Starting a Gift Business
Interview with Angela Giovine, Founder of Lime Events and BeMe
Not every little girl wants to be a ballerina. Little girls today might be inclined to play soccer or softball. Angela Giovine decided to update the traditional music box with twirling figures that are more in line with modern girls' interests. In this article, she shares her advice for starting a business.
Interview with Angela Giovine, Founder of Lime Events and BeMe.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
With BeMe, we are re-examining the norms of the girls' gift industry to improve the message behind popular products. You may be surprised at the stereotypes that have been overlooked! We aspire to create products that will inspire people, not in a blatant way, but it a way that girls should always be inspired, inherently, that they are capable of anything.
We started the business in 2008 and introduced our first product, the BeMe Box, in 2009. BeMe Boxes revamp traditional musical jewelry boxes to better represent the diverse interests of girls today. Why are all girls given a ballerina themed jewelry box rather than a jewelry box that represents them? Currently, we have released BeKickin' for soccer, BeBattin' for softball, BeDancin' for jazz; hip hop; lyrical; ballet; & tap, BeCheerin' for cheerleaders, and BeJiggin' for Irish dancers. In today's e-commerce marketplace, we can easily reach girls of all different interests, and we can't wait to reach more!
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I began my career as an IT consultant for KPMG in New York City. After completing my MBA, I continued my career in Finance at Johnson & Johnson's Ortho Biotech and Centocor businesses. Following several years at J&J, I pursued my passion for entrepreneurship resulting in the Lime Events and BeMe ventures.
How did you come up with your business idea?
Well with Lime, I was in Finance at JNJ when they put me on a team to execute goals and objectives meetings for the Finance division. I received so much praise for my work on those events, and so many people advised me that I had "missed my calling." Coming form a performance background, it was very similar to producing shows. Plus, I loved it!! Lime Events was born.
At the same time, my sister Tina was finishing her MBA and hatched the idea for BeMe as a result of a business plan project she had to complete for a class. I also loved that idea, and off we went.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
We did write plans for both companies. It's something you HAVE to do in order to fully understand what you are getting into. It helps you understand the market and the financial commitments you will have to make. It also forces you to do extensive research. It helps you visualize your plan in entirety.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
I haven't hired anyone. I am fortunate enough to have a father who is a lawyer, and my father, my husband and I all have degrees in accounting. If you do not have this type of expertise, I would advise seeking assistance. There are so many ways to get free help, such as SCORE! and many other SBA resources. Bartering is an option too.
What outside resources were helpful for you? Did you use Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE?
For me, NAWBO and WBENC have been great resources, as well as trade shows in my fields (NYIGF, New York International Gift Fair, ISES it's "Special Event"). Also, I recently attended the Growth 2.0 Conference held by Entrepreneur Magazine. That event was awesome.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
I still do operate from home, which has been great for me. It keeps overhead low, and I can do meetings in my pajamas!! However, you do have to be disciplined to operate out of your home, keeping distractions like TV, chores & napping at bay!
Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?
My sister is my partner in BeMe. Selection process is pretty easy there. (smile) So far Tina and I have been very compatible over that past 2+ years.
What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?
There are certainly challenges. What you have to realize is that you cannot "cross the line" when you are having business debates ("You don't like my design idea? Well Grandma likes me better!!"). You have to be extra sensitive as to when to drop a conversation and let it go and when to persist.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
Well firstly, there are so many resources out there for women owned businesses. Many large companies have Supplier Diversity targets that they must meet, so play to that! Join groups like WBENC who help put you in contact with those large companies. There are also disadvantages of course. I have felt that it counted against me on more than one occasion (especially in smaller-type business situations).
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Don't spend unless you HAVE to. For instance, if you can work from home at first do that. For BeMe, we are housing our product In my garage until sales pick up. Also, there's a split school of thought on outsourcing vs. doing things yourself. I would love to move to a more outsourced model, but for me, right now I am able to save a lot of money by performing every function in house, from website design to bookkeeping.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
Not yet. I'd love to get a virtual assistant, and start offloading low-end tasks in order to become more productive. I've got to wait for more consistent cash flow first. I have, however, utilized elance.com and used outsourcers on a project basis for things like market research.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
It has! Social media has helped us establish our brands, gain us product reviews and PR, and introduced us to strategic partners. You would be surprised at how many high-profile people have become extremely accessible via social media.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Not really, other than I wish I had begun to take myself seriously as an entrepreneur earlier!! Once I began to take myself seriously, I started to really make headway.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
First I would say PLEASE don't let the fear of change cripple you. The number of people who unknowingly let their decisions be overrun with fear is astounding. Second I would say that you only fail when you quit. If you push hard and long enough, you WILL be successful.
Wonderful advice. Thanks for your time.
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