Thursday, May 29, 2008

To work or not to work...

This week I had conversations with two separate women, for whom I have so much respect. One is a wonderfully supportive friend, in a similar stage in life. She has been working in a career she likes, but does not love (as I was just a few years ago). She has a passion for animals, but is not quite sure how to pursue that while also bringing in an income. She has been married for a while now and plans to add to her family soon. We got into the discussion that so many woman have at least once in their work or not too work. So, we both want children, we both have a natural ambition and drive that would classify us in the "Type A personality" class, but we are both a little torn when it comes to the big debate about working as a mother. I, obviously, am planning to work as a mother, as this business is such a huge part of my life, but know that when that day comes I will find myself torn between spending hours at the office or time with my little angel playing on the floor. I have always believed that there has to be a way to have both, as many of the working moms around the world have proven, but I can't imagine how difficult that will be. I can also completely understand the decision to become a stay-at-home-mom, as the older I get, the more I understand what very little time we have with the most important "job" of our life!

My second conversation was with someone I consider to be a new friend, a complete sweetheart, a new mom, who openly shared her experiences with me. This fabulously talented lady has spent years in the industry making her mark. She worked her way through multiple successful careers that many us women would majorly envy - lets just say she spent years writing fabulous fashion stories for a very well known website and has her own TV show about shopping! Okay, now that we are all dying of jealousy...she is just like many of you new mommies out there, facing those same decisions. As we were discussing her new mommy status, she made such a good point, that motherhood is like this secret society where you all have this one major thing in common, your precious little creations that are now the center of your universe.

I realized that no matter who you are, or where you are in your career that motherhood changes everything. I also realized that although I already had so much respect for moms, it is really so much bigger than I can imagine. The balance, the responsibility, the physical demands, the mental exhaustion, the incredible rewards - I don't think anyone can comprehend the true depth of this role until they official become a member! I know 100% that I can not wait until the day comes that I will have a little RuffleButt of my own and officially join this club, but in the meantime, I will continue to have an indescribable amount of respect for the mothers of this world!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Working With Ruffles

Ruffle Intern: V

Hey Everyone!

This is Veronica, the new intern over at RuffleButts! Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend spent with family and friends. I am thrilled to be joining this business and I wanted to share with you all a little bit about me: I am a children's wear designer entering my senior year at Parson's School of Design (ever seen 'Project Runway'? That's filmed at my school!). I am currently back home in South Florida for the summer and working with Amber and the RuffleButts team. I have already learned so much about what it takes to run a business and working within the apparel industry. I am grateful for Amber and all the one-on-one time she spends with me as well as anxious to see where we can go with this exciting brand over the next couple months.

One of the many wonderful aspects of working in children's wear, and specifically at RuffleButts, is how pleasant and caring everyone is--both workers and customers alike!
Thank you for your continued support and I hope to be in close contact with you all for the duration of my experience here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Adding to the team

I am so thrilled to introduce you to our newest addition to the RuffleButts team, Veronica Cohen! Veronica has joined us for the summer from Parsons School of Design in New York. She is such a breath of fresh air and a ginormous help here at the office. With her design experience and education, along with her so admired organizational and perfectionist qualities, she is the the perfect compliment to Kristen, Mark and me!

Our first week has been one of chaos, as usual, but she is fitting right in and we have gotten a ton accomplished. We have scheduled our first official "PR Project" and "Spring 09 Design Week", and with 4 sets of hands around here now, I think we will finally get a system of organization. Okay, I know, I'm probably dreaming a bit, but at least we are getting close!

It is and always will be extremely important to me to surround myself with nice, considerate, hard-working, and ethical people. I am so happy to say that with our RuffleButts team, and our shared-office team of GMC Mortgage, I am surrounded on a daily basis. I am still human and there are definitely days when I just don't want to work, but I must say, overall, I feel so very fortunate to do what I do, with the people that I do it with!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

So, who am I?

It always makes me feel a little awkward writing about myself, but over the past few weeks, I have been asked about my past, so here goes...

To sum me up, I am a wife, hope-to-be-mom, entrepreneur and therefore clothing designer to tots. Born and raised in Kentucky, I am truly your average girl. I was so very blessed to be raised by an incredibly supportive and encouraging single mom, and a highly motivated and hard-working father. I learned independence at a young age and knew that I wanted to make something of myself. I never hurt for anything as a child, but my mom raised me on a very limited income (let's just say that Value City was our mall of choice and vacations meant that we drove across the bridge to Indiana for the night). From a very early age, I was always coming up with ideas to make money, from lemonade stands and babysitting clubs to charging my own grandparents for 'tickets' to come see the show that I put on with my cousins...hey, at least I was creative!

