on July 18, 201709:42 PM Updated July 18, 201709:42 PM - last edited September 07, 201704:34 PMSeptember 07, 201704:34 PM by LeslieBarber
Inspired by the idea that she could make a difference by connecting kids to different charities, Lily started Little Loving Hands just last year. Already, she has a loyal base of parents, grandparents and teachers who love her monthly subscription boxes and the work she's doing to get kids of all ages giving back in a meaningful way.
We chatted with her about the challenges of telling her brand’s story, why she wishes she'd quit her day job a lot earlier and what she's hoping to learn next from you.
Although I spent most of my career doing marketing for large corporations, I've always been an entrepreneur at heart.
The idea for my business came from having my two young children. I’ve been involved in charitable giving for most of my adult life, and I wanted to make sure that my children had a sense of gratitude and appreciation for what they have in life. I want to teach them to be kind and giving to others.
I began researching how they could get involved in charity work, but found no organizations geared toward their age group. Most places require young volunteers to be at least 13 years old. That’s when I came up with the idea for Little Loving Hands.
First, I created some crafts and supporting materials, then found several charities to get involved with every month. I started getting family, friends and members of my local community of Vienna, Virginia involved and it’s grown from there.
Our kits are offered on a subscription basis and every month we work with a different charity. The kits come with everything needed to make the craft, as well as an explanation written age-appropriately for young children about what group the craft goes to and who their project will help.
I’ve gotten great responses from parents and grandparents who have said that this is exactly what they had been looking for to do with their kids.
Who were your very first customers and how did they find you?
My first customers were friends and family. Then, the news started to spread in our town and moms in the community began to come to me next!
I also reached out to influencers and mommy bloggers to offer them samples, and that has been a huge help in getting the word out.
When did you know your business was going to work?
I knew Little Loving Hands was going to work was when we launched our website. I did very minimal marketing and we still saw the orders steadily coming through.
I not only saw orders coming through, but I saw notes from parents and grandparents on how they had been looking for something like this for a long time. I saw that there was a gap we could fill in the market, and that we provided a solution to what people were looking for.
What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?
Though we had customers from the start, it has been surprising that it takes a lot of time to get message out there. It takes time to build a brand. I always knew it would take a lot of effort, but it surprised me how much you have to hustle every hour of the day in order to keep growing.
Our product is very much a story. It’s not a hard model to understand, but we have to explain it a little bit. That outreach — and trying to handle the operations along with spreading the word and building our message — has been the biggest challenge so far.
What has been your biggest lesson learned in pricing?
I looked at our competitors first to figure out the value we have to offer versus what everyone else is offering.
Our costs are higher because we have two-way shipping in order to return the finished projects to the charity. We don’t want to have to explain that and justify that cost to our customers, so we have to find the balance in pricing versus the competition.
So far, we haven't changed our pricing from get-go, so I think we achieved the right balance.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My work day depends on the time of the month. The end of the month is always spent packing and assembling Little Loving Hands kits to go out. In the morning, I talk with our charity partners and try to grow the breadth of charities we have in the pipeline for future months.
I also do outreach with mommy bloggers who can share what we’re doing. I do a lot of calls and emails during the day. At night, I do the packaging and assembling of the kits. Since we are still officially a one-woman show, I often get my husband to help me with packaging when it gets crazy!
If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you would do differently when starting your business?
I wish I had gotten started earlier. The work Little Loving Hands does has been needed for a long time, I wish I had come up with the idea sooner. There’s so much in my mind that I want to get done and I believe that if I had started earlier, the company could be further along than it is now.
The truth is, I was risk averse. My husband encouraged me to quit my day job and do it full-time for a long time before I actually did it and took the leap. I should have listened to his advice the first time!
What would you like to learn today from a community of other self-employed professionals and small business owners?
I'm interested in how other small business owners like me are doing outreach and marketing with a small budget.
What has worked for you, and how have you grown your business if your marketing budget is tight?
Let's help Lily out!
If you have experience with rolling out a new marketing plan on a budget, we want to hear from you!
What free or low cost advertising is working for your small business? Do you have tips for Lily that will help her spread the word about Little Loving Hands?
Share your ideas with us in the comments below. :-)