Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Grateful Dead Business 101

Date night + Grateful Dead Further Show = WAY FUN!

I'm not a jam band kind of girl, historically. Call me stuck in the 80s, I've preferred music I can sing along to. So, when A bought the tickets to see the Grateful Dead, I was...underwhelmed.
But, in a marriage sometimes you suck it up and make the best of it. So, I tried to
enthusiastically embrace the experience and have a good time. And I did!

me and A
A and I were transported back to a freer time in our lives, and our relationship.
I'd say we were about 28 yrs old. We'd lived a little in the real world, but were still innocent
and the path of life felt infinite. We laughed, we flirted, we listened, WE TALKED.
Anyone with kids knows that typically you get 2-3 words out before interruption.
As you tell your child to stop interrupting, you find the conversation is still...well, interrupted.
barefoot at the concert
As unexpected a good time as the concert was (PS - I no longer consider myself not a jam band girl), who could have guessed I'd leave the concert with some lessons in business?! What was really great about this is that it didn't feel business. It was about a connection with the audience.

As I watched and listened, here are some observations I had:

It's All about the Experience:
The Grateful Dead welcomes people recording their shows. At most other shows, there are no recording/ no picture rules. Not at a Dead show. You are expected to record your experience. Ever heard of the expression people don't remember what you said, they remember how you made them feel? I've never felt and seen it so true. Fans record the show, copy it and share it with their friends. The net effect is a giant conversation phenomenon. Holy word of mouth, Batman! Companies hire PR and Marketers by the millions to get the same effect.
Lesson Learned: Too much proprietary information is archaic. Open your business, and let everyone in on the experience and they will share it.
The belle&beanzer experience: I'm sharing my belle&beanzer venture adventure in this blog. I'm going to listen to you. I'm going to incorporate your voice in the line. It's truly a garment line made with supporting families in mind. Less struggles, and more snuggles!!

Engage your audience with a new twist on familiar theme
If you've been to a Dead show, you know that a reason fans record the show is because they cant wait to anticipate what's next, and they want to remember/relive this later themselves and with others. The three guitarists lead the listeners on a journey. They drop hints in the transitional jams for what is to come. In doing so, they create a joyful expectant anticipation and they are right there with their audience. One plays the song now, one plays pieces of the song next, and one bridges the two melodically. As I understand it, each show is different, but the same. Not all the same songs are played, but it's all songs you know linked together in new creative ways. As I listened to this, I was actually amazed at the skill and talent it took. It was beautiful.
Lesson Learned: There is comfort and security in a familiar experience, but the surprises are key.
The belle&beanzer theme: We've taken all your baby basics and redesigned them for simplicity. When things are simpler, there is a natural grace and ease that follows. And that opens the door for more humor and connection.

What's old isn't always old, it can be awesome again.
After the show, I was way intrigued by The Dead. So, I started listening to The Dead channel on XM. The station replays shows from across the years, at different venues. Guess what? People remembered where they were, what they were doing, who they were with, how they felt...just like A and I felt transported. They're there again right along with the music.
Lesson learned: Amazing experiences are timeless.
The belle&beanzer legacy: All our clothes are high quality fabric and construction. They will be able to be passed down and passed on. They are soft, snuggly and utterly huggable. You will remember the closeness you've had with your little one in our clothes. How it felt to hold your baby, and have had time laugh and connect, rather than distract and hurry through a dressing or changing.

I'm so proud that we're creating quality garments that have real intention to support and connect families.

The update: I'm going through the process of deciding on a factory, picking the final fabric and updating the garment design. Not to mention, my logo, business cards and website features. All this busy-ness is why it's been so long since my last post. Staying true to sharing the experience, as soon as the garment updates are done, I'll do a fun post about the prototyping process with pics and video. I'm so grateful that my baby model moms have been so willing to share a pic of their little one. Also, I'm thinking through the tithing aspect of my business. I've known that I want the business to stand for something, to give back. My friend, and AMAZING marketing consultant, Deb, connected the dots for me. She clearly pointed out that if a key value of the business is to support families, why not contribute to a charity that does just that. LOVE THAT! It is so simple, and directly aligned with the simplicity and family support business values. I'm looking into ones that exist, and what it would take to create my own if it doesn't exist. Any ideas?? Please comment, send links, let me know!

What do you think about my Grateful Dead business lessons? Can you relate?
What are some business lessons you've learned in unexpected places?
What are your top three business lessons you've learned in general?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pretzel chunks in my water

It's a hot (90+), sunny, summer sunday. 3 families. 6 adults. 7 children. 1 Thomas the Tank Engine "happening" for a 2 year old birthday party. We stop for a much needed lunch refueling and recharging. I pull a cold, beaded bottle of water from the cooler. Oooooh sweet relief. The anticipation is intoxicating. Hungry kids? What kids? I take 3 or 4 deeply refreshing gulps of my water. I don't even try to hide the loud, "aaaahhh" that escapes. My mind clears and I begin to focus again. Okay, so feed the little ones. I move on to my motherly duties. About five minutes later, I happily return to my water bottle. ...GAG! What are those mushy, questionable chunks? All the other adults around the table look at me, and we all look at my water bottle. Hundreds of tiny floating chunks of partially eaten, water logged pretzel chunks are floating in my water. I look down at my almost 2yr old son, and I'm pretty sure he's the lead suspect. Bright blue eyes look up at me, as he happily shoves 2 or 3 pretzels and part of his hand in his mouth. I think, oh well. I laugh. We laugh. I kiss my son.

When I thought back on this, it seemed like a pretty accurate parallel to how I've felt during this venture adventure.

