Mothers are tackling the business scene with vengeance. Desire to raise their own family, earn money and fill a consumer need, propels many new parents into entrepreneurship.
As a television producer behind numerous mom-entrepreneur series (for hit shows like The Marilyn Denis Show and The Mom Show) I've experienced this whole scene from a perspective that many others aren't privy to see. I've combed over and screened applicants from across the country, heard their stories, jotted notes on trials and tribulations, and documented expert advice.
Here's some advice, stemming from my own experience with no reflection on the companies I have worked for, which I believe could mean the difference between being seen or not:
1. Don't follow the trend, start a trend
This is the best piece of advice I can offer to those who are in the developing stages. If your business idea follows a popular trend (like opening a specialty hamburger shop or cupcake company) you might want to rethink it. Other companies are already successful in this sphere because they started working on this same idea a long time ago. By the time you're ready to set your plan into action, there's a big risk that the trend will have passed and/or the market will be saturated. This increases the chances of failure.
2. Be aware of competitors and acknowledge them
A lot of moms develop products that they believe improve upon something that already exists in the market. I can't tell you how many times a day I now think, "If only this functioned like that...". So I get where you're coming from when you create something slightly modified. That being said, highlight who is already doing what you now do and clearly state why you do it better.
3. Don't lead with your sob story -- everyone has one
Countless pitches for television appearances (from seeking a makeover to business exposure) lead with ailments. Contrary to what you see on many TV shows, your personal story isn't the hook we're looking for when it comes to mom entrepreneurs. While it's definitely touching, during the initial stages of acquiring media attention, bury it. We want to get excited when reading about your product. We want to feel the energy and drive behind your idea and not the despair you felt after a car crash that left you sitting at home trying to earn money. Producers or researchers will get this out of you during interviews and pre-screening. It's important, but if you play it up too much we tend to wonder if your actual venture isn't quite exciting enough.
4. Crunch the numbers
A lot of business owners came across as scattered and unorganized to me simply because they didn't know the numbers. How much have you invested? What did it cost to get a patent? Who owns the rights to the name of your business? What does it cost to make a single unit? What is your profit margin? What did you earn in the first quarter/year?
5. Be transparent
Transparency works in conjunction with knowing your numbers. If I am asking you for the finer details of your company, I'm interested. Many people are reluctant to divulge their business finances on television. But if you're looking for advice or promotion, you'll never get accurate tips if you don't lay it all out there.
6. Diversity Matters
As a TV producer, I am not looking to feature three baby clothing companies or five eco, natural soap lines. I am looking for the most ambitious, creative leader in a range of categories. I typically look for one health-related idea, something fashion related, an idea for the home, and so on. If your product is in line with most of the others out there, it will be much more difficult to stand out and gain the necessary exposure.
7. It's not you, it's your product/idea
Many mom entrepreneurs I've chatted with tend to take feedback too personally. From The Mom Show to The Marilyn Denis Show, I've held numerous pep talks after a segment taping because someone took advice to heart. It's never about you as a person. Experts and producers are solely looking at the business idea. If they don't offer you raw, real, critical feedback, what did you learn? Your friends and family can pat your back and tell you how amazing your venture is. But experts want to make sure you walk away with useful tools and information and sometimes that means brutal commentary. Often, if you follow their words of expertise, your chances of success will increase.
8. Don't use props or visual aids unless they are necessary
From media kits to in-person demonstrations, unnecessary props seem to make their way into the business pitch. It's as though entrepreneurs think the more they bring to display, the bigger and better they'll appear. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Extra props and pointless items bury your actual product. So leave them behind.
9. Social media matters
Whether you're a social media aficionado or a rookie, when pitching a business idea or product, make sure you've got your virtual ducks in a row. For each company I pre-screen, I always assess Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and company websites before the interview. If you've created them, make sure they're updated. There's nothing worse than checking out a Twitter page that's seen no activity in weeks. Even if you just re-post a thought or article every other day, try to stay active.
Starting your own company takes more work that you can ever likely imagine it will and more than you will ever get credit for. But I can tell you, there are some local, Canadian success stories that will blow your mind. I've had the pleasure of watching these companies excel from infancy to international distribution. A lot of their success comes in part thanks to exposure. Update your social media, know your numbers, start a new trend and forget the sob story. Get your audience as excited about your idea as you are.
Visit some of my top, inspirational, local mom entrepreneurs:
A healthy snack bag on-the-go for kids. Love this idea and so did a lot of major outlets.
Eco-baby-parent-everything friendly skin care products developed by Entertainment Tonight Canada's host, Cheryl Hickey. The body wash and everything balm are excellent.
Naked Nursing Tank
Two incredible ladies with fun personalities developed a tank top that provides coverage while allowing women to nurse. These tanks turn any top into a nursing top.
An adorable collection of clips that transform shoes into trendy, fun, statement footwear. They're interchangeable.
Eco-friendly, non-toxic products like lunch bags, sandwich wrap, blankets and so on. I love the sandwich bags.
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