth it? The trouble is you never know how much you're gonna write until the money has been spent and the show is over.

Another interesting piece of this puzzle for us is that we have been extremely blessed by the fact that 95% of our wholesale customers have come to us. In the past 3 years, we really haven't participated in trade shows or trade advertising. Fortunately, we have incredibly supportive fans who often recommend our products to their favorite stores. We also have two super sweet sales reps at their local markets who have introduced their clients to our brand. As our business grows, we continue to expand and explore other opportunities, but so far this is where we stand with trade shows.

Here is a list of the children's trade shows that I seem to hear about most often over the years (just in case it is helpful):
KIDShow Las Vegas
ABC Kids Expo
Bubble New York
ENK Childrens Club

Other events (specifically the Boom Boom Room):
Ok, I get this question often, and I totally understand why, but it is a tough one to answer. Here's why...I truly believe that most events are what you make of them and 90% of the time, they are a lot of expense for an ROI that rarely justifies it. For me personally, I am glad that we did the Boom Boom Room and am grateful that Jayneoni extended the invite. With that said, I feel like, over the years, it seems as though almost all children's product companies have received the same invite, and the reviews are quite mixed. For me, it is all about expectations. If you expect to walk into some event, to be surrounded by glamorous celebrities and for your line to become a Hollywood hit overnight, then this is not the place for you. If you are going into this as a possible press opportunity and fun experience, then I think it could be worth the cost. For me, I'm glad we went when we did, but don't have plans to return in the near future.

I find that so much in this business is hit or miss, trial and error. You truly have to find what works for you. I would say that most of our business friends do participate in these trade shows and some attend the Boom Boom event year after year. I find that I often stray from the norm in the business and do what works for us. With that said, this may not necessarily be what works for you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On your journey

It is crazy to think that I am more than three years along my RuffleButts journey! It seems like yesterday that I sat in our little South Florida condo searching endlessly for information on apparal, manufacturers, marketing, entrepreneurship. I knew my life was about to change, but I really had no idea to what extent. To be honest, I was a bit lost, and completely overwhelmed. It is now three years later that I realize that the journey never really ends, it just changes paths.

I often think back to those early days, as I questioned my abilities, my ideas, my strength. Now, three years later, I now know I am tough as nails, and some ideas are good, others could be better. I've learned that I am not perfect, but I have a big heart and can do more than I ever imagined possible. I've learned that I have failed many times in this process and am sure to do it again and again, but I will get back up and still move forward with every bit the determination, morals and optimism. I often try not to get jaded by the industry. This truly is not saying anything negative about the children's apparel industry, as I often felt the same way about real estate. Once you are in a certain industry for a while, it's becomes easy to stay in the box, to watch what others are doing. In the beginning, I was so naive, I didn't have a clue what others were doing. I didn't know about trends, or trade shows, or safe designs. I just made what I liked, at a quality level I was proud of, and sold to anyone who appreciated my creations. I try to keep that mindset, to do things differently, to keep the fundamentals important...our team, our ethics, our big dreams, and the box with no walls.

If you are in the beginning stages of anything, or even 3 years on your own journey, don't forget that you are not alone. We all faces times of challenge, of feeling totally in over our heads. Don't get stuck looking at everyone else.

It has been recently that we have had numerous companies copy our designs. And when I say copy our designs, I don't mean similar colors, or similar bloomers, I mean literally copying the designs. At first, I had my panties in wad, less about them copying, but more about taking with no regard, what I have devoted endless hours to creating. It was then I realized that these companies are truly at a loss. If they are spending their time watching what we are doing, they will never be ahead, always tailing behind. This is big picture here, I'm not just talking about in designs, I mean in life. If you are comparing your mothering abilities to your neighbor, your style to your best friend, your financials to your sister-in-law...you will never be good enough, for yourself. If you copying other companies instead of following your own dream, you will never truly succeed, and you certainly can't ever be proud. I, as well as most in the industry, take inspiration from many places, some being other designs that we've seen along the way, but that is a whole different story. Regardless, I received a piece of advise from a pilot recently that is quite applicable...he told me that all good pilots focus on the end of the runway. They can't be bothered by any distractions along the way or it could cause them to make major mistakes.

So, where ever you are along your journey, heed his advice...focus in the distance, on your destination and you will stay on track. Don't let yourself feel smaller than others, as I guarantee they were at this point at one time as well. Always hold yourself (and your business if you are an entrepreneur) to high standards and don't waiver on the things that are truly important, no matter what the cost. We have a quote on the wall of our office here at RuffleButts:

"Thing BIG, be honorable, and always give more than expected"

Friday, July 9, 2010

Triple the blessings

Last week, a picture was passed around our office due to the pure joy that it evoked. One of our super sweet customers posted the picture on our facebook page to share her precious little angels. When I laid eyes on this picture, I couldn't contain the huge smile that immediately came to my face! Not only was it truly to so fun to see our creations contributing to this most precious picture, but it was also a reminder of God's most incredible creations, babies.

It was not until today, that I realized the much deeper story behind this picture. You know, we all get so caught up in our own lives, and especially on facebook, things can be so removed. It was a reminder to me that everyone has a journey, and most often others are so unaware. Okay, so back to the story...after seeing the picture, I just knew I had to share this joy with others. I contacted Tami, the mom, and she put me in touch with Jamie, the photographer. Today, Jamie and I got the chance to chat, and wow, what a fabulous photographer - not just in talent, but also in heart. Jamie went on to tell me how this picture truly came about...and I warn you, get out the tissues!

So, Jamie was running a contest for a free session at Jamie Burnett Photography. Not only was she touched by the incredible contest entry sent to her by Tami, but also the multiple entries from Tami's friends and family willing to give away their winning session to Tami. After reading her story, this mom is beyond well deserving, not only of a free photography session, but also of this INCREDIBLE blessing that God has given her and her family, times THREE!!