The anticipation of making reality out of a dream is a feeling like nothing else. But, there are pretzels in your water. There are bumps and hiccups, highs and lows, fears and courage you never thought you had inside you. Are you going to have a laugh, and drink it anyhow? YES. B/c you know the pretzel chunks are there b/c of the big picture you're devoted to. That you have to accept them as part of the process if you're going to BE a part of the process.

Some of MY belle&beanzer highs and lows...
I have an idea!! What do I do with my idea?
I found people to work with me!! They're not the right people.
I found new people to work with me!! I'm doing a lot myself.
I'm so productive!! I feel like I got nothing done.
I found a factory!! The factory's minimums are too high.
I found a new factory!! They're more expensive.
I found the perfect fabric!! It's more than I wanted to spend.
I officially formed my business!! It's a lot of paperwork and questions.
My idea is awesomely unique!! I just found a competitor.

AND because I like to end on a high note...
I secured my domain name!!

By now you know the basic info about belle&beanzer.
We are planning a soft launch with the first garment Spring 2012.
Fall 2012 will introduce additional pieces and be widely available in boutiques.

Now, moving onto the fun stuff. I can't wait to get you involved in process!!
My baby line is for moms, dads and babies. Seriously. Can't we all just get along? YES!
See my next post...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

More Snuggles and Less Struggles

After my second, Jonah, was born, it wasn't just interesting or clever that all things baby/children be easier...It was VITAL to the happiness of my family. You accumulate a lot of "stuff" with one child. With two, it can feel a bit like YOU'RE the needle in the haystack of baby items...trying to find yourself.

One tired Mama
The question that kept popping into my head while I rummaged around trying to find something, during a quick (yeah, right) 2am diaper change, as I tried to efficiently (again, yeah, right) to change his diaper and/or clothes for the 10th time in a day, while my husband helped out and I crossed my fingers Jonah would end up in something resembling an outfit (again, again, yeah right)...
WHY? Why is all this stuff such a pain in the A**??

Don't they KNOW how little time I have? Don't they KNOW my 3yr old daughter is pulling at my pant legs and completely impatient for my attention while I dress my baby boy? Don't they KNOW I don't have time to iron little bits and pieces down on a shirt every time I wash it? Don't they know the little snaps suck, they're impossible to line up when you're sleep deprived (and otherwise), and make my husband crazy? Don't they KNOW my baby is squirming and twisting while I dress and change him? Don't they KNOW my baby doesn't like to almost fully undress in the middle of a sleep bc his diaper is soaked?

My career, before I left it in the traditional sense, is as a graphic designer for newborn, infant and toddler clothes. I create all those patterns that go on the clothes, the graphics, appliques and embroideries. It's basically children's illustration with a talent for making a full print out of it. So, as a mom working in the industry I was a "they." I KNEW as a mom what I needed, and I KNEW as a member of the industry that it wasn't being done.

There are plenty of gadgets and gizmos with a bent towards making life easy as a parent. Some of them work. Most of them depend on your personality, and more importantly your child's. But, what I didn't see, haven't seen, is anyone addressing what we do with your little ones several times a day. We dress them, we redress them, and we change their diaper again, and again, and again. Baby clothes are pretty much the same, with variances on aesthetic. But, what about the clothes themselves??

As a mom, I needed something that no one was giving me. I needed simplicity. I needed ease. I needed more snuggles and less struggles. So, one sleepless, squirmy, unhappy-baby-night my mind started chewing on it. Okay, let's start with removing the problem...what if there were NO snaps, NO zippers and it takes 30 seconds or less to dress and/or change your baby in any position your baby wanted? What would that  look like? Whoa. I would LOVE that! I bet other parents would too!

So, I started drawing. I started looking at all the staples I used for dressing my children. I considered what was frustrating, what I always complained about, what my mom friends complained about, what I saw emails, postings, etc. complaining about. Most importantly, I talked to Moms and Dads. It occurred to me that moms will put up with a lot for cuteness. Dads don't care. Changed? Good. Moving on.
I believed I could marry those two view points.
Keep it looking super sweet. Keep it super simple. Yeah, that's smart!

So far, there are 10 garments designed and ready to go. I'm starting with my first garment, the sleep and play. Why one? Because I value simplicity. I'm keeping it simple as I kick things off.

I affectionately named the sleep and play,  Little Hammies. They very well may be named Little Hammies. Named this because they are very flattering to your baby's cutie-pie little chunkle butt. I promise I will post pictures and videos. I want to get you all involved in the process. I'd LOVE, love, love your feedback and thoughts. This is FOR YOU.

Also, your baby and/or child is going to love it. It's waaay super comfortable. All my prototypes have been in my son's age, much to my daughter's dismay. I got one sample that was way too large. She found it and put it on herself, with no explanation. I couldn't get it off her. My son loves it because dressing him is no longer me pinning him flat on his back, alternately singing songs like a lunatic and begging him to stay still (babies don't like radical emotional swings like that, do they? LOL). He could sit up. He could stand up. He could sit on my lap. He could keep reading his book. He could be on his belly.

My first core value in this venture adventure is...Simplicity. In ALL things. Can you imagine if dressing and changing were easier? There would be less tears (for parents and kids). If there are less tears there is less stress. Less stress is more time to tickle, giggle, talk, find toes, and point out a sunbeam on the wall. More happy moments, added up to create more chunks of stress free time with your little one.

Simplicity  = more snuggles and less struggles.

What are your favorite things you have purchased that make your life easier as a parent, or person?
How would you feel if you had more time to just enjoy your children?
What did you think would be a great product, and in the end it wasn't?
What does simplicity mean for you as a parent and as a family?