So, fast-forward...I started working at age 14 and worked straight through to my college graduation. I left high-school after my Junior year to attend night-school and work full-time during the day to earn money for college. After graduating, I attended the University of Cincinnati to major in business and minor in fashion merchandising. I was always intrigued by the fashion business, but never really exposed to it. Following college, I was offered a Buyers position at The Limited Too, which was pretty much my dream job, but with an income that left me in that same struggling situation of my childhood. At the same time, I was offered a position with Eli Lilly & Company, a pharmaceutical company that offered me the world - the new car, the company credit card, and an income that allowed me to truly get on my feet. I promised myself it would only be a sacrifice of a few years, and let's just say it didn't even last that long.

Following the short stint in pharmaceutical sales, I made my way to the real estate industry selling new homes for a national builder. I then met my now husband and joined him in a new start-up custom home building business. After selling/closing the business, we moved to Dallas, TX where I accepted a position selling high-rise condos in a huge urban development. This is where I truly got that kick that I needed to pursue my dream. I worked for a man that opened my eyes so wide to disappointment and disgust. A man of pure selfishness that used others to get to the top. He would lie, cheat & steal, and sadly enough had no shame. He talked horribly about one employee to another and pretty much did "the wrong thing" every time. Looking back, I am grateful for that experience because it gave me the strength and drive that I needed to start my own business doing things the "right way". I made a promise to myself that I would treat my employees with respect and my customers just the same. I would make every effort to do the right thing, no matter what. I just knew in my heart that if he could achieve "success" with those morals, that I could do the same (just in a very different way)!

I spent many of nights in prayer for that "big idea". I was ready, I knew it was my time, but I just didn't know exactly what it was that I was supposed to do. I always loved fashion, but I had no desire to enter the world of women's wear. I always loved children, but had none of my own, so was definitely not an expert in this field. My background was business, but I wanted to pursue something that brought joy to myself and others. It was finally after moving with my wonderful & incredibly supportive husband to Fort Lauderdale, FL in December of 2006 that I had my "light bulb moment". Having grown up in what my mom always referred to as my ruffle butt bloomers, I was searching high and low for these childhood staples to give as gifts. After little to no success with this search, I realized that this was my opportunity...the perfect clients (moms and little angels), a fun product, and the opportunity to share smiles with others!

I formed RuffleButts, Inc in March of 2007 and worked for about 6 months on the products before finally launching the website in last August. My world has been crazy ever since. I have been so tremendously blessed! I honestly have the best clients in the world - I receive pictures and kind emails on a daily basis. We are able to donate a portion of our profits to charitable organizations, which is a huge personal goal. We now have an entire line of fun & frilly products that spread smiles to people literally around the world! With supportive friends and family, an incredible husband and my dream business at the age of 28, I truly could not ask for more. Well, truthfully, I do have one other request, and that is to one day have a little "RuffleButt" of my own. God is good, and I have full faith that this will happen...maybe one day soon ;)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

RuffleButts on the radio...

I have been invited by Elaine of to participate in on on-air interview tomorrow, Wednesday, May 21st at 2:00pm EST. I always feel a little funny when I do these types of things, thinking "why would anyone want to interview me...I'm just an average person", but then I remember how inspired I was a few years back watching an Oprah episode on entrepreneurs and their big ideas. To me, RuffleButts is no "big idea", but more my baby, my creation, that I work endless hours to nurture and grow. They are not some crazy invention that made me millions, but more a work of love that I hope to develop into a charitable, inspirational, profitable organization some day, spreading ruffles and sharing smiles around the globe! My story is not one of awe or headline news, but more of an everyday person, pursuing a dream. I share my story in hopes that maybe I can touch someone or spark their own "big idea" like those entrepreneurs did for me that day on Oprah.

Elaine is someone of similar goals, and she is using her talents to encourage other women. I love her concept and the inspiration behind it. You can read a little more about her story here, but the source of her idea came from watching the television show, The Big Idea, hosted by Donnie Deutsch. I am a personal fan of this show and hope to be a guest one day, but the fact that this is HER Big Idea, is even more exciting! Women inspiring other women...I love it!

So, if you would like to learn more about RuffleButts as a company, or my story as the Owner, Founder & Designer, please join us tomorrow at You can even call into the show to ask your own questions live on-air at 646-200-4281! The show will also be available for download, so no worries if that doesn't fit into your day. Hope to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Factory trip continued

I finally arrived home at about midnight last night and I must say, it is always good to be home! The trip overall was a good one and I am extremely excited about our outlook going forward.

So, a little more about the factory - it is an apparel factory located in the Dominican Republic with a little more than 100 workers. When we first started working with this company, I inquired about the age and quality of life of the workers, but it was very reassuring to see it with my own eyes. Of course, everyone employed is a full adult and they all seem to have a good quality working environment.