Take a minute to read Tami's story below, and then give your children a very big hug!

We had twins in June of 2008, a boy and a girl Audrey and Avery. A couple of hours later, the nurse rushed in and said, “we need to get Momma in the NICU right away.” I was nervous and felt like I couldn’t get there fast enough.When they rolled me into the NICU the doctor proceeded to tell me that their hearts both stopped at the same time. She went on to say things, but I just didn’t understand what she was saying. I looked at Adam and he said, “Our baby girl is gone.” I was in complete shock. After much persuasion, the nurse convinced me to hold her, I didn’t want to hold her out of fear, I didn’t want to face reality. I still wanted her hooked up to those machines, because that meant she was still alive. But they unhooked her and wrapped her up in a blanket and put her in my arms. It was so hard. My body was going into physical shock (septic shock) due to the massive amount of blood lost during surgery, and my heart, and mind were in shock and not able to comprehend the magnitude of loss I just experienced. We sat there, crying, and staring at her. She was so beautiful and perfect, I couldn’t understand how she couldn’t be alive. My wheelchair was parked in the middle of my twins, and to my right was our sweet boy, Avery. As we looked into Audrey’s face, heartbroken, we would look up and see Avery’s tiny body, fighting for life. They worked on him for another hour and half. The doctor explained that there wasn’t anything left for them to do and asked what we wanted them to do. I looked at her and said that I know what she was saying, but I couldn’t tell her to stop trying. How can you tell someone to stop trying to do everything they can to save your child? Just minutes later, he was gone. We never thought about taking pictures of them, we weren’t ready or had planned to have them on that day and so we didn’t have a camera with us.

I never knew leaving would be so difficult. There were no babies in my arms and no carseats to fill. We had their funeral the day after our 8th anniversary and then we were faced with a new life and learned how strong we were and how good God is. God has been our rock. Adam is such a strong man of God and really helped me get through it. We never gave up hope. In fact, we didn’t have a middle name for Audrey and during the time I was in my room after they were born, I starting thinking about her middle name. Immediately, I felt like I heard the name Hope being spoken. It was so clear that this was to be her middle name, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of that before! But little did we know that “Hope” would be what would bring us through the most difficult time of our lives, and keep us living. If it weren’t for hope we wouldn’t have had the strength to keep trying. We tried IVF again in Jan 09 and June 09 with no success. We tried again in October and are finally pleased to be pregnant…with triplets and we are due on our 10th anniversary!!

Because we didn’t have the opportunity to take professional pictures with Audrey and Avery, it is even more important and on the forefront of our minds with the delivery of our triplets. We want to make sure that we capture their first few weeks here with us with special portraits and capture their smallest of features. We can’t go back and get close up shots of our twins tiny feet or hands, but we can with our triplets and don’t want to miss this opportunity to celebrate their lives through photographs.


Not only was I inspired by Tami's strength, but I was also blown away by Jamie's generosity. Not only did Jamie give Tami this free photography session, but she hauled her kids and all, more than 11 hours to photograph these precious little baby girls. My philosophy in life is when you put good out there, and have faith, it comes back ten fold. This is evidenced time and again, but Tami and Jamie, you are both an inspiration to us all, and I am truly grateful for that.

I hope you all enjoy this photograph as much as I do!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Celebrations

So today was a big celebration in the Schaub household...it was the first pee pee in the potty for Aubrey! It was a funny mommy moment for me this morning, as I was getting Aubrey up, she asked to go potty. This was not a first for us, but it was definitely a first when I place her on the potty and tah-dah, she actually did something! I sat there cheering on my daughter for her big accomplishment, and I was chuckling to myself. My, how life changes!

It is so incredible how children bring this overwhelming smile to life. How this little tinkle in a big ceramic bowl brought me so much joy! I know, sounds corny, even to me, but it is so true. It is an amazing journey to watch as Aubrey is speaking her first sentences, understanding actions and reactions. And now to watch her growing up and learning the fundamentals of life, it is beyond joyous.

And, then I had a moment of realization...why don't we do this for ourselves? Why don't we stop to celebrate our little accomplishments? Why do we do it for our children and not ourselves? With RuffleButts, Mark and I often joke that we are so busy with the next thing on our list, that we rarely stop to celebrate the victories. Although we laugh about this, it is not a good habit. This month, I have decided, we are stopping to celebrate. I have booked a small vacation for Mark and me. I tend to have my best business ideas, when my mind is fresh and not busy with a "to-do" list. This and it is our 6-year wedding anniversary, so we are stopping to celebrate. We are also going to have a little celebration in the office. We have the most awesome team here at RuffleButts. They work so hard day in and day out to take care of our customers, so this month, we are stopping to celebrate them. I may not do the potty cheer, but I don't ever want to be too busy for the smiles and cheers of little celebrations!

Today, whatever it may be, don't forgot to cheer yourself on. You work hard, you sometimes may feel overwhelmed, you may not be perfect, but don't forget the little celebrations along the way!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

BabyBanz, RuffleButts & Bobux GIVEAWAY!


FUN IN THE SUN FROM HEAD TO TOE WITH BABY BANZ, RUFFLEBUTTS & BOBUX!

