My home and business are located in Cary, North Carolina. I was born and raised in western Pennsylvania and in 6th grade moved just over the border to Ohio until 2004 when we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m the oldest of three with one sister and one brother. My family is very close so it was hard to move away, but we moved for work and grew to love the area. We try to visit family as much as possible.
My parents just celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary and still act like honeymooners. We grew up without a lot of money, but with more love, hugs, kisses, and support than any kid even deserves! I’ve been truly blessed with such a wonderful family. My dad is a retired electrician, and my mom is a homemaker. My siblings and I didn’t know we were poor back then. We had everything any kid could want—trees to climb, ponds to fish in, a plastic pool to splash in, and were never without a box of Crayola Crayons!
I remember my mom always coloring with me and just being there for me. My dad too—even though he worked sometimes twelve hours a day— took me fishing, blackberry picking, and taught me how to throw a football, baseball, and fishing line. My dad never treated me differently because I was a girl.
I remember how proud my parents were when they could buy their first house. I was in 3rd grade. My dad worked relentlessly and paid off their mortgage early. I watched how life could change for the better with hard work and determination. I wanted to follow those same ideals.
When I was ten, I loved macramé. I would make elaborate plant hangers for my mom. One day I decided to sell them to our neighbors. Armed with a crafting catalog my mom bought me, I marked each item with a price and went door to door. Everyone wanted one! I enjoyed making my own money but also enjoyed how happy these decorations made my neighbors.
My passion for becoming an entrepreneur was truly born, however, when I began my own wedding photography business. In the 90’s after my daughter was born, I quit my job as a math teacher and for thirteen years was a stay-at-home mom. I did, however, have one hiatus from motherhood when my daughter started preschool, and I met the wonderful parents of her new friend, Alex. Alex’s dad, Matt, was a wedding photographer on the side and needed an assistant. I had always been a hobby photographer and this would allow me to make my own money again. I shadowed Matt for a season. Shortly after, I built my own small photography business.
Fortunately, I lost a lot of fear during my wedding photography days and learned to trust my own judgment and how to take charge. It was a great run until we moved from Ohio to North Carolina. After some time, we wanted to explore our new state on weekends and have some fun as a family.
Back when I was about nineteen years old, I had come up with an idea for a new curling iron for long hair but didn’t have the knowledge base, money or even the capacity to create one myself. In the 80’s, big hair was everything! It took me forever to curl my long, wild hair with the small curling irons. No matter what size width, all the barrels were only about five inches long. For long hair, it meant double, even triple curling each strand of hair, which took forever. I thought one day a big manufacturer would create this magical product, but they never did…and years went by.
So, I decided to try and make one myself. It took years, but eventually I had a good working prototype of my first Mr Big curling iron! Unfortunately, around that same time, I went through a divorce and everything changed. I was now a single mother. The kids had to come first as nothing I ever do in my life will ever outshine my two children, Anne and David, so my dreams of entrepreneurship were put on the back burner. I worked for a few years to save up enough money to try again. When I did, finding a new manufacturer was difficult, though I did eventually find the best manufacturer and partner who was willing to work with small quantities.
In 2016, I was finally in my first production run with a very small order when my mom sent me a text with a picture of a Good Housekeeping magazine article for a HSN contest. Even though I was just starting production and didn’t have a single iron in my possession yet, I entered the contest that day, and ever since becoming a semi-finalist, it’s been like a dream! In less than one year in business, I was able to leave my full-time job and focus 100% on Mr Big!
Our latest feature addition is an update to dual voltage allowing customers to travel anywhere in the world with their Mr Big curling iron! I’m also expanding with additional sizes to my line of Mr Big curling irons, and at the same time, adding brand new products to expand my line beyond hot tools for the hair. I have two other products in the pipeline right now that will solve other problems—one beauty related, one not. I’m also in the midst of starting a non-beauty related company. I don’t go looking for ideas; ideas just seem to find me! Sometimes a new idea will wake me up out of a sound sleep—some “ah-ha” moment I need to write down. That is what excites me!
5 ABC’S TO LAUNCHING A BUSINESS
Because I don’t have a background in business or any official experience in running one, I had a “high learning curve”. I made many mistakes along the way just by being ignorant. I wish I had someone to hold my hand and map everything out for me. I do have some advice to help the next in line. Start by visualizing where you want to be and then work backwards. Write everything down—a business plan. Then, just take one step forward:
1. Buy the domain name, form an LLC—You’ll be surprised at how many domain names are taken.
2. Build a high quality website right out of the gate, like a WordPress site—a site that has the capacity to grow as you do. This will save you money in the long run.
3. Read & research—This is key to best plan and market your business. Utilize forums, talk with people smarter than you and pick their brains. Figuring out items such as marketing strategies in advance will launch you ahead of the game!
4. Explore & budget loans in advance—I did something old-fashioned—I worked and saved to avoid a loan, but this method doesn’t work for everyone’s business model. The more research you do now, the less likely you’ll have regrets later.
5. Competitive pricing—Research similar products or services and determine where you want to be price wise. It’s ok to price your items higher than others if it’s of higher quality or if it can do something similar items can’t. When pricing for retail, you also need to keep a wholesale price in mind. If you don’t, there is no wiggle room for your chance to be in stores or get on a great program