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 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!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Last post

So this is my last post in regards to the whole issue from today. I use the ruffleblog to post the good, the bad, and most importantly, the honest perspective through my eyes on this entrepreneurial journey. I never claim to be perfect, just honest. Let me make one clarification on my earlier posts from today. I am not claiming that I was the first to make ruffled bloomers, nor do I think that our designs will go uncopied. That is the nature of the apparel business. What hurt me was the fact that the creator of that other website/brand emailed and spoke with me personally on numerous occasions. She asked for my advice, took my personal time, to inquire about our sales practices, drop shipping, advertising and business contacts. I helped her because I wanted to pay it forward. I feel so incredibly blessed to do what I do, and I want to help others. I was hurt that she would contact me under false pretenses, and then create products so similar to ours, using our business contacts.

I struggled personally with sharing this experience, but I also believe that, although I may be judged, I will always share my honest and true self. I go through the same that others do, I am human, a mom, wife and entrepreneur, and this is a personal journey. Take what you may, read it or don't, like it or not, this is my experience.

I truly and sincerely appreciate all of the kind words...many more than those that criticized, but being honest again, it is always difficult for me to hear the unpleasant. I will take this experience, as I do all to learn from. I am over it, and on to more positive things in my life. I have said it a million times, and I will probably say it a million more...I am so extremely blessed to have such incredible customers, amazing friends and family, and to do what I love every day.

You are awesome!

Seriously, we have the most amazing customers ever!! Okay, I'm already totally over the whole "rip-off" thing. You guys are the best, and reminded me to keep looking forward. We are too busy here creating new and exciting RuffleButt products for our fabulous customers, to be concerned about others and their bad judgement. I honestly can not tell you how much your support means to me personally and how appreciative we are of your business!

Oh, and by the way, my photographer informed me that this business owner contacted her to try to do their photography as well. She is a fabulous photographer, but are you serious?! Well, I guess I'm glad I could provide some inspiration!


I'm sure you're thinking this is a picure from, read on:

My business ethics kicked in this week and I was truly torn whether or not I should share my opinion on this matter. When I received yet another email informing me of a company ripping off our products (and yes, it's the same company that contacted me directly asking for advice), I just felt it is my right, and almost obligation to share this. So, I am not only hurt, but quite angry at this point. I would truly appreciate your opinions to know if I am totally off base on this one...

So, when I saw this I emailed the owner regarding these designs and her multiple requests for business advice from me, this was part of her response...
"I’m very offended that you think I’m trying to copy your dream when I’m sure you are aware that ruffled baby bloomer have been around since the 1850’s or longer. If you have done any research at all on baby bloomers you’ll find information on their origination. There are many companies out there that carry baby bloomers and diaper covers, so please further your research before making additional false accusations."

I guess it was one thing when we found out a random, shady company in Asia was copying our product, that was almost to be expected at some point, but to hear that a company that has the word Faith in their name, and further a cross in their logo?!? And even further still, one that came to me for advice - which I gave? Now, I do not want this to taint my opinion on encouraging women and sharing advice, but as you can imagine, I am pretty disgusted and have lost some faith. It is one thing to create products that look similar to ours, but it is another to copy what we are doing as a whole after purchasing our clothing and emailing me personally for business advice. From the bloomers, to the image design / layout, to the headbands, and I mean, seriously, look at the Blessed shirt above! Their slogan is "faith inspired baby wear", I think maybe they should change it to "RuffleButts inspired baby wear". What happened to faith?!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Business ethics

In a recent conversation, I was reminded that strong business ethics are a rare and valuable asset. I work with tons of different companies on a regular basis, from printers to manufacturers, to our office cleaning company. Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to build a strong team and surround myself with people of similar values. Still, on a regular basis, I am just shocked at the decisions some people make. In a recent conversation with a company that used our products as "inspiration" (more on that story to follow soon!!), I was informed that the owner strongly believes she did nothing wrong. The best part is that this particular company is a Christian company with a cross in their logo! This incidence came up in a recent conversation and I was reminded that business ethics are sometimes hard to come by.

Here is my advice, and I am not saying that I am perfect in any way...not even close, but this is the standard that we try to follow around here.

A few questions to ask yourself when making a tough decision:
1. Would I be proud of myself if this decision was printed on the cover of the newspaper?
This is an oldie but goodie and a great way to truly check yourself.
2. Am I using the grey area to justify a decision?
Some decisions are black and white, but many fall into that grey area. If you find yourself trying to justify a decision internally, it is likely a sign that you are not using the best judgement?
3. Are you hiding this decision from anyone inside of your company?
I find that if I try to execute something quickly, hoping that Mary or Mark don't see, this is a sign that I may be trying to convince myself that it is the right decision when it truly is not.

Often, the right decision is not always the easy decision. At RuffleButts, we pride ourselves on doing business the "right way", but sometimes it is a little painful when it costs more, takes more time, or isn't fun. This is when I have to check myself, and in the end, I have found that 110% of the time, the right thing equals the right results, even if that is difficult to see in the short-term.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Working with your spouse

I get this question a in the world do you work with your spouse and stay married?? Well, Mark and I have a very unique situation. We literally spend almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week together. We work on RuffleButts together, we take care of Aubrey together, we renovate/build houses together, and we obviously live together. Most days I think he is the most amazing person I have ever met, a few other days, I want to kill him! So, where do we find that balance to make our marriage work? I'm not really sure. Our situation is unique, but if you are, for some crazy reason considering this path, then this is my attempt to share a few suggestions:

1. Be prepared for work to enter all areas (and times) of your daily life.
Discussions about websites or marketing plans over dinner are inevitable and even the occasional strategy debate at the grocery store will occur. Find a fair way to say "I don't really want to talk about work right now" that is acceptable to both parties, that will at least give you a time-out when absolutely needed.