UPDATE (6/15/10): The giveaway has ended and we're thrilled to announce Jenn D. from Alberta, Canada (post #319) as the winner! She's been in touch with us, can't believe she won, and will be receiving her items shortly. Thanks much to all who participated!! Image of Random.Org drawing


Are you ready for this?? Three of your favorite brands are teaming up for the ultimate giveaway, an adorable outfit from head to toe! One winner will receive all of these fabulous goodies, valued at over $150:

- A White RuffleButts Ruffled Swing Top & coordinating Heart Ruffles RuffleButt Bloomer in the size of your choice ($50 value)
- Baby Banz sunglasses in the size and color of your choice, with a cool protective case ($27.50 value)
- A super cute Baby Banz sun hat and they're even throwing in some sunscreen to keep your little one extra safe ($27.50 value)
- And to top off the outfit, a pair of Bobux shoes in the style and size of your choice! (up to $48 value)

As parents, we are always trying to protect our children, while also keeping them cute and comfortable. Baby Banz is the perfect solution for just this! As studies reveal the damaging effects of UV damage, we must not overlook the need to preserve children’s sensitive skin and eyes. Get your child a pair of sunglasses from the industry’s leader in all aspects of sun protection for children 10 and under. Famous for their unique, wraparound sunglasses with the neoprene band, Baby Banz assure a comfortable, snug fit for those delicate noggins, leaving out the dangers of having sunglass arms snapping off or poking someone in the eye. Check out the entire line of sunglasses, sun hats, UV Swimwear, UV swim goggles, and new earmuffs at www.BabyBanz.com!

Recently spotted on American Idol and the Ellen DeGeneres Show, RuffleButts have created the must-have outfit for any trendy tot! It just doesn't get any cuter than little ruffles across your angel's rump, and with stylish Swing Tops and Precious Dresses to match, this is perfect outfit for any fun day in the sun. Available in the rainbow of fun and frilly colors, RuffleButt Baby Bloomers are the original ruffled diaper cover. With everything in the line priced under $40, they are both adorable and affordable! Founded by mom Amber Schaub, the brand is designed to spread ruffles and share smiles, while also donating a portion of profits to charitable organizations focused on children. Check out the entire line by visiting the website at www.RuffleButts.com!

Now that you have the adorable outfit, you must have the perfect shoes to finish it off. With more than 100 styles to choose from, we know just were to go, www.BobuxUSA.com! Bobux shoes are the original soft-soled leather shoes that stay on with the elastic ankle system, first introduced to the world by Bobux in 1991. I-walk shoes are the newest addition to the Bobux footwear family, and like Bobux, they are made of the highest quality natural premium leather, allowing babies feet to breathe. They feature flexible rubber soles, padded insoles, and leather lining and are sure to be a favorite in your little one's collection!




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How to enter:

All that's needed to enter is to complete one or more of the following activities. For each item completed, leave a separate comment on this post.


Take a look around BabyBanz.com, RuffleButts.com and BobuxUSA.com and tell us your favorite product both style and color! (1 entry for each site)

Blog about the giveaway, linking to Baby Banz, RuffleButts and BobuxUSA. Then come back and leave a comment letting us know that you did. You must leave the direct link to your post! (3 additional entries)

"Like" Baby Banz on FaceBook ! (1 entry)

"Like" RuffleButts on Facebook! (1 entry)

"Like" Bobux International on Facebook! (1 entry)

Subscribe to the Baby Banz Email List (1 entry)

Subscribe to the RuffleButts Mailing List (1 entry)

Make a purchase between June 7th and June 14th from Baby Banz, RuffleButts or Bobux (5 entries)

Please note to get all of your entries counted, for each thing that you do you MUST leave a separate comment for each entry! Example, if you do something that gives you 3 entries you must leave three comments to get those 3 entries. If you do not leave separate comments per entry then your comment will be counted as one entry. We do check every entry to make sure that you did what the entry required. Your entry can and will be deleted if you do not follow the entry rules listed above.

Contest open to US and Canada residents only. Must be 18 years of age to enter. Contest ends 6/14/10 at 11:59 EST. Winners will be chosen by Random.org at the end of the contest and notified via email as well as posted on this blog. Please make sure that your email address is obtainable by RuffleButts Inc. Winner has 48 hours to claim their prize before RuffleButts Inc chooses another winner. Family members of Baby Banz Inc, RuffleButts Inc. and Bobux International are ineligible to enter in any of our contests.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to get business funding

One other email I received recently was from Jennifer, the owner of a successful bow company. Not only was she super sweet, she was in a position very familiar to many business owners. She has developed her business over the past 4 years, and it is growing at a rapid pace. She is a one-woman operation, and at the point where she needs to make some decisions...does she continue as is, or does she invest in the business and take it to another level. She needs the profits out of her business to support her family, so doesn't know were to get the funding to do so.

I'm sure most business owners can relate here. It is so tough to run your business with one eye on today and the other eye on 1 year from now, but that is really what is required of us. Is it the best business decision to sacrifice today to triple business in 12 months? Sounds like an easy decision, but as we all know, it really is not. There are a questions that I would have for Jennifer:

1) Where are the #s? Have you sat down to figure out what it would cost you to hire help per week? How much would you have to increase your sales to cover this cost? For me personally, this was a very tough decision when I finally gave in and hired our first employee. I wanted to do everything myself to save on the expenses, until one day I realized that me doing everything was actually costing us loss business. Now, as we have added to our team, it has become much easier for me. Do they pay for themselves in the long run? If this answer is yes, then the decision will be much easier.

2) What is your end goal? Do you want to grow the business and continue working it yourself? Jennifer mentioned in her email to me a dream of opening her own shop. If this is the goal, I would sit down and figure out what that would take. How much would you need to sell (and therefore produce) in order to make this profitable? Can you do that qty making them yourself? Would you be available to work the boutique or would you have to hire help?

3) It sounds like Jennifer has done her due diligence in researching funding. $$ is not the easiest to come by as a small business owner, especially in this day in age. I completely understand needing the profits out of your business to support your family. When it comes down to it, that's why we work in the first place. I would recommend websites such as entrepreneur.com as a great place to get ideas. This answer will be different for everyone, but really comes down to your ultimate goal/business plan and what makes the most sense.

I am definitely not an expert in business, but I am purely sharing my personal experience. What worked for me, may or may not work for you, but if one ounce of my experience helps others in theirs, then it is worth it.

