Is Franchising Right for You, Ladies?

This is a reprint from The Huffington Post.

This may be the year of the entrepreneur, but does that include franchising?

Brenda Dronkers says:

Yes! There are so many reasons that right now is a good time to buy into a franchise. For women in particular, there are so many low cost as well as home-based franchise brands. In the past, it seemed that franchising was geared more for the brick and mortar, high investment, high strung entrepreneurs. However, these days, with options like tutoring services, food trucks, home services and so many other industries adding a low cost franchise opportunity with flexible work schedules, it is primetime for women in franchising.

Brenda Dronkers knows about franchising. She’s the founder and former president of Pump It Up, the Inflatable Party Zone. Founded in 2000, she grew it to what is now the largest children’s recreational franchise system in the country. She sold majority ownership in 2007 after sales hit $70 million.

Brenda’s kids were 4,9, & 11 years old in 1999 when she attended a church carnival. There were two big inflatables in the church warehouse that were by far the most fun attraction at the carnival. Kids would wait in line to jump up and down for a few minutes then swing around to get right back in line again.

Brenda found herself awestruck in two ways. The first was that both her youngest and oldest kids were both completely enthralled with the inflatables. Usually her kids weren’t entertained with the same activity since they were seven years apart. Secondly, she realized that because these were inside, there was no weather issue allowing for year-round fun and parties.

Without a college education or biz experience, ten weeks after this aha moment, Brenda opened her first Pump It Up.

If you are considering buying a franchise, Brenda recommends that you ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can I follow training and directions easily?
  2. Can I follow someone else’s system requirements?
  3. Am I a multi-tasker?
  4. Can I fund the franchise until it is up and running successfully?
  5. Last but certainly not least… Do I have my family’s support?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then franchising may be for you. If in fact it is, Brenda suggests these questions be asked of a potential franchise:

  1. How long has the franchisor been in business?
  2. What kind of ongoing support will the franchise offer?
  3. Does the franchise have a solid growth plan?
  4. How do the rest of the franchisees like working with the brand?
  5. How much freedom does the franchise give you?

Brenda describes how she managed to balance mom & biz when she first launched:

When I began PIU, my children were 4, 10 and 12. When hubby was at the firehouse, I took them with me to the PIU when I had parties booked. I had an office, and I taught them all to make goodie bags (free child labor, except for all the ‘goodies’ they grabbed). I brought a TV, books, toys and made a play area/homework room for them. This lasted for about six months, and then I was able to hire a manager to work the parties. I did the rest of the business from home. Many moms, if given the chance, would choose to work from home once they have their baby like I did. As moms, we have this amazing way of being able to balance our home and business life. It will take some practice, but it can be done.

For many moms franchising can be an effective, flexible, rewarding and supportive business option. There are lots of franchise systems set up by franchisors that are focused on targeting women who want to work from home. Out of the approximate 3,500 franchise opportunities, Brenda says that about 1,000 are home-based options.

She recommends the following franchises for mompreneurs who prefer to be home based:

Games On the Go: This is a mobile RV that travels to birthday parties and events. The RV is full of retro games, such as Pac Man, Donkey Kong and more It has a very low start-up cost and is designed to be run from a home office.

Stroller Moms: This is a franchise that trains you to host stroller fitness classes in your neighborhood. This is not only a great source of revenue, but the mompreneur actually makes friends and can take her baby to work!

Bark Busters: This franchise will teach its franchisee to train dogs. So, if you love dogs, what a great way to get out of the house, and run your own business as well.

Home Helpers: If you love senior citizens, you may love Home Helpers. The franchisee of this franchise work’s from home, making appointments to visit and assist senior citizens…o n your own schedule!

Brenda talks about the benefits of going with a franchise as opposed to starting your own similar type of biz:

When you invest in a franchise, you are investing in a proven business model. I was very blessed that PIU was a hit. According to About.com, studies show that franchises have a success rate of approximately 90 percent as compared to only about 15 percent for businesses that are started from the ground up. The increased probability of success usually far outweighs any initial franchise fee and nominal royalties that are paid monthly. Also, many franchises participate in women’s funding opportunities, or have pre-registered with the SBA to avoid lending issues. Franchising is amazing. But not all franchises are created equal. If you decide to explore franchises, be sure to use your talents as a woman…practice discernment and use your intuition as you speak to these franchise brands. Any doubt, find another brand.