2. Don't follow the typical gender roles.
There is no room for typical roles in this co-working world. All things with life and home must be shared with equal responsibility...or at least have a discussion where roles are mutually agreed. In our relationship, Mark does a majority of the laundry. This may not be typical, but neither is our relationship. And I probably do not tell him enough, but this is MAJORLY appreciated and not taken for granted.

3. Put the marriage before everything else on the list.
I must admit, this is probably the most difficult one for us. Although Mark is always my #1, it is tough to make him feel that way when I have a hungry child, a phone ringing, and a production deadline in front of me. If a business role is impeding on the marriage, schedule a "meeting" and find a different way to do it. Although work is work, sometimes the emotional "you make me feel like this when you do this" kind of conversation needs to happen.

4. Make rules.
This is another one that is on our "to-do" list, but I think is super important. Have a meeting, lay down the rules. Who does what, who has authority on certain decisions, and what are the playing rules? Schedule an actual meeting to lay these out, put them on paper to be clear, and fight fairly when something goes awry.

5. Relationship rules do not apply at work.
Maintain a professional attitude while at work. Your spouse is there for you when you are having a bad day. They even let you take it out on them a bit when necessary, but don't let this cross into work-time. And especially don't allow employees to witness unprofessional or unpleasant talk or attitude toward one another. You have to set the expectations of respect that will be emulated whether you like it or not.

6. This one should go without saying, but find some separation and schedule family-time.
Schedule dates. Take an occasional vacation with absolutely no work-talk. Realistically, there will be some work-talk during any down time, but try to set expectations and find a balance.

I am extremely blessed to have found my husband. He does it all...he is handy with pretty much anything; he manages the construction of our new house; helps tremendously at home (honestly does more than I do when it comes to chores); he is amazingly talented with his role in RuffleButts, and he is a loving father. We don't have a typical life or even close to typical roles. I seriously don't think there is another person that would be crazy enough to do this all with me, or the other way around!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I just realized that it has been over a month since I posted...where has the time gone?? I have been completely MIA for the past four weeks. Bridget (a great friend of mine) called yesterday me to make sure I have not had a complete mental breakdown and checked out! No, I'm still here, hanging on, but I seriously do not know which way is up at the moment. Okay, I know this is not the 1st time I've said this, but here's my run down of the past three weeks (so you know I'm not just whining!):

December 17th&18th - tear apart and pack entire office (including ALL inventory)
Weekend of Dec 19th and 20th - rent uhaul and make trip after trip of the inventory and desks to the new office
Dec 21st - last minute judgement call to cancel trip to Louisville in order to move to new house over Christmas
Dec 24th (Christmas Eve) - Load up truck and move three rooms of furniture to new house (still have not sold old house, so have to keep most furniture there)
Dec 25th (Christmas Day) - since all of Aubrey's gifts were shipped to Louisville for the Christmas celebration that we didn't make it to, we pretended to open presents and then went back to unpacking
Dec 28th - start setting up new office, while the in-laws come in town to help build shelves for the office and watch my little rug-rat while her nanny is on vacation all week
Dec 31st-Jan 2nd - friends in town for New Year's
Jan 2-3rd - still unpacking and setting up the office (wow, this takes much longer than expected)
Jan 5th - our gas suddenly goes off in the middle of the night and they don't get it fixed until 9:00pm the next night (yes, no heat in 20 degree weather)
Jan 7th - I seriously have no idea where the past few weeks went!!

Somehow we have kept up with orders and are still going strong. I do not know what I would have done without our fabulous employees!! Mary packed and unpacked her little heart out and as a big topper, it was end of the year inventory time! Kristina helped to keep me sane, and was a packing fool! I do have to admit, although it was super crazy and stressful, it was actually a huge treat for me to spend so much time with Aubrey over the holidays, even if we were playing the unpacking game all day every day!

As usual, I feel completely overwhelmed and totally behind on everything. I really need to get organized to get off to a good start in the new office, but I have SO much work to do, I don't have time to stop. We are trying to get our new Spring Collection from the factories, but of course, have issues as always. I found out after the actual ship date that not only had our swimwear not began the production process, but the fabrics were all completely gone. I had to start over, select and design new fabrics, and then begin working with a new factory to get them done in less than a month...needless to say, this is not easy! Our manufacturing contact is probably about to lose her mind as well, but the tough part about this business, well, any business really, is that it doesn't matter why you are breaking promised delivery dates, it just matters that you are breaking them. It falls on you, so it is up to me to keep my promises to our customers.

I am also trying to find time to plan. We all know that if you are on a journey, and don't have a destination, that you are really just wandering around. I feel responsible - for the security of my family, for the reputation of RuffleButts, for our employees, and for the happiness of our customers...we definitely need not only a destination, but a map to get there. I worked late into the night last night, and probably will do the same for the next while. I am 150% determined to do this right. We have a great product (they sell), we love our jobs, we have happy customers, we grew more than 300% last year...I think we have something good here, we just need to stay on track and follow our dream! Now, if I could only get a few more hours in a day =)