The manufacturer had always told me that although our products seem very simple, they are actually more technical than not with and exacting level of detail and quality required. (As we quickly figured out when they went through the difficulties on our first production last year). They have since made the decision to move the RuffleButt sewers to a separate area in the factory to allow them to focus on just this one product line. This gives them more individualized experience and training with our products and better overall quality control. This is also exciting and positive for us in multiple ways, the obvious one being a constant improvement in our products. No matter how great your products and/or designs, they can always improve and that is the direction I like to be headed. As I have mentioned many times before, people are of massive importance to me in this business. Not just our customers (of course they are always a top priority), but also our interns, our factory workers, our vendors and especially all of those other people that we are able to touch in a positive way through our business. I love the fact that these workers are working solely on our products so they have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger. I shared a picture with them and even hung it on the wall, of one of our customers, Kayden Pelstring (daughter of Jen Pelstring), in her adorable little RuffleButts. Jen was sweet enough to send me pictures of her daughter in her new bloomers and I received the email while I was down at the factory. I wanted these workers to see that their efforts on this apparel makes a bigger impact than they would think - they are sharing smiles with moms and little ones around the world.

So here are a few of the pictures that I took while we were there:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The factory

I am so happy to report that this has been a really positive trip to the factory. I am sitting here on my laptop, catching up on some last minute work before I head back to the factory for the afternoon. Life is rough, huh?! I wonder if I could just move my office to the beach ;) I feel like I have made a lot of head-way with the manufacturer, finally having the opportunity to speak to our team directly. I feel like everything comes down to communication and this trip has definitely accomplished that.

We have a new main contact, as of the past few months, with the factory and she has been such a breath of fresh air. I feel like we are on the same page and things are finally moving forward full-steam ahead. I have said all along that the manufacturing aspect of this business has been by-far the biggest challenge for us, but I finally feel like we are on the right path for growth and stability.

If you are considering or in the process of starting an apparel business, I would tell you to spend a lot of time on this part of the process. It truly is imperative to your success to have product, quality product, to provide to your customers. With all of the press and/or sales you can bring in, none of it really matters, if you don't have the products to deliver. It can be extremely intimidating getting into an old-school industry where you don't have much experience, but this is business and you need to ask those questions, whether you feel silly or not. Any good manufacturer that is willing to grow with you, will understand and better yet, even encourage and assist you through the process.

I really second guessed the decision to work with this factory after the challenging experience with delays and overpromises that we faced and overcame during our Spring 08 line, but at this point, I truly feel that I was led in the right direction. And although, I would never have chosen to go through that experience, I feel like God gives us speed bumps and detours to make us stronger. I can confidently say that I do feel much stronger and more capable, and it feels good!

This trip has really sparked my fire again and I am so excited about what is to come with the RuffleButts line. We have new fabrics and design ideas for Spring 09 and everything seems to be on track with our Spring 08 and Fall 08 deliveries. My customers are always my top priority and I am so glad to know that we will have products to deliver to them and great new designs to come! I have a ton of pictures and more to share on the factory trip, which I will try to post later tonight or first thing tomorrow. Have a great day, and thank you all for your support!!!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How to find interns...

I was recently asked by Lisa over at The Domestic Diva about how to go about finding a summer intern. Since this is a wonderful question that would have been very helpful to me a few months back, I thought I would go ahead and write a post on it...

I was very fortunate to be approached by our local Art Institute regarding internships. I was actually just looking for a student that may be interested in freelance Pattern Making work, but when I was on the phone with the career office, they actually recommended that we bring on an intern. They invited me to participate in their quarterly internship fair, which is where I met Kristen, our current intern. I would highly recommend this process to any Entrepreneur that is in need of help and willing to mentor young talent.

The honest struggle...for me, I find it a bit challenging to balance the work that needs to be done and the work that I know she would find more enjoyable. I truly attempt to give her more projects that will peak her interest and expose her to new things, but in all reality, since she is only here a few hours a week, I am usually in desperate need of her help on inventory and packing orders. I am fortunate that she is flexible and always willing to help, and as I bring on more help in the coming weeks, I am hoping to have more time to mentor her on the more interesting sides of the business.

I was equally lucky and blessed with our NYC summer intern joining us next week, as she contacted me. I always love to see ambition from young talent, so this effort on her part, really set her apart.

If you are open to the idea of bringing on intern, I would recommend posting on a free site such as I would also recommend contacting your local colleges and putting the word out to their career services office. You will be amazed at how many students would love to have the opportunity to work behind the scenes in a smaller company, as opposed to getting lost behind a desk at a larger corporation. If your internships will be unpaid, the typical requirement is that 1) you're very upfront about this with the students, 2) you are giving your time to mentor the student while they are contributing to the business, and 3) they are able to receive credit for the internship through their school program.