For me, I am by nature, super frugal. So, when I started RuffleButts, I was trying to save every last penny. It was my worst nightmare watching the business bank account with all of those numbers listed on the debit side. I felt so much weight on my shoulders to make this work, for my own self pride, as well as for the future of my family. I was willing to do anything myself to not have to source it out and write a check. It took me about a year to understand that I needed to think much bigger. Sometimes it took me spending a little money to make more money. With that said, the decisions to spend money had to be made from a business only perspective. I am not a numbers person, but Mark certainly is, and sometimes it took him taking a basic cost, dividing that my our profit on an average sale, to come up with a break-even. This made my decisions much easier.

I'm sorry to say that I don't have any secrets here for you on funding, but I will say that with rational thought, and long-term goals, there is always an answer. If this is your dream, there is going to be a way to get there, one path just may take longer than the other. The only thing I will warn you, is to be sure that the numbers make sense 1st. Since Jennifer has already found success in her business, this decision may be easier than for some others, but as entrepreneurs, hopefully you are always on a path of growth. Just make sure you stay focused on that path and keep your compass nearby.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to find a manufacturer

I started this blog as a means to inspire and encourage others, especially those starting on this crazy journey of entrepreneurship. It has turned out to be a bit of everything, from my personal experiences, to the struggles of starting a business, to the celebrations along the way. As the business has grown, I find myself falling behind in the stories that I want to share. Getting caught up in all of the craziness from day to day, sometimes can be a bit distracting. I also receive emails from other aspiring entrepreneurs on a regular basis, and although I would desperately love to take the time to respond to each one individually, I often just can't seem manage this. So, this morning, I wanted to take just a few minutes to respond to a few questions I have received recently, and to let you know, that I am truly inspired by you, those of you on this journey, fighting to achieve your dream! Your emails do not go unread, just a little delayed in response.

The first question that I wanted to address, as this is probably the #1 inquiry that I receive, is how on earth to find a manufacturer for your products. Honestly, I wish I had the magical answer. This is still something I struggle with on a daily basis. We have been fortunate to find a few wonderful factories, but as you grow, so do your obstacles. We have found that some of our factories can't seem to meet our demands as we are growing. Believe it or not, we have an order that we placed back in October of last year, with a promised SHIP date of January 15th, which is still not here. And get this, not only is it not here, they haven't even produced them yet. These are the things that not only make me crazy, but also make me realize that we are not working with the right factories. We used to give all of our business to one person, I quickly learned a hard lesson that this is not a good idea. It only makes sense, but you can not have all of your eggs in one basket. Even a small delay penalty does not come close to affecting any factory the way that a serious delay will affect your business. I don't think they understand the massive costs that go into delays and errors, and realistically many of them don't care. This is where you just have to do your diligence. So, if you are at the start of this very long road, here are just a few tips I have to share:

1) Research, research, research. Get in touch with as many factories as you can, communicate with them and start to get a feel for who they are.

2) You can tell a lot about how a factory will treat you purely by their response time with your inquiry emails. Do they seem like they are willing to work for your business? Are they willing to start small with you? Do they take 2-3 days to get back with you consistently...then this is what will happen when there is an urgent issue and you need their help.

3) Give them a test order. Don't give a new factory your full production. Give them a small starter order of 1-2 styles and see how they do. Do they put the effort into your small order that you would expect on your larger order? Do they treat you like you are two small to deserve their attention? If so, they are not someone you want to grow with. Do you feel as though they try to take advantage of you...run!! This has to be a partnership in some way. They have to be willing to work for you and you must be willing to bend for them. If they are not in it with you, then find someone who will be.

4) If you have the feeling that you should find a new factory, but are overwhelming by the work involved, then you just have to suck it up. The process is so long, that if you put it off, you will find yourself in a place where you NEED a new factory, and don't have time to venture through the process of finding them. Then, you end up working with someone by necessity instead of by choice, which is never good.

5) A few places to look...obviously manufacturers are not going to tell you where they make their garments. When I was first starting out, I didn't fully understand this. Why didn't anyone want to give me a hand? They had been at this place at one time too. I vowed that I would be different, I would help others. Well, a few years later, having been copied by numerous companies, one of which that had the audacity to call me personally asking for advice before launching her own line of ruffled bloomers. Funny enough when I addressed this little incidence, she denied everything, got nasty, and then went and copied our website design. I want to trust everyone, but this has been something that I have personally had to deal with over the years. I learned that I can not trust everyone, but I have also learned that I still want to remain true to who I am. So, back to where to look...start with websites like www.Alibaba.com, www.apparelsearch.com, and www.tradett.com. If you find someone that you like, but they are not able to do your product, ask for recommendations. Be cautious and ask lots of questions - if they seem bothered, move on. No question is a dumb question, even if you are new.

6) Follow your gut and don't give up. This is my last time on this subject. If you get a bad feeling, don't force it. If they convince you that no one else will take your order since it is so small, walk away. If your samples arrive and look awful, then start over with someone else. If they ship your first order late, know this will probably be the norm for them.

This is a very tough piece of the puzzle, but you will get there. It takes time, patience, and a ton of lessons learned, but you will eventually arrive at a place where it all starts to come together. But let me tell you, at least for me personally, it never ends. There will always be issues to work through when it comes to manufacturing, they just become a lot easier to handle as you start to put together a team of people that you trust and can count on.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

American Idol Moment








Seriously, no way, yes really! Mark spotted what looked like our ruffled bloomers first, and I was a bit in disbelief. Many of you know what it's like to find out your pregnant, to go through the roller coaster of a ride (morning sickness, a ever growing physique, the back pain, the joy, the anticipation, then labor and then this beautiful baby...then the lack of sleep, the no more dinners out, the laughs, the cries) all every bit worth it, and this crazy, amazing RuffleButts ride is definitely worth it every step of the way. Aubrey is only 18 months old, so I know I have many, many moments ahead with her, but RuffleButts is kind of my first born in a way, 3 whole years of a journey, and today was one of those crazy make it all worth while moments for me (and Mark).