There’s such a variety of options available and if you spend enough time researching, Brenda is confident that you will find the right business match. You too can then jump for joy!

Invented by Moms

As many of you know, I have a new facebook page, Empowered MompreneursThis has become an amazing way to connect with moms in business. As I have been meeting these amazing ladies, I have come across some pretty cool products.. all began as a need, and then became a huge “AH-hah!” moment for these moms– just as Pump It Up was for me.

These three mom entrepreneurs have come up with solutions to our never-ending dirty kitchen chairs, messy bottle feedings, and hard-to-put-on baby jackets.

Read on about their great products and their stories of how they invented them:

The SmartSeat Chair Protector was invented by Rebecca Rabson, a mom who found a solution to protect upholstered chairs with comfortable fabric seat covers that are waterproof, stain resistant, reusable, and machine washable.

In an interview with The Mom Writes, Rebecca was asked what inspired her to create The Smart Seat Chair Protector and she replied: “My boys! I have two very adorable, but incredibly messy boys. We purchased a new dining room set a couple of years ago and I wanted to be able to eat meals together as a family. But I also didn’t want my kids  to ruin my new chairs. I looked for a waterproof seat cover that would discreetly protect my new chairs, but I couldn’t find anything that I liked. I didn’t want a vinyl seat cover. I didn’t like the way that they look and my boys didn’t like the way that they feel when you sit on them. I also didn’t want a full slipcover – I loved my new chairs and didn’t want to entirely change the way that they look. The  SmartSeat Chair Protector was my solution – an attractive, waterproof seat cover that is easy to use and comfortable to sit on.”

Monica Guerra Jones is the mom inventor behind BUNCHEES Baby Bottle Bibs (a solution to messy bottle feedings).

Monica writes:

Who knew that a dribbly bottle-feeder and a stretchy hair accessory would inspire me so much!

My baby boys were so messy that every time they ate from their baby bottle, their bib would became so soaked that I had to literally change their outfit after each feeding. The messy bottle feeding not only left them soaked but myself as well. My oldest son’s cheeks and chin became red and chapped from the wetness and constant dribble coming out of the corners of his mouth while he ate that would run down his cheeks, chin and down into his neck.  At bathtime, it was a chore to wash his neck folds, where formula and messy dribble would collect and become crusty–ick! Having had enough, I decided to search for a solution–so off I went to Babies R Us, where there was nothing available for this specific problem. I then went to Target, Wal Mart, Baby Depot and all the other big-name baby stores but to no avail, there was nothing on the market for this.

I began using pricey but better quality bibs to help absorb the dribble, but then my baby became quite good at pulling his bibs off while I fed him and they didn’t absorb the gap in between the neck and bib opening. And so I was destined to deal with it until he was off the bottle for good. Fast forward three years later, when I had my second baby who began having the same issues with bottle-feeding, I became determined to find a solution this time, but how? He was only a few weeks old when I was feeding him and happened to notice my scrunchie on my end table. I was having trouble with a leaky baby bottle at the moment and for some reason, I wondered if I slipped the scrunchie underneath the bottle cap, would it be able to help with the leakage? And so I tried it, feeling a little silly and then not so silly after all! It worked like a charm, soaking up most of the bottle leaks and I officially had what Oprah calls the “a-ha” moment. Another huge a-ha moment was when I held the edge of the scrunchie underneath his lip, it caught the dribble running out of the sides of his mouth! I decided to make a much more absorbent version out of a microfiber kitchen towel and added three mini-bibs to extend and absorb what was coming out of his mouth. Along with my baby, I enlisted my friends and family members who had just had babies to try them out, and they all thought it was ingenious and one of the coolest baby products ever.

Hoping to help other moms and dads who had this problem with their messy babies, we launched Baby Bottle Bibs on our website in February of 2008. We have received worldwide acceptance and very positive feedback from those who have used our product. We even won a prestigious award from iParenting Excellent Baby Products for 2008! I have my baby boys to thank, they (along with my “vintage” scrunchie) were what sparked my creativity and allowed me to invent this great product. My boys continue to inspire me and I find myself thinking of more and more ways to help our lives a little more fun and easier for us all!

Betsy Dolan invented the Wrapeaze (a hooded wrap that envelops a child in warmth quickly and easily-with one hand)

Betsy writes:

Running errands with kids can be a hassle, especially when you have to take jackets on and off constantly.

