Jacki StanleyBobbi-Toads, launched in 2012, creates fashionable happiness as a means to fulfill philanthropic dreams.

‘Ah ha’ moment that led to launching this business: When I was a kid, my dad had a dream in which he was told to invent these sneakers. He was told what they should look like, what they should be called, and even a specific charity to donate to with the profits. When he returned to work at his print shop, there was a new job from a new client sitting on his desk: the charity from his dream, one that had been unknown to him just days before. If that doesn’t scream ‘AH HA!” then I don’t know what does!

Ideal customer/target market: My “ideal customer” is children ages 3-12, targeting their moms/grandmas/aunts [all women ages 28+]

First customer or client: Our very first customer was a family-friend who had heard about the shoes from us. Then we took to online marketing and word-of-mouth. We landed our first distributor by researching local stores and showing them the product in-person.

Measuring success: I would have to say that I personally measure success by the feelings certain actions create, a feeling that is almost indescribable. For example, every time we: donate shoes to an pediatric oncology unit or less-fortunate children, gain a new distributor, land a new international account, receive feedback on our outstanding customer service, or hear how much a little kid loves her new shoes. Essentially, knowing that what I am doing is not only working, but making a difference in people’s lives.

Biggest struggle: Our biggest struggle to-date would have to be when the production and shipment on our new line of shoes kept getting pushed back. The production date was continuously being pushed back, making us nervous that we would not have the shoes in time for back-to-school season. Then, the shipment was delayed due to workers being on strike. This not only delayed the arrival of the shoes, but also cost us a lot of money while they were being held outside of Long Beach. We overcame it by working together and staying positive, as anything is overcome. The issue was completely out of our hands and there was nothing we could do to hurry things along. Staying calm and working hard on other opportunities was our only option.

Surprise!: I am most surprised about how long everything takes and by the lack of replies we receive. It is shocking how many people do not respond to our inquiries, but we do not let that hold us back.

Promoting business: There were specific Facebook ads I created that drove more sales than any other of our marketing efforts. It was a wonderful feeling to see my efforts paying off.

Two things you wish you would’ve known: I wish I would have known that not every thing will work out, but that everything will work out. I know it sounds contradictory, but what I mean is that not every deal or marketing idea will be ‘the one,’ but that things will always work themselves out as they are meant to be. You’ve got to go into every action thinking it is ‘the one,’ but not getting down on yourself if it’s not. The next one is; keep going.

What keeps you up at night (business-wise!)?: Honestly, excitement. Although we have not “taken off” yet, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that it is coming. I get so giddy thinking about the future of our company, the potential we hold, and the amount of people that we will be able to help.

Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job? Never. I am an extremely faithful person, and I know that my dad would not have been given this divine dream if it wasn’t meant to be.

Biggest goal over the next year: My biggest business goal is getting our shoes into Nordstrom. I plan on meeting that goal by staying in touch with the buyer and using her feedback to better our product.

Pricing/advice on getting it right: My advice for pricing would be to gain opinions from both mentors as well as your customers. You need to know what the customer is willing to pay while also making sure your margins are appropriate.

Funding: Here is where I can admit how darn lucky I am. We are fortunate enough that our investors are all family members who earned their money from starting their own family business 35 years ago. However, from working with others in an entrepreneurial community, I know that crowd-funding and angel investors are very important. Either way, you need to find people who believe in you and your company!

A few tips specific to your industry: 1) Listen to your customers, but also give them something they did not know they needed. Get their feedback and use it; without them, you don’t have sales. 2) Stay creative and innovative in the shoe industry; try something new and see what your customers think. 3) Go big or go home: make sure your product can hold its own with ever-active children. 4) Only allow trustworthy and goal-oriented people on your team; from your sourcing agent to your web developer, everyone should be on board with your vision.

Must-read online resource: As casual as it may seem, the answer is mommy blogs. I feel it is so, so important to connect with your customers and know their preferences and daily actions.

The absolute best part of owning my business is the freedom to be creative and the pride that accompanies success.
If I had to start over again, I would have done things the same; I am a firm believer that everything happens exactly how it is meant to and that we learn from our experiences.
I never imagined getting your foot in the door with retailers would be so difficult.

If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout ”Don’t be afraid to take chances! Believe in yourself; you’ve got this!”