Sunday, July 2, 2017

Great Pretenders - A Woman Owned Business That's a Huge Success

A few months ago, we were attending the pre-opening events at LEGOLAND Japan. We had been living there for nearly a year while my husband worked as one of the Project Managers and built the theme park. Besides being one of the most beautiful LEGOLAND parks to date, I noticed that their shops carried the high-end, handmade in Canada princess gowns and capes by Great Pretenders which we've reviewed in the past. My daughter ran over and said "I want this!" as she grabbed a fairy dress. We then saw the line of princess, capes, and accessories back here at LEGOLAND California. We always try to ONLY recommend what we think are the best products for families and kids, but it was then that I knew this woman-owned brand had become a huge success!

*We were given a Great Pretenders Dress in order to facilitate this story. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Great Pretenders is a company that was founded by Joyce Keelan in 1989. This Queen’s University graduate with an engineering degree was one of only two women in the class. She worked for an oil industry giant but a feeling of disappointment while searching for imaginative toys for her childern while shopping at a toy store sparked a business idea that would put her pretend play and make believe costumes on children around the globe.

When most companies are sending off designs to China, Joyce, 25 years after starting Great Pretenders, is the only costume manufacturer operating right here in North America proving that not only is it feasible to create consumer goods domestically, but it can accommodate a large international demand.

As someone who worked on creating and managing projects where we were both sending designs overseas and doing our own start to finish projects in-house, you can imagine which finished products the designers were most pleased with. The customers didn't always notice the differences between details that were missed or not what the designers imagined but the localized concept to creation approach always resulted in more accurate products.

The other thing we notice with Great Pretenders is their commitment to quality. The layers upon layers of different shades of tulle in this Fairy Blooms Deluxe Dress is extravagant. The satin is luxuriously soft. The smocking has plenty of stretch in it to last for years to come and the costume comes with the matching wings and hairband.

Where to buy Great Pretenders dress up:

The dress in this post is the

We have a nice bonus for our entrepreneurial spirited readers!

As someone who was a small business owner myself, I found each of the points below to be extremely valuable information for anyone thinking of taking the plunge into their own business. Being a small business owner can be reward but ridiculously time consuming and we are fortunate enough to have some of the secrets of her succuss.

Joyce Keelan from Great Pretenders shared with us her top 5 entrepreneurial tips for a successful small business...

1. Know yourself

According to Forbes/Patel, 2017, 90% of startup businesses fail. According to the US Bureau of labour statistics, its 2/3 will fail in 10 years. Anecdotal evidence reports failure is rampant in startups; but for the right person, this shouldn't hold you back!

After 30 years in business, I would say the first step to being successful as an Entrepreneur is knowing yourself. What are your weaknesses? What is your appetite for risk? How good are you at paperwork? Do you work well in a team? Without being very honest with yourself, it is impossible to assemble the right team, or make the right plan. At the risk of sounding obvious-, this first step is perhaps the most critical for any Want-entrepreneur.

In this market, it's not enough to have a good idea. It's not enough to have a sharp technical team. It's not enough to WANT success. Today's consumer is informed, today's lenders are conservative, and today's market is competitive. To work for yourself likely means you will work harder and for less money and less security, but it also means a freedom and independence to control your own future. Are you ready? To be 90% sure is to fail.

2. Know your customer

Most advice on startup columns will touch on cash flow (metrics and ratios that evaluate the income in/expenses out of a business). Cash flow is critical as it funds growth, and to grow too fast/too slow is the kiss of death for many companies. However for me, achieving a reliably-positive cash flow has come back to one thing; being able to recognize trends and changes in my target consumer, and reacting to them in a timely way. The faster you can react (& ideally predict) changes in your target market & key consumer, the healthier your business will be.

An in-depth understanding of your consumer will 1) reduce exposure to the non-paying accounts and keep a healthier AR balance [critical in your cash flow], 2) Allow you to launch new products/services with confidence as they address a need or niche in your target market. Being able to fill a need is key to growing sales and understanding the needs of your target market (coupled by the viability of the customers who can pay for it) can ensure success in the long-term of your business.

3. Overestimate your costs

I am often criticized for a slightly conservative approach to finances. There are lots of sayings "you gotta spend money to make money" etc - and it is true that the faster you grow, the more money you need... however bottom line; your business needs to make money. Over-estimating your costs means even in a "worst-case", you should be ok.

Further to this, make a plan based on your cash flow, and check the pulse of this plan frequently. Just because you have a plan in place doesn't mean you need to wait for year end to react. If sales are down, trim costs and reinvest cost-savings in marketing (for example). REACT quickly and build in your overestimated costs early!

4. Get a Mentor / Make a Plan

Colloquial sayings like "I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way" are cute, but have no place in business.

Having a roadmap for success is critical. After having clearly defined your business goal, don't let yourself be overwhelmed. Remember: any goal, however big, can be broken into smaller, more manageable goals. In early days of startups, it's important to have daily goals and targets, which feed into larger goals (often fixed around key dates). For example, a large marketing event can be a "key date" and working backwards to establish all the things that need to happen to ensure success can be helpful in creating an atmosphere for success.

Finding a mentor can be a very useful step in creating/executing a plan. Finding someone with experience in your field can act to set reasonable expectations, and can also result in networking opportunities. Look to local government offices and publicly funded programs. Often there is free money set aside in provincial and federal budgets- apply apply apply. With the help of a mentor, you can hopefully steer yourself in the right direction, and avoid the tendency many start ups face of "sweating the small stuff"

5. Paper It Up

Agree on a supplier discount? Paper it up. Renegotiate Terms with a customer/designer/free lancer/employee? Altercation/warning/negative or positive feedback to an employee or team member? PAPER IT UP.

And above all, when it comes to partnership agreements, paper it up.

Often in partnership agreements, one partner brings more money/resources than the other partner. Perhaps the second partner agrees to work for a reduced wage in lieu of upfront capital? Whatever this valuation of work is, it needs to be outlined in the business plan, as the true health of the company takes this contribution into account. E.g. if Partner A is working for $15,000/year, and it would cost $40,000/year to hire a replacement, they are contributing a $25,000 investment into the company via sweat equity whereas perhaps Partner B isn't working in the business, but is putting in an additional $25,000 per year cash injection to the business (in this instance, they are contributing equally).

Recording and agreeing on the values and terms of different investment can be critical in the longer-term success of the business. As an owner myself, I caution against over-extending on sweat-equity partnerships, finding that when one partner has more "skin in the game" they tend to be more committed to the business.
The "I'll take care of you" sweat equity agreement (not papered up) rarely works out... just ask the MacDonald brothers.

Lastly, having a written agreement can clearly set expectations and divide responsibilities. The same can be said for written job descriptions, performance reviews, feedback etc.
Having the discipline to paper up your business activities from the beginning is a great way to be sure you are on track for long term success.

Where to buy Great Pretenders dress up:

The dress in this post is the

If you would like to check out Great Pretenders:

You can purchase the

1 comment:

  1. Amazing blog and very interesting stuff you got here! I definitely learned a lot from reading through some of your earlier posts as well and decided to drop a comment on this one!


Thanks for the comment!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...