Friday, August 24, 2012

Good enough

Is there ever a day when you just need someone to tell you that you are good enough? I had a conversation last night that reminded me that we are all the same, just at different points on our journey. This business has been an incredible adventure and a path I was destined to take, but that's easy for me to say now. Looking back just 7 years, it was a totally different story. I knew my path was out there, but I hadn't found the on-ramp yet. I was determined to do something big, but truly didn't know if I was "good enough" to do it.

See, I'm really no different than anyone else out there, and really if you compare me to most CEO's, my pedigree does not compare. I grew up in KY, far from wealthy. No trust fund (I didn't know what they are). No ivy league education (I didn't really know what they were either). Actually, when I was about 13, my mom explained to me that she wanted to do as much as she possibly could for me, but her salary was limited and I needed to prepare for whatever it was that I wanted to do. IE, you want to drive, start saving for a car. You are going to college, but you are also paying for it. That was okay with me, and I had no doubts I could make it happen. I started working at 14 at a local dry cleaners and haven't stopped since. At 17, I worked two jobs and truly, honestly, didn't mind doing it. I went to the University of Cincinnati (not quite ivy league) and moved out on my own shortly before turning 18.

Long story short, I knew I wanted more for my life, and had no doubts I could get there, but certainly didn't know what the path looked like. As an adolescent, I think we all question if we are good enough...grades, status in society, relationships, friendships, whatever. I was no different. In my twenties, I felt driven, but wasn't sure in what direction. I was a little lost.

Looking back, it all makes complete sense. It was my path, my own journey that led me here. Every bit of it was a necessary page in my book. I was good enough every step of the way, but I just didn't truly realize who the "good enough" was for. It wasn't about my parents, or my friends, or even my bosses along the way. It was for Him. In the eyes of God, I was good enough all along. I just had to find trust, which lifted the weight off my shoulders and allowed me to look around. It allowed me to live much bigger, and free. I am so very grateful for where I am today, but I am equally grateful for my journey to get here.

Don't get me wrong, there are still days I question if I am making the right decisions, if I can handle this (there are a lot of people depending on me and I feel that daily), but there is never a day I question my worth. In my discussion last night, I wanted so badly to just hand over the answer, but I know that is not possible. So, I did the next closest thing, I shared the very valuable knowledge that she is absolutely good enough. I know so, because God made her that way. Now it is just her turn to find the on-ramp, and I can promise it is going to be one heck of a ride! She is an amazingly talented, driven, and beautiful person, but now she gets to discover that for herself.

Sound familiar? Did you have a certain age that you found your own path? For me, it was somewhere around age 26/27 and at 30, it got even better. I know it's not about age, but I think with age comes experience and wisdom. With wisdom comes faith, and with faith comes peace.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fabulous Photography

We had the pleasure of working with yet another fabulously talented photographer...this time in our hometown of Charlotte! What a whirlwind, but I am thrilled to see the final results...our Fall Collection come to life. Christine, the main talent behind the Dimples and Curls team, is awesome behind the camera. And her hubby, the official kid whisperer, did a fabulous job of getting that pure, from-the-gut laugh captured on film (SD card). Her mom, also her photog partner, was also a huge part of pulling this whole thing off!

I am happy to share with you her artistic talents at work. Oh, and did I mention, we had the most fabulous RuffleButts & RuggedButts models, who truly made my designs come to life?!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Where did you get the idea behind RuffleButts?

So, the most common question I receive when someone learns of my RuffleButts involvement is, "where did you get the idea?" After receiving the question this weekend following an introduction, I had a vast realization. I've been lying to everyone. No, this isn't some massive confession...but more an explanation. See, my answer is the typical, "well, I didn't have kids at the time, but was out shopping for a baby gift and couldn't find the ruffled bloomers of my childhood." Fundamentally, that is the true and honest answer, but the reality is that it was so much more. Simply put, the idea was my gift from God. After much begging, a lot of searching, and a TON of faith, the idea was simply my stepping stone from God. He laid out my path that involved numerous people, an unethical boss, an Oprah episode, a successful entrepreneur, a tremendously challenging and trying time in my own life, and some blind faith. 

Let's get real...I didn't have children, honestly didn't know a darn thing about kids clothing. I had no experience in the children's clothing industry or any clothing manufacturing for that matter. I certainly didn't have any great connections or contacts in the industry to get me started. I was lost, like so many others, in my own career and search for fulfillment. I found myself praying every day for my answer...a career that would allow me to do positive things for others, something bigger than myself. I know it may seem naive or even arrogant to some when I say that RuffleButts is changing the world. I get that. I know we are simply making clothing for kids. But see, we see it a bit differently. We are sharing smiles, with moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, and the little angels of the world. We plan to grow this company to a size that can not only affect and impact a few thousand, but hopefully millions one day. Not only with ruffles, but on a much bigger scale. We truly want to do positive, to share smiles with millions and millions of people, to donate, to inspire. I promise you this, we will do it.

In church on Sunday, as I listened to our Pastor, Steven Furtick, talk about his job, I realized that I needed to be more honest with myself and with others. This business is not some fabulous idea I had on my own one random day. I am not some genius business person, nor some incredibly talented fashion designer. I truly just try to execute as best as possible this gift God has given me, my calling. I vow to do the best job possible, to inspire as many people as possible, to do as much good as possible, and to simply share as many smiles as possible. I do this 100% through my faith in GOD, and also 100% dependent on the amazing team that surrounds me, including my husband, Mark.

