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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

I was a nursing assistant for 8 years before deciding to stay home with my son and newborn child. During this period of time, I've been babysitting. It has been steady, and I'm approved by the state as a home day care. But the income is not enough.

Now that summer is over, my son and four of the children are starting school so I'm back at point A. What to do? I'm at a loss. The job market in my area is flooded with nursing assistants and the pay has dropped to minimum wage. ( I was making $10/hr., so that is not a feasible option.)

Most importantly though, I do not want to be away from my daughter who is 2, or unavailable for my son when he gets out of school at noon.

I make my children's clothing and have considered selling special ordered clothing over the net, but I have no idea as to where to start. I don't even know if this is something that would be profitable.

I'm open to ideas or internet job opportunities!

Thank you, Alexis

Answer from our Guest Expert Liz Folger of Bizy Moms

Hello, Alexis,

It's great that you've discovered you have a strong interest and skill in making children's clothing! But before going any further, let's first discuss whether or not this is going to be a profitable venture for you.

Get the Goods on Your Target Market

While you and your family enjoy the fact you can make their own clothing, what about your future customers? Since they'll be the ones paying money for your products, find out what they're looking for in children's clothing. Start talking to your target market -- those consumers who are most likely to purchase your products. Ask them what's more important to them regarding children's clothing. Is price a factor? What about durability? Or do they relish the idea of buying "one of a kind" clothing items?

See if you have a good pool of customers out there who'd be interested in your specialized line of children's clothing.

Will Your Biz Idea Make Ends Meet?

Once you get a good taste of what your future clients crave, and know there's a need for your product, it'll be time to plan. First on your plate will be to determine what this business will cost you and how much you can expect to make. Make sure you list all of your costs to run this business. Don't forget to include costs such as your equipment (and repairs), home office supplies, business cards, marketing tools, and sewing supplies. What will be your biggest expense? How can you purchase material for the best possible price?

Likewise, do your best to figure out how much you need to earn to cover your expenses, and pay yourself. Many people commit two very big mistakes when estimating costs for their hand-made products.

  • They don't have a clue how much it costs to actually make the product.
  • They don't include their time into the cost.

Spreading the Word About Your New Biz

After you have a good financial plan in place -- and you're ready to make this business a reality -- what's the best way to market your business? Should you put ads in all your local newspapers, or have someone create a multi-page web site right away? As a work-at-home mom, your marketing budget isn't anything like AT&T or McDonald's! But hey, who better than a mom to figure out how to get the most out of a dollar?! Brainstorm ideas for the least expensive, yet most effective ways to advertise your products well. Here are a few ideas to chew over, Alexis.

Tell every single person you know what you're up to. I recommend sending out postcards to announce your new business. You'll find word-of-mouth advertising is the best form of advertising around. It's slow, but so effective.

Press releases are another wonderful way to get free advertising in newspapers and maybe even on your local TV. Look for good times during the year, such as Halloween and Christmas, when your skill and know-how could make a great feature in the media. For example, send a release out regarding tips for making a Halloween costume or letting people know you create customized Christmas outfits. The goal is to spark interest in your business and get a story written about you or have an interview done on the television.

Charity auctions are a wonderful way to spread the word about your biz. By donating one of your clothing creations, you not only help out a worthy cause, but you show off your skill and wares to many people in your community.

Creating a web site is a must in my book. However, it doesn't need to be anything extravagant at first. Start out small and grow slowly.

I've heard several people, who are quite successful in their businesses, make the comment, " It's really not what you're selling, but the way you market it, that decides how successful you are."

If you have a real passion for this business and can think of unique and effective marketing ideas, your chance of success is very good. Sometimes we think we're completely nuts if we try to run a business that we actually enjoy. Don't let this stand in your way. Use your creative side to make awesome clothing, but be sure you're business-minded and making a nice profit to boot.

Here's to your success!

Liz Folger

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