WrapeazeTM is a unique product that was created out of sheer necessity! As a mother of two young boys, I often cringe at the idea of running errands with the kids in tow. While I love my boys endlessly, I don’t love the quick trips to the grocery store, daycare, the post office or the dry cleaner. Everyone is happy until the car stops and it is time to get out of the car seats and get jackets on. …The pleasant experience of running a couple of “quick” errands often turns into a long, miserable chore. I can’t imagine I am alone!

In our busy world, parenting sometimes means maximizing the few minutes or hours you have with your kids each day. I have saved precious minutes and been spared many tears and tantrums by avoiding jackets and simply wrapping up with Wrapeaze.

Once the initial product was developed, with the help of my crafty sister in law, my boys wore their wraps everywhere. I got stopped daily by other parents who asked where they could purchase one for their little ones. After many revisions, we have come up with a quality product I know your little ones will love!

The original Wrapeaze is a hooded wrap that envelops the child in warmth quickly and easily-with one hand. No more wrestling with little arms and sleeves while you stand in a cold parking lot. Your child will love that their movement is unrestricted, and you can avoid tantrums and tears. There is no better way to fuse utility with style!

These are such inspiring examples of moms who used their everyday life experiences to create something great to share!

I am going to continue featuring mom invented products and businesses on my blog. Please send me an email if you would like to be featured (brendadronkers@gmail.com)!

Peace and love,
Bren

Mom Inspired Products

More and more moms are becoming entrepreneurs as they’ve developed product ideas from their everyday lifestyles. I’m sure we’ve all had that “Why didn’t I think of that?” moment when we hear about a new child-based product that has come out and is extremely useful. As moms, we are constantly thinking about our children– so if we figure out something that works for them, why not share it and make it available to all moms out there too?

As the founder of Pump It Up, I am always looking to encourage and support other moms on the pursuit of entrepreneurship. The road can be rocky, but the rewards can be amazing in so many ways. Like most moms, I created PIU to solve a problem. Most mompreneurs have done the same. As they have raised their little ones, they have realized a need or a problem and then have created the solution for not only their own children, but hopefully for millions of others.

Mom Invented features moms who have created products and business ideas, and I wanted to share some inspiring examples:

Kiss-u-Tissue Tubes were invented by mom Amy Davis (tissue dispensers that fit into car cup-holders).

In an interview with Mom Invented, Amy stated: “I had never worked in business in any way before I started this company. It all began when I was driving my kids to a friend’s house in September of 2007 when one of them cried out for a tissue. A quick glance in the rear-view mirror told me that this kid needed a tissue NOW, so I quickly began to search my immediate surroundings: the seat next to me, the floor, and the hold-everything bag next to me; only to come up short. And then as I reached behind me to search the floor of the back seat I glanced up at the road just in time to swerve out of the way of my neighbor’s fence.  That was a wake-up call.  I pulled over to the side of the road so I could attend to one thing at a time.  And I thought, ‘I can’t be the only one with kids who have autumn allergies and wait until the last minute to cry out for a tissue.”

Tammany Atkinson is the mom inventor behind Bee’s Knees (patented baby pants with neoprene in the knees to protect babies while crawling on hardwood and tile floors)

In Tammany’s interview, she said: “I started Bee’s Knees when I noticed our son Jackson’s knees were red and bruised from our hardwood and tile floors. I tried crawling around to see what it felt like and I felt so badly for him that I was inspired to create a solution.”


The Zaky is one of the best mom-inspired product story I’ve ever heard of (saved the best for last).

Mom Invented shared Yamile Jackson’s story behind this great product:

In 2001 Yamile Jackson gave birth to her son Zachary 12 weeks prematurely. He weighed less than 2 pounds, and when he was 3 weeks old, Tropical Storm Allison hit Houston, shutting down power and water in the hospital. The hospital staff, Yamile and her husband, Larry, had to keep Zachary alive by hand for nine hours until he could be evacuated, and at that time Yamile made a promise to do whatever she could to help all babies — and prayed for the opportunity to do it on Zachary’s behalf, not in his memory.During the 155 nights Zachary spent in the hospital, Yamile spent at least 10 hours a day with him in the neonatal intensive care unit, but she hated leaving him at night. She had learned from the nurses how to use her hands to comfort him — how to hold him and how to touch him to give him boundaries, but she wanted something to continue to comfort Zachary in her absence. So she sewed hand-shaped pillows, which she slept with to give her scent, that she could leave with her son to keep him feeling warm and secure.