I realized this weekend that I sometimes shy away from giving my real and honest answer. I don't want to make others uncomfortable or make them think that I am some church-loving, faith-preaching, Christian. What the heck am I thinking...God gave me this gift and I owe it to him 100% to share it with others. See, when it comes down to it, I am a church-loving and faith-preaching in my own way. I would not be here without my all-mighty and wonderful God. I always want to give credit to my team here at RuffleButts, so why on Earth would I shy away from giving credit to my Father? So, here's my honest idea came from the most amazing place, a place I wish I could share with every single person around me, a place that finally gave me peace and purpose...a place of faith.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Attitude over aptitude

I have to be honest here, I really don't love the hiring process. Although I love the journey of growing the business and discovering awesome talent to add to our RB family, I don't love the actual process. In 5 years of running and growing this business I have learned a few things. One MAJOR lesson for me was the value of the "gut check". It is tremendously difficult to truly read someone in a 45 minute interview, but it is of the utmost importance for me to make the right hiring decisions. I carry the weight of responsibility not only for me and the success of the business, but also for our team. We are a small, tight-knit group and all feel the ripples when someone is not the perfect fit. Therefore, I take the hiring decisions VERY seriously.

I guess I really didn't expect the small business hiring or team-building process to be so challenging. Entrepreneurship encompasses a TON of challenges, but I personally was not prepared for how far up the list hiring would be.  So, I've put together a few tips. Take them or leave them, but if you find yourself in the same boat, I hope you find them helpful.

1. Attitude over aptitude.
I have found that previous experience may be nice, but it's much more about the big picture. Are they positive? Energetic? Responsive? Passionate? A motivator? See, working at RuffleButts is far from easy. It is a complete requirement to be passionate about this company and your job in order to succeed here. You can be super smart, awesome at what you do, but if you don't fit into our company culture, you will not succeed. I think this rings true for any career at any company, but ten-fold at entrepreneurial organizations.

2. You will find what you are looking for.
If an interviewee opens will all of the things wrong with their previous companies, bosses, co-workers, I know pretty early on that they likely will not be happy here either. I know that some jobs just stink, believe me, I've worked them before. And some bosses are awful...yep, worked for them too. But in life, if you are looking for the negative you are certain to find it. And if you're looking for the positive, you'll find that too. An interview is an opportunity to shine and you are just not in your best light when focusing on the negative.

3. If they make mistakes in their cover letter or resume, they'll make mistakes in their job.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Not really. I have received resumes from some seriously talented and experienced individuals, but am dumbfounded by the number of grammatical and spelling errors. Look, I know we all make them, especially in email, but if you want a job bad enough, you'll spend 2 minutes re-reading your email or cover letter to make sure it's perfect.

4. Follow-up is key.
Mark used to laugh at my follow-up rule, although I think he has been convinced over the years. If I am hiring for any type of customer service or sales position, the candidate is completely excluded if they do not follow-up in some manner following an interview. You better believe if they can't thank us for our time, they are certainly not going to thank a customer for theirs.

5. The 'gut check' is the deciding factor.
This one is so tough, but I will do everything I can to give them a fair shot here. If I question my read, I will bring them back to interview with someone else and sit in. I don't have much time to waste, but I feel this time is ultimately time well spent in finding the perfect fit. Here's the rule, if you have a gut feeling that they are not the right fit, DO NOT HIRE THEM. I know the feeling, we're drowning, we have an open position and are losing thousands daily because of it. Not an ideal situation, but I commit to doing whatever needs to be done to ultimately find the right fit.

And my ultimate tip, and by far the most challenging...even if you've already hired them, if you know early on that it is not the right fit, let them go. The earlier the better for both parties involved. I owe this piece of advise to my entrepreneur dad. He's been in business for let's just say, many more years than I have, and has shared this advise over and again. I'm pretty darn stubborn, but this one has definitely proven true.

With all of this said, I feel so extremely fortunate to work with an AWESOME team, but I am the 1st to say that it has not been an easy task building it. I feel like we get better and better with each hiring experience and I will continue to commit to the process of building the 'perfect' team!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Guest Blogger...Ruffle Teamwork!

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

I think this is a common theme at RuffleButts. We, as individuals, have to behave in an excellent manner. Not because we are looking to impress our boss (although that is part of it), but because we don’t want to let down the many people that depend on our work. I think this culture is what makes us unique. We all have a mutual respect for the work everyone else puts in, because it directly affects each other. It’s not often that a company has this type of culture so deeply integrated; this is why Rufflebutts is such a great place to work! 

~Guest Author, and RuffleButts Employee: Jake

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Guest Blogger...My Know It All Aunt Susan

In an attempt to keep this blog freshly updated, we had the whole RB team write a few blog entries.  This is from our Director of ECommerce RJ.

My Aunt Susan is a wealth of knowledge. Need a shortcut to the airport to avoid that messy construction site? Seeking an ingredient substitute? Should you see this movie or that one? No matter the question, she can help. Over the years, she’s kindly introduced me to new products, dishes, restaurants and books among other things. So to Aunt Susan, and all you other everyday experts out there, learning about the newest product lines at RuffleButts & RuggedButts may be right up your alley.

Our design team works hard to bring great-looking and comfortable clothing to our sites that meet our shoppers’ needs. Add them to your shopping bag, and then help other shoppers (and us) by passing on the word of our super cute baby clothing to your friends.

Denim Weekend Shorts $19.50
Certain to be her favorite shorts of the season, these denim darlings are ruffled and cool.
Pink Ruffled Mary Janes $24.50
Soft and sweet, these little ruffled shoes are perfect to pair with many RuffleButt outfits.
Striped Button Down $26.50
Classic and cool, this red and white striped shirt will have your little man strutting around!
Blue Star Diaper Bloomer $17.00
Cool, comfy and cotton…yep, he needs'em! Your lil man will be a star in this patriotic blue diaper cover.

Now that you’re in the know, which of these new products have a spot in your cart? Let us know in the comments below.

~Guest Author, and RuffleButts Employee: RJ

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Working with your Spouse Part 2

A recent conversation reminded me of a post I wrote quite some time ago about working with your spouse. Now almost 2.5 years later, I think it needs a bit of revision! So, don't get me wrong, it's all still valid advice, but the reality is that most of the rules are pretty darn hard to follow.

So, here's the reality of working with your spouse:

1. Hold on for the ride
It's a crazy ride with ups and downs, loops and turns. Some days you'll want to strangle him, other days you'll want to kiss him all over. Some days, he's the only one in the world that can relate (which is a total relief) and other days he's the co-worker who's resume you want to secretly send to the business down the street.