As we were watching the end to American Idol, when that big teddy bear of a cutie, Michael Lynche, was sadly voted off, Mark happened to notice the adorable pink ruffled baby bloomer adorning the bottom of his precious new arrival, little Laila Lynche. They are RUFFLEBUTTS!!! I second guessed him at first, but then they zoomed closer and closer, and there was our little ruffled baby butt of a logo staring back at us at the top of the pink ruffled diaper cover. It was like Aubrey's first step or something...I was so proud, and honored to see our ruffled creation up there in the spot light, sharing such a special moment for this family.

Wow, this is just kind of crazy! I know they didn't mention the name or anything, and most of the MILLIONS of people that watch the show will have no idea, but it was more that personal joy that you feel when you see your child up on stage. We work so hard, and pour so much energy and love into this venture, that it truly was a little celebration for us to see our Pink RuffleButt Bloomers on national tv! And even better, that little Laila was looking super precious for her daddy's moment.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Grateful

I just read a fabulous quote passed along from the Founder of Ladies Who Launch...

“gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have, we will not be happy– because we will always want to have something else or something more”.

– David Steindl-Rast.

I could not agree more! I tend to ramble on about gratefulness on the ruffleblog, but I truly believe that this is a required ingredient in the recipe to success. As humans, and especially as women, we tend to fall victim to the "grass in greener" complex, or to drown in guilt when it comes to our children, and struggle when comparing our abilities and successes to others. I want you to stop, take a minute, think about all of of the incredible things in your life. Healthy child, loving husband (at least most days), roof over your head, friends, family. I believe we should always be looking forward, towards where we want to go, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't take time to appreciate where you are today. I am just as guilty of this as any other, and today I really valued this quote. I hope it touches you the same way!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Violated

Let me warn you, this is not my typical entrepreneurial story or advice, nor is it fun RuffleButts information. If you choose to read on, I will probably stray from my typical P.C. and positive personality, as this story was one that I will not soon forget...

It was a Sunday, late morning, as Bridget and I made our way to the O'Hare airport in Chicago. I will be sure to write more about the trip here over the next day or two, as that story is a lot more fun (we went Oprah Show!!)...don't get too excited here, we went to the show, not on the show =) Anyway, we had just enjoyed such a fabulous girls' weekend in Chicago with our other friend Elizabeth...lots of wine, shopping, laughing, and best of all, relaxing!! As we made our way to the Blue Line, of course we passed the regular "special" people in the station, and made our way to the first row of seats. We settled in for our 45-minute ride. I have always considered myself a "big city girl", even though I was born and raised in KY, I have always had a special appreciation for both NYC and Chicago. My mom is originally from the Windy City and tons of our friends currently call it home. Until now, I have never really felt in any way unsafe when visiting. I have to wonder, is this experience normal??

So, on goes the story that has now convinced me that I will raise Aubrey in a bubble...We are seated in the front row, with one gentleman sitting behind us. Well, he turns out not so "gentlemanly"!! I get that uneasy gut feeling, but found myself in a mental discipline, as I never ever want to be one to stereotype or judge. I thought maybe my recent months of living in this peaceful small-town had started to cloud my judgement, but I soon came to realize that us women should ALWAYS listen to our gut.

I continued with this uneasy feeling for about twenty minutes, but finally just convinced myself to relax and enjoy the ride. I felt the guy staring at us, but there's usually no harm in a little staring. It was then that I noticed a very "look at me" up and down motion behind us. I tried to ignore this guy who obviously needed a little attention and continue in my conversation. I noticed that Bridget didn't seem very interested in what I had to say, but then again, she had been stuck with me for three days straight by this time! Then, my phone buzzes and I open my email to find a picture of Aubrey atop our kitchen table (a whole other story to this one!!). As I show Bridget the picture, our little "gentleman friend" inquires into my daughter's age. It was then that I realized that this up and down motion came with a very large erection...one that was blatantly out and about (and I mean really OUT) just one row behind us. What in the heck??!!! Seriously, what is wrong with some people! I really didn't know what would come next...was he going to cover us in something that would haunt me for years to come? Was he about to pull a knife and put it to my throat? I didn't want to over-react, but I also needed to keep Aubrey's mommy in one piece. So, I type a text message and turn my phone to Bridget. It is then that I notice that she won't even look at me...she is shocked out of her mind, as she has been aware of our little situation for the past 15 minutes or so. She had been counting down the exits out load...but again I just thought she was ready to get home! She was, but for a reason that I never would have anticipated.

So, we decide to move to different seats at the next stop and search the billboards for some type of "help" #. I was really shocked that there really isn't a lot of security in place. If things had taken a turn for the worse, I truly wasn't sure how to even react. As we made our move, the guy then decided to turn around in his seat to stare at us eye to eye. It was this that took us from scared to pissed. Who did this guy think that he was?! I picked up my phone and started to dial looking him right in the eye, while Bridget mouthed to him "enough"...go tough mamma!! It was with this that he decided to step off the train at the next stop...thank goodness!

It took us a good twenty minutes to start to relax and find a little humor in the situation, but I have to say that I have not felt so violated in quite a long time. As we finally sat at our gate, we really couldn't stop laughing!! Not that this was a typical funny experience, but we found humor in the fact that this was the ending to our relaxing and fairly uneventful girls' weekend. I know I will quickly move past this little experience, but it really made me think about raising Aubrey in this crazy world. We really have to prepare our children for the inevitable experiences that will color their rainbow world, but to be honest, for the time being, I just want to raise her in a pretty pink little bubble!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Finally, no more backorders!

Okay, so I thought this day was in the horizon weeks ago, but it seems to have been one thing after another, topped off with the volcano that put a halt to flights everywhere. According to the tracking numbers, by very early next week, we should not have ANYTHING on back order!! This is so exciting!

