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May 7, 2009
This Mother’s Day, give a memorable, A-list gift
TODAY’s Bobbie Thomas on Tinseltown’s top items for your shining star
By Bobbie Thomas
updated 7:28 a.m. PT, Thurs., May 7, 2009
Celebrity favorites for Mother’s Day | May 7: TODAY style editor Bobbie Thomas and Justin Timberlake’s mom, Lynn Harless, share some great gift ideas for Mother’s Day. (Credit: Today show)
April 22, 2008
Entrepreneur Mom - Diana Turk
As told to: Michelle Roberts
Entrepreneur Mom: Mother of Shayna, 16, Andy, 14, and Talia, 11; founder of PeoplePlatters, a decorative plate design and manufacturing company in Agoura Hills, CA. Number of employees: 3. Projected 2008 gross revenue: $150,000.
My story: As a stay-at-home mom of three with an unused law degree, I was searching for something that my carpooling, lunch-making, school-volunteering days were not offering me: a creative outlet. I found it in my kitchen cabinet, right where I store the cookie cutters. Wanting something unique for an upcoming school fund-raiser, I made clay figures from the cutters and glued them onto ceramic plates. Everyone loved them. One of the plates auctioned at the fund-raiser sold for nearly $2,000! Next I made a “grandparent plate” for my parents. Their friends started asking for them, and with each plate I gave away, I got requests for more. Soon both my friend and my husband said, “You should sell those.” And that, as simple at it seems, is how my hobby became my business: PeoplePlatters.
My decorative display plates—which are personalized with figures made to look like your family and friends, complete with charms like a cell phone or laptop—were popular in my expanding social circles, but I learned that word of mouth alone wasn’t enough to grow a business. In 2003, I put up a website, sat back and expected
orders to flow in. They didn’t. Once again a friend came to my rescue by telling me all about pay-per-click (PPC), a system in which you pay search engines each time they direct your target market to your site. It worked, and before long I had more orders than I could handle.
In those early days, I rarely stepped out of my kitchen. Some days, I didn’t even get dressed. To get through the round-the-clock shifts (and occasionally get out of my sweats), I recruited other stay-at-home moms like me. We baked each figure in my oven, and—I’m not going to lie—it wasn’t easy. I remember constantly having to run home to switch out another batch. Imagine the looks I’d get at the supermarket checkout when I’d mumble, “Please hurry, I have heads in the oven!”
Two years ago, when I couldn’t keep up with orders (and neither could my oven), I expanded the business by hiring a manufacturing company to mass-produce the clay figures.
I also hired artists to assemble the plates. Last July, I relocated the business from my home to an office, and today my products are featured in gift stores across the country. I have a staff of three artists, and I’ve sold thousands of plates.
As my hobby transformed into a full-fledged business, it was sometimes hard on my kids because the hours were so hectic. But the business has taught them some solid lessons and may even have cultivated a budding entrepreneur: My daughter Shayna has been running her own business, a summer drama camp, at our house for four years. Some say she gets her intrepid spirit from me. Who knew something so rewarding could be molded from a little clay and the need to be creative?
1 Branch Out.
Don’t get stuck with one product. You have to explore other avenues and expand your product line if you want to grow your business. I started with “grandparent plates” and then moved on to “birthday” and “marriage.” I recently added magnetic memo boards to capture the attention of new customers.
2 Get Support.
Recruit husbands, older children, neighbors, teens, other moms, friends, anyone. And never, ever start a business without letting your partner in on every detail. My husband, Greg—who runs a successful dental practice—was there for me and believed in my product.
3 Invest in a captivating website. Then make it easy for potential customers to find.
It’s worth spending the money to hire a professional to do this for you. If your site looks good and is easy to locate through searches and links, the sales will likely follow.
Because my product is customized, I developed a standardized group of choices. Instead of offering every conceivable hairstyle or clothing choice, I narrowed it down to a finite number of combinations. Keeping it simple saves both time and money.
ASK A PRO
Do-it-yourself to dollars
Does your hobby have the potential to be a viable business? Here’s some advice from Donna Maria Coles Johnson, founder of the Indie Beauty Network (indiebusinessblog.com), a trade organization representing more than 650 women who have turned a pastime into a career.