2. Forget about vacations FOREVER!
Ok, my advice about taking "no work-talk" vacations...well, you can forget about that! The reality is that the business is almost like another child. Parents naturally talk about their children when they have down-time, making decisions and having discussions that can't be had in front of the kiddos. Well, this business-child is no different. The part that I have found to be necessary is having a "no work talk right now" rule. Mark and I both reserve the right to ask POLITELY that we not talk about work at that moment. It can be on vacation or just an evening on the couch, but when one of us needs to check out, the other respects that.

3. Tune out the opinions of others and follow what you both know to be best
This is certainly a tough one, but ties back to my old comment about gender roles. See in business, gender roles don't apply. Technically I'm the CEO and Mark is the COO. What does that mean exactly, I'm honestly not 100% sure. We both work our butts off doing whatever needs to be done and we rely heavily on the other to pick up the slack where we leave off. So, we've come to realize over the years that not all outside parties understand our little arrangement (like in-laws we'll say as a 'random' example)...they may feel like I'm the mom and should tend to our children more than Mark. Or they may feel like Mark should ultimately be the 'boss' at work and I should be home planting flowers. Well, I have accepted that this may be their opinion, but it's not ours, so I just have to accept and leave that behind. I don't have the time or energy to carry the expectations of others, as long as I know that Mark and I are on the same page.

4. You won't always be on the same page
Yes, I know what I just said one sentence earlier, but the reality of working with your spouse is that although you are very much connected, sometimes you are not on the same page. The rule here is that you MUST commit to accepting differences and talking through them calmly. Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree, but this is when we turn to our roles at the company to see who's opinion trumps who's. It's kind of rare that we don't come to compromise, but there are certainly times when I have to say, "I respect your opinion and understand where you're coming from, but I feel strongly enough on this to move ahead anyway." It's rare, but it happens.

5. Be prepared for what you are getting yourself into
Here's the reality...working with your spouse is NOT easy. The benefit is that you'll likely never have an employee that you will trust more than your spouse. And, they are likely involved in many of your business decisions anyway. The negative is that you blur all lines of a marriage, which is complicated enough as it is already. This negative is a pretty big price to pay, so you have to be just plain stubborn enough to make it work.

6. Pride is a difficult thing and there is no room in a marriage for its presence
This is a super difficult one. I don't care who you are, everyone struggles with ego in one way or another. I've always wondered how on earth celebrity marriages work, especially when one is more of a 'celebrity' than the other. Look, I don't want to be famous, but I have to admit, if everyone was kissing Mark's booty and I was only known as "Mark's wife", it would make me pretty crazy. I know it would be the same in reverse. Of course I want nothing but success for Mark and all of the attention in the world, but I also want us both to be grounded by what's truly important. Be prepared for pride to get mixed into business one way or another and be prepared to work through it together, lovingly.

7. Marriage comes first!
This is one rule from my previous list that applies just as much today as it did years ago. If you make the decision to work together, you also must make the decision that the marriage comes first. Have a plan. How will it work? What if it doesn't work? You have to agree that whatever your differences may be that you will do whatever needed to support one another and put the marriage before the business.

Any of you watch Bethenny Frankel's show Bethenny Ever After? I realize the show was filmed months ago, as all reality shows are, but that still doesn't stop me from wanting to pick up the phone after every episode to call and talk her ear off. If you don't watch it, Bethenny, who is obviously an uber-successful entrepreneur (and pretty funny gal...I'm so jealous of her quick wit), is debating the decision to have Jason, her hubby, come work with her. I feel like anyone at this crossroads of whether or not to work with a spouse should at least get to talk to others in the same circumstance. Get an honest opinion. Not everyone is going to have the same experience...some will tell you to run as fast as you can in the other direction, others may tell you it was the best decision of their life. Regardless, it is a HUGE decision, so this is just my fair advice to anyone ready to take the plunge. Let me just say this, if Mark and I had our own reality show it would be quite the train-wreck. I honestly don't think many people would understand our let's just say unusual relationship, but so far it works for us. I truly can't image running RuffleButts without him!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Life Lessons

I know this sounds a bit cheesy, but when I started RuffleButts, I had long prayed for a career change that would allow me to "do good". I had tossed around ideas to start a non-profit but didn't know how to direct my passions. I considered being a public speaker, but didn't really have much to say (and I dislike being the center of attention, which is likely not an asset in this career path!). I wanted to write a book, but writing is far from my strong suit. It was then that my answer came, crystal clear, RuffleButts was my calling.

To most, they would say that starting a children's clothing line, covering baby's booties in ruffles, is not saving the world. Well, you are totally right, but RuffleButts was my path to contributing something greater. It is on this path that we try to contribute daily. If it is just making a customer's day a little brighter with stellar customer service, or making a grandma smile at the sight of her 1st grand-baby in sweet ruffles, or being blessed to share our financial successes with others in need; it is these small victories that we feel are giving back to the world that is good to us.

So, I write these little lessons below in hopes that just one of them gives you some sort of little 'gift'. It may be a prayer that you prayed of your own, or maybe just a little lesson that you have yet to stumble upon in your own life. Maybe it saves you just one little heartbreak or hiccup. Maybe you're already here with me, but know of someone in their own valley. It is with this hope that I share some of my personal life lessons learned to date, often not the easy way.

1) People-pleasing ways rarely please anyone in the long-run. 
For many years, I made decisions based mostly on what would please others. Although making others happy is still extremely important to me, it is not at the sacrifice of what I know to be true and best in my own heart. The best gift age has given me is the ability to care much less of what others think, and instead living for what I believe to be best and right. It brings an amazing clarity to life decisions.