To be honest, this situation with products selling out faster than we could keep up was a big struggle for me personally. I always try to stay on top of our production, as that is my job, and I truly feel horrible when our customers have to wait for weeks to receive something that they have ordered and are anxiously awaiting. I know that feeling as a mom, when I order something online for Aubrey, and then I look forward to it arriving more than I ever did anything I purchased for myself. And, I feel even worse, when are expecting products to arrive one week and then for many reasons (factory delays, and more often than not, shipping delays), have to ship even later than we expected. As a business owner, I have to accept that there are some things I can personally control, and some things I can not. I have also learned from this experience that there are other things that I can do to prevent some things from happening that I can not control. I am learning as I go, even 3 years in, and we are only going to continue to improve. If you are not getting better, you are going no where, right?!

Last week, the FedEx tracking information all showed that the products should be at our office by Monday morning...now Monday morning, only 3 boxes showed up, with the other 24 stuck somewhere at the Memphis hub, according to them. I am getting used to this process by now, but sometimes I just wish things would happen as promised. We are crossing our fingers for more to arrive tomorrow morning, to get more of these back orders en route and on those little diaper-naked booties!

If you are one of our EXTREMELY patient customers, awaiting a back ordered item, please let me take this opportunity to thank you, sincerely, for your patience and understanding as we get in these products. We have been so blessed to watch our business grow and to have more and more adorable little ones enjoying our ruffles. We truly could not do it without you, and your support does not go unnoticed. Here is my promise to you...we are doing everything we can possibly do to get in these back ordered products and get them out to you. And, we are trying to be as proactive as possible to keep items in stock ready to be ordered at your convenience. Thanks, as always, for your business!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Balls in the air

Sometimes I feel like a master juggler, but more often than not, I feel like I have twenty balls floating in the air, about to drop any one of them at any given moment. I am starting to understand that this is the life of an entrepreneur, as well as a mom. Sometimes I wonder how they do it...those wondermoms! They seem to fit it all in, to have it all together. I know, I'm sure none of them feel this way, but at least they pull it off well.

Here's my truth - I am the mom known at pre-school for forgetting to bring the clean blanket back on Monday morning. The one that has to keep a back-up sippy cup in the car, so when I walk out the door without it, I can fake that I have it all together! I'm the mom always running late, crackberry in hand. But, I'm okay with this. Aubrey loves me anyway, and somehow I manage.

Our new rule in the Schaub household is from pick-up time at school to bedtime at home, it is our Aubrey time...no blackberries, no phone calls, we just enjoy our daughter. Then, at 8:30pm, (or 8:53 tonight), I'm back down on the computer, trying to catch up on the things I didn't squeeze in during the day.

My balls may bounce every now and then, but for the most part, I think I just have a beautiful sky of balls in the air...or as Aubrey likes to call them "bubbles"!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So grateful

In all reality, it is not often that we take a step back to count our blessings. We are busy wiping runny noses, doing laundry, running businesses, driving our kids to and from school...grocery shopping, dance class, dinner, phone calls...where do we find all of the time?? I have written here on the RuffleBlog for a few years now. I have shared and exposed the good, the bad and the ugly of my life as an entrepreneur, a wife and a first-time mom. Many days when I sit down to write, I am overwhelmed, run-down, and dealing one fire or another here in the office. Sound familiar? That has never taken away the fact that I LOVE my job, our customers, and our creations. I love the fact that I get to do something that makes me happy, makes our employees happy, makes our customers happy, and that we get to pay it all forward.

I have always been extremely grateful for my situation in life, for my family and this business, but it wasn't until Layla Grace made her footprint on my life, that I truly realized life's incredible blessings. Aubrey is growing up so quickly and I am treasuring every moment. When she decides to turn the roll of toilet paper into a river of white through our entire house, instead of getting frustrated, I get out my camera and laugh. When she dumps her food all over the rug, we play the pick up game and sing. I am far from the perfect parent, but certainly Layla has made me a better parent. Layla gave us all such an incredible blessing, the gift of appreciating our every day. Our every day moments with our children, our every day moments with our husbands, with our parents...at work, at home...life is so short and goes by so quickly.

I have said it before, and I will say it again and again...thank you. Thank you to our incredible customers. I am in complete awe of the way that you came together in support. I knew that I worked with amazing people on a daily basis, but you guys really blew me away. I feel so incredibly fortunate to create frilly little designs to decorate the bums of your children, your grandchildren. I am honored that you choose our products and even more so that you take the time to share your positive experiences. Thank you to our RuffleButts team, for making my daily work life so fun! I could not do it without each and every one of you. Thank you to Mark, my hubby and our RuffleButts COO. I can't even begin to imagine doing this without him. Thank you to my friends and family for putting up with my crazy and chaotic life. For loving me anyway!

I am so excited for what's in store for RuffleButts this year. We have fun new prints, new styles on the way. A photo shoot scheduled for next weekend and lots of surprises in store! I am thrilled to share this journey with you, and honored that you want to be a part of it. I am so very grateful!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Playing with the Angels




It is with a flood of emotions that I share this news...

Just before 2:00 this afternoon Shanna posted on her twitter account "Layla went to play with the angels early this morning. Rest in peace precious Layla. 11/26/2007 - 3/9/2010".

I am without words, in sorrow. Yet, at this moment, I am also in pure celebration of Layla's life, as short as it may have been. This precious child has literally touched the lives of MILLIONS! She has made us better moms, better children, better wives, better people. She is God's angel that was on short loan for us here on Earth. She spread His word, her faith, and most of all, SO MUCH LOVE.

