Mom and entrepreneur, Leslie Newton of timi & leslie, is back to tell us how she started her successful business!
Many fellow moms like to pick my brain and ask me about how I started my business. All of us entrepreneurial moms have our own experiences and have gone about it in many different ways, this is my story.
I started my business long before I became a mama, which is ironic, because I design stylish diaper bags for moms! I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. As a seven-year-old I would makes crafts and sell them door to door in my neighborhood, so starting my own business came naturally to me.
My business started organically; I made one handbag for myself and strangers would come up to me and ask where to buy it. I started talking down their addresses with a payment of twenty-five dollars and went home to sew up my orders. No one seemed to mind that I wasn’t the best seamstress and as the orders kept coming in I decided to turn these orders into a business.
I had to attend a baby shower so I decided to turn one of my bags into a diaper bag, and it was a hit! I knew I really had something special with these stylish diaper bags so I teamed up with a partner and got started. In the beginning I had to rely greatly on my common sense, which led me to seek the advice of everyone that I knew in the fashion business. I was lucky to have such generous people who took the time to give me great advice that set me in the right direction. Every corner I turned with the business meant I learned more about how to approach situations the next time around.
The demand for the bags was growing and I had to find a person to sew a lot of bags for me, because I couldn’t sew all the bags myself. Once I had a large batch of them made, I had a “purse party” to sell them to all my friends. In a few hours I had sold over $6k worth of bags, which turned into the seed money used to get the company started. I didn’t know the first thing about dealing with buyers or line sheets or any of what it takes to run a wholesale fashion business. I used some “guerilla” tactics in the beginning like wearing my bags into stores and getting the sales clerks to bring out the buyers and check out my cute bag. Once the buyer was in reach, I’d signal my husband who was waiting in hiding with a suitcase full of bags to come on and complete the “sneak attack.” Within three days I sold $8K to various boutiques and so my “sneak attack” approach was successful!
The entire journey from the beginning to the present has been a continual learning process. I attribute good instincts, common sense and persistence to my success.
When starting your own business, stay focused and don’t try to do too many things at once. It’s really easy to bite off more then you can chew, and then you’ll not only burn out, but you won’t be able to do your very best—you’ll be spread too thin.
For me it was so helpful to speak with experienced people in my industry to get advice. So often if one person couldn’t help me with something in particular, he/she would refer me to someone who could.
At the beginning I depended a lot on friends and family to help me. Many times my friends would be there to help me pack boxes late into the night, and my mom always helped me at all my first tradeshows. So don’t be afraid to lean on those closest to you while you get started.
There are organizations out there that can help you such as Ladies Who Launch—a nationwide group of women who have successful businesses, start up businesses, or are just trying to decide what they want to do. This is a great way to meet other women and get support. There is also SCORE. An organization made up of retired business people who can council you on your business.
I have to say, it would have been much harder to start my business with a child. I put very long days and nights into my business for many years. Depending on how old your children are be realistic about how much time you can put into a start-up. Different businesses require different time commitments, so make sure you’re clear with what you can and want to do. It will always be a balancing act, managing your time between your company and family, but it’s completely doable and exciting too!
Leslie Newton, founder of timi & leslie diaper bags, created her company in 1999 when she realized there was a huge void in the marketplace for stylish, functional diaper bags.
Besides creating fashionable diaper bags, Leslie loves doing crafts with her 3-year-old daughter, and going on lots of family outings. Leslie loves anything vintage or mid-century modern—clothes, furniture, jewelry, fabric—all which have a big influence on the timi & leslie aesthetic.