2) Anything in life really worth having requires TREMENDOUS effort. 
The cool thing, I have found, is most often it works out that the more effort it requires, the more worth having/rewarding it turns out to be. It is nice to remember this when something seems extraordinarily difficult...I can rest easy knowing that it will be one of the most rewarding, and almost always worth every ounce of effort I put in. My best examples here are marriage and times a bit (ok, let's get real here....very) exhausting, but by far, the two (well, three really) most valuable things in my life.

3) As soon as you lose humbleness and gratitude you will be voted off. 
This is my 'Survivor Theory', of which my employees are likely tired of hearing about. See, after 10+ years of watching Survivor, I have learned that 90% of the time, the moment the player begins telling the camera that they are the "puppet master" or the "master" of the game, the moment they are bashing others and feeling indestructible is the moment they are voted off. And even with the few exceptions when they actually stayed in the game for a few more episodes, rarely are they rewarded with the $1M prize. I think this theory translates from game to life...the moment you stop operating with gratitude is the moment you lose.

4) Do the right thing, you get the right results.
This applies to so much in life. It's as simple as doing your job right, working hard, and getting the results that you are working so hard to achieve. It may not be tomorrow (and sometimes feels like an eternity), but if you continue doing the right thing, working hard, not taking shortcuts or slacking off, the results will come. Same for life on a bigger treat people the right way, appreciate your customers, invest in your relationships, operate with ethics and all comes back around, pretty much guaranteed in one way or another.

5) Finding a career that is rewarding and even inspiring is truly possible. 
I wanted so badly to believe this when I was in my early twenties, although I pretty much wanted to burn every "do what you love and the money will follow" book that I read! They made it sound so simple, "just follow your passion" they would taunt me. Problem was, I wasn't sure what exactly that meant! I wish someone would have just told me, "work harder than everyone least make yourself proud at the end of everyday for giving it your best", "if you don't do it with heart and maximum efforts, then don't do it at all",  "spend time figuring out what drives and excites you, then try to find a career that ignites those things in some way", and "God's timing is not always your timing".

6) Sometimes you have to go through the 'gunk' to get to the 'glory'.
This very much follows my comment about God's timing. I have learned to accept this over the years. Sometimes I need to follow a path that is not only unpleasant, but also unclear in order to prepare me for the glory on the other side. Even though I feel I am ready, and sometimes beyond ready, looking back, I understand much better why I had to take the 'not so pretty' path to prepare. I will use my children to explain my theory was more than two years before Aubrey was conceived that I began 'trying' to get pregnant. It was with tears, joy, and ultimately patience that I received her into my life following years of question, and the miscarriage of another child. It was certainly not an easy path, but prepared my heart with patience and faith.

7) Suck it up!
Sounds a little harsh, right? Well, let me make this promise to you...there is someone out there who's got it worse. Life is tough sometimes, but it is your choice what to do with that. Is your glass half empty or just half full of opportunity to be filled? I look back at opportunities I had in my life when I chose a pity-party instead of a celebration. I watch this go down with people over and over again. Life goes by fast, you are never the only one struggling, it will NEVER fix your problems to bring down those around you, and it is never as bad looking back. The one who ultimately pays the price for your pity-party is you! It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

8) The last, but in my opinion, MOST IMPORTANT gift I have to give...when uncertain or lost, PRAY ABOUT IT.
I have learned, especially from my twenties to my thirties, that I do not have all of the answers, and neither does anyone else. The only place I can turn for guaranteed peace and direction is God. I, like many others, often forget this, but if I look back on the best decisions of my life, it is not with coincidence that I remember turning to God in search of the answer.

I certainly know that I have so much more to learn, but only wish I would have received these valuable lessons earlier in life. Then again, as stubborn as I am, I likely would have been determined to fall and learn them on my own! Anyhow, it is with a humble heart and hope that just one word of this touches your life in a positive way.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The post below is from one our RB team members that we recruited randomly one day from a store at the mall. Mark and I were browsing (kids in tow) and she was super patient, not too pushy, but still very helpful…my favorite kind of sales/customer service person! Great team-members are sometimes hard to come by, so I figured it was worth a slightly awkward conversation, recruiting her away from her current job! She has turned out to be a fabulous addition to our team, and it has been super fun to watch her grow into her own since joining RuffleButts. My lesson learned from her post: Anyone can do anything, as long as they are willing to put in the effort and learn with a smile. She has certainly done both! ~Amber

What to write this blog about? When I was first asked to write a blog post about anything pertaining to the company, my mind raced with lots of ideas. I could write about my colleagues, my job, the company’s mission, or what it’s like working for such a fast growing company. I finally settled on making a list. The five funniest things I have learned since working at RuffleButts. Or as you may like to call it, the five things that will make moms everywhere chuckle.


1. Diapers: Diapers come in different sizes, not a one size fits all

2. Sizing: 3T doesn’t necessarily mean it’s for three year olds

3. Newborns: Who knew they are so small? Newborn Bloomers are the size of my hand (not really, but a lot smaller than expected)

4. Diaper Changes: Working for a children’s apparel company means that there are inherently going to be kids around who are in need of a diaper change. Lesson learned here, I do not have a strong stomach.

5. The Big One: Just because your kid is napping, it does not mean you have time to yourself to relax or get everything done. I learned this one from a customer who laughed at me when I asked if she was able to get a lot done while her baby was napping.

Did I mention that I am 23 with no kids? Oh how naive I must sound to all you moms out there, or anyone who has ever babysat a child. So thanks RuffleButts and RuffleButt customers for putting up with my previous ignorance to all things baby and teaching me with laughter and jokes.

~Guest Author, and RuffleButts Employee: Bri.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Guest Blogger...Going, Going, Gone... Green

As the COO here at RuffleButts / RuggedButts I'm always trying to read as much information as I can on a daily / weekly basis to ensure our company is staying up with the latest in trends in social media, technology, innovation - and anything else that will help us to deliver the best possible experience to our customers.  While skimming blogs the other night, the title 10 Easy Ways to Go Green in Your Office ( caught my eye.  I thought to myself, we're green, we recycle our paper/plastic & have a Britta - I wonder what else we could be doing?