Shanna, our love is pouring your way. Your family is in our prayers for strength. Layla, I have no doubt that you are in a glorious place, with a warm, warm welcome! I don't know of a child more loved by so, so many. As we all move forward with our lives, and the twitter buzz dies down, I want you to know that you will absolutely never be forgotten! You have touched the world in an incredible way, and I will be forever grateful.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

WOW




"Wow is all I can say!" That was the first sentence of Shanna's (Layla's mom) email to me at 3:40 this morning. I 2nd that!! As she sat by Layla's side, Shanna was amazed by the number of people that all came together in support of Layla. I couldn't sleep, my mind was spinning. Incredibly, we met our goal in mere hours yesterday, and are sending over the check today. I can honestly tell you this is the most fun I have had writing a check of this size, knowing that it is going to such an incredible cause! We are a small company, I only wish we could do so much more.

I had tears in my eyes as I typed yesterday's post. Today, I again can't hold back the tears, but they are tears of hope, of pure awe. This little girl has touched us all. She has brought us to tears. She has inspired us to smile. She has made us hold our little ones a little closer. She has forced us to take a moment to appreciate life. She has generated SO MUCH LOVE.

Layla will soon be healed of this devastating disease, whether it is here on Earth or with her Heavenly Father. All I have to say, is I can't imagine the welcoming party they will be throwing for this amazing little lady when she is called Home, whenever that may be.

I take this moment to thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for your support, your kind words, your love, and most of all, your prayers for Layla. This was not about me, or RuffleButts, or anything else for that matter. It was about doing anything I could think to do to give back to this precious child that has given us all so very much. I am honored to be able to do that in this small way.

Isn't it truly amazing what can be accomplished when we come together in love!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Layla Grace

It is with tears filling my eyes that I write this post. This is a situation that has been in my heart for many months and I have chosen up to this point to keep it personal. It is today that I feel led to share this journey and it is with the support and permission of the people involved that I make this public.

Where to start? Back in the summer of 2008 I began working and communicating with a mom and fellow business owner Shanna. She was inspired by her precious daughter, Layla Grace to start a fun website called Baby Wears Prada. Shanna became a fan of RuffleButts and Layla could not have been cuter in her little ruffles. In May of 2009, I received an email from Shanna that would touch me deeper than I ever knew possible, by someone that I had never actually met in person. This email shared the shocking and devastating news that Layla Grace had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Neuroblastoma. She went on to tell me that this is one of the hardest form of cancers to treat and came with a 30% survival rate. I just knew in my heart that Layla would beat this, she would be in that 30%!! It was then that Layla began the fight of her life.

Shanna has shared her journey in touching and inspirational posts at www.LaylaGrace.org. It is often that her writing reminds me to truly treasure every moment of motherhood. Shanna is an incredibly brave woman and it is quite evident that she has raised an amazingly strong little lady with a very fitting middle name. I can't even begin to share here the battle that Layla has been fighting for many, many months. This precious child has gone through more than any one of us could even imagine, and she is still a smiling little joy. Layla has touched more lives through her story and her smile than most of us could dream in our 30+ years. I can honestly say, she has changed not only my life, but also my daughter's, as I will not take a single moment for granted. I give Aubrey an extra hug every night because of Layla Grace. That is a gift that can not be repaid.

A few weeks back, I read the post that I never saw coming. After all of this suffering and fighting, the cancer had continued to spread. It had taken over, and Layla's fight would soon end. I was devastated, questioning everything, angry, saddened. It just didn't make sense that Layla would have to go through all of this, that Shanna and her family would have to go through all of this. Then, I quickly returned to my faith. Layla's life held more meaning in the short years that she spent here on Earth, than I can ever hope for mine. The cancer may appear to have won this battle, but it did not. Layla is victorious and more so than any of us can know at this point in time. Miracles happen every day, and Layla is still with us today, but the reality is that the doctors gave her less than a week last week. She continues to prove them wrong, maybe so she can touch just a few more thousand lives in these days. Layla will be in a glorious place with her Maker in the days to come.

The reason that I made the decision to share this story is because I need you behind us. After much prayer, we have made a personal and professional decision to get involved. Although money is probably far down the list of Shanna's concerns at the moment, I know that her family is facing costs that most of us will never know. I would like to hope that if I were in Shanna's place, that our friends and family would rally with me in support. I do not understand God's journey for Shanna or Layla, but I do know that it is His plan. I also know that it is His plan to use us to help in any way we can. I am so incredibly blessed to do what I love every day and to make a living from it. It was my commitment from day one to share the blessings of RuffleButts with those in need. I can not think of a better cause.

So, here's where you come in...I know we are all facing our own personal financial situations and not everyone is in a position to give, so we had an idea. We are going to give for you!! If you want to help, but don't have the extra cash, you can still give. Mark and I have committed our own personal amount to Layla Grace, but we are going to add $1 to that amount for every "fan" you refer to us FaceBook.com/RuffleButts through Friday, March 5th. So, you want to give $100 to Layla Grace, just send out an invitation to your 100 friends, and once they join our RuffleButts Page as a "fan" that is $100 to the pot. Want to give $500...ask your friends to send out the request to their friends...it's that easy! The money will be going directly to the bank in Layla's name, which is tied to her medical account. We will give up to $5000, in addition to our own personal commitment. We currently have 1216 fans, so keep your eyes on our page to see your generous work paying off! If you would like to give additional funds or prefer to give directly, you can go to LaylaGrace.org and click the "donate" button on the right side of the page. The FaceBook idea is a little outside-the-box, but we would like to give you the opportunity to experience the joy of giving without the financial strain.