I will tell you this, it has been a huge relief and blessing for me to have Kristen as part of the team and I am really looking forward to Veronica joining us as well! I truly hope that one day this experience is tremendously beneficial to them, and maybe they can put their experience to work here at RuffleButts once they graduate!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I really try not to complain, as I know how blessed I am to be running my own business, pursuing a dream...but, today, I am just tired. I have a ton to do, as always =) but all I really want to do is go home and lay on the couch. Throw a little afternoon Oprah into the mix and I would be set! Okay, I can stop dreaming now!!

Well, with that little bit of whining out of the way, I am nervous, but also excited to say, that I have finally come to the conclusion that I am in need of permanent help! I have opened my mind to the idea of bringing on a partner in crime, a COO if you will. Since we are still a very new company, I am not quite sure how I will afford this help, but there just has to be a way.

Any advice from you other Entrepreneurs out there? I am thinking that I have to find someone organized and ambitious, willing to do it all, right by my side. They will have to be someone of the entrepreneurial spirit, willing to work for a lesser wage in the beginning, with huge potential and possibilities for what's to come! Am I living in a dream world??

Our "full-time" NYC summer intern starts next Monday, so that will be a great trial. I am so thrilled to have her and hope that it will be a fabulous experience for us both! She will be with us for the next three months or so, which will be wonderful timing to start looking for more permanent help. I am hoping to find that perfect fit sometime between now and September, for a smooth transition. See, I am using my newly established pre-planning skills!!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Crazy week - factory trip!

So this is another exciting and hectic week here at RuffleButts! I am so happy to say that our sales are still going strong as a result of our recent praise in the May issue of babytalk Magazine. This is such a huge blessing, and I am infinitely grateful, but with all exciting times in business, it naturally brings along many lessons to be learned.

One of my biggest lessons is to always be months ahead of the game in product planning and time management. As many of you know, the manufacturing side of this business has been one hugely ginormous learning experience after another. I have tried desperately to work through the kinks to get a good system in place, and I am happy to say that we are on our way there. Unfortunately, it was through this time of "working through the issues" that put us so far behind. I had found another factory to run replacement products as we were getting low, but this flood of orders has put us a little behind yet again. We are out-of-stock on a few of our most popular items, which is so very frustrating to me personally, because I really want our customers to have a fabulous shopping experience with us. I know that there is always a bit of disappointment when they have to wait a few weeks for products to arrive, and I would like to avoid disappointment as much as possible.

I also have to say here, that our customers are absolutely fantastic and have been more than understanding with these product back-orders. I truly feel like if I could meet our RuffleButt customers in person, that I would find many lifelong friends - I really couldn't be more blessed! The other good news is that we have another huge production run in place at the main factory now. All of the fabric and trims have arrived via boat and they should be churning out product over the next few weeks.

My husband and I are taking a little trip to the Dominican Republic this Saturday to visit the factory and make sure that everything is running smoothly. I am really crossing my fingers that they are going to be on track and the visit will be a positive one. When asked about running a business, I always find myself saying that if only I could do everything, things would be so much easier. I have found it disappointing that not everyone keeps their word, but I am hoping that things go much better than the first time around and that I will have positive news to report upon my return!

To those of you starting a business, my biggest piece of advice with regard to production is to try to stay as far ahead of the game as possible...plan, plan, and pre-plan. Make your deadlines very well known to your vendors and hold them accountable as much as possible. Easier said than done, I know, but I am learning the value of planning as far ahead in advance as possible.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Economy fears

Terry, over at the Frugal Mommy Blog, recently asked me about my opinion on starting a business with today's economic concerns. First, let me say that I love her blog concept. As my husband and friends have always teased me about my "frugalness" - they say I'm cheap, I call it frugal - this blog is right up my alley! I was raised by a single mom for the most part, on a very tight budget, so this is ingrained in my way-of-life. My husband is in the mortgage business, so needless to say, we are in the same position as many families with a little less stability at this time, but that has really given us all that more determination to make this RuffleButts dream a reality.

I guess I am fortunate that I started the business when things were beginning to slow, so my expectations were set from that point on. I am extremely grateful that our business has grown consistently, despite these economic challenges and hope that we continue on this path. The biggest effect that I have seen on the business is the slow-down with many retailers. Although our retailers have been wonderful for the most part, I am finding that overall, retailers are placing smaller orders and are slower to pay. With that said, I believe that if you have a good idea and a strong business plan, you can find success in any economy. Just be realistic in your expectations, do your research, and make frugal business decisions.

Because of my frugal nature, it is always so hard for me to grasp the concept of spending money to make money, but I do completely understand the truth to this statement. I know so many of us start these businesses from home, trying not to spend too much of our family's hard earned money, and in the beginning every bit is a little painful (this was me!). For others, you are so ambitious and ready to do what it takes to make your business a success, you end up spending yourself into a deep hole. In my opinion, good business practices require a middle ground - you must spend, but spend intelligently, and I believe this applies in any economy.