It was as I read through the article that I realized we're actually doing a really good job in staying as green as possible.  Of the 10 things on the list, we're doing 7 of them!

1) Recycle.  We have ~6 paper recycling bins throughout the office, and anything paper / cardboard that we can recycle goes into them.   We also have a bin in the kitchen for metal/glass/plastic. All of our cardboard boxes we receive from inbound shipments are cut-up and put into our recycling dumpster out back and picked up every two weeks.  Sure it's a cost to have this service, but it's absolutely worth it.

2) Don't waste energy on unnecessary lighting.  We definitely do our best to shut-off lights when not in use - and even direct some of the warehouse fans to blow cool air into the office-space vs. running the air conditioning.  We have all employees turn off their computer monitors and desk lights nightly.

3) Reduce paper use.  We've installed .PDF 'printers' on all of the computers in the office, combined our 'picklists' to include multiple orders per page, have duplexing units on our two main printers, and generally try to print as little as possible.

4) Move away from bottled water.  We've had a Britta in the office since day 1.  Sure it's a pain to make sure it stays filled, but I know I always cringe when I see shoppers at Costco with a cart full of bottled water!

5) Programmable thermostat.  One of my first changes after moving into the new office space was to install one.  They're great, easy to setup, and well worth the $20-$40.

6) Choose green products.  From our printers that have powersave modes, to the energy star refrigerator we purchased for the kitchen, we've got this one covered.

7) Recycled print cartridges.   They (usually!) work as well as the originals, and are definitely cheaper too.  We've got a pile of to-be-returned empty cartridges in the supply room - once we have enough stocked up - we'll bundle and ship them back to be re-reused.

I'm sure there are some additional items that we can instill / install in the offices to make us even more green, but I think we're off to a pretty solid start.  I'm proud that our team is diligent about keeping up with our environmentally friendly efforts.  In fact, our 2,500 square foot office with the equivalent of 14 full time employees generates on average only one large garbage bag full of trash a WEEK!

Whether your living by yourself, with a large family, in a small or enormous office - there's always something that can be done to help better reduce, re-use, and recycle.  How many items are the list can you check off?

~Guest Author, and RuffleButts COO: Mark

Monday, April 23, 2012

How to Throw a Gender Reveal Party

They seem to be all the rage lately. Gender reveal parties are the latest trend in the baby world, and for those of you with patience (this certainly excludes me personally), a really fun idea! So, what is this party they speak of? Well, it's a fun way to bring your friends and family together to learn what color will be filling your it pink or blue?? Here are some really fun ideas for the shindig:

First you must decide if you will learn at the docs office, then plan all the fun for your party guests. If you want to be a part of the fun, there are a few options to join in on the surprise. 

1) At your doc visit, instead of sharing the news, have them write the sex of your little bun on a piece of paper and seal in an envelope. 

2) Take that envelope to your favorite bakery and let them in on the plan. You must hand over the envelope and ask them not to share. You can either order a big cake topped with chocolate or buttercream icing, but then have them color the inside cake to either blue or pink, depending on what's inside the secret envelope. You can do the same thing with cupcakes, having them add a pink or blue filling in the middle. This way, when you cut into the cake at your party, it's the big reveal and news to all! 

3) Another fun idea that I recently read, is it have your bestie peak in on the big secret (but you have to promise not to probe her prior to the big party). Buy a huge box and decorate the outside with "Boy or Girl???". Have her fill the box with helium-filled pink or blue balloons. Hire your favorite photog and open the box at your party. It will make for great pics to capture those faces of true joy and surprise. 

4) Take a tally from your guests when they enter the party. Maybe have a chalkboard with boy and girl headings and have your guests enter their tally. You could also have them write their name on the side of their best guest. Those that guess correctly can win a fun prize once revealed. You can take a picture of all the people that guessed correctly to add to your baby book. 

5) My personal suggestion...if it's a girl, you can put RuffleButt Bloomers in small boxes and have your guests unwrap the boxes all together to reveal the news that you will be having a little "RuffleButt" of your own. This is a great excuse to have a rainbow of RuffleButts awaiting your little angel when she arrives. They also make for precious newborn photos!!

My biggest tip...record the reactions. This is definitely one to capture on photographs, a treasured memory moment. 

Boy or girl, we send sincere CONGRATULATIONS!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Do they lift you higher?

At church this morning, I had a bit of an "ah ha" moment. It's actually something I've heard and repeated many times before, but for some reason today, it just really made sense. I often reference Oprah on this blog, as I just agree with so many of her beliefs. Her statement above does not stray from that.

It is in life and in business that I find it utterly necessary to surround yourself with those that lift you up, and not tear you down.

I think it's important to have people in your life that are honest with you, even when you don't want to hear it. People that challenge and push you to be better. I NEVER want to settle for myself in current form. If I'm not growing, what's the point?! I'm also far from perfect. There is not a day in this business when I think I have all of the answers.

It's funny, in the beginning, I was fully aware that I pretty much knew nothing about this business. Now, 5 years later, I feel much more confident in my decisions, but surprisingly still feel pretty much the same in the fact that I am fully aware that I have a TON to learn in life and in business. As the leader of a business, you have many people relying on you to make the right decisions. You also have to do many different things well. Are you a great designer? Then you're likely not a fabulous manager by nature? Is managing your talent? Then, marketing may not be your expertise? See, when you are growing a business, you don't have the budget to hire people to do all of these things for and with you, so you have to learn to do them to the best of your ability. I am SUPER fortunate to have an amazing team beside me, especially my husband Mark, but we are still only 15 people doing EVERYTHING.

You really don't have to be a business owner to relate to this conversation. Moms, professionals, I think pretty much everyone finds themselves challenged in this area at one point or another. We are trying our best, growing, doing, learning, sometimes spread a little thin. I have limited time, and therefore a limited amount of people in my life. This is why I think Oprah's statement is priceless advice.

