Bringing a Product to Market
Interview with Kathy McEvoy, Founder of Celebrate In Pink
Kathy McEvoy couldn't find plates for her luncheon and a business was born! Celebrate In Pink creates and sells pink ribbon theme partyware.
Kathy McEvoy founded Celebrate In Pink in 2007 in Fairfax, Virginia.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Celebrate In Pink is the only provider of pink ribbon theme partyware. The collection includes dinner and dessert plates, lunch and beverage napkins as well as note cards and invitations. We promote socially responsible partying so we support women who are undergoing breast cancer treatment.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I innocently thought I could purchase pink ribbon theme partyware at any local party store and found it wasn't available anywhere in the world. I wanted to reinforce the sentiment for my first post walk luncheon and to thank my team for helping to raise funds for such an important cause. I literally stood in a party store and said that I would be the first to bring pink ribbon partyware to the market and I was! It was a vehicle for raising money for women who need financial assistance with their treatment.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I consider myself to be one very lucky lady...I was working as an executive in corporate America when I got my breast cancer diagnosis and realized that I was giving my life to an entity not a person, a cause, myself or my family so I resigned and began my treatment. Upon completion, I decided to act on a 10 year long wish...I always had a creative side and loved to decorate so I entered the home staging field and launch a very successful business, my first one. Two and a half years into it I participated in my first major breast cancer walk with my team and discovered that pink ribbon partyware didn't exist anywhere in the world. I felt this was my ah ha moment and somewhat of a calling for me. This was the way that I could support the many women and families who need financial assistance while undergoing treatment. Celebrate In Pink was born and I eased out of home staging. I felt good about the decision because this would help those in need.
The Celebrate In Pink collection was debuted in June 2009, we are an emerging company with big dreams and lots of passion. Women love it because they can celebrate it forward while at the same time, show off their chic new partyware to friends and family. The collection can be used for virtually any occasion and promotes socially responsible partying.
I feel blessed that I have been able to follow my passion twice, how many people actually get to do that? I strongly feel that there was a higher hand in my life's journey, first by placing me in career positions that gave me valuable business experience then by allowing me to satisfy my 10 year desire for design through home staging and then placing me in a situation to find a way to help those who really need it. I feel as though I am where I am suppose to be and count on angels such as yourselves to help spread the news about Celebrate In Pink partyware.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
Yes I did and yes it was essential for me to properly manage all of the things that had to be done to launch the company and bring a product to market. It proved to be invaluable when bringing on a business partner or discussing the business with others.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers ...? Would you suggest others do the same?
My first hire was a graphic designer to take my prototype to the next level. The next hire was a trademark attorney to help with the filings for our ribbon and company name. A close third was an accountant. With limited funds we have to be very industrious and creative, every day we learn something new.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Yes, the business is run out of our homes and there are both advantages and disadvantages to it. For me, I am too disciplined and end up working way too much. Because of all of the work required, I haven't been able to find a happy balance between personal and work time yet. I am still working on that!
Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?
I did not have a partner for most of the design phase of the business. I have had many Angels brought to me throughout the Celebrate In Pink journey and Deb was one of them. We knew each other through mutual friends, ended up at lunch together and when I told her what I was doing she wanted to be a part of it. With her accounting background and my business background we agreed to become business partners. Her name is Deb Pfiffner and her title is Supporter.
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?
The biggest advantage I believe I have is knowing my target...women. The other advantage for women starting in business is that there are so many networks of women who honestly want to help other women succeed. When I first started I was fortunate enough to have two women mentor me and I am happy to say that whenever I get the opportunity to pay it forward I do, that is one of the perks of this job...
Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
We have incorporated it into our line of napkins. They are printed on recycled materials (and all of our products are made in the USA). We look forward to the day when recycled materials will support the design of our plates too.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Over the last year traffic at the tradeshows have been greatly reduced, for budgetary purposes we have limited ourselves to one in 2010. It is a different type of show for us; it targets our sector completely which is the only reason we are trying it, otherwise we wouldn't.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
Other than the manufacturing of all of the products, our primary outsourcing is graphic design.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
We are about to embark on a social media campaign targeting B2C. This will be new for us and I hope the payoff of time versus sales is there.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
One of the things that have helped us is being preferred vendors of buying groups. Through the groups we have direct access to our target buyers. Since the product line has a broad appeal we are currently marketing to a variety of channels and sectors.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I am sure you have heard this a million times...absolutely! It is much more involved than I ever thought (producing a product requires much attention to every detail) and the current economy hasn't helped either. The sales and marketing is more challenging in this economy.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Perhaps I would have held off another year before placing the initial product order. With the huge minimums required and the sagging economy I may have waited, but I have passion and faith that this is what I am suppose to be doing and know that everything will turn out fine...I am a patient person.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
There are so many facets to manufacturing a product. I thought that I could do most of it myself but learned having help was beneficial in many ways. Whether it is through a business partnership or hiring it out (I couldn't afford to hire it out) be sure to get the help or the venture may never take off. Also be sure to understand the many logistics involved with products such as the number of times the product is handled / shipped and how that impacts the bottom line. Know your numbers and know them well to arrive at a pricing model that will sustain the business ongoing.
Great advice for anyone who is hoping to bring a product to market. Thank you for your time, Kathy.
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