Be realistic about profit potential. You need to be honest with yourself about your product’s mass appeal. If you love making crocheted toilet-roll covers, that’s great. But you probably won’t support your family selling them.
Start small. It’s unrealistic to think you can get on Oprah, compete with mass-market companies or be all things to all people right out of the gate. So begin with a manageable number of products and/or services that you can produce in a reasonable amount of time—and still have enough time to promote them. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to offer so many options that they have no time or energy left for marketing.
Zoom in on a niche. Don’t just sell jewelry. Sell jewelry made from stones mined in a particular way or made with a rare kind of metal. Your product should be unique in some way and fill a need in the market. It should be something consumers are asking for and be better than what’s already out there. Connect with a trade organization in your industry to discover untapped niches. A unique sales proposition will also help you attract media attention.
Enlist the help of pros. Whether or not you’re turning a profit, set up your business like a business and hire an accountant to help you keep your books, stay financially organized and find the right tax deductions. She can also help you distinguish between making money and making a profit—two very different things that most start-ups view equally.
Not a born salesperson? Hire a sales rep to, say, convince stores to carry your product. It’s worth the money, because the rep can sell your product while you focus on creating it.
Make the most of technology. Use the Internet and inexpensive software programs to manage your business.
If you are afraid of technology, get over it. If you don’t, your business will fail.
Choose your brand name wisely. Make sure it’s a name you can own the rights to. Check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (uspto.gov) to see if the name you want is already registered as a trademark or has been applied for by someone else. Also check that it’s available as a dot-com. If the name you want is Donna’s Bath and Body but someone else already owns donnasbathandbody.com, choose a new name.
Use social networking. Get familiar with blogs, email newsletters and sites like MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn and so on. These sites get tons of traffic, and you can set up your business profile for free. It takes time, but it’s worth it: You can’t beat free when you’re starting up a business on a budget.
March 29, 2007
Local moms learn value of home businesses
By Sophia Fischer email@example.com
In between driving school car pools and helping kids with homework, an increasing number of Conejo Valley stay-at-home moms are running unique businesses from their kitchens and garages. These multitasking mommy entrepreneurs use their talents to earn extra cash for their families while still being able to stay at home.
Diana Turk of Agoura Hills and Dawn Stillo, Lauren Kellenberger and Connie Balke of Oak Park have found success with unique endeavors, counting celebrities as well as friends, neighbors and family among their clientele.
They're in good company. Women, including those with children, are starting businesses at almost double the rate of men. According to the Center for Women's Business Research, there are 1.4 million privately held, women-owned businesses in California that earn approximately $300 million in revenue.
But it's not always easy balancing family and work.
Turk's business, which is called People Platters, has taken over the family garage with organized rows of shelves and drawers filled with materials used for her creations. Turk designs personalized ceramic platters featuring three-dimensional custom clay characters, clever charms reflecting hobbies and interests of recipients, their names and significant dates. Turk is busy year-round with orders for birthdays, weddings and anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, Mother's and Father's Day, coach and teacher gifts and awards. She also offers parties where guests create their own plates.
"I love seeing how people feel good when they get one of these plates," Turk said. She counts basketball star Shaquille O'Neal among her clients. She estimates that she's made more than 1,000 plates since launching the enterprise in 2003.
A law school graduate, Turk prefers being creative while at the same time earning some income.
"I don't think I could work for someone," Turk said. "It's not my personality."
The business has taken her to China several times, away from her husband, Greg, and three children, Shayna, 15, Andy, 13 and Talia, 10. Sometimes when the work hours are long Turk feels guilty. But she said she likes doing something beyond being a mother and wife and feels she's a good role model for her children.
"The kids have to be more independent, self-reliant and responsible than other kids who have everything done for them," Turk said.
Through helping their mom with People Platters her kids have learned about business and marketing.
"It's been a good experience for all of us," Turk said.
November 17, 2006
KTLA Channel 5 News
View Television Appearance - 7.26MB (requires QuickTime plugin)