No matter what you are doing in your life, your time is a precious thing. Fill that time with people who raise you up. Surround yourself with individuals that push you in a positive direction. People who are honest with you. People who are optimistic about your journey. People who are there not just in the beginning when things are pretty, but will be there when things get a little ugly. People who are COMMITTED. People who trust in your vision. People who will tell you what you don't want to hear because it is what you need to hear. People who are genuinely happy for you because you are happy. And sometimes people who will not tell you their opinion, because they trust your opinion. People who do not gossip. This goes for friends, family, and business.

As you read this, is the same person coming to mind? What role do they play in your life? Have you prayed about it?

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by many amazingly wonderful people on a daily basis. It is with age and experience that I have begun to let go of my people-pleasing ways and started to demand the above for my life and business. It has been pretty life-altering for me, although certainly not without challenge. To be honest, I am facing my own tough decision right now in this area. Just writing this post has helped to clarify that my challenge is not causing turmoil because I lack clarity, but more because it is not the path of least resistance. Sometimes life's best decisions are not.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guest Blogger Wednesday...A Chaotic, Fun, & Rewarding Weekend.

I’m happy to have some of our RuffleButts family members now contributing here at the RuffleBlog. It’s fun to finally have you meet the people that are so very important to me personally, and honestly it’s fun to hear a little from their perspective about this crazy RuffleAdventure! The post below was written by Laura (the same gal that packs your orders with extra care and love) following our Spring photo shoot in Myrtle Beach. It was a whirlwind of a weekend and what Laura politely left out is that she endured not only the wild shoot itself, she also endured 8 hours in the car with me, Mark, Aubrey, and Jonas. Let’s just say, she definitely deserved a raise after that weekend! ~Amber

 Semi recently, I had the honor of joining the RuffleButts entourage on a little trip to Myrtle Beach. Why might you ask? Oh you know, only to help with the photo shoot to launch our 2012 Spring Line!!! It was a very chaotic, fun filled, and rewarding weekend.

First of all, I would like to say that I have no idea how we accomplished SO much in such little time. We had Friday evening through Sunday morning to shoot all the new products (boys and girls), and that time can almost be cut in half due to some less than perfect weather. We kept our fingers crossed for sunny skies and luckily enough had quite a few, good windows of opportunity for some awesome pictures! The cute little models, and their parents too, were very patient and such good sports. When the sun came out and it was time to go, they were ready! The toddlers were excited to try on new outfits and be the center of attention, and the tiny babies did a perfect job of looking absolutely adorable. If you ask me, the parents were equally as thrilled just to see their little ones having fun! All in all, it was definitely an action-packed and successful weekend. We returned to RB Headquarters on Sunday afternoon feeling very accomplished, and ready for the busy Spring Season ahead!

~Guest Author, and RuffleButts Employee: Laura

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guest Blogger Wednesday...Finding That Dream Job

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.” – Howard Thurman

I studied fashion design in college, and when I first moved to Charlotte I searched desperately trying to find my dream job in the fashion industry, but was unsure of exactly what I wanted that to be. In my search three years ago, I found Rufflebutts.

When I first met Amber, she was so full of passion and excitement for what she was doing, and really believed in herself and her company. She had found her passion, which is something I was still looking for, and I knew I wanted to learn from her. The company was still small, with two employees working with Amber, and extremely busy as she worked on building her two year old company. Amber was amazing and agreed to give me business advice and mentorship for a jewelry company a friend and I were running, in exchange for me interning for her a few hrs a week! It is so amazing looking back, that she took the time to mentor me, when she was so busy with her new company, and it really shows her desire to give back to other people.

Fast forward a few years... After around 6 months of helping Amber, she moved further out of Charlotte, and I stopped working with her. I have had several different jobs since then, all of which were fun, but not what I wanted to build a career doing. I still dreamed of designing and working in fashion, but wasn't sure I would find that in Charlotte. Several months ago, looking for jobs, and still searching for what I really wanted to do, I thought about Rufflebutts. I had a strong feeling that I really needed to email Amber to catch up, and mentioned that I would love to work for her if there was ever an opportunity. It happened to be perfect timing, or maybe just meant to be, because less than a week later, I was turning in my 2 week notice, and preparing for a career at Rufflebutts!

The changes that have taken place in the past three years are amazing and it is so exciting to see how much the company has grown and changed! To see Amber go from working out of her basement, to having a big office with 15 people on staff and selling her Rufflebutts around the world is a true testament to what you can achieve with drive and passion! I have been back in the Rufflebutts family for less than 3 months, but am positive this is where I am supposed to be! I was invited into an office with an amazing group of people that all believe in the company and themselves, and I love coming into work every day. I finally figured out what that dream job was that I was searching for and can't wait to build my career here... and my favorite part of it? I help Amber with designing, which is what I have always been passionate about!

~Guest Author, and RuffleButts Employee: Liz

Saturday, March 10, 2012

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place. ~Nora Roberts

I have told my story here on the RuffleBlog a few times over. From day one, the intention of this blog was to pay it forward, to inspire others, to share my journey (the real thing, not he sugar-coated version). So, today, I was asked if I could deliver one message to people based on my experiences and 'success', what that message would be. I knew pretty clearly that my message would be the same one I have shared here over the years...that dreams are not handed to you on a silver platter, you must go after them. That success is a culmination of God's blessings, a LOT of hard work, risk, commitment, and the decision not to accept less for yourself. Then, I was asked the key question, "where does someone start?".

I wish I had the million dollar answer here. I would love nothing more than to give this gift of passion and fulfillment to every single person I meet. I truly strive to share my passion with our team at RuffleButts to the best of my ability, and it is beyond rewarding when they tell me that they love their job. Totally puts a smile on my face to know I made a small contribution to this.

