Donna Maria Coles, Indie Beauty Network
Indie Beauty Network, a division of Indie Business Media, LLC, of Charlotte, N.C. provides coaching and mentoring services and resources that help women maximize their potential through small business ownership.
‘Ah ha’ moment that led you to launching this business: In 1998, while working as an attorney, I realized that I would never reach my full potential while I was trading money for hours. For fun, I learned how to make my own beauty products. My sugar scrubs were passable, but I was meeting so many women who had better products, but knew nothing about running a business. On January 16, 2000, I launched Indie Beauty Network, the nation’s first and still only trade organization serving manufacturers of handmade cosmetics, soaps, candles, jewelry, aromatherapy products, artisan perfumes and confectionery products. Today, IBN has over 7,000 engaged participants (mostly women) at a vibrant social networking site, and IBN serves nearly 1,000 dues paying members. I enjoy being around the beauty products I love so much, while also providing a valuable service to women, helping them expand the personal development and leadership skills they need to be successful. I am absolutely and without a doubt doing the work in this world that I was called to do, and I’m caring for my family while I do it. That is success to me.
Ideal customer: Women who sell the products they make, online and at trade shows and local craft fairs.
First Customer: I landed my first legal client by letting people know I was offering legal services. I used a newsletter to do this. I landed my first IBN member by setting up a website and publishing a newsletter announcing that membership applications were being accepted. I was so excited when the first credit card payment came through from someone I didn’t know! The late Kathleen Lewis joined IBN as the first member in 2000, and she maintained her membership until last year, when she succumbed to an inoperable brain tumor. I serve women everywhere. I serve the Kathleen in every woman!
Measuring Success: I measure success as a woman by how I feel about myself and whether I feel as though I am doing the work and developing the relationships I was called to be involved in. I measure success as a business woman by improving efficiencies and profitability while also continuing to expand the services I offer in response to member feedback. I am fulfilled and content, both personally and professionally, and I measure success by that as well.
Biggest Struggle: Maintaining a systematic, zoomed out approach to managing my business, and not being overwhelmed by the day to day issues.
Surprise!: That I would be so good at it.
Promoting Business: I have published a weekly online newsletter for 11 years and sales are directly traced to it each and every week. Other things I do to result in sales: (1) I pick up the phone and call prospects and members to see how I can serve them better; (2) I have hosted Indie Business Podcast since 2005 and I always earn new members as a result; (3) social media, including FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn; (4) publication of books, which people buy and/or which lead to new members.
What I wish I would’ve know: That I would need to account for every penny, not just every dollar. Also, that I should not work hours a day at a laptop without getting up to intentionally and vigorously exercise my body.
What keeps you up at night (business-wise!)?: I love my work! I go to sleep dreaming of new ways to serve my members. That keeps me up. I use an iPhone app to usher me off to deep sleep. Otherwise, I’d be dreaming up the next member benefit instead of resting my head!
Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job?: No, because I love what I do too much, and I’ successful and fulfilled doing it. That’s not to say I don’t have days when I want to crawl under a rock, but I keep it in perspective. Those days end. My work doesn’t. I love it.
Moving Forward: Land a book contract. To get it, I will complete a manuscript and book proposal, plus reserve all of the online properties and intellectual property I need to secure the brand.
Pricing, Getting it Right: Don’t wait until it’s the perfect price because there’s no such thing. Make sure your hard costs are covered, then charge what the market will bear for the rest. Do not discount your prices as a competitive strategy. Charge what you and/or your products are worth. Remember, there is nothing wrong with making as much money as you can from what you are good at. Nothing!
Funding: I have never had outside funding myself, but my advice is simple — get a good credit rating, have a good product, produce a good business plan and develop good relationships with your local bankers and other financial gurus. Leverage the relationships to get the funding you need. Be careful not to sign over control of your company without assessing the long-term consequences first. Never EVER sell, lend or license your intellectual property in exchange for funding without getting professional advice.
A Few Good Tips: My field is leadership and personal development for women who own a small business, so here are 3 of my best tips: 1) Plan your life before you plan your business, because it’s important that you know what you want your life to be like before you commit to a business direction. 2) Cultivate relationships before expecting them to turn into business or money, because it’s not possible to be successful in business if you don’t discipline yourself to be successful in relationships. 3) Become a decision maker. Your greatest power lies in your ability to make a decision. If you are undecided, you are powerless.
The absolute best part of owning my business is: that I do what I love and make money at the same time, and it doesn’t feel like working.
If I had to start over again: I would have taken more money management classes.
I never imagined: raising kids and profits at the same time would be so difficult.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout: “Enjoy Your Life, Build Your Business, and Have Your Way!