Fellow blogger/party girl extraordinaire is featured this week as Martha Stewart's Doer of the Week! See the original article here.
Doer of the Week: Kristy McCarthy
Unimpressed with the partyware available at the time of one of her son's birthday parties, Kristy decided to create her own custom designs. Today she designs and sells partyware for a living with her business, The Purple Pug.
When did you start your business?
I started my business in 2006.
How did you turn your dream into a business plan?
I always loved planning and styling parties. When my older son was turning one, I could not find anything I thought was unique, charming or special enough for his birthday party. I got creative and crafty and I handmade most of his partyware. It was such an amazing feeling to be able to create handcrafted items for someone I adored so much. When I decided to try this hobby as a business, I began with an eBay storefront. I was familiar with buying and selling on eBay and it was easy transition to having a shop. It was an excellent learning experience for me. I was able to design, sell, and communicate with clients without having to maintain a website or market my products on my own.
What inspired you to do this?
My sons are my greatest inspiration. My older son has special needs and I am so moved by his milestones and accomplishments. I love to party, laugh, and just celebrate how lucky I am to have these two little chimps in my life. My business allows me to connect with amazing people and share in their most important occasions. It is just an honor when someone chooses me to create their partyware. When clients send me pictures of their events and how they used my partyware, I am over the moon!
When did you know that you could really make a go of this?
About six months after I started designing and creating handmade partyware, I knew I could turn this into my dream business.
What was your start-up cost? How did you get the money and what did you use it for?
I would estimate it at about $2,000. This came from our personal funds. I had to purchase several different printers, stock paper, crafting tools, ribbon and a whole lot of glitter! What was the biggest obstacle? Balance. It is often difficult for me to unplug from the business. To have separate times for work and family is difficult because they overlap so much. I think this is a challenge that so many work-at-home moms encounter. I am working on it, though.
Did your friends and family support your dream?
I am lucky that most of my friends and family are fans of the Purple Pug. They also love to take advantage of my party-planning skills.
How did you maintain your confidence when doors were closed in your face, when people didn’t get it or said no?
I believe in myself and my work, but I am also realistic and take advice from those I trust. It’s important to be objective and to learn how to take critiques as well as compliments.
How long did it take you to get everything off the ground?
It’s still an ongoing process. After I had the eBay confidence, I opened an online shop and have never looked back. I will be opening an Etsy shop shortly, to maintain a presence in that marketplace. I am continually networking and marketing. I still have volumes to learn, but I love to research and learn new skills and tricks.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
About two years.
What's the hardest part of what you do? Selling custom handmade partyware in a marketplace that’s trending toward printable goods.
What's the most fun part of what you do?
Simply having the honor of someone choosing my partyware to celebrate their special occasion – and, of course, glittering!
Where do you work from?
I work out of a home craft studio, formerly known as the dining room. I would love to have a studio outside the home for more space and organization.
Do you have employees?
Nope, it’s just me. If I am extremely busy, I will sometimes hire other moms to cut circles and precut other items for me.
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
Social media has been a tremendous boost for every aspect of my business. I can reach clients, peers, friends, and family in a way that was never available. I started a blog about a year ago and I get a significant amount of my website traffic through the blog. I love to connect with my party peers and clients; it’s fantastic to find so many kindred spirits out there. I have met some truly wonderful and supportive people online.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
Lots of trial and error! I am constantly tweaking, reading, researching, and revamping. I am forever making samples and drawing out new designs.
What's the best piece of business advice you ever received?
“Choose your focus and become a master of it.” When I started out, I had so many designs and items. I eventually focused my line on fewer items and designs, and became the master of those items. It is so much better than feeling I was all over the place with my work. I feel a lot more in control now.
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Trust my instincts more. So many times, I have kicked myself for not going with my initial thoughts. I try not to second-guess myself too much now.
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven’t become Doers yet?
Love what you do. If you do not love it now, you never will. You need to have that excitement and passion when starting your own business. Most times I cannot wait to get into the studio to create! I love my work, seriously.
Is your "Dreamer" business your full-time job?
Yes -- and I am the luckiest girl in the world.