Hot! Kristy Packer, SommaBaby Clothing Company

SommaBaby Clothing Company of Hattiesburg, Miss., is an online retailer of clothing inspired by the multiracial & multi-ethnic communities.

“Ah ha” moment that led to launching the business: It came years after my vision for SommaBaby Clothing Co. came to me. Last year at a birthday dinner with friends, we were all talking about how far we had come and how much we had grown over the years. Everyone seemed so happy and content, but I didn’t feel that way. I knew I had something brewing inside me that I had been afraid to pursue. So, while laughing with my friends and toasting wine glasses, I made up my mind to not waste another day fearing myself. I know that’s a gloomy place from which one would draw inspiration to birth a business, but it was MY moment of life. I realized, then, that life is too short to not shoot all your arrows. That very moment, I made a decision to stop talking about starting the business, and actually do it.

Ideal customer: A multiracial or multi-ethnic girl between the ages of 14 and 25. She is a person who is proud to express her freedom in multiracial identity and talk about it. She is strong because living in her skin has not been the “easy ride” that some people would assume it has been. She is smart, outspoken, diverse, fashion forward… and she’s fearless. She knows who she is and SommaBaby tees speak her life story.

First customer: On the day my photographer posted photographs of a promotional photo shoot we did for our merchandise. Social networking at its best.

Measuring success: My success is not someone else’s success, as theirs is not mine. One success for me, was building a team of girls who really represented my brand. I wanted pictures of them actually modelling the apparel. Many would have advised me to hire people with more modelling experience, but I wanted something more realistic. For me, assembling Team Sommababy, my amazing team of girls who help model clothing and market my brand, was a success. From them, I have been able to get direct feedback from my target buyer base. My girls help keep me in tune to what my clients want and need. And seeing them all gathered around the table, in sisterhood, at meetings inspires me to keep my creative juices flowing. They constantly remind me of why I do what I do each day. No amount of sales really matter if my purpose is not achieved. Part of my purpose is uniting and empowering the multiracial community. So, to me, Team SommaBaby is one of my early successes.

Biggest struggle: After working so hard for so long helping build other people’s businesses, having the courage to start my own was my struggle. The hardest part of it was taking the leap and starting my company. I overcame it with prayer and faith. Everything else falls second to those two major ingredients.

Surprise! That I can function with very little sleep, and that “power naps” are my medicine! There are a lot of things you have to be prepared to sacrifice to make your business work. I get a lot done early in the mornings and late at night.

What I wish I would have known: If I had known how expensive it can be starting a business, I would have started saving when I was 16. I think of all the shopping I used to do and could cry. I wish I would have been smarter with money management long ago.

Things that keep you up at night (businesswise!): The mental to-do list that I’m constantly reviewing in my mind. I sleep with a pad and pen on my night stand so I can write down things when I wake up in the middle of the night and save them to my Blackberry the next morning.

Ever tempted to throw in the towel and get a real job?: It is tempting, because I am still a newbie. But on those days, I go back to the day I began and look at our progress. I look at the company’s growth. I look at everything we’ve done and everything our forecast says we should do. I keep inspirational quotes and Bible verses stuck on my walls to remind me of the things that inspired me to begin this journey. On the hard days, I remind myself that failure is not an option, so I find another solution to whatever problem is at hand.

Biggest business goal for the next year: To expose my brand to more key areas. I will do this by working with marketing professionals and my industry advisors to make sure that I am utilizing all of my resources properly and within budget.

A few tips: Research helps prevent some trial and error: do a lot of online research and reach out to people who are already successful in your field. Learn as much as you can before you start spending any money or pricing your merchandise/services. At the end of the day, the numbers must make sense.

Pricing/advice on doing it right: Know what your product or service is worth. Become familiar with things like the cost of goods sold, and explore how to accurately calculate it. You don’t want to finally get a wholesale order and realize that you’re not even positioned to profit. Know your worth.

The absolute best part of owning my business is: Knowing that I have been afforded the opportunity to help change lives and empower others.

I never imagined: That sleep would be so difficult. Every time I lie down, I think of something I need to do, an email I need to send, a note I need to save to my calendar, a phone call I need to make. Twenty-four hours are not enough for me.

If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners: I would quote author Randy Pausch. “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” That quote is taped on my door at home. It helps me keep my own struggles into perspective. On those difficult days, it reminds me that the brick walls stop those “other people,” not me.

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