Home Based Business
When I started out, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but I went for it anyway. Now, several years later (yes, going on four years), I have Flipping Bling®, a profitable business that I started on a desk in a spare bedroom. Actually, it started in my imagination. I saw this business in my mind’s eye. I didn’t know how I would make it happen, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and it finally panned out.
So if you’ve thought about starting a home-based business and wondered how you get from concept to reality, I will share with you all my steps and mistakes along the way. Well, there’s not room for me to tell you every single step, but this is a fairly thorough overview.
Start With A Problem
It started out with a problem. I have what I perceive to be unattractive feet. I love wearing flip flops but I’m self-conscious about people seeing my feet. I thought there ought to be a way to put jingle-jangles on flip flops – any flip flops – to camouflage your feet. And that’s how the idea was born.
Create A Solution
From there I started experimenting with affixing ornamentation to flip flops. I got industrial glues and hook & loop from engineers at both Vecro® and 3M®. You won’t believe how helpful they were. I simply picked up the phone and called both companies and explained what I was working on. They provided all kinds of advice and free samples. This went on for months. Experimenting, then emails and phone calls, then more experimenting. But ultimately I found that even industrial glue doesn’t work on cheap one-dollar flip flops. After a month, the stuff fell off.
From there I designed a system using rubber gaskets and rivets with movable hook and loop straps. I tinkered with that for several months, but it was complicated and frankly, it looked ugly. Not to mention, the rubber gaskets would sometimes rub on and chafe the skin on my toes. It was a bad design. Back to the drawing board.
From there I designed a system made entirely of hook and loop (no rubber gaskets; no rivets). I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say there were at least a dozen different designs over many months before landing on what we now have.
The Secret Sauce
So finally I had the foundation piece, the now patent-pending secret sauce for affixing bling to your flip flops. Then I had to come up with bling designs. This was not easy for me. All my life I’ve been a left-brained numbers cruncher. I’ve never considered myself artsy or crafty. But once again, I just kept pushing myself, and finally, I wound up with a couple dozen designs. I knew I had hit on something because when I’d wear the bling, women would constantly compliment my flip flops and ask where I got them. I was on a roll.
Next question: How to get everything manufactured? I knew I didn’t want to make these things at home. I wanted to go big. Thus began the search for a manufacturer. How I found a suitable manufacturer is too much to explain here, but I can tell you I talked to more than 30 companies and it took well over a year. Most manufacturers told me what I’m making is too small and they didn’t want to do it. Among those willing to give it a shot, I paid to have lots of samples made before finally settling on a company that so far has done a terrific job.
Then there are all the other details to consider: Insurance, business license, Federal ID number, patents, trademarks, setting up a commercial mailing account, getting mailers, buying a domain, building a website, and more. You don’t know what you don’t know, and I didn’t know anything about manufacturing and retail sales before I started out. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and figured it out as I went. As I said at the start, it took me nearly four years to get to the point of being able to sell.
I was and still am astounded by all the free help you can get.
SCORE is a nationwide network of expert business mentors. Not only can you speak with people one-on-one, but also they continuously sponsor a multitude of how-to webinars and workshops on virtually every topic you can imagine. Through SCORE, I’ve consulted with people who have imported product from Asia and all around the world. Through SCORE I’ve had one-on-one conversations with a highly accomplished intellectual property attorney. And I’ve gleaned great advice from dozens and dozens of SCORE webinars.
The Conway Innovation Center (“CIC”) is a local business incubation center. Jan Silverman and Rob Picano have held my hand and walked me through all kinds of scenarios to get this off the ground. Whenever I’ve needed help or have been stuck, they’ve always been there. I’ll bet somewhere near you there’s a similar business incubation center.
The local Small Business Development Center (“SBDC”), a partner program of the SBA. Janet Graham and Bernita Platt have met with me numerous times, pressing me with hard questions about things I needed to figure out. They have been enormously encouraging and motivating.
SBA (Small Business Administration) – seminars, webinars and always available for advice.
The S.C. Department of Commerce and Eileen Patonay, in particular, has given me time, encouragement and advice and opened doors for me throughout this process. I would imagine your state has a department of commerce that wants to help you, too.
I also want to mention Bill Pearce whom I first consulted through SCORE and later I consulted through Widener University Small Business Development Center. Bill has given me hours of his valuable time and connected me with other professionals who could answer questions or resolve problems. I cannot say enough good things about Bill Pearce, his knowledge and his generosity.
Make sure you surround yourself with positive people
My friends have been both encouraging and also extremely helpful. I’ve been a left-brained number cruncher my whole life. Thank goodness I have lots of creative friends who have helped me with naming products, website design, photography and even naming the company. I was going to call it Flip Flop Bling. Thank God for my good friend Elizabeth Cassidy; she said, “That’s boring! Call it Flipping Bling.”
If you have a burning desire and perseverance, you can start a business from your home, too. Solve a problem then figure out a way to let the world know you have a solution. And don’t give up! Just keep pushing forward. I wish you every happiness and good luck in your endeavor.
Flipping Bling Fashion Note: Make your one pair of flip flops look like two, ten or twenty. Change your look within seconds. Learn about the Bling Maker™ base and pop over to our shop page to find your perfect designs.