So, back to the question...if you are in the place that I found myself just 5 years ago, what do you do? Well, the quote from Nora Roberts above is a good place to start. Ask yourself if you are truly prepared to go after what you want. Are you ready to put yourself out there? Are you ready to commit to the journey? If the answer is yes, then you have to follow your heart, but the steps below are a basic guide:

1) PRAY - This applies no matter what your religion, but for me, my faith in God has given me the courage to take steps when the staircase was out of sight. Before quitting my real estate job, I would sit in my car before going into work, and have my own personal time with God. It was in this quiet time, that I heard myself asking for something specific. I found myself repeatedly asking God for an 'idea'. It was in this time, that I clearly understood my desire for entrepreneurship. That was my destiny, but it was many years of searching before that path became clear.

2) READ - It is often that the seed of a dream is planted by inspiration. What or who is it that inspires you? Read about the accomplishments of others. Magazines, books, newspapers, blogs. Today is a day of information. There are so many amazing people out there sharing their stories. Take in as much as you possibly can.

3) WRITE - This one may seem a little corny, but isn't it worth a try? So, take a piece of paper and a pen to a peaceful spot, outside with nature, if at all possible. Draw a line down the middle. On the left jot down the things that bring you joy and things that are important to you. It can be as simple and far back as hobbies that you enjoyed in your childhood, when there wasn't the pressure of bringing in a paycheck, or status. Don't think too much, just write. Then, on the right, list the things that don't bring you joy. List the things that you want out of your life, or things you want to change.

It's funny, I always say that life is a bit like a book that you can only read backwards. It all makes sense looking back. I always felt lost in my career search. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with my life. But, looking back, I started businesses and clubs as early as I could remember. I loved it. There was the ninja turtle club in elementary school, then the baby sitting club in middle school. In high school, I tried to start a grocery delivery company. Seriously, could it be more clear? Then, the funny hobby in elementary school was fashion design. I would carry around a notebook and draw fancy dress designs. I never really wanted to be a fashion designer, but was always interested in the fashion business. Reading this paragraph it almost sounds silly that I was unsure of a career path. It is so black and white, but it certainly didn't feel that way.

The next step on your journey...ACTION. At this point, it comes down to faith. Do you have faith in yourself, in your journey, in your decision? If so, go get it. Earn it. Live the life that you dream of. It is completely possible.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Burn the boats

In recent months, I have spent time reading about and watching other people who have achieved 'success' in their lives. By success, I don't necessarily mean wealth, but more that true calling, purpose-filled life that I strive for. Obviously Oprah is at the top of this list for me, and she has impacted my life in major ways, including her contribution to my driving desire to start RuffleButts. It was a simple show about other entrepreneurs that lit my fire. Their excitement and passion pretty much jumped through the TV at me and said "you can do this"! Since then, Oprah has weaved in and out of my story in a few life-changing ways. She always seems to provide the positive influence that I need at the moment, which brings me to her recent interview with Tony Robbins. Tony made a statement that just resonated with me in every way. I'll let you watch for yourself the 1.5 minute video...

Tony Robbins on the One Word That Could Be Holding You Back
OWN president Sheri Salata took Tony Robbins' seminar with Oprah. Watch as Sheri and Oprah reveal one of their favorite lessons from the day.

This statement hits home with me in so many ways. My team is probably sick and tired of hearing me preach about commitment, but it is of the utmost important to me. As a business leader and entrepreneur, I feel that commitment is just a simple requirement. You're either in or you're out. I simply don't have the time to have anyone in our RuffleButt family that is not committed. To be honest, you really can't survive in a small entrepreneurial company if you are not. There is no wavering as a business leader. My team relies on me, trusts in me to make decisions every day. They trust in me to be committed to this journey, to this climb, and I truly am. For me, the commitment to RuffleButts is relatively easy. It is the other aspects of my life where this proves to be more challenging.

I've always been a runner. One that gets bored easily and moves onto the next thing. If I didn't like my school, I went to a different one. If I didn't like my job, I went and found a new one. What I gathered from this simple statement is that if I am going to do something, I must do it all the way. No back-up plan, no negative thoughts taking away my time and energy from the goal at hand. If I'm gonna conquer, I gotta burn the freakin boats. 

I'm not sure how this statement may apply to your life at this moment, but I have a feeling that it does in one way or another. If nothing else, I hope it makes you think, pushes you to grow. I know it did for me.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Win a Tiffany ring AND $250 to spend at RuffleButts/RuggedButts!!!!

Funny enough, I'm usually not a big name-brand person. I like what I like and I value quality, and if there is a great name to go along with it, then that's cool too. There are just a few brands/designers that have special meaning to me, and Tiffany & Co is one of them. It was in some recent thought that I had a fun idea...

The meaning behind the name:
As I've mentioned many, many times in this blog, I have always known that I wanted to accomplish something 'big', but it wasn't until RuffleButts that I knew what the accomplishment was supposed to be. Growing up in KY with a single mom, Tiffany wasn't a brand that I was introduced to till after college. My first career was with a pharmaceutical company. I vividly remember one of my co-workers who was years ahead of me with regard to experience and life achievements. She always wore this shiny, classy-looking Tiffany bracelet. It wasn't until a few years later, when I closed my first big real estate deal that I went to Tiffany to purchase not only a piece for myself, but also for my super-supportive mom. It was my "I've made it moment", and my gift to my mom to thank her for all of her sacrifice over the years. It was then, just a few years later, when I met Mark, that I landed my 2nd piece as a 'wooing gift'. It was so sweet and made me feel very loved! Over the years, these Tiffany pieces have been a reminder of the blessings in my life. 

What we are doing:
So this brings me to my weekend thought. I would like to share with you, the people who have supported my dreams, my goals and ambitions, your own celebratory Tiffany piece. A reminder that you are loved, you are valued, and that you can accomplish any dream you wish. I know it is just a material thing, but it is the meaning that is so much more valuable. It is a special mom and daughter giveaway, in honor of my mom, and in celebration of you!

So, with this said, we are launching our best and biggest giveaway yet. We are giving away a Return to Tiffany Heart Signet Ring for you AND $250 for you to spend on your little angel at and/or Sending luck and gratitude, I hope you enjoy!

