A member of a blogging group I belong to recently put a call out for people interested in being interviewed about their business. I answered the call, got most of the way through the questionnaire and then realized that I didn’t qualify because Pure Romance is, technically speaking, an MLM. I don’t know if it is because the blogger only wanted to include “creative” businesses or if she has something against direct sales or if she thinks we are boring. I’d like to think I’m far from boring, but you can decide for yourself. Here is my rejected interview:
10 Questions about your business
- Tell us your name, the name of your business, and where we can find you online.
My name is Grace Ellis Barber and I am a Senior Consultant with Pure Romance. You can follow my sometimes serious sometimes zany blog at www.agentromance.net . My corporate website for shopping for product, hosting a party, or joining my team is www.agentromance.com.
- What inspired you to start your own business?
Wanting to get out a soul sucking pit of despair.
In 2010, my husband and I moved to a new city and purchased our first home. We had a two year old at the time and we realized looking at our finances that we would still be paying off college loans by the time he made it college. I wanted to stay at home with my little guy and got a mindnumbing internet job reviewing search engine results. Within a few months, I was so alternately bored to tears and utterly horrified by what I was forced to look at on a daily basis that I felt like my soul was being slowly sucked out of my body. I was a job zombie.
Around this time, a good friend of mine found out about Pure Romance and declared it was my “mission in life” (she’s overly enthusiastic like that). Not that she wasn’t on to something. In spite of living a pretty tame life myself, I had always been interested in women’s issues, particularly sexual health and advocacy. The idea of working a business that promoted sexual health education and female empowerment, but also allowed me flexibility in term of time, was admittedly intriguing. I swore I would never, ever, ever get involved in an MLM / party plan scheme but against all my previous prejudices, I decided to give it a shot because unlike internet search engine results for “pumpkin bongs”, this was something I could actually work up a passion for.
And I’m so glad I did. Being a job zombie was no fun at all.
- What inspires your designs/writing/etc and what sets you apart from everyone else?
I really think women are amazing. I love the friendship and camaraderie, just hanging out, being real, talking about hopes and dreams and figuring out how to live the lives we really want. I don’t have it all figured out. I’m down in the trenches with all of you doing the best I can as a woman, a mother, a wife, a business owner. I try to bring that sort of unassuming support and encouragement to everyone I meet – whether at my parties or online or in my daily life. I aim to keep it funny and meaningful and real. I think a lot of women have been sold a crappy bill of goods as far as messages about their bodies, what they are entitled to in life and in their relationships, and even in the businesses they might have tried before. I hope that what sets me apart is that I offer hope and positivity in places where they’ve been disappointed before. It’s those personal relationships that develop that really inspire me.
- What is your background and how did you develop the skills to start your business?
Hah. Where to start? I have B.A. and M.A. in Fine Art. I’m an oil painter. Landscapes mostly. Other than proving that I’m sensitive and teachable, I don’t suppose either have much bearing on my business at present.
I have some background in sales (I sold wedding gowns for a number of years) but I’m also one of those people who loves to learn new things and try them out. Pure Romance provides a lot of training and threw myself into that. I went and watched other consultants work and read a lot about sexual health. I used my mad skillz as an internet scavenger to find other direct sales people online to learn from. I think most importantly, I also learned to seek real help when I needed it. Unless you are some sort of superwoman, you can’t be good at absolutely every aspect of your business. I’m personally rubbish as bookkeeping. I had a financial adviser show me what I needed to be keeping track of and pay money to a friend to do data entry for me. It’s a God send.
- What has been your biggest success to date?
Wow, that’s a toughy.
Monetarily, I had a ridiculous $2000K plus party last February with about 20 crazy women at a bar. I don’t know the next time I’ll be able to say I made $500 an hour.
In terms of a quality business moment, one of my customers passed away last January. She was an older lady. Totally fun and amazing. I had a party with one of her daughters at the end of the month and brought her a little wind chime, saying that I thought she could hang it up, hear it ring and know her mother was thinking of her. She cried. And we hugged. I didn’t mean to make her cry, but it was glad to share in her life in a way that was more than business. That’s what makes this job worth it. The people.
- What has been your biggest challenge?
Keeping my house clean. We have a tiny cottage that is about 680 square feet and I don’t have much of an office. I’m one of those people that spreads out everywhere when I work, plus, I’ve got two little boys who make epic messes everyday. It’s hard to get myself out of work mode and focus on picking up the place. I would be a terrible maid.
If I can add another, I would say it’s weathering the slow periods. Every business has them. After 5 years, I’m used to it now, but keeping ones spirits up when the money is NOT coming in is challenging. I try to embrace the ebb and flow (and plan for it!) as much as I can.
- Describe your typical work day.
Typical? It’s not typical! But for the sake of argument, we’ll pretend it’s Friday.
Mornings: Get kid off to school, feed little one, do housework
Afternoon: Call my hostess for that night, post in the Facebook event, write a blog post, prep by bags (check to make sure the vibrating things have fresh batteries and actually vibrate) and pack up my car.
5:30: Arrive at hostesses house, set up my table and chat with the guests as they come in
6:15: Party time! My demo is pretty hilarious – bath, beauty and lubes first; then toys. Tons of fun. I get a thrill when people laugh at my jokes.
7:30: Ordering is done one on one in private. This is my favorite part. I love getting to know my customers a little better, answering their questions and getting them the right products. I carry stock with me, so they get to take things home that night.
8:45: EVERYONE LEAVES HAPPY including me! I drive home and as an added bonus, my husband has already put my kids to bed.
- Which small businesses are you inspired by and why?
I really get tickled by any person who’s lucky enough to make money at their passion. I have one friend who after running a small coffee cart in a local farmer’s market just moved up to her own shop. You can taste her love of coffee in every cup. (Seriously, if you want an unforgettable coffee experience go check out Caffe Amore in Pittsburgh.) I have another friend who makes these adorable Starbright Baby teething giraffes. I love these adorable and clever little creations of hers. Completely different ends of the spectrum (especially from me!), but I see how hard they work, how persistent they are and it just drives me to put that same sort of commitment and love toward my own business.
- If you could go back to the beginning knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
I would try to never rest on my laurels. There was more than one occasion where things were going well and I got a little lazy, even took time off. Momentum is everything. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. An object in motion tends to stay in month. It is way harder to restart a business from a full stop than it is to give a slowly rolling business a little push. Physics applies to business! Who knew?
- What’s your best advice for someone who wants to start her own business?
Make sure you love whatever it is that you are marketing, whether it is a service you offer, something you create yourself or a product you sell. Surround yourself with other fans/enthusiasts. It will keep you going even when you hit the inevitable bumps and slow periods. Your passion is your fuel.
Wanna join me in my crazy adventure? You’re invited! Shoot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org