"How did you get from there to here?"
My husband finished up Grad school and took a job with Mercedes Benz Financial Services in Michigan, leaving myself and our then three children in Arizona to finish up the preschool year and attempt to sell our home (in the middle of the 2008 recession). Our kids were ages two and a half, one and newborn, so it was a crazy six months! I taught preschool out of our garage, which we had converted into a classroom. Prior to that I had been a nanny and had always wanted to do something on the side that would enable me to stay home with my kids.
One of my students was pristinely made up and came to class with cute bows and flowers in her hair. I remember looking at one one day thinking I can totally make that!
The next thing I know I find myself at Hobby Lobby with every 40% off coupon I could find and stocked up on flower heads, ribbon and alligator clips. Now before you imagine that I walked out of there with two reasonably sized bags like any normal human being, I should let you know that I'm not that woman. My hobbies tend to get a wee bit out of hand!
I started ripping flower heads apart so I could take a hot glue gun and put them back together again. I looked at all the places that sold similar items and was in shock at the prices they would sell for. As a mom of multiple kids it was not in the cards for me and many of my friends.
The only logical thing to do was to launch a business and sell them at a price point that wouldn't cut into anyone's personal savings accounts.
So I launched my little hair flower company, which I proud mama named "Bailey's Blossoms".
I took the plunge and began dissecting things and googling my way through how to create and craft and do all these things that I hadn't done before. And six days after my Hobby Lobby trip, I launched baileysblossoms.com
I sold a few pieces in the first week to family and friends but momentum was slow and patience isn't my forte. At the time, Etsy was the "it place" to be so I threw all my items there and got a few more sales. I tend to get bored quickly and started to analyze where my break even point was.
I looked at all these little hair accessories that I was making and selling for $3 to $5 and realized very quickly that my dollar per hour earnings didn't match up to what I felt my time was worth. After making a hundred pieces, I was losing interest and ready to move on.
I started thinking of other ways I could grow and how I might bundle items together to increase the average order cost. What could I offer that would complement the items that I already had?
That's when I started making tutus. This was back in 2009 when the fluffier you could get the better! So I started purchasing tulle by the roll. Then quickly realized that I could lower my costs if I purchased by the bolt. The next thing I knew our house was overrun with flower heads and bolts of tulle.
When I started, it was far from perfect. My photography was bad. My logo was clearly homemade. I made dozens and dozens of mistakes! Even now I'm constantly learning, developing and growing and with that comes constant pivoting, changing and adapting to the needs and trends that present themselves in the marketplace.
If I had waited to have all the answers before I started and had a five year plan mapped out, I never would have taken the plunge!
As I was making first birthday tutu sets, complete with a skirt and matching hair accessory, I realized that every customer had to be a new customer. Every child only has one first birthday, so I was constantly spinning my wheels faster and faster trying to gain momentum while never truly retaining my customer base. If I was lucky I could get someone to come back for a second birthday, but that's a pretty crummy retention rate. When one of my customers requested a themed birthday tutu for an Alice in wonderland theme party, it sparked a new idea.
It was late summer when I started getting accessories to compliment the tutus and turn them into butterflies and ladybugs and witches and all sorts of creative characters for the upcoming holiday of Halloween. The response was incredible! For three months. I had more business than I knew what to do with and at the end of those three months I was so burned out, that it took just as much time, if not longer to recuperate and even want to do it again.
I realized the potential that was in front of me and shut down my preschool to focus on Bailey's Blossoms full time. I started attending craft fairs and vendor shows and partnered with local brick and mortar stores to sell my accessories on consignment.
When Halloween of 2010 came around, I was literally drowning in orders. The Etsy App on my phone would notify me with a "Cha-Ching! Cha-Ching!".
I was torn between the need for finances to pay off the mounds of debt that we had accrued from my husband's schooling and the need for sleep and emotional health. I called my mother in tears asking if I could buy a plane ticket for her to fly out to Michigan so she could help me with the kids. It was out of control.
We had just had our fourth child and I was trying to balance mothering all of these little children (none of which went to school yet), and my growing business. I was insistent that I could do it all. Refusing to ask for help or set clear boundaries for myself I began losing myself in my need to be everything for everyone.
I enlisted a bunch of young women from our local church youth group to come help. I would line everybody up in a big row across the main floor of our rental home and teach everyone how to tie a tutu.
My mom was seriously my saving grace. She would help me with the house and with the kids and watch me work my butt off to get 15 orders out on the best of days just to turn around too see that 25 more had come in during that time. I burst into tears the day that she told me I needed to put my shop in vacation mode and shut it off. I wish I could explain how painful it was for me to do that. I realize now how obsessive I had become.
We survived that season, but I'll never forget when shortly after I was driving to the grocery store and got a call from my husband saying that he had been offered a job that would move our family to Brazil. I was overwhelmed with relief that I'd be unable to obtain work authorization while there that I burst into tears. The same day I made the announcement and shut down the sites.
We had roughly 25,000 followers on Facebook at the time. I told them that we would be living abroad for the next two to three years and to stay tuned because when we got back Bailey's Blossoms would be bigger and better than ever before! At the time, I had no idea what that meant.
During our two years in Brazil, I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with some truly remarkable entrepreneurs that became some of our dearest friends. I tried hard to be okay with no longer being an entrepreneur.
For the first time in my married life, I was given the opportunity and the financial means to stay home, no "side hustle" required. Hard as I tried, my mind constantly defaulted to dreaming of what more I could do and what more I could create.
When we returned to the states in 2013 with child number five and tow, I was shocked to see that 22,000 people out of the original 25,000 had stuck around for our return.
I was fired up and ready to make due on my promise from two years prior.