Enter HERE --->

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tips for Running a Successful Company

In a magazine interview, I was recently asked for my top 10 tips for running a successful company. At first, I almost found it a little humorous...I am the one always reading the blogs and articles from super successful entrepreneurs (like Mark Cuban's 12 Rules for Startups or Tony Hsieh on for their tips. Why would anyone want to hear my advice?! Then, to give myself a little more credit, I had one of those crazy realizations that I have earned this spot. Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly no Mark Cuban, but I have technically built a multi-million dollar business. Who would have known?! I'm just a little girl from Kentucky. I didn't go to Harvard, I didn't even take my SATs! I'm just one stubborn, passionate, blessed, hard-working little momma, but it certainly took some lessons to get here. So, with that said, here are my top ten tips:

  1.  If at any point you find yourself following another company and imitating their decisions, it is time to re-evaluate your business plan. In my eyes, it’s like a ship following behind Christopher Columbus. That’s no way to make history!

  2. Surround yourself with people that support your vision. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle and is certainly different from working at your average corporation. Your team must be committed to the climb and excited about the destination.

  3.  Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster. It ain’t easy!

  4. Think outside the box. Sounds cliché, but in today’s ever-changing environment, it is necessary to be innovative, creative, and open-minded.

  5. Do more with less. Spend wisely.

  6. Treat your customers and your team like you wish other businesses and previous bosses would have treated you.

  7.  Don’t do it unless you love it. Running a successful company requires massive amounts of time, sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears. In my opinion, in order to achieve true success, passion is a requirement.

  8. Embrace change and do things differently. Don’t look to the industry to tell you what to do, show the industry what they should be doing.

  9.  Dream big. Without dreams, you have no direction.

  10. Run your business with humbleness and gratitude. Pay it forward, share your blessings, and never take success for granted.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The road to fulfillment

Over the past few weeks, I have been in interview mode, trying to find the next member of our team. I have spoken to many people, some young, some more experienced, some single, some married with children. Over the years, I have found one recurring theme...people on the search for career fulfillment. This is one search that I can certainly relate to, and it has been for me, one of the most important and valuable discoveries of my life. It was the discovery of passion. Passion for what I do daily. Without that passion, I would be one over-worked, under-paid, lost woman. I know how incredibly blessed I am to have discovered my passion at an early age (late twenties), and I am even more blessed that I am able to aid others in the discovery of their own passion.

So, if you are still on your own journey of discovery, this is my note to you...with determination, an open-mind, LOTS of hard work, and most importantly faith, you will find your fit. Sometimes it takes patience, other times it takes intolerance. I knew in my heart for years, that I was not in my right place. I witnessed business is ways that I knew were not only unfulfilling, but also unethical. I listened as my co-workers complained about their jobs, and sadly, I often participated.

I have shared this story in the past, but it is honestly, one of the turning points in my life. I remember vividly sitting in my car, before going into work, making a "deal" with God. "Just give me the idea, and I will give you everything I've got. I'll bust my butt, work 7 days a week. I'll inspire others and pay it all forward. Just lead me to my passion." I knew it was time to make a change, I just wasn't sure what that change was supposed to be. It was with this faith, that I quit my job, and spent three months in search of my passion.

That was December of 2006. In March of 2007 RuffleButts was trademarked and I was set on my journey. I'm not going to say it has been easy, it hasn't. I had NO idea what I was about to get myself into, but I count my blessings daily that I took that leap of faith. I went through some rough times....even ended up on the couch of a therapist at one point. But, I survived, or should I say, I'm surviving! Every day is pure craziness around here, and I wouldn't trade a bit of it for anything.

I spoke with a woman today that took the step of meeting with a life coach. To some, this may sound corny, I think it's genius. Your own private teacher to help you choose the path that leads to passion, what a great idea! This journey is not necessarily one for career, it is one of fulfillment. This may be a role as a stay-at-home mom, or a life as a pastor. It is finding your right fit, fulfillment for your life. For you, it may require a life coach, or maybe a life-changing book. For me, it was a chat with God. No matter what, I think it requires a conscious decision. The decision of discovery, of commitment, and ultimately of fulfillment.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Office Holiday

I must admit, I was SUPER indecisive this year when it came to our office holiday party. Mark and I went back and forth trying to figure out what would be rewarding, bonding, and fun for everyone here at the RBOffices. First it was bowling (so team-ish), then it was a restaurant/bar (so typical), then zip-lining (so cold!!). Then, one night (yes, I do most of my good thinking in the middle of the night), I realized that we are not a typical company and don't have to follow the typical office holiday rules. So, right before we all headed home for the holidays, we shared the news...

This Christmas at RuffleButts, I followed my heart and in doing so, my team was right there beside me. I work with the best people ever!! Instead of spending money on a party, I wanted to do something a little different. First, we rewarded each of our team members for their incredible commitment and contributions by treating the gals to the Spa and the guys to an Amazon shopping spree. I wanted to give them each something that they typically would not give themselves. So, that was part 1.

For part 2, I wanted to do something that was in line with our company philosophy. The best gift ever...the gift of giving. Every RB team member received $50. The catch - they had to spend it on someone in need. There were no other rules.

I didn't realize that this was a selfishly unselfish gift, because in the end, it was the best gift for me!! It was so cool as we went around the table at our morning meeting this week and everyone shared what they did with their $50. It was awesome for me to see my dream coming to life, for RuffleButts to be spreading smiles in more ways than one.  And honestly, because our team is made up of such incredible people, I think they truly would have chosen this holiday gift over any other.

So, my lessons learned this week:
- Follow your heart
- Giving is just as much, if not more fun than getting
- I work with a bunch of awesome people
- Sometimes, but only sometimes, indecisiveness leads to good things

To wrap it up, I'm sharing our "Bad Christmas Sweater Day" picture. Organized by Laura, the lovely lady that packs your website orders with love, it was a fun and festive day here at RuffleButts. And yes, that is me looking like a turtle about to be hit by a car!! Oh, and Cameron looking at me like I'm a nut! I think Kiki (on the far left) should win the award for best (or worst) Christmas sweater...we never did take a vote!