She could see a difference in Zachary’s monitors when he was being cradled by the pillows, and seeing that he was at ease helped Yamile feel more relaxed. Two weeks after she finally brought Zachary home, Yamile got a call from the development director at the NICU to see if she could make her “little hands” for the other premature babies, and she knew this was how she could keep her promise to help babies and their parents.

Yamile spent the next three years refining her hand-sewn design and bringing The Zaky to market. It’s now available in many retail and online stores, is used in hospitals nationwide, and has won numerous product awards.

 Whether it’s an itty-bitty product idea, or a huge life changing business concept, moms can use their day to day experiences to help them become successful in many different ways. Let your ideas soar!

I will be highlighting one or two businesses in my blog, as well as on my new podcasts that will be out soon. Please send me an email if you would like to be featured (brendadronkers@gmail.com)!
Peace and love.
-Bren

Meet Bree Johnson, Mompreneur…

Bree Johnson is a mom of three who owns her own event company, Mod Events and Co, and creates handmade accessories for her etsy shop, CocoRoseCouture. I am constantly inspired when reading her blog, The Polka Dot House, to see furniture she has re-purposed, and to see that she is still extremely involved with her family every step of the way.

Why did you start your companies and when?
I always knew that I wanted to do something with my life. I see so many mothers who forget to find out who they are, as well as taking care of their own family. I feel like a happy mom makes a happy family. I started my event company when I moved to Canada from Rexburg, Idaho.. I wasn’t allowed to work, so having my own business seemed like a good idea. I’ve always been a girlie girl– loved parties, was one of those 5 year olds that threw balls for all her dolls– that, and I’m an extremely organized person.
So, I went to event planning courses and floral design courses while I was waiting to become a landed immigrant in Canada (they call it a permanent resident). They wouldn’t let me finish my Bachelor’s Degree in Canada at any university (until I had status here). I took continuing ed classes, and after those classes, I decided I didn’t want to work for anyone. I wanted to carry out my own ideas, not someone else’s. So in essence, I planned weddings and decorated for Christmas parties for a couple years.
Starting a business takes money and I needed more capital, so I decided to open an etsy shop to raise money for the event company. Little did I know it would take off in a big way.. and now my etsy shop, CocoRoseCouture, is my soul source of income and turned out to be my main business. I do events on the side and private functions for people, and it’s still my passion.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. How does your background relate to your businesses?
I’m married, 25 years old, have twin 3 year old boys and an 18 month old daughter– they are the true joy in my life. I grew up in a very creative family. Every Wednesday during the summer when I was little, my mom turned the TV off, and would have us work on scrapbooks or pick something new we wanted to learn to do. She made us set goals. I learned lots of technical things through scrapbooking and other crafts during all my summers growing up.
My grandma was also very inspiring. Every meal had a centerpiece. We used fancy china, etc. and I just remember lots of great memories coming from setting tables. She inspired my creativity.
I also think I’ve had some hard knocks in life. I had 2 sisters pass away when I was a teenager, along with other things.. but my motto my whole life has been that I have a choice, and I choose optimism. I think my work always exudes optimism. I love color, I love bright patterns, and I love things that remind me of happy memories. Life is worth celebrating.

You are a mom of two twin boys and one little girl. How do you find time to work?
I work at night. My kids go to bed at 7:00, so from then until midnight every night I work on shop listings and making pieces. My husband sits with me and he’ll watch Modern Family with me while I sew. We go out every Friday. If theres ever anything at night where I need a break, I will take it and just hang out with my husband. I think it’s important to find the balance that works for you and your family. During nap time and while my boys are at preschool in the mornings, I do marketing, answer emails, get ready for photo shoots, and photograph product. I think it’s all about scheduling and using every part of your day.

What has been your greatest success with your company/companies?
I planned a couple weddings. Seeing the whole setup before the bride got there is always the best part. Then watching their reaction.. totally stellar. I think being noticed by boutiques that want to carry my product makes me excited. Knowing my pieces are all over the world is kind’ve a cool feeling. I also get excited when my work gets featured in magazines and editorial shoots. It’s fun to see my ideas where I created the feel for the shoots, and having them be captivating to others. I also love when I get small emails of people saying they love this, or thank you for doing the special order. Dealing with fun customers and special orders are always exciting, I never get bored.