As I told Brandon that I wanted to relaunch Bailey's Blossoms he looked at me with cautious, anxious eyes. We reminisced on the past struggles and I told him I had bigger and better plans. This time I would be the supplier of the materials and create YouTube training videos to show people how to make things themselves.
He asked me how much it would take, meaning money, to which I replied "All of it".
His face turned pale.
In Brazil we had the opportunity to pay off the remainder of his school debt and built up a little nest egg which provided us the opportunity to put a down payment on a home in Texas. We had $35,000 left over and I spent every last cent.
"Honey, this is going to be totally fine. Give me a year and I will have all of that money put back where it belongs." Within three months I made due on that promise.
For the first time, I sourced materials and supplies from overseas and stocked up the shelves in our garage with tulle and flowers and rhinestones and ribbon. When Halloween came around that first year, I was more than ready. We had butterfly wings, witch hats, pirate hats, superhero masks, capes and rocked the heck out of that first season!
The feedback we received was incredible, but there was still a huge audience who wanted our styles without having to "DIY". With that in mind, we launched our first romper. In the year following, we began morphing into a full fledged clothing line.
In 2014 we brought home the youngest of our children, which concluded our brood of six. We converted a single car garage into an office space with a small play area for the kids, so the young mothers we began hiring to come and help with our customer service and order fulfillment needs would be able to work and parent at the same time.
Bailey's Blossoms quickly grew into a six day a week operation. To this day I am still shocked that our neighbors didn't petition to have us kicked out as we at times had eight or more cars parked out front of our home, seemingly at all times.
By the end of 2015 we were one of the largest and most well known shops on the Etsy platform for children selling over $600,000 in 2015 alone. I didn't think life could get any better! Brandon and I began discussing the probability of him leaving his corporate job with Mercedes so we could be entrepreneurs together. As with all big decisions, we took it to the Lord. We prayed that if this was something that we needed to do, that He would show us the way. We decided that starting in January of 2016 we would budget as if Brandon's income was no longer in existence to see if we could afford to do without it. I put myself on the payroll.
Two weeks into the new year we had a falling out with Etsy and they removed us from their platform. At the time, 85% of our sales happened on the Etsy platform.
It seems we had our answer. Entrepreneurship was clearly NOT for us.
I was devastated.
I made the slow walk out to my home office, which was a spare garage we had converted, to tell my small team the news. I looked at my office managers 8 month pregnant belly.
"Erin, are you telling me that after I have this baby, I might not have a job?"
The words stung as the realities of the situation and all those it could potentially effect continued to sink in. That was in fact what I had gone out to tell her, but in that moment something stopped me.
"No, I'm telling you that if you're flexible with me, your job description just might change."
"What do you want us to do now?" she asked, bewildered and somewhat frustrated by my response.
I drew in a deep breath. I wasn't sure at all if this was going to work, but we had to try.
"I want you to message every one of our customers individually, and let them know that Bailey's Blossoms can now exclusively be found at baileysblossoms.com"
Their eyes said what their mouths wouldn't. This was crazy. What type of impact could we really make in sending personal messages?
As they got to work, I took the opportunity to dive into things that were on my to do list that had sat there for much too long. Things like making sure that our website was mobile ready and optimized, making sure that the flow for our customers was smooth and seamless. After a few hours, I went to check on our progress. I would forever be changed.
"CONGRATULATIONS! What an exciting move for you!" The praises flooded in, and soon after so did the orders.
Within 48hrs, we had tripled our sales, and we grew a staggering 233% in that year alone, taking us from a healthy 6-figure sales company, to an impressive 7-figure company, seemingly overnight.
What was it that made the difference?
Little did I know that I was putting all of my efforts into building up Etsy's brand, rather than my own!
"Where did you get that cute outfit?" "#etsy."
Suddenly it became "#baileysblossoms". In that moment I realized the power of brand recognition. We had spent so much time and effort into driving traffic to somebody else's property. To somebody else's site. To somebody else's business! My mind spun as I sought to grasp an understanding of the potential that was in front of us.
That year, we grew 233%. 233% by actually claiming our brand. By claiming the recognition and the attention that was ours to take! With the rapid growth we quickly realized that we couldn't fit any more in the space that we had allotted, even after adding an additional two car garage to help with our warehousing needs. With two, two car garages as our warehouse and a single car garage for our office we were busting at the seems.
We found a warehouse rental in Decatur, Texas. 5,000 square foot of warehouse and 1,000 square feet of office. I couldn't imagine ever needing anything more. We promptly signed the lease and began the long and tedious process of moving everything out of our home.
Within two years of the new warehouse we grew out again and have been in the process of building a new 25,000 square foot warehouse (5,000 of which is office space) which we plan to move into in the summer of 2019. I am no longer predicting how long it will be "big enough" for us as I certainly know better!
The power to grow is often tied to our ability to adapt and change and the very process of adapting and changing is what has the ability to mold us into our God given potential.
On April 3rd of 2017 Brandon left Mercedes-Benz Financial Services and officially joined me full-time working hand in hand as entrepreneurs and as husband and wife.
On April 11th, 2017 as if we haven't had enough pivots and changes already, something changed once again.
I was invited to speak for the first time at a conference. It was a women's leadership summit put on by Mercedes Benz financial services. I was invited to speak as one of the "disruptors" on a panel of women.
Having the opportunity to stand on that stage, and speak into those women changed everything for me.
I suddenly realized the value of the tough lessons, the pain, the triumph, the successes, the failures, ALL of it. Bailey's Blossoms provided the experience I needed in order to embark on a greater calling and purpose, to feed and fuel and pour all of this knowledge and experience into those who need to see and understand the potential that is theirs to step into. To provide a roadmap to success in business and motherhood simultaneously.
From this the "Conquering Chaos" podcast was born. And we're just getting started! xoxo