Baby Business

Business for children started with a baby

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BY DANIELLE KOPACKI
OU News Bureau

The baby sits in her high-chair, gurgling and smearing rice across her face. Her mother chatters back and wipes away the mess. London is anxious to return to her toys, so mother Ashley Nash sets her on the floor to play.

Ashley Nash’s work area, which she calls her office, includes supplies such as her sewing machine, scissors, measuring tools, patterns and, of course, her baby, London. PHOTO/DANIELLE KOPACKI

They could be any mother-daughter pair in the world.

But Ashley Nash of Mount Clemens is different from many young moms. The 23-year-old Nash has cultivated her own small business based on her hobby of making baby products.  She did this after London’s birth so she could remain home while raising her child.

Angelina Musik is the head of MOMtrepreneurs, a business that seeks to empower women entrepreneurs — especially mothers such as Nash. Musik says that it is normal for women to seek a flexible source of income.

“I’m home with my kid all day,” Nash says. “She’s my world, but it would have been bad if I didn’t find a hobby.”

Starting a business

Her business began shortly after London was born in November 2010. After seeing some pricey hairclips while out shopping, Nash decided to make some of her own. The results pleased her, and she soon began selling them to people she knew.

Later on, Nash made more and more complex items, including tutus, slings, aprons, tool belts, and princess wands. About 10 percent of London’s clothing and 40 percent of her toys, blankets, and accessories are homemade.

Nash opened an account on the online marketplace Etsy, and began a Facebook fan page for her home-based business called Princess and the Sweet Pea. The Facebook page has seen steady growth since its creation in July 2011, but she began to feel that Etsy was too impersonal.

“When you’re selling stuff for a kid, you’re touching a certain part of somebody,” says Nash, who does her best to tailor orders to her customer’s desires.

Although she accepts nearly any custom order she receives, Nash’s products often are inspired by her experiences. Once, when London had ear infections, Nash recalled her grandmother using a sock filled with salt to drain ear infections, and created her own salt bags out of scrap materials.

Nash’s most recent projects include craft and tool belts, as well as lanyards inspired by Vera Bradley. PHOTO/DANIELLE KOPACKI

Once she perfected a pattern for the salt bags, she produced more in different materials and colors, and marketed them to her fans on Facebook. She does this with each new product. But before selling, she must calculate prices.

Because Nash shops for bargains on materials, and since more complex projects often require the creation of a mock-up before the final product, she often struggles with pricing.

“I’ll figure out the cost of the materials on full price because there’s going to be a time when somebody calls and says, ‘I need this made,’ and it’s no longer on sale at the store. I have to budget for that,” she says.

While she logs the prices for each product and keeps all receipts in a small white mailbox in her “office,” she does not keep financial records.

“I don’t have a clue how much I spend.  I don’t have a clue how much I make. Because truthfully I don’t do it for that,” says Nash, who initially used a tax refund to start the business. She is confident that she has made a profit, though, enough so to be able give back to her local community.

This past Christmas, Mount Clemens firefighters collected the names of families in need for an “Angel Tree.” Nash volunteered to make a hairclip and tutu for each of the 17 little girls on the list. The tutus sell for $25 each on her Facebook page, so Nash sold Christmas-themed hairclips to her fans, with the promise of making the tutus in their honor to help offset her expenses.

“That was very cool, very rewarding,” Nash says. Her customer base provided the resources to make the donations.

The growth of her customer base has pushed Nash to what she calls a tipping point. She admits that the idea of continuing to expand terrifies her.

“I’m scared that if it got much bigger, I don’t know that I’d be able to have all that flexibility,” Nash says. “I don’t know that I could just do what I want to do when I want to do it.”

Nash says that her business already has grown larger than she expected, but she still has the freedom to just put the sewing machine away and take London to the zoo, or the park or out shopping.

Empowering women

“I truly believe it’s going to continue with that process of young women believing that the flexibility of being able to work however they want to work is just a normal part of life” says Angelina Musik about women such as Nash who run a business while having a family.

Musik was twice awarded “Woman in Business Champion of the Year” by the Small Business Administration in 2004 and was nominated in 2010 for the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.

Musik’s organization, called MOMtrepreneurs, helps empower and educate women about owning their own businesses. Musik suggests than business owners are, in fact, quite similar to mothers, whether they have children or not.

Nash says that London, at 14 months, understands when her mother is working and gets excited when Nash gives her a completed project. PHOTO/DANIELLE KOPACKI

“It’s what you love to do. You’re a mom when you nurture people, when you nurture your customers, when you nurture your business,” Musik says.

Musik recently started a series of success skills groups in towns across the United States, which she jokingly calls AA meetings for women entrepreneurs. Women gather and support each other’s business endeavors.

Unknowingly, Nash has somewhat begun to mimic Musik’s philanthropy by trading goods with a community of other moms and by having a “Featured Artist of the Month” on her Facebook page. Nash uses her fan base to let other fledgling entrepreneurs get a jumpstart in cultivating a following of customers.

Nash is content with Princess and the Sweet Pea, but when London begins school would consider actually keeping the books and hiring part-time help. She also plans to launch LondonAshley, a separate business that would focus on products for adults, such as candles, scrubs and luxury bath salts.

Now, however, she is most concerned with taking care of London, and maintaining the delicate balance between business and family.

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