What has been your biggest source of inspiration? What keeps you going?
Like I said before, I draw form happy memories in my life– carousels, dresses, china plates, old photos, etc. What keeps me going is an innate sense to create. I think we as human beings have that built into us.

What is the most rewarding thing about being your own boss?
Deciding when I want to work, how I want to work, and being able to do whatever creative thing pops in my head next, without having to ask permission.

How have you managed to juggle the roles of mom and business owner? What gets pushed aside? (cooking, cleaning, etc.)?
You do not want to see the upstairs of my house, my bathrooms, or any of my drawers. I also don’t have an office, so half of my bonus room is always covered in silk and vintage buttons. I do a lot of crock pot meals.

What advice would you offer to other moms creating their own products and ideas?
Find something you love to make. If you wouldn’t wear it or put it in your home, it’s not going to sell. Your product is a reflection of you. Try and make something that is your own design, something unique that screams to people: I need this! Keep working hard.. it takes time to build a business (and a learning curve). Get good photos of your product. Network and meet people– I found my photographers through etsy, we work together to do amazing editorial shots. That, for me, is such a fun part of my job (secret inner stylist coming out). Make your shop or business feel cohesive, from your logo down to your packaging, make sure it feels the same. The basis for my shop was like a cupcake shop for accessories.

What is the biggest obstacle you had to overcome as a mom business owner?
I think knowing that I’m the one who has to deal with feedback. Some days it’s wonderful, but other times packages dont get there and people are mad about wait times, etc. Knowing not to take it personally when someone isn’t happy took awhile for me to learn. I had to learn to think of it as a business.. not me.

What is the best advice you can give a mom who wants to start a business, or a mom who already has one, and needs to hear from mom’s like you?
Don’t give up. Find your niche market and cater towards that. Don’t compare– other people are at different stages in life and some have been running business for a lot of years. It takes time for it to get to the point where it will be successful. Talk to other creative people, especially if you sell on etsy. Join the teams they do. Do critiques (which I did with my shop a lot in the beginning). You can learn so much through others. Don’t worry about being the most amazing shop on etsy, because people will love your product for you.. and heaven knows that didn’t happen overnight. Did I mention get to know creative people? Almost all my big breaks have come through networking on my blog, twitter, through fashion shows, fairs etc. Love your product make it you. Talk to everyone you meet.

Bree is such an inspiring mom, and reminds us all that it CAN be done– she has found what works for her and her businesses. What steps can you take to insure your work and family balance? Congratulations, Bree, on inspiring us all!

Make Money Blogging your Heart Away!

Stay-at-home-moms have found a new way to make money: blogging!
Many moms started their blogs to document their daily lives, and found that they picked up lots of readers along the way– causing them to realize they can make money doing something they enjoy (and in the comfort of their own home).

So how do they do it?

There are several different ways to make money blogging:

Google AdSense:

Bloggers can get paid to place Google ads on their blog. Google AdSense recognizes key words that they use in their post to strategically put ads on that match what they’re writing about. For example, if a mom is blogging about diapers in her post, Google will put on an ad for diapers, or another baby product. The blogger is paid every time someone clicks on an ad, and each ad is worth a different amount of money per click.

Amazon Associates:

Amazon Associates is a program bloggers can use to make commission off of people buying products from Amazon (directed by them). Bloggers can simply review a product in their post, and include an Amazon product link. The specific link includes their Associate tag and the blogger is paid for qualifying sales coming through that link. This can be a great tool to make money since moms like to buy products that other moms have reviewed and like themselves.

Sponsors/Private Ads:Sponsors have become very popular in the blogging world. Since there are so many different types of blogs out there, it has become a marketer’s dream. Bloggers charge people/companies for an ad space on their blog, and the prices differ greatly due to blog popularity (anywhere from $5 an ad to $100+ an ad). A mommy-based blog will usually have sponsors targeting to that audience, such as a children’s clothing store company, or someone’s handmade girl headbands etsy shop. Some bloggers even trade ad space with other bloggers to get their name out there and increase traffic to their blog. The blogger monitors the ad space, and they usually have a tab on their blog for people to contact them through email if someone is interested in sponsoring.

Making money blogging takes a lot of time and effort. It is not a “get rich quick” scheme. However, with the right tools and determination, stay-at-home-moms can be very successful at it. It can become an ideal way to make money since moms can do the work on their own time (You know, in that one hour of nap time during the day!)