Celebrity gifting is a time-tested way to raise visibility for your products.
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You give your product to a celebrity and then if they use it in public, your sales rocket through the roof. It sounds easy enough but to do it right you need to partner with an expert.
We spent some time with Phyllis Pometta to learn about her business, Baby Swags, which specializes in celebrity gift bags that feature baby products.
Based in Plainfield, Illinois, Baby Swags is blazing a trail in the world of celebrity gift bags and innovative promotion techniques.
Phylllis, your business sounds like very interesting. Can you give us your elevator pitch explanation on what Baby Swags does?
Baby Swags specializes in promoting work at home moms and the products they create via celebrity gifting. Our main target is maternity and juvenile related products.
Tell us how you came to start Baby Swags. When did you start the company and what were you doing before that?
I started Baby Swags in September, 2006.
Prior to Baby Swags, I started my first company, Bandana Boutique. Bandana Boutique was formed in 2004 after my first child wanted me to make her a halter top out of her dad's work bandana. With the halter-top done, it was mandatory that I create a skirt and socks, headband and anything else that I could to match.
I was pregnant with my third child at this time and decided to make a blanket, crib skirt, bumper pads for the nursery. I was invited to attend a gifting event for the MTV Movie Awards. While I was there I noticed that a majority of the women there were work at home moms – WAHMs -- in the same financial situation.
It was very costly for me to attend the MTV event, but thought that if I didn't take this opportunity, someone else would. After I returned home, one month later, while watching VH1 talk about the baby boom in Hollywood, I thought there had to be a way to help other WAHMs market their products in the same way but to make it much more affordable.
Instantly, the name Baby Swags came to me. I ran to my computer, purchased the domain name. Within one month, my website was launched and I was sending out my first gift basket. Now, two years later, Baby Swags has worked with over 200 WAHM based companies and we have gifted over 300 celebrities and charity events.
Wow. You really move fast. One of the things we hear from new entrepreneurs is that they have trouble getting the capital they need to start a company. Where did you get the startup money for Baby Swags?
The only expense that was incurred immediately was the purchase of the domain name and hosting. That was funded with money from our personal accounts, and it really didn't cost much at all.
I knew a little bit of HTML coding, so I put my website together on my own. When I started to gain a little profit, I used that to hire a web designer. I made sure to distribute an initial press release and concentrated on SEO and the use of keywords as my main source of advertising.
That's a great lesson to new entrepreneurs. You can launch great businesses with little money. Do stuff on your own whenever you can to save money. Once the money starts flowing in, then you can pay professionals to enhance what you had previously done on your own.
What about competition, Phyllis? Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
I know that there are competitors out there in every business. I don't try to one up the next company. I simply focus on the clients that I do have and provide them with the best form of customer service.
I welcome competition. It means there is a market for my business. There are competitors on every level. There are high-end gifting companies that target corporations. My niche is that I target small businesses, usually businesses started by a stay at home mom who had a great idea.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I always knew I wanted to have my own business. I just never knew what it was going to be.
I often think that things happen for a reason, and had I not gone to LA with Bandana Boutique, I would never have started Baby Swags.
There are a lot of late nights. I didn't realize that so much time and effort goes into making your business a success. People often think working from home is going to be easy, but they soon find out it is a lot harder than they anticipated.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Have a plan. When I started the company, I did so on a whim. I never had "official business plans" so I have been going by year-to-year setting goals for my company and myself. I think anyone just starting out should really invest in having that done, as it will save time, money and energy as you move forward.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Invest in a good web designer, have proper SEO done, submit your website to search engines often, and most importantly practice excellent customer service.
If you treat each company as if it is your only customer, you will be amazed at the good feedback that you can generate by simple word of mouth.
To date, I have not paid for any form of advertising. It has always been done through word of mouth, great service and loyalty. If I succeed, my client succeeds. When they are happy, I am happy, plain and simple.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Do your research. Spend time perfecting your plan for any outcome.
Life changes so frequently and you have to be able to adjust for any situation. For example, in today's economy, people simply do not have the finances to invest and they are doing so cautiously. You have to be prepared for those types of things.
I believe that the more you give of yourself, your time, your knowledge, it will come right back to you when you need it.
Don't be afraid to go after your dreams. If you can dream it, if you can believe it, you can achieve it and when you do, you will succeed!
Well said, Phyllis. Ambition and perseverance go a long way when it comes to entrepreneurship. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us.
I'm sure the new entrepreneurs who visit our site will appreciate all your thoughtful advice, and I'd be very surprised if you don't get some calls from a few stay-at-home moms who have started a baby products business. Good luck to you and to Baby Swags as you take your business to the next level.