Being a small business owner has its challenges. I remember when I was in elementary school & my dream was to grow up & own my own Hello Kitty store! Yes, I wanted to own a Sanrio franchise at my local mall. Times have changed & although I am not a small business owner, I still love Hello Kitty. 🙂
I met April through a moms group. I had heard about her store Mama-San which is located in Burbank & had been invited to a few events. I knew that April held down a full-time job & the store was a side business. I admire anyone who can take on a side job while holding down a full-time one. I can barely manage my various part-time gigs, blogging & being a parent of a young girl! How April has managed to do it must take a lot of hustle & that is why I wanted to profile her on my blog.
Please meet the latest Real Mom of the SFV, April Lawrence!
How/why did you begin your business?
April: Maternity clothes are so expensive! While pregnant with my second child, I found myself again having a difficult time finding trendy maternity clothes at a decent price and that fit right on my new and changing shape. I was buying off Craigslist or eBay, but nothing seemed to fit right, and you can’t try things on when you buy that way. But I still needed good clothes for work and wanted to feel good about myself and not just wear big t-shirts and sweat pants. I knew I couldn’t be the only mom on a budget that felt this way. So I decided to open a place where women could go to and feel comfortable, stylish, try it before they buy it, and, what we all like best, get a good deal!
The goal of Mama-San Boutique is to provide a premier boutique experience for the expectant mother on a budget or looking to go green. And when you’re pregnancy is finished, you can pay it forward by coming back and selling your gently used maternity clothes to The Mama-San Boutique. Hosting classes, attending breast-feeding support groups, getting a shower gift for a friend, or just relax with a cup of tea – these are some of the things that you can do at our store.
As a working mother, what is one tip or piece of advice that you would give to other female entrepreneurs?
April: Breathe…don’t forget to breathe. It’s so very difficult to be not only a mother and Mom-preneur, but also to be a wife to your husband. Everything will get done sooner or later, and if it doesn’t, that’s ok too. Keep perspective on what’s important.
What do you like best about having a business in the San Fernando Valley?
April: I love the people and the location. I was felt so inspired when I would go into my beautiful store and talk with the expecting mothers. Such an exciting time in a woman’s life and I got to be there for part of it. I always told my ladies, shopping for maternity clothes is like shopping for a wedding dress, it’s a rare and exciting moment in someone’s life.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you began your business, what would that be?
April: I could do a whole series of blog posts or a seminar on how to get a start-up going, if folks are interested in hearing more about what I didn’t know and what I did wrong 🙂
As it turns out, online clothing business is where it’s at these days. I thought it would be important for women to be able to try things on, but it seems like most folks are ok with returning items that don’t fit. Also – is seems like I had a limited number of people coming in the store (online you can search the whole world for customers), ladies bought less than what I thought they would (even though my prices were thrift store prices for new or like new clothing), and my target audience provided very few repeat customers.
Other things to note:
- Crowd funding
- Resources like “SCORE” & support from other women entrepreneurs
- Money, how much do I need? More than you think.
- Commercial real estate renting – it’s still an old boys network, plus utilities surprises – including the huge deposit expected by the Water and Power company. Insurance & payroll for employees.
- Licenses, tax ID numbers, and such. I went LLC through Legal Zoom, but would I do it that way again? Probably not. I have a live personal accountant I can go to and ask questions. It would have been nice to have a lawyer as well.
- Internet marketing – takes A LOT of time…more than you think. Great resources like Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Meet-Up, various online calendars like LA Parent & Burbank.com. But they all take lots of time to continue to cultivate.
- Your logo and website
- Where to go for what types of marketing materials that actually work
- Other things I’ve learned – Fraud and scams, homeless people, dealing with employees, etc.
Being a Mom-prenuer isn’t easy, but I recommend that if you feel the calling to do it, go for it! I would, and probably will, do it again at some point in my life. You only live once and you never want to ask yourself “what if.” My husband was very supportive through it all, and I hope others are as lucky as I was with that. But also know that you are ok with whoever you are and whatever you choose for your life. There’s lots of pressure on women today to be “super woman” and have a side hustle and bring home the bacon and “lean in” and all that…but whatever your calling is as a woman, to be single, or a full-time mom, to be a business owner, to have a job, or a career, just be comfortable in your own skin and the biggest thing is to enjoy life and the people that are on the ride with you. For now, me personally, I’m going to take a break, and just breathe for a little while…
Thanks April for giving such a wealth of information! Just to give you some insight, I approached April to do this interview last year before the holidays. She knew that I was going to run her interview in the New Year. Then when she sent me the email explaining that she was going to be closing her business, I asked her if she still felt comfortable doing this piece. She agreed to go through with it so that she could shine a light on how tough it can be out there as a small business owner in this economy, for this particular industry. I applaud April’s efforts & hope you appreciate what she has to offer!
Now for some lighter news! The Mama-San Boutique 50% off “Going out of Business” sale has begun. It started on January 1st of this month. If you’d like more info, please check out the Mama-San Facebook page for the latest updates, hours & location info.
Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. The image shown in this post is used with permission. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.