This is the first time that I have turned to the friends and family of RuffleButts in a fundraiser for someone else, but I feel very led to do this. I hope you have read this with an open heart, and will think of Layla this week when your kids are wearing you down. Little Layla, you are in our thoughts and prayers every single day. You are a miracle in more ways than one!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First Day of School

Yesterday was my baby's first day of school...okay, well pre, pre-school, but still! I know I am a big dork, but I was very excited for Aubrey to go and make her first friends, eat out of her first lunch box, meet her first teachers, and most importantly, to have the opportunity to learn and grow on a daily basis. She is a little firecracker and she was so ready to be in that environment. Mark and I were so silly, getting up super early to pack her little lunch and get her all ready for her big day. We took pictures (which unfortunately are still on the camera at the moment), and were all giggly watching our little girl growing up! Today was her 2nd day, and I snapped this pic on my camera phone before running out the door. Not the best pic in the world, but had to share my little cutie in her RuffleButts ready to head out to SCHOOL! Wow, this mommy thing goes fast...and I love every minute of it!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Undercover Boss

Although I am sadly a fan of some reality shows, I didn't watch the recent "Undercover Boss" show. I must admit I was intrigued when I saw the preview, mostly curious as a business owner myself, but missed the show. Since then, I understand there has been a bit of controversy over the premise behind the show...people love controversy!!! Anyway, Mark sent over a quote to me this morning from an interview with president and COO of Waste Management, Larry O'Donnell (the CEO on the show) posted on The Corner Office Blog. This quote really hit home with us, as this is very much our philosophy as well. We are obviously a MUCH smaller company, but I firmly believe that you must have a positive experience behind the scenes to share a positive experience with your customers.

"When you can transform your company from a place where people just show up to collect a paycheck to a company where they feel appreciated, they feel recognized, they feel like they have a voice and they become engaged in helping you solve the problem, what a powerful company."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ellen's Request for Jessica Alba

So, here's the story...it was super late on Tuesday night, when I received an email from one of the producers over at the Ellen Degeneres Show. She was contacting me to find out if I could help her purchase a Swiss Dot w/Red Ruffled RuffleButt Baby Bloomer for Ellen to give to Jessica Alba in celebration of her new movie Valentine's Day. I thought this was a perfect gift for the occasion, and just knew that Honor (Jessica's 20 month old daughter) would look precious in her little ruffled diaper cover. We knew there was a good chance that they would not "plug" the brand, as it was not a promotion, it was a genuine gift. Needless to say, we are honored that Ellen would pick our RuffleButts as her gift to Jessica, and we can't wait to see Honor in her new little RuffleButts!



View the Offical Press Release Here

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

RuffleButt Bikinis

It has been a bit of a journey on these...we worked with a new factory, we found the perfect swimwear fabrics, developed them, shipped them to the factory, and then poof, everything was gone, just days before we were supposed to receive the entire shipment of production. Well, lesson learned and doors opened. Everything happens for a reason, right! Well, I am so excited to introduce a wardrobe essential for every little cute patootie...





And yes, Aubrey was roped into being our official "Bikini model" since we were on such a tight time-frame! I'm a proud little mama =)

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Bees Knees Kids Australia

We work with some of the most fabulous stores all around the globe! Here is just one of them...



Bernice Greenacre, the Owner and Founder of The Bees Knees Kids, is one of the sweetest women I have ever "met". She may be on the other side of the globe, but it seems like she lives right next door! She has created this fabulous children's store and is only 6 months in, but is already a tremendous success. I am honored to work with her and am so excited to see our brand spreading across the AU!

Here is just a little about her store:

The Bees Knees Kids is an online Store specializing in Products that we are passionate about and that we use or have used, loved and that have just made our lives with two lively kids a little easier! Our focus is to provide a great range of clothing that is vibrant fun and stands out from the crowd.

When did you open the store?
In June 2009

What was your inspiration to start The Bees Knees Kids?
Buying gorgeous,unique,practical and excellent quality items for my own daughter Eva. I found this challenging to find at Chain stores and found the quality, variety and range lacking! I also dislike my children having the same clothes as every one else they are unique individuals and need to be dressed accordingly and stand out from the crowd! I also do most of my shopping for my own children online as it is convenient quick and easy. I find it a challenge having to go out and purchase things with the children and would rather do this in the comfort of my own home without the crowds. I also wanted to be able to work from home do something I am passionate about I saw that other Mums are doing this and I wanted to do the same and be at home with my children.

What is your best/funniest customer story?
One customer came to our house (we have a room set up as a shop) as we allow customers to come and shop by appointment. Her daughter made a bee line straight for the RuffleButts bloomers and the Mum went away with a few new editions to her wardrobe even her Princess couldn't resist the cuteness of the RuffleButts Bloomers!

Any RuffleButts stories from the store?
RuffleButts is by far our best seller and we are BIG fans ourselves!
Customers just keep on coming back to order more and I have recieved so many requests for certain lines that we do not yet have! We plan to have every line to make it possible for all Australians to have easy access to this gorgeous product. You will see from all our testimonials its all about RuffleButts!! LOL :-)
Another thing we love about RuffleButts is that little girls can look like little girls and not mini adults! The range is practical as you can mix and match everything for any Mum that is a huge time saver as it takes the guess work out of everything!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Polish you up

A friend of mine, who happens to be the Owner and Designer of StellaJane, sent me a fabulous quote today. It was so perfect, I wanted to share...

Life is like a grindstone, it can wear you down or polish you up. It all depends on what you're made of.

She also ended her email with some fabulous words of wisdom..."It it's conceived in your heart and lives in your soul, you will have the strength to see it through."

I am amazed by all of the incredible people in my life. Some of them close friends, others associates through the business, many of them customers that feel like family, and others whom I've never even spoken with that rally around with smiles and support. And, I definitely can not fail to mention a husband that puts up with me day in and day out! I have the best job in the world and do what I do for the most adorable little human beings I've ever seen! I'm learning and living, and taking in all in one day at a time, but I feel lucky to do it pretty much every day. RuffleButts was my first child. It is my outlet, my creation, that I am lucky enough to share with incredible people everywhere. For those of you that are concerned about me and my disappointment with yesterday's drama...no worries here! I was most torn and distraught over the decision to share the experience. I always strive to do the right thing, but I also believe you must stand up for yourself. I remain positive and so excited about this year